Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

News, notes and ideas on music marketing, self-promotion, artist empowerment and more

January 11, 2005

The Future of Music: Flowing Like Water?

Gerd Leonhard and David Kusek, coauthors of the new book "The Future of Music," have some strong views on the current state and future direction of the music business. Their book is described as a "manifesto for the digital music revolution."

Here are some thoughts from Leonhard in an article he wrote called "Music Like Water: The Inevitable Music Ecosystem":

"I strongly believe we are heading into a 'music like water' future, based on this very simple fact: today, there are more people in more places around the globe that are tuning into music with more enthusiasm and sheer determination than ever before, and they are using a myriad of their own particular ways and means to get what they want. And to a large degree the 'traditional' record industry is simply no longer invited to the party - the bottom line is that consumer empowerment has finally reached the music business, and many consumers have now taken charge of their own entertainment."

Leonhard asserts that flat-fee, subscription-based services will be more attactive to music-hungry fans (and better for artists) than the iTunes-like, pay-per-download model.

"Once we can subscribe to music just like we subscribe to water, the music business will EXPLODE and we will enter a new ecosystem that will make the previous music industry look like NY taxicabs from the 30th floor of the BMG building ...

"There's only one thing: we MUST stop asking the consumers to fill up their bath tubs with Evian, or to use Pellegrino to boil pasta -- they have already discovered the tab water! So let's just sell them tap water, via cheap flat fee deals, AND the Pellegrino, as well -- and this does not equal a flat-out, wholesale devaluation of music; quite the contrary. Ubiquity is a very powerful thing, and will create a nice pool of money for all involved parties -- a pool which will only be the very first starting point for a much increased monetization of music.

"Once music is unleashed and we can stop the dinosaurial fight for the simple privilege of having access to it, distribution seizes to be a barrier to entry: all music, all artists and all writers will be in those pipelines. Then, however, artists and their representatives will be facing the real challenge: getting anyone to pay attention to them, and surviving in this world of 'digital darwinism', since the old marketing mantra of Exposure + Discovery = Sales (Income) will be even more pronounced in a Music-Like-Water world.

"Ultimately, of course, people will consume, or shall we say, use more media (music) all the time, yes, but the real limiting factor is people's TIME. Simply put, all of the world's music (and its creators) will be competing for attention in this new ecosystem, and everyone will want a piece if your precious time. THAT will be the real challenge going forward: getting exposure and being discovered -- the rest is already build into the pipeline. So, brave new music ecosystem -- yes, but not a build-in goldmine."

Read the entire article at

What do you think? Agree with him? Have an opposing view? Post your thoughts here.

posted by Bob Baker @ 1:21 PM   9 comments


At Jan 15, 2005 11:54:00 AM, Blogger Dave Cool/Stand Alone said...

Very interesting, I’ve heard this theory before, but this goes much more in-depth, so I’ll definitely have to pick up the book. I totally agree that the “record” industry is on its last legs and that the music industry itself will be just fine. I think subscription based services are in fact the future, and not only through the internet, but even through outlets like cable or telephone services. But how far off is that? Who knows, some say 15-20 years, others think a lot sooner.

My biggest question would be how much control, or lack thereof, independent artists and companies will have over these new models for music distribution? Will the big 4 (probably 1 or 2 by then!) majors dominate them like they do with virtually every other aspect of the industry? I hope not, but it’s hard to remain optimistic sometimes, as those with the big bags of cash usually win out. But my hope is that an independently minded, CD Baby-type company (or several companies) will surface and seize control of those new avenues of distribution before the majors do.

At Jan 16, 2005 1:46:00 PM, Blogger uke jackson said...

i find this theory interesting. the guy who commented about the folks with bag of cash winning out may very well be right. even if cd baby did become the 800 gorilla of this new movement, what's to keep that company on the track towards inclusiveness? if cd baby discovers down the road that exclusiveness means bigger profits, do you really think inclusiveness will reamin their strength?

as to the article itself, i haven't clicked the book yet. but if it's as riddled with typos (seizes for ceases, tab for tap, build for built) as this short article, i'm reading afraid it would be frustrating. great ideas are great when properly presented.

At Jan 16, 2005 2:56:00 PM, Blogger uke jackson said...

i see that i'm guilty of a couple typos myself. then again, this is just a comment, not an article or book.

At Jan 21, 2005 1:25:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan Ramsey Irish Music said...

Sounds excellent. I believe much of what Mr Leonhard says about the changing world of music delivery is quite true.

Still, I wonder what we will see in the near future. Subscriptions are interesting, but the bugaboos abound. In the world of free radio, limited in variety as it is, I can get hooked on one station, then, find a new favorite station, in a month or two. At that point, I change my presets. I don't need to call the old station, or log in and un-subscribe. Nor is there the potential for commitments. This has kept me from XM and Sirius. Hundreds of stations aren't necessarily enough to ensure that I will find enough variety to satisfy in any one provider. I have had hundreds of cable channels at my disposal, and still not been able to find anything to watch.

Free subscriptions exist, in forms such as net radio and Podcasts. These, again, I can have as many as I like, and dispatch any that no longer satisfy, at my whim. This system where "I listen to many artists for free. I hear one I like. I buy that artist's music." is likely to prevail, if in some other form - perhaps, in an as yet undiscovered new subscription format.

At any rate, I believe the benefits for the listener, and for talented artists, are only going to improve.


Jonathan Ramsey

At Jan 22, 2005 11:37:00 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Yes, the prophecy seems to ring true. Simple flat-fee all-access is very appealing in our overwhelmingly complex world. Remember though, that no one has the time (even now) to randomly swim through the ever-growing oceans of music available. Filtering and recommendations will always be indispensible. Who ya gonna trust? And therein lies the all-important 'get your attention' part...

At Jan 24, 2005 12:23:00 AM, Blogger Phil Johnson - Roadside Attraction said...

I've thought for a long time that flat fee is the way it's going to end up. Pay per is only a stepping stone to that. While it could make it difficult to get new artists exposed, it could also be cheaper, since people will already have access to the music, they'll just need to take the action to get it. The product will already be in their hands which can't be a bad thing.

Truthfully, I really don't care how the music gets out as long as it gets out and I can make a living from it.

At Feb 19, 2005 5:09:00 PM, Blogger gnxmusic said...

Bob just wanted to say great site. It is one ofthe most valuable resources to any one coming up in the music business. You definelty keep it real. Thanks alot.

GNX Music
Producer/ Engineer

PS everything you have so far that I can apply to my production biz is working for me !

At Jul 10, 2005 6:39:00 PM, Anonymous jerusaleman said...

the Rambam in his vision of the messiahnic age
sez: knowledge will cover (consciousness) as water covers the sea. so indeed time is the demand and the supply is the huge tower of songs that exists in digital form.
in that world i would have enough
music for a whole day for the price of having a computer with ADSL and good speakers. is the idea and the music comes from israel, india, holland and america

At Jan 5, 2007 5:33:00 AM, Blogger Gerd Leonhard said...

Hi, Gerd Leonhard here. Thanks for this debate. Some good points here! In the end, it's all about CONTROL and this is why my next book is entitled 'the end of control';)

Btw, sorry for the typos in the original blog post - sometimes it's hard to double-check all that stuff when you're on a plane or otherwise on the move -- but I promise to improve my diligence here.

You can get a lot more stuff on this subject on my new site,, and 50+ pdfs at are ready to be downloaded, too. Podcasts are now live at Cheers!! Gerd


Post a Comment

<< Home