why don’t you look at me / why don’t you see me go

The story in The New Zealand Herald yesterday about the health of the NZ music industry, or otherwise, elicited this response from a reader. I post it without comment or any editing:

El Sid signs on…..

Couple of years ago we were hearing that local music has never been so healthy. At every NZ Music Awards.

I cant wait to hear what they’re gonna say this year!

It was bullshit then and its bullshit now. It’s hardly any form of revelation that artists have had to take second jobs. Most of them should never have left them (if they indeed did-Zane Lowe never left his!) in the first place. You seriously want me to believe that the Bleeders expect to make a living from their music in a country this size. They are the type of band that will sell more tee shirts than cd’s. Blindspott are hardly a hard working band and their sophomore album with German producers was probably not aimed totally at NZ anyway. They must have had at least one eye on trying to consolidate on their much trumpeted Asian success, and bloody good on them … so why are they are wasting their time and money at SXSW recently …. trying to nurture interest in the US Industry that is already 20% down on last year’s dismal results. Why aren’t they back in Asia?

Bic is an interesting phenomenon. Campbell was handed Bic on a plate and all credit due, they put the hard yard in overseas. Back then Campbell said that Bic on p2p sites was the best guerrilla marketing they had in certain territories. Sony NZ and International poured in the marketing but they can’t do that anymore. It doesn’t work like it did back then. It’s a whole new ballgame! The majors know that better than any of us. They know any business that is in the business of trying to create demand instead of cater to demand is in trouble. All those old marketing paths don’t deliver any more and the serious suspicion is that maybe even the baby boomer public have wised up! Their kids certainly have. The only time kids listen to the radio is in their parents cars, TV viewing drop off can be measured in the deteriorating production standards of TV commercials. To kids Cd’s are like ‘things’. … It goes on. It’s back to basics. Realness. Playing live. Treating your fans as special. Getting educated and getting smarter! Creating new promotional paths and exploiting the Net and working with people who can be all things to the artist. By artists measuring what they become by their art instead of how much they get for it. The irony technology has created ! Campbell’s management company was nearly all things to the artist, but he couldn’t (back then) not work with the labels . But, with his manager’s hat on, I bet he’s bloody not thinking that now!

If I was Bic I’d be thinking that dragging her brand (which is very credible) thru this latest outburst is seriously uncool. Altho she will be cool. She has catalogue and cred here and overseas. One license of ‘Drive’ to a car commercial will set her up for another year. Bic should be pissed off being treated like this. Its like EMI trying to save their sinking ass by pouring all their eggs into Norah Jones’ basket. You think the daughter of Ravi Shankar believes she should be at number one globally, let alone generating enough income to bail out a seriously failing corporate – no way jose. The MD’s of our local companies know the writing is on the wall and that the present model has got to change or die. Mike Bradshaw is a very smart guy. Campbell is a very smart guy. They know they should have attempted to work with Napster and learn to monetize P2P years ago, but instead their respective bosses tried to blow it out of the water and sue their customers. Dumb and dumber. The problem of scale and distance has ALWAYS been the problem for local artists, and the Net is part of a working solution. If the labels and RIANZ spent the time, money and energy of working with the same technology as they have trying to control it, local artists might be able to have more confidence in these same people. NZOA is in a prima position to be a source for all local artists to be posted on one website that could have international prominence, positioning and profile but MIC still persevere in sending a select number of artists to attend select festivals that are still aligned to a redundant model. Forget it. No one is home.

NZOA is the best thing that ever happened to local music but they need to upgrade their criteria and re vamp their role. They gotta pick up the ball. They long ago got into bed with radio programmers who became A&R consultants to an industry that hardly had any A&R. Now radio and TV aren’t what they were. Local A&R was always the domain of local indies who never got much airplay anyway. And it’s still the same old same old. Problem is all the Indies are more flat ass broke than ever. Some of the artists themselves are as much to blame. At WOMAD you saw high profile artists doing autograph signings for their public in the pouring rain for up to an hour after their gig. I cant remember the last time I saw local icons meeting and mingling with their public, except at the private bar

The next thing that will start hitting the major labels, here and overseas is that major artists wont re sign once their deal is up. And I can bet your lunch, that Campbell, with his manager’s hat on (again) is considering this one! Oh Yeh! The majors are in a terrible position. They can’t be all things to the artist, and that is what the artist needs. Managers can. Already the majors aren’t developing new acts. They don’t have the resources viz time/money. The A&R vacuum being created now is only being balanced by the next Coldplay album. That’s all the majors can do. Wait for the new Metallica or whatever. Soon as Coldplay and their ilk say ‘see ya’ (and they will) the majors wont be able to plug the hole in the product gap. Delivery of product has always been the key to their cash flow. It’s here guys! Right under your fingertips. Technology has accelerated to the point that it changes faster than big companies can move to address it, let alone try get the cd out in time!

If youre in a young touring band, get out of here. If you’re relying on cd sales, get a job . If you’re smart, start treating your fans better. If you’re a song writer, treat your catalogue well and you will be sweet! Synchronization, touring and merchandise is where its at … but most of all. . . u gotta BYOB !

El Sid…..

update: Bob Daktari, a long time industry insider, has more

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