Last week, I posted an article detailing VC Fred Wilson’s thoughts on investing, in which I drew on a few things he’d stated during his interview with Jason Calacanis at LAUNCH. This time around I want to explore another statement Wilson made during his time on stage which I thought received way too little attention at the time. In fact, I’m quite shocked that more people haven’t really latched onto this sooner.
At one point during the conversation, Wilson mused, “I don’t understand why the music business isn’t fully on Kickstarter,” to which there was some murmuring (I heard sitting in the audience), but no real discussion thereafter of that particular comment. While I was just as interested in the next point that Wilson discussed with Calacanis (the subject of my previous post), I couldn’t (still can’t) get my arms around how something so stark to many people seems to fly under the radar. But before I get too incoherent, let me back up and explain my exasperation.
The wonderful thing about Kickstarter (or any of the other crowdfunding platforms) is the freedom that they give to artists. In the case of the music industry, the freedom I’m referring to is the ability to not have to sign to a major record label in order to have money to finance an album, tour, video, etc. Instead, artists can go directly to their own fanbases and raise the required capital from them, thereby side-stepping the very real consequence of having to sign away some amount of creative control (ever hear of master tapes?) to the major label. As a result of this, artists consequently side-step the dynamic of accruing a similar sort of debt with the label itself. (I will explain the deeper economics at play here in a later post).
The dynamic of crowdfunding has changed the entire paradigm of the music industry. Wilson’s comments struck me so much because of how true they really are. He doesn’t need to be a guitarist in a band to understand that the freedom that services like Kickstarter give content-producing artists is invaluable (clearly the reason he invested in Kickstarter in the first place). His own “I don’t understand why” comment exhibits his understanding of the services that used to be out of reach of artists, which are now readily available thanks to crowdfunding dynamics.
Of course, crowdfunding alone can’t and won’t control an entire vertical like, say, the music industry. It’s one part of a larger mechanism. But it’s nonetheless a shift in the paradigm of music production, distribution and consumption that was previously unavailable. Where crowdfunding really comes into play is when it totally disrupts the age-old adage “live won’t save music” (but that’s an argument for a later post).
Here’s the real point: Fred Wilson is an investor, not a guitarist or aspiring singer. Yet he sees the value of crowdfunding so much (investment interest aside) that he doesn’t understand why any artist would forgo the opportunities presented by these new services. And I’m inclined to agree with him (and I’ve been in the music industry now for years). So here’s the real question: if he gets it, and I get it, don’t you think that all the new artists out there get it too?
It just might be a very short time until the music business is fully (or mostly) crowdfunded.