Business: The Music Business Needs To Be About The Music, by Rishi Gerald

When I did my MBA, I took business school very seriously, questioned everything and found myself disagreeing with the common philosophy that profitability comes with exploitation of resources. I detested that concept and challenged it continually. I was very much a counter-culture business student, certainly not destined for a middle management position at a company like Proctor and Gamble. As an engaged student of life, I used to love going to concerts. My favourite concerts were Grateful Dead shows. I would ask my professors if I could take a couple of weeks twice yearly to follow the Grateful Dead on their spring and fall tour.

I loved the Grateful Dead’s music, I loved the fans and I really loved how they operated as a business. The music was number 1. Live music was for sharing. They loved playing music, they loved their fans and they loved it so much they gave it away for free. There was no mask about the fact that the music never stopped.

They were giving away music long before Napster, long before Piratebay or Limewire. While the rest of the music industry were lobbying for levies on blank recording tapes, and suing bootleggers left and right, The Grateful Dead were encouraging bootlegging. The Grateful Dead had taper sections set up for live recordings of their shows. They allowed their fans to record their shows for free. This free form of music supported the development of culture that no other record company could replicate with the current level of masks that they were wearing. This honest transparent means of sharing music for free created a loyal and religious fan base. These fans became known as Deadheads and their loyalty equated to the band being one of the most successful touring bands in history grossing millions annually.

Without any hit record, without any billboard successes to note, The Grateful Dead recognized that giving to their fans was first and that intellectual property rights were secondary. The rest of the industry was playing to a formula wearing a mask that music was first when in fact the intellectual property rights were first. The music simply was a byproduct, a widget in the production cycle. Labels exploited artists and manipulated fans with the mask that they cared about the music above anything else. The formula became so successful for these labels that when the digital age and piracy changed the landscape to a model similar to what the Grateful Dead had been doing for decades, the labels refused to remove the mask, refused to change its values and as a result now are becoming obsolete.

My point is that the business behind the music wears the mask that it is about the love of music and love of access to music. Even radio stations wear the same mask. Commercial radio is all about advertisers and not the music. The music entices advertisers to spend money at the radio station. Labels pay to get artists on the radio (even though that’s illegal). If it were about music and about sharing the music, wouldn’t the best music be played instead, of the music that is supported by the deepest pockets?!

I am not suggesting that all artists give away their music. Not all artists have the kind of fan base that supports the Grateful Dead’s business model. I am suggesting that it is important to be transparent. Do what is right for your business. Stand by your values and live your values. Do not pretend to be something you are not. It will come out. We have entered a business age where communication is sincere, real, instant and transparent.

Rishi Dev (Rishi Gerald) is the CEO of Kupid’s Play Records. He describes Kupid’s Play like this: “Kupid’s Play is the Sound of the I Am Revolution. As an international record label devoted to raising global consciousness we bring awakened artists to the commercial mainstream. Our vision extends beyond a traditional record label. We know impossibilities are not real and build non-traditional revenue models by embracing new technologies in the current economic landscape. We know music is everywhere. Kupid’s Play actively seeks out creative opportunities to get its artists’ music to their fans in new ways ensuring that the Sound of the I Am Revolution is heard.” With two decades of experience in the music industry, Rishi has been nominated for numerous marketing awards and earned a Gold Record in the music industry for management.