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The Revolution is Now, Part 2

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Last week, I introduced the concept of a new music online paradigm that I think will be shaping the future. The concept of an invisible monthly music charge from your online service provider to access all music currently available, is an easy and efficient way to distribute and monetize music online. No more per track fees, no separate monthly costs for music -- this would be a cost for access, much like the cost of access to your telephone line. Once a viable way to generate income online is no longer the pervasive issue for labels, they'll be able to refocus their energy on the business of building careers for the artists they serve.

This is of course where the next problem unfolds. Building a career requires agility and flexibility in a volatile business climate. With radio, video and touring changing daily, it's difficult to present a strategy six months ahead of execution without sizeable reacting and repositioning. Most in the traditional music business are now operating in a continuous environment of shifting sand.

To mitigate this, many artists have chosen to take control of their careers by sidestepping the typical corporate trappings as much as possible and speaking directly to their fans. Fan clubs have been around for decades, but with the emergence and development of the Internet and multimedia, the concept of a fan club has grown exponentially. I took a look at some of interesting websites of artists in music to see what they offered.

David Bowie builds his world online with a subscription model. Sixty-five dollars gets you exclusive access to music, special pages on the website, advance notices about live shows, and more--and David Bowie doesn't limit his website to just music. In keeping with his forward vision and scope, he houses a gallery of emerging painters, photographers and animators, right on his site.

Peter Gabriel presents the traditional and the not so traditional fan site. Here is where you can see and hear all things Peter Gabriel, including many of his extraordinary music videos, information about Witness, the human rights organization he founded, and Ovo, the performance he co-created in the Millennium Dome in London.

The Strokes also believe in strongly in supporting their fans. On their last tour, the band shot live video so fans could watch them from their website, on the road, night after night. Then, at the end of the tour, the band hosted a free, -fan club members only- show at Bowery Ballroom. You can imagine how dedicated the Strokes fans are now.

David Byrne delivers his broad vision on his website, with links to art, films, music and related projects. One of the most interesting pages is Mr. Byrne's own radio station online, where he presents new work by other talented artists. When I tuned in, I heard music from Arcade Fire, Juana Molina, Thelonious Monk, Virginia Rodrigues and Rufus Wainwright, among many others.

The Internet has created a personal and direct vehicle for artists to meet their audience. It's been extraordinarily effective in bypassing the typical corporate gatekeepers and music business. Now, musicians have the ability to speak directly to their fans, and frankly, that is the most powerful marketing tool available.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.

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