Much has been said about the real impact of the Internet on the music industry. But sometimes it’s useful to talk to musicians – real start-up band members – about both the opportunities and challenges of making it in today’s digital economy. Shannon and Spence Koehler are members of The Stone Foxes, a local San Francisco band, and they deal with the opportunities and challenges of the digital economy on a daily basis. I thus invited the two young musicians into our studio to talk to me about what life was really like for start-up bands in our intimately interactive age of Spotify, Twitter and Facebook.
The Koehler’s take on the impact of the Internet is ambivalent. Yes, they told me, it is allowing them to aggressively market their music and interact with their fans. It is their window to the world; without the Internet, they wouldn’t exist. Instant availability, they told me, is “crucial” for them building a following and getting out on the road. And yet, they acknowledged, the Internet isn’t quite as ideal as some people might think. Firstly, it enables stalkers and undermines the privacy of artists. And, secondly, they seemed slightly sceptical about new businesses like Spotify which, they suggested, wasn’t driving real revenue to smaller bands like The Stone Foxes.
But it’s their analog life on the road that, ironically, dominates the lives of start-up Internet artists like Shannon and Spence Koehler. 150 shows in five months, waking up in a stinking Motel 6 with six guys, traveling around the country in the back of a beaten-up van. No, not everyone can be Mick & Keith. After all, without a recording contract, this is pretty much the only way that young start-up musicians, like the Koehler brothers from The Stone Foxes, can make a living in today’s digital economy.