How To Save The Music Business
The music business is on it's heels and falling over. Outdated practices and a lack of street sense are causing poor returns on investments and a disconnect from fans. I believe the solution to all of the problems is simple: give the fans less. Details after the jump.
Let's take a look at the current business model for most bands (anything under a U2 or Rolling Stones size act). Most bands will spend somewhere between six months and a year in the studio to record a dozen tracks, then tour across the U.S. playing about 80 dates while releasing and playing 2-3 singles from the album they recorded. That is the business model and it's broken.
The solution to me is a return to the 3-5, but usually four song e.p. Now take everything I listed above and cut it in half. First and foremost, the band is only getting to promote and play a couple of their "new" songs on every tour. Why not use half the studio time and only cut the songs that they think are the best of the best? Next, they can play across the U.S. and when they get to the other side, cut another four then come back, and so on and so on. With each release there is a "theme" and with each 'theme' there is the latest t-shirt and posters and such. So they've cut their studio time down, they only recorded the songs that they can promote and they've doubled the amount of merchandise they can sell. Plus the bands will be able to offer a "project" in the five bucks or less range and when the price gets there it's easier to pay for it than to even steal it. Once every year and half to two years they gather the best of the e.p. tracks and that becomes a collection or greatest hits album (the Beatles and Stones did releases very much like this).
What got me thinking about this topic is the latest Korn c.d. "The Path To Totality" . There are three fantastic tracks on the c.d. (Get Up, Narcissistic Cannibal and Chaos Lives in Everything-all the Skrillex tracks). Now these tracks are unbelievable and as good and or better than most stuff that Korn has recorded. The rest of the c.d. is filler, serious filler. There's just no reason for those other tracks on the c.d. to exist, they sound like they were half written and complete after thoughts. Now I don't want to dissuade you from buying the c.d., you may like the "mood pieces" in between the tracks I mentioned, but why pay $15 for 3 good tracks and 7 filler tracks when you could have paid $5 for just the good tracks?
Back to the topic at large, in addition to budgets, they way people spend time is changing as well. A 45 to 60 minute duration is a long time to spend listening to one artist. There are people out there who have relationships that don't last that long. A good solid e.p. would deliver you a nice 15-20 minutes-perfect to get across town, to enjoy on a lunch break, or to put in it's entirety on a mix tape.
One of the greatest examples of what I'm talking about was the Alice In Chains project "Jar of Flies". The band wanted to put out an "acoustic" project (and as I was saying that's a good length for something "experimental"). Now let's look at the tracks.
1. No Excuses
2. I Stay Away
3. Don't Follow
4. Whale & Wasp
On this e.p. we had two monster singles, one giant fan favorite and one track of the band "stretching out". Can you imagine this c.d. if it was the first three tracks and eight other tracks along the lines of "Whale & Wasp"? Well that's what you get with most "albums".
Here's another great question for you: would you open a restaurant that's open for one year then closed for one year, then open, then closed? That's what happens when your band is off the road. A band that is off the road rarely makes any money, and even worse, most bands only have a period of about ten years of peak popularity. Why would you want to spend half of the years that you could be making money taking a break?
The new formula should be simple. Record four songs, redo merchandise, tour six months, repeat. No one loses, everybody wins.