Lots of people think the music business is falling apart. It is, to a certain extent, and that’s a good thing. Ever since recorded music became available for purchase, it’s largely been class warfare – the record labels (the rich) and the artists (the poor). Exploitation repeated itself time and time again and the artists were the Charlie Brown’s, always having the ball pulled away at the last second. 

No more. It’s not a done deal yet, but the collapse of the music business as we know it is almost complete. More and more artists are realizing that the emergence of downloads/digital is their chance to cut out the bullshit, i.e., the labels. As much as Lefsetz babbles on and on about everything in his blog, one thing he repeats a lot sticks as gospel to me – labels need to evolve themselves more into artist managers than the big-stick wielding entities that they are. Or they’re done. It’s kinda that simple.

A recent article over at Techcrunch showcases a telling tale. At a recent music industry conference, the keynote speech was given by Ian Rogers, who used to run Yahoo Music and realized quickly that DRM and copy protection will NEVER be the answer. He now leads the forward-looking Topspin, which is looking to be the pipe for music’s new “middle class.” Among other things, he pointed out how the recent album release from David Byrne & Brian Eno (which is actually quite a good record) might be the norm sometime in the future:

The first example is David Byrne and Brian Eno’s new album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. By distributing digitally and keeping most of the profits themselves, the gross revenues of the album matched what they could have expected to get as an advance from a music label within the first 50 days. The second example is a lesser-known artist in his twenties, Joe Purdy, who has sold 650,000 tracks on iTunes and was able to buy a house from the proceeds.

How about that? I’ve never heard of Joe Purdy, but good for him. That’s the way things should be. Here’s the full piece at Techcrunch (not that long). And here’s one of the tracks from that surprisingly good Byrne/Eno album. It’s the best work I think Byrne has done since his Talking Heads days. 


UPDATE: Here’s a more detailed analysis of the Topspin/Byrne-Eno story – excellent read.