New era, new model!
On the eve of the new year, I wanted to talk to you about the new model that is increasingly emerging among us music sector performers, and the consequences this model can have on the interaction between the various links in the musical chain.
Indeed, nowadays, more and more artists choose to produce their own albums, then use a record company (granting it a licence) or a distributor to market them. The model of the artist entrepreneur is one that, until the early 2000s, was only feasible for a handful of us, but with the skyrocketing of Internet diffusion and the possibilities of home recording, has taken on an enormous proportion and is now commonplace.
I can distinguish two different ways of perceiving this model.
The first is commonly called the “do-it-yourself” model. In this model, the artist completely handles the creation, production and marketing of his or her work, without any help from anyone. Thus, an artist who plays all the instruments in his or her album, records it at home, takes care of the cover, graphic design, website and the distribution of the work, would fall into this category. The artist does everything from A to Z. Some artists work in this way and manage to make themselves known, but I think it becomes impossible to do so at a certain point because time and energy spent on tasks related to the creation of the work will eventually prevent the artist from concentrating on the creation and delivery of the work. Similarly, this model does not provide work for other craftspeople such as sound engineers, instrumentalists, graphic designers, press officers, marketing teams, etc. That is why I do not support the view that it is the model of the future, because I know that in the long term it is not viable for the artist, and that it is not profitable for the economy of other craftspeople in the music industry. Given the lack of resources we now face and the lack of balance between what creators of content earn compared to those who circulate or broadcast that content, this is the reality which more and more artists now have to face.
The second way of doing things is similar to the model of the self-producer who produces his or her own music but uses others for recording, instrumental or vocal accompaniment, press relationships, graphic design and marketing of the work. This model is the one I have adopted from the beginning of my career, since I myself, produce the music of which I am the author, composer and performer, and have the master tapes and all the versions. I also hire other players in our ecosystem such as sound engineers, musicians, performers, press relations people and graphic designers, and I work in partnership with a label by granting it a licence to market my work. I consider this model healthy for the economy of our environment because it puts many people to work and is quite viable. Moreover, it is the one that is becoming more and more prevalent in our industry.
It is also normal that this model is on the rise because it allows the artist who is featured on the album to control the production costs of his or her album and to collect a fair share of royalties as a performer and producer. Since this model is not suitable for all (notably for accompanying artists), Artisti has also filed tariff proposals in order to allow performers to collect royalties for the exploitation of their performances “from copy 1”. Indeed, why – in the traditional relationship between performers and producers of sound recordings – do performers have to participate in the recovery of production costs (they are the only creators of music of which such a thing is asked) and why can they not collect royalties before all of these costs have been recovered? The question needs to be asked.
However, it should also be borne in mind that, at this critical juncture in the history of the music industry, both artists and producers find themselves in an endangered ecosystem. Indeed, income inequality is widening between those who create music content and streaming platforms and other Internet service providers. The latter continue to collect enormous amounts of money while the artist is constantly deprived of royalties to which he or she should be entitled.
In its written submission to the Minister of Canadian Heritage in connection with the public consultation on Canadian content in a digital world (a brief you can consult here), Artisti explains the problem facing performers and asks in particular that Internet service providers and streaming platforms be called upon to contribute to the economy of our culture by rightly remunerating those who create the content they broadcast.
But this is not the only key to success, I am also of the opinion that the future of our industry will happen through the establishment of healthy relationships between the various players in the field. To do so, it will be necessary to promote the creation of a bond of trust based on bilateral transparency and fairness between the producers and the artists. The unilateral producer/artist model that had been in use for more than half a century is gradually becoming obsolete. It is now time to join forces and work together for the best.