Seth Godin has posted a transcript of a fantastic talk he gave to some music execs about the future of the music industry and the Internet. This is some good straight-shooting insight about what the music industry will never succeed at (suing fans) and what they could do instead (courting fans):
So if I put all this together I’m going to come up with what I call the Merchant Solution. It has nothing to do with stores, it has to do with Natalie Merchant. (laughter) So, Natalie Merchant shows up in the New York Times last week saying not only do I not have a record label, I’m not going to make records anymore because I just figure out how to do it. And that is the biggest opportunity times 10,000 because Natalie doesn’t want to be in business, Natalie wants to make records. Thirty years ago Natalie couldn’t put together the scratch to record an album because she couldn’t afford a recording studio. Thats what you guys did for her. She couldn’t come up with the time and energy to go out to California to sell and pay for shelf space at Tower, thats what you guys did for her. The point is, now she needs somebody to say “let us take care of your tribe”. Let us figure out the business model that says you get to do what you’re great at, write songs, perform them, find people who love you, not like you, and they are A LOT in the case of Natalie Merchant, and we will figure out not how to exploit that, not how to write a contract that you’re going to regret for the rest of your life, but to sit next to you and say guess what, there are all these people in the tribe [and] we need to figure out how to make stuff for them. And, because we have three other artists that are just like you, Cowboy Junkies, we can start mixing tribes together in appropriate ways that makes everybody happy. Because you [record label] could go to the Cowboy Junkies tribe and say Natalie Merchant is coming to town and they’ll all go. Because they love her and they love each other and they want to see each other again because they can’t wait a whole year till the [Cowboy] Junkies come back.
So if the model that we loved about the record business in 1968 was A&R, taking care of artists, finding artists who people will love, and the model that we hated was brand management, I want to argue that the next model is tribal management. That the next model is to say, what you do for a living is manage a tribe...many tribes...silos of tribes. That your job is to make the people in that tribe delighted to know each other and trust you to go find music for them. And, in exchange, it could be way out on the long tail, no one wants to be on the long tail by themselves, the polka lovers like the polka lovers, they want to be together. But that you, maybe it is only one person, technology makes this really easy, your job is to curate for that tribe, like the curators upstairs [at the museum]. There is a museum of modern art tribe, you can see them here every Thursday. And if you can curate for them guess what the [musical] artists need...you! Guess what the tribe needs...you! You add an enormous amount of value by becoming a new kind of middleman.