Recently I heard that Jason Mraz was coming out for a concert, but due to work and domestic commitments, I couldn’t go and see him play. I was annoyed at missing out because I reckon he is one of the best musicians around at the moment, and I was unsure as to when he was going to be back.
Luckily for me Mraz is one of a new breed of musicians who has taken full advantage of the Internet. It’s no secret that record companies are struggling to survive like the days of old, and their revenue has been slipping. They fought the changes to how music was sent out to the masses, and won the first battle when Napster was kicked to touch in 2001.
However, since then they have been in a losing battle. And God knows what record execs thought when they heard that popular British band Radiohead decided to release their 2007 album In Rainbows on the Internet and told fans they could download it and pay (or not pay) what they wanted for it (interestingly, according to Radiohead, when the physical version of the album was released, it still made it to number one in both the UK and US).
Yet, Mraz and some other savvy musos have gone a step further. With his own website up and running, I can now subscribe to a newsletter that lets me know about upcoming concerts and events where Mraz is involved. He even allows the taping of his concerts and then to be put on the Internet, which having listened to, makes me even more determined to see him live the next time he visits these shores.
Record companies have finally clicked that the model has changed (not is changing, but has already), but what they may not realise is that even when it comes to promoting an artist, they may get left behind. As the Mraz example shows, musicians can now talk directly to their audience, doing away with A&R people. As pointed out by somebody who followed the Napster case back in the late 90s/early 00s, that while the likes of Metallica and Madonna were spewing about their music being downloaded for free, other bands on the fringes of music land were suddenly getting an audience to sell to – not just CDs, but their concerts.
Over the next few years, don’t be surprised if you see record companies becoming more involved in the peripheral aspects of music that probably won’t change – publishing and trying to hang on to the marketing aspects. Other than that, they are no longer the master of their own destinies, the artists are…