The Problems Musicians Face and How To Solve Them, Pt. 7
Part7Written by Tommy Darker, originally published in The Musicpreneur.
Travelling the world and chatting with fellow aspiring artists reveals astounding insights about the future of music. Here’s the deal: we think we all face different problems, but the reality reveals the opposite. I will share one of these insights, explaining what it means for the way we work as musicians and how to move in the future.
This is the 7th and final part. Each part is linked at the end of the post.
The chicken and egg problem. What comes first: the Medium or the Message?
Sangeet Paul Choudary , expert in platform building, mentions a term that is spot on to describe the main challenge in the upcoming music ecosystem: ‘the chicken and egg problem.’ (by the way, read his blog, it might turn your head on the subject of platform thinking)
What will come first? The change of Medium (the music ecosystem) or the Message (musicians solving their problems)?
I have practical experience when it comes to platform and community building, and I can confess that the underlying principles are the same whether you build a music, tech or stitching community. We all obey the rules that dominate our nature — not merely as music lovers, but as human beings in general. This is my attempt to suggest something practical, hoping that my expertise and guesswork will not fail to make sense.
Let’s put things in perspective and attempt to give a plausible answer.
A platform or ecosystem is powerful because of the network effects: the more people that use it or inhabit it, the more valuable it becomes. In other words, somehow a brave start needs to be made.
For a platform like Facebook, the initial problem might go like this: there’s no value in the platform without users inhabiting and interacting in it, and there’s no reason for the first users to come in an empty network.
For a platform like Ebay, it would be: there’s no reason for people to put their products online if there’s no-one to buy them to and there’s no reason for the first customers to show up unless there are products to buy.
What comes first? How do you inhabit a promising platform or network, if there’s ambiguity in how to make a start? How will this music ecosystem arrive, if there’s no Musicpreneurs inhabiting it and no services to cater the Musicpreneurs’ needs?
There are numerous ways to solve this problem, but the most practical, in our case, is to find an already existing structure and exploit it.
How will we find this structure?
First of all, we already have Musicpreneurs operating around us. I’ve met many of them during my trips. They build businesses around their music and think like entrepreneurs when it comes solving problems, but switch to thinking like artists when it comes to creating questions. They are the foundation, the strong bones that embody the new ecosystem.
But they’re isolated. These aspiring Musicpreneurs are unaware that others exist. If they did, it would be easier for them to connect, collaborate and innovate. A community and an ecosystem starts gaining momentum when a few active leaders gather together and show practically the way to others. These ‘others’ are the musicians who want to and are willing to do the work, but need a kick in the butt to start. They are the smaller (but equally important) bones of the ecosystem.
In other words, the already existing Musicpreneurs need to connect with each other, then start being active with innovative Messages (or create dots, as you prefer) in order to lure and trigger the curiosity of other musicians who would love to do the same.
It might take a while until these Messages start creating momentum and media coverage, fuelling debates about new practices for musicians and business. I’m sure it will spark the audience’s curiosity — every novel activity does. I’ve been told “the more you talk about an idea, the more real you make it”. These conversations are the ligaments of the body, giving it the ability to stand up strong.
This momentum will grab attention with successful case studies to be examined and analyzed. Universities, institutes, music media and already existing communities are a perfect ‘carriage’ for these Messages to be transmitted to a broader, but targeted audience. This official examination of Musicpreneurship is the flesh and consciousness of the ecosystem, making it real for people to see.
Once some momentum is created, the participating Musicpreneurs will start identifying themselves with the common characteristics, attributes and goals that unite them. Do you know what happens when like-minded people walk towards a mutual direction? A movement is born. This means that the ecosystem stops being merely a body, it also shapes its own personality.
The bigger the movement, the more inelastic it will become, with more problems to solve, more motivation and belief to be fuelled and, of course, more resources and time to expend. These ‘bad problems’, though, will essentially create and shape the desirable ecosystem we all crave! Why? Because problems create the need for interaction with other, more-experienced ecosystems, in order to solve them.
An ecosystem is created to solve and cater to a community’s needs, and that’s what will happen in our case too. Imagine for a moment. Investors capital will come when they see money already being made by Musicpreneurs. Services will come when a significant amount of Musicpreneurs need a problem solved. The audience will start supporting artistic enterprises in a sustainable way, when the enterprises take themselves seriously and work with a small but loyal audience that will help them scale up. The government and music industry will recognize and support musicpreneurship when it becomes a movement that can be recognized by the public.
What a new music ecosystem would potentially include:
• Education system
• Service providers
• Governmental support
• Business partners
• Investors (angel- and venture-)
• Cultural accelerators
• Responsive audience
Most importantly? There will be the involvement of superstars, leading Musicpreneurs, middle class Musicpreneurs and amateur/hobbyist musicians. Not just the former and latter classes, the big gap in musical ‘success’ we see today. Education will help the promising amateurs to become middle class, luck and work will make them leading and labels/infrastructure/partners/investment will be used to scale up towards the head of the Long Tail.
Does it seem like a sci-fi scenario? It’s not. The foundations are being laid down this very moment. Musicians are thinking of solutions at this very moment. It will start to become powerful when the innovative Musicpreneurs connect with each other, something which I’m working on myself.
Last thing to mention.
Talking about Musicpreneurship as something that we expect to happen is like secretly awaiting our next boss to dominate our lives. Musicpreneurship is something that we do, not something that happens.
We are the brave new music world.
After this meticulous exploration of today’s musician’s problems, the current context that we operate within, feasible suggestions to cure the problems and a sneak peek at the future musical ecosystem, I think it’s time to quickly recap.
(Part 1,2) The notion that musicians face problems that are local and specialized is wrong; the majority of musicians around the world face the same problems. This creates the opportunity for a universal solution.
(Part 3) Actually, there is only one problem to be identified: the false belief that the ways we obtain knowledge and do business are still the same like in the past. Things have changed and the problem is our resistance to change.
(Part 4) Exploring Marshall McLuhan’s ‘Medium is the Message’, we currently use labels and technology companies as our main Medium to solve business problems, while music academies and blogs serve the purpose of the Medium for obtaining knowledge. These Mediums offered a lot in the past, but they create an outdated ecosystem for musicians today, failing to solve our problems efficiently.
The way musicians currently solve our problems when it comes to live performances, making an income, promoting our work and managing our time is not effective, despite the existence of promising alternatives. The main reason why? The context around these problems is itself problematic and needs a change.
(Part 5) Exploring the main Mediums that constitute success in the Musicpreneur era, Mediatization and Communities are the two environments where modern musicians can prosper and create richer stories for their tribes.
(Part 6) “Innovative Mediums need innovative Messages”, and in order to build a flourishing environment, 7 focal areas have been identified:
• The way musicians understand and treat business
• The educational system that provides musicians with knowledge
• The means for musicians to spend their time productively
• The importance of collaboration, connection and disconnection
• The notion that innovation comes through seeding Community Gardens
• The insight that building communities creates long-term sustainability
• The changes that will occur in the future musical ecosystem
(Part 7) There is a bright future ahead. Momentum will truly grow with the connection of existing Musicpreneurs…
Then, through collaboration, success stories, and inspiring others to be part of a tangible movement follows a new and better ecosystem for a new and better musical world. And you can be a part of it.
Join our community of #Musicpreneurs
We build the music ecosystem we want to live in.
Don’t forget to remember: https://twitter.com/TommyDarker/status/481742638241296384
Further investigation and resources are necessary to explore the present and future of music, so I reckoned it would be useful to provide some links below. They are either already mentioned in the essay or provide additional context to the issues discussed.
 Sangeet Paul Choudary
Statistics about music experiences.
Tommy Darker is the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician and thinker about the future of the music industry. His vision is to simplify scalable concepts and make them work for independent musicians.
He is a writer about the movement of the #Musicpreneur and founder of Darker Music Talks, a global series of discussions between experts and musicians. He and his work have been featured in Berklee, TEDx, Berlin Music Week, Midem, SAE Institute, Hypebot and Topspin Media. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.
This research and essay is proudly patronized by its readers.