The music industry used to be a lot simpler. Artists and bands could simply record a great album, release it, then travel around the nation in a groovy tour bus to play for their loyal fans and find new ones.
Unfortunately, that model is pretty much dead.
If video killed the radio model, then streaming killed the album model. Although radio and albums still exist, for most artists nowadays they just aren’t enough to make a living.
Even going on tour isn’t what it used to be. The sheer number of artists and bands, as well as the proliferation of concerts and music festivals, means that organizers can no longer afford to pay most of their acts the big bucks that were once commonplace. If you aren’t one of the acts with top billing, you may have to make do with a small paycheck that grows smaller every year.
The Freemium Model
Because of this, more and more artists and bands are turning to the “freemium” model to make ends meet. In the music industry, the freemium model means relying less on direct music sales and performances and more on the sale of merchandise.
Instead of looking at concerts as a primary source of revenue, more and more music acts use these performances as a way to build their brand and get exposure. They can then make money off all their new fans by selling them band merchandise. This can include anything from bumper stickers and t-shirts to makeup, shoes and even cars.
Pros and Cons
Imagine your favorite artist in today’s industry. Instead of spending all their time in the studio and on tour, they might instead expend a lot of their energy on getting followers for their social media accounts and sponsorships from big corporate brands.
Would your favorite artist or band be as prolific under today’s model? Would the quality of their music be the same?
Bands Are Brands
In the future, the top bands and artists will basically be advertising platforms come to life. The amount of followers and likes an artist has on their social media may become more important than how much money they make per stream or how many stops they have on their world tour.\
Once everyone is doing it, it will no longer be seen as “selling out,” because it will be the norm. You may even appreciate regular sales pitches from your favorite band in exchange for cheap concert tickets and music that is basically free.
The video game industry has relied on the freemium model for years now. Even games that are completely free to play can consistently rack up billions of dollars in profits by attracting millions of players. The money no longer comes from sales of the game itself but from sales inside the game of upgrades or other special features.
As the music begins to take up the same model, it will start to change the way musicians and promoters think and do business. It may also change the way you look at music itself.