You know the cliché complaint you hear from that “hipster”* friend, the one that revolves around “music was better 30/40/more years ago?” As idiotic and ill-informed as this opinion usually is, there’s a bit of truth to it. For example, you could say back then that most drummers were just drummers. They didn’t produce, they didn’t start their own band, they drummed. By focusing on one area of music for most of their lives, they became masters of the craft of drumming. Coupled with others who’d had similar experiences with Guitar, Bass, Singing, Engineering, and Producing.
Nowadays, the musician is conceived of as far more than the skillset of a single instrument – they are the blogger and curator (as are consumers of music), the producer, the multi-instrumentalist, even the “DJ” – in the same way the modern artist can now navigate everything from digital design to painting in order to diversify ways of making money through different disciplines. With these creative’s wider skillsets working in a team, what if they could take their work to the next level through working with other creative mediums? The name of the game is interdisciplinary collaboration, which will ensure that a creative collective can make their pursuit a tangible job.
Once you’ve decided that you’re the musician, the video creator, the graphic designer, or a participant in any creative practice with scope, you want to surround yourself with other creative people to bounce ideas off. Let’s say you’ve just put the finishing touches on your opus. How would you go about rounding out the package? You could create an accompanying music video with a friend who knows digital media; sit down with your other graphic designer friend to design a website for it and relevant artwork; and then convince your promoter friends to get a night down at your local club to launch the whole thing. You could then repeat that process with another focal point, which could be any creative endeavour like a friend’s first short film, scored by you with a poster from your graphic designer, refining the approach of the collective to get it as consistent as possible whilst still allowing you to explore your respective fields. This process is the ethos of ‘The Creative Agency’, which is my prediction for the future of professional creativity.
Remember the listener I mentioned that has morphed into the curator? They are always thirsty to define themselves as individuals. When they see a track they’ve written about, shared or engaged with mentioned by another friend in their wider circle, to them it’s almost like someone’s rocked up to the party in the same outfit. As much as people enjoy criticising this sentiment, it creates an important opportunity.
The creative agency has to seize on the individuality people are seeking through creative mediums and find unique ways to support and satisfy it. I would definitely argue as a revenue stream that technology services have made subscriptions an attractive model moving forward. Startup drip.fm has attempted this already with a $10 per month label subscription that entitles you to all new releases on the label, exclusive content, and discounts in label stores. With Drip, it’s the same innovators I have mentioned in previous posts, with Fools Gold, Mad Decent, and Dirtybird already on board.
When it comes to the proof in the pudding, there is probably no stronger recent example of ‘The Creative Agency’ than Odd Future. Their collective presence across all online, broadcast, and even physical channels (through their pop up shops and shows) has allowed them to dominate the public consciousness and hip hop for the last couple of years. Most of the members of Odd Future are multi-disciplinary creatives, allowing the group to create content quickly to a high standard with their experience in photography, music production, video, and brand strategy. This pool of talent combined with their “free and paid” philosophy has allowed the group to put out 20 albums of music for free whilst still being able to sell a shirt for £100 (as the BBC found out). Their emphasis on video clips which have clocked millions of views on YouTube has also enabled revenue opportunities and traditional exposure in the same sphere, with their Adult Swim show being a perfect compliment to their performances and merchandise. In the past two years, the group has been able to use their collective force to launch mainstream solo careers for Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean, with Earl Sweatshirt next in line to reap the benefits of their collective success.
In a way though, the example of Odd Future has become less relevant as time goes on, with major label Sony picking them up for distribution and a slew of other brands maintaining commercial relationships with the group. Currently it seems if you succeed with this model, chances are a major won’t be far behind in trying to further monetize your brand. Considering how fast things are moving in the creative sphere however, the creative agency has the power to thrive, and I’m excited to see collaborations between music, film, design and other creative outlets propel more cutting edge creative crews.
* If anyone knows what this word actually means these days, please let me know.
It’s been great to write these posts and having discussions with people who have taken the time to read them. Thanks to Party By Jake for running the series and Stoney Roads for doing the same, as well as Euey Hawkins for editing the three posts.