How to Fix the Music Industry
The traditional music industry is broken according to Carl Hitchborn. Here is how he plans to fix it.
On paper, Carl Hitchborn is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the music industry.
From writing best selling playbooks for independent artists to scaling a UK garage band The Hunna, from obscurity to a group that packed out legendary venues like Brixton Academy and the Manchester Apollo while generating millions of pounds along the way, it’s clear Carl knows a thing or two about success in the music industry.
Lyor Cohen, one of the most well-known executives in the music industry, affectionately nicknamed Carl “The Baker”, referring to his occupation before deciding to cause havoc in the industry… at least to those with a traditional mindset.
The only problem is: Carl isn’t a fan of the music industry as it stands. He considers the industry broken, and that is why he is on a mission to build the biggest and fairest music company in the world and in the process, create a brand new music industry where artists don’t just survive, they thrive.
“The current music industry is broken and doesn’t want to be fixed. Therefore, the only way is to create a brand new one designed from the ground up and in a way that makes sense for the world that we live in today…” says Hitchborn
If you know anything about the industry as it stands, you know that record labels do not typically set artists up for success. An artist will sign to a major label and then receive an advance which they must pay back with profits from apparel, streaming, and concerts, etc. In the end, artists are oftentimes left in precarious financial positions and don’t own any of the music that they poured their hearts into.
Today, more and more artists are speaking out against the deals they signed. Earlier this month, rap’s biggest star, Kanye West, posted every page of his record deal to Twitter, saying that his deal was akin to slavery based on how little money he saw from it.
“The record label model is only part of the problem. The biggest issue is the way in which artist businesses are fragmented and cut into pieces with different rights holders controlling different income streams, making it impossible for holistic plans to be created and executed. Instead, a compromise on strategy is always the end result. The situation is compounded by the fact that in the existing model, various parties (managers, lawyers, booking agents, promoters, etc.) are taking commissions from day one of the artist generating an income. Meaning that the artist business is starved of much-needed capital in order to sustain and initiate further growth” says Hitchborn.
This is the structure that Carl wants to break and then rebuild.
Rather than operate via the old model, he is seeking to create an entirely different structure.
According to Carl, record labels operate blindly — throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks. The success of a label hinges on one artist’s ability to create massive hits, and supplement the other struggling enterprises. Carl believes that this is not only unfair, but completely unethical because the model is structured in a way that the artists who are successful pay for all the ones who are not, and due to the short term nature of their model, the ones who are not successful are never truly given the opportunity to succeed in the first place.
As Carl sees it, this issue is rooted in the fact that labels see artists as commodities to extract profits from, rather than complex beings to be developed and nurtured.
The difference in Carl’s approach is that he focuses on developing the artist’s mindset to ensure that they can sustain a career and create art that the world will love. Everything else rests on this foundation. This venture is called Escape Ark, and it seeks to teach artists everything that Carl learned while scaling The Hunna to a group that was able to sell out arenas. Under the pioneering new model that Carl created, they sold 85,000 tickets, 60,000 albums and generated more than 150 M streams on Spotify in a 2 year period.
It was during this time that Carl realized there was a real demand for the sacred knowledge he had accumulated. “I realized that I must build an education system”, he recalled.
Escape Ark is an incubation and acceleration program and for artists who want to scale, as well as an industry partner, focused on helping them make a positive impact in the world over a long period of time.
“‘Escape Ark’ is the vehicle we’ve created to help artists to escape the current broken music industry, and take them to a brand new one.” says ‘The Baker’.
Along the way, Carl has cultivated relationships with artists all over the world and has joined forces with a business partner, Dan Shaw, who shares his raw passion. “We are inevitably hoping to achieve ‘solving the world’s problems through art’ but Escape Ark is so much more than that.” Says Dan.
“We are a group of individuals who believe that we need to create the change that we would like to see in the world and we are doing everything in our power to make that happen on a daily basis.”
The priority is teaching artists how to create sustainable careers through a seven-step success pathway. The pathway to success as an artist focuses on the artist’s mindset, teaching them the skills and perspective necessary to succeeding, while also coaching them through the complexities of formulating a product that will sell, branding and messaging pillars that will easily communicate their product to the market, marketing, and strategic planning, sales processes, scaling principals and a route to investment if they excel through the program.
The logic is that if an artist is empowered to take control of the entirety of their own career and understand how to build all aspects of their artist business, then they will be able to remove the traditional middlemen and gatekeepers from the equation, thus being able to create sustainable and long term careers.
In addition, the idea is that artists who excel in the program and wish to scale will have the option to receive investment from Escape Ark if they choose to do so.
“Unlike the traditional music industry that has a success rate of 30 to 1 (probably worse), we intend to prove that it is possible to have a 100% success rate with projects that we partner with. Our model is a true 50/50 net profits partnership, with the mindset of ongoing reinvestment of all profits back into artists’ projects to ensure that there can be consistent and sustainable growth.”
The ultimate vision is to enable not only musical artists but visual artists, comedians, and creators of all types to make a livelihood from their passion. “The goal,” says Hitchborn, “is to solve the world’s problems through art”.
Speaking to Carl, you can hear his raw passion for this work. So far, he’s put nearly everything on the line to launch the company. He quit his job as a baker to enter an industry he knew nothing about, maxed out credit lines to launch his label ‘High Time’ in the UK, then decamped to the United States with his wife and two children, when he realized that he needed to be in California to make this dream a reality. For Carl, it’s not about money, but creating an industry that is livable for artists and ultimately, to make the world a better place for everyone on earth.
“We don’t make a dollar until they do”. It’s about creating a world that is more kind to the artists that make it beautiful.
To grasp the viability of this venture, consider this: when Lyor Cohen heard Carl’s pitch, he asked him if he wanted to be an executive at 300 Entertainment. When Carl said no, Cohen offered to invest.
Today, Carl is hard at work on perfecting Escape Ark so that musicians all over the world can achieve their goal of making a living through their art. “We’re about to initiate a huge tipping point, one that will without any doubt cause an incredible stir within the music industry,” Says Carl.
Keep an eye out for these changes. When you start to see them, you’ll know where they began.
The Escape Ark Incubation & Acceleration program is a low-cost and accessible membership that not only offers education but also includes support, mentorship, community, software tools, and a potential route to investment. It will be launching on the 1st of November. If you would like to register your interest in becoming a member, click on this link below.
Carl says that Escape Ark will also be partnering with several projects from the program before the end of 2020.