The Return to Music as a Shared Experience

## Could the music industry evolve and grow by looking back into history

Yesterday I posted a link to my IMS Visionaries entry on the IMS website. Below you can find the full transcript of the talk.


We all remember the first album we bought.

And the industry that brought that product to us has lead the way in recent decades. It’s brought entirely new art forms into being – from EDM itself to DJing and remixing – and the ability to enjoy music in any place and at any time.

Many talks at IMS this year, discuss the tail off in recorded music revenues in recent years and the increasing realisation that music as a product means music as a commodity.

Every day I read an article on the future of music, in the form of apps or subscriptions.

Today I’m not going to talk about technology as a solution – but I’m looking to really challenge the standards of the current incumbent structure by looking back into history, where music was widely perceived – not as a product – but as part of culture itself.

The History of Music in Culture

Going right back to early forms of african tribal music – musicians visited villages for days. In a festival event the whole village was involved in creating the one off performance. Building and dieing in the course of the event – and only living on in the collective memory of the community.

Fast forwarding to 18th century Europe, classical music was popular for the elite middle classes of the day.

This music – music which would be performed by amateurs – but was funded by patrons – either the church or wealthy people who would commission works and even have small orchestras as part of their household staff.

The works in themselves were not valued that highly. Concerts were enjoyed by a public that would be drinking and socialising while enjoying the music – or as a backdrop to religious services – It was the soundtrack to everyday life.

Only in the late Classical period – could composers and musicians start to make a living by performing publicly. This was the beginning of the commercially based professional musician. The development of music publishing and then the recording industry – then led to a period of commercial music – where music was a product that was financed by sales.

What we see as music today is the sum o this period which has lasted around 150 – 200 years but may be coming to an end.

Music as a Shared Experience – Process Over Product

Artists and increasingly labels are getting wise to the fact that the value in the art of music lays in “Live”. Music has come from a place of being entirely live and experiential and every summer there are more and more acts touring with [live] tagged on to the name.

Every part of the music making process, preparation and performance can and should now be shared live, and not just broadcasted too, but collaborated upon by an artist’s audience – in the modern day this is their community. This goes back to a World Music Model with it’s tribal origins – where a whole community is involved in the music making process.

What’s a good example of this? Three years ago now – Deadmau5 produced the track “The Veldt” in a 22 hour live streaming session with thousands of fans watching. The next day a fan on Twitter uploaded a rendition of the song with his vocals. Also live Deadmau5 discovered and used the vocals for the final version of the track. This is music as a shared experience at every stage. – and we should see more of it.

Funding Music Through Patronage

Patronage is a broad term and one that I think is a bit of a no go for a lot of established labels.

What I’m not talking about here is pay what you like models or tipping.

Contributions from music companies, that would once be seen as labels or media channels but have become much more – even brands in fashion, drinks and technology.

There is sometimes a backlash here, and I can see why brands mixing with music is seen as treading on toes. But today, brands patronising music is not very far from those with money funding the arts in the history, what we think of as commercially funded music may be an interlude in this longer process.

Who’s doing this well? In 2011 Katy B – signed to Sony – thanked “the Rinse family”, “the Red Bull family”, “the Sónar family” as the benevolent forces behind her musics success.

Increasingly on the table for discussion I think brands patronising music is a return to an historic model rather that takes the industry to the next level.

Opening a Discussion

Here I’ve discussed a couple of models and how they should be framed in history – not as shocking, dangerous and potentially damaging to the industry – but as ways to break the entrenched mindset of music as a product – that has lasted for about 200 years – we are now seeing the end of the that period

Right now I want to start a discussion. My message is simple. Music has not always existed in the forms we see today – the recorded artifact paid for by mass sales. So a shared experience paid for by benevolant brands not actualy be an evolution, but a model that exists in history that we should consider now.

And – after all – be it a gig or a rave – we all remember that first live music experience!



Hi, my names Ben and I’m traveling around the world with my bike, my paraglider and my laptop. Along the way I’m sharing the highs and lows of the life on the road. And my picks of the best places to bikepack, enjoy freeflight and work as a digital nomad. Each week I share a new video update, city guide or live streams with other adventurers I’ve met along the way.
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