Winner Take All?

Why the Distribution of Wealth in the Music Business is About to Improve

The music business over the past fifty years has been about the winners winning big, while those who don’t make to the the very top of the heap are scarcely able to scratch a living.  Some of these “losers” are immensely talented, with large and loyal followings.  But the money just doesn’t flow there, and most are eventually forced to find their livings outside of the thing they do best, making music.

Does it have to be this way?  Do the biggest acts necessarily have to suck all the oxygen (and cash) out of the system?  Is winner-take-all a natural and inevitable way that the business should take form?  Or is it, in fact, a system that has been purposely formed by the powerful forces that have controlled the music business for decade upon decade?

We believe that the system as it is today is not inevitable.  We believe that musical taste and experience is, in its very nature, diverse.  We think that, on their own, artists and their fans will develop a business environment where wealth and attention does not concentrate on the few, but is spread generously among the thousands and thousands of truly talented artists that bless our culture.  Mostly, we believe that the winner take all system has been specifically created and nurtured by the powerful corporations who have always benefited from it the most.

We don’t blame these corporations.  We get it.  They want to succeed, just like we all do.  For them, the winner take all system is the way to go.  They limit risk by concentrating and focusing their promotion and distribution resources.  They prefer the known quantity, the “star system”, over experimentation.  Their bottom lines are dominated by the returns they see from their headline acts, so this is where the focus, attention and resources have to be.

Twenty years ago, there was enough money splashing around that a fair bit of it trickled down to acts that weren’t at the pinnacle.  But now, as the whole industry faces constricted revenues, the first to suffer are those who are not the stars.  Big Music is trying to survive by betting even more on its major winners … and cutting off the rest.

We see this development as a major opportunity to re-tune how the business of music works.  Technology has made it trivial for fans and musicians to connect directly in every way.  What need is there for middle-men?  The fans are providing all the money – they always have – and the artists are providing all the music.  If these forces can communicate and organize correctly, they can do away with the aggregators and controllers.

So, if the technological backdrop is there, why hasn’t a new way of doing business already emerged?  Well, to a certain extent it has.  Crowdfunding has become material enough to have made some important inroads in capital formation.  Promotion and distribution has been deeply affected by social media and the sharing culture.  But there is more to come.  Much more, we think.

We believe that music is a special type of product that is perfectly situated to undergo a revolutionary change in how it is capitalized, developed, promoted and distributed.  Music is naturally broken up into bite-sized elements, called songs.  Capitalizing the development of a single song is not an overwhelming task.  Neither is its production, promotion, distribution, or consumption.  And so, millions of us can easily begin to experiment with a multitude of different ways of getting money and other resources to the artists, directly, so that they can get the music, and the experience surrounding it, back to us, directly.

At Decibol, we believe that artists and fans can build this new world of direct peer-to-peer business, without the need for middlemen to “organize” the fans’ money and to control the artists’ production.  Our mission is to provide a full-featured web application that will give fans, artists and others in the music business the tools to experiment with myriad ways of organizing themselves to get the money going, and the middle-man gone.

Please join us in this mission.  If you are an artist, we ask you to make Decibol your business dashboard.  Use it to raise money, find resources to help you develop your work, to promote it and to distribute it, online or through gigs.  Communicate with us so we can work with you to give you the tools you need to make your business succeed.

If you are someone who wants to support artists or who makes your living supporting artists, sign up as a resource.  We see “Resources” as everyone from enthusiastic amateurs offering their services for free, to true professionals in their fields (lawyers, graphic designers, promoters, etc.).  All should be signing up, and engaging with artists to see what needs to be done, and on what terms.

At Decibol, our community is starting from scratch.  Yet, a strong community is what is needed.   So we are asking you to commit your time and attention to our platform, patiently waiting for the community to emerge, and taking your small part in this community.  Together we will build a new way of doing business, where the winners don’t take all.  True talent will be rewarded, music will be purer, and we will all be involved.

Image Source: Wikipedia

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