Bands and fan-generated content…

What do you think of the question of how much discretion bands should be able to exercise over user-generated content? To recap, the essential question is whether fan-generated content (i.e. video of a band playing in concert) helps or hurts bands, and whether they and their labels, managers, etc. have the right to control said content.

My impression is that these guys are lucky that technology, and the sheer numbers of fans, are keeping them from being able to really put a lid on user-generated content, because otherwise I think they would do irreparable harm to themselves. These guys (most of them are guys) have some brass balls in assuming that they are experts at how to navigate the waters of new technology, particularly since their record of dealing with filesharing, for instance, is the record of a missed opportunity leading to massive declines in physical record sales.

I simply don’t see the harm in fan-generated content. Bands love the marketing potential of new media (i.e. youtube) but still think that they and their labels can control it. Take the good with the bad. I’ve yet to see anyone demonstrate a harm to having lots of fan-generated content on the web…if someone can do so, I would love to see it. Viral marketing is a big part of marketing for bands with major label support, at all levels of the game. It’s not the hail mary marketing solution for underground artists that it’s made out to be. It’s big because people’s orientation to technology is changing, and their ways of connecting to the live performance are changing, too. People like filming. People take pictures literally all the time nowadays. Why would we expect them to act differently at a show?

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2 Comments

  1. I think a lot of people are simply resistant to change…because change is hard and difficult and filled with uncertainties. Personally, I can’t wait for the dinosaur that is the 20th century “record label” to twist away in the wind. And with the costs associated with production and distribution approaching zero, and a younger generation coming up without any nostalgic memories of visiting record stores, I feel that train has certainly left the station.

    In addition to this fear of change (e.g., “How is MegaCorp Records going to turn a profit if we can’t charge $100k in recording costs and recoup the signing bonus via deceptive accounting practices vis-a-vis placing product in the stores and marketing??!?!) and almost knee-jerk reaction to anything termed “file sharing” or “user generated content” is a severe lack of creativity on the part of many people up and down the chain to embrace these seismic shifts and make them work for us. Netwerk Music Group is at least trying something new…and I’m sure there are others, but by and large it seems like everyone’s kind of looking around going “duh” and waiting for MegaCorp Records to tell us how it’s going to be from now on. The Grateful Dead always did their own thing and came out alright. Beck has been trying new things, as have Prince, Trent Reznor, and the Beastie Boys (the latter two have actually made .band files available for people to create their own remixes!).

    I may be an exception, but for the most part I am almost always introduced to new music nowadays via non-traditional media channels…mostly consisting of user generated content. I don’t read RS or even have cable TeeVee…I do read Mojo, but mostly it covers music I already know about…I don’t read Billboard, and I don’t listen to old-fashioned boring radio. I do have Sirius, and have been turned on to new music there; however, Sirius, to a large degree, is influenced by its audience and not the record labels. I’d say it’s a push on Sirius being labeled a traditional media channel versus a UGC one. I do surf websites where bands post their own songs, photos, and video clips. I do get urls all the time from friends. I do read other blogs/whatever of fans. I do surf Last.fm. I do browse through my friends’ record collections and their iPods. In a world where entertainers have more competition, not against one another but for the listener’s attention, the ability to rise above the noise and actually make a connection with somebody is incredibly valuable. To piss that away because of some small-minded notion of “ownership” or “licensing” is incredibly naive (IMO). Additionally, unless the Bush administration torched it along with our Bill Of Rights there is still the concept of “Fair Use,” although it does seem largely forgotten in the New Media Order. If you’re a fan and you care enough to record a show, take a photo, draw a picture, write a letter, whatever, and you’re not trying to sell it…then those artists should bow down and thank you. Have a beer with you…get you in for free…say thanks…something. At the least, they should not hassle or insult you.

  2. hmmm…I wonder where I stand on this issue. 🙂


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