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Why I Don't Spend Time On Internet Music Startups

Every day there's a new "social" music startup that promises to revolutionize the music industry.

Every day another one goes out of business.

There's no need to pay attention to a new service until it gets too huge to ignore. A majority of these startups will be a net waste of your time.

1: Brand new social websites offer low value.

The value of a network comes from how many other people are in the network (see Metcalf's Law). As much as I'd like them to, fax machines won't die because they're ubiquitious and easy to adopt. Each additional fax machine purchased makes every other fax machine more valuable. If you're the only one with a fax machine, it's a useless piece of rubbish.

2: Startups fail all the time.

63% of IT startups fail within 4 years. If I'm going to put in substantial effort, I don't want to risk that a substantial amount of it will be worthless in a few years.

3: There are costs (time, money, sanity) to using a new service.

Setting up a website takes time. Effetively marketing a website takes even more time and effort. Given how you've got limited time, money and sanity to spend on marketing, each additional avenue of promotion will dilute the amount of marketing weight you can put into all of your marketing channels. Half-assed marketing is good for no one.
4: Go where your fans are. 

I don't play music for startup companies, I play music for fans.

Unless your fans love being early adoptors of new tech, which they may well be, there's no incentive for you to invest heavy amount of time into some "Web 2.0 Startup That Will Revolutionalize The Industry." Not only will you have to learn the new service, so will your fans.


In choosing to adopt an unproven service, you've effecticvely increased the amount of effort required to be a fan.

Which brings me back to important point number inifity of The New Music Industry:

Making your music more difficult to hear is 9/10 times a bad idea.

Sure, Beck's sheet-music-only album got a lot of press, but think of how limited the market for the item is (groups of musicians, who are willing to assemble to learn the songs). As an art piece, it's a really sweet concept and a throwback to the history of music. But will Beck have fans demanding these songs at a show? Probably not.

I'm not saying startups are a bad thing, nor do I want them to fail. I'd love for nothing more than gamechangers like Bandcamp to show up in droves. Innovation helps everyone. Avoiding startups and following only the winners is the best decision for one band, not bands in aggregate.


Coda: One glaring problem I see with many music startups is they try to attract bands AND fans at the same time. Without fans, a band is posting in oblivion and wasting time. Without bands, fans don't have much reason to add another login name and password to their list. A website would be much wiser to focus on one group first, putting all effort into growing the "artist" or "fan" network as fast as possible instead of dividing efforts between the two camps. The value of a network is how many people are involved.

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