Mogli the Iceburg & Nate Rose’s ‘TERRA.’ Takes on the Music Industry (INTERVIEW)
In their new track, “TERRA.,” rappers Mogli the Iceburg and Nate Rose have a thing or two to say about the state of the music industry in 2017.
“Being independent artists, Nate Rose and I have frequent conversations about the trends and forces at play in the constantly shifting ecosystem that is the music-streaming economy,” shared Mogli. “One night while in the midst of such conversation, we both came to a sort of epiphany: If you stay still for long, you lose. Immediately, we attached this concept to real life imagery in the analogy that the music industry right now is like a huge stampede. If you don’t keep running as fast as you can, more than likely you’ll be trampled to death by the thousands of other animals running as a herd. For this track, we took that analogy and ran with it (pun intended).”
The analogy is fairly clear that the animals running represent the oversaturation that has occurred in the music industry, partly because of the ease and affordability now present in creating music and combined with the ever-increasing means to cheaply distribute content to the world at large.
Their strategy to flourish in this environment is simple: stay moving and adapt to survive.
Mogli and Nate did a Q & A on the current state and the future of the music business.
Is streaming helping or hurting artists in 2017?
Nate Rose: Streaming is just another advancement in the music world that levels the playing field for independent artists and major label artists. However, as ease of access increases so does the saturation of the market. In addition, more competition calls for more creative means of marketing and an increase in effort in order to be noticed and to stay relevant when the attention comes. There is a give and take, but one thing is for certain and that is the consumers are choosing to shift and adopt a new model for how they consume music, and anyone who fails to adapt with the consumer is going to lose. In my opinion, streaming is really helping independent artists who would not have access to major label distribution in the past, but this degraded barrier of entry creates an influx of often mediocre content that everyone is now forced to compete with. But I love competition.
That’s what makes it so exciting in my eyes. Now we are able to compete. Mogli and I connect because when we met in college, we both had similar skill sets across a wide variety of mediums. We both shoot/direct/edit videos, we are both graphic designers, we both write, produce, record, mix, and, master all of our own content, we both formulate marketing plans for each release, etc. Our diversity of skill sets give us a major competitive advantage, and that is all made possible by access to tools we would not have had a decade ago. Simple, affordable online distribution is just another one of those tools.
With sites like Soundcloud coming dangerously close to shutting down, and Spotify losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year, is the current streaming platform sustainable?
Mogli: We may be beginning to see a historical bubble burst in the information age. There is this crazy and kinda unprecedented situation where massive popularity is prioritized above profitability when it comes to tech investment. People are investing in ideas with the assumption that if it is popular, we can always find a way to turn those eyeballs into money. With music streaming in particular though, I do believe that major platforms like Spotify are on the verge of tremendous profitability. A huge amount of the money lost is coming from very hostile contracts put in place by major labels for their large catalogs – contracts that benefit those rights holders in a way so intensely that Spotify loses money when people stream their music. However, this was the gamble they took from the jump. Spotify had to have those music catalogs (basically all the most popular music in the world since the beginning of recorded music is owned by major labels) available to offer a realistic and competitive service. Fast forward 11 years – and now the major labels make more money from streaming than they do from music sales. The dynamic has changed in terms of who holds leverage, and I imagine many of those rights-holders will be more than willing to negotiate better contracts in exchange for favorability in the eyes of the new gatekeepers of music discovery.
How does the new climate affect how we consume music, and how does it change the format in which music is created?
Mogli: This is one of the most important and exciting questions that artists have to ponder in my opinion. Formats of delivering music have always developed around technological bottlenecks. You see this going back to how albums were made on vinyl – there were actual technical limitations of the dynamic range in different locations on the physical record, and albums were packaged and distributed accordingly (audio engineers were closer to scientific engineers at this time). We are in a super interesting place right now where more and more people are beginning to realize that ‘albums’ ‘ep’s’ and such are pretty arbitrary concepts. There have always been innovators and left field creatives, but as far as mainstream success goes, the formats have been pretty standard. We keep conforming to the ‘rules’ that don’t have much justification to be restrictive anymore. Drake’s More Life had a really interesting premise being marketed as a playlist, but I think the general consensus is that it was more of a marketing ploy. I think the idea of a dynamic album is something that has a lot of potential. The exciting thing is, I have no idea what the next ultra-creative format is, and hopefully, artists view this as an open door to be a pioneer. I’m bored with albums at this point. Let’s make music engaging again.
Why is adaptation so lucrative in today’s music industry?
Nate: We are currently in an information revolution. If you look at how many technological advances have been made even in just the past decade, you’ll notice that tech moves so quickly that staying in place means an imminent failure (Hence the concept of the song). Myspace was the lifeblood of independent musicians roughly a decade ago, and we all know how quickly that evaporated. The artists that we still hear about are the ones who transitioned diligently to the new Facebook platform or redirected their energy to assets that could be controlled wholly such as email lists and personal websites. The ones who stayed on Myspace and tried to make a dying site work for them, are the ones who were left and forgotten. The basic marketing principles still apply, but the tactics and platforms are what seem to be constantly changing.
For example, staying on top of Facebook’s algorithms have proved to be a constant challenge for many businesses, as optimizing content for the best potential organic reach and engagement means following Facebook’s implemented ‘best practices and guidelines.’ Take Instagram’s introduction of stories as another example. Once introduced, all of a sudden artists and businesses alike have to figure out the best way to navigate the ever-changing platform in order to utilize it effectively before the competition. It’s not enough to just be in the race, but to be a true contender is the ultimate challenge in terms of maintaining a competitive advantage. This sentiment holds true all over the business world, and given the speed of innovation, it is more lucrative now than ever before.
Watch the music video for “TERRA.” below:
Appropriately, check out the song on Spotify.