We all know that the Industrial Age is going the way of the dinosaur. Sure, we still see remnants of it in today's business world, but by and large the era we've come to define as the Information Age is taking over.
Generation Y is the first natively online generation, meaning they are quite comfortable with the internet, social media, game consoles, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets that connect to the internet. For them, it would be hard to imagine a world without the World Wide Web.
There was a time when one could go to school, get a job, work really hard and be successful. Today, many College and University graduates are lucky to even get a job in the field of their study.
Thus, there is a need for education to adapt and evolve. No longer can schools blindly turn out factory workers of ages past and expect them to succeed in today's world. After all, that's what our education system was built on; Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford needed good factory workers, and schools did a good job of making that a plentiful resource.
It was a good deal back then, but not today, unless you consider debt management and dual income families a step in the right direction. Go back 60 to 70 years, and those things were virtually unheard of.
Fear of Failure
As Seth Godin's book The Icarus Deception would have it, many of us are afraid of failure. We are scared of stepping out and creating something of our own. There's a glass ceiling of society's making. “Don't fly too close to the sun”, the world says, “you'll burn your wings”.
That type of thinking doesn't benefit anyone in this emerging age. Despite what the media might have us believe, job security is a myth. Many people get laid off. Many people get fired or lose their jobs. It's not an isolated incident. People do change careers, not merely because they want a change in their life.
Failure is a vital part of progress. Derek Sivers would call it iteration (the act of trying many different approaches to the same problem, until finding something that works). If Edison had not persisted in his studies of the light bulb (“I didn't fail. I just found ten thousand ways that didn't work.”), we might not enjoy electricity the way we do today. If Trent Reznor hadn't tried several different music projects, Nine Inch Nails may not have come about.
Own What You Do
The good news is that musicians have an advantage over otherwise ordinary people because they are creating something they can call their own. Not every band or artist will break or make it big, but with consistent effort, there are many opportunities to build a profitable career or business in music today.
Many independent musicians have day jobs, and their music efforts would be administered outside of their 9 to 5 day. This type of work ethic is a necessary part of “making it” in today's world, regardless of the medium.
Music is often perceived as fun and glamorous to the uninitiated, but it really is hard work when you consider the fact that most musicians do it when other people are generally at home watching TV (the average is 5 to 6 hours a day!).
Music + Information
I can't be the only one to have noticed this, but if we are indeed leaving the Industrial Age, then industry is really an obsolete concept, isn't it? So, hypothetically, the music industry really can't remain an industry anymore. This is the era of music information.
However, the term “music information” is a little confusing, so I've coined a new term, which is music engagement.
Sound familiar? I was inspired by a popular expression that has been expressed in a number of ways: “The new music industry is engagement”. This statement refers to the fact that musicians today need to be building relationships with their fans (typically using social media) to be successful.
Although the format shift from the Compact Disc to digital is quite significant, it is the result of the new Age we find ourselves in, which could be more significant.
Obviously, no one knows the future of music. However, I do feel that music engagement is an accurate way of describing what the industry looks like today. The exchange and consumption of information is ubiquitous.
Consider these thoughts for a moment:
– Social media is compulsory for musicians.
– Crowdfunding is increasingly becoming a popular way to create, promote or distribute a music project.
– Many of today's well-known artists created success by utilizing video and (primarily) YouTube.
All of these elements have a social component to them. Even live music is often documented with tools like Instagram and Tumblr, furthering the social trend. Can we deny any longer that engagement really is currency, even if we're talking pennies rather than dollars?
Musicians can't just make music anymore; they have to be savvy business people, able to create communities for their fans and be prolific creatively besides. They have to make themselves available to their audience, and engage them regularly.
QUESTION: How are you engaging your audience? Share in the comments below.
Guest post: David Andrew Wiebe is a musician turned blogger, podcaster, online marketer and entrepreneur. In the last 12 years, he has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, and music instruction. He's no slouch at guitar either.
Today, he works as an online marketer for TuneCity, an innovative online music store concept that rewards and incentivizes its users for music purchases. The TuneCity online music store is set to launch on March 2, 2013 along with a couple of exciting contests.