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  • blog post Report SCATTERED MONKEYS- “An Insiders Perspective on the Evolving Music Industry”

    Christina Horn
    Posted on Nov 23, 2010 - 8:00 by Christina Horn
    (MSi9W Week 5: Blogging: This is my offering for week 5. I decided that I would post a freshly written article concerning the music industry as I now see it through the information I have gathered from “Music Success in 9 Weeks.”)

    Imagine you are a wolf.

    You were raised to hunt buffalo. You could take down one buffalo and feed your family for the long haul. Then one day the buffalo disappear.

    There is a new species in your environment. You have never seen this creature before. They are hairy with beady-eyes, funny tails, and look almost human; they are monkeys.

    Yes, oddly enough there are now monkeys everywhere. They are swinging in the trees and bathing in your watering hole. Monkeys as far as the eye can see. You are soon sick of banana peels and your mouth waters every time you hear that annoying cackle.

    This is exciting. Surely these monkeys will be easy to catch. The smell of monkey is intoxicating. You can feel your instincts kicking in so you run. Yes! Exhilarating! You are on the chase after your monkey. You run and run and run. Except the monkey climbs a tree. You don’t know how to do that. You begin chasing another monkey...they scatter and confuse you.

    Wolves are not made for chasing monkeys...(yes musician friend, you are a wolf.)

    You do this all day, scattering monkeys all over the place and running in circles. This is what it feels like to be a musician these days. New prey has descended upon our environment and we don’t know how to catch it or which one to chase. There are 264 species of monkey. Upon consulting Wikipedia you realize that, “monkeys range in size from the Pygmy Marmoset, at 140 to 160 millimeters (5–6 in) long (plus tail) and 120 to 140 grams (4–5 oz) in weight, to the male Mandrill, almost 1 meter (3.3 ft) long and weighing 35 kilograms (77 lb.).” You decide to pursue the fatter “Mandrill.” But which is the tastiest? Wikipedia does not disclose that information. Which will provide sustenance for the longest time?

    This story represents all the changes and choices we have in the new music industry. We can no longer hunt the buffalo (symbol of the record label), they are rare and almost extinct. The monkey itself represents the change in our environment and the new opportunities we have to chase. The plight of the wolf is that it does not yet have the refined skills to hunt the monkey and must be creative and adapt so that evolution will continue.

    enter the age of monkey overload

    When old regimes fall their is a sense of euphoria. Freedom that sets the soul on fire and creates a motivated kinetic stream of energy. Suddenly the industry is a level playing field. The old model where you had to work your butt off for years until you were “discovered” has cracked. (I’m sorry, if you were lucky and knew the right people is how might have been discovered.) Major record labels are crumbling. Indies’ don’t have to chase after record deals anymore. We can navigate our own course, fund our own records, book our own shows and promote our own brand. What do we do with all this power? Nobody is blocking the doors to success. This should be liberating.

    Ahh, but just as wolves are not made to hunt monkey artists are not designed for thinking about marketing and brand development. Or are we?

    There are hundreds of websites that track music industry news, the best ways to cyber-promote yourself, the hottest social network to be on, the quickest way to make a “viral” youtube video, the best blogs to get your music reviewed on, etc. They are all supposed to help us figure out how to navigate our own self-directed careers. You can spend all day just reading what you need to know on the internet. There is nobody in the corner telling you that the monkey you are chasing will eventually end up in the tree-tops, or will provide dinner for you and your family for the next week.

    Suddenly, the one great gate to which we all wanted to pass through has become a thousand tiny doors. The options and possibilities are endless. The choices make our eyes bleed red for miles.

    When people ask me about the future of the music business I tend to think this is my answer: you must bend or be broken. You must use your creative mind to raise yourself up above the sludge and scream out with all your megaphones LISTEN UP! You are a creative being and you have all the tools you need to succeed! If a teenager from Nebraska called “Fred” can reach over 100 million channel views and over 633 million video views for stupid antics he self-recorded, then you really have no excuse. (Just Google “Fred” to see what I mean.)

    I predict that the future will be as such: independent artists will band together into conglomerates which help each other to succeed. We will book shows together and cross-promote to our lateral fan base and share ideas. We may even create our own mini-labels or unions like specialized cliques that focus promotion into niche markets. We will use our abundance of skills to trade design work, production, and we will provide guest work on records. We will even band together with other like-minded bands to run our own festivals. This is already happening in small waves. It has not completely caught on yet.

    Just like evolution in the predator-prey archetype, this new industry will change again and again. I have decided to embrace change and evolution and promote it in every effort I make, whether it be a business pursuit, my hair, or an artistic endeavor. I also know, just like dogs in a pack, that if I team up with like-minded people I am more likely to catch, and not scatter, those monkeys.

    (No monkeys were harmed by any wolves in the making of this article. I do not hate monkeys or any other animal. I just think they are funny and annoying creatures. I do sometimes hate bananas, but only when they are stringy. )

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