A time of seismic change in music requires new models

As arguments about how to monetise music in a digital age continue, the hub’s director Julia Payne says Joining the Dots could be the answer

We’re living through a time of seismic change in the music industry with technology transforming the way we consume music. The totemic value of owning a piece of music is largely a thing of the past. What matters now is music on demand – and the ability to share it. The Facebook “like” button has replaced the lapel badge.

David Byrne’s treatise on Spotify revealed that even a million plays on the streaming service earns an artist less than the price of a band t-shirt. In response, Dave Allen (ex Gang of Four) countered Byrne’s argument by pointing out that this generation’s music fans want to rent their music, not own it. He says: “We are in the midst of new markets being formed.”

That’s exciting isn’t it? Or perhaps not if you are a producer, promoter or artist who’s running to stand still on the financial front.

The independent music sector is largely a ‘DIY’ movement, dominated by entrepreneurial but under-resourced micro-businesses and hard-working individuals. These people are the sector’s oxygen supply, crucial to the sector ‘ecology’. For example, it’s promoters working at the small-scale who support the development of new work and viable careers for Mercury nominees Sam Lee and Roller Trio (pictured above)– to internationally renowned artists such as Joanna MacGregor and Mumford & Sons.

As well as battling the challenges that digital consumption brings, artists and promoters alike are suffering as a result of ‘austerity’, caught up in a downward spiral of squeezed box office revenues and funding streams which have been reduced to a trickle. In short it’s a tough time to make a living from live music.

“That’s why we urgently need new business models and audiences – game-changing ideas which will increase the resilience of small scale promoters, producers and commissioning organisations. Ideas that will help make live music pay.”

And that’s why here at the hub we’re launching a new project called Joining the Dots.

The project will provide artists, promoters and others working in independent music in England with ‘seed corn’ funding of up to £10,000 to test alternative models they think could help make live music more financially viable. The project focuses on 3 specific aspects of live music:

  • Financing touring, commissioning and presenting live music
  • Using digital technology to increase live attendance and income
  • Developing young adult audiences for specialist independent music (eg. jazz, folk and electronica)

Broadcaster and artist Tom Robinson, who appears in Joining the Dot’s launch film, is clear how important he thinks new models are for the future of live music. Interviewed for the film, he says:

“So many people of my generation say that the model of music is broken, the industry is doomed… and that it’s a terrible time to be making music. I totally disagree. There’s never been a better time for artists with genuine talent to get heard, but that’s going to depend on us finding new models of earning money and interacting with the audience.”

Joining the Dots will support 6 potential game-changers, who will each get a bursary of up to £10,000, plus mentoring and networking support. We hope that Joining the Dots will unlock some really disruptive thinking that could change the landscape, and the status quo and make a real difference to artists and music businesses.

Applying for a Joining the Dots award is simple. Initially all applicants need to do is submit a short film about their idea. Applications are open now until 31 January 2014. If the Joining the Dots panel likes your idea, you’ll be asked to work it up in more detail by March 2014. Full application details here.

From March 2014, the hub will also host a series of Joining the Dots ‘semesters’, including webinars, blogs, online resources and meet ups, designed to help people make a living from independent music.

If you’re interested in applying or want to find out more about what we’re planning, check out our new Joining the Dots site www.joiningthedotsmusic.com and watch the launch film. You can also stay in touch by signing up to our newsletter following us on twitter and visiting us at Facebook.