By Errol Michael Henry

Founder of The i2 Music Group


One of the great wonders of life is humankind’s ability to invent new ways to profit from old ideas. Mobile phones are a common sight these days and people can pretty much communicate with whomever they want to – whenever they want to. They pay a nominal fee to their phone provider for the privilege of access to a ‘network.’ Many years ago telegrams were how people moved information across vast distances. Before that, people delivered hand-written notes (we call it text messaging now) but the essential principle remains the same. Despite the constantly evolving technology, what people essentially do really hasn’t changed much through the ages.

I hear cries of derision from people who are convinced that people didn’t know how to communicate before Facebook was invented. There is no doubting the sheer power of ‘connectivity’ that modern digital platforms afford us, but even Facebook will admit that it makes no difference what you post if people don’t give a damn. So let’s get down to the heart of the matter. Since the dawn of time some people have sought to be famous, whilst others have sought to be wealthy (it’s entirely possible to achieve one, without ever seeing the other). There are some examples of people who have become hugely famous and massively wealthy too, but that’s not always the case. Most ‘normal’ people could not pick out Carlos Slim from a line-up, yet he is reputed to be the richest man on earth!

In the context of music, being able to separate popularity from profitability will determine whether an artist achieves genuine, lasting success or remains a ‘virtual’ star. Increasingly, when I interact with artistic people they tell me how many ‘shares’ or ‘likes’ they are attracting. When I ask them how much money those actions have generated they look confused. “Why does that matter?” they ask. It’s a fair question so I’ll answer it. Very few genuinely creative people get up in the morning thinking about how much money their ideas are likely to generate that day. But here’s the bottom line. ‘Like’s’, ‘shares’ or other digital validation doesn’t actually require people to commit in a real sense. It affords observers the opportunity to appear to support something – without actually doing anything tangible.

Real fans will ‘share’, ‘like’ – and then hand over their credit card details to purchase something from artists they are truly committed to. All of the social interaction in the world won’t add up to much if what is being produced by creative people doesn’t inspire consumers to make actual purchases. The best mobile phone in the world is still essentially useless if you have no one to call or nothing meaningful to say. Pretty much everyone has access to the Internet – which is a good thing. Pretty much everyone has access to the Internet, but that’s a very bad thing. People have grossly misunderstood what the Internet is and what it is for. Ultimately, the Internet (in its many forms) is a virtual means by which people identify, locate, associate with or purchase real things. It has also become an environment where people ‘shadow’ others – watching them from afar, but never actually engaging in any meaningful way.