The Fork In The Road For Technology Companies In The Music Industry

WWe’ve been eavesdropping on the major record labels wheezing their last breaths. We’ve been impatiently waiting for the monotone flat line to commence its perpetual beep. We’re reading news about Google, Spotify, Amazon and Apple’s utter frustration with the large shifty eyed record labels. In turn, the technology companies that share a love for music, and more importantly possess the capability to advance the music industry, have been patiently and ever so eagerly waiting to drop bombs of innovation from their B-2’s behind the stone curtain walls of the recording industry.

Taurean Casey’s article, “The New Music Industry is Not Coming,” on Music Think Tank, expresses, or more so, confirms the frustrations that the majority of music lovers have been expressing. Well intended management of the internet has deflated the business model of selling music. But Casey reasons that with death comes birth. While the internet has become a hub for artists to quickly, easily and cheaply pursue their passions, first and foremost, a framework has been built for a new music industry business model that embraces technology companies.

The question is, are these tech companies paving the fan’s or musician’s road?

The social technology companies of today like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Soundcloud and Myspace were the first to “culture-market.” They’ve impacted the thoughts, habits and personalities of the masses to a point where no one with a computer in the music community would not dare to establish a career without an account solely because the fans were already there.

Image credit: crsan on Flickr

Then the blogs came to play and realized that they had an influence over the mass of music fans that Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Soundcloud and Myspace lack. Blogs like Pitchfork, Stereogum and Pretty Much Amazing walked right into the spotlight and embraced their celebrity. Eventually their entourage grew into a posse of music PR firms, which is undoubtedly a symbiotic relationship; PR companies offer their pick of the crop and the blogs will dance with them, center stage at the go-to ballroom, which make for a closed knit community.

But when you strip these companies of their glamour, what is really left? They’ve made the music community more social and offer fans an easy route to the masses, but really what are they doing to help the musicians whose financial woes are too often overwhelming?

Casey refers to a contest of, “Who’s Going to Shape the Music Industry Showdown,” and expounds on the existence of the challenge with references to Google, Apple and Amazon as being the forerunners to change the music industry. But I can’t agree. The road stopped at iTunes.

Google’s recent release of the beta version of Google Music, which allows music libraries to be accessible via any device, may provide fans an innovative and convenient solution, but musicians are left to fend for their selves. Not surprisingly, Amazon had released their own cloud service in March, while Apple is working on iCloud.

As the larger tech companies chase each other’s tails, they’ve ignored a business model and technology that invests in the musicians themselves as he allure of flirting with music distribution and publishing happens to coincide with the interests of the mass market.

I’m putting my money on the smaller innovative sites like Kickstarter and My Major Company, that have built a successful or innovated business model around the one weakness that artists tend to avoid – business – and they’re piggybacked by a generous social community comprised of believers in musicians music. Companies like these that are dealing with the real issues at hand, will truly be the future forerunners to shape the music industry.

Until the larger technology companies feel pressured to directly partner with musicians, the paper pushing record labels are sadly here to stay and the innovation will benefit the customer’s side of the industry.

Francis Bea is a New Yorker turned Chicago co-founder of (in development) and writes Musefy’s blog Musebox.