I do believe (largely because of Moore’s law) that – in the music/creative world at least – we’re reaching a moment where the technological barriers that provided advantages to those with the most resources is nearly over.
There is a sort of leveling occurring now that â€” with only slight variance â€” we all have access to the same tools.
The first moment of leveling occurred with the advent of ProTools. No longer did one need to collateralize their creativity in exchange for funds from a record label to create a competitive recording.
The second moment of leveling arose via firms like TuneCore. No longer did one have to be signed to a label to have distribution.
The third moment of leveling revolved around the emergence of social media. While not completely obviating the need for traditional promotion, the rise of social media certainly shifted the power away from people like publicists and into the hands of the creator.
We now arrive at a place where musicians/artists are comparable to chefs. All chefs, within reason, have access to the same ingredients. Certainly, geography plays a role for access to ingredients, in a similar manner as geography plays a role for musicians/artists – if you don’t like your geography/feel it’s a competitive disadvantage, move.
What then separates the hack “chef” with a failing restaurant from the thriving restaurateur with lines out the door every night – who is next door to the failure?
We’ve all seen this. It’s sad. Some hapless Babu Bhatt stares forlornly out the window of his restaurant at customers lining up for the place next door. (Oh, and by the way, all you unqualified “gurus” out there: you’re Jerry Seinfeld in this episode; proffering destructive “advice” …. “Very bad, very, very, very bad man.”)
So what separates the success from the failure when each has access to the same ingredients, the same customer base, etc. I suppose it’s like Hugh MacLeod says, “The future belongs to the artists and the Chinese…I am not Chinese.”
Being an “artist” today means coming to terms with this leveling. How will you put your ingredients together in a manner that creates attraction and retention. These ingredients go beyond the musical notes, obviously, and relate to all facets of your work: your relationship with your market, your “brand,” etc.
What I think I’m most looking forward to, beyond the emergence of music/art that never would have emerged prior to this Leveling, is the lack of excuses that will exist. At whom will artists point their fingers when their art isn’t greeted with the commercial success they feel it deserves? Since forever the artists’ fingers have wagged at: the label, the distributor, the publicist, the radio person, the web designer, the booking agent, the management … pretty much everyone but themselves.
With the exception of the booking agent/management above, all of the others (labels, distributors, et al.) are pretty absent from a realistic survey of this Leveled landscape. You really think a publicist is the difference between the success and failure of your music? Really?
As for booking agents and management. Playing live is now, was then, and always will be the most important thing you can do. If you can’t do it with some frequency and excellence, keep your music as a hobby, share it with friends, etc. Whatever the case, don’t wait for a booking agent; look for non-trad gigs, etc. With respect to management, you’ll know it when you need it. For the vast majority of artists, you don’t need it yet.
The future belongs to those like Thomas Keller, David Chang, Ferran AdriÃ , Chris Bianco. Artists who use the ingredients that are available to everyone else, but combine them – in an alchemical manner – to create something truly remarkable and unique.
So…no excuses, right?