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The music industry was one of the first to be disrupted by technology, but now, nearly two decades later, it has adapted. The biggest institutions and people...
When Napster launched in 1999, it changed the music industry forever. Within a few years CD sales had cratered and labels were scrambling to figure things out. Even when Napster itself was basically sued out of existence, the genie of free music was out of the bottle.
Of course, as we’ve come to learn, Napster was foreshadowing for the larger disruptive power of the internet to upend industries. What’s more - it wasn’t music but all content that was going to have to rethink its business model.
Ironically, because of Napster, the music industry has had more time to learn to adapt than most. Today, the biggest institutions aren’t on opposing sides, but fluid and interlinked.
Case in point: Over this summer music mogul Troy Carter announced that he would be leaving Atom Factory, the artist management company he founded representing artists like Meghan Trainor and John Legend, to join Spotify as the head of global artist relations. At the recent L’Oreal Inspiration Day, Carter joked that before he was managing 12 artists, and now feels like he’s managing them all.
The move reflects just how much power has shifted towards the distribution platforms where the listeners live. Spotify is the point at which artists, labels, consumers and brands all meet. Earlier this month the company also announced that it had reached 40 million paid subscribers.
It appears that the streaming giant’s next move may be a big acquisition. TechCrunch and others reported this week of a potential purchase of SoundCloud. SoundCloud has 200 million monthly users and is passionately loved by creators and up-and-coming artists, but as the giants like Apple and Amazon get more serious about music, it may force consolidation among the smaller players.
Troy Carter isn’t the only music manager innovating and making news. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal profiled a new music accelerator program from Jake Udell’s Third Brain Management. Inspired by Y Combinator, the 12-week program gives artists a chance to develop their sound and style and learn more about the industry. At the end, they release a track through Third Brain’s private label.
Udell and Third Brain are the perfect company to take the tech concept of the accelerator to the music world. Not only has the company launched break out artists like Krewella and Gallant, but they’ve leveraged marketing and insight into consumers behavior more than most. For example, the identity of the artists ZHU was debated intensely for nearly a year after his first single made waves in dance music, with a fair number of people deciding he was a secret alter-ego for mega producer Skrillex. That sort of buzz, combined with the music, rocketed Zhu to the upper echelons much more quickly than even great tracks alone could have.
The moves being made by music industry insiders like Udell and Carter are examples of the broader blending between music and tech. For brands, this blending creates enormous opportunity in the new data and new opportunity for sophistication about how to truly leverage relationships with artists and with distribution platforms simultaneously to engage consumers.