The music industry is changing. The old guard and a new order are curiously juxtaposed as one attempts to survive and adapt while the other evolves confidently on the periphery of an inevitable future. I am, of course, talking about the rise of social media and its continuing stronghold on how we learn about, listen to and buy our music. And when one delves deeper, this new order is as clean and simple as the old guard was complex and cumbersome. No haunting contracts; no fearsome executives, no impenetrable walls. If you make or consume music, the new order cordially welcomes you.
So, who are these musical change agents, challenging a decades old system? Well, there are many. But one appears to have achieved something profoundly significant, tapping in to the world's fastest growing social media platform which sucks in new members at a rate of almost 600 per minute. This colossus of cyberspace is Twitter. And brother's Stefano and Christian Fazzini knew exactly what they were doing when they launched their seamless music integration tool, TwitMusic.
Stefano, a London graduate in Business Management, always possessed visions of grandeur and bubbled with media altering concepts. When iPods were in their infancy, he developed on-campus docking stations running iTunes, enabling students to purchase music 'on the go'. It was a bold idea, but the impending advent of WiFi undermined a viable future. A year later, he stepped briefly away from technology and founded a student investment fund, trading in US equities. Raising $35,000 from University students, he traded $130,000 from his online broker. This led Stefano to a job in Investment Banking where he, like so many, fell victim to the financial crisis before being fired in 2008. That, it transpired, wasn't such a bad thing.
The rapid ascendancy of Twitter had already caught Stefano and Christian's eye and TwitPic was validation that it was possible to build commercially viable third party applications. The combination of a business mind, a love of music, an understanding of the industry and a flair for IT led them to a unveil a unique proposition of their own - TwitMusic, a free platform for musicians to share, promote & virally spread their music on Twitter.
Having had experience of many self promotion outlets myself, TwitMusic excites me. Naturally, for any musician to have an ability to integrate their music with such a powerful social media tool is manna from heaven. But it's really the completeness of vision that's most impressive about this offering. Stefano and his team listen intently to feedback and as a result, understand the more subtle nuances of the process. For example, it's the first real platform for establishing a true artist-fan conversation around the music.
"When we launched," says Stefano, "A musician contacted us raving about how he posted a song on TwitMusic and received real-time feedback about his music on his mobile phone via Twitter (every comment on TwitMusic sends an @mention on Twitter to the musician). He was then able to @reply to them personally on Twitter. It's truly a great way for unsigned & up-and-coming musicians to communicate directly with their fans and have a conversation with them around their music."
Another key component to their success is credibility. Traditional record companies still have the power to 'buy' their way on to radio stations via a myriad of tactics and contra-deals. Stefano is adamant that this will never happen to TwitMusic. And that's encouraging, because there's an increasing distrust of what's heard 'commercially' due to the disingenuous ways in which tracks can infiltrate a playlist. At the moment, there's an honesty with TwitMusic. Tracks are listened to and shared because they are liked. Simple; just as it should be.
So what can one make of the current state of the traditional music industry? And how can they truly adapt to take advantage of what's occurring in the electronic ether?
"I feel that record labels have had their day", says Stefano. "Or better said, lost their absolute power. The problem is that the music label's business model is outdated. Not long ago, music labels controlled every aspect of production, marketing and distribution and made tons of cash selling CDs and did so profitably.
"These days, production can be made from a computer, marketing is done on social networks (Facebook and Twitter), distribution is happening via iTunes and several other online outlets and a bulk of music purchases are digital. I do believe, however, that there are ways for music labels to coexist within the digital world. Looking at the bigger picture 10 years down the line, online music distribution will evolve in ways that dramatically change the way we discover and consume music. Pandora and Spotify are great examples but I feel that there is much more do in the social space. So I think an important question to ask is: how will social music distribution evolve within the next 10 years to enable the mass social discovery and consumption of music? I believe that this evolvement will occur on top of social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook where the masses gather, share and distribute content. Once this problem is solved, it will definitely be a boon for music labels, online music services and musicians alike."
I'm not sure anyone would disagree that social media is the most critical evolutionary step in the development of the music industry and TwitMusic will doubtlessly earn its place as a key contributor to change. But enabling this mass social discovery and consumption really is the holy grail. Because once the passive majority is convinced that music doesn't end with the top 40, the new order will no longer sit at the periphery. It will be right at the centre of a musical revolution.