I’ve always loved Madonna, maybe because I intuitively knew she was more of a dancer than a musician, or maybe because her music is made to dance to. In any event, the recent news of her move to leave her record label and sign a lucrative deal with the concert promoter Live Nation, struck me as a something that we dancers should perhaps take note of.
The music industry has officially come full circle with recordings. Before recording technology existed the music business was completely based on live shows and sheet music. Recordings changed all of this as major record labels grew to control the field and artists toured mostly to promote and sell their records, not the other way around. Now in the age of digital downloads, the exchange of recorded music has become ubiquitous and uncontrollable to the point where recordings are literally worth nothing. As Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch theorized “unless governments are willing to take drastic measures to protect the industry (such as a mandatory music tax), economic theory will win out and the price of music will fall towards zero.” He goes on to say that this is opening up a lot of new lucrative revenue streams for music including sales of live music tours, limited edition physical recordings (box sets and the like), and merchandise. Now we are in the midst of a huge sea change in which music recordings have no intrinsic value besides being a great promotional tool for live acts. Madonna’s move to bank on her kick-ass touring show with Live Nation over a tenuous record deal with Warner Brothers is the latest proof of this trend. (And this at the age of 49! Dancers in particular can’t help but respect this woman.)
So how does this relate to videodance and dance? Well there has never been a gigantic recorded dance industry, so we won’t feel the pains of a huge paradigm shift of power and revenue like our musician friends. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them and get a running start on the new wave of the digital future. Booking dance would not be so difficult if the public had a concept about all the great dance companies out there. How can you give them a taste of who you are? By making a fabulous video of your work and getting it on everyone’s computer screen, ipod, cell phone, and tv. Videodance can be a powerful promotional tool for touring dance companies, and if you give it away for free, and market it right, live dance could see a major resurgence like the music industry is experiencing today.
Already some of the biggest viral video hits on Youtube have been dance videos. The Anaheim Ballet video in particular came out of nowhere and instantly put this small local ballet company on the global map. There have been many blog posts about their breakout Youtube hit, but what I didn’t know is that this was just one part of a brilliant web marketing strategy AB has been growing through a weekly video/audio podcast, a myspace page, and a youtube channel. Between 2005 and 2006 their private contribution revenue quadrupled, and their overall revenue rose 26% [Guidestar.org]. Their regular podcasts didn’t even begin until the end of 2006, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see their revenue make an even larger leap in 2007. A remote ballet outpost has hit upon a winning strategy that every dance company should be observing.
From the Material Girl herself, there is no denying that our day in the sun may be dawning. Do you want to be like the record labels or the artists? It’s time to give away the media and raise the value of the live experience for all.
Get into the groove!