Seth Godin recently responded to some good (not great, maybe, but pretty good) questions about our topic, the future of music on Derek Sivers’ blog (CDBaby Daddy- note that sivers.org, does that mean he’s an organization or just more organized than the rest of us org-less schmucks?)- I found this bit particularly interesting:
Get over the idea that your success is equated with selling the right to listen, or selling control over when people listen. Relinquish the opportunity to make money by controlling who can listen and when. That’s gone. It’s over. It would be like a bakery selling the right to sniff the fresh bread or a wine maker selling the right to look at the cool label. It’s now a public good, something you see as you walk by.
What you can sell, what you better be able to sell, is intimacy. It’s interactions in public. Souvenirs. Limited things of value. Experiences. Memories. People will pay for those things, IF: your art is actually great and if you make it possible for them to buy them.
“Like a bakery selling the right to sniff the fresh bread” he says, but of course smelling is not the same as consuming. You buy the bread, you eat it, it’s gone, period. Paintings, he notes, are often free to “experience”, and while it may not be as “filling” as owning the art, you can stand next to the owner of a painting and get the same enjoyment. Music is different, as he points out, not like bread, not like a painting.
Salvador Dali once said the difference between one of his original paintings and a good reproduction was the price. Stand back a few feet, you can’t tell the difference. So what’s the difference between you standing up and spilling your guts out in front of an audience to an audience listening to a “reproduction” of you, say on CD? We all know the CD will probably sound better, but still, there is no comparison, nada, zilch. They are like apples and tennis balls, completely different items.
So what does it mean? You gotta eat, assuming you don’t have a patron, so how do you price your art and make a living? What’s the business model? Seth says you can sell ‘intimacy’, which is a pretty good (but maybe not great) word to describe what we do in front of a crowd. (Some musicians get by creating ‘amazement’ in their listeners, with technical prowess, we’re not talking about that)
It’s not a lonely art; it may start that way, but eventually it has to go out into the world, with the people, with your friends, for your friends. Let’s pick, as we say.
Painting: visual art
Bread-making: culinary art (craft??)
Music: performing art