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Musical-Evolution - From the Traditional to the New/Modern Music Business

Build an eight-foot-long wooden fence in the forest. Lay out some bait and then go away for a week.

The fox is too crafty to be caught in a simple trap, and he will smell you and avoid the fence for days. But eventually, he’ll come and eat the bait.

At the end of the week, build a second length of fence at a right angle to the first. Leave more bait.The fox will avoid the fence again for a few days, then take the bait.

At the end of the second week, build a third wall and a gate. Leave more bait.

When you come back at the end of a month, the fox will be happily prancing in his safe enclosure, and all you will have to do is close the gate. The fox will be trapped.

This, of course, is what happened to us. The industrial age built the trap we’re mired in, but it didn’t build the trap all at once; that took centuries to perfect. And we were seduced. Seduced by the bait of decent pay and plenty of prizes. Seduced by the apparent security of the enclosure. And once the gate was shut, we were kept in by the threat of shame, the amplification of risk, and society’s reliance on more and shinier prizes.

For us, though, the situation is even more poignant than it is for the fox. As the industrial age has faded away and been replaced by the connection economy—the wide-open reality of our new economic revolution—the fence has been dismantled. It’s gone.

But most of us have no idea that we’re no longer fenced in. We’ve been so thoroughly brainwashed and intimidated and socialized that we stay huddled together, waiting for instructions, when we have the first, best, and once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something extraordinary instead.

Today there are more musicians making more music being heard by more people and earning more money than ever before.

Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception

Independent Music Careers, on our own terms.

You do not need to become the next Bieber or Beyonce to truly live your dreams do you?

There are thousands of Modern Artists all over the globe who at this very moment enjoy being the true creators of their content, their career, and their lifestyle. It takes work, but it is a realistic path that any Artist can now achieve if they dedicate themselves to doing the work necessary.

Nowadays, your career IS the development and production of your content. It IS the cultivation and growth of your Tribe. Full-or Part time, from anywhere in the world, any artist or musician committed to doing the work can earn a comfortable full-time living doing what they love, on their own terms.

An Artist’s job is to develop and create their content, and connect that content with the audience that will support them to continue to do it.

What are we all racing for… Where is the top? WHAT is the top?

Breaking through in the Modern Music Industry = Reaching a CORE base of true fans that support you doing what you love, on your own terms.

The goal for Modern Musicians is not in pleasing the anonymous masses or compromising the integrity or freshness of your message to reach the lowest common denominator in order to make a hit record, or score a record deal, or sell 1,000,000 albums. The Modern Music Business is about authentic connection and the ability to TRULY connect and prosper via passionate tribal communities and the technology that helps connect and empower us all to do what we love. To do work we love, creating music, that matters to the tribe we choose. To create the lifestyle and the career that we want.

Independent artists and musicians own the new music business

You do not need to be super talented or super good-looking, or young-to lead a successful long term music career today… This is the Modern Music Industry… We are not dancing on a stage for peanuts and applause-putting our tokens into an executives pocket, playing by their rules. We are not polishing and refining our authentic selves to please or appeal to the tastes of a gatekeeper. Any kind of gatekeeper!

Breaking Through in the Modern Music Business doesn’t mean reaching a critical mass of semi-interested fans that may or may not buy your single because they heard it on the radio and thought it was cool. It’s about really reaching and developing a CORE base of true fans that truly support you doing what you love, on your own terms.

The Grassroots Authenticated Music Experience.

The direct connection, the shared journey and experience between you AND your fans.

This is literally the name of the new GAME.

Cute acronym huh?

But it’s true, the Modern Music Industry is not about Billboard charts, shady contracts, payola, and 6 figure radio campaigns…

It’s not about complex, expensive supply and distribution chains…

The Modern Music Business is about the authentic branding of you, INC.

It’s about direct to fan communication and the community that YOU develop and build.

The content business you operate as the CEO!

Today, every Independent Musician is the CEO of their career.

The world is not getting bigger, it’s getting smaller. Again, the true aim for Modern Musicians is not in passively pleasing the anonymous masses or compromising the integrity or freshness of your message to reach the lowest common denominator. The Modern Music Business is about authentic connection and the ability to TRULY connect and prosper via passionate tribal communities and leverage the technology that helps connect and empower us all to do what we love. To do work we love that matters to the tribe we choose. To create the lifestyle and the career that we want.

Am i speaking greek?

Isn’t that the point… The goal… The Holy Grail of being a musician alive today?

How come my feeds are always stuffed with the industry bitching about streaming services and how talentless musicians are these days?

How the Traditional Music Business evolved into the Modern Music Business

There is a lot of old and outdated advice out there. It is advice that used to work, and in many cases-can still work for some people, some of the time. I am not writing this to contradict or instigate, nor am i interested in any sort of new vs old kind of contest. But let’s take a look at a couple of the pervasive myths and idea-memes that may run around your think-box with or without supervision.

In The Modern Music Industry:

  • You do not need to regularly perform live.
  • You do not need to live in a major music city like LA, New York, or Nashville.
  • You do not need a bunch of money to get started.
  • You do not need to possess or display genius levels of talent.
  • You do not need thousands of facebook likes or even thousands of email subscribers to make a full-time living doing what you love, on your own terms.
  • You do not need to be exceptionally tech savvy or interested in digital gadgets and gizmos.
  • You do not need to have exclusive inner circle connections to “pull strings” for you.
  • You do not need to be particularly good looking or fit into some pre-approved mold in terms of appearance or personality.
  • You do not even need earth shattering or even fantastic songs…!

I can hear a collective gasp from the crowd as I even dare utter such blasphemous ideas. Of course great songs are what it’s all about for most of us, but the statement remains valid.

In the modern music business, there are only two required components for success.

These two components are the bare minimum building blocks for a successful career as an artist or musician in the modern world.

A. You need to love what you do, and…

B. You need an audience that loves and supports it.

That’s all folks! Simple formula, works every time.

But simple, ain’t the same as easy.

Today, Musicians do NOT NEED…

  • a vc or “investor”
  • a record label.
  • a publisher.
  • a publicist.
  • a manager.
  • an art gallery.
  • an agent.
  • an seo or social media company.
  • someone to handle the “sales and marketing” for you.
  • You do not even need to TOUR.

As you’ll learn in an upcoming lesson, it turns out that success is scientific. Their is a universal cycle of success that is mathematical and predictable. It is called the success or failure cycle, and it’s the reason why people win or lose in anything.

In the next lesson we will be unpacking one of the major areas of concern I see today, and discover why you almost certainly don’t really want a record deal… The fact that for the overwhelming majority, the goal for over 70% of thousands of artists surveyed, was a major label record deal… This definitely raises my eyebrows and tells me we are not doing a good enough job training and getting this material out there.

I do want to note that there are some situations for some people where a major record contract is or could be a viable option… But pretty rarely is the traditional record deal what you REALLY want, you just don’t know it yet.

I’m looking forward to having that discussion with you next time. For now let’s look at the evolution of our industry from the traditional structure, into the modern structure we find ourselves, and the landscape that will be for what looks to be a very long and prosperous future for artists and musicians!

It’s about time, because i don’t think anybody asked the artists if they liked the old model anyhow…?

The Modern Music Business

I don’t think the label of “New” Music Business applies anymore. It’s been 15 years since the start of the artists revolution, (where artists and musicians worldwide, started to regain the power over their careers) as fresh eared music makers and recording fanatics frantically researched our first rig selects-to identify and develop the best signal path we could afford with this amazing new digital recording and production technology many of us still geek out over, and continues to progress in speed, cost, and sophistication.

It is truly a remarkable time to be a music maker, from any side of the glass.

The short story of the long tail: The marketing and distribution channels became accessible to virtually everyone and the mass market has been splintered into thousands of tiny markets often referred to as niches. The shallow breadth of the mass market, turned into a marginal yet passionate depth of the tribal marketplace.

The traditional music industry was based on indirect communication where the fans remained distanced from the Artists-who created and performed for pennies on their dollar, which kept the machine going. (With all it’s superfluous, inefficient financial and political overhead) And, well, it pretty much sucked. I mean, the traditional music industry was really quite the teething stage.

See, The Traditional Music Business used to look something like this:

The Traditional Music Business Model

The Traditional Music Business Model

Complex supply and distribution chains, lots of moving parts, expensive, slow, fully staffed buildings and official department heads argued about polarizing, dumbed down branding strategies, thoughtless image crafting-where executives at record labels offered bands like Linkin’ Park cowboy hats and ridiculous props…

It was about manufacturing for mass audiences using traditional, ultra-costly and incredibly poor marketing and distribution strategies that depended upon a mass amount of product being sold to cover expenses and make a profit so those who took all the points could continue living the good life, maintain control, and pull all the strings behind the scenes.

The business model that still perpetuates with varying degrees of inefficiency is just no longer necessary.


The central infrastructure of the modern music industry IS NOT the behemoth record labels who once virtually controlled the airwaves, dominated the media, and held the keys to an artist careers success through exclusive distribution channels.

The central infrastructure of the Modern Music Industry fits in the palm of your hand and is accessible 24-7 through any internet connected screen you can access. The distribution channels as well as the communication formats are public, and the ecosystem generates new ones virtually every week, month, and year.

You don’t have to go anywhere to buy your favorite artists new release, and you can listen to it on demand, for free.

The middlemen have changed their name to brands like apple, amazon, and google, and casually pocket a full 20-30 percent without recoil or question from us?

But the most exciting part, the best part of the modern music business, the underpinning element that evolved the traditional music industry from an unsustainable model to one that would change the game forever…

The heart of the Modern Music Industry is the direct to fan connectivity powered by these global interwebs we communicate through.

This was the catalyst for the Artists Revolution.

The Game-changing reality for Artists and Musicians in the modern music industry is that we, you and I, the ARTISTS and MUSICIANS now have the power to realistically declare our Artistic Independence, stake our claim, and get to work.

To liberate the Music Business!

Anyone willing to commit to doing the work required now has the capacity to create an honest, full-time living doing what they love, on their own terms.

That was such a fun sentence to type.

We the people, the Artists and our Fans-fundamentally regain the power and freedom in OUR industry.

The Modern Music Business leveled the playing field and tool and service providers continued to evolve as did the Artists-and now we have a technological and creative utopia. Literally the realistic capacity to create our personal version of paradise, doing what we love, on our own terms.

It’s truly time to liberate the music business.

And it starts with the execution of Gatekeepers, and the Traditional Music Business Model…

An Artists Business Model used to look like this:

Traditional Artists/Musicians Business Model - Major Label Record Deal

A fricking joke.

An insult to entrepreneurs in any industry.

Despite selling millions of albums many Artists STILL to this day end up in debt, OWING the label money-instead of profiting from it. Just ask 30 seconds to Mars.

In the traditional Music Industry virtually all musicians weren’t picked by a label and are invisible nonentities.

Of those who are picked, 98 percent fail in the marketplace.

Of the remaining 2 percent, less than half a percent ever receive a single royalty check as a result of their recorded music. Ever.

So we have a world where the odds of being signed are close to zero and the odds of getting a check as a result of your sales, even if you are signed, is even closer to zero.

In the modern music industry

A musician who sells two (two!) copies of a song on iTunes makes more money than she would have earned from a record label for selling an entire CD for seventeen dollars.

There are more musicians making more music being heard by more people and earning more money than ever before.

Still, 93% of Independent Artists sell less than 1000 albums a year, so we’ve all got some more work to do.

The Modern Music Business flips the old model on it’s head, and works it’s way up from the bottom to the top, instead of the other way around.

The Modern Music Industry is about all of us. The way it should have always been. Cut out the inefficiencies, the politics, the endless debates over streaming services and Facebook likes… Let’s get back to the grassroots connection between the artist and the fan, and soon the cultural significance will regain it’s priority in peoples lives at the only level any real change can be affected… At a personal level, where the true value of music has always been, in the experience and the connection a fan has with the artist.

The New GAME is actually about the music. The experience. The connection. Its about the empowerment of the working class musician. Now everyone can create their own version of musical paradise. Everything needed to paint that vision is now available to you.

It’s about the empowerment of the MUSIC MAKERS and their FANS, and it takes us back in time a bit to the roots of a more connected local culture and community.

Modern Music Business = The Artist Centered Business Model

In the traditional music industry, the lucky 2 percent of Artists were essentially strapped onto the hood of an oversized SUV called a record label. Big labels were and are still essentially gas-guzzling Venture Capitalist-like machines that operate on a profit and loss bottom line. The mechanics aren’t inherently “evil,” they, like any Artist are in business… Just like there are good and bad people, there are certainly good and bad labels, good and bad deals, and everything in between… I’m not arguing their ethical or moral intent. This would lead us into a whole different discussion, but while we’re here, let’s briefly review this from our entrepreneurial perspective for a moment.

Labels essentially stole the upside out from under the Artist, and then refused to invest in the development of them, while simultaneously ignoring the biggest growth opportunity for their marketplace… Ever. This leaves most Artists with a sour taste in their mouth, now forced to fend for themselves… and since business is business, it does feel a bit karmic to see how things turned out. From a business standpoint, the major label record deal that many Artists and Musicians vaguely see as the goal, is simply an inefficient, outdated way of thinking, and typically a bad business bet.

Modern Musicians start with building a core fan base from the ground up. This is the name of the new GAME. (Grassroots Authentic Music Empowerment)

That’s the focus…. Not likes, shares, views, how many people showed up to your gig…

They develop their GAME of business. This is how they set themselves up for long-term success.

Today, Musicians don’t have a one sized fits all business model, the traditional music business model and the one-sized fits all deal are a thing of the past. To reiterate, your particular business model is a custom fit combination of your team, traffic strategies (on and offline), revenue streams, fee structure, lifestyle, and career operating principles to include your personal and artistic values…

You need to have a custom fit GAME plan at least. In the Academy we equip artists with a complete growth system including a Monthly and Weekly Roadmap, a G.P.S. (Goal Positioning System) Tracker, as well as 1-1 support, consulting, and accountability. The entire spectrum of the individual elements for your career blueprints are as follows. Like a puzzle, the objective is to assemble the right pieces and connect them altogether in the unique way that’s right for you and your career.

The Modern Music Business Model & Canvas

The business model for Modern Musicians and other intelligent content creators in the modern world looks something similar to this:

The Modern Music Business Model-Music Marketing Strategy for Musicians

The Modern Music Business Model-Music Marketing Strategy for Musicians

Notice that there are 5 individual units of a Content Business that you should explore for adding or maxing your total net income with your content, skills, and brand. This is one of the secrets to taking your career and revenues to the next level.

The evolution of industry, knowledge, and technology boils our business model down into a custom fit combination of cashflow/funding sources, revenue streams, traffic strategies, operating principles, FEE structure and lifestyle…

The Content Business Model Canvas for Artists in the modern world consists of a unique array of the following…

Music Business Model Canvas - Musician Career Planning & Strategy

Music Business Model Canvas – Musician Career Planning & Strategy

Artists operate at the nucleus, as Independent CEO’s of their own Career, operating their own Content Business:

New Music Business & Music Marketing Strategies - Musician Career Planning

Here is the multiple income sphere of the Modern Music Business for Artists and Creators

Music Business Model Revenue Sources - Musician Income Streams

Even 1,000 True Fans-in many cases, is more than you’d need …

Several hundred avid supporters that you build a real relationship with, actively engage, and take along your journey is more than sufficient to make a full-time living, given you follow some proven principles, and overcome your bundle of inevitable obstacles.

So How do you build your tribe in the Modern Music Industry?

As you’ve begun to learn, Modern Music Marketing is about direct, meaningful connection and experience, and includes multi-media content including music and the experience of your brand – to engage, deliver value, and interact with your audience in order to build a relationship and entice them to go to the next level with you and what you’re doing.

Valuable connection and meaningful communication are what EVERYONE is truly looking for these days.

Modern Music Marketing is inherently Modern Content Marketing, and probably best thought of as such.

At the end of the day, what we are doing is creating and sharing content with the people who care that we made it. We are creating our content, and then we are marketing that content in attempt to connect it to the people we are trying to reach with it.

But we are doing more than creating and producing records aren’t we?

Today we are blogging, sharing photos, creating tweets, videos, and the list goes on.

In other words, we need to stop thinking in limited ways about the content formats we are used to and embrace this enhanced suite of communication and distribution options.

The manufacturing costs to share the most valuable commodity (valuable content) with a global audience suddenly dropped to almost nothing, so imagination is our only limiter.

The traditional music industry was an infantile version of our now 3D, interconnected world. Artists and Musicians in the modern world are the storytellers, and our toolset has expanded significantly. :=)

The canvas for artistic expression now includes the creative selection of tools used to convey and communicate content as well as deliver an improved user experience. And, just so that we’re clear from the get go, i’m also an artist who creates his own music… So i’m doing this stuff on more than just a “meta” level as well.

The primary reason for integrating this multi-media method of thought into your content creation, which will require more effort and probably learning how to use some new formats, is the enhanced ability to tell and illustrate more meaningful stories.

In the modern world, we’re all publishers, we all create the media, we are the media. Artists and Creators should be the leaders and innovators with the tools and technology to create and share our content, NOT the marketers and corporate creative departments… Right? …but competition increased, as well as the requirements to rise above the noise.

By placing the focus on creating multimedia content and allowing the ideal user experience to shape the design, you’ll separate yourself from the crowd. We can create more value, more opportunity, more unique messages, make greater connections, and have greater impact on our fans and followers.

Your content is your currency, and by developing a few more skills, learning how to use the tools, you can communicate in TECHNICOLOR, in 3D, and uniquely show up for your fans like no one else. I often advise my clients and students to think of their content and stories as assets, because that’s exactly what they are! Each piece that you create is valuable, and a very real form of your currency.

This is structural outline of a modern music marketing system. We will be dissecting and going over the elements contained herein throughout many later lessons, so i’m not going to deconstruct it right now. For some of you it will make good sense, and for others, it may seem quite alien at this time. No need to worry, it will click for you eventually I promise.

New Music Business - Musician Marketing & Career Strategy

Modern Music Marketing is about integrated, measurable, Grassroots campaigns.

Over the last decade the most effective career growth strategy I’ve found, is what we call Grassroots Career Development. It’s working from the bottom up. We go from the bottom to the top. It’s really the natural and organic growth process. Like a commercial for the modern music industry beaming in… “don’t worry, the old way works-if you don’t think about it.”

It’s about sharing a journey and providing meaningful experiences at different levels with your fans.

The tools are their to share the content, but without context, without story & relationship to connect you the artist to your listener, it is just more noise. Thus, contradictory to what many pundits and analysts who look sheerly at numbers and tech trends and are constantly awaiting or predicting the “next big thing…” While all the tech startups and new gadgets are nice, as they represent a blossoming market place and new tools to add to the arsenal…I believe that we are getting to far away from the HEART, the cultural value of music and it’s central role in society… I’m talking about connection and experience.

And that DOES NOT mean it has to SCALE. We need to stop thinking in the old model of 10,000’s of thousands, an album must go Gold or it’s a failure, it has to place on top 40 radio or it’s not a hit…

This is all old world/traditional thinking and it neglects the real value that the modern music industry and the artists revolution is all about… YOU and a group of fans, a transcendent performance, and an incredible experience that neither of you will forget for the rest of your lives…

It doesn’t matter where that was, or how much merch you sold… The relationship. That’s the central asset. That’s continually developed through your now global platform, but it starts with a real connection, it continues with an ongoing journey, an interactive dialog, and a reciprocal exchange of value between you and your supporters. Right? It’s what i call Analog thinking in a digital world… It’s bottoms up thinking instead of top down. This is a Grassroots Authenticated Music Experience. Support by a local/global niche culture strengthens ties and bonds you to the listener in a way that is exponentially more valuable to your fans than the distanced, “legendary” but unreachable rock star fantasy of yesteryear right?

Especially in a world where we are all wired up, our smartphones are always on and we are always communicating… yet the majority of people still feel isolated, detached, craving a real experience with meaning and exclusive intimacy between real human beings.

It’s the fundamentals and again, the battle must first be won at the street level.

How do you grow your fan base?

ONE AT A TIME. That’s how.

You can’t have 100 fans before you have 10 can you?

I believe, and many examples i’ve seen further indicate, that this is a key to long term success in the modern music industry.

So To Briefly Summarize:

The true aim for Modern Musicians is not in passively pleasing the anonymous masses by compromising the integrity or freshness of your content to reach the lowest common denominator. The Modern Music Business is about authentic connection and the ability to TRULY connect and prosper via passionate tribal communities as well as leverage the technology that helps connect and empower us all to do what we love. To do work we love that matters to the tribe we choose. To create the lifestyle and the career that we want.

Modern Musicians are somewhat evolved in how they view the growth of their career as they hand pick the right selection for them, so they can remain authentic in their artistry and also take care of their entrepreneurial responsibilities, so they can build and enjoy the lifestyle they desire.

Though it’s far from a cakewalk to do, the job description is simply to continuously develop your content as well as your fan base.

It’s about creating experiences delivered through MULTImedia content.

Its about having lots of fun. Like, almost all the time. It’s about being in control. Artistically, financially.

Those are the rules….

It’s not about having to conform to traditional rules or perceptions of what a band or an artist “has to do,” or should do…

I don’t have to tour if i don’t fucking want to.

And when i do, i’m going to negotiate the terms i want to do it on.

Who can tell me otherwise?

I don’t have to answer to a label executive who’s going to sit me down and tell me, Jamie, see that’s just not the way things work around here….

Actually. Forget you. Pardon my language.

But this is where I call the shots. This is the Artists Music Business. That’s the only way we can ensure we focus on the right things… The art, the connection, the love of the game. Not the Digital Music Revolution… The ARTISTS Revolution.

The Evolution from the Traditional Music Industry to the Modern Music Business

Artists are the drivers, the operators of their careers, and the nucleus of their teams.

Grassroots career development, complete artist development.

Now it’s all direct to fan engagement, and there are few (if any) ways that someone can do that for you as authentically as you can do yourself via conversation with your fans.

Today it’s not just music and live shows… It’s all kinds of communication formats and distribution channels.

5 units of content business.

We need to evolve from building 1 dimensional to 3 dimensional brands

In my opinion, and from my experience, the fundamental way we look at the growth of our careers in the modern music industry needs a system upgrade.

Instead of simply focusing on the music though that’s the part we of course love and enjoy and makes us feel best… The fact is that we cannot ignore the other two pieces of the puzzle.

In addition to a thorough examination and explanation for why you do not need a major label or a record deal in the next lesson, we’ll be diving into how to integrate the other two dimensions to form the synergy of your 3D brand, your content business. Throughout the rest of this blueprint you will begin building a 3 Dimensional Career, identifying the systems and processes that underpin and construct the infrastructure for our careers in the modern music business.

We will also be exploring and making some shifts and breakthroughs in the project based nature of our careers-in upcoming lessons as I try change the way you think about growing your music career in the modern world.

Here, let me pass the microphone over to you now… What insights, shifts, ideas, or breakthroughs have you experienced thus far? Add your voice to the conversation below.

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