Not content with delivering on his vision to fundamentally change the way payments are made globally, reinvent the way power is harvested and stored, revolutionise energy consumption, batteries, AI and the automotive industry - and not forgetting his success at building the most advanced aerospace and space transport company the world has ever seen (with a view to colonising mars) - Elon Musk is, after much back and forth, now ready to buy Twitter.
Musk announced this month that he would go ahead with the deal to acquire Twitter, following months of legal wrangling.
In a change from my usual ranty qualms with the music business and its often unapologetically archaic ways, I want to discuss why I believe this is a new opportunity for the music business and one I hope will open a dialogue with Musk in the months and years to come.
As a certified geek since childhood, I’ve followed Musk’s career for many years. Whatever your personal opinion of him (and his idea of free speech) there can be no denying his ability to make true transformative change across a plethora of industries, often at quite serious personal, professional and financial risk.
Musk wrote his first video game (Blastar) at the age of 12 but even across his vast array of active technology companies, the opportunities for the music business ring out to me like a dawn chorus… From serious future gazing innovations like microchip implants that allow you to listen to music internally and space gigs or festivals, or self-driving cars home after a show and in-car music and entertainment consumption across the Tesla brand, there is, for me, much to be excited about when it comes to Musk and music. Tesla actually reportedly looked at creating their own in-car streaming service in 2017 but one can only imagine the licensing clusterfuck left Musk feeling like Space travel was an easier option and left that fight for another day.
Musk also released his own track Don't Doubt ur Vibe in 2020 and was in a relationship with the incredible artist Grimes, his then partner, who has been streamed millions of times across DSPs. You would think at some point Grimes, or indeed Elon, received their royalty statement, mouths agasp, at the pitiful fees they had received for their plays. Indeed Musk tweeted about this very thing in 2018 with an image of rates per stream and market share saying “This chart shows how crazy low payout is to labels & the artists only a small fraction of these numbers”.
There can be no denying Elon Musk’s ability to make true transformative change across a plethora of industries
He’s also a big NFT and cryptocurrency advocate - two things I suspect will play a larger part in Twitter (and the world) as it moves forward and regular readers will know my open advocacy for all legitly useful blockchain-related music biz applications.
Whilst there may be worries right now around what he deems free speech, I think it’s also useful to remember he has access to some of the most brilliant technology and engineers in the world to battle misinformation. I do believe there is a difference between illegal offensive tweets, free speech and misinformation and I hope that Elon’s capabilities can wrestle with those digital demons where others have failed.
But make no mistake, Elon musk gets Twitter. Always has, though some might argue not, given it being to his detriment on occasion, like costly legal process for tweeting about Tesla plans or him becoming the ultimate 420 meme, but don’t doubt that he knows how this platform works and its as yet unlocked potential. He also understands technology at its core as well as its value and potential capabilities in ways most people could never imagine.
Outside of the many potential avenues for Musk to change the music business as we know it, a very basic but important start would be licensing Twitter and finding ways for musicians to thrive on the platform. Despite many others coming to the table the past few years Twitter sadly remains unlicensed.
The music business was quick to jump in on the news of the buy with Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, telling Music Week: “There has been very little positive engagement from Twitter despite work to license their service. They are one of the last current major social media platforms to be unlicensed and not to pay members for the use of their works. We must break the cycle of the ‘use first, pay later’ mindset, which has for too long been the characteristic of online platforms. The challenges for music creators in the streaming era have been well evidenced, and solutions can only be found when platforms such as Twitter take responsibility for the music they share to millions of people around the world.”
A Twitter spokesperson told Music Week: “We’re always looking at ways in which we can support our creator community.”
Let’s hope Elon feels the same!