war of the musician worlds

Bruce Warila: When the known and the unknown worlds collide, will fans still buy music?

I’m just going to speculate that as the Known and Unknown worlds collide, Middle World artists will see a significant drop in music revenue.

When ten thousand free, just-as-good songs [from Unknowns] (about 600 hours of listening time – created annually) find a mass-market of receptive (key word here) music consumers, the Unknown World is going to sponge up a lot of the ‘enthusiasm’ that fans previously allocated to Known World artists. It makes me wonder: with 600 hours of just-as-good, free music available, will music fans still buy music?

The perfect disruptive business in this industry combines the following: free-sorted-sifted-just-as-good music coupled to repetitive mass-market exposure (for each song), combined with minimal overhead and zero legacy music industry legal friction.

I think it’s possible to create the business I just described, and this is the reason why I don’t get excited about businesses that intend to sell music (now yes, future doubtful). There are just too many artists with lots of just-as-good songs that deserve to be in the Known World club.

One bottleneck with creating the business Bruce just described is finding a way to attract a critical miss of listeners for no-label music. Listeners will steer towards stuff they already know, which is Known and then Middle World musicians. Why would the listeners go to your site for unknowns?

The other bottleneck is finding a way to cover your costs without having a big listener base to start with, since you’ll need to grow slowly, in tandem with the musicians and listeners.

These issues are what I’m thinking about when I gibber about cool netlabel activity like Phlow. Phlow is part of its community, no larger and no smaller, and the space it’s exploring is the disruptive angle that Bruce is thinking about.

Note: I trimmed Bruce’s post way down, and I lost a lot of the flavor. Check out the original.