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David Byrne tells how it all works

On December 19th covering , , ,

In today’s Wired magazine site, David Byrne has written a small textbook on the recorded-music industry that summarizes the major approaches that are available today. The included audio clips of his interviews with innovators of different business models are well worth the time.

He sets out six models of recorded-music distribution, which he calls The Six Possibilities:

Where there was one, now there are six: Six possible music distribution models, ranging from one in which the artist is pretty much hands-off to one where the artist does nearly everything. Not surprisingly, the more involved the artist is, the more he or she can often make per unit sold. The totally DIY model is certainly not for everyone — but that’s the point. Now there’s choice.

  1. the 360, or equity, deal
  2. the standard distribution deal
  3. The license deal
  4. the profit-sharing deal
  5. the manufacturing and distribution deal
  6. the self-distribution model

I have two immediate thoughts about this. One is that everyone is making this up as they go along. Musicians need to think about what they want to accomplish and invent/ tweak/ hack business procedures that move them toward that goal — and this is how it always has been. Another is how similar this is to how it is for other innovators, particularly tech-sector entrepreneurs. Which is why the story is in Wired in the first place.

I recommend this article to anyone trying to sell recorded music. There’s a companion article with a dialogue between Byrne and Thom Yorke. As above, Wired has embedded audio of the longer conversation that adds a great deal. As a commentator noted, Yorke sounds exactly like Nigel Tufnel.

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