A few weeks ago we began our “Grow the Hell Up!” campaign. So over the next few weeks we are going to expand the series to include posts that will speak to how we feel that these goals can be achieved by record labels, artists and fans.

Well, we’re back this week with the commentary on our posted manifesto. We hope that there has been an opportunity to consider what we are proposing and with the addition of commentary the conversation /debate can begin in earnest.

Up this week: Record Labels

The Grow the Hell up Manifesto(Record Label Edition)

1. “Music like water-Music should be a utility bill.”– ?uestlove

Quite frankly this is one of the Pink Elephants in the room. Debate all you want but music has really moved into the arena of free. It’s not that water is free, but because it is on when you need it all the time, it somewhat feels that way. In other words, if you had to hit a download button, or put a coin into a slot or swipe your debit card everytime you needed to or wanted to take a shower, wash some clothes or dishes or whatever else you use water for, you would definitely view the experience in a different way. Sure, we can argue the merits of wants vs. needs but the fact remains that when a “service” is bundled into a monthly payment you view it quite differently than a “product” that you continually purchase. Maybe that’s a good place for the debate to begin: Is music a product or a service? This certainly is not one of those arguments for “free” in the respect that persons will not be compensated for their hard work, much to the contrary. But it is taking this last millennium practice of giving me a “snippet” and expecting me to purchase a “product” based on a snippet. I think the reason that people use snippets, watermarks, etc., is that they are worried about piracy. It is certainly something to consider, but honestly the best way to combat piracy is access. Why would you “steal” something that’s readily available? I don’t think you would. So maybe one way to grow up is to change the mindset from a product based model to a service based model where you will hear fans of music discuss the fact that they have to pay their music bill, along with their cellphone and other utilities.

2. “Forget product — sell relationship: The old model of music business is dominated by the sale of an individual artefact for a set sum of money. iTunes is still completely old school. The new model is about starting an ongoing economic relationship with a community of fans.”– Andrew Dubber

I think that this point was somewhat covered in the last response, so suffice to say I could not agree more. Why all this emphasis on a one time “hit” when what labels should really be focusing on is a long term relationship with consumers. As much as I love Apple and I do, iTunes really is very last century. It’s a CD mindset minus the CD. Time to grow into something new. Maybe the labels can go the way of the Cable Content Creators like HBO, TBS, MTV etc., where their job is to create the content and then there are entirely new businesses that spring up like Comcast, Direct TV etc., who are Cable Service or Satellite Service type providers except with music. So as I mentioned in the last response having music move into the realm of the utility so if I’m paying $15 a month to my provider: “Let me tune into the whatever label channel and see what they have going on over there…ooh I like this one that I’m listening to the full stream, I think I’m going to either download it or save it to my music locker or whatever.” This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as building a relationship, all sorts of content could be offered with subscription. I know folks like to bash subscription models but I’m sort of thinking of subscription as being interchangeable with membership. We love to belong.

3. “Music-world doesn’t need millionaires to be significant – music doesn’t change my life based on the wealth of the artists”-Steve Lawson

I’m not saying that you get anymore credibility with me if you live a humble lifestyle, but honestly enough is enough with the lavish, garish lifestyles. To be very frank and honest it shows in the music that is produced. How many more riches to rags stories do we need to see? It’s not working…this is really the part where you should insert “Grow The Hell Up!”

4. “Every study on sales has proven one thing: People hate to be sold to, however people love to buy, and people always love to buy from people whom they like and who they feel they trust.”– Ariel Hyatt

New marketing 101: Don’t tell me what’s hot 24/7 connect with me first and then let me decide. The operative word is the connection. Labels have not connected for years, all they have been doing is sell, sell, sell. There used to be labels that made such a connection with me that half the time I didn’t even have to hear what they were pushing I just saw the label logo and it was a guaranteed sale. The only way you can arrive at that type of brand loyalty is through trust. That’s what we’re talking about here: A business that is not so consumed by the bottom line that they forgo quality. When you are mature it is a lot easier to establish trust.

5. “So, labels trump up a hit, and are then pissed when people don’t want to buy the whole album. Why? That’s like saying if I liked the pepper in the grocery store, I must buy the cookies and the toilet paper too. One has almost nothing to do with the other…” -Bob Lefsetz

Labels we don’t need another hit…we need eras, moments in time etc., Most lovers of music could care less about a hit. They want to connect with an entire arc of what an artist or a collective of artists are about. Stop trotting out acts and trumping them up to be the next anything. That’s part of the problem everyone is looking for the next instead of the first. Priority one make great music from start to finish. Labels may have a problem completing this task because there are far too many people in the music business who know absolutely nothing about music. So maybe that would be another great “Grow The Hell Up!” move, clean house.

6. “You can’t make art with business in mind.” – Jay-Z

Do you really think DaVinci was concerned with how many units he could move of “The Mona Lisa”. Yes, different time and discipline but the point remains: Make a statement and not necessarily a financial one. Just because you sell a lot of records doesn’t mean that you had anything particularly important to say. I remember several years ago listening to the random ridiculousness of a debate between two rappers from different eras. The new era rapper was being totally dismissive(and disrespectful) to his musical elder totally based on sales. This is art people not commerce. No one sells more hamburgers than McDonald’s but does anyone really go there because the hamburgers are great? Leave the bean counting to the bean counters and the music to the musicians.

7. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” -unknown

Stop rehashing, recreating, and duplicating, please. I’m tired of it, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I recall last week sitting in a club on a set break and they were playing some music of some contemporary male R&B vocalists. I’m not kidding when I say I could not tell one from the other. Tired of productions with the same sounds, done by the same people, talking about the same things. Everyone wants to reference Marvin Gaye but no label has the guts to put out the 2010 equivalent of “What’s Goin On?” and trust we have just as many problems and wars as they did in 1971 so the times have not changed that much. But the point remains forge your own style and sound, please!

8. “But they(record labels)really missed the ball in identifying their customers. They thought their customers were Wal-Mart, Target and other record retailers. Instead their customers were people like you and me who actually buy music.”-Dave Kusek

Customers are people not corporations! Can you imagine what the customer experience would be if labels spent all the effort and energy that they spend on courting Wal-Mart, Target et al, courting fans? Target gets a pass (for now) but the hell with Wal-Mart. That doesn’t even sound right music and Wal-Mart yet they are the major player on the physical side of things. What happened to the experience of walking into a store that was populated with experts on music? Not smiley face smocks. Sorry but that’s half the damn problem, music became like Wal-Mart, cheap and infinitely replicated.

9. “No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH!or no.” -Derek Sivers

Labels please stop putting out these half-baked garbage acts. I want music that really puts me in the Hell Yeah camp! I don’t care about genres, when something is real and great you can feel it. Most of the stuff that labels pass out these days are from people who are very motivated to be rich celebrities, not great musicians. There are ways that you can become a rich celebrity that don’t involve music. I would suggest that those people interested in the riches and celebrity explore those venues. I am suggesting that labels take the word money out of their collective mouths, because it’s not working at all. Hell yeah I said it.

10. “Money had never been the main thing for me. It’s the legacy that was important.”-Berry Gordy

Ahh yes money vs. legacy. Say what you want about Berry Gordy(we’ll leave the business practices alone for the purposes of this discussion) but the fact remains he created a musical legacy. Who has created a legacy like that in the last 10 yrs.? Anyone? I’m sure there must be some entity that has…labels why are you so hellbent on today’s dollar when if you took the time to help create something of lasting value you could have today’s, tomorrow’s and the future’s dollars. So maybe you should think about the value of a legacy the next time you try and ram down our throats the next (insert random act here) who may have a flash in the pan moment but fizzles out before the next quarter. Labels get some big boy pants and create a legacy and stop playing in the sandbox.

Post Script

Embedding

I’m going to need for labels and people posing as labels to stop playing around with the embedding. If you discover something great, the usual human response is to share it. Countless times I run into this issue, where embedding is disabled. Why? You don’t want as many pairs of eyes and ears to know about what you’re doing? Oh it’s about control over my content. Cool. So how profitable(and I don’t mean just in monetary terms) is your content when people can’t or don’t experience it? Truth be told there are people still discovering you tube as well as there are people who are too busy to search through dozens of sites to find what they are searching for. Some people have their 4 or 5 trusted sites that they go to and if your content is not there it doesn’t exist. We had a comment the other week that spoke to the importance of embeddable content. An already established fan found out about an artist that they have supported for years new project via our site. Because of that discovery with a trusted source they made a purchase. Two things immediately came to mind: 1. What if we were not allowed to embed that content? 2. This was a perfect opportunity for either the artist or a label representative to thank the fan directly. Do you know how far that would go? Do you know how easy it is to monitor what is being said about you online? Plus on top of all that this would be marketing that would not cost you one thin dime. I’m still holding out hope that the artist will connect, but we’ll see…

Snippets

I railed on this a little earlier…please just stop with the snippets. Quick question: Does the radio play :30 sec. snippets?

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.