One of the fundamentals of finding success in the music industry is understanding the roles people play, their motivations and desires, how they get paid, and what YOU bring to the table that can help them reach their ultimate goal.
One of the best ways to understand all of this information is by taking a look at the Entertainment Ecosystem Matrix, a graph that breaks down into four categories the various types of people you will encounter within the music industry. The graph identifies their roles in the industry, their day-to-day work, and motivations on both a short- and long-term basis.
What follows is a deeper look at each with several common examples.
QUADRANT 1 — THE ENTHUSIAST
In most scenarios, the enthusiasts are the followers and non-musicians themselves. They are fans, bloggers, students, supporters of the musicians because the music benefits them in some way (charities, event organizers, etc).
Many of the people falling under The Enthusiast category have a tendency to seek out what is popular. Most music fans are influenced heavily by the selection of music typically played on radio (much of that music being aired due to radio promotion) and gravitate toward what they are exposed to on a regular basis. This is increased even more by the desire to attend and socialize at concert “events” such as stadium shows by major acts.
Radio stations and bloggers seek out what is popular because what is popular generates more listeners and more traffic to their websites. Organizers of festivals and fairs search for popular acts because doing so increases attendance at the gates and revenue. This group can also include charities like the American Red Cross or Wounded Warrior, who stand to benefit if proceeds of sales of a song are used to boost their fundraising efforts. Venues booking music acts would also fall in this group.
Poster Child for The Enthusiast — Perez Hilton (Celebrity Blogger)
Blogger, television personality, and columnist Perez Hilton is known for his coverage of all things related to the Hollywood celebrity scene. He is unapologetic in his comments and has drawn fire over captions for tabloid photographs he posts on social media. If there is a gathering of celebrities for any occasion, you will likely see Perez Hilton close to the action.
QUADRANT 2 — THE TECHNICIAN
These are the service providers of the music industry. They fill important roles in a music career and are paid on a per project basis or receive a commission for the work they do. This group can include tour managers, voice and performance instructors, entertainment attorneys, website designers, PR experts, etc. Many of these services are one-offs or take place over a limited period of time. That environment results in The Technician having to work while in a constant search for new business, clients, and projects.
When Wade first entered the music industry, he did so as The Technician. He was working with artists by writing their biographies and press releases, designing press kits and websites, etc. His background in journalism and professional writing gave him a specific set of expertise which he was able to leverage for a starting point in the music industry. He saw a void that he could fill because he could provide artists with a product they needed and were willing to pay him for.
Poster Child for The Technician — Tim Pierce (Studio Musician)
While you might not recognize his name, there is a good chance you have heard Tim Pierce playing guitar. A well-known studio musician from Los Angeles, Tim makes a living doing studio work on a daily basis. He has played on albums for artists including Bon Jovi, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Celine Dion.
QUADRANT 3 — THE ASSET COLLECTOR
This is the group of people looking to discover, develop, and grow intellectual properties with the intention of selling those properties for peak profit. One of the major reasons The Asset Collector is so successful in their business ventures is because they are not emotionally attached to the property (remember how we have talked about the importance of removing emotion from your business decisions?).
Poster Child for Asset Collector — Scott Borchetta (Big Machine Label Group)
After spending two years working in promotions and artist development for Universal Music Nashville and MCA Nashville Records, Scott Borchetta decided to walk away and create his own label, Big Machine Label Group (BMLG). The first artist he signed was a then 14-year-old Taylor Swift. BMLG has since gone on to work with major artists such as Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, and Rascal Flatts.
QUADRANT 4 — SCALABLE INNOVATORS
If thousands of people can use your product at any single time, you fall into the Scalable Innovator quadrant. Scalable Innovators include people like Tim Westergren (founder of Pandora) and Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Air).
The Scalable Innovator pinpoints a massive void within an industry, even if the industry isn’t aware of such void, and they create something to fill it. The Scalable Innovator finds greatest success when he or she can predict future shifts in the marketplace, build and develop a product to address a need, and have the entire platform firing on all cylinders before the rest of the industry has an opportunity to catch up with them.
This requires having in place a full team of sales representatives, developers, and marketing experts. Much like The Asset Collector, the Scalable Innovator’s goal is to eventually sell their intellectual property for peak profit.
Poster Child for Scalable Innovators — Daniel Elk (Spotify)
Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Elk launched the company in late 2008. Spotify has experienced massive growth over the years. In August 2012, TIME reported Spotify had four million paid subscribers. As of July 2017, Spotify reported a paid subscriber base of more than 60 million in addition to 140 million free users.
Where do aspiring musicians fall in the Matrix? The answer to that depends on what kind of artist they are (singer-songwriter, studio musician, etc) and where they are in their career at that point in time.
Studio musicians would land in The Technician category because they would be providing a service to artists in need of a musician for recording. Songwriters taking the step to form their own publishing company, a move made by many professional artists, would be considered Asset Collectors. While most artists will move between one or three of the quadrants, only a very few will move between all four throughout their careers.
MOVING THROUGH ALL FOUR QUADRANTS: THE JAY-Z CASE STUDY
Only a small portion of music artists find a way to climb to the level of Scalable Innovator, one of them being music icon Jay-Z. He has used his considerable influence, name, and brand power to build or buy into multiple companies, including the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. Being able to move through all four quadrants creates a new environment in which the artist views making an album and making an app interchangeable.
Let’s examine what Jay-Z’s journey through the four quadrants looked like.
Jay-Z as The Enthusiast:
It is well-known that Jay-Z was a drug dealer when he was young. He had a budding interest in music at that time but he wasn’t actually producing anything just yet. This was his “figuring it out” phase, something everybody goes through (and hopefully everybody comes out of). But these were the early years in which his life and experiences were fueling not only his passion for music but also what his music was about.
Jay-Z as The Technician:
At this point, Jay-Z was making music and was being paid to perform live. If he worked, he was paid. If he wasn’t getting paid, he refused to work. He was now providing a service to venues as per the definition of The Technician role.
Jay-Z as The Asset Collector
In 1995, Jay-Z teamed up with Kareen “Biggs” Burke and Damon Dash to found Roc-A-Fella Records. The label served as an independent outlet for Jay-Z’s first album. Over time, Jay-Z created and amassed recordings that generated revenues.
Jay-Z as Scalable Assets
In March 2015, Jay-Z and a group of investors purchased a Norwegian music company called Aspiro, which had launched a music streaming service called Tidal only one year prior. Jay-Z and his group of investors then kicked off a massive campaign to relaunch and rebrand Tidal. He also went outside the realm of music and teamed up with Bill Gates on the “Decoded” project, a two-day event in London at which some of the world’s brightest tech minds gathered to discuss the future of technology.
Like most other artists making their way through all four quadrants of the Entertainment Ecosystem Matrix, Jay-Z followed a “N” shaped pattern from quadrant to quadrant. Other artists experiencing similar careers paths include Todd Rundgren, Les Paul, Chet Atkins, and Eddie VanHalen. Future artists hoping to see similar access will have to be comfortable with frequent collaborations spanning all four quadrants.