With Spotify's influence on the music industry solidifying by the day, the question of ownership and the viability of selling albums has come increasingly under the spotlight. The issue was addressed at a SXSW Music panel Friday morning called "Selling Albums in a Non-Spotify World: Non-Traditional Strategies," which discussed the role of Kickstarter campaigns, album-ticket bundling, and unique packaging in moving albums as the average music consumer shifts toward a streaming model.
Moderated by mTheory's JT Myers, the panel -- which also included musician Amanda Palmer, Mumford and Sons manager Adam Tudhope, Tough Love Artist Magagement's Darius Zelkha, and Mom + Pop Music general manager Thaddeus Rudd -- began with a discussion on whether or not the ownership model is, for all intents and purposes, a thing of the past.
"I think the interesting thing is that now everyone seems to be able to admit that content is just free -- especially by the generation coming up under us," said Palmer, who has never had any qualms about putting her music out and allowing her fans to determine what to pay. "I think what's going to happen in the future is that the idea of stealing music won't even be an idea; it'll be like stealing electricity, if you find a plug, you take it."
But music, despite access to it being free, still needs to create some source of income for the artists that create it, said Tudhope, who as manager of Mumford saw their last release Babel break first-week streaming record on Spotify. "I'm a believer in copyright, that artists have a right to be remunerated for the work that they do... I think the modern world should use copyright as a model for remuneration rather than for control," he said. "The labels make it very difficult to license music, and I think it should be a lot easier. There should be hundreds of these 'shops' like Spotify, Rdio, Deezer."
Palmer, whose Kickstarter campaign last year broke a few records itself for the direct-to-fan service, also stressed the importance of creativity and creating a unique experience or product in getting fans to buy albums and support artists, and of pricing that correctly. "I went into the Kickstarter office with Yancey [Strickler, one of the company's co-founders], and asked, 'what was the biggest thing you've learned that works?'" she said. "He said, 'no matter who the artist was, and no matter what breadth of packaging they had, there were two spikes in every campaign: at the $25 level and at the $100 level; that's where all the business was going. And sure enough he was totally right." Palmer's Kickstarter campaign raised over $1 million for her album and subsequent tour.
The panel also discussed bundling packages, download cards, special and deluxe album editions, and packaging albums with concert tickets, as Madonna and Tom Petty have done in the past. But the bottom line came down to thinking outside the box and delivering content that the fan covets, which much of the time goes beyond the music.
"If you're just in a world where I can pay $10 a month and get every [song] or just download an album and put it in my iTunes, that's when you get into the debate over whether it's worth it to sell an album for 99 cents on iTunes or get into the fractions of pennies from Spotify," said Rudd. "But we can create actual value from albums; we might just have to be a little more creative about it."