Corey Smith and The Future of Music

January 8, 2009 at 11:35 pm 5 comments

I am back in Athens for what is going to be my last semester at UGA.  I’ve spent the last three weeks traveling.  I went back to New Orleans for another visit this time without habitat work, spending Christmas with my girlfriend and her family and also spent some time in Kansas with my host parents from my high school year in 1997-1998.  I had a huge agenda and an array of books that I wanted to read.  Away from my college work environment, "The Future of Music" by David Kusek and Gerd LeonhardI ended up sleeping more than usual, playing a lot of cards and talking to people.  I did read two books though.  One of which “The Future of Music” by David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard was actually mentioned by the guest speaker in our first Music Business class of this semester.  Corey Smith told us how his career started and how this book influenced his way of thinking about music.  The book suggests that music should be treated and paid for like a utility like water or electricity.  It also states that file sharing is not as bad as the record companies and their law suits make it seem.  They have just never figured out how they can turn one of the strongest music distribution systems into a money making entity and thus have lost their previous control of the market.  Though I think that a lot of the things described in the book have already happened by now (it was published in 2005) it was nevertheless an interesting read.  Reading the book you will easily understand that Corey liked the book.

Corey’s whole business model (he is not sure if it should be called a model) is based on giving away a lot of music for free and on eliminating the barriers between the fans and the music.  He builds his fan base on that principle and grosses a serious amount of money with a scant team of seven people.  Corey Smith originally from Jefferson, GA went to UGA himself and became a Sociology high school teacher “in his first life” before he went back to making music.

Smith’s presentation was a good start for one of the first lectures of this semester.  It reassured me that though I had not done much about music during this break I had at least read a book that some other successful people see as valuable, too.  This semester is going to be very exciting for me.  The MBA commission has – after some serious persuasive efforts on my part – granted me another directed study with the Music Business Department.  Other than that I have to finish my MBA studies.  I have a lot of respect for these following months because my chances that somebody will come around again, like at the end of my Master’s Program in Germany, offering me another Master’s program in yet a third country are very slim.  I am not planning on getting a PhD, so I actually I will have to decide what to do with my life.  While I have to work on that question myself, I leave you with a number of questions that Corey Smith gave us at the end of the Q & A session after his small lecture (I think he said, “in order to find our place in music”):

  • What is art?
  • What is the function of this art in society?
  • Who should judge art?
  • What is the relationship between art and environment?
  • What is the relationship between art and craft?
  • What do you think about American Idol?

Oh, and two more things:  I actually do like Corey Smith’s open opinion on copying and spreading of music.  It is a good answer to an earlier post of mine called “Copy kills music or maybe not?“.  If you want to know more about Corey’s ideas about the distribution of music read Bob Lefsetz blog post called “Corey Smith“.

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Short Trip to New Orleans Be real!

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Matt Recchia  |  January 10, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Christoph, awesome review of the Corey Smith lecture today in class. Hard to believe three years ago I was a high school kid and he was the teacher, complaining about not being able to be a rockstar. Now look at him, still can’t lecture that well hah!

    Mr. Smith (still have a habit of calling him this) pretty much explained my exact views on the whole “copying music” issue word for word. Why would you not want your music to be spread for free? Plus, like Smith said, if that fan decides to make it out to a show, or buy the next CD or a tshirt, aren’t you making your money back anyways, plus gaining a new fan who will spread the word to others?

    I always felt like Mr.Smith prolonged his teaching a semester longer than needed to release his third CD, “The Good Life”, while he was still at North Gwinnett. Smart move, considering he was in the heart of his fan demographic: a high school filled with teenagers. A very smart move by him no doubt, he could sell and pass out his CDs to anybody, and everybody was telling the world about how their Social Studies teacher was a rock star, only throwing his name out their even more! However, to a few of us in his class, the day he told us he was resigning from teaching was a crushing blow, but we knew he needed to go.

    I’m not surprised by how Corey has grown into an underground-country phenomenon almost overnight. He’s a really smart guy that was in the right situation and had all the right tools in place to make it happen.

    He always talked about changing the world, making it a better place when he was our teacher at North. Maybe, he was talking about the music world!

    Reply
  • 2. choffmann  |  January 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Thanks Matt! It’s funny that he was your teacher.

    I talked to a promoter of one of the Major Labels yesterday and he said that that’s where it is all heading in the long run. The Majors are probably going to give away the music of their artists, too, but right now there are too many of the old contracts around. They need more 360° deals to survive. So he estimated that it’ll take them about 1-2 more years to get there.

    Reply
  • [...] recently gave a lecture at a UGA Music Business class and talked about his philosophy and career. He mentioned that he has been influenced by “The [...]

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  • [...] recently gave a lecture at a UGA Music Business class and talked about his philosophy and career. He mentioned that he has been influenced by “The [...]

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  • [...] 26, 2009 In my post “Corey Smith and the Future of Music” I wrote about a guest lecture Corey Smith had given to the UGA Music Business Program as [...]

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