🔵 Moving past the era of the walled garden
How platforms are finally opening up and why that is potentially great for artists
For a long while now, we’ve existed among walled gardens. If as an artist you needed to reach your fans, it is largely understood at this point that this might mean posting on quite a few different platforms: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter/X, Facebook, maybe even WhatsApp groups Snapchat, Discord servers, your email list… it goes on. I remember once totalling up the channels Run The Jewels had active and thus through which messaging needed to go, and came to 13.
The sheer time this all hoovers up, particularly for artists who don’t have a team to manage this for them, is ridiculous. As mentioned in the last Network Notes, artists are burning out on it too, tiring of the time they have to sink into just marketing their music rather than writing new songs.
Mercifully, there are glimmers of hope on the horizon. Earlier in the week, Bluesky announced that it was moving out of an invite-only status, meaning anyone can sign up. What is notable about Bluesky - which, at first glance, can be viewed as a kind of Twitter clone, in fact, one counting Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, among its board members - is the open approach it is positioning from day one.
Put simply, Bluesky is not a walled garden of an app. It is a protocol, which in turn means developers can build things that draw upon it. An artist could, for example, have tailored feeds within their website or app, creating a kind of bespoke Twitter just for that artists fans.
Likewise, subcultures could create higher-level setups that pull in the feeds of multiple bands to create, say, a special Heavy Metal instance of the app.
The possibilities are huge, and for artists, there is a chance this could become a dominant protocol which might mean in future that they only have to publish once, then see that message pop up across all participating platforms and experiences.
Now granted, this might all seem far-fetched, and one thing going against Bluesky is simply adoption and getting enough critical mass to make it another essential app/service. However early signs look promising, and certainly publishers and others are all leaning into the platform, recognising that it is far more friendly to them than, for example, Twitter/X.
(Equally, one might argue that artists could play a huge role in driving fans to platforms if they evangelise them. So we could all have a hand in possibly making this a reality.)
Alongside this development, it is also noteworthy that Meta has announced that WhatsApp will soon allow other messaging protocols into its app, thus meaning we might no longer require a raft of different messaging apps on our phones.
Again, what is notable here is just how these walled gardens are finally being challenged. The more this narrative grows - and the actions of Meta, whose hand has been forced by the EU, sets the precedent - the more we should see things streamlining and ideally simplifying in terms of managing communications, both personally but also at scale for artists and their audiences.
Change won’t come overnight, but this is a positive step, and is definitely part of a growing narrative that these walled gardens simply aren’t in consumers’ best interests. I’d argue that whilst they’ve been a nuisance to the average user, they’ve scaled into a management nightmare for any artist with a decent-sized fanbase.
Ergo, any shift in this direction is a welcome one. More of this please!
Have a great weekend,
PS - Motive Unknown is hiring! Full details at the bottom of this email, or just go here for the full skinny.
🎶 listening to “Narra Mine” by Genaside II. I was a little late to Genaside II (about five years or so), but my god this track still hits as hard as it ever used to.
📺 watching “Apple VisionPro with Koala Sampler”. Good to see an insight into how one might make beats using standard Mac OS apps, but with the Vision Pro headset. Is it an improvement? I doubt it, but it is certainly interesting to see in action.
Stories from the Music Industry:
Dr Richard James Burgess, president and CEO of US indies body A2IM, has written an op-ed for MBW backing UMG’s decision to withdraw its catalogue from TikTok. “We have allowed radio to profit from more than 100 years of free recorded music and we repeated that mistake 42 years ago with MTV,” he wrote. “We must stop sowing our seeds in barren soil. The returns artists and labels receive from TikTok are meager and insufficient to sustain their livelihoods.”
👆🏻Hot take: there’s no question Universal’s stance here is making a stand for all businesses, the bulk of whom, I’m sure take a view that they’re being paid a pittance for something largely powering the growth of the platform.
The £20 million bung proposal, according to the HSF board, was created for one primary reason: so that would-be bidders for HSF’s catalog aren’t put off from making a bid due to the infamous ‘call option’ held by HSF’s current investment adviser, Hipgnosis Song Management (HSM).
👆🏻Hot take: the saga continues. I remain fascinated by the whole tale, and am curious to see who - if anyone - steps up to bid.
It may seem strange to see these moves at a time when the industry’s revenues continue to rise, and indeed (as WMG’s CFO noted) accelerate. However, it’s more about looking to the future and reconfiguring themselves: centralising some functions; diverting investment to what Kyncl called “high growth geographies and vibrant genres”; easing out of businesses no longer seen as core; and preparing for a world where their biggest stars may want more independence – and a bigger slice of those growing revenues.
👆🏻Hot take: what is notable to me is how this is much more about WMG shifting focus in terms of what it is investing into growth-wise. A telling sign of changing times IMO.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
The difference with Bluesky is that its servers use a decentralized Authenticated Transport (AT) Protocol that will allow users to opt-in to a microblogging experience that isn't run by the company, allowing them to create an account under a given domain name and then use their profile in rival apps that use the same network. Another advantage of the AT protocol is that it can operate based more on a user's preferences than algorithmically driven content, with user-curated feeds that people can use to find other users or topics, with customizable moderation tools also available to them.
👆🏻Hot take: for artists this has the potential to be a real game-changer if - and it’s a big if - Bluesky can find any traction within the social space.
Meta is also working to add support for other chat apps to Messenger. Initially, these experiences will focus on one-on-one chats where people can send text, audio, video, images and files across apps. As WABetaInfo reported before, this experience will live in a new sub-menu on top of the inbox called “Third-party chats.”
👆🏻Hot take: finally!! Forcing this kind of interoperability feels like a positive step to me, ending insane walled garden approaches that only benefit the platforms.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
My front-row seat to a slow-moving catastrophe.
👆🏻Hot take: what’s interesting about this to me is that Swisher is making the same kinds of calls-to-action that I feel some are making around the music space.
Google, Amazon, Microsoft and a raft of others fired thousands of workers in January, continuing a layoff wave that began in 2022.
👆🏻Hot take: I still feel this development, whilst horrible for those affected at present, might actually yield some positive outcomes, e.g. more support for better labour laws, alternative kinds of tech startups etc.
Motive Unknown is now hiring for another Assistant (yes, another one!) in our Campaign division (ie working with labels and artists on campaigns), and we are also hiring a Growth Marketing Assistant in our Growth division, which works with music creation brands such as Beatport, Plugin Boutique, UJAM, Krotos, RoEx and more. Full details for both here.
Our friends at MIDiA are doing another survey, this time on the state of streaming services. They’d love your participation, and are offering a $1,000 prize, drawn from all those who have taken part. Complete the survey here.
Charmfactory is partnering with The Change Academy to offer 2 new artists an Emerging Talent Scholarship, which provides them with free access to a year of monthly one to one coaching & mentoring sessions, and full access to the Talent Incubator Programme. Interested? Full details here.
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