Future Adventures in Music…

With futurist Gerd Leonhard

David Beckham can piss off with his golden balls. We have crystal balls. And they’re BIG!

We caught up with Gerd Leonhard, Clash’s resident futurist and former Miles Davis support act, green activist and Dot.Com winner (and loser) to discuss who’ll be the champs and chumps over the next decade of music.

Labels Care More
“More rock artists will start going direct to the audience. That goes for music as well as for film and television. This is because it’s becoming possible now to build your brand online, even if you aren’t signed to a major label, using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and so on. And of course blogs. Record labels won’t go away, they will just get smaller, so they will become more concerned with the music rather than a big corporation like we used to have.”

British Facebook Corporation
“Basically what’s happening is that Facebook and the other social networks are essentially becoming broadcasters. So, in five years Facebook will be like the BBC, because at the moment they pretty much have the global reach of the BBC, probably even more, through the thirty billion users. I think it’s eight billion minutes a day spent on Facebook. But they don’t have music or television as their content. So, what all the social networks are going to start doing over the next few years is the content so that people will get to use it to get together to meet each other but also to watch TV or to recommend things to each other, so that’s going to make it much easier for the artists to reach their audience.”

Clash Grows…
“For music magazines the most important development is that to get an audience you still need curation, you still need editorial and you still need a filter. So, when you have so much music available, so many motion pictures and TV shows and so on and artists, you need filters. So, the filters aren’t going to go away, the filters are going to increase. And people are going to look for guidance from somewhere. So, that will create more value for the magazine to become like a filter, a bit like radio used to be.”

Breaking the charts, not the bank: Fan Funding
“You won’t need as much money to get out the door because the production will be more digital, so you won’t have to necessarily print or ship anything. You can distribute online, you don’t need to make the artwork quite as fancy initially. Ultimately the funding will also come directly from the fans, I call it Fan Funding. I think fans will say, ‘we want you to make a new record’ or quit, and that’s already happening – I think bands will go with agents and managers who will start to fund productions because the money you need is no longer £500,000 it may be £20 or £30k, so that agents and managers will start investing.”

3D Downloads
“Mobile phones will take over completely from a computer. After you’ve had your fill on the mobile, you may decide to buy a physical product, like a DVD, which is a fully three-dimensional or game environment. There will be new physical products. For example, the most obvious one is high definition 3D. 3D displays will be invented, so you can feel like you’re right by the stage. That’s already here but it’s too expensive.”

“When you think that there are $600 or $700 BILLION dollars spent on advertising globally on reaching consumers, that money is going to shift into things like Spotify and Napster to fund those companies to reach consumers and the music business can basically be paid for by really smart advertising. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except for that when you hate advertising you have to be able to opt out. Branding advertising isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just has to be done in a very integral way, without disturbing the experience.”

Free phone anyone?
“Nokia devices will eventually become free because Nokia will ask for commission for your purchases and your banking: mobile banking will be pervasive. The devices will become more or less free to a large degree. This idea is like the service in the clouds: music and banking and all your data, you will end up spending all your money there. In ten years we will always be connected: it will be a luxury not to connect, meaning that you can’t be disturbed.”

Wot no file sharing? LOL
“Kids now aren’t actually sending the music anymore, they’re not filesharing as they used to, they’re just saying ‘connect with me on Facebook and here’s my list’. Or Twitter. The devices will become really small and you’ll probably be able to listen to music on your wristwatch – you already can but it’s cumbersome. And these devices will become more like fashion objects because it’s important what they look like rather than what they do.”

Come and feel the noise
“The noise that goes on around the Internet, it’s getting worse not better of course, as mobile phones are always connected and twittering and so on. The challenge is to cut through the noise – you have to be very unique and you have to be very good and you have to be very different. You have to be very good at network marketing – connecting with your peers – and have them do the work. The difference now is getting attention on a larger scale – I have to find a way to do that through the web because in principle anyone can see me but they have to find out about me. The goal of the label is to get your attention.”

Do Not Disturb
“Life can be more efficient and therefore the price is lower but at the same time we’re giving away our data, and there are going to be a lot of debates about this. I think kids won’t care for a long time until they find out what happens with it. In the near future we are probably going to end up paying for our privacy. That means if you don’t want to see anything or you don’t want to share anything – if you just want the movies or your music but you’re not willing to share your data or advertising, you just pay, which is basically the same thing as paying for privacy.”

“Google makes everything free that used to cost money and it’s going to make the market more efficient. And the Google factor is going to be huge for music. Google is in the position of making a lot of things free including email, calendars and documents, and now phone calls of course – Googlewave is going to be another communication tool. And they’ve launched Googlemusic too now with other peoples’ content. The biggest change factor for the music business will be telecoms, because the telecoms are sick and tired of this whole issue of whether or not downloading is allowed, so they are going to push for this permission. And they have all the power.”

The west is dead
I think the Hollywood syndrome, where you have London, England or Hollywood producing most of the content, is declining. It is no longer the case that the next big artist will be from England or the US is probably unlikely and in general there will probably be more movement towards the east, but we probably won’t care about Chinese artists. I think the time of where UK or Anglo artists were going to be a global phenomenon is probably stopping.”

The Biggest Loser
“People who are in the middle and not moving and not adding value are going to get squished. That may be some of the rights societies (MCPS for example) – they may become new societies or pan-European ones will take over, or technology companies will handle the job. I think anyone who’s in the middle and is not adding new value all the time is going to get outloaded. The major music companies will have a really hard time getting around this corner because essentially they tie up distribution businesses, but this will not be an asset in the future. Being a label will be much more of a personal business; you’re probably only going to get twenty-five or thirty percent of artists’ profits, you’re not going to get ninety percent of the money.”

The Biggest Winner
“The biggest winner is going to be the artist because the bottom line is without really good and unique stuff nothing really moves. Anyone that has unique stories and a great way to tell them is probably going to have a better time but in the middle it’s going to be harder because on both sides you’re going to feel the pressure. Right now you can get fifty million viewers on YouTube but nobody gets any money so that’s going to change because the advertisers are moving over to YouTube so the money is going to be available.”

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