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Music fans want more than just music

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Kevin P. Casey / AP

(Read caption) Colombian singer-guitarist, Juanes, with his band performs in Seattle, on Thursday, March 10, 2011, in Seattle, Wash. If musicians are willing to ditch the old business model, they can still make a living.

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The music industry has been going through pretty rough times over the past several years. The disruption that has occurred is due to the Internet and other technological breakthroughs, fundamental changes in customer behavior and a chronic recession.

It has been beating down the leading companies that once dominated every aspect of the music we heard and how we heard it.

But even in a troubled industry there are opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to think outside the box. Being a successful entrepreneur in the emerging new music industry will require a willingness to forget the old business models.

Some aspects of the industry will not change: Songwriters will still write songs, and performers will still perform.

So what has changed?

It starts with what people are willing to pay for. It is a myth that consumers are not willing to pay for music anymore. They are just not willing to pay for it in the traditional way it was packaged and distributed.

Emerging entrepreneurial artists have discovered that their fans want more than just their music.

These fans want to be part of a community, have the sense of a personal relationship with artists, attend live events and have access to merchandise that shows their affinity with the band.

They may not be willing to pay for just music itself, but when the music is packaged with all the other stuff they value, they will spend their money.

The good news is that the average amount of money each customer spends via this new business model far exceeds the amount a band could hope to get simply by relying on downloads of its songs.

An example of performers finding their way in the industry with a new business model is a band made up of Belmont University students called the Kopecky Family Band.

While creating great music, they are also paying close attention to creating value for their followers through a variety of products and the creative use of social media. It all helps them connect with fans. In fact, their savvy marketing has helped the band gain national attention, including an appearance on NPR's World Cafe.

The basic structure of the industry is also changing. Success in the music business no longer requires dependence on the large companies, the labels that dominated the industry for the past several decades. Entrepreneurial artists are beginning to control almost all aspects of their "product," including production, management, and distribution of their music and merchandise. Artists have their own websites, smart phone apps and social media strategies.

There is still a large market for music, but success requires an entrepreneurial approach that is built on fundamentally different business models.

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