I was at a technical event today hosted by the Wall Street Journal called the #wsjtechcafe. I had intended to come and see Nick (sorry Nicholas!) Lovell talk about the future of the games industry but got my days wrong and sat listening to a different Nick instead. None other than Nick Mason from Pink Floyd. Nick, who is very active in representing the artists union, was talking about the state of the music industry and where it is headed in an interview billed as ‘Who stole my music?’.
Perhaps the most interesting question he was asked was towards the end. ‘What advice would you give a group of 18 year olds starting off in the music business today?’ someone asked him. Nick’s answer was ‘Go on the road and learn your trade.’ There were several other good questions and each of his answers were, as one might expect, very insightful. The man is a living legend.
I ended up deriving as much benefit from Nick’s interview as I could have hoped for from the one I originally intended to go to. It struck me very clearly how the changes going on in the world of music have significant parallels with what is going on in gaming. The industry has been turned upside down by digitisation and the implications of it. Distribution costs are near zero. The result is an over-supply of artists trying to make it as indies. Outside of a few outliers and pioneers, it is very difficult to do. Instant success is practically unattainable. Nick’s guidance was to suggest there are not really any shortcuts. Learn your trade, do it well, by all means take advantage of technology enabling shifts but, at the end of the day, you are going to need help to get your art into the hands of the masses.
I am a big fan of self publishing – I really am. Today publishers, in music, books and games get a lot of stick. In many cases this is deserved criticism. Artists need new things from them and they are not adapting fast enough to provide it. Many question the need for publishers going forward. It seems obvious to me that the role of the publisher has not really changed at all. Their job is to bridge the gap between the artist and the consumer. Before that meant distribution channels. Today it just means marketing. Indie game developers, just like rock stars, need that marketing.