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Pandora's Box Is Open and the Music Biz Will Never Be the Same

The traditional music business, built around the sale of fixed music recordings, handles manufacturing, packaging and distributing, middlemen selling something they didn't make themselves, something never really theirs to begin with.

These days, though, tech is trashing that model, by fits and starts turning the business of music from a product-based market into something more like a social media service directly connecting artists and listeners.

As I noted in my conversation with composer Bob Ostertag, artists are wrestling with the new tools, using the freedom the Internet provides to bypass the middlemen entirely and using sales platforms like Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iTunes, and CDBaby, social media audio-exchange services like SoundCloud and Internet radio pioneers like Pandora (P - Get Report) and Spotify to reach greater numbers of potential listeners.

While recordings are still the primary currency of these artists, more and more are emphasizing the recordings as calling cards, samples of the more true, live experience.

All Business Is Tech

TheStreet's Rocco Pendola has been pointing out how technology affects local business. In his piece Monday, he speculated Pandora could offer artists and concert-goers dynamic tools to build their relationship, exploiting the company's deep databases of user information and music content to post ads and opportunities for ticket sales to specific users for local events.

In an earlier video, Pendola pointed out that local businesses can compete on a local level with national chains, like Starbucks (SBUX), if they develop or partner with tech to build more responsive relationships with their customers.

These ideas are simple, but very powerful. Music is inherently live and therefore inherently local. The future of the music business is not in product sales, but in the service of that artist-listener relationship. Artists are thinking about tech. They're embracing it and using it to reach their audiences directly.

While all of these new technologies have their roots in traditional music marketing -- radio, record stores, mail-order houses and record clubs, publishers, etc. -- none is modeling itself on traditional record labels. That space, controlled right now by fewer than a handful of giant corporations, including Sony (SNE - Get Report) and Vivendi (VIVEF:OTC), will soon be dead.
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