Six years ago, when I ventured into artist management, one of the most creative and insightful persons I have met in the music industry to date (I hope you are well Bonnie Milner…), asked me if I would "run through a wall for my artist?" The answer had to be yes; why else would I do it?
Years later, I often find myself asking founders and CEOs of tech startups attempting to transform the music industry the same sort of question: "Would you run through walls for artists (plural), or does your company serve some other master such as partners, promoters, labels, advertisers, sponsors or investor pressure?" If so, watch out…
Going forward, companies that are built either on top of music-connected content and the attention of music fans, or upon the willingness of artists to either spend or share revenue for services, are all about to be disrupted by Artist-Free-Agency.
Artist-Free-Agency is a term that implies that ALL artists and rightsholders have, or will have, the freedom, the capacity, and the incentive to entirely transfer ALL their music-connected assets and their loyalty to sites and services that offer the greatest return for the least amount of friction and pain. For example, remember what happened to MySpace when artists migrated to Facebook? Artist-Free-Agency won't be that kind; nothing will be left behind...
Artist-Free-Agency in 2012 and beyond (I may be a bit early):
A) Every artist will be able to measure and monitor - in real-time - the true value of their investment into, or the syndication of their content onto, any site, service or proposition in the marketplace.
B) And for the promise (guaranteed in the future) of less cost and more upside, any artist will be able to fully withdraw from any site, service and proposition to a competing alternative that offers the same range of tools, distribution, services, syndication, fan connectivity, and exposure opportunities.
C) Within five years, the combination of A plus B (above) will lead to industry consolidation and open bidding (We give you more for less…) for the attention of artists.
And what drives A, B, and C? Music-connected content generates ten percent of all page impressions (non-scientific estimate); it has the potential for generating billions of dollars of targeted, incremental (above today) ad revenue; and it's highly valued by brands. Furthermore hundreds of thousands of artists, their content, and their fans - migrating from one site, service and proposition to another (exclusively in the future) - generates billions of dollars in shareholder value.
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From where I sit, to compete against, or to overtake any company built on top of music-connected content, the attention of music fans, or the loyalty of artists, no single site or service today offers a scarce value proposition to artists that can't be duplicated, acquired, or rolled-up from a list of complimentary partners. Going forward, It seems to me that market share will be won or lost based upon the extent of a company's willingness to run through walls for artists…or not.