GrammyFor indie artists and producers serious about marketing their music in the coming decade, Bob Lefsetz has another great rant about the impending collapse of the major labels:

unless you make mainstream pop or hip-hop music, WHY BOTHER WITH A MAJOR LABEL? They’re not interested in artist development. Hell, EMI won’t EXIST by time you put out your SECOND album, never mind your third or fourth. You want to get caught in that vortex?

It’s no secret that Lefsetz thinks the executives at the major labels dug their own collective grave. Most people who follow the industry probably feel the same way. So why did his rant grab my attention? One passage in particular:

Don’t swing for the fences. We live in a niche world. Don’t carpet bomb, hitting those not interested, rather just appeal to the core. And the core will support you, buy your CD even if they’ve stolen the tracks, as a badge of HONOR!

Lefsetz is right on the money here. Not only do we live in a niche world, but the Internet has given rise to, what Clay Shirky calls, meganiches. With hundreds of millions of users within your reach, your niche can appeal to a tiny percentage of consumers and still be huge. Further, independent music practically defines a long tail market place. Amazon and the iTunes Music Store should serve as good examples of why that’s important.

This leads to an unrelated piece in NY Magazine. The greatest generation gap since rock and roll has nothing to do with indie music or music promotion, but the thesis it presents is important to anyone involved with either:

When I was in high school, you’d have to be a megalomaniac or the most popular kid around to think of yourself as having a fan base. But people 25 and under are just being realistic when they think of themselves that way, says media researcher Danah Boyd, who calls the phenomenon “invisible audiences.” Since their early adolescence, they’ve learned to modulate their voice to address a set of listeners that may shrink or expand at any time

If you’re much older than 25, the people described in the article probably seem odd. But make no mistake: The future does indeed “belong to the uninhibited.” And anyone planning to market music will have to understand that audience, for soon they will make up the lion’s share of the 18-34 year-olds most music sellers want to reach. (Even in a world of meganiches, you still need consumers with disposable income.)

The teens and twenty-somethings who grew up with a ubiquitous internet have views on copyright, property, privacy, and music that differ considerably from those of their parents, or even their older siblings. I thought this quote, from Xiyin in the NY Mag article, captures it best: “To me, or to a lot of people, it’s like, why go to a party if you’re not going to get your picture taken?”

If you think she’s talking nonsense, that parties were just fine before camera phones and Facebook, then ask yourself this: Do you at least know how to market your music to someone who thinks like Xiyin? Because you’ll need to …

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