Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

*Special Feature* - Bat N'Avò Goes To Hollywood

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How To Be A Profitable Online Music Band
in The Age of Ethical Sharing and Collaboration

Imagine that Eduardo is a young musician creating alternative music tracks and playing gigs with his trio at local concerts in a small town in Portugal. Eduardo and his band would like to have their music be known, and their dream is one of being so successful as to make a decent living just by creating and playing their music.

While Eduardo and his friends see their newly recorded CD displayed in the local store next to Mariah Carey best-selling hit, they also realize that entering the music industry establishment and working for a major label company would compromise somewhat their high ideals about how music should be made available and against the monopoly of the music industry moguls.

Eduardo's band, Bat N'Avò (Beat the Grandmother), needed therefore to develop a viable alternative strategy to make itself known, appreciated and somewhat profitable without entering the music business from its standard door.

Initially Eduardo and his friends have an intuition about the potential that the Internet could offer them and decide to put up a Web site to support their music promotion efforts.

To promote and communicate effectively Bat N'Avò needs some high quality photos and illustrations to use online and on other electronic media. They also need to work out a Flash animation that explains their project but they obviously do not have any budget to get these materials or to hire a professional animator.

By using the Creative Commons Licensing Project ( Eduardo is able to identify other artists that are willing to let others use their photos (e.g.:, illustrations and graphic work in exchange for receiving an attribution to their work and for the consequent free exposure that in they would in turn receive.

Eduardo makes also a win-win partnership with the local Design Department of the University to have graduating students of the third year compete to develop a Flash-based animation based on Bat N'Avò preset script. The University approves of the idea which allows students to be motivated by a real world assignment and students visualize the opportunity for learning and exposure that is given to them.

But how are Eduardo and his mates going to distribute their beloved music in a profitable way?

Eduardo decides to consult with his friends abroad who are studying new media communication trends emerging as alternatives to the mainstream record distribution mechanism.
Francis, an Italian independent researcher tells Eduardo that in order to sidestep the music recording industry he needs to go exactly where the audience is pulling. Where natural, unrestrained forces show that music, like any other information wants to be free.

Francis and Eduardo look at examples and models emerging in the small microcosms of other independent creative artists and recognize an important trend. Creative works are more appreciated and get passed around like candies when people can touch, play and interact with them completely, as to be able to understand and re-engineer the message contained in them in ways and modes that are meaningful and accessible to them.

Excited by these considerations Francis advises Eduardo to record loop-based music tracks of Bat N'Avò best cuts and to post them along with a Flash-based mixing tool on their Web site. By utilizing the same approach adopted by tools like Groove Blender or Super Duper Music Looper - see review of both in this issue) Bat N'Avò would post its best beats and patterns for others to infinitely re-mix, cut and edit. People would create their own personalized version of the Bat N'Avò groove and they would also naturally take care of re-distributing such creations through a simple emailing feature that could be integrated on their Web site.

The offer would become attractive to a large enough audience only if Bat N'Avò banded together with other small, independent music groups that were characterized possibly by either matching or complementary music styles.

While Eduardo did not initially like Francis proposals, as they apparently meant giving up the teenager's dream of becoming rockstars and replacing them with serious and detailed hard work to do (outside getting to rehearse their new track for the three nights in a row). Eduardo was particularly set back when Francis explained to him that in order for this to have any success his band would have to seriously engage in some social or humanitarian initiative to make its music become not just an auditory commodity but an instrument for useful social and political communication.

That didn't mean that Bat N'Avò had to embrace any particular political flag to make its music of value to others. It meant rather that if Eduardo and his friends were indeed true to their ideals (of a different world in which music is not an industry exploiting less than 1% of the world creative resources available to it while being solely based on mere profit-based premises) they had to do something serious about this.

Eduardo was perplexed, though he felt that there was no argument he could really put forward to oppose such advice.

Francis reassured Eduardo that through this path all of the time and energies that would be invested for Bat N'Avò would also bring tangible benefits and help to other people. Either by the joy that Bat N'Avò music would carry, or by the message showing Bat N'Avò committment to support some good cause. Such music would be seen as becoming a vehicle for helping others while creative expressing oneself.

Finally Eduardo said yes. He packed his stuff and went back to his country thinking how to communicate to his friends all he had learned. He was scared and excited by what appeared to be a new revolutionary turn in his personal life as a musician.

After 9 months Bat N'Avò had synched up with three other bands in Portugal that shared a common vision and that were heavily involved in promoting alternative health and medicine issues.

Their songs would frequently ironize and expose the pharma-cartel petty interests and the ignorance and primitive approach of mour mainstream doctors. Though they were not loved by all, the four bands had a very good, growing and highly loyal following. The people who listened to their music also believed in their ideas.

If Bat N'Avò would fight a music battle to defend people rights to take alternative and natural foods medicines without being regulated by doctors, pharmaceutical houses and prescriptions, so would their music fans. It was a highly contagious effect.

And that effect also triggered what Eduardo and his friends never believed would be possible: people started to be willing to donate money, and to subscribe to the Bat N'Avò's yearly music download channel. For a mere € 7/year people would be able to subscribe to all of Bat N'Avò releases, dubs, loops and live recordings during a year. Not only that but they would also have access to as much material from the other three bands Bat N'Avò's had partnered with.

In the first year alone Bat N'Avò pulled up over 8,000 subscribers (@ € 7/each = € 48,000) and over € 5,000 in donations for some of their specific projects. (The three guys of Bat N'Avò would have made that kind of money only by working 6 days a week each for at least three years, and without having ever become a music band with a true following).

Bat N'Avò never made it to the BillBoard charts, nor its records could be found at a normal record store. But Bat N'Avò became recognized as a powerful and courageous music force, and its audience was more than willing to pay a little fee have Bat N'Avò scream for them what needed to be looked at, exposed, or changed about health and alternative medicine.

The above is a complete fantasy story. References to real people or names are purely casual and intended only to make the story more appealing.

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posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, December 31 2002, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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