During 8 years I lived in Hultsfred, closely engaged in the different parts of the Hultsfred festival. Since 2005 I have been doing my PhD research on how the music industry is changing as a result of new copying and distribution technologies, and I am doing my research from a socio-technological point of view with computer science being the subject field. The goal is to defend my thesis and get my degree in 2009.
During these years, both in Hultsfred and now in Stockholm, I have interviewed and discussed issues around digital music with hundreds of employees in the music industry, at conferences, concerts, festivals, cafés, offices, in my home, in their homes, and many of them have become close friends. But, during this summer I have been thinking about something that feels a little bit strange.
The music industry has always drawn people that wants to work in a cool context, that wants to be where it’s happening, people that wants exciting jobs with the joy, passion and sexiness around music and the music industry has always been an industry based on story telling and myths. Both about the people working at different companies and about the artists.
These stories about who did what and when are spreading throughout the business on backstage areas, on concerts, through networks of friends and at offices. The ability to boost a myth of an artist and develop good stories have always been important to create the buzz. The music business is defined by gossip and tittle-tattle and we all love that great story!
But, when it comes to digital distribution and the format shift, the industry has totally lost its ability to create good stories. Internally in the business, the main stories are the ones about catastrophy. Behind-the-scene stories about how totally incompetent the staff are, myths about what the industry does or does not to create a Big Brother society, stories that almost becomes tales, getting worse for each person passing it on.
All I hear are stories that are negative, negative, negative.
Of course these negative stories spreads to other industries, to journalists, to IT people, to artists and to the regular music fan. How can we suspect that anyone in any way is going to pay for digital music when the story all the time is that everything is going to hell? Who wants to invest their money in catastrophy?
The human being is an herd animal. If the herd says “this is great!”, we usually follow. People like success stories, and people like to pay for being a part of success stories. Again, who wants to invest their money in catastrophy?
I think it’s about time to start spreading the good stories about digital distribution. Behind the scenes success stories that have actually happened as a result of new information technology. Show people the positive parts of the iTunes sales sheet on foreign markets. Spread the information on the huge amount of interest for your artists on file sharing networks. Use the interest, like when Warner used Basshunters 100 million views on YouTube to get media attention. Leak the “secret” information on how much money Nokia and TDC actually are putting in to the industry. Start spreading stories and news that will boost the confidence of the people in the business, instead of these incredible negative tales that everyone is gathering around.
Hell, you could even make up stories as long as they are positive! Do like you do when you use journalists to publish fake stories for boosting record sales. Lie. Say that the latest Backyard Babies release has sold RECORD HIGH digital sales on CDON and iTunes, EVERYONE wants it, the shift is here! Myths. Stories. True or fake. After all, it’s just show business.
And for god’s sake, stop being such sulky dorks to journalists… Spend time explaining what is happening and feed them with positive stories instead of the same old thing. If everyone keeps on telling that music labels are going to die, I can guarantee you, they will most probably die. Get positive, or die.