Η μουσική στην ψηφιακή εποχή. Προκλήσεις και ευκαιρίες σε ένα νέο γενναίο κόσμο. Oμιλία του Αντώνη Πλέσσα στα πλαίσια του American Festival "Artist's Talk" που έγινε στο αμφιθέατρο του ACS
Music in the Digital Age: opportunities and challenges in a brave new world
Good evening everyone. Thanks for coming. My name is Antonis Plessas and I’m here to present you with a preview of Music in the Digital Age.
Raw, undeniable talent. I have to admit that I lost count of the number of times I watched this performance, that never, not once, failed to move me deeply. I want us to ask our selfs for a moment. Did the poor sound quality or slightly distorted video, diminished in any way, the impact of the experience, the feelings evoked? Well, not for me and I’m quite certain not for you either. Music is the aural landscape of our lives and unlike other arts it communicates directly with our subconscious. Its power transcends national, religious, ideological, cultural or heritage boundaries, and captivates the emotions of an universal audience spread all around the world, from USA and Japan to the UK and Russia, China and elsewhere.
Can you imagine a world were there are no recordings; no record stores, CDs or DVDs; no iTunes stores and iPods; no YouTube and services such as Pandora and Spotify; For many centuries the music trade was about musicians playing directly to their audience without mediator. What was produced went from the artist’s mind and hands directly to the ears of its listeners. In the beginning of the 20th century as the modern world evolved and large segments of the population moved to cities, greater organizational structures and divisions of labor became necessary to manage the needs and wants of modern society.
In its effort to embrace the industrial revolution the music trade responded with the formation of record labels and publishing houses that acted as mediators between the artists and the audience’s needs for music. Since then the mostly local music trade grew to become a worldwide industry. In today’s music industry millions of people from a wide range of disciplines support the talents and skills of a numerically small nucleus of composers, lyricists and performers in realizing the production, promotion, distribution, exploitation and protection of their creative works. Just to give you an idea a recent study commissioned by authors’ societies and other industry bodies revealed that the “Copyright Industries in the U.S.” which encompasses book, film, music, radio and television, amongst others, employs over 10.6 million people.
Music sells. It has accompanied just about every product that’s come to market since the 1930s and today’s demand for music is greater than ever. Technology is constantly and irreversibly affecting, formatting and changing our culture and habits and as technology evolves so does our desire to be more immersed in our entertainment.
Τhe demand for music in all its forms is multiplying with every iPod and cell phone sold, every new cable TV show that debuts and every new technology platform that’s developed. The public wants access to music of their choice through a growing number of ways, means and formats.
Technological developments of recent decades revolutionized and democratized the process of music creation and production. As the cross line between the professional and amateur creator becomes further and further faint, independent production, has for the first time in its history the tools that allow it to claim its place in the international music scene. Nowadays a plethora of music tools covering every imaginable application are offered at unprecedented low prices of even for free. The greater our appetite becomes to express ourselves creatively using such tools to produce, access and distribute content, the more we need to be reminded of the unique power of storytelling and the importance of always trying to start with a good story.
Since my first exposure, more than 2 decades ago to the then simplistic and cumbersome tools of the day, music technology has made an incredible progress. Let me present you a small project featuring my work as a musician and amateur photographer I created to celebrate a summer near its end a few of years ago. The software used were “Keynote” for the preparation of the slide show and “Garageband” for music’s composition, both Apple products.
One to have a better understanding one has to explore the current “lay of the land” in the music marketplace. An important part of this includes exploring trends that are impacting the way people view and use entertainment products and services. The digital revolution affects everyone involved in the business of content whether the content is recorded music, a 2-hour film, a half-hour sitcom, an Internet site, or a 30-second advertising message.
As the long-heralded shift from owning music to accessing it takes place, we're also slowly moving from collecting music to capturing it from our environment through mobile apps and storing it in the “cloud”. Unlimited access to almost all the music available puts the focus on discovering what to listen to now, as opposed to what to keep. Welcome to “Capture culture” another major development in the Digital Revolution. “Capture culture” is about sharing life moments, and music is just one part of a larger story.
In light of all this and at a time where the demand for music is growing we are faced with a paradox. While music thrives the music industry suffers. In order to understand this paradox we have to take a step back in time. The main force behind this revolution we experience is a dramatic change in the economy of distribution. For many decades, our exposure to new music, books and movies was coming through retail channels, radio, television and print publications. All these avenues for presenting, marketing and placing new physical products were faced with limitations. Limited storage space on the stores shelves, limited time for radio and television exposure, limited number of pages in publications. As a result of these limitations and with the entertainment industry’s intent to address and serve the widest possible audience in order to ensure the desired profitability, only what was deemed in the experts opinion as potentially popular was sampled, displayed, broadcasted or published. And they controlled it all. While during the '90s the music industry enjoyed an unnatural sales boost when consumers replaced their cassette tapes and vinyl records en masse with CDs by the turn of the century everything was in for a change. The music industry was faced with major challenges.
The first one was the advent of piracy. In the decade since peer-to-peer file-sharing site Napster emerged in 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 47 percent, according to Forrester Research. It goes without saying that piracy severely afflicts the financial well being of creators, artists and content producers but if we want to be pragmatic we must admit that piracy can’t be accounted as the sole reason responsible for the industry’s financial hardships.
There was a second challenge the industry was called to adapt, and that, was the new reality expressed by consumer's demands of how they wanted to listen to music, when and where and face the growing pains in terms of monetizing those changes. It took the industry years to understand what was really at stake and start responding.
It goes without saying that, in the pre internet days the audience’s aesthetic perception was influenced or even shaped by this selective filtering where a band, or artist, a song, a book or a movie could benefit or be rejected not on the merit or quality but from the initial, imagined or perceived, acceptance from the public. In the new, based on abundance, economic model there can be no discrimination because we all have equal access to the online market. In the era of the Internet it won’t be an elite comprised of record label executives, radio and TV producers, newspaper and magazine editors or retail store managers that will decide what to serve the audience. This time it’s the audience itself. People are making their purchasing decisions less on the basis of hype and blind faith, and more on the basis of what they actually enjoy listening exploiting “preview” ability and other revolutionary developments. And that changes all the rules.
The future in music isn't about downloading songs and burning CDs. It’s about transforming the music business into a service business that commodifies, packages, and markets experiences as opposed to physical products or services. It's about just-in-time customized delivery. Music as service, not product. The challenge to the music industry is to respond positively in such a way as to secure the future of music while satisfying customer demand and providing choice. This is why it is important to ask, not so much, where music is sold, but where music is being used.
There was a time that for something to be considered successful it had to be a massive success and public interest considered worthy only what was selected and promoted by the status quo in media business. The age of the blockbuster is fading fast in light of a new era dawning in, from which a radically different, more active and enthusiastically willing to produce and share, audience, emerges.
Independent artists around the world have an unprecedented opportunity to pursue their passions. Moving forward to individual audience empowerment will bring music back into a more purely aesthetic relationship again, which is good for the art itself, and better for artists too. In our continuously hyper-connected world, attracting and sustaining public´s attention and winning its trust will be prerequisites for reassuring a seat in the competition.
Making money through controlling production, distribution, and marketing is a diminishing game. Mass customization and a segmenting market encourage the development of products and services of a “niche” nature. When the Grammys started in 1958 there were 28 categories of awards. In 2011 there were 109! This economy, requires openness, decentralization, and connectedness through niches—not blockbusters. Each niche stream has its own burgeoning media culture and the smart combination of high-quality music, good stories, creative event making and strategic alliances gets the market’s attention.
The monetization of artists’ creative works will be more and more affected by their pro-active participation and interaction with their fans, audience, spectators, readers and friends. Personal reputation and influence will be also counted as an important currency which in due time and under certain conditions can turn into cash.
Artists’ should ensure they have a great story to share. A story that’s universally powerful, motivating, cohesive, consistent and compelling. For fans to become artists' top promoters artists should slice, dice and make useful those stories, sift through their data, move it around, clear their legal and fair use and present them in all kinds of useful formats and prices.
Artist’s should also give their audience the chance to co-create. It could be a concept the artist presented, selective material from an ongoing production or even a finished work. The month that Radiohead offered to their fans songs from their album “In Rainbows” for remix, their song "Nude" by itself, gathered in the band’s web page more than 2.239 remixes confirming beyond imagination the audience’s appetite to participate and co-create.
At the same time more and more companies outside the orbit of the traditional music business, have spearheaded successful initiatives in the music space. Apple, Amazon, Google and mSpot Music launched recently their music in the cloud services. Mountain Dew started a record label. So did Red Bull, Toyota, Artois Brewery, Levi’s Jeans, Starbucks and Nike, There is no better way to create an emotional connection with your customers than through music and companies know that. Let us watch how clothing designer GAP uses the power and directness of music to promote their brand creations.
There’s an urgent need to expand existing compensation systems. We have to get used to the idea that no one format will be responsible for over 50% of our music income that will come from CDs, from paid digital downloads, sponsored digital downloads, ringtones, streaming revenue on radio subscription services, sync licensing, streaming revenue on video and more. Today’s environment allows artists to explore channels of communication with an audience outside the mainstream. The times do call for creative focus and artists are increasingly looking for new ways to exploit all rights as a brand. In terms of artists' livelihood music is a means to sell tickets, placements, merchandise and every other conceivable revenue tributary of Brand Me.
Every spare moment of our time is being filled with some form of connection via e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging and cell phones to name a few, making time itself the scarcest of all resources. In the last fifteen years the quantity of information available online has expanded at an exponential rate. There is an increasing flood of information that’s produced from mass customization in the magnitude of tens of billions webpages, to say nothing of the images, music, videos, and other forms of media that have propagated wildly across the Internet. There’s an urgent need for “filters” and “editors” that will create order and give meaning to the chaos created by almost unlimited choice. And that applies to music as well.
Artists and companies and brands try new things and succeed or fail, at a time when we all continue to wrap our heads, hearts and wallets around a world in which music isn't an object or even a possession anymore. No one knows where all the cards will fall in this industry-wide shake up as we are moving from one business model to a new and undefined one. Buying an album used to be much more of a decision, more of a statement, than it is now, when you can take or leave thousands for nothing or next-to-nothing. What all of these changes will mean for our material and emotional investment in music remains to be seen. The good thing about radical change is that, during those times, the little person has a chance to make a big difference.
Who will be the next Dimitri Mitropoulos or the next Maria Callas? Who will succeed Vassilis Tsitsanis or Eftihia Papayannopoulou? It could be a child growing up next door or someone we know, a teenager writing songs that it will takes us a good five or ten years down the road to recognize their importance and influence.
Despite the hard bumps, music and its business are more present, more ubiquitous, and more available than ever before. Nothing breeds innovation like disruption, and we're seeing plenty of both. The current difficult climate serves as a form of reckoning. The tougher the times, the more clarity you gain about the difference between what really matters and what you only pretend to care about. Thank you for your presence.
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