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Articles by IQzic

Articles by IQzic

A few hundred years ago, the purpose of music was to fill the soul. Somewhere along the way music became a business, which is not bad on the surface, but when the stakeholders on both sides of the business feel as if their voices are not being heard, then something is awry. Fans complain about repetition and formulaic music, and artists complain about the need to conform their music as well as the 'all or nothing' business model of success; and the music business itself… they complain plenty as well. It's the perfect triad of finger pointing that underserves everyone.

So why are the three stakeholders in music so often dissatisfied? Having come from outside of the industry and now jumping in with both feet, let me offer some perspective for what it is worth.

First: Music is a business. Anyone that wants to make a living and provide value in that business needs to do so at a price that the market will bear.

First Again: Music is art, and recorded art only becomes so when it transcends from a collection of sounds to an emotional connection of intangible value between creator and listener.

Conflicted? Indeed, the best things in life are often grey, and to people who loathe conformity, grey is the new black. So let's make the best of it.

The key to the long term success for artist, fans, and the intermediary (aka the man), is to realize when things are valued as a commodity of assumed value, or something else. We must also contend with the fact that a recording is almost always both. In other words, what is emotional and priceless to me, may be nearly worthless to you.

Consideration #1: Forget about commodity models; price art based on emotion and connected experiences that drive emotion.

Many would agree that the status quo, commodity based model currently in play is less than ideal for creativity or business long term. So if you plan to make a living in music, sell art, experiences, or emotional connections, --anything but commodities.

If you are on board with that notion, then there is another leap to make IF one still chooses music as a way to put food on the table. Emotion is not always about the music in and of itself. For example, I may love a recording, while others may love the artist, yet others love only the genre or country it came from. It may even be as simple as one relating a tune to a memory. All are saleable. Regardless of the reason, packaging, delivering emotional connections, and the business models that emerge from that will lead to tangible value. Some of our research at IQzic indicates that almost 1 in 3 of people who do not pay for music, would pay if they knew it was helping the artist and got something to show for it. Which leads me to:

Consideration #2: Consumers (fans) will pay more when they have 'something to show' for their purchase.

For example, the same recording has vastly different values whether it was autographed, was from a live concert you attended, or simply was the fact you discovered it first. The concept of mass customization and delivery is not new, but it has not caught on as well as it should in the music business because it takes considerable agility, thought, work, and persistence. Many independent artists have figured this out long ago, but have struggled to build a scalable infrastructure to ensure they get the most out of what they have to offer, and that's because emotional connections are personal and two-way.

The music business itself has been just a fleeting moment in the history of music. Musicians made livings in many different ways before the digital age, and those ways have survived since the cave because they awakened something in the soul. The sooner business models are created that support that, the sooner the triad will turn to one of mutual support, with each leg adding value to the other.

-by Jim Hodson

Now there's a question from which one will get different answers depending upon who you ask. Let's just say in my experiences when chatting with people at music events such as the recent SXSW conference, people generally fall into 1 of 3 camps.

  1. Musicians: Although generalizing, musicians tend to relate this question with a person who did something remarkably brilliant during the music creation process --whether a lyric, arrangement, mix etc. Such a person is perceived to have exceptional 'Music IQ'.
  2. A&R: Again generalizing, A&R people sometimes attribute 'Music IQ' to those who see the brilliance in being able to recognize greatness before it happens, and also have the instinct an skills to take talent in raw form and make it great.
  3. The Influencer: These are the people that everyone knows to go to for learning about interesting things related to music. They are not necessarily hipsters or chart masters, but can be lawyers, underwriters, or dishwashers. They are respected for their musical knowledge and taste, and are perceived to have higher 'Music IQ' than anyone else hanging around the virtual water cooler.

In my opinion all 3 are valid, but how could one ever quantify or compare those subjective factors on a scale similar to an IQ scale? Subjectively everyone knows it when they see it, but objectively it's more difficult. That said, you are probably still reading this article because it certainly is an intriguing question. I believe that there is benefit to allowing people at least one context to objectively compare 'Music IQ' if it can be channeled into helping artists consistently create marketable music that earns artists money and generates quality new music.

For example, objective 'hit picking' metrics can be created by tracking and aggregating sales, subscription, and social metrics across broad sets of related recordings, and tracking those fans, artists, or music industry gurus, that can pick tunes that later turn out to have done well. From a music market perspective, this is akin to 'Music IQ'. Couple it with transparency plus access to those who consistently outperform their peers in predicting success, and real value is injected into the entire music community. Fans can be organic influencers, artists can gain insight and comparative data into what works and what doesn't for different demographics, and the music business itself can become more efficient because it can focus resources where they have a better chance of success.

So will the world be a better place when “What's your Music IQ?” becomes a meaningful way people could comparatively engage in music while also benefiting the music community? I think it can without in any way diminishing the less quantifiable musical genius recognized in camps #1, #2, or #3.

- by Jim Hodson