How do you deal with an artist who has talent but has an anti music industry attitude and feelings of mistrust against it?
Here comes Collegiate Rock. The postmodern record business was built around artists who excelled in the local honky-tonks, bars, night clubs and concert halls that proliferate around the country. The best of the best prospered and moved to the big city. From Nashville, New York and L.A. they were assumed into the music industry systems that linked the activities of performing and recording. The singers and songwriters around whom the bands were constructed started young and rose from the streets. Rarely did they stop long enough in their vision quest to acquire an education. Now, thousands of colleges and universities offer courses in the business of music.
It stands to reason that the graduates of these programs are better prepared to address the issues of integrating art and commerce than their predecessors. In the past, artists worked hard for years and eventually figured out how to play the game of showbiz. With a modicum of talent, a lot of aggressive action and a little luck an artist might get "discovered" and have a viable career. The process often relied more on luck than talent; but that won't work in The Music Renaissance.
University educated musicians come to the music industry with artistic skills developed over many years. Millions of those little "Guitar Heroes" graduate to real instruments very early and they demonstrate highly advanced writing and performing talent by the time they reach college.
Through university business, marketing and economics programs artists acquire a completely different set of tools with which to engage the challenges of an industry in search of a new business model. These contenders for stardom are not lost in the fog of showbiz. They are not obligated to the systems and mechanics of the postmodern record business. Young artists don't need the established power structure to endorse their talent. They can exploit it themselves.
The paradigm has shifted. The record business has consolidated down to four multi-national corporate giants that control the manufacturing, distirbution, promotion and marketing of ninety percent of records sold through brick and mortar outlets. The glue that holds this system together is broadcast radio, another industry in transition. When every iPod and iPhone is a self programmable, custom radio station, terrestrial radio becomes a default delivery system.
The major labels really don't have much to offer a truly talented artist. If a new act has a certain business acumen and a knowledge of Internet systems and protocols they are better off without a record company. In fact a non-corporate image is uniquely attractive to the potential fan who is often searching for a tribal identity. The public has seen enough cable TV to know that the record companies are the traditional enemy of the artist. The fans prefer to deal directly with the act.
When I meet a young band, the first thing I ask is, "What are your short and long term goals?" When they tell me they want a record deal, I know they haven't got a clue. If they tell me they want to start their own record company and own their copyrights and masters, I know they get it. If they demonstrate a complete distrust of the record business, I think that maybe they have a chance to win in The Music Renaissance. A good business education is the best place to start.