Berklee Today: Gerd Leonhard ’87 shares ideas on how musicians can thrive in the link economy

Picture 17Some of you may know that I went to Berklee College of Music ('86/'87) and studied Jazz guitar. I have kept in-touch with Berklee throughout the years and they just published an interview with me, in the Alumni Magazine"Berklee Today". Here are some of the high-lights: 

"Leonhard has long advocated a shift from tight
control of products and copyrights. In what he refers to as the "link
economy," the new commodity is the public's attention. In this climate,
he predicts superstar status will be much harder to attain-and
sustain-as the marketplace experiences further fragmentation and
mainstream artists compete for attention with lesser-known artists in
specific musical niches…"

"In the link economy, the product is the
marketing," says Leonhard. "If you want to promote yourself as a
musician, you publish and make everything available on the Web so that
people can pick it up and go elsewhere with it. If they like you, they
do the marketing for you by telling others and sending links around. In
the old days, if you were a star, MTV or the Letterman Show
would recognize that by putting you on. Today, your fans recognize your
value and send your links to friends, who send them to more people.
This is what makes someone a celebrity on the Web. And you can't buy
that; you have to earn it."

Too many musicians believe that playing gigs
and selling CDs or digital copies of their music are the primary ways
to make money. "We have to do away with that mentality, because there
are 50 other ways a musician can get paid," says Leonhard. "In the new
music economy, you need to build an audience and energize them to act
on your behalf and forward your music virally. Later, they can become
paying customers. Don't ask them for their money first. Once fans are
sold on you, you'll be able to 'upsell' them special shows, backstage
passes, webcasts, a live concert download, a multimedia product, your
iPhone application, a premium package for $75.

"When musicians start thinking of themselves as brands, like Nike, they
will see that they have more assets than just the zeroes and ones that
people can download. Other assets are their creativity, the way they
express what they experience, their performance, and their
presentation. As a musician and composer, you stand for something. The
Web allows you to publish things that showcase who you are and what you
do. In 10 minutes of clicking around on your site, people will be able
to understand who you are if you've put enough out there. Even in a time when many have predicted doom and gloom in the music
business, Leonhard is optimistic. "Current developments are good news
for the artist-provided he or she is good. You have to be different,
unique, and honest; have a powerful persona; and know your brand. If
what you are doing is real and you are forthright, people will pay you.
It's all about the creator and the person who wants the music.
Musicians of the future will do well if they can view themselves as
more than someone who wants to be a star and sell a lot of records."

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