Seth Godin on the music bidness - past, present, future

Somewhat belatedly, I’m finally getting around to posting a link to the transcript of a speech that the (music) marketing guru Seth Godin gave to BMG executives a bit ago. Money quote (hat tip, MG):

[I]f the model that we loved about the record business in 1968 was A&R, taking care of artists, finding artists who people will love, and the model that we hated was brand management, I want to argue that the next model is tribal management. That the next model is to say, what you do for a living is manage a tribe…many tribes…silos of tribes. That your job is to make the people in that tribe delighted to know each other and trust you to go find music for them. And, in exchange, it could be way out on the long tail, no one wants to be on the long tail by themselves, the polka lovers like the polka lovers, they want to be together. But that you, maybe it is only one person, technology makes this really easy, your job is to curate for that tribe, like the curators upstairs [at the museum]. There is a museum of modern art tribe, you can see them here every Thursday. And if you can curate for them guess what the [musical] artists need…you! Guess what the tribe needs…you! You add an enormous amount of value by becoming a new kind of middleman.

Read the whole thing. I guess if I’m being Pollyanna for a minute, the good news for our little corner of the world is that sg never did a very good job of “A&R, taking care of artists, [and] finding artists who people will love” in the first place. And sg is an above averagely tribal culture. So theoretically, at least, it ought to be that much easier for gospel music to reinvent itself in the ways Godin suggests. Theoretically.

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  1. Jim2 wrote:

    Great article in the same vein from Charlie Peacock in this month’s CCM which by the way is supposed to be the last “hard copy” from now on they will just be online. So it is not just SG facing drastic changes.

  2. TSE wrote:

    Seth is wonderful and fun to read (great bald head as well). Long Tail marketing has several implications for SG music.

    One is that with the web SGM can bypass traditional distribution networks which usually gave lip service to only the top groups. Fans-all 52 of them-that are looking for Pete Pailbucket and the Five Sisters of Fate can find it on line, traditional stores would never stock it. This is the greatest thing since stacks and tracks for those that can’t get distribution in traditional stores.

    Another encouraging sign is that our audience is embracing the computer. Even blue haired grannies now check email and cruise eHarmony. This trend will only grow with time (our audience going online , not grannies and eHarmony, well maybe…)

    Now it is up to the industry, down to individual groups, to make their music available through this new digital medium. How many groups have music available for download on iTunes? How many have embraced the social network of Myspace to reach out to their audience? How many have a web presence?

    At NQC how much time is devoted to educating our audience about finding their favorite groups online? If you rely on Singing News for exposure take heed of CCM magazine and get ready - that’s the future.

  3. cynical one wrote:

    TSE - I hope you’re not saying retail distribution is the end-all and be-all. It isn’t! Nor is itunes.

    I’ve been in the Christian retailing industry for over 17 years, mostly in music, but other product areas, as well. I can tell you, when it comes to recording artists, having your cd in a retail store will not guarantee ANY sales. Retail, IMO, should be the last piece of your marketing puzzle. You need touring, radio, touring, tv, touring, other media advertising, etc, first. Oh, and did I say touring? Exhaustive and exhausting touring!

    As for downloads, yes, sg needs to get on the bandwagon. Some are already there, but many are not. In fact, it becomes a major news item in our sg circles when an artist announces their music being downloadable. Some of the major sg labels are already there, though.

    As for bluehairs surfing the net, yes many do, but few know what an ipod is, let alone want to download music. It would be interesting to take a poll at NQC to see (1) how many people shop Christian bookstore; (2) how many look for sg music at Wal Mart, Target, et al; and (3) how many are interested in downloading their favorite sg artist. I dare say the percentages would be low.

    Also, most national and regional groups do have their own websites, and those websurfing bluehairs can buy online. But most local groups should save their money for matching suits and a decent custom album. The demand isn’t great enough to warrant the expense of a good website. And a cheap website will probably do more harm than good, in the long run.

    We DO need to get on board with new technology, but that’s not the reason s/g’s woes.

    As for Avery’s comments about A&R not doing a good job of finding artists people will like: some have. But too much of what is called “A&R” is just a custom studio doing custom albums, and trying to market them as major releases. And the artists who fall for that trick should talk to Nick Bruno.

    Do we need to reinvent ourselves? Maybe, but I’m not smart enough to pull it off. Anybody out there?

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