Thursday, April 02, 2009

Micro-career

Hanging about in the office, waiting for a software update to finish.

Let me bring to your attention something quite wonderful, and spin on what I've been thinking about since seeing it. First, the viewing: turn your speakers on and the volume up, and listen to Kutiman's collected works. Do it now, please; it's OK, I'll wait. (If you're in a hurry, numbers 1, 5 and 8 are the must-see's.)

Now have a look at the singer/songwriter featured in the fifth of those, Dadasarah. She's a housewife with a little kid, who happened to study voice in college; she's a woman with a videorecorder, writing and singing her own material for her own satisfaction.

Her twenty videos have been viewed 58,007 times as I'm writing this. Fifty-eight thousand times. Most of her videos get five-star ratings, the rest four-and-a-half.

Kutiman's eight videos have been viewed 1,696,659 times as I'm writing this. Let's say that again nice and slowly: One point seven million times. Most of his videos get five-star ratings, a few four-and-a-half, and one ugly duckling got a mere four stars. He has a fanbase whose size and enthusiasm many "established" artists would envy.

Two quite different people making music — principally for their own amusement — in quite different ways. They have something interesting and very significant in common: They are getting it presented to us, and we are lapping it up.

I think that home-brew distributed on the Internets is the future of music-making.

There is a new kind of career to be had here, which wasn't possible before. In the bad old days when music was a physical object, it was said that there were only two kinds of money that a musician could make: None at all; or More than you would ever believe possible. Getting people's attention, putting the product in their presence, was expensive as all hell. It took a team of a dozen people to bring physical music to the attention of a possible paying audience, which is why the labels took such a large slice of the pie.

Zero-cost bandwidth and immaterial distribution change all that. Kutiman and Dadasarah distribute for free, thanks to youTube; I am bringing them to your attention for free, thanks to Blogger. The only thing missing is a way to turn their talent and our attention into an income stream, but given the size of these viewing figures that is surely only a matter of time.

And when that happens, it will be possible to make a decent living with a micro-career in music. You won't be able to live the rock-star lifestyle — let's be honest though: don't we all know that rock stars trash their hotel rooms because they are lonely, bored and unhappy? — but you will make enough money to continue making music. And for people like Dadasarah and Kutiman, that is what it's all about.

If Apple continues to be as smart as they have been, they will soon let "ordinary people" post music for sale on iTunes. What will happen when Dadasarah and Kutiman get there? Say that Apple gives them half of the dollar that they charge for songs (because there is no record company's share to pay); say for the purposes of argument that they would get fifty cents per song.

If half of the people who love Dadasarah's songs had bought one of them on iTunes, she would have earned around 14.5 thousand dollars. If an eighth of the people who love Kutiman's songs had bought one of them, and if he had then paid out two-thirds of the income as royalties to those whose videos he sampled, he would still have earned around 35 thousand dollars.

This is the future, people. And I for one can't wait for it to get here.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Zhoen said...

NPR did just such a story about 5-6 years ago, about how home recording with computers would make all this possible. The advent of Youtube takes it much further, of course.

Music self played is happiness self made.

April 3, 2009 at 3:12:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Dale said...

Amen.

April 3, 2009 at 7:37:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous Andy said...

Thanks for that. Dadasarah is wonderful.

April 4, 2009 at 9:49:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Yes, now for a way to make money doing it. Wish I could make money doing stuff I like to do too.

April 6, 2009 at 7:01:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Lioness said...

I love it that you can write a whole post about music and the future of it, and even calculate earnings!

I did click on the links. This is why we must never give each other Cd's, books are safer!

April 8, 2009 at 10:56:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Lioness said...

Actually, dadasarah is something I'd enjoy listening to at a friend's house, I just know I would never buy her CD's myself.

The 80's did fuck me up, eh? Word.

April 8, 2009 at 10:59:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous Seraphine said...

i'd love to see more opportunities for musicians.
but but but,
as far as being on iTunes, there needs to be a filter of some sort. If everyone that wants to record a song listed on iTunes, then people will get bogged down finding true quality music. and "popularity" is a very poor filter. if you look at the "top songs" currently listed on iTunes, you'll likely be disappointed.
I vote for udge to be a filter.
i loved the music you pointed to. i listened to 1-3-5 and 8. seeing someone sing with a baby on her lap was beautiful.

April 19, 2009 at 2:44:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Thank you all for your comments. I do read and treasure them, but I just didn't have the energy or strength of spirit to reply.

April 20, 2009 at 9:07:00 PM GMT+2  

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