While the RIAA fiddles, the music empire burns

I love living in Music City. When people outside the area ask me about living here, I tell them, “Imagine every church having a fantastic band.” And it isn’t just country music that’s represented here. Every waiter or waitress is a budding song-writer, and a lot of the major rock bands find support people here.

That’s why this excellent article by the Associated Press caught my attention this morning (Thanks, J.D.).

The story offers an in-depth look at the do-it-yourself music industry that’s budding in the wake of the homogenized “guaranteed hit” formulas of the major record labels. This grassroots effort is an excellent illustration of what’s taking place in our culture overall, and all forms of media need to be paying attention.

How are all these aspiring musicians marketing their product? The Internet has been a huge boon, because it allows cheap, direct distribution of music to — and communication with — fans. Practically every artist now has an official Web site, most offering free MP3 downloads, and they maintain e‑mail lists to promote upcoming shows and releases. Many musicians also sign up with services that license their songs to pay-per-download sites like iTunes.

A growing number of DIY bands have also begun to license their songs to television. The popularity of youth-oriented shows such as “Scrubs,” “Everwood” and “The O.C.” has created a burgeoning demand for music to be used in the background of scenes or over closing credits.

These bands are able to define success in the ways they see fit, and not by the bottom line. So while RIAA lawyers continue to fight to protect the status quo, there’s this whole new entity building from the bottom-up that they likely don’t view as a threat. As technology continues to serve this new market, it’ll begin eating away at the mainstream. Online radio stations will grow to assist in the marketing process, and the RIAA won’t be able to do anything to stop it.

Aw c’mon, Terry. You can’t seriously think a bunch of garage bands will take over the music industry, can you?

Well, we can’t necessarily think that they won’t either? And the point is that this same model is rising up for frustrated video producers as well. Anything that releases the monopolistic grip that the entertainment industry has on creativity is a very healthy thing.

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