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ArtistShare: A Record Label for the Digital Age

ArtistShare: A Record Label for the Digital Age
Paul Naser By

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In the information age, as technology is transforming the way we share ideas, the creative artist seems to be in a dangerous situation. Peer-to-peer file sharing and free-streaming content are direct threats to an artists' livelihood. Combining this insight with a love for music and an appreciation for artists and the value of their work, Brian Camelio started his company, ArtistShare. After remarkable success with both its innovative model and its extraordinary roster of artists, it is celebrating its 10th anniversary by looking towards the future as it begins a partnership with Blue Note Records.

A music lover since childhood, Camelio grew up playing rock and roll and graduated college with a degree in classical composition. Working as a guitarist, he performed classical, jazz and rock music while writing and performing his own music, even working internationally. He took an interest in software programming in the mid-90's and found that he really liked it, saying of writing code, "I found it to be very similar to composing and I got as excited about it as I did writing music." Around this time the internet was starting to gain a lot of popularity, and, as Camelio was becoming more involved in programming and working on the web, it occurred to him that the music industry was going to change. "It occurred to me in 1999 or so, that this issue of file sharing was really going to be a problem for musicians. I could see that thing that we were basically making our money off of, which is selling recordings, was going to go away. Anything that could be digitized I could see as being a real problem. Even though the internet at the time wasn't mature enough to handle any sort of file size, it was very clear that that would change and it would be very convenient for people to start trading music and videos and whatever could be digitized."

As he was coming to this realization Camelio also was witnessing the mistreatment of some of his close friends by record companies. "Around that time as well, all my good friends in the city, people like Maria Schneider, Jim Hall, Chris Potter and David Binney, mostly in the jazz community, were having problems with their record labels. At some point I just got very angry about it and decided that it might be a good opportunity to come up with something that would put the power back into the hands of the artist, put the control back in the hands of the artists, because I kept hearing stories about people signing contracts that didn't realize what they were signing, or the label just flat out refusing to pay the artist; they did all the work and spent the money."

As these concepts bounced around in his head, Camelio thought about where the value really was in an artist's work. "Being a composer and musician, I view art and music as a timeline; all the big things that are created, like the greatest CDs, are a snapshot in that timeline. It's just capturing a certain moment in an artist's career. I started to view the value of what an artist does as being in the process, not necessarily in the end result or in one of the snapshots of that process." This realization is the central idea behind ArtistShare and is what gives the company its unique approach and model, to which it owes its great success. "I thought, maybe I can create a model where people pay for the process, and they pay to have something done, almost like a service, instead of having to rely on this end result which is this recorded music, and trying to sell that after the fact... I thought the idea of being able to watch the process, and to align yourself with the artist as a fan would be infinitely interesting. You can't copy it either; you can't steal the creative process from the artist. Present it as a story and get people involved." Related to this were two other key concepts that influenced ArtistShare's model.

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