I stumbled across an article on digitalmusicnews.com this week: "The Music Industry has 99 Problems. And they are..." It was, as the title suggests a very comprehensive list of all of the things wrong with the music industry today. It was nothing new or surprising - in fact, as I read it I realized how tired I was of hearing about all the problems facing the industry these days.
Believe me, I get it. Working in artist management gives me a very real view of the challenges facing modern musicians.
There is a reason why the term 'poor struggling musician' has become part of our vocabulary. For generations artists around the world have struggled. What separates the ‘struggling’ from the ‘successful’ is not the mechanics of an industry that yes, is changing, but the creativity to overcome the challenges presented by this new world.
“Most of the great achievements of mankind have started life as conundrums and been turned into triumphs by creative, determined people. These people do not just overcome obstacles, they don't see them. They see the potential in every person and every situation. Once you start looking for opportunities, it's amazing how many you find.” – Richard Branson
So can we overcome the 99 Problems? Perhaps not. Perhaps as Branson suggests they aren’t actually problems at all, but are instead potential triumphs in disguise.
It’s a matter of perspective. The rise of the digital era isn’t killing music, it is ushering in a new wave of creative thinking that will lead to artistic and commercial successes over the coming decades.
Thriving in this changing landscape brings the focus squarely onto new ideas, new partnerships, and different ways of doing business. It means innovation instead of falling back on routine processes and archaic mechanisms that worked previously. It’s certainly not boring!
I find myself imagining what an industry veteran like David Geffen would say or do if he was starting out in the music business today. Now an enduring heavyweight in the music industry, Geffen started out in the mailroom of US booking agency the William Morris Group, then progressed from being a talent agent to a band manager, then the founder of a record label and finally a film producer. You get a sense that Geffen realised the need to be pragmatic and open to evolution in his industry. I’m pretty sure he never once wasted his time writing doom and gloom lists about all the things standing in his way.
Maybe we could all use a little more passion in our bellies, and channel that passion into finding the opportunities that exist, opportunities that are in fact, being birthed by the changes we might otherwise whine about.