You'd be hard pressed to find an industry harder hit the last decade than the record biz. Like mothers warning their daughters for centuries, people stopped buying the cow when they could get the milk for free. As free music became the norm, many wondered who would survive.
Plenty of artists have survived, it's just not as profitable as it used to be, unless you're a legendary band going on tour.
What's happening now is that artists and record labels are creating new revenue models in a huge experiment.
Tommy Lee's experiment may be the riskiest of all.
Lee is developing eleven new songs for an upcoming album called "Public Mayhem".
While video games like "Guitar Hero" celebrate classic rock, getting airplay for new rock music is especially difficult.
So Lee and producer Scott Humphrey have put online—for free—the skeletal foundation of the new songs at The Public Record.
One song a week can be downloaded. Then anyone in the world can submit additional instrumental music or vocals. Lee's team listens to each submission and will pick the best to add in what is the biggest global music collaboration in history.
How many submissions have they gotten?
"Thousands," says the veteran rocker, shaking his head in amazement.
In fact, they've had to upgrade their technology to handle all the traffic.
On the Web site you can see some videos of would-be collaborators, including one amazing four-year-old drummer.
The new album will be out early next year. Will anyone buy it, since everyone could get the base songs for free already? "These people are already telling their friends about it," says Lee of the contributors who've been named finalists. These contributors will not be paid, but they will get credit and have bragging rights in saying they were on Tommy Lee's "Public Mayhem".
It is a gamble, but this is rock n roll, right?
One other thing this experience has taught Lee is how vast and varied his fan base is.
He uses Google Analytics to see where submissions are coming from.
Many from the US and Canada, of course, but a lot are from Japan and Argentina!
"Now we know where to tour," Lee says.
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