I recently interviewed Dave Kusek, of the Berklee School of Music, and the Co-Author of “The Future of Music.” Dave Kusek is a digital music executive and is responsible for helping to create the market for digital music as an entity, and in 1980 he founded the first music software company, Passport Designs, which made it possible for musicians to record and produce their music at home with its award-winning software.
The Future of Music is a best-selling music business book, and wildly popular among industry executives and musicians themselves. Dave Kusek also provides advisory services to the music and media industries via Digital Cowboys. He is a co-developer of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) industry standard that opened up electronic music to millions of people. His efforts, along with others, set the stage for the multi-billion dollar digital music market that exists today.
He created a hugely successful online music school berkleemusic.com for the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Berkleemusic has become the world’s largest music school teaching over 15,000 students a year globally. Kusek has written for or been featured in the NY Times, Boston Globe, Billboard, Wired, Associated Press, MTV, CNBC, Forbes, NBC-TV, Nightly Business Report, NPR, Financial Times, and is a featured speaker at Midem, Digital Music Forum, NAMM, AES, IEBA, MacWorld, Comdex, Digital Hollywood and has been a featured guest on radio and television stations around the world.
Here’s a brief synopsis of our discussion… you can hear the entire recording at: https://allaccessgroup.com/articles-and-resources/blog-talk-radio/all-access-radio-interviews/
Kelli: Dave, talk about the future of Digital music if you would. With the role of labels changing almost daily, where do you think the industry is headed?
Dave Kusek: I have been working in the music industry all my life. I was one of the first to capitalize on the commercial potential of computers and music and have been having lots of fun in this space ever since. We’re missing a new format. There’s no new format to monetize, and without that, I think it’s going to be very difficult making music. Without that new format, I think that business might just go away. There’s no real indicator that recorded music in any form is going to turn up in any way or become a revenue generator in the next five years. If we had a new format that was valuable enough and hard enough to come by, then recorded music might come back. But it may just be that recorded music was an anomaly in time. Something you could make money at for 70 or 80 or even a hundred years at its end, but only for that moment in time.
Kelli: What role do you think direct-to-fan distribution is going to play going forward?Talk about how you think this could create what you’ve called a middle class of musicians, and in that context, what do you think will happen to the big labels, as a result.
Dave Kusek: I do believe the opportunity to make music is there for anyone who wants to do it – and anyone who wants to try and turn that activity into money or a living has an opportunity to do it. it’s always been difficult, but I think there are tools today to promote and distribute your music and communicate with your fans that are so beyond what we could even think about five or ten years ago. But if you have a good team around yourself, you can make a good living being an artist. Good being a relative term. It’s very difficult to go and make $25 million dollars – but it’s not that hard to make $50 grand or $150 grand depending on how big your team is. … I think there’s a lot of opportunity – more than ever – for people to make a living in music.
If you build a good team around yourself – a business person, a marketing person, someone who understands the web, who understands mobile, who understands cell phone communication, how to build a community, how to build an audience, you can do pretty well.
Kelli: You seem to be very active on social media – what role do you see that playing for artists as time goes by?
Dave Kusek: I think it’s a great way to distribute your music and to distribute information about yourself and what you’re up to. To communicate directly with people if you have the time for that and you have set up a structure that allows that to happen. It’s a way to connect on a local level with people far more easily than any other way to do that. Again, direct marketing techniques applied in the modern era. I mean, I could find everyone in the Chicago area if I go there. Either Meetup or have a meet & greet, or come to my show, or tell your friends, or have a contest, or whatever.
I think the difficult part is doing it all yourself. As an artist, you should be focused on making music, writing great songs, practicing, playing with other people – you should have your brother, your cousin, a friend, someone you hire working on the website, focused on the social. It’s so hard to do it all yourself.
Kelli: Oh yeah, that goes back to the discussion about picking the right team members around you. You’ve got to have somebody focused on that around you. To your point, artists make music. You really need to have some help I think. With all the things an artist needs to be focused on. But I think we both agree that there really needs to be a presence on social media – that’s really driving a lot of activity and traffic for an artist.
Dave Kusek: And it’s so hard to measure the impact sometimes.
Kelli: And yet may artists do. That’s how they fill their shows. They route their tours and reaching out to their fans directly. People tell their friends, and you’ve got a full house when you show up out in Minnesota!
To hear the entire Q&A with Dave Kusek, go to: https://allaccessgroup.com/articles-and-resources/blog-talk-radio/all-access-radio-interviews/