Creating a Merit-Based Music Economy: Compulsory or Blanket Licensing for Interactive Subscription Services
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C3. Replacing the Pole Vault With the Stepladder

With access to full-catalog subscriptions and auto-recommended exposure, the music service described above breaks both of the Power Pillars, allowing artists to reach a national/global market for their recorded music:
  1. It provides all artists incremental exposure to their full audience, over time.
  2. It provides all artists incremental revenue from that use, as it happens.
By combining well-targeted exposure with revenue-generating use in a single customer-centric experience, we will have finally built the stepladder that extends the grass-roots step stool upwards to more widespread success.

The way this market would work combines the grass roots process of playing small-venue gigs, with the national/global exposure and revenue that comes from the mass customized music service.

Artists would begin by playing gigs locally and regionally, as they do now. However along with collecting email addresses from fans in the audience, artists would encourage fans that subscribe to a personalized music service to include them in their preferences. This is good for fans that want to hear the artist in their personalized radio programs, and it also helps provide enough data to run collaborative filtering systems.

Unlike the star-promotion models, artists are not exposed to an expanded audience over a short period of time. Instead it happens more gradually, as the auto-recommendations are made over time. And, this viral spread of attention shouldn't cost anything to the artist. It's an added value for customers -- part of what attracts them to come back and use the service instead of just purchasing or downloading music to play from a local/home library.

Use of the service generates a pro-rated revenue stream to the artists (including songwriters) based on plays of songs, rather than lump-sum purchases that accrue plays privately over time, or even free downloads that generate no revenue at all.

Since there aren't the same huge promotional costs that are inevitable in the star system, the break-even is much lower, and artists can make a career based on a much smaller (but still very appreciative) audience than is required for the hits model. It allows an artist's career to be built on the merit of direct, individual fan appreciation, instead of being constrained by bottlenecks that create expensive market leverage or small market caps.

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