In some ways, the shifts experienced by the music industry over the past few decades helped prepare it for the disruption it faced during this summer’s lockdown. Ten years ago, digital service providers (DSPs) pivoted for the always-on era with streaming, solving an industry-wide product crisis that arose from illicit file sharing in the years prior. Since then, streaming has prepared the music industry for growth on digital and social platforms, playing a big part in how fans now discover new acts, enjoy old ones, and interact with both directly on their favorite platforms.
For Zachary Charles and David Labuguen, two-thirds of electropop band A R I Z O N A, these platforms became key avenues for connection, filling a critically important relationship gap with fans as concerts were cancelled. For them, working-from-studio was the easy part — they had begun their music careers as producers and were used to working in studios in relative isolation. However, the loss of live events came with a brief loss of touch with their fans, a challenge they were able to solve by doubling-down on their use of the digital platforms that broke down barriers to access for fans in the first place.
As physical venues are no longer available, we are once again learning something new, realizing that we can interact with our fans in the digital space.
As part of our Office Hours Q&A series on @AmericanExpressBusiness on Instagram, we asked Zachary and David to share their insights on the music industry and what they’re doing to stay connected.
Crises are often watershed moments for innovation – new technologies or practices get adopted by businesses looking to survive, which often end up going mainstream or defining the next ‘phase.’ What innovation do you see coming out of music from COVID, either when it comes to the business of music or the expression of music itself?
Digital trends in the time of COVID are a continuation of what began with DSPs. We realized they had created a platform for us as a band to directly reach and connect with our audience. As physical venues are no longer available, we are once again learning something new, realizing that we can interact with our fans in the digital space.
We’ve also been streaming a lot on Twitch to connect with our fans. It’s not a substitute for the real thing, but it fits well with the reality of everyone being at home. When we stream, it gives us a chance to step out of the production process a bit to reconnect with the fans we know and live – for them it gives them a chance to see what we’re working on and interact with us.
You talked a bit about the creative importance of ‘maintaining a constant level of yourself as a person’ and how that ends up informing A R I Z O N A the business as much as it does A R I Z O N A the band. That seems like an important insight for small business owners, who effectively have to be the ‘personality’ of their own brand in addition to running it. How would you recommend cultivating that kind of self-reflection?
Being friends not just with your partners but with your process will help you not only stay centered as a person but also create the most authentic manifestation of what you are in the world. And, similarly, at the core of every business a sense of purpose emerges from that authenticity – it’s important to know who you and your partners are and what they do and commit to it and own it. I think that kind of self-reflection can come from taking the time to really think about why you started doing what you did in the first place. It’s easy to get lost in the moment — to focus on the immediate next sale or the next hire — but it’s critical to step back and remind yourself why you’re really there.
What major changes do you anticipate coming to the music industry, particularly when it comes to live events, after this? Do you think there will be a normalization – that is, people slowly returning to attending live events – or do you think events will fundamentally change?
Since the dawn of time man has been gathering to express the contents of their souls and thus, we do not believe live events are over or will otherwise be abandoned by those who love the live experience. Moreover as musicians, live shows are where we really make the connection with our fans. Without the physical aspect, the experience – and ultimately the relationship – begins to suffer in foundational ways, so it’s critically important for us to get back to preforming whenever we can. However, we are excited to finally see sanitized green-room bathrooms.