I have a lot of friends in successful working bands that all have one thing in common - a fairly useless website. Pretty much every band I know, with a very few exceptions, treats their website as a tour poster. Most of them have some kind of "store", but frequently they're stocked with leftovers from last year's road merch. You often have to go through PayPal to checkout. I don't know of anyone short of Radiohead that actually lets you download digital goods directly from them.
Railscasts, Peepcode, Lullabot, and every other player in the digital goods space that caters to developers have had their act together on this for years now, but for some reason the real promise of the internet age hasn't paid a visit to the music business yet.
Perhaps I misunderstood, but the real promise of the internet age as it pertains to musicians was that the old, centralized means of distributing your music were going to be torn down and in it's place would be a democratic, no-barriers system for getting your music out instantly to the whole world. Services that have sprung up in the last 10 years - iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, and the like - have almost universally propped up this old, centralized system. Services like Distrokid are well intentioned and barking toward the right tree, but still miss the point.
The problem is that the music business was so profitable for so many decades, so many people got rich off the old label system that the world in general is clearly having a hard time letting go. Every single service that I've mentioned so far has some sort of "gatekeeper" mechanism in place, be it label affiliation or whatever, and profit motive for the business owners as a central tenet.
"How can I (or my investors) make money off the music business?"
What I haven't seen done
What I haven't seen done yet is for someone to come along and offer a service that has altruism toward the musicians that this whole business revolves around in the first place as a fundamental principle (distrokid partially excepted).
How about someone build an open source CMS for bands and musicians, ala Wordpress since every band I know is already on that and comfy with it, but built with commerce as the fundamental purpose of the site? Plug in a Stripe API key for credit card processing, an S3 key for storing their digital goods, and tada! - you can sell your own music through your own website and keep 100% of the net for yourself.
Obviously the simple features that every band wants - tour dates, photos, bios, etc - would be there, but instead of having the store be a page on the site, have the tour dates be a page in the store. I know they must be out there, but I literally don't know of a single band that approaches their online presence this way.
But, but, how do I make money off this?
I dunno. How about a hosted service, ala Wordpress.com for bands that don't want to deal with setting it up themselves? How about taking a percentage of fees for ticket sales if they want to activate that module? How about consulting fees for custom implementations? I think there are actually plenty of ways, but only if you start with the libre, open version at the core.
There must be someone out there working on this idea - I had it years ago and it just seems too obvious at this point. I've been working on it off and on for most of this year. I've even got a guinea pig client lined up, but I'm that stereotypical musician that has kids, gets off the road, and is now so busy with my 9-5 and my 3 kids and trying to find contract work to fill in the financial gaps that I can't keep the momentum going to get it finished and launched. So...
If this idea is interesting to you and you feel like building it, call me. If you're already building it and want someone to help sell it, call me. The band I quit 4 years ago sold 9000 tickets at Red Rocks this summer. I'm now in a band with two guys from Leftover Salmon and a guy from String Cheese Incident. If you've never heard of these bands then you're not a hippy, but trust me - there is serious money to be made in this grassroots, live-music, no-label-affiliation sector of the music business if for no other reason than nobody is looking at this market at all, and the customer base in this market is extremely loyal. And I've got an iPhone stuffed full of potential clients.
All this product would have to do is show some real revenue increases for a couple of bands. Once that happens, the real promise of the internet as it pertains to the music business can start to be realized.
I'm a developer now. I'm handy enough with the backend, and what I consider pretty good with the front end of things, especially as far as the technical needs of this project are concerned. Point is, I can contribute a lot - business, development, a laundry list of clients, implementation details (if you want em) - I just can't do it all myself. I've been holding on to this idea for so long, trying to build up the dev chops to execute that it's starting to eat me, especially since I now have the dev chops and no time.
So if you're reading this and it strokes a chord, drop me a line - firstname.lastname@example.org