Physical vs. Digital Gold

I reprint the free portion of this Substack post by Ted Gioia. Emphasis in bold and my comments in red. The reliance on physical products reflects the market economics of controlling the supply and thus the price and profit margins. This is what the branding industry has flourished on. Digital content (music, blogs, books, videos) are given away virtually free in order to build an audience (peer network) that one can then sell higher margin goods and services to.

This makes perfect sense, given the economics of the digital world and how it augments the physical world. This is what Google and Facebook and LinkedIn and Apple and Amazon all do. The question then is how does the individual creator build, own, control, service, and monetize their peer networks? It’s kind of like a very valuable Rolodex file.

tuka is designed exactly for this need for users to create and monetize digital data value. It’s all about the data networks and the value they represent. The online world is slowly moving in tuka‘s direction, but to decentralize value creation will still require a blockchain platform.



Half the people buying vinyl albums don’t own record players. They treat their albums like holy relics—too precious to use and merely for display among other true believers. [Yes, but that’s collecting, not listening.]

Readers were shocked when I recently reported that statistic. I was a little stunned myself. But those are the facts.

Of course, there’s a lot about the vinyl revival that defies logic. What other business relies on a 60-year-old storage technology? That would be like running my writing career with a teletype unit and mimeograph machine.

And it’s not just vinyl. Cassette tapes—a cursed format that always unraveled at the worst possible time—are hot again. Even 8-track tapes, a longtime target of ridicule and abuse, are selling for thousands of dollars.

Why are people buying this stuff?

A new research report from Andrew Thompson at Components, released earlier today, helps us understand the bigger picture. Thompson analyzed 47,703,022 Bandcamp sales—involving almost five million items. And what he learned was startling.

Success in the music business is all about selling physical objects.

This is an unexpected situation—and runs counter to everything we’ve been told.

The Internet supposedly killed physical music media more than two decades ago. After iTunes was launched in 2001, there was no looking back. At first the music industry pivoted to digital downloads, and then everybody in the business jumped on the streaming bandwagon.

But it’s now 2023, and streaming platforms still aren’t profitable. [They never will be unless they can find a way to monetize those user networks.] However, Bandcamp is—and now we know why.

It’s all about tangible items.

Consider this chart—which looks at the correlation between revenues on Bandcamp and an artist’s reliance on physical merchandise.

Source: Components

Vinyl helps drive this. But it is only just part of a larger story. Artists can sell everything from clothing to compact discs on Bandcamp. And, of course, they can sell digital tracks too.

But the numbers make clear that physical merchandise is the smart business model.

According to Andrew Thompson:

Why is Bandcamp profitable and Spotify not? The answer we arrived at was that Bandcamp provides a simple platform for complex transactions, while Spotify is a technically complicated platform for facilitating a single transaction in the form of the one-size-fits-all subscription.

The Death of Culture?

Designing a Sustainable Creative Ecosystem

Too Much information = The Death of Culture?

The major creative industries of music, photography, print, and video have all been disrupted by digital technology. We know this. As Chris Anderson has argued in his book Free, the cost of digital content has been driven towards zero. How could this be a bad thing? Well, TMI (Too Much Information — in this case, Too Much Content) is the curse of the Digital Age. It means creators make no money and audiences can’t find quality content amidst all the noise.

The end result will be a staleness of content and stagnant creative markets, i.e., the slow death of culture. So, how did this happen and what do we do about it?

View the rest of the story on Medium.

DIY – Nashville Music Scene

From Rolling Stone magazine.

How Underground Nashville Bands Are Reclaiming Music City

Long dominated by multi-million-dollar country labels, Nashville’s indie musicians are vying to reclaim the city in the name of DIY rock & roll

Musicians are migrating to Nashville to tap resources they can’t find as easily in New York or elsewhere, such as cheap recording and pop-up house venues. 

For years, big labels were the gatekeepers in Tennessee’s capital city. They had the keys to the recording studios and the funds to push singles out to the radio. But in the shadow of the country-music empire, DIY artists have been rising up to find their own voice. “If bands are willing to put the effort forward now, they can make the money themselves,” says Jeremy Ferguson, founder of Nashville’s Battle Tapes recording. “You don’t have to rely on some dick in a fucking suit who’s going to tell you what to do.

Beyond Music Row and the Honky Tonk Highway, underground musicians are building their own scene – and it’s one that spurns the traditional studio system. “A lot of [the Nashville mentality] is anti-establishment,” says Olivia Scibelli, lead singer of Idle Bloom, a band currently writing its second full-length album from Scibelli’s East Nashville basement. “It’s kind of about taking out the middleman.”

Nashville today is a Petri dish of creativity where young artists are gathering wherever they can and booking shows in house venues that pop up in gentrifying neighborhoods. They’re recording albums themselves or with independent producers like Ferguson, who started mixing records in his basement before building a garage studio in his backyard. And they’re organizing into an underground scene that’s starting to look like a rock revolution that could one day dethrone country twang as Nashville’s most famous sound.

One of the launchpads of the movement is DRKMTTR, an all-ages house party of a venue west of downtown that’s set in an old barbershop and flanked by clapboard houses. The volunteer-run venue has been shut down for fire-code violations in the past, and to the young fans showing up with coolers of beer, it can seem like nobody’s in charge. That’s the charm.

On most nights of the week, people drink from cans in the backyard and lounge around on old couches until the band strums its first chords. Then they crowd into the 100-person capacity venue, prepared to be surprised.

Scibelli helps run DRKMTTR, and Idle Bloom has played there in the past, but during a recent rehearsal session, the band’s four members crowd into a windowless room alongside their abused equipment. Bedsheets and worn carpeting along the walls and floor lend bare acoustic treatment, and the music stops cold when a wonky cable craps out. “Real life: We have shitty gear,” says Scibelli. But then everything’s working again, and the band launches into the kind of thunderous melody that draws comparisons to the Breeders and Get Up Kids, with hot-blooded riffs that dance over distorted fuzz to evoke Explosions in the Sky.

“Our scene is definitely more raw,” says Scibelli, comparing bands like hers to the country-driven major label system. “But everyone has their own studio or DIY recording setup. It’s pretty great.”

That Idle Bloom has a scene at all owes some gratitude to the high-profile acts that have given Nashville a shot of rock credibility. Kings of Leon formed in Nashville, while Jack White and the Black Keys are two of the city’s high-profile transplants. Collectively they’ve helped break the “Nashville curse,” the old idea that Nashville rock bands couldn’t connect with a national audience. “The first several bands that got signed out of Nashville – giant contracts – their albums tanked and they were dropped,” says Todd Ohlhauser, who owns Cannery Ballroom, Mercy Lounge and High Watt, three interconnected venues that cater to a rock audience. “If you were a band here and you got signed, you didn’t tell anybody you were from Nashville.”

Ohlhauser finds it easier to book rock acts today than it was a decade ago since there are simply more to choose from. But years back, it was borderline treasonous for local musicians to dabble with grittier sounds. “Once they switched over to rock music, they were almost blacklisted in the Seventies and some of the Eighties,” says Ferguson. “It was always kind of like a keep-it-a-country town.”

Along with the new wave of egalitarian music sensibility, musicians of all stripes are migrating to Nashville to tap resources they can’t find as easily in New York or elsewhere, such as cheap recording and pop-up house venues. The guy changing your oil at Jiffy Lube might play guitar better than the band you listened to on the radio on the drive there.

“The caliber of people that this city attracts makes everything more competitive in a friendly way,” says Grant Gustafson, who sings and plays baritone guitar for Blank Range, a band that started with house shows before graduating to opening slots with Spoon and Drive-By Truckers. And without label execs to answer to, musicians can swing with impunity. “There is an Americana country scene, and there’s a rock scene,” Gustafson says. “All the people in both of those play in each other’s bands and go to each other’s shows, so it all kind of boils together.”

And that’s where underground rock might save Nashville from becoming a honky tonk novelty. It’s putting the emphasis back on what the city has always valued: the song, regardless of genre. “There’s a great punk-rock scene here, a great Americana scene, a great indie scene, and a great pop scene,” says Ohlhauser. “But if there’s one thing that defines the [Nashville sound], it’s that bands here have really good songs.”

It’s the tradition of Loretta Lynn or Kris Kristofferson, Nashville greats who fused poetry with melody. What the underground musicians are realizing is that they don’t need a major label to help them do that. In fact, they might be better off without one.