With the streaming debate on business models and payment to artists still causing emotions to rise I am missing visionary ideas and elaborate discussions about something else: Which technology is following in the footsteps of streaming? Actually, this topic turns out to be a more than interesting one. It’s crucial to artists. Chances are the next generation of music distribution can help artists regain control over their creative output. If you want to hear more, read on and vote for my session to be included at SXSW 2016.

Streaming has one thing in common with any new distribution technology. Artists simply can’t control their works anymore. You can’t control what goes where or when, or in which format.

This has to stop.


Music distribution is not what it should be

You want your songs bundled as an album?
You want your tracks not to be played at particular political events?
You want your music not to be used as part of unlicensed user generated content?
You want the audio quality of your releases to match your demands?
You want to decide how many albums to be released via a label/distributor?

The decision is rarely yours. Hardly any artist has the means, the power and the experience to do so. Of course, there are labels truly cooperating with the artist. There are hi-res streaming services like Tidal. But that’s not common standard.


Companies decide where artists should

With each generation of technology it seems to get worse. However, it’s not the technology that’s to blame.

The core issue is: Distribution is distorted. While you are playing live, pouring sweat and bleeding emotions in front of your fans, the middlemen are distorting your precious work and intention. Let’s nail it down – companies and labels are to blame. It is the few big ones – the major labels, the social media and tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple who have taken over control. Maybe Spotify as well, but we don’t know that for sure yet.

We, the music community, collectively have to get that right. Musicians are creators, they are culture. Culture is the colour and the air in our lives.


Act now: Put artists first!

We went down a path that led to the majority of millennials not knowing whose music they are listening to. The same way that music got disembodied leaving less than a file to download, the artist himself disappeared. The musical landscape appears to be more short-lived than ever before. What’s left are masses of faceless names to the fans. Hold on… fans? Really? How many engaged fans are there left amongst casual listeners and careless consumers?

To the majority the simple equation looks like that: „Why should I pay for something which is ubiquitary for free? Why should I pay someone I don’t even know by name? As long as I don’t see that someone is hurt, I don’t feel guilty.“

Again, don’t blame the fan or consumer. The on-going feud between old music industry, new music industry and piracy led us here. Additionally, gasolene from the multi-screen war for consumer attention between YouTube, games, and modern communication technology surely did not help.

This roadblock led to copyright infringements by often unaware users. It urged artists who didn’t know better than to sue their fans. If that’s not enough, technology seems to have reached a point of no return as well. Or can you imagine an even more stripped down music experience than streaming?


What is the consequence?

Do you remember 1988, the winter of 2007/2008 or May 2010? These are the dates when the American screenwriters went on strike. It is a disillusioning conclusion if this would the only way… but music artists must find their way to become as powerful as the screenwriters. On the other hand, a strike is useless unless artists are not in full control of their entire back catalogues. They clearly aren’t.

Fact is, it is only the artist who may decide upon his work. Every single one of us needs creative people, and more and more people become creative themselves. That’s why we all need to support the artists. Most of all, it’s about time that artists position themselves to take over. But how?


Learn what’s next – be prepared

Anytime when technology changed and got substituted by the next big thing, artists came late. First, business concepts were introduced as well as the technology which enabled them. They became established. Then, at a point when users felt comfortable with the new generation of technology artists got a wake-up call. They realised what’s wrong… most of them resigned and just tried to get along.

It‘s been the labels where artists had to learn about foul play contracts.
With CDs & downloads artists learned about the threat of copying.
Now, it is streaming, where royalty payments still are way too low.

Don’t get me wrong – all of these have very beneficial points. But artists had no chance to give their input first to avoid the fatal disadvantages.

This time, and from now on, you, the artist, can become an integral and essential part in molding business and technology before the service providers and labels do. Therefore, it’s necessary to explore what comes next and how to prepare. Because artists have to take that opportunity that is almost in reach. Other than in earlier years, you have the chance to learn about what’s coming and to prepare.


Future holds the perfect match

But is there any new technology in sight that we can prepare for? How to predict that now? What does the post-streaming age look like?

It is Personalized Webcasting & Device Based Content Sharing we have to expect. Dave Haynes just scratched the surface in a current posting.

It is these two rising technologies that perfectly fit the artists’ needs. Why they do, I will explain as a part of the session and in later postings. Both don’t seem to be that innovative or disruptive (yeah, THAT word…). However, again they bear challenges and some dangers if artists are not involved.


New business models, and a joint approach

Podcasting, Meerkat, and Periscope are just a humble start into Personalized Webcasting. An entirely different and huge step are all new apps that are about to be launched. They can share content without WiFi, without networks, without cloud – neither do they need a mobile connection or any physical connection. Yet they are sharing content. Right now, these apps (which I’m not naming here) enable the user to share multiple files of up to 300 MB size each from one device to any number of matching devices nearby within seconds. 300 MB matches a short music video, or almost half of an audio album in lossless quality, or 50 MP3 tracks at 256 kbit/s. Keep in mind, multiple transmission of files is possible. In seconds. And it’s not about sharing links: It is FILES that are COPIED.

You see where that can lead to in terms of royalties? Comfortable sharing of content not based on any provider’s network. That’s why the joint work of artists and technology experts is in demand now. Artists can’t take yet another disaster in terms of being not paid.

The good news is… if artists themselves are involved in this evolution the artists’ perspectives will radically improve. Because Personalized Webcasting & Device Based Content Sharing can catapult you, the artist, right back in driver’s seat.


Future is bright – artists in control

If we can make a joint approach work, just imagine how awesome that can be…

  • You can freely decide himself what, how, and when he distributes – and in which format. You are in control.
  • You will be able to securely maintain and monetize all of your works yourself.
  • You and your fans will be closer than ever, with instant interaction bringing back true engagement.
  • Fans get to listen to the music in the way that you want it.


Work is ahead – solutions too

Of course, it doesn’t come easy. It is worth it. Artists can regain control of their works if we take a serious effort. But if there’s a risk as high as described above how can artists be able to prevent that? Well, to get Personalized Broadcasting & Device Based Content Sharing to work for you there are prerequisites to be taken care of.

  • How to cope with technology tasks?
  • How to prevent third parties taking the lead again?
  • How to find a licensing model?
  • What about security?
  • How to find the perfect match to link artists & fans?

Any single challenge listed here can be turned into a clear advantage for artists straight away. But artists and technology experts need to learn to team up. Instantly. Then they are ready to literally rock the musical landscape.

If this posting is mouth-watering brain food for you – perfect. I would love to go into detail. But this post for sure is long enough. It is the preface to upcoming postings which will shine a light on what I’m thinking of.

Now, if you vote for the session at SXSW2016’s PanelPicker I will be able to present it to you at Austin. Let’s work out an approach on how artists can regain control.

This text has been published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 International licence. If you would like to make use of the text or parts of it in a way that goes beyond the scope please get in touch with me.