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Music Biz Future Shock
by Bob Baker - The Buzz Factor, Posted May  2006

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You know the story. There are huge cultural and economic shifts taking place in the music business.

One of the biggest changes involves the evolution of the tech-savvy, modern music consumer. This is crucial to your future success with music, so read carefully:

Old-School Music Business
Back in the day, record labels would determine who the ideal audience was for a given act. Then they would hunt down those specific types of fans via targeted radio stations, magazines, concert venues, retail outlets, etc.

Years ago, music consumers had limited ways of gaining access to new music, so they relied on commercial, programmed media sources to filter new artists to them.

Sure, some adventurous fans made the extra effort to dig for new music via "alternative" sources such as fanzines, college radio stations, mix tapes, etc. But most people weren't willing to work that hard to discover fresh sounds.

So music consumers were mostly prey -- reactive to the efforts major labels made to track them down and feed them the latest music.

New-School Music Landscape
Today music fans are in control. They rely less and less on programmed, spoon-fed media sources and are finding it easier than ever to discover new music on their own. Using an iPod, MySpace, satellite radio, Internet downloads, podcasts, TiVo and more ... members of the digital generation are determining what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, and how.

Consumers who in the past were primarily hunted down by the music industry system have now become proactive hunters, empowered to choose the music that's best suited for them. This shift has thrown the creation, promotion and distribution of music into a tailspin.

As an indie artist, what should you do in this environment?

You should still understand who your ideal fan is and actively seek them out. Simultaneously, you need to put yourself in the best position to be "discovered" -- not by a record label A&R rep, but by a curious music fan in search of his or her new favorite song or artist.

The Age of the Empowered Fan
That's one of the biggest concepts I've been marvelling at lately. For years I've been talking about "artist empowerment." What I haven't been stressing enough is the huge shift toward "music fan empowerment" and "consumer empowerment."

I've been repeating this mantra that "we live in an incredible era of self-_expression and self-empowerment." And it's true. But these opportunities don't exist only for artists. They're available to everyone.

And that's why sites like MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, and Squidoo are so popular. They give average people a chance to express themselves, connect with other people, and discover cool new things.

So start embracing the future of music -- because it's already here. The lines between hunters and the hunted, as well as producers and consumers, are blurring -- and they will continue to do so.

Are you flexible enough to roll with the changes and make the most of them?

Note #1: The idea for this commentary came while listening to the Future of Music podcast. Check it out. It's worth a listen.

Note #2: MySpace.com has become a major player in this cultural music shift. To make sure you make the most of your MySpace music marketing, visit this page.


Bob Baker is the author of "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook," "Unleash the Artist Within" and "Branding Yourself Online." He also publishes TheBuzzFactor.com, a web site and e-zine that deliver free music marketing tips and self-promotion ideas to musicians of all kinds. Visit TheBuzzFactor.com for more details.

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