Another Crack in the “Product” Wall

I remember the first time I heard somebody — the manager of a band called “Goose Creek Symphony — refer to a box of CDs as “product.” The use of the terms struck me as oddly discordant. Cereal is a “product.” Soap is a “product.” Toilet paper is a “product.” I never thought — and still can’t think — of music as a “product.

The promise of the digital era is that music can no longer be thought of in those terms. It’s not entirely clear yet what in terms it can be thought of; maybe it’s “process,” as in “the process of engagement between performer and audience.” And here’s Techdirt reporting on one emerging scenario re: how that process sustains a creative enterprise:

More And More Musicians Embracing Free Music With Subscriptions For Support

mrharrysan sends over the news of musician John Wood who is experimenting with giving away free music, while setting up a subscription to support him, as he creates a new album every month. It’s not just a new album, but a pretty cool website called Learning Music Monthly which includes some cool artwork as well (and, hey, the music’s pretty good too).

Wood isn’t yet making a living from this effort (though, I imagine an Associated Press article won’t hurt), but it’s cool to see another artist build on some of the ideas we’ve seen from others — like Jonathan Coulton’s song-a-week project, or Olafur Arnalds song-a-day for a week project — and then build a subscription offer on top of it, similar to what Matthew Ebel has done with his subscription offering. Basically, what we’re seeing is a lot of very creative people experimenting — not by all doing the same thing, but by trying different things, sometimes inspired by others, sometimes arrived at independently, but all doing something cool.

In many ways, all of this business model experimentation is similar to the kind of experimentation these musicians do in the music itself. That is, they take ideas they have themselves, combine it with ideas inspired from others, and come out with something wholly unique and creative, which best matches with their own community. It’s improvisational business modeling.

Improvisational business modeling. Sounds like a model to me.