My buddy Bruce Houghton at Hypebot, caught me last week for a quick interview before Rethink Music.  Here is an except from our discussion:

HYPEBOT: Your new focus is on consulting and investing. Are there any sectors, particularly within music and music tech, that particularly interest you or where you see the most room for growth?

DAVE KUSEK: Online education is one of them. This is an area that is already transforming how people learn and gain job skills and it is only going to grow as time goes on. There are big opportunities here that will effect tens of millions of people around the world. Online training is going to be huge. Job requirements are shifting and people need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances that can benefit them. The traditional model of higher education is already under pressure and there are many people and companies exploring alternative models that are very interesting.

The other area I am bullish on is live music and live events. The live concert experience cannot be digitized, yet can benefit enormously from technology. There really has not been much innovation in live music or in music merchandising beyond ticketing. I think there is a lot more that can be done with mobile technology and am actively working in this area. My investment in Tastemate is one way of digging into this potential in a meaningful way. We will be bringing our service to a venue near you, very soon.

I also think that there is potential to expand the reach of live performance using remote technologies. I am interested in ways to cut the costs out of touring to make it more profitable and to reach broader audiences. It is amazing to me that there has not been more activity in this area either, so I am looking for companies and people to work with that are thinking differently about what live music is all about and how to make it even more lucrative.

HYPEBOT: What are some of the things that Digital Cowboys has done in the past or is looking to do now?

DAVE KUSEK: We are focused on business development, marketing and product development, particularly in online and mobile services. We also do strategy consulting for businesses wanting to expand or enter new markets or make acquisitions. I say we, because while I am the managing partner, I also leverage a network of people around the world and with different specialties that I bring together to form a team to address the issues. For example, with a lot of the product work that we have done I brought together a team of visual designers and user experience people to execute on the product vision and do the testing. With business development projects I sometimes work with friends that have particular contacts or relationships that are beneficial to my clients. Sometimes I put together a couple different investors or strategic partners to provide capital or distribution or some other need. The main thing is to get the work done and show results, while trying to have some fun and work on interesting projects that are pushing the envelope.

HYPEBOT: There’s some talk of another tech bubble. Do you see think we’re approaching one in music and media technology?

DAVE KUSEK: I do think that some of the deals we have seen recently are off the charts, like Instagram – but who knows? That has all the earmarks of “bubble” written all over it. But Facebook is also about to go public and at their level, what’s another billion dollars?

But really I don’t think overall that we are at the point of frivolousness and excess that we witnessed in the earlier dot-com bubble, at least not yet. I believe that people are just beginning to figure out better ways to communicate and interact and learn via technology. That is having massive implications on the future of society around the world. Take a look at the stock market trend over the past 100 years and you will see that things tend to move up and people get smarter and more prosperous. I am an optimist.

There are a lot of music startups getting funded these days and certainly they are not all going to make it. I think we will see some consolidation in the DIY space as there are probably more companies addressing that market than the market really needs. The same is true for music streaming and distribution and music discovery. I think the real breakthrough companies will be formed by trying to do something completely different, rather than mimicking the past with technology. We’ll see.

HYPEBOT: Any plans to write a follow-up to the “Future Of Music” book?

DAVE KUSEK: I plan to spend a lot more time posting things to my blog and on digitalcowboys.com. This is a much better way to continue to update original thinking and way more efficient than writing another book. The music industry has gone digital and online outlets like Hypebot really do work as conduits in this business. That is a real bright spot in the transformation of the music industry. So, look for more at futureofmusicbook.com.

You can get the entire interview here.

More coverage from Hypebot here and from Billboard here.

All markets are not the same.  Most people in India have not had access to high-speed Internet or a PC. The wired broadband penetration of India stands at about 13 million subscriptions and there are only 50 million PCs in the country. Very few Indians have broadband or a PC of their own.

3G expands consumer audience by 100 million listeners

Despite the lack of broadband and PC penetration, there are currently 121 million Internet users in India. Guess where they are? Mobile. With the rollout of 3G in India, access to high-speed Internet has become cheaper and more widely available. People don’t need to own a desktop computer to get online or, most importantly, to participate in e-commerce — all they need is a mobile phone.

The mobile model — and by extension, the mobile music model — scales. It took broadband 7 years to reach 11.5 million wired subscribers. In less than half that time, 3G subscriptions in India topped 13 million, and that number is rapidly growing. There are 884 million mobile users in India, and as smartphones flood the market, more of them will be making the switch, becoming not just first-time smartphone users, but first-time Internet users as well.

Already, 59 percent of mobile web users access the Internet via mobile only. A study by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that the total number of mobile Internet users will balloon to 237 million by 2015. It is connectivity, now more than ever.

Advertisers, rather than end users, are footing the bill.

Brands are embarking on the biggest consumer grab of the century as China’s and India’s multi-billion audiences rise in economic status. Thousands of brands are competing to become the future soda, life insurance and auto brands of this part of the planet. That’s a major influx of ad dollars looking for a scalable way to engage consumers.

Asking consumers to shell out 15 to 25 rupees for a song online was unrealistic when pirated options were widely available for free. But as legal sites gain popularity and engagement numbers soar, major brands are ready to spend their advertising dollars on digital music Web sites and apps, so music services like Saavn, Smashhits and Ragga provide large catalogs of ad-supported music for free.

The benefits are abundant for the brand advertisers, end users and record labels; the end user gets something customizable and valuable for free, while major brands can finally capture the attention of one of the world’s largest emerging markets.

So what made advertisers change their minds? Piracy.  Piracy is being addressed in India via the ISPs — in February, the High Court of Calcutta handed down the decision to ban the pirate site songs.pk on major ISPs. This is a move that many have hoped to see in other territories, and India is stepping up to address the issue directly via the ISPs.

While pirated music is still an issue in India, legitimate and fully legal music streaming Web sites and apps are restoring the faith of advertisers, meaning a huge new audience for advertisers, profits for the music labels from brands with deep pockets and top-notch quality for users.

Digital means data

Labels are excited that they can finally reach audiences who are passionate about their niche content, thanks to the kind of targeting that digital platforms make possible from user data. It’s especially great for indie labels, who now have fast entry to market and an opportunity to get in front of the right audience, despite not having the major-label marketing moolah.

Thanks to the wealth of data digital music supplies, the Indian music industry can get the right music to the right people at the right time. No need to make assumptions based on demographic information or guess what people will like. Data provides the ultimate customization tool for an industry in which customization and understanding the preferences and tastes of the end user is key.

This is the moment the music industry in India has been waiting for; it can finally focus on its core business — producing music — while advertisers happily foot the bill. And users get to sit back and enjoy, share and discover for free.

Read the original article as published on All Things D.

Sunday night at Coachella Festival Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre brought Tupac Shakur back from the dead to perform live with them onstage as a hologram.  Holy Smokes.  He appears on stage and greats the audience with “Yeah, you know what the fuck this is … What up Dre? … What up Snoop? … What the fuck is up Coachella.”  The Tupac illusion aka “Holopac” was brought to life by James Cameron’s visual production house Digital Domain, and two hologram-imaging companies, AV Concepts and the U.K.-based Musion Systems at a price estimated at more than $200,000.

The holographic performance is spectacular and very eerie, and there are more shows planned.  This is not the first time that holograms have been used in concerts, and these effects are in a way, natural extensions of the laser displays and light shows that have been part of live shows for decades.  Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas and (notably) Gorillaz have all been projected as holograms on stage during the show.  There is a laser light touring show of Pink Floyd featuring “none” of the band members.  If this can be done with Tupac, it brings up very interesting questions about the future of live shows and exactly who or what we will be seeing.

Can you imaging the Rolling Stones 2050 “Skeletons in the Closet” Tour?  The Beatles finally play Shea Stadium in high fidelity?  “Elvis Comes Alive”?  Will nothing be sacred?

I am not sure if this is science fiction or our worst nightmare, or both.  Will live performers really even be needed in the future?  If the wizards at visual production companies can create virtual artists in 3D that can strut on stage, engage the audience, and belt out their latest hits – who exactly will be entertaining us?  If the music industry can strip out the artists and replace them with computer generated formulaic constructs that are programmed to entertain and mesmerize, what will live music become?  Its already happend with the “Chipmunks” and “Gorillaz” and “Hatsume Miku” and “Dethklok”.  “This is just the beginning,” Ed Ulbrich, chief creative officer at Digital Domain told the LA Times,  “Dr. Dre has a massive vision for this.”    Virtual artists are becoming a thing of the present.

Think about it.  Is this really the Future of Music?

This came in my bi-annual Sony Music statement last week.   It said “You may be Eligible for Increased iTunes Payments (or other permanent Digital Download or Ringtone royalties) as part of the Settlements of Class Action Lawsuits.  Please see the enclosed notice for details.”

Ka-ching!

Congratulations to “Shropshire” and  the “Youngbloods” (great band) in their pursuit of more fair treatment on how royalties are calculated for digital transactions.  Even though this is a small settlement, it represents a step in the right direction of ending years of unfair accounting and payment practices.

Sources in the know infer that progress was indeed made but  – still it ain’t anywhere near fair.  David did not slay Goliath thus far, nor did David get completely slain.  There is more to come.

I’ve written about this before as have many others.  Lots of musicians are suing the labels over the claim of unfair payments on digital transactions.  Here is the latest article about all of this from Variety.

Weird Al Yankovic

Tower of Power

The Temptations

Pink Floyd

Kenny Rogers 

Rick James

Smashing Pumpkins

Toto

The Motels

And many, many more to come.

We have to be patient, and change will happen.  Lots of people are jumping on this train.

The good news is that the powers that be seem willing, at last, to try new things and to negotiate.  As my friend and co-author Gerd Leonhard has said, “when the pain gets great enough, they will compromise and negotiate.”  We must be getting close.

From Billboard.biz yesterday, an agreement was reached between the music industry trade associations for record labels, music publishers and digital music providers.  The Copyright Royalty Board, will create new rates and terms for five new digital music service categories.

It also creates new rate formulas for five new digital business models:

– For the paid locker services like the one iTunes offers consumers, music publishers will get a mechanical rate of 12% of revenue or 20.65% of total content cost or 17 cents per subscriber, which ever is greater.

– For digital lockers that provide free cloud storage with a download purchase, music publishers will get 12% of revenue or 22% of the total cost of content, which ever is greater.

– For the third category, called a mixed bundle such as when your cell phone services subscription rate comes with a music service, music publishers get 11.35% of revenue or 21% of total content cost, whichever is greater.

– The fourth new category, called limited interactive service such as when a subscription service can offer limited amounts of music to, say, one genre or playlists that the user can access at a lower price, music publishers will get 10.5% of revenue or 21% of total cost or 18 cents per subscriber, whichever is greater.

– Finally, for the fifth category, called a music bundles such as when a CD album comes with a download, music publishers will get 11.35% of revenue or 21% of total content cost.

More on this here from Digital Trends.

You gotta love Neil’s honesty. We owe it all to artists to stand up to what they believe in and drive us forward. Without them, we would have nothing.

“Still the searcher
must ride the dark horse
Racing alone in his fright.”

“I’m finding that I have a little bit of trouble with the quality of the sound of music today,” says Neil Young. “I don’t like it. It just makes me angry. Not the quality of the music, but we’re in the 21st century and we have the worst sound that we’ve ever had. It’s worse than in 1978. Where are our geniuses? What happened?”

I can’t agree more.  We need a new format that breathes life into the music industry by improving the quality of the sound that we listen to.   If you are under the age of 22, I will bet that most of you have never really heard a great audio recording.  You don’t even know what I am talking about.

This issue is vital to the future of the music business.  What we have today with the proliferation of ear buds as the primary listening medium and compressed MP3 files is a low res music experience that is the bottom of the barrel, lowest common denominator form of a listening experience there can be.  Really listening to music is simply lost on most people these days, and as a result the art form has lost the majority of its value.

It commonly accepted that crappy sounding music is the norm and people, by and large, have no idea what they are missing.  The MP3 has stripped the emotional value from music today and has reduced it to a commodity.  The audio business has truly been compressed and marginalized and is nearing extinction.  We cannot let that happen to the music business.

As artists, “We can’t control the back end of the donkey, laments Young.  The donkey has two ends, products like Beats and Bose and every little product that comes out for your car, the whole thing – is all about the back end of the donkey.  There is nothing talking about the front end of the donkey, that’s what I’m talking about.  You don’t have to that rich to do this, you just have to be smart…  We are in the low res world, make no mistake that is right where we are…

“I look at the internet as the new radio.  I look at the radio as gone…  People change and do their music, people trade it they do whatever and Apple makes it very possible for you to store stolen or traded songs in the cloud, they opened up the door so that that can happen… its acceptable.  Thats the way it is… Piracy is the new radio, that’s how music gets around, thats the real world for kids, thats the (new) radio… Lets let them really hear it.

“I’m hoping that some people who want the hi-res would have the choice in buying it.  It has to be convenient, people should not associate hi-res with inconvenience.  That’s a myth, we’re living in the 21st century and all of these things are possible.  The technology exists, the internet is fast enough to support it…  If Steve Jobs had lived long enough, he would be eventually have done what I am trying to do.”

Quality.  We need a new format that will deliver better quality sound to drive the business forward.  Period.  Here is a true clarion call for innovation, and something that we all need to pay attention to.   Neil Young cares about music. He is successful enough that he could sit back and ignore the realities of the marketplace today, but instead chooses to push the agenda forward. Awesome. I would not be surprised to hear a new song from Neil about a donkey.  Maybe I can sing backup on it.

See the video with Neil Young and Walt Mossberg from All things D here.

Here is a brief description of some of the technical issues from Thinkdigit.  “The renewed focus on audio quality in some circles has a sense of déjà vu about it. Some of it recalls the 1970s, back when the term “high fidelity” was thrown around to indicate quality stereo recordings. We also saw this go around again at the turn of the millennium with the introduction of SACD and DVD Audio formats, which brought 24-bit fidelity and surround sound to audio mixes, although neither took off at the time.

So what’s going on here? In a word, it’s about data. More data translates to better-sounding audio files—but those files are largely unavailable to most consumers. Granted, to the casual listener, Amazon MP3 and Apple iTunes Store sound pretty good, as they’re encoded as 256Kbps MP3 and AAC files for the most part. Amazon has some MP3 files encoded at variable bit rates, but most of them center around the 224Kbps to 256Kbps range. AAC generally sounds slightly better than MP3 when encoded at the same bit rate, although recent improvements in MP3 encoding algorithms have largely rendered this academic.

Aside from music purchases, 256Kbps is also iTunes’ default encoding rate for when you rip audio CDs in iTunes (although you can change it), and it’s the size iCloud uses to deliver tracks to other PCs or mobile devices on your network if you’re a subscriber. I’m just using Apple products here as an example; Windows Media Player, Winamp, and countless other apps do similar things. Any way you cut it, 256Kbps files sound a lot better than ones encoded at 128Kbps, which is what Apple used years ago before it removed DRM from its iTunes Store tracks. Granted, 256Kbps files take up twice the space as 128Kbps files, but on today’s devices, that usually isn’t a problem, and the improved sound quality is worth it.

The thing is, 256Kbps still isn’t enough. Higher-resolution, uncompressed, 16-bit audio files match the sound you get on an actual CD. 24-bit sound files even sound better; the increased headroom matches the format most artists and mix engineers have been working in over the past decade or so.

Cheap consumer electronics manufacturers abused the phrase “CD-quality” for many years, but in this case it still has meaning. True CD-quality files take up anywhere from three to 10 times as much as space as an MP3 or AAC file, depending on the latter’s bit rate; 24-bit files take up even more space. They come in several formats: FLAC, WAV, AIFF, and Apple Lossless. (FLAC and Apple Lossless contain some data compression but only in a method that doesn’t affect sound quality. FLAC is much more widely supported than Apple Lossless, though.)”

And finally, The Tennessean wrote a great piece on the lure of high fidelity and what some people in Nashville are working on to bring it back.
More to come.  This is a big issue.  Chime in on what you think and how can we move this agenda forward.

Here are two visions for the future, one from Corning and one from me.  The Corning video is from earlier this year and shows their vision for a visually connected communications environment.  This is not unlike the future that Gerd Leonhard and I described in the Future of Music in 2005.

Can you imagine organizing your daily schedule with a few touches on your bathroom mirror? Chatting with far-away relatives through interactive video on your kitchen counter? Reading a classic novel on a whisper-thin piece of flexible glass?

The video depicts a world in which interactive glass surfaces help you stay connected through seamless delivery of real-time information – whether you’re working, shopping, eating, or relaxing.

Does the world showcased in “A Day Made of Glass” seem like something out of a fantasy movie?  Just a decade ago, pay phones, VCRs, and film cameras were also commonplace. Today, we’re accustomed to movies streaming on demand to a 60-inch television hanging on the wall and to video calls on notebook computers, essentially for free.

What might this mean for music? Well, today we have Spotify and Rdio and Mog all providing on demand music for free or nearly for free. Listen to this vision for the future and see how far we have come in the past 5 or 6 years from our book on the Future of Music.

https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F29101326&show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=ff7700

Check out the Future of Music book here.

A new survey from the Gartner group shows digital music revenues forecast to grow less than 5% per year.  This is close to flatlined if you factor in inflation.  Not good news for most of the world.

■ Online music revenue from end users will grow more than 31% by the end of the forecast period: from $5.9 billion in 2010 to $7.7 billion in 2015. By comparison, consumer spending on physical music (CDs and LPs) is expected to slide from around $15 billion in 2010 to around $10 billion in 2015.

■ Online music subscription services, such as Spotify, will be the main growth sector in this market, showing fivefold growth from 2010 to 2015. A la carte sales will drive the bulk of overall revenue.

■ The highest growth rates will be in regions such as Latin America and the Middle East and Africa, which have not historically been strong in paying for tracks or albums from online services or stores (although perhaps stronger in paid-for ringtones from their service providers).

digital music sales chart

Read more from Gartner here.

Artist Revenue Stream Poster

My friends at the Future of Music Coalition are conducting an online survey from Sept 6 – Oct 28th to determine the variety, depth and complexity of the ways that musicians are making money these days.  Not theoretically, but actually.  We are looking for performers, songwriters, composers, band members, session players, producers, MCs and anyone else making music to join in and take the survey.

A while ago, I posted this from my friend and Berkleemusic student David Sherbow showing a pretty comprehensive list of the different ways that musicians can make money.  This might give you food for thought on taking the survey and planning your career…

The artist music business model has been in flux for years. The record deal dream that most artists sought is no longer the viable alternative that it once was.  The leveling of the music distribution playing field by the Internet is virtually complete.  Terrestrial radio is on a path towards destruction that even the major labels can’t compete with.  People now access and download music from multiple sources, usually for free.  D.I. Y solutions are everywhere, but for many artists hard to integrate into their daily lives.

Where does this leave the average independent artist? At the beginning. Every artist wants to know how they can make music, make money and survive to write and play another day. Here, in no particular order, is a list of possible income streams.

• Publishing
• Mechanical royalties
• Performance Royalties from ASCAP and BMI
• Digital Performance Royalties from Sound Exchange
• Synch rights TV, Commercials, Movies, Video Games
• Digital sales – Individual or by combination
• Music (studio & live) Album – Physical & Digital, Single – Digital, • Ringtone, Ringback, Podcasts
• Instant Post Gig Live Recording via download, mobile streaming or flash drives
• Video – Live, concept, personal,  – Physical & Digital
• Video and Internet Games featuring or about the artist
• Photographs
• Graphics and art work, screen savers, wall paper
• Lyrics
• Sheet music
• Compilations
• Merchandise – Clothes, USB packs, Posters, other things
• Live Performances
• Live Show – Gig
• Live Show – After Party
• Meet and Greet
• Personal Appearance
• Studio Session Work
• Sponsorships, and endorsements
• Advertising
• Artist newsletter emails
• Artist marketing and promotion materials
• Blog/Website
• Videos
• Music Player
• Fan Clubs
• YouTube Subscription channel for more popular artists
• Artist programmed internet radio station or specialty playlist.
• Financial Contributions of Support – Tip Jar or direct donations, Sellaband or Kickstarter
• Patronage Model – Artist Fan Exclusives – e.g. paying to sing on a song in studio or have artist write a song for you
• Mobile Apps
• Artist Specific Revenue Stream –  unique streams customized to the specific artist, e.g Amanda Palmer
• Music Teaching – Lessons and Workshops
• Music Employment – orchestras, etc, choir directors, ministers of music, etc.
• Music Production – Studio and Live
• Any job available to survive and keep making music
• Getting Help From Other Artists and Helping Them –  Whatever goes around come around. – e.g. gig swapping, songwriting, marketing and promotion

My friend Roger McNamee, a founding Partner and Managing Director of Elevation Partners has been getting some great press lately on his thoughts on the new music business, investing in technology, Apple, Google, Facebook and much more.  Here is the transcript of a speech he gave at NARM earlier this summer, a must read.

“Our band – Moonalice – is inventing new opportunities in music. We would like you all to join us.

I have been a working musician for more than 30 years, and a technology investor for 29 years. I have played about 1000 concerts over the past 15 years, which means I have personally experienced everything in Spinal Tap except the exploding drummers. I also spent three years helping the Grateful Dead with technology and many more advising other bands, most notably U2.

My band is called Moonalice. We play 100 shows a year in clubs and small theaters, mostly on the coasts. Moonalice was the first band broken on social networks. What broke us was 845,000 downloads – and counting – of the single “It’s 4:20 Somewhere.” We’re the band that Mooncasts every show live, via satellite to thousands of fans on iPads, cell phones, and computers. We’re the band that has a unique psychedelic poster for every show. After four years, Moonalice has 371 poster images from the likes of Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson, and David Singer. Licensing those images will eventually a big business for us. We’re the band that offers the EP of the Month for $5. And we’re the band that uses the latest technology to radically improve both the production cost and commercial value of the content we produce. Now I’m looking for people who want get on this bandwagon with me.

The first question I hope you ask is “Why now?” The world of technology is beginning a period of disruptive change. The old guard – represented in this case by Microsoft Windows and Google search – is under assault and hundreds of billions of dollars may become available for new and better ideas. I hope that gets your attention!!!

The biggest beneficiaries of this disruption should be the people who got the short end of Google’s business model, especially creators of differentiated content. For the past twelve years the technology of the internet has been static. Every tool commoditized content by eliminating differentiation. The most successful companies monetized content created by others. Google was king.

I believe Microsoft and Google are about to get a taste of what the music industry has been dealing with for a decade. Their world is going to change and they won’t be able to stop it. Not so long ago Microsoft’s Windows monopoly gave it control of 96% of internet connected devices. Thanks to smartphones and tables – especially the iPhone and iPad — Windows’ share of internet connected devices has fallen below 50% … and it will fall much further in the years ahead.

Consumers are abandoning Windows as fast as they can. I expect businesses to follow suit.

This is a HUGE deal. Businesses whose employees use smart phones and iPads instead of PCs will save up to $1000 per employee per year in support costs.If corporations buy fewer PCs, they will save tens, if not hundreds of billions per year.

This is happening because today’s strategic applications – email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other internet applications – don’t need a PC . . . in fact, they are far more useful on a phone.

Microsoft has been in trouble since it first missed the web in 1994. Then it was unable to prevent Google from taking charge in 1998. When Google showed up, the World Wide Web was a wild environment. No one was in charge. The prevailing philosophy was “open source” . . . and free software.

Google had a plan for organizing the web’s information that treated every piece of information as if all were equally valuable. To create order, Google ranked every page based on how many people linked to it.

What we all missed at the time is that by treating every piece of information the same, Google enforced a standard that permitted no differentiation. Every word on every Google page is in the same typeface. No brand images appear other than Google’s. This action essentially neutered the production values of every high end content creator. The Long Tail took off and the music industry got its ass kicked.

Google captured about 80% of the index search business, which gave it a huge percentage of total web advertising. Google’s success eventually filled the web with crap, so consumers began using other products to search: Wikipedia for facts, Facebook for matters of taste, time or money, Twitter for news, Yelp for restaurants, Realtor.com for places to live, LinkedIn for jobs. Over the past three years, these alternatives have gone from 10% of search volume to about half.

As if all this competition wasn’t bad enough for Google, then along came Apple with the iPhone and App Store. Apple offers a fundamentally different vision of the internet than Google. Google is about the long tail, open source, and free, but also had to remove 64 apps from the Android app store for stealing confidential information. Apple is about trusted brands, authority, security, copyright and the like. In Apple’s world, the web is just another app; it is called Safari.

People who have iPhones and iPads do far fewer Google searches than people on PCs. The reason is that Apple has branded, trustworthy apps for everything. If they want news, Apple customers use apps from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. If they want to know which camera to buy, they ask friends on Facebook. If they want to go to dinner, they use the Yelp app. These searches have economic value and its not going to Google, even on Android.

When Apple and the app model win, Google’s search business loses. Like Microsoft, Google has plenty of business opportunities, but the era of Google controlling all content is over. Consumers compared Google’s open source web to Apple’s app model and they overwhelmingly prefer Apple’s model. Software development and innovation has shifted from “web first” to “iPad first” . . . which is a monster long term advantage. Get this: Apple may sell nearly 100 million internet connected devices this year!

Apple’s strength can be seen best in the iPhone vs. Android competition. There are many Android vendors. Together they sell more phones than Apple does. But Apple gets around $750 wholesale for an iPhone. The other guys get between $300 and $450. This means Apple’s gross margin on the iPhone is nearly as big as its competitors’ gross revenues. Game over.

The other thing that makes Apple amazing is the iPad. No electronic product in history – not even the DVD player – can match the adoption rate of the iPad. Apple may sell another 30 million this year. At this point, the competing products have not put a dent in the iPad. Image what happens if Apple’s share of the tablet market remains closer to the iPod (at 80%) than to the iPhone (20%)?

This sounds like, “Game Over, Apple wins” . . . but it’s not . . . at least, not yet. The open source World Wide Web has finally responded to Apple. A new programming language has come to market called HTML 5. HTML is the foundation of the World Wide Web. For the past decade, HTML has been static, which allowed Google to dominate.

HTML 5 is a new generation of HTML and it changes the game fundamentally. It allows web developers replicate the iPhone experience, but with many extra bells and whistles … and no App Store. One reason HTML 5 matters is because it eliminates Adobe Flash, which has been an inadvertent barrier to creativity

Creativity enables differentiation. Differentiation can be monetized. Huge differentiation can be monetized hugely. With HTML 5, creative people can now use the entire web page as a single canvas. For the first time in a dozen years, web pages will be limited only by the creativity of the people making them. They can create experiences that will be more engaging to consumers and more profitable for advertisers than network television.

New forms of entertainment will emerge. New forms of business. Companies the size of Facebook and Google will develop in categories I can’t guess at. Companies as important as Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix will emerge to support what new content comes to market.

Whether you view Apple as friend or foe, HTML 5 offers real opportunity. Why?

Because you can deliver a better experience than an app . . . without an app. HTML 5 is cheaper to build, cheaper to support, no 30% fee . . . oh, and the apps perform better, too.

I believe Apple’s best response would be to focus on selling hardware and accept that consumers will demand products that happen to bypass the app store. Based on the argument with Amazon, I sense Apple is not ready to concede the point. That’s ironic, because the only way Apple can get hurt would be if they try to force all commerce through the App Store. The would create a real reason for customers to buy a tablet other than iPad.

Let me review my key points so far:

Google and Microsoft will remain huge, but their influence is evaporating, which means we can ignore them

Apple is winning big, which means we have to support their platforms first

For people who make content, Apple is a better monopolist to deal with than Google.

HTML 5 will give you a better product than the Apple app model at a lower cost and with more value.

Now let’s figure out what we can do together. My band Moonalice exists because T Bone Burnett wanted to produce an album of new and original hippie music in the old school San Francisco style. We put together an all-star band with in late 2006 and recorded the album. T Bone was about to win the GRAMMY for the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant album, Raising Sand, so we thought we were made.

We had a budget
We had an A-list PR guy
We had a really fine manager
We had custom label deal with a nice budget
T Bone’s innovative sound technology would make the album cutting edge

Old school music is good. Old school marketing wasn’t going to work for us. About four months before release, I reviewed the media plan with our PR guy. He said, “Sorry, man, but nobody cares.”

A few moments of somber reflection followed. Then, with great regret, I let our manager go. I let our publicist go. I let our label go. For all intents and purposes, we wrote off an album everyone was extremely proud of and which accounted for half of T. Bone’s portfolio the following year when he was nominated for Producer of the Year.

But I freed up most of our operating budget. Real money. And I focused it all on Twitter and Facebook. Our goal was to build an audience of dedicated fans around a Moonalice lifestyle. Three years later, we have 57,000 fans on Facebook and 75,000 on Twitter. We learned a great truth: as hard as it is to get people to spend money, it is much harder to persuade them to spend enough time listening to you to become a long term fan. We traded our music for their time. We discovered we could build an audience by giving away stuff that costs nothing to produce and distribute. These are serious fans who engage with us dozens and often hundreds of times a year.

The first thing we invented was the Twittercast. Before us, no one had ever done a concert over Twitter. Now we have done 103. Our marginal cost is exactly zero. Next we created Moonalice Radio, which has broadcast one song every hour on Twitter for the past two years. Then our drum tech bought a video camera and started recording the shows. Then he bought more cameras, put them on mic stands and started doing live video mixes. About a year ago, he figured out how to mooncast our concerts over the net for free.

Nearly all of our past 100 shows have been mooncast live on MoonaliceTV and then archived. Because we play mostly late shows on the west coast, only 10% of the audience watches in real time. But approximately 3,000 people watch EVERY show on a time shifted basis. Fans like the Moonalice Couch tour because they can chat, make friends, and do things that are not permitted at a live venue. They even buy Couch Tour tee shirts. And they are helping us create a new ecosystem where most of the music is free, because Moonalice art and life style products have huge economic value.

Thanks to HTML 5 and a satellite dish, Mooncasts can now be viewed on a smart phone without an app. Our video quality competes favorably with the best you have seen on an iPhone, and the technology to do all this costs the equivalent of six months of our former manager. He was a really good guy, but a satellite-based tv network is more valuable.

I want to finish up by recommending a course of action for you

Step 1: Remember that HTML 5 is just getting started, but the learning curve is less expensive and more profitable for those who commit to it from the beginning. The new business is going to emerge over a few years, not overnight

Step 2: Don’t wait for the labels to figure this out. Labels are not organized to get this right, which leaves a big hole in the new music market where labels used to be.

Step 3: Don’t wait for major artists to figure it out. The great new stuff is going to come from artists who have nothing to lose. Artists who come out of nowhere will create huge value for next to no cost.

Step 4: Make sure you are successful addressing the needs of next generation content creators … not just listeners. There are WAY more of content creators than you may realize. Thanks to Moore’s Law, Karl Marx is right at last: the means of production are in the hands of the proletariat. At the peak, there were 8 million bands registered on Myspace. They weren’t playing gigs, they were creating stuff, mostly for their own entertainment. Those people spent a lot more money creating the content they posted on Myspace than they did on recorded music. Thanks to Apple’s Garageband, the population of people capable of mixing something is now measured in tens of millions. Making these people successful is the key to creating new markets and new music products.

Step 5: Do everything in your power to encourage new product ideas and new forms of content. HTML 5 is a blank canvas and there is no telling what people will do with it. For all I know, HTML 5 may produce five or even ten amazing categories of product.

Contests, prizes and publicity will give you an opportunity to associate yourself with whoever creates the cool new stuff. If you have local stores, do local events. Think Alan Freed.

Step 6: Near term, focus your platform strategy on Apple.

Step 7: Long term, focus on HTML 5. The sooner you commit to HTML 5, the more likely you will produce something of economic value.

Step 8: Remember that HTML 5 will produce companies as important as Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix. It costs musicians practically nothing to create good digital video and fantastic audio, but they need distribution systems optimized for their content.

Step 9: Make music fun again”

And if that isn’t enough, Roger was kind enough to share with me his thoughts on investing in technology related businesses.  TechInvestingHypotheses

Kaiser Chiefs released their new album, The Future is Medieval, on Friday in a very creative manner that is completely customizable by their fans, and with a pretty unique twist, generates income for the fan.

Visit the band’s website, and choose 10 out of 20 tracks and create your own personalized version of the album, place them in any sequence you wish and design your own album cover from pre-selected art.  Fans then get their own web page to sell their version of the album. For every copy their page sells, the fans receive £1 via PayPal.  How about that!

The whole project was conceptualized by the band, Universal Music UK and Wieden + Kennedy London.

Lead singer/percussionist Rick Wilson told the NME, “Is it the future of music? We can’t tell you that. But we hope it might be a catalyst for other people to try similar things. Mix it up a bit.”

Check it out here.

Photo credit: bit.ly/HXtUQx

Photo credit: bit.ly/HXtUQx

According to the latest report from Nielsen and Billboard, digital music accounted for 46% of all U.S. music purchases in 2010, up from 40% in 2009 and 32% in 2008, and digital track sales hovered around 1 billion sales a year for the third straight year.

The top-selling digital songs of 2010 sold about 4 million, while the top digital albums were around 500K.

The top selling artists of 2010, based on digital track sales,

– Eminem (15.7 million)

– Ke$ha (13.5 million)

– Lady Gaga (11.9 million)

– Katy Perry (11.8 million)

– Black Eyed Peas (11.3 million)

Read more on Digital Media Wire

The entire music industry has been driven by new formats, new music and innovation over the past 70 years. This has been fueled with the passion to be a star and receive the adoration of millions.

Well, I think we might be seeing the beginning of a new music format. A format that engages audiences in experiencing and participating in the creative process in a way that is fun and unobtrusive. Insightful and funny. Playful and inspiring.  The VideoSong.

Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are the band Pomplamoose and they are generating huge YouTube interest and views with their VideoSong format. They got tens of millions of views in a very short time with this number increasing while you read this. The VideoSong format these two produce is very inviting and addictive, providing a glimpse into the process of recording and creating music.

In the words of Jack Conte, “There’s no hidden sounds, there’s no lip-synching, there’s no overdubbing. What you see is what you hear.  Sometimes, there might be two or three Natalys harmonizing with herself, and then you’ll see those three videos juxtaposed together on the screen.

I love what they are doing here.  A glimpse into what it is to record a song and make things happen like this is so appealing.  Will Pamplamoose really be able to capitalize on their momentum?  We will see.  They are spokespeople for the YouTube’s Musicians Wanted program.  I bet their phone is ringing big time.

Is this the format for the future?  I don’t know.  What I really like is the accessibility and transparency in the creative and recording process that they bring foward.  If they can draw people in even further, that would be great.  They seem very open to audience interaction.

I hope they find a great manager because what they have is really compelling, really great raw talent.

I was hanging out with my friend Charlie McEnerney last night and asked him about his interview with Larry Lessig.  Here is his post and a link to the complete interview from Well Rounded Radio.  Check it out.

In many music and entertainment circles, the name Lawrence Lessig needs no introduction, but for those who don’t know his work, here’s some background.

Lessig is a lawyer and activist whose interests are mostly in intellectual property, copyright, technology, and political reform. He’s has written five influential books, including Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (2000), The Future of Ideas (2001), Free Culture (2004), Code: Version 2.0 (2006), and Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (2008).

Remix was just published in paperback in October 2009.

Over the past 10 years, Lessig has worked for both Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School. He is currently a lawyer at Harvard Law School and director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons. In 2008, Lessig launched the Change Congress campaign, now called Fix Congress First.

Lessig talks about Creative Commons during the interview, but in a nutshell it’s an organization with copyright tools that allows content creators to give various levels of freedom to others for them to remix and build upon the original work.

The idea behind remix culture is how an artist can take a work that a pervious artist has produced and build upon it to create something new. The term has become more commonplace in the last decade, but in fact the concept has been in use for decades, most notably in rap music starting 30 years ago.

Growing up in Queens, New York, I was lucky enough to hear the rap bands of the first era pretty early on (granted, thanks to bands like Blondie and The Clash and college radio putting Grandmaster Flash, The Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Afrika Bambaattaa on my radar) which usually utilized sampling techniques when creating their music.

I have long been a fan of the groups who fine tuned the ideas behind audio sampling to perfection, in Long Island’s Public Enemy and De La Soul. I’ve always thought both groups pushed the ideas behind sampling in ways that few others did before or since, albeit in very different directions.

With Public Enemy’s 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and De La Soul’s 1989 album 3 Feet High and Rising, at the moment it seemed like the idea of what music “is” was being reinvented.

But, after a series of lawsuits for a variety of musicians and labels, the art of sampling and remixing was largely hobbled, in either using others work with or without their consent.

Twenty years later, it is still mostly the domain of those willing to tread in dangerous waters or for artists who want to engage their own fans by allowing them to remix work as part of the growing participatory culture community. For remix artists who might be looking to push their ideas further, it’s unlikely they can put their work into the public without a sizable budget.

Having read all of Lessig’s work and seen two recent documentaries about the remix culture (Brett Gaylor’s RIP: A Remix Manifesto and Benjamin Franzen’s Copyright Criminals), I wanted to speak with Lessig about how current musicians could utilize Creative Commons and share with their own audience as well as look at how we music fans can better understand this era of shared creativity, which dramatically changes the idea of those performers vs. us in the audience.

In addition to these films and Lessig’s Remix book, some good reads on the subject include DJ Spooky’s book Sound Unbound (2008) and Matt Mason’s The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism (2009).

The show includes music from the earlier era of sampling as well as some recent examples of mainstream musicians offering up their work for remixing, including David Byrne and Brian Eno, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and Bjork.

I sat down with Lessig at his office at Harvard Law School to discuss:
* why it’s unlikely the current copyright system will change
* why Greg Gillis, also known as Girl Talk, has not been sued
* how Creative Commons works and how musicians can use it to engage their fans even more

Songs included in the interview include:
1) Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome (Welcome to the Terrordome) (in preview)
2) Grandmaster Flash: The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel
3) De La Soul: Me Myself and I (3 Feet High and Rising)
4) Public Enemy: Night of the Living Baseheads
5) DJ Moule: Black Sabotage remix of Beastie Boys‘s Sabotage
6) Radiohead: Reckoner (In Rainbows)
7) Nick Olivetti: Nasty Fish remix of Radiohead‘s Reckoner
8) David Byrne + Brian Eno: Help Me Somebody (My Life in the Bush of Ghosts)
9) Owl Garden: Secret Somebody remix of David Byrne + Brian Eno‘s Help Me Somebody
10) Mr. Briggs Hit me somebody remix of David Byrne + Brian Eno‘s Help Me Somebody
11) Girl Talk: No Pause (Feed the Animals)
12) Girl Talk: In Step (Feed the Animals)
13) Danger Mouse: Encore (The Gray Album)
14) The Album Leaf‘s remix of Nina Simone‘s Lilac Wine from Verve Remixed
15) Vind‘s remix of Bjork‘s Venus as a Boy
16) Fatboy Slim: Praise You (You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby)
17) Amplive‘s remix of Radiohead‘s Weird Fishes

Get the audio interview here.

On my way to the TED conference last week, I devoured Jay Frank’s book Futurehit.dna on the plane.  Jay has some great insights into the past, present and future of songwriting and hit making that we can all learn from.  This is a must read if you are composing for the digital age and trying to gain an edge and find exposure opportunities for listeners.

Jay breaks it down for us on the impact of technology on songwriting and how hits of the past have been carefully crafted to fit into radio airplay on to the iPod, Pandora and streaming era.  His insights into how song form, intros, chord changes, repeats, hooks and other techniques connect a good song with a listener are invaluable.

With today’s digital music is it crucial to catch your listeners attention in the first seven seconds of the song.  After that, repeats are key as well as how the complexity of the song changes over time.  Some of this is old news, but the way he relates it to the technology platforms is interesting and valuable.

How you release music and in what form will determine your chances that your songs will be listened to and remembered enough to make an impact.

Technical, detailed, clear and concise Futurehit.dna will get you thinking about how to create a competitive advantage for you and your music in the days ahead.  Highly recommended food for though.

Check it out here.

Here’s a great post by Mike Masnick.

“As you look through all of these, some patterns emerge. They’re not about getting a fee on every transaction or every listen or every stream. They’re not about licensing. They’re not about DRM or lawsuits or copyright. They’re about better connecting with the fans and then offering them a real, scarce, unique reason to buy — such that in the end, everyone is happy. Fans get what they want at a price they want, and the musicians and labels make money as well. It’s about recognizing that the music itself can enhance the value of everything else, whether it’s shows, access or merchandise, and that letting fans share music can help increase the market and create more fans willing to buy compelling offerings. It’s about recognizing that even when the music is shared freely, there are business models that work wonders, without copyright or licensing issues even coming into play.

Adding in new licensing schemes only serves to distort this kind of market. Fans and artists are connecting directly and doing so in a way that works and makes money. Putting in place middlemen only takes a cut away from the musicians and serves to make the markets less efficient. They need to deal with overhead and bureaucracy. They need to deal with collections and allocation. They make it less likely for fans to support bands directly, because the money is going elsewhere. Even when licensing fees are officially paid further up the line, those costs are passed on to the end users, and the money might not actually go to supporting the music they really like.

Instead, let’s let the magic of the market continue to work. New technologies are making it easier than ever for musicians to create, distribute and promote music — and also to make money doing so. In the past, the music business was a “lottery,” where only a very small number made any money at all. With these models, more musicians than ever before are making money today, and they’re not doing it by worrying about copyright or licensing. They’re embracing what the tools allow. A recent study from Harvard showed how much more music is being produced today than at any time in history, and the overall music ecosystem — the amount of money paid in support of music — is at an all time high, even if less and less of it is going to the purchase of plastic discs.

This is a business model that’s working now and it will work better and better in the future as more people understand the mechanisms and improve on them. Worrying about new copyright laws or new licensing schemes or new DRM or new lawsuits or new ways to shut down file sharing is counterproductive, unnecessary and dangerous. Focusing on what’s working and encouraging more of that is the way to go. It’s a model that works for musicians, works for enablers and works for fans. It is the future and we should be thrilled with what it’s producing.”

Read a lot more here.

Here is a list of 9 trends and challenges that were recently published as part of an overall report on Digital Music by Redwood Capital.  You can download the entire report here.  What I find most bothersome about all of this is that it is a very backward looking, rationalization and justification about the collapse of the recorded music business and the fantasizing about protection of the label’s assets and proliferation of the traditional business model.  While it may be a good snapshot of some of the major issues the industry has faced and a good way for people to orient themselves, this is hardly the way to think about the future.  No wonder the investments made in music startups over the past decade or so by the VCs and Investment Bankers have not panned out.  If this is the way VCs and investors look at the world of music, I got to tell you, we are all in a lot of trouble.

I have pitched and have had many deep discussions with investors over the years about the music industry and have learned one thing that is holding the entire industry back.  Investors say they care about the music business, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t care about the musicians.  Not one of them would bet on a new label or artist driven business model.  They all wanted to back technology or distribution, but not musicians.  Pathetic.

I have taken the liberty of annotating some of these “treneds and challenges” below:

1) Rampant Piracy Continues

Despite a decade of aggressive attempts by the industry to reduce illegal downloads and peer-to-peer file sharing and preserve what remained of the old model, the biggest challenge facing the industry is still the fact that consumer attitudes towards paying for music have been forever changed, especially amongst the ever-important younger demographic. This places tremendous pressure on industry players to provide the consumer with an experience that exceeds that which can be achieved illegally and for free. The solution likely lies in packaging music with other products and services that consumers expect to pay for, such as mobile phone service, Internet connections, ringtones, concerts, merchandise, etc., and taking advantage of improvements in broadband speed and access to provide a service that can’t be replicated for free. – Certainly this is true for recorded music and something that we predicted nearly 8 years ago in our book on the Future of Music. However you cannot expect a healthy market when you have to “package” what you are trying to sell with something else as the primary means of distribution.  New forms of music experiences would certainly trump “bundles”.

2) Strategy of Major Labels

Despite numerous attempts to cut out the labels as middlemen, and the potential damage they have done to their relationships with the public after years of suing their customers, the major labels still have tremendous clout in determining the fate of the various new distribution models and emerging companies. While backing by the major labels by no means guarantees any degree of success, opposition from the labels is an obstacle that is extremely difficult to overcome. That being said, many of the larger players today began without the blessing of the labels, but once they became too big to ignore the labels were willing to make a deal. – Again I would argue this perspective assumes that the existing music, the existing catalog is more important than the new music, or the music yet to be created.  Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted and countless hours of negotiation sunk into trying to secure licenses to existing major label content by many companies trying to recreate the distribution model for an asset class in severe decline.  I will go out on a limb here and say that the new music matters far more in the future than the existing music, and that licenses from the major labels are far less valuable than the labels think they are.  Perhaps an order of magnitude less.

3) Legal Complexity

Many US copyright laws were written when the only form of music distribution was printed sheet music and as such, obtaining the proper licenses from all relevant content owners is extremely complex. Given the relative youth of the digital music industry, the law is being written and applied haphazardly and has been difficult to interpret. International differences make it difficult to offer consistent products on a global basis. For example, currently Pandora is legal in the US, but illegal in the U.K, and vice versa for Spotify. Developing a business plan in this environment is extraordinarily difficult. – Of course this is true if you are building a business based on catalog.  New labels and music companies that are forming to support new artists can completely eliminate this issue by creating licenses for their content that bundle all the rights in one global license that can be easily acquired.  By using this strategy, new content businesses can outrun old content business and begin to take over the landscape.

4) The End of DRM

The recent decisions by the labels to finally eliminate digital rights management for many applications should represent a landmark change for emerging growth companies in the music space. This greatly reduces a longstanding barrier by allowing compatibility of content and devices across platforms. By decoupling content and devices, consumers can now download a song from their choice of providers and listen to that song on their choice of devices. – Excuse me but the labels had nothing to do with the elimination of digital rights management.  That was eliminated long ago when people began trading MP3 files while all the attempts to distribute “legitimate” digital music failed. This is just the labels saying uncle.

5) Mobile Strategy is Critical

Whereas it has been extremely challenging for content owners across all digital media sectors to monetize online content, consumers do not expect mobile content to be free to the same degree because they have been conditioned to pay for such services. Therefore, we believe that online models that don’t have credible mobile strategies will continue to struggle, and killer mobile apps will prosper. We believe that one of the primary reasons for MySpace’s acquisition of Imeem was Imeem’s mobile capabilities. – Here I agree with the basic premise that a mobile strategy is critical, although have yet to see one that works.  Do people really want to listen to music on their phone?  Is that the killer app?  I expect that something far better is around the corner, more integrated into your life at the moments where you can and want to listen to music.  The damage being done to people’s hearing by the “Ear Buds” sold with the iPod and nearly every other mobile listening device is limiting the experience and holding back the growth of mobile music more than anything.  MP3 sound like crap.  Ear Buds are destroying people’s hearing.  No wonder hardly anyone wants to pay for digital music.  Anyone who focuses on improving the sound quality of mobile listening will find a explosive opportunity.

6) Dominance and Importance of the iPhone

With iTunes’ almost 70% US share in digital downloads, and the iPhone quickly taking market share in the smartphone category, alliances with Apple and/ or apps on the iPhone have become critical to success. Rhapsody, Spotify and Sirius have all launched iPhone apps in the past few months, and MOG’s is expected shortly, and this should give each an important boost in marketing their products. Without the iPhone app, customers would have had to spring for another device to use those services. With customers hesitant to even pay monthly service fees, adding a hardware requirement would have been an insurmountable obstacle in reaching a large customer base. We believe that Apple has been smart in its willingness to approve apps even from services that compete with iTunes. – I love my iPhone, I think it is the coolest thing ever invented.  But I also know that worldwide, the iPhone is just a speck on the landscape of mobile phones.  Will Apple really dominate this space over time?  I doubt it very much.  The vast majority of people cannot afford to buy Apple products.

7) Importance of Wireless Broadband

The widespread availability of broadband in the home and the office in the past decade has enabled computer-based downloading and streaming to develop entirely new methods of discovering, purchasing and listening to music. Many of the previously mentioned business models revolve around this experience. However, the next frontier for the developing models is to take the experience mobile without frustrating consumers. Now that consumers have accepted that cell phones are also music players, the market for mobile music has dramatically expanded, given that 139 million smartphones were sold worldwide in 2008 (Source: Gartner). To date, while streaming services such as Rhapsody and Pandora are a great way to listen to music at one’s desk, the experience on a mobile phone is mediocre at best, given dead spots and dropouts, and in the case of Rhapsody, low bitrate streaming. We suspect that many early adopters have tried these mobile services, only to get frustrated and go back to listening to MP3s on their iPods. Spotify’s and Slacker’s ability to cache playlists may prove to be a good workaround until wireless broadband availability and quality catches up. – I am a firm believer that you do not have to worry about storage and bandwidth, that they will always expand faster than you think they will.  Agreed.

8 ) Consumers Remain Willing to Pay for Exciting New Technologies and Products

Consumers have proven that they are indeed willing to pay for new products and technologies that enhance the music experience or provide new uses for music. The tremendous initial growth of the ringtone market is one example. US ringtone sales grew from almost zero in 2002 to a peak of $714 million in 2007, before dropping 24% in 2008 (Source: SNL Kagan) as consumers ultimately figured out how to create ringtones on their own for free. iTunes has created new value added products that sell at a premium, such as iTunes Pass, which automatically delivers all new product, including exclusive extras, from a specific band to its fans, and iTunes LP, which adds album art, videos, and other extras to an album purchase. Shazam is another good example. Shazam is the second most popular music app on the iPhone and claims 50 million users. Shazam is a unique technology that enables users to use their mobile phone to identify and tag any song they hear in public or on the radio and immediately purchase the song. The app is so popular that Shazam is now charging customers $5 for the premium app, and is limiting free users to five tags per month, and its usage is accelerating. – Completely agree.  This is in line with my basic premise that the new stuff matters far more than the old stuff, and if you can deliver a unique experience to a fan, especially one that is fun and sounds incredibly great, they will eat it up.

9) Convergence of Models

Most streaming services also offer the ability to purchase tracks either with their own ecommerce model or with links to others, most often iTunes and Amazon. To date, most ecommerce models have not offered streaming services, likely out of fear of cannibalization as well as licensing requirements. We believe that as streaming catches on with a broader audience, the e-commerce players will have to offer both. Apple is now more likely to move in this direction with its purchase of Lala, and increases our level of confidence that the streaming model is the wave of the future. – I believe as we wrote about in the Future of Music, that a utility model is the only way to make money with recorded music in the future.  Until music become always on and always available and feels like it is free to you, the market will continue to decline.  It is not so much the convergence of models but the ascendance of a model that will work.  The broadband mobile carriers are the ones that can make this happen.  It is a winner take all business strategy for the company with the balls and commitment to bake paid media distribution into their basic business model.

Comments anyone?

Here is a great info-graphic from the New York Times showing the relative performance of various music formats over the past 37 years.  Unfortunately it does not show the impact of free music online.  That would be an interesting addition to see how big file sharing and torrent downloads really are, relative to the physical formats of the past and the new “paid” digital formats.

A Timeline of recorded music format performance

People should pay for their music the way they pay for gas or electricity.

I originally published this article in Forbes Magazine nearly 4 years ago.

“More people are consuming music today than ever before, yet very few of them are paying for it. The music recording industry blames file sharing for a downturn in CD sales and, with the publishing companies, has tried its best to litigate this behavior out of existence, rather than try to monetize the conduct of music fans. These efforts are fingers in a dike that is about to burst. Digital media are interactive, and people want music that they can burn to CDs, share and use as they wish. The music industry should instead look at turning this consumer phenomenon into a steady stream of cash–lots of it.

The industry ought to establish a “music utility” approach to the distribution and marketing of interactive digital music, modeled after the water, gas and electricity utility systems. It should be done voluntarily to work best for all parties, or it may eventually be legislated through a compulsory license provision.

Under a plan colleague Gerd Leonhard and I propose, con-sumers would pay a flat music licensing fee of $3 to $5 a month as part of a subscription to an Internet service provider, cellular network, digital cable service wireless carrier or other digital network provider. This fee would let people download and listen to as much music as they care to, from a vast library of files available across the networks.

These fees would result in a huge river of money. With approximately 200 million people connected to a digital network in the U.S., the potential annual revenue stream for a music utility model could be somewhere between $7 billion and $12 billion for the basic service. That is already comparable in size to the existing U.S. recorded music market, which in 2003 was $12 billion at retail, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. This basic service would be augmented with various opportunities, including packages of premium content, live concerts, new releases, artist channels, custom compilations and more. The revenue potential of these premium sources is enormous, too.

How would this money be divvied up? We propose that the industry voluntarily establish a “music utility license” for the interactive use of digital music. This license would compensate all rights holders, including the record labels and artists (for the master recording) as well as publishers and composers (for the underlying composition), with the license fee to be split in half between the owners of the sound recording and the owners of the composition, after deducting a percentage for the digital network providers. This license would be available to anyone willing to implement its terms. The digital network companies would be required to track and report which music had been used, by employing existing digital identification and tracking technologies.

There is already precedence for such a flat-fee system in cable television and in the utility-like models of public broadcasting in Europe. Streaming digital music is already provided in basic cable plans. Cable television itself at first resisted this model, but its economics eventually led to a larger market, providing more consumer choice and more revenue streams overall. Old media almost never die. Cable television did not replace broadcast television; instead, it expanded the market dramatically, by letting video flow like water into new revenue streams–instead of down the drain.

Certainly a music utility would be a radical and complex undertaking, and there are many important details to negotiate, such as the exact nature of the license, how the funds would be administered, the specific tracking method, what collection of technologies would be employed and others. Yet there are inventors and technologists outside the mainstream music business hard at work trying to figure out how to make this happen. It’s time for the main players in the music business today, namely the large record publishers, to cooperate with the inventors and jointly create a future for music where the money really flows and the global market for music can grow from $32 billion to as much as $100 billion.”

Read the original article from Forbes here, published in 2005.

Today this idea is closer to reality than you might think.  The major labels have seen their revenues cut nearly in half from their peak, and paid digital downloads and advertising models have not grown to contribute nearly the decline in CD sales.  The labels are in a very tough position and are looking at the utility model as perhaps their only remaining path to survival.  The pain has finally gotten too much to bear.

Choruss is a new company spearheaded by Jim Griffin, and incubated by Warner Music Group whose mission is to “build a sustainable music subscription platform providing unlimited access to music for a flat monthly fee”.  Choruss has been diligently acquiring the required licenses from all the “major labels”, independent labels including aggregators A2IM and Merlin and the National Music Publishers Association.  The company has been granted one-year licenses for up to seven universities to offer subscription services for unlimited, DRM-free downloads as a proof of concept.  This trial is set to begin in 2010.

Stay tuned for more info…

A new study by research teams from Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University verifies that downloading music cuts energy consumption and CO2 emissions significantly in comparison to shopping at your local music store.

The study shows that purchasing digital music downloads results in a 40-80 percent reduction in energy use and carbon emissions compared to distributing CDs. The study took into consideration the energy used to download the files over the Internet. It compared 4 different ways of obtaining and listening to music.

The least energy intensive way of acquiring music is to download it and listen to it digitally.

Downloading and burning a CD wastes more energy, purchasing a CD online wastes even more energy, and finally purchasing a CD at a retail store wastes the most energy. And, if you have to drive to the store to buy music in person, you waste even more energy.

Now the study does not take into account the environmental impact of manufacturing the computers, routers and digital infrastructure that makes this all happen in the first place, but assuming that cost is already sunk, downloading is the “greener” way to acquire music.

So it looks like downloading music is better for the environment than any other means of acquisition to date. Now if we can only find a way to properly monetize that activity across the board, we all win, the artists, the infrastructure and the environment. Additional motivation for the ultimate solution of a music ecosystem that flows like water.

The teacup clattered quietly on its saucer, and McCartney thought about the changes he’d seen in the music world. “There were no cassette recorders” when he and Lennon first started writing songs, he noted. “We just had to remember it. Then suddenly there were cassettes, then we were working on four track instead of two track, then you got off tape, then you’ve got stereo — which we thought just made it twice as loud. We thought that was a really brilliant move.” After the Beatles came CDs, digital downloads and now video games. “I don’t really think there’s any difference. At the base of it all, there’s the song. At the base of it, there’s the music.”

And the future? “In 10 years’ time you’ll be standing there, and you will be Paul McCartney. You know that, don’t you?” He made a sound like a “Star Trek” transporter. “You’ll have a holographic case, and it will just encase you, and you will be Paul McCartney.” He paused and then said, “God knows what that will mean for me.” Then he added slyly, “I’ll be the guy on the original record.”

Excerpted from the NY Times “While My Guitar Gently Beeps“. A fantastic read on the making of “Rock Band: the Beatles”.

Here is an interesting article/interview by Mark Small and Gerd Leonhard on the future of music marketing from the latest issue of Berklee Today.

“There is no recipe. We can’t go to Universal, Warner Music, EMI, and Sony and say, ‘Here is the solution so you can stay in business.’ says Gerd Leonhard. There is an ecosystem comprising content owners, telecoms, advertisers, marketers, artists, and social networks that have to build the solution together.” Leonhard advocates a blanket license and a flat rate that users would pay for unlimited access to, and unfettered use of, digital music. This method, he maintains, would be one of many revenue streams that could support a new middle class of musicians who are not superstars but who can make a comfortable living in the new music economy.

The day following the conference, I met with Leonhard, who shared more thoughts from his latest book, Music 2.0, a series of essays about the emergence of a new music business model driven by the Internet.* He spoke at length and optimistically about the opportunities he envisions for Web-savvy artists who produce their own music and bring it directly to fans.

Out of Control
For the past 14 years, Leonhard has called for a reevaluation of the prevailing logic in the music industry that exercising complete control over the distribution and use of the assets in record label catalogs is the principal way to make money in music. In the digital era, that model is tanking. Leonhard stresses that computers and handheld telecom devices are essentially copy machines that facilitate the sharing of music, text, photos, video, and more on the Web. In his online book The End of Control, he wrote, “Let’s face it, in our increasingly networked world, the vast majority of media content simply cannot be kept away from its audience. Today in our world of Googles, Facebooks, YouTubes, and iPhones, all content is just zeroes and ones, and trying to prevent its ‘leakage’ is simply futile.”

Everyone knows that the vast array of music is accessible for free via “pirate sites,” software applications that harvest streaming music, and via other sources. Users freely download songs, share files, post songs on their Facebook pages, sync them with their videos and slide shows, and more. For copyright owners-especially the major record labels-the genie is out of the bottle, and litigation against users sharing copyrighted music without payment has yielded little more than bad press. The problem of making enough money to continue producing music is most acute for content creators, whose primary business has been to develop superstars that sell millions of records.

Leonhard has long advocated a shift from tight control of products and copyrights. In what he refers to as the “link economy,” the new commodity is the public’s attention. In this climate, he predicts superstar status will be much harder to attain-and sustain-as the marketplace experiences further fragmentation and mainstream artists compete for attention with lesser-known artists in specific musical niches.

“Thirty years ago, 72 percent of the television audience used to watch Dallas or Gunsmoke,” Leonhard says. “Now 7.1 percent of Americans watch American Idol on a good night. That’s it. There is no ubiquitous TV show these days because there are so many options.”

It’s the same in the music industry. It’s much harder for current artists to sell the number of records their predecessors sold simply because there are more artists out there, more competition for people’s attention. A look at the RIAA’s [the Recording Industry Association of America’s] top-selling albums of all time underscores the point. Vintage artists-including the Eagles, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and several others-dominate the chart. In the United States, the most recent album to sell more than 20 million copies is Garth Brooks’s Double Live album, and it was released in 1998.

Major labels and other repositories of valuable copyright properties may not be wild about the notion that products should take a backseat to audience attention, but they have noted the power of an energized fan base. Leonhard avers that musicians who fully utilize their Internet resources realize that they rather than their CDs are the product, and if they sell themselves properly, they will do well in the link economy.

“In the link economy, the product is the marketing,” says Leonhard. “If you want to promote yourself as a musician, you publish and make everything available on the Web so that people can pick it up and go elsewhere with it. If they like you, they do the marketing for you by telling others and sending links around. In the old days, if you were a star, MTV or the Letterman Show would recognize that by putting you on. Today, your fans recognize your value and send your links to friends, who send them to more people. This is what makes someone a celebrity on the Web. And you can’t buy that; you have to earn it.”

Today, the Web is flooded with content. Anyone with a computer can be a producer. Leonhard contends that this will ultimately raise the bar of artistic quality. “You have to be very good and very unique, and constantly innovate to get people’s attention,” he says. “There are 140 million blogs, and many new ones are created every second. We don’t pay any attention to a blog unless it is good. The same is true with music.”

Show Me the Money
So if musicians loosen control of their copyrights, what sources other than the proposed flat rate on Internet users for access to music could provide income? According to Leonhard, there is a $1 trillion worldwide advertising economy, and Google took in $27.1 billion of it last year. Projections are that in five years, Google’s share could rise to $200 billion. If licensing agreements can be forged with the powerful search engine, the fees could pay musicians for a lot of “free” content. “If Google was authorized to play on-demand music, someone could see my name and play my song,” says Leonhard. “Google would agree to pay a percentage of the revenue from every ad on the page with my song. The fee would be paid to a rights organization like ASCAP or BMI to be divided between all the artists whose music is played. Google can track everything that’s been played, so all artists could be compensated. The technology is in place to do this now. This system is currently being used in China and Denmark.”

It is important for agreements to be made sooner rather than later. When radio began broadcasting music during the 1920s, songwriters demanded a share of the money generated by programming featuring their compositions. ASCAP negotiated for compulsory licenses and radio began paying writers. But there was no provision at the time for a fee to compensate the recording artist if he wasn’t the songwriter. Even today, American radio stations, unlike European broadcasters, pay a fee to the composer or songwriter but not to the recording artist. Radio ad revenue currently yields about $20 billion annually, with the benefit of hindsight we can see that this was a missed opportunity. This situation should be kept in mind as new agreements are made. Half the world now uses cell phones, and a tremendous amount of music is downloaded to handheld devices. In a recent address at Berklee College of Music, Terry McBride, the CEO of Nettwerk Music Group, described the role smart phones already play in the sale of music.

“Musicians need to push for legislation to require issuing licenses for use of content on the Web,” says Leonhard. “Right now if you have a video that gets a million plays on YouTube, you don’t get a dime because there is no license or agreement. Through revenue share, every click, forward, download, [or] video play on the Web would get monetized.”

Fifty Ways
Too many musicians believe that playing gigs and selling CDs or digital copies of their music are the primary ways to make money. “We have to do away with that mentality, because there are 50 other ways a musician can get paid,” says Leonhard. “In the new music economy, you need to build an audience and energize them to act on your behalf and forward your music virally. Later, they can become paying customers. Don’t ask them for their money first. Once fans are sold on you, you’ll be able to ‘upsell’ them special shows, backstage passes, webcasts, a live concert download, a multimedia product, your iPhone application, a premium package for $75.

“When musicians start thinking of themselves as brands, like Nike, they will see that they have more assets than just the zeroes and ones that people can download. Other assets are their creativity, the way they express what they experience, their performance, and their presentation. As a musician and composer, you stand for something. The Web allows you to publish things that showcase who you are and what you do. In 10 minutes of clicking around on your site, people will be able to understand who you are if you’ve put enough out there.”

Even in a time when many have predicted doom and gloom in the music business, Leonhard is optimistic. “Current developments are good news for the artist-provided he or she is good. You have to be different, unique, and honest; have a powerful persona; and know your brand. If what you are doing is real and you are forthright, people will pay you. It’s all about the creator and the person who wants the music. Musicians of the future will do well if they can view themselves as more than someone who wants to be a star and sell a lot of records.”

I did a radio show yesterday on NPR on the Future of Music along with Jeff Price from Tunecore and Tim Westergren from Pandora. You can listen to the show online here or download an MP3 of the show.

In a 2002 New York Times article, David Bowie said that “music itself is going to become like running water or electricity….it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what is going to happen.” Now, seven years later, the music industry has continued its rapid metamorphosis. Often referred to as an industry in crisis, coming up Where We Live, we’ll be talking with writers and innovators who say the business of making music has never been better. Ignore the closed up Virgin MegaStore in cities across the country—listening to and making music is still big business. David Kusek, author of The Future of Music: Manifestor for the Digital Music Revolution joins us to talk about the new truths that govern the music world. Also, The founders of Pandora and TuneCore chime in and we’ll be joined in-studio by WNPR’s own Anthony Fantano. From the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network.

Neil Young’s ‘Archives’ Shows the potential of new formats. New formats have driven the music industry forever. That and new music.

While Blu-ray may not be the “next big thing”, it shows what can be done with more storage and bandwidth. The evolution of music formats will determine the path for the future. MP3 was the last major music format and the industry missed monetizing it entirely.

“Anything is possible in the Blu-ray disc edition of “Neil Young: Archives, Vol. 1 (1963-1972),” the most technologically advanced mega-boxed set in rock ‘n’ roll history, arriving with a hefty thump on store shelves Tuesday.

Young, a militant guardian of the analog waveform (notably, the vinyl LP) who dismissed the CD era as sonic sludge, has found purist’s heaven in a new digital format, Blu-ray, that’s still trying to push the consumer acceptance needle past indifference.

Neil Young’s “Archives” is the latest thing to debut in the Blu-ray format. This first volume, at $299, chronicles Young’s early music career from his school-days band, the Squires. Young waited 15 years for the appropriate format to showcase his life’s work in a multimedia package that combines high-resolution audio, high-resolution graphics and archival video.

The set includes 128 tracks (12 hidden), 20 feature videos, film clips, trailers, interviews, radio spots, photo galleries, biographies, even newspaper clips. Young also promises free updates with music, vintage recording sessions or film using BD-Live, which needs a compatible Blu-ray player and a broadband Internet connection.

The set will be available in CD and DVD, too, but Blu-ray is the marquee package: It could foretell the future of music as multimedia and prolong, even save, the new format’s life.

“I went through hell in the ’80s,” Young told bloggers a year ago at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco, where he announced this project that uses Sun Microsystem’s Java-powered graphics. “Now we’re coming close, climbing the quality wall.” How cool is that – Neil Young at a Java conference?

How big is the climb? Young has used “ice picks” to describe the sound of early CD. Where a vinyl LP is a continuous analog waveform, a CD is a digital approximation. The CD takes 44,100 numerical samples each second, each sample in 16-bit chunks. At 22 kilohertz, the theoretical high-frequency limit of human hearing, that 44.1-kilohertz sampling rate produces as few as two samples. It’s what makes the higher frequencies fatiguing, even grating, to some ears.

In recent years, DVD-Audio pushed recorded digital music to 24 bits and 96,000 samples per second. Now, Blu-ray goes even further with music, like “Archives,” at 24/192,000 or, as it’s more widely known, 24/192. With more digital information comes a more lifelike representation of the original source. An elaborate timeline, a horizontal scroll, lays out Young’s career amid world events and includes access to supplemental music, vintage concert video and future BD-Live downloads.

The music is also cataloged in a virtual file cabinet that stores each song in a folder with album art, recording date, credits and handwritten lyrics. As the music plays, a vintage Dual cassette deck, Ampex reel-to-reel player or KLH turntable might be the video backdrop, a lit cigarette in an ashtray next to a coffee cup the ambience.”

Read more here.

More from Gerd Leonhard as he once again attempts to predict the future. While many people scoff at those who try and look ahead and light the paths for the rest of us, Gerd is actually quite good at it. Here is a glimpse into his mind and some trends he suggests for the rest of the decade.

1 — We will soon see the emergence of many different kinds of iPhone-influenced Netbook-like devices; some will be Apple-made but most will not. These devices may be 2-3 times the size of an iPhone and will connect to the Internet in every conceivable way, i.e. 3G/4G, LTE, Wimax, Wifi etc. They will be touchscreen, zoom-interface enabled, cloud-computing, speech-controlled, location-aware, mobile-money equipped, socially hyper-networked, always-everywhere-on, HD-camera equipped and possibly project images and audio or even support basic holography.

In addition to the high-end, fully-loaded and perhaps still rather expensive versions that many of us in the so-called developed countries will gobble up, low cost and more basic editions for the developing markets will be sold in the 100s of millions (think India, China, Indonesia…). These smart gadgets will have very low energy consumption and therefore extremely long battery life, may even sport basic solar-power options, and may ultimately cost less than 30 USD, or even be ‘free’ (why bother to sell the box if you can make a lot more $ with selling services…. Nokia?).

It is these mass-market yet very smart and networked devices, together with cheap or free wireless broadband that will really revolutionize reading, newspapers, books and education; not to mention our music, TV and film consumption habits. Content commerce will be completely redefined as a consequence. As BTO told us a loooong time ago: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet”

2 — Very cheap or free wireless broadband – at fairly high speeds, i.e. at least 2MB / sec – will be available in most places, particularly in the booming new economies of Asia, India, Russia and South-America, and a bit later, in Africa. Funded by the likes of Google and by the future ‘telemedia’ conglomerates, governments, cities and states, wireless broadband will probably reach 3-4 out of 5 people on the globe within 5-8 years. User-generated & derived content (UGDC for those of you that must have an acronym ;), virtual co-production, mobile editing and instant network sharing will explode by a factor of 1000, making control of distribution a very distant concept of the past. UGC or UGDC may make up to 50% of the global content consumption by 2015. Consumers will be (co)-creators, marketers, sellers and buyers, and come in a hundred variations, from totally passive to totally active. Then, indeed, filtering, culling and curation will be the key to success.

3 — Collective blanket licenses that legalize and unlock legitimate access to basic content services via any digital network will emerge, and are likely to take over as the primary way of content consumption, around the world (but in Asia, first). Just like water or electricity which is readily available when moving into a new home, the basic access to content will be bundled into access to digital networks, i.e. via ISPs, operators, telecoms, portals etc. This shift is starting with music (as already done by TDC in Denmark, and Google in China), and will be quickly followed by films, TV, books and newspapers. Access may often – but in local variations – ‘feel like free’ to the user but will in fact generate 10s of Billions of $$ via blanket licensing fees (yes… those pools of money), next-generation advertising and branding, data-mining & sharing, up-selling, re-packaging and many other new generatives. This topic will, btw, be the gist of my RSA presentation tomorrow – if you can’t be there in person, you may want to listen to the live audio, via this link.

I think that governments around the world will call for and / or support the implementation of collective content licenses that wil finally legalize content usage on the Internet, similar to how governments pushed for the radio and broadcasting licenses approx. 100 years ago. Whether these blanket licenses will be voluntary or compulsory remains to be seen – in any case the only alternative is to perpetuate a severely dysfunctional telemedia ecosystem that criminalizes almost all users and stifles innovation while generating virtually zero new revenues for the creators.

4 — Fuel-cells and other next-generation mobile energy sources are a certainty. A serious increase in mobile device power (and therefore, its use) will be achieved by employing next-generation technologies such as fuel cells that could provide for up to 500x the usage time that we have today. This is likely to become a reality in 3-5 years and will revolutionize how we use – and how much we rely on – our mobile devices, especially in countries where there the fixed-line power infrastructure is much less developed or non-existent.

5 — Completely targeted and personalized advertising, delivered largely on totally customized mobile computing & communication devices, will turn the the $ 1 Trillion USD advertising and marketing services economy upside down. Behavioral targeting and user-controlled advertising will, of course, become an even hotter potato and a much discussed challenge, but the good old deal of ‘I give you attention & personal data and you give me value e.g. content’ will be even more pronounced on the Net. In fact, advertising as we knew it is already more or less outmoded and will, during the next 2-3 years, be completely reinvented. Privacy and Trust are the #1 issues here.

The implication is that if your data (within your specific sets of permissions and opt-ins) is used to bring you perfectly synchronized advertising, than advertising really becomes more like content, too. Watch this play out in the mobile advertising space, starting this year, and quite possible boost the global value of advertising-content by more than 100% by 2015. Google will be the main driver here, plus Facebook, Nokia and yes… Twitter (soon to be = Google).

6 — We will witness the more or less complete decline of most forms of physical media within 7-10 years. The very definition – and thus the core economic business models – of newspapers, magazines, CDs, DVDs and books will be completely re-written, and new forms of content packaging will rapidly emerge. We can already see a preview of how this may work in the current mobile applications boom: content as part of software packages; paying for the packaging, the curation, the bundling, the personalization – not just for the zeros and ones that are ‘the copy’. This trend is important not just because it will reflect the users’ (or better… followers’) new consumption habits but also because because of the increasing need to save energy and material costs – and moving from content products to content services will certainly go a long way in this regard. The total decline of printing in people’s homes, and for personal use, will commence, as well.

7 — Paying for privacy will become a distinct option. Today we pay to go online and connect; in the future we may end up paying for the luxury to go offline, disconnect, enjoy the quiet, and give our brain some rest. Maybe if we don’t want to share our click-trails and usage data, we will be able to make cash payments instead – and the more you pay, the more private you can be..?

8 — Travel 2.0: alternatives to ‘actually going there’ will explode: immersive, 3D video, virtual rooms, holography. This is a key development that will nurture new forms of entrepreneurship, education and group working.

Read more from Gerd Leonhard here.

Kevin Kelly has written extensively on the need to create value around digital copies in order to create the revenue opportunities that are falling away every day for digital media. Here is an excerpt from his great essay “Better Than Free”.

Eight Generatives Better Than Free

Immediacy — Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released — or even better, produced — by its creators is a generative asset. Many people go to movie theaters to see films on the opening night, where they will pay a hefty price to see a film that later will be available for free, or almost free, via rental or download. Hardcover books command a premium for their immediacy, disguised as a harder cover. First in line often commands an extra price for the same good. As a sellable quality, immediacy has many levels, including access to beta versions. Fans are brought into the generative process itself. Beta versions are often de-valued because they are incomplete, but they also possess generative qualities that can be sold. Immediacy is a relative term, which is why it is generative. It has to fit with the product and the audience. A blog has a different sense of time than a movie, or a car. But immediacy can be found in any media.

Personalization — A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room — as if it were preformed in your room — you may be willing to pay a lot. The free copy of a book can be custom edited by the publishers to reflect your own previous reading background. A free movie you buy may be cut to reflect the rating you desire (no violence, dirty language okay). Aspirin is free, but aspirin tailored to your DNA is very expensive. As many have noted, personalization requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user. It is deeply generative because it is iterative and time consuming. You can’t copy the personalization that a relationship represents. Marketers call that “stickiness” because it means both sides of the relationship are stuck (invested) in this generative asset, and will be reluctant to switch and start over.

Interpretation — As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it’s no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that. They provide paid support for free software. The copy of code, being mere bits, is free — and becomes valuable to you only through the support and guidance. I suspect a lot of genetic information will go this route. Right now getting your copy of your DNA is very expensive, but soon it won’t be. In fact, soon pharmaceutical companies will PAY you to get your genes sequence. So the copy of your sequence will be free, but the interpretation of what it means, what you can do about it, and how to use it — the manual for your genes so to speak — will be expensive.

Authenticity — You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don’t need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You’ll pay for authenticity. There are nearly an infinite number of variations of the Grateful Dead jams around; buying an authentic version from the band itself will ensure you get the one you wanted. Or that it was indeed actually performed by the Dead. Artists have dealt with this problem for a long time. Graphic reproductions such as photographs and lithographs often come with the artist’s stamp of authenticity — a signature — to raise the price of the copy. Digital watermarks and other signature technology will not work as copy-protection schemes (copies are super-conducting liquids, remember?) but they can serve up the generative quality of authenticity for those who care.

Accessibility — Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, you have to carry it along with you. Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our “possessions” by subscribing to them. We’ll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it, as well as any movie, photo (ours or other photographers). Ditto for books and blogs. Acme backs everything up, pays the creators, and delivers us our desires. We can sip it from our phones, PDAs, laptops, big screens from where-ever. The fact that most of this material will be available free, if we want to tend it, back it up, keep adding to it, and organize it, will be less and less appealing as time goes on.

Embodiment — At its core the digital copy is without a body. You can take a free copy of a work and throw it on a screen. But perhaps you’d like to see it in hi-res on a huge screen? Maybe in 3D? PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good. What about dwelling in your favorite (free) game with 35 others in the same room? There is no end to greater embodiment. Sure, the hi-res of today — which may draw ticket holders to a big theater — may migrate to your home theater tomorrow, but there will always be new insanely great display technology that consumers won’t have. Laser projection, holographic display, the holodeck itself! And nothing gets embodied as much as music in a live performance, with real bodies. The music is free; the bodily performance expensive. This formula is quickly becoming a common one for not only musicians, but even authors. The book is free; the bodily talk is expensive.

Patronage — It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead’s recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead’s case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.

Findability — Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention — and most of it free — being found is valuable.

The giant aggregators such as Amazon and Netflix make their living in part by helping the audience find works they love. They bring out the good news of the “long tail” phenomenon, which we all know, connects niche audiences with niche productions. But sadly, the long tail is only good news for the giant aggregators, and larger mid-level aggregators such as publishers, studios, and labels. The “long tail” is only lukewarm news to creators themselves. But since findability can really only happen at the systems level, creators need aggregators. This is why publishers, studios, and labels (PSL)will never disappear. They are not needed for distribution of the copies (the internet machine does that). Rather the PSL are needed for the distribution of the users’ attention back to the works. From an ocean of possibilities the PSL find, nurture and refine the work of creators that they believe fans will connect with. Other intermediates such as critics and reviewers also channel attention. Fans rely on this multi-level apparatus of findability to discover the works of worth out of the zillions produced. There is money to be made (indirectly for the creatives) by finding talent. For many years the paper publication TV Guide made more money than all of the 3 major TV networks it “guided” combined. The magazine guided and pointed viewers to the good stuff on the tube that week. Stuff, it is worth noting, that was free to the viewers. There is little doubt that besides the mega-aggregators, in the world of the free many PDLs will make money selling findability — in addition to the other generative qualities.

These eight qualities require a new skill set. Success in the free-copy world is not derived from the skills of distribution since the Great Copy Machine in the Sky takes care of that. Nor are legal skills surrounding Intellectual Property and Copyright very useful anymore. Nor are the skills of hoarding and scarcity. Rather, these new eight generatives demand an understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model, how vital it has become to cultivate and nurture qualities that can’t be replicated with a click of the mouse.

In short, the money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits.

Read more from Kevin Kelly here.