Doing My Work – Meditations on Music, and Why I’m Doing This

“Update: What I’m throwing at the wall, what’s sticking, and what it’s like”Four Hour Work Week devotes two entire chapters to what you’re going to do with all this *time* you’re saving now that you’ve 80/20’d your life and automated your income. Start a charity? Go vagabond and resettle in another country for half a year?

Both of those are possibilities, but in the short to medium term, I’ve already got my raison d’être – my web show.

Just as 80/20, niche sites, iPhone apps, and instructional products that sell or monetize themselves online are the hacks to break out of the 9-5 mold, Shed Science is the hack to break out of the artificial bookends the music industry forces us into.

(Haha that’s a little grandiose – it’s *my* hack. Lots of other people have their own.)

What are the problems with the music industry? Ha – you need Me to tell you? You’ve probably heard the strum and drang about how downloads are ruining music, and there are no real talents anymore. Well you won’t hear that from me.

I’m more concerned with the opposite problem – namely that *not enough* people are taking advantage of the space the Internet has opened up.

For purposes of analogy, consider the central mechanism for Ferrissian passive income – the abundance of the Internet and the opportunity for a single mom to mimic the web-presence of a multinational corporation. Want to market test? Use Adwords or Longtail Pro. Want to sell a product? Write an ebook or make a video series for download. Need a landing page and Facebook or etsy isn’t enough? (Often they are.) Buy a domain name for nine dollars, host it for 18, and slap up a WordPress site for free.

Now – how much of that could you have done 15 years ago? How much could you have done *10* years ago, unless you were a web designer?

Technology has delivered to almost everyone with a computer and an Internet hookup the ability to make money. And as more and more people avail themselves the quality of products and ventures goes up, and the low-hanging fruit disappears. In 2007 if you wanted to launch a niche website and make money the only thing stopping you was your web design abilities. Find a keyword, slap up a 3-page site and do some Web 2.0 properties for SEO and you were off to the races. Now, of course, you to research more carefully, create a better resource, and sell it through more traditional “person to person” means as the search engines become adept at rooting out everything else.

So the ideal time to jump in is after the technology becomes available to the Everyman, but before your next door neighbor has a website.

Music is experiencing an analogous renaissance, but musicians are slower to adapt. I like to say “music is an abundance society functioning like a scarcity society.”

I’ll tell you my evidence for that “radical” assertion in a bit, but first a bit of history.

Just as it did other media, the “populization” (not “popularization”) of the internets opened the floodgates in music by eliminating the need for many of the middle men. I don’t want to overstate this, because major record labels still offer a reach and a media access that’s hard to emulate with a single-author blog or youtube channel. But say your music was going to be niche and small-label anyway. Like…Jazz…for instance. Or electronic pop, or fusion. Or something ahead of its time. You were unlikely to find a label to pick up either way, even when labels controlled everything, and now you don’t need them.

The exceptions that prove the rule –

Pamplamoose (everyone’s heard of them – why?)
And two lesser-knowns-
Knower, and
Evan Marien

These are all artists that embraced the “negative space” vacated by the relative dissolution of the labels’ influence. The first two fall into the “ahead of its time” category, and the last, a fusion band, is always going to be a bit niche. But they all embraced a similar methodology – build a web presence (Pamplamoose, and Knower – very likely a student of the former’s method – both used covers of popular tunes to get their own videos noticed on youtube.) A kind of guerrilla SEO of the type online biz gurus are familiar with. Evan and Dana used a similar strategy with their original tunes, creating killing, unique “content” (musicians hate this word), building a following (probably by using some SEO tricks to appear in the “suggested” bar next to popular videos the attention of whose fans they wanted to capture)(a “trick” that doesn’t work unless your music is amazing), and linking directly from the video of each new tune to the download.

Another advantage of the online space is the opportunity for developing talent to play “gigs”, the way the Talking Heads once did at CB’s, and get better at the same time they build a following. As I mention below, it’s difficult and expensive to play brick-and-mortar gigs, but why not do what the artists above do and do virtual gigs by releasing video singles?
Point being, why are all musicians not doing this? In other sectors, as I mentioned above, there’s almost no room to break in unless your content is exceptional. In music, it’s wide open.
Evidence of a scarcity society-
Middle Men, like agents and publicists, making money while few of their clients do.
Difficulty Getting Gigs at brick and mortar venues because of an influx of talent competing for limited nights.
Zero Sum Thinking within the community, where musicians trash each other (“he got a record deal?!?”) instead of celebrating each other’s successes.
Yea, you see those elements in New York Housing, or outside of sold-out concerts, but those contexts are provably scarce. Music, for the reasons I’ll argue below, is not.
At the end of the day, mine is not to wonder and fret about why more people aren’t jumping into the online space with both feet. It’s to jump in myself. And to yell from the hills about it.
Why?
Online music is an abundance culture, for two primary reasons-
1) A user can watch multiple artists’ work in a single afternoon, and as I’ve mentioned in other articles more musicians in a genre with music online can help guide a user to new music.
2) Music is famously hard to fake. Unlike a lot of other things you can hack, you really probably do need “ten thousand hours” to begin to produce a good product. In an abundance context, if you produce something good, people will find it. There’s no reason to sweat competition. Instead we can push each other to become better and celebrate each other’s success.
Which is the purpose of my web show. It’s part fun-learning-experience for me, part lead-by-example in the online space, part guerrilla warfare, but all rewarding, and it’s my Steven Pressfield “work” – the thing I feel I’m called to do.

But how are my muses doing? Check back soon.

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