Journal / Where are the great music web companies?

When I was at SXSW last month I visited the Music trade show. Great, I thought. I work with bands in my day job. I love music. I’ll find out about the latest web technologies that affect me as a web designer and as a music fan.

The problem is, the music industry still doesn’t understand the web*. It is clear that the ‘Home taping is killing music’ mentality is still very much alive and well. Music companies are all too happy to jump on social networking bandwagons once the ship has sailed, and bombard us with spam. (I use the term ‘music company’ instead of ‘record company’ nowadays, as any company still int he business to make records will not be around much longer). Yet they still show no sign of wanting to sit down and actually solve their own problems. (As an aside, Matt Haughey’s article is apt for music too.)

Surely SXSW is a great place for music industry people to come and try to learn from their Interactive counterparts? Yet there was a distinct lack of good music web companies represented. In the music trade show I saw at least 3 companies trying to make money selling music-specific rip-offs of popular web services. At one booth I had a conversation with a company rep who explained their service. “Oh, so you’re a similar to service to Campaign Monitor?” was my response. “I’ve never heard of them. Our USP is that we are solely catering to the music industry”, was her reply. Are music companies so blinkered that a) they don’t know who their competition is and b) they think that being music centric will actually make them money, if they could be expanding to other markets?

When are music companies going to start looking to the web community for help, instead of calling them all thieves pirates? Where are the big hires from the web community to big music companies? God knows music could use the help. I’d like to see smart people from Google/Yahoo/wherever, who love music, being paid to apply that thinking to a ‘sinking’ industry. Remember, ‘social media expert’ is a modern name for ‘marketer’. Adding them to your arsenal is potentially a smart move but it won’t solve your problems.

Are there companies I’m missing here? Web companies which could really change the music industry? Please tell me I’m wrong. I’d like nothing more.

* I should probably mention that I am aware of a (very) few good music web services. Last.fm is one. Spotify is another. There are also lots of people doing great things with what they have, especially at small indie labels.

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