Another post from my co-author Gerd Leonhard.

“What are the new, web-native, social & inter-connected business models that will power the future of content creators and their industries?

In 2008, the disruptive force of the Internet finally hit home, and – as is usually the case – it all came much later than we had estimated but the disruption was also much bigger than expected. A quick look at some trends in this context:

* Newspaper revenues are seriously down (25% in some cases); and magazines and other print media are severely challenged, as well
* Digital music revenues are still going up, overall, but very very very far from enough to stop the free-fall of the recorded music industry, in general (approx 20%, globally, would be my estimate for 2008) *pennies for $$, see below
* DVD sales are declining, worldwide, prices are falling, too – and this will only accelerate next year
* Online video views and audiences are up a lot – but so far pretty much everybody has trouble making any real money with online video

“My hunch is that the Internet may well – and soon – bring us an utterly scary reduction of traditional content models that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:5, i.e. if you keep relying on the old ‘disconnected’ content revenues models you may eventually see only 1/5th of the financial returns that you had before. This could vary by industry, location and context, of course, but I would dare say that if you stick to your old models the future will be bleak, either way – and this goes for the actual creators but even much more so for the businesses that are build around them.

To me, the bottom line is that most of what used to work just fine in a disconnected world of ‘totally segregated consumers and producers’ will simply not work in the future.

This is why I think 2009 will be year of:

* Totally exploding consumer / user / fan / listener / viewer empowerment (yes, you ain’t seen nothing yet – wait until 2 Billion + people are wirelessly connected via increasingly smart and easy-to-use mobile devices)
* Re-inventing content commerce (such as: charge for access… not just units, bundle content into access, freemium etc)
* Re-evaluating copyright as that sacrosanct, sole, principal, or even main driver of revenue – the solution for what I like to call ‘digital payment-refusal’ aka piracy is not a technological issue but a business problem
* Re-inventing advertising (since new kinds of advertising will no doubt be one of the future drivers of content commerce, as well)
* Getting the telecoms and network operators aboard – for they can’t make it work without content, either!

I do have a hunch that this old Chinese proverb holds a part of the solution: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

Read the whole thing from Gerd Leonhard here.

This guy is always so over the top, but he delivers the message.

“What happens when the labels stop paying an advance?

You know that’s gonna happen. With such limited revenue from recorded music, no one’s going to pay you a fortune to make it. There’s no incentive. Live Nation might pay you a fortune to TOUR, but who, in their right mind, is going to pay you a few hundred k when the only thing selling is singles? Hell, not one album released this year has yet gone PLATINUM! Do you expect Universal to be ponying up millions of dollars in the future?

Don’t be surprised if the major labels morph into management companies. In a way, they already have. That’s what a 360 deal is. That’s what the manager has ALWAYS had, a share in all revenue streams. You only get paid if there’s success. Are the majors going to follow this paradigm?

Of course, there could be a bidding war, generating large advances, but Live Nation/Ticketmaster is always going to win that one. Until the majors merge with a touring company, they’re fucked, they just don’t have enough to offer, their costs are too high, their margins too thin. If I were a major, I’d be calling Jerry and Arny, maybe even Seth right now. After calling Phil Anschutz, of course. In order to survive, labels have to play in the touring arena.

But the foregoing is all about money. Don’t you realize that’s what the album was about, money? That’s how you got paid, by delivering an album. Of course the public didn’t know this, but this was the game for eons. Sure, the Beatles made a STATEMENT with “Sgt. Pepper”, but Capitol was more interested in the revenue. Selling 33’s was much more profitable than selling 45’s. And the high-priced/low royalty CD was even more of a moneymaker than the LP record. That’s how we got here. Pure greed, not artistry.

If you want to record a full-length statement, be my guest. I see nothing wrong with that. But are you really interested in laying down ten tracks on wax if you’re not going to trigger a payment?

Please don’t be blinded by history. If your goal is to make money, and seemingly everybody e-mailing me is focused on bucks, how are you going to make money in the future? I’ll tell you. The public is your bank. And people don’t pay solely for recorded music, they may not pay for recorded music at all. How are you going to get paid?

By building an audience.

An album’s worth of material usually does not build an audience. A TRACK builds an audience. If you’re a career artist, people will want more tracks. But only if they’re good.

So the focus is no longer on cutting ten songs, but cutting GOOD songs! There’s an unlimited audience for GREAT songs. Still, how do you nurture your audience?

Playing every night in a single town is not going to build heat. You’ve got to go away for a while to increase demand. But you can’t go away for TOO LONG or you’ll be forgotten. Same deal with music. How do you deliver enough to keep people interested, but not too much to overload them?

DON’T tell me how much you love albums. That’s like labels saying no one will ever download music from the Internet. The album is history, you just don’t know it yet. STATEMENTS are not history, but are you really making a statement?

Innovate in the new sphere.

If U2 weren’t getting paid by Universal upon delivery of an album, they’d be better off releasing tracks in fits and starts. You get continuous publicity. AND, the way they just did it didn’t work, the album’s sales are small. Imagine going on Letterman EVERY MONTH, not for a week straight. BUILDING, instead of blowing your wad.

Imagine rewarding a fan who buys all ten tracks over the course of months. Maybe buying all ten delivers a code that allows you to purchase guaranteed good seats at the pre-sale. Maybe there’s a quiz regarding the content that allows people to qualify.

Maybe when you do that commercial endorsement, the reward is someone can go to the company’s Website and download YOUR NEW SONG! The insta-collection of ten tracks is no longer the starting point, rather you dole out your tracks in drips and drabs, making each release a minor marketing event, that keeps people interested, that keeps them going to the show.

If you’re a star, maybe you announce that you’re going to play the new track at the top of every show. And maybe then not again for a YEAR! So you’ve got to download to be familiar, and come if you want to hear it live. Don’t you see? Giving up the album delivers FREEDOM!

No one says a fan can’t create a playlist of ten tracks that he plays ad infinitum. Maybe the fan creates the album, and posts it to your Website, delineating why he picked this running order, imploring you to play these tracks in this order live. Hell, if the album were such a defined success, how come almost no act plays their latest opus straight through at a gig? BECAUSE ALMOST NO ONE CARES!

People don’t know the music. They want to hear some old stuff too. Just like you do when you make an iTunes playlist. You mix it up. Why shouldn’t the artist mix it up?

As for Record Store Day… How laughable is that. If you’re salivating over this, you’re living in 1990, and hoping we go back to 1970. Record stores are dead. As dead as your Apple II. Some will survive, as dealers in antiquities and tchotchkes, but essentially everyone will buy online.

Point being, how can you lambaste Doug Morris for missing the digital revolution when you too are stuck in the past?

People only want to hear good music. On demand. This has decimated radio. But the album went first. We’re just feeling the full effect now. And it’s only going to get worse.

Newspapers saw a crisis coming. But they figured it was always in the future. That crisis is now. Newspapers will probably not survive. I get three a day. But I know the paradigm is history. I lament the loss, but look forward to the future, wherein more people report upon more stories in a constant 24 hour news cycle.

You too should look to the future. Not one in which you deliver product to get paid by a middleman, but one in which you and your handlers are all in it together, and you build an audience fan by fan, which lasts. Toyotas were a joke in 1970. Now GM is a joke. Toyota built its brand based on reliability, word of which was spread slowly from mouth to mouth. Toyota took decades to surpass GM as the largest automobile company in the world, but GM will never regain the crown.

So don’t tell me about ancient paradigms. Please look to the future. It’s coming. It’s about great. Fans want more music by the acts they adore. Release all the live stuff, all the alternative versions. They don’t taint the original, they allow fans to burrow deeper, the revealing of all your warts burnishes your image!

We live in an information society. That’s what your fans want, information. They don’t want a CD dropped every few years with canned hype, they want continuous info. Don’t get locked into the album syndrome. You’re missing the future.”

– From The Lefsetz Letter

By Dave Kusek

I actually think the possibilities of making a living in art today are as good, or perhaps better, than ever before primarily because of the communication tools that we have online and the ability to develop relationships with the audience. I think the juice is in the do-it-yourself area of a sole-proprietor musician or a band or a writer on their own or with a publishing company, trying to figure out how they can penetrate the market, make a living, and break through the noise without all the traditional trappings, because all of that is pretty much gone for most people. The opportunity is really in the redefinition of how you go to market with music on a much smaller scale and develop a user base. That’s really where the action is.

From the recorded music side, the reality of the past 50 or 70 years is that a few percent of the people involved in recording ever made any real money off the records. Just a few percent! And if you made any money at all, it was through your songwriting or your touring or your merchandise, or something else that you came up with to provide you with a living. So on one hand, things are not all that different than they’ve ever been, in that you’re not going to make a ton of money making recordings and you never were. The reality is nobody is going to take care of you—you have to do it yourself or you have to form a small team around you to help.

We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of live, interactive experiences enabled by communications technologies—the smart phone, the internet, the broadband connections that we have—where you can create musical experiences between you and a relatively small group of people. Everyone is saying that the concert can’t be digitized, so at the moment that remains a reasonable way for people to make a living where the majority of your income comes from touring. And if you think about interactive experiences that can be created—virtual living room tours, behind the scenes events, having people participate in writing parties or creating music on the fly to suit the audience that you happen to be connected to—I think there are a number of wildcards in there where people have begun to experiment with mapping the live experience onto a communications network. There’s a long way to go there and there’s a lot of opportunity, especially as you see the iPhone and the Google phone and some of the devices from Nokia and others that are giving you video-enabled computers connected to the internet in the palm of your hand. That allows for the distribution of content at a very high level and interaction with your audience that you really never had before, on that one-to-one level or one-to-a-few level. And by making it mobile, you’re getting away from your fan having to be sitting at a desk in front of a computer. As people begin to write for that platform and that potential, I think we’ll see a lot of innovation.

And you can monetize that. I think people will pay for access to artists that they enjoy, and they will help support artists that they respect if they know that most, if not all, of the money is going directly to the artist rather than to the combine. If you have 5,000 fans willing to pay $20 a year for access to your music and the ability to participate and interact with you, there’s a nice pool of money for you to make a living off of. If that blows up to 100,000 people, you’ve got tremendous potential there.

What is your definition of success? That definition tends to be all over the place, but what do you need to sustain yourself in order to focus on your art fulltime? Can you live on $60,000 or $80,000 or $100,000? Probably. Can you make that kind of income writing music, performing regionally, licensing your music into various outlets? Yes, you can. If you focus on creating a career at that level, it’s entirely possible and many people are doing it using the tools that we have today. Instead of chasing the brass ring, you’re just basically trying to be a middle class artist making a middle class income. If you’re realistic about your expectations, you can make a living and spend most of your time focused on your art, whether it’s writing or performing or recording or drawing or painting of photography. It’s certainly possible—way more possible than being famous was ever going to be. You need to think through that because it’s really probably the only opportunity that most people are going to have in this environment—keep reasonable expectations and build up a little business around yourself that’s not grand scale but human scale.

One of the things that I think is holding a lot of this back is it’s very difficult to license music for global consumption. You’ve got to figure out who the rights holders are at every country, there’s often a publishing side and a recorded master side, there may be multiple writers, and the control that has dominated the industry for so long is holding us back. I think it’s something that people need to pay attention to: How can copyright law better serve artists in the digital age and what the digital age will bring?

The record companies have felt the pain of the changes in the marketplace ahead of the publishers. And you can see that the record companies are beginning to change their approach and they’re more willing to experiment because their revenue is down 50% and they’re absolutely scared to death. The publishers are following behind that curve and in my opinion are the larger road block in making deals than the record companies are. So having publishers look at their record company friends and what they’ve gone through and avoiding that is really key to remaining relevant.

With all of these interaction opportunities and non-traditional distribution opportunities, if we had better licensing, easier licensing, more transparent licensing, a more global approach, potentially everyone could make more money. If we stick to the laws the way they are and the sort of country-by-country rights, people who are in that camp will have a disadvantage against new artists who decide to open up their rights with a Creative Commons approach or perhaps another blanket licensing approach. If it becomes easier to license new music from new composers than it is the old composers, guess who’s going to win?

This interview with Dave Kusek originally appeared in New Music Box.

Online journal, New Music Box just published a collections of essays on the future of music. Here are some excerpts:

Recording. Performance. Distribution. Copyright. Publishing. When the most basic terms of your field are in flux, it can be hard to see to next month, let alone into the next year, or to prepare for the next decade. Would you have expected music to be where it is today if you had been asked in 1999?

Amanda MacBlane writes, “In 1999, I was 19 and Napster had just launched. Computers, old midi devices, turntables and lots of samples were the building blocks of many of our dorm room compositions. I came early to the blogosphere and the social networks, and I jonesed for a giant iPod. I was a true believer in technology: new sounds, new ways of making music, new ways of hearing it, new ways of talking about it and new ways of getting it. I would proselytize anyone who would listen.

But as the technology became ubiquitous, my enthusiasm waned. Perhaps it was overkill or, as a proud non-conformist, it was painful to see my “originality” boiled down to some market research figures. Maybe it’s simply because I am getting fixed in my ways.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love the discovery aspect of the Internet. I love that technology has inspired so many people to make music and share it, even if I am not a huge fan of the mash-up. Most of all, I love the possibility of having access to every piece of music ever recorded or movie made from my apartment without having to have shelves specially built.

But I also think Twitter is stupid, that the Long Tail is bunk, and that Pandora has no idea about my musical taste (once it actually told me it had no more suggestions for me). As I spend more time in conference rooms, I am always disheartened by the buzz phrases: Brave New World, access vs. units, monetization and the worst one of all—content. Art is taboo in these places.

Yet having spent time with people on all sides of the situation, I have gained insight into where musical life is headed and had a chance to meditate on my own musical values. Here are just a few of the thoughts that have been floating around in my head:

1/ Music will always make money, but not always for the same people. Whether it’s the record companies or the Internet giants, we just need to make sure that the composer and the musician don’t get cut out of the deal. Of course touring and merchandise will help, but other companies whose business models are founded on music—selling it, streaming it, sharing it, storing it, copying it—need to share their profits with those that create it.

2/ We desperately need flexible, worldwide licenses for music. The Internet has no borders, so why do our licenses? Because as soon as anything becomes worldwide, it becomes as wonky as the UN. Rights holder organizations have been working to achieve this, but a 2004 decision by the European Commission’s Competition Directorate halted a first initiative for worldwide, blanket licenses for the entire world’s musical repertoire. Another anti-competition decision (2008) against European societies spurred by powerful broadcasters looking for cheaper royalties has forbid societies from working together. It’s hard to create a worldwide license for the world repertoire on a national basis. Until the EU is on board, this won’t be possible.

3/ Let’s not leave promotion or guidance to algorithms. Having access to every piece of music ever recorded is great but also very overwhelming. For musicians, how do you get noticed? As a listener without hours of free time, how do you find your next favorite piece? I don’t think a computer algorithm can ever replace the human promoter or guide. We need to facilitate journalism, web radio, podcasts and well-constructed multimedia blogs as well as any new ways of talking about music. This goes back to the licensing issue in part—some of these outlets won’t make much money at all and there need to be licenses available that do not make it impossible for them to operate.

4/ Technology can never replace the physical and social act of making music.
Even in my technology-loving heyday, my professor of Electronic Music, David Borden, insisted that our final piece include a live performance element. Listening to music is great and composing for the computer can certainly be exciting, but the music that means the most to me is that which I have physically performed and shared with others. No computer or killer app can match performing Bach’s B-minor Mass in Caracas with some of my best friends or playing 4-handed piano duets with my mom.

5/ Music education in our schools cannot be abandoned. We can’t democratize production and distribution while limiting access to musical training. Not only will music education help lots of talented kids move past the mash-up, it also helps people appreciate the value of music and the work it takes to do it well. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: People will always make music and that is very comforting to me.

Read more from New Music Box. Welcome to the Future.

Trent Reznor gave this interview to Digg recently.

“I can give you free music, and in my opinion, it may contribute to more people showing up to a show,” he says. “It’s not up to me to give you free music, it’s free anyway, you know for anybody that wants to admit it. Pretty much any piece of music you want is free on the Internet anyway.”

“We’re in between business models,” he continued. “You know, the old record labels are dead, and the new thing hasn’t really come out yet. So, I’m hoping that whatever gets established puts a lot more power in the hands of artists and more revenue.”

“If you have nothing in common with American Idol, and you don’t want to be The Pussycat Dolls, then you really don’t want to be on, certainly a major record label,” he adds.

“At every fork in the road that (profits) will be what’s put first,” he comments.”Not your longevity, not your vision. How can we make money from you.”


Connect With Fans + Reason To Buy = Business Model ($$)

http://revision3.com/player-v2997

By Gillian Shaw, Vancouver Sun

“Music CD sales have dropped by half from their peak a decade ago, but unlike the decline of vinyl records and 8-track tapes, the current shift is bringing with it a wholesale transformation in the delivery and distribution of music.

The format change started with MP3 files, but digital music also brings multiple distribution channels — from the free sharing of music, to iTunes and other paid download services, to more futuristic channels that could see us making micro-payments to call up songs on the refrigerator while we cook dinner.

The recording industry, which failed to adapt in the early days and instead sought to hold back the change, is now paying the price. But for artists and consumers, the shift is opening up opportunities in accessibility, and lowering barriers to entry for a music career.

“CDs are being replaced by MP3 files, and the only problem is the record labels never figured out a way to charge for MP3 files until it was too late,” says Dave Kusek.

Kusek is vice-president at Berklee College of Music, a co-developer of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI); co-inventor of the first electronic drums at Synare; founder of Passport Designs, the first music software company; and co-author of the book The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution.

“It is a format change, and the record industry had its chance when Napster first came out. They had the chance to license Napster for all their music,” he said. “If they had done that, I believe the recorded music industry would be in a much more healthy state than it is today, or ever will be again.”

Instead, the recording industry decided to sue Napster. And while it may have won that battle, it turned out to be just one skirmish in a war that would see the free exchange of music only increase.

In the U.S., the industry took consumers who were sharing music files to court, but it has since abandoned that tactic.

Most recently in B.C., a Vancouver company is taking on the recording industry in a B.C. Supreme Court case, asking the court to confirm that it is not infringing copyright with websites that allow users to search BitTorrent files on the Internet to find movies, music and other content.

Apple cashed in on the digital music craze with its iPods, picking up much of the revenue that CDs would have generated. But paid services such as Apple’s iTunes, Amazon and others still account for only a small portion of the music people listen to on their computers and other devices.

“If you look at the several billion tracks that have been sold on iTunes, that is a couple of months worth of file-sharing traffic in MP3 files,” said Kusek, who runs a consulting business, Digital Cowboys that has clients such as Nokia, Pepsi, BMG, EMI and others. Kusek also blogs at futureofmusicbook.com.

“The entire history of iTunes is [equivalent to] a couple of months of downloaded shared music,” he said.

Kusek sees a future in a type of blanket licence approach, similar to cable television’s.

“I think if it is going to happen, it is going to happen in the mobile space rather than in the computer space, although those two will merge,” he said. “The idea of selling a recording for a dollar-plus per song or $15 to $20 per disk has probably gone, or will be gone in the not-too-distant future.”

While hundreds of millions of CDs are still being purchased, sales are in steep decline. Sales of digital music in the United States grew almost 30 per cent last year, but sales of CDs dropped, with the forecast for 2009 putting them at half the level of their peak during the CD boom in the late 1990s.

According to a report by Forrester Research, U.S. digital music sales — downloads and subscriptions — will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17 per cent over the next five years, putting digital music on track to make up 41 per cent of the music market in 2013.

The growth in these purhcases won’t compensate for the decline in CD sales, leaving the overall music market shrinking by a compound annual growth rate of 0.8 per cent, to $9.8 billion US in 2013.

“I think it will become more of a utility, a service that you subscribe to that is bundled into your bill, and you get your music that way,” Kusek said.

While CDs can be played in a variety of devices, from a car to a living room stereo to a boom box on the beach, there are far more variations for digital music.

“I have a pair of sunglasses I can play music in,” Kusek points out with a laugh.”

Read more from Vancouver Sun article.

I ran into Jim Griffin this weekend and as usual, he got me thinking about music and it’s future. We talked a little bit about Chorus, the new controversial Warner Music backed company trying to create a music utility service for colleges. I’ll tell you the guy is like a bolt of lightning and his fever can leave you doubting what you know yet somehow I always come away with something new to think about and ponder. I listened to him speak briefly and then found a transcription of a similar speech he gave at Midem last year which I wanted to share with you. The complete speech is here: Jim Griffin Speech and a brief excerpt is below. Enjoy!

“It sort of struck me once, I was reading Marshall McLuhan, and I recommend Marshall McLuhan to everyone here who has not already read some of McLuhan’s work. McLuhan is a terribly influential person in media in the 1960’s, so much so that if you’ve seen the movie Annie Hall you may recall that he appears in that movie with Woody Allen in a line outside of a movie theater, and he’s very well known for having said that the medium is the message. I always wondered what that meant. And now that we live in a time of MP3, I think all of us can acknowledge that McLuhan had it right, that in some ways it’s more about what format something comes in these days than it is even the music itself.

But McLuhan said something else that escaped my notice until say five years ago. He indeed said that you will never understand the media of your time. He said that the media of your time is like the air that you breath. You’re unconscious of it. It’s like the water in which a fish swims. He said that you would only understand your media through the rearview mirror of history. And so it is that it led me back to the library to look through microfiches and so forth from the 1920’s and around that time period, because it was around that time period that electricity started to spread around the world. Before electricity spread around the world, for the most part, it could be said that an artist was in complete control of their art. Especially in the sense that, you know, they controlled it with their feet because if they weren’t in the room you couldn’t see them or hear them. Then in rapid succession over several decades we have the spread of electricity around the world, and loudspeaker systems evolve that make the crowd bigger than you can count. And then very very quickly radio broadcast, and now sounds are traveling many thousands of miles beyond their source. Then television is proven out in 1928. And so now your sound and your image can travel thousands of miles. Now, look, I get how we feel special living in this time that we do of the net. We think, wow, we are beset with change unlike we have ever seen. But I would say that that is absolutely untrue. The 1920’s, the spread of electricity, this was a far more savage time to be an artist. This was a far more difficult time.

Our changes, that we are seeing, are merely a gradation of change by comparison to what happened when electricity spread around the world. And so we have something to rely upon that they did not. We have something to look to, which is: what was their experience; how did they handle this dramatic change. I think that without question the way we handled this dramatic change was with collective licensing. In other words, loudspeaker systems, hotels, restaurants, wherever there are performances of music that are so powerful, we have a collecting society that would like to monetize this, and can and does, monetize the anarchy of music moving through say loudspeakers. And equally true of radio, and television broadcast, and cable, and satellite, and as recently as this past decade, we now monetize webcasting over the net in America in just this same way. And so I don’t think it is a great stretch, or that you have to think too far into the future to realize that it would truly be an anomaly if collective licensing did not extend itself further. It does not require a crystal ball to figure this out.

I think it is just about looking back into history and realizing that the way we have dealt with the loss of control, the loss of actual control, has been with the introduction of actuarial economics. And I know actuarial is a big word, you know, but it’s really simple. It’s just a pool of money and a fair way of splitting it up: a pool of money, a fair way of splitting it up. And that is how we have dealt with the loss of control in the past and I suggest to you it is likely that that will be the way we deal with loss of control now and into the future.”

Terry McBride gave a lecture at Berklee College of Music earlier this month. Here is a synopsis from Ariel Publicity.

A song is an emotion

They stopped releasing music they thought would sell and began releasing music they loved and felt emotionally connected to. The old school music business views a song as a copyright. McBride coaches that the music business is simply “the monetization of emotions” and that copyright as we know it will soon become irrelevant. Emotions move and are transferred freely. Nettwerk practices something called “collapsed copyright”. Nettwerk encourages its artists to record under their own label. Nettwerk will represent these artists, but the bands retain ownership of all intellectual property. The bands can expect to earn considerably more money and in turn can give away more free downloads. McBride calls this “cosmic karma” as studies show that albums containing songs that were offered free sell more than those with no free downloads. The free downloads allow fans to connect with a song as well as the artist as an emotional brand and are more likely to purchase the album.

Fans connect to a particular song because it evokes a certain emotion. That emotion grows an importance and eventually becomes a bookmark in their lives. We’ve all experienced a time when we heard a song from our past that we once played over and over and over again. We built an emotional connection with that song that instantly takes us back to the summer before junior year, or whenever. It’s that emotional connection that makes you feel the need to rave to a friend about a song or drag them to a concert. The emotional connection makes Nettwerk truly believe in their artists as an emotional brand and that millions of others will love their music as much as they do. Like it or not, love is contagious.

Music is social

Gatherings used to be centered around food and music but for a while music became somewhat elitist. You had to be some musical genius that was too cool and cared about nothing but the music or a wealthy socialite who could afford all the luxuries. Video games like Guitar Hero and the growing affordability of recoding programs and equipment have made music for everyone again. Remember that friend you dragged with you to a concert to show them how amazing that band was? As it turns out they loved them too and raved to their 20 friends who raved to their 20 friends and so on. Well now with the evolution of social media thanks to sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc., the circle of friends has grown to 200 plus and by the end of the day with just the ease of a status update thousands of people have been reached.

Digital 2.0

As music returns to its emotional and social roots, McBride predicts a rapid change as we move from what he calls the “Digital 1.0” era into the “Digital 2.0” era where the accessibility of music and social media has grown legs and is now traveling with us on the train and down the street in the form of smartphones such as the iPhone. But the iPhone is just a dieter’s slice of the pie. Different models of RIM Blackberry smartphones ranked #1, #3 and #5 in best selling phones in North America. Plus the Palm Pre and the anticipation of Dell launching a new smartphone means that mobile social networking in America will soon catch up to the estimated 12.1 million users in Western Europe.

In this “Digital 2.0” era McBride points to the success of Apple “Apps” store, which has over 15,000 original applications and over 500 million downloads.

“Apple has allowed us, [the consumers] to be the world’s largest developer and create apps based on our needs,” McBride explains, “And the explosion of imaginative apps like Shazham and Slacker has just started.”

McBride throws the idea out of a digital maid application that would clean and organize your digital library, saving you the time of having to dig through files. He also requests a digital valet that drives new music to you based on your preferences or a friend’s library and parks it in a suggested music garage. He anticipates that in the next 18 months there will be “apps to help create apps for those of us who are not programmers but have a great idea.” RIM plans to open up their app store this March to reach 150 countries and over 450 providers. Add the Google Android store, Google “Hero”, Microsoft “Skymarket” and Nokia “Opera” and you’ve got yourself a full-blown application revolution.

Context is King

McBride points us in a new direction from what was previously a “content is king” mindset to “context is king”. Meaning that our emotional connection to music is all based on the value of how we perceive something versus the actual content. The smartphone replacing the PC (or Mac if you will) is a foreseeable prophesy of McBride’s and could possibly leading to the demise of even, yes… your precious mp3 player. He explains how new apps will shift behavioral patterns of consumers in the same way CDs and online media ushered in the on-demand generation. Smartphones have already begun creating models that temporarily store the music files in the “cache” instead of the hard drive. McBride describes this process as “a gradual download, it’s not permanent because your Valet/Maid app is changing the selection based on your needs, thus helping solve issues such as memory, choppy streaming and draining of batteries.”

This means that the music business must create rich meta data behind our music files to work with apps in order to keep up with this new form of consumption. McBride highlights the opportunity to raise the value of music then, he says, “Context will be king.”

Gerd Leonhard

My co-author and friend Gerd Leonhard was recently interviewed by Carter Smith of Rollo & Grady. Here is the interview:

R&G: How did you become interested in writing about the future of music?

Gerd: I was involved in various online ventures during the Internet years, in the late 90s. I was trying to reinvent the music industry, so from 1998 through 2001 I ran a company called licensemusic.com. It was a real dotcom venture. Because of the work I had done, I saw what was going on. While I was recuperating from the dotcom craziness, I figured that since I had looked at it so deeply that I might as well write about it. I wrote “The Future of Music” from 2003 to 2004, and it was published in 2005. Ever since then I’ve written and blogged about the future of music, the media business and the content business in general.

R&G: In the book, you focus on the concept of music being like water. Can you describe that?

Gerd: I had a co-writer, Dave Kusek, who you might know. He teaches at Berklee College in Boston. The concept of Music Like Water wasn’t entirely ours. David Bowie once said in an interview with The New York Times that music would become like water, flowing freely. That stuck with us and we built this whole theme around it, saying that digital music needs to be as available as water. In other words, there has to be a licensed pipeline, just like licensed connections for water or electricity. Everybody pays for electricity and water, but nobody feels it’s a big effort to do so. Of course, people are up-sold with Evian, Pellegrino, or filling the swimming pool. It is very much the same logic. You have a license to use. You’re all in. Then you do an up-sell towards other variations. The principle fits pretty well with the idea of content distribution on digital networks. It’s a blanket deal – a big deal rather than a unit sale.

R&G: Is that similar to the labels backing Choruss? [Note: Choruss is a proposed plan that would build a small music-royalty fee into university tuition payments, allowing students to legally access and share music.]

Gerd: Yes, totally. A friend of mine, Jim Griffin, is doing that. Jim and I have talked about this for the last ten years, pretty much since Napster came to light. It’s a very similar idea, even though they’re thinking of this as more of a “covenant not to sue.” I don’t think that is taking it far enough. One has to be realistic. I think that the major labels are reluctant to give up control of the ecosystem in a flat out strike, so they will probably take a bit longer to get used to this.

R&G: If I understand this correctly, it’s a university tuition tax?

Gerd: It’s not so much a tax as a way for universities to say, “Whatever people do here, we can legalize it.” It’s fighting against the criminalization of sharing, which is great. And for the students it’s not a tangible expense. It’s wrapped into their tuition. It’s like 911 calling on your phone bill; nobody is going to complain about it. Then, I think a completely new ecosystem could pop up that would essentially be part of the way to access and up-sell to people. I would be against any such tax, levy, or any of those things, but if it can be made to feel like it’s free, which is what it is, I think that is an ideal solution that gets the ball rolling.

R&G: Once a digital network customer pays a fee, how are funds distributed to the artists?

Gerd: It’s very much like traditional radio. Every action on a digital network is monitored. Whether it should be is a different question, and, of course, there are privacy issues. But whatever action people are doing on the network, it’s captured in some anonymous way and then the revenues are paid pro rata. When you click on a song and share or download it, whatever network you’re on can say, “Okay, this was downloaded. This was streamed.” Artists are paid out strictly by popularity. So if your band is busy doing lots of gigs, you’re very popular and you get 100,000 people following you on Twitter, they will click on the song, download it, and you get more money. It’s just like radio.

R&G: Can the labels regain the trust of “people formerly known as consumers?”

Gerd: They may not be able to, and this is the Number One problem. I think it’s a very tough road. The only chance they have – and that goes for everyone, not just the majors, but also the indies – is to drastically open up, put their cards on the table and start doing business like everybody else. This means being transparent, sharing, putting deals on the table and making them public. They need to create real value rather than pretend to do so.

R&G: You’ve previously mentioned that music blogs are the new record labels.

Gerd: Yes. Music blogs have enormous power because people trust the blogs not to pitch them stuff that they’ve been paid to pitch. If they can keep it up, they will be the next BBC. When you look at mechanisms like Twitter or Facebook or FriendFeed, these people become the default recommenders for us. They are the ones who say, “You should pay attention to this band, to this artist.” That’s what radio used to do.

R&G: Serving as filters.

Gerd: Yeah. You have to keep in mind that the biggest problem we are having is not that music isn’t available, because even though it’s not legal it is available. The biggest problem is that once the legal issues are solved, everything will become available. Our problem will be that we have to pick, and nobody has time to pick through 62 million songs. That’s the total universe of currently published music, and it’s going to increase. We don’t really need to solve the distribution problem. We have to solve the attention problem. That’s what Amazon does for books.

R&G: You’ve talked about how the record industry should adopt Twitter. Can you elaborate?

Gerd: Twitter is a mechanism of micro communication, like RSS feeds. Therefore, it becomes something that is completely owned by the people who are doing it, rather than by the people who are making or receiving it. It’s a completely viable mechanism that is cost-neutral, at least to us. It becomes a very powerful mechanism for peer response and viral connections. That is the principle of what music is all about. It’s word of mouth, connecting, forwarding and sharing. A musical version of Twitter would be a goldmine. It already exists to some degree in blip.fm, but the music industry should use that mechanism to broadcast directly to fans. They’re starting to do that, but the problem is that many music companies perceive their primary mission as gatekeeper for the artists rather than getting the music out. That is a big problem today, when you’re in an economy where everybody wants a snack before buying a sandwich.

R&G: What other technologies do you think are necessary for the do-it-yourself artists and managers of the new music world?

Gerd: Widgets and syndication have made YouTube the world’s leader in video. 60% of videos are not played on YouTube.com but on blogs and other people’s sites. Music has completely overlooked that very powerful tool. That is this whole idea of syndication – getting people to transmit music to each other and then reaping the attention on the other end.

R&G: Many of the kids who grew up with Napster are now in college. They’ve never owned a physical CD and only know how to click and download music. They think music is supposed to be free.

Gerd: Yeah, and it can be free in the sense that it’s not as painful as paying per action. The question is not so much about the payment or the fact that people may not be willing to pay right away. It’s about controlling the marketplace. Who gets to listen to what, where, when and how much money do I get? We have to get back on the same page we were on a hundred years ago. We’re all on the same boat. Everyone wants an audience. Until we have that, we have nothing.

R&G: When do you foresee the end of the CD?

Gerd: I think we have another 18 months maximum for CDs to become a Step Two rather than a Step One. They have a 25% decline for 2008 pretty much around the world. How much steeper can they drop? In 18 months, the CD isn’t going to be the cherished moneymaker anymore. And this year people in the music business are going to be forced to say, “Okay, what is the next model? Do we have to loosen up to actually participate in this, or are we standing in our own way?”

R&G: Are you saying they need to recognize any revenue stream they can generate from their content? Sell CDs, subscriptions, etc.?

Gerd: The flat rate is the next CD. Its simple mathematics. If you charge or indirectly earn one dollar from each user of a network, that dollar can be ad-supported. It can be supported by bundling, so the user won’t feel it, so to speak. If you look at the total number of people who are active on digital networks, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 ½ billion people, they’re not all going to pay a dollar because they’re in different countries. But the money that comes in from such a flat rate is humongous.

R&G: You are currently working on a new book, “End of Control.” When is it coming out?

Gerd: I’m working on it right now, and it’s kind of a painful process because it’s always changing. The first couple of chapters have already been published at endofcontrol.com, and people can download those. It’s a free book, so I’m working on various ways to make that more powerful. The control issue is key. It used to mean that if you had more control you would make more money, especially in the music business. You control distribution, radio stations, marketing, everything. Now all that is completely falling apart. Artists are going direct. Radio becomes useless to some degree. It’s all on the web now. People are doing their own thing. Control is a thing of the past. The question is, “What is the next business model?” That’s what I’m working on.

R&G: Who are the current music business visionaries?

Gerd: This is one of the most unfortunate things. There aren’t very many. I always say we need an Obama of the music business, or at least a Steve Jobs, even though Steve is kind of egomaniacal, but brilliant. I see a couple of people, like Terry McBride from Network Records in Canada. I firmly believe, however, that the biggest innovation will come from people who are not in the music business.

R&G: Is this the year we will see considerable change within the music industry?

Gerd: I thought it was going to be 2008, so I’m quite disappointed. I think we’ll see new things emerge in 2009 that will be completely disruptive, like the iPhone and mobile applications of music, new kinds of broadcasting, people sharing stuff through mobile networks and high-speed, broadband, wireless Internet. I think 2009 will be a key year because the current economic crisis will make it worse. People will stop buying content the old-fashioned way.

Read more great interviews here at Rollo & Grady

Future of Music Book

I was recently interviewed by Carter Smith of Rollo & Grady on The Future of Music.

R&G: What was the reason behind writing “The Future of Music?”

Dave: Gerd [Leonhard; co-author] and I became friends at Berklee. He did a few projects with the music business department, which is how we got to know each other. We started talking and found that we had a lot of common ideas about what was happening in the music business. I ran Berklee Press, so I had a way to publish the book. We just started putting ideas down on paper. There wasn’t as much blog action then as there is today. It was probably 2002 or 2003 when we really started to write the book, so we figured, ‘Okay, we’ll publish it in book form.’ Our motivation was, ‘How can we help people understand what we think is going to happen?’ Both Gerd and I had done lots of panels and music shows – South by Southwest, all the digital music ones, Billboard and many gigs like that. We thought, ‘How can we pick some of these ideas and package them in a form that would be digestible and widely available to people at a reasonable price point?’ That was the genesis of it all. Honestly, it all happened so quickly that I kind of wish we could do it all over again. It was fun. It was a very condensed period of time. There were a lot of things that obviously were changing and happening, and there were a lot of things that weren’t so obvious. For example, I don’t think there was an iPod when we first wrote the book. That happened during the publishing and editing process. There was no iTunes music store, no MP3 blogs to speak of and no Amazon.com selling downloads. eMusic might have been there. It was all so early. Everything was happening so rapidly. We just tried to gather up as much as we could that was obvious and make some stabs as to what might happen.

R&G: Can you discuss the process of writing the book?

Dave: I learned a lot from Gerd during the process. I was more on the ground with the musicians. My whole career has been helping musicians and artists create their art, take their art to market and most recently teaching them about it. Gerd was more in the consulting end of things, talking to the likes of Nokia, Apple and Sony. I learned a lot about what was going on in the corporate world that I hadn’t been exposed to. I think we pushed each other because I would often argue that, ‘Man, we’ve got to talk to the artists and writers and managers, not to your consulting clients, because most of these people aren’t going to understand what the hell you’re talking about.’

R&G: “Music Like Water” the David Bowie quote meaning music becoming a utility. Do you still believe in that?

Dave: I think it’s inevitable. Music has always been free. It started off as a live performance. You’d go to a party, to a friend’s house, to a show, to the theatre or an event and music would be there. You’d be dancing and laughing and happy and singing. There was no idea of a business other than maybe the performers wanting to get paid. Throughout the technological phase of the last seventy or eighty years, there was always a free form of music, such as radio. The single most influential technological phenomenon in music was radio. It brought music to everybody, and it was free. Now we have gone through this pre-packaged, packaged phase of music, with vinyl, cassettes and CDs. That was a way for labels to control distribution and squeeze profits out of people wanting copies of the stuff they heard on radio. But once that leapt into the Internet, music became free again.

R&G: By free, do you mean file-sharing and uploading CDs onto your computer hard drives?

Dave: Both. People have been trading files for years. It started out on Usenet, which predated Napster. You remember Apple’s “Rip, Mix, Burn” campaign? It was really all about enabling the digitalization of music and unlocking it from the plastic that it was bound to. I don’t see it as a big deal that music is free again and in a higher quality format that is randomly accessible to the file-sharing networks or the services that we have now, some of which are “legitimate” and some aren’t. It’s not a very big deal to me. It just seems normal. The utility idea already exists on your TV. I have Comcast service here on the East Coast. We have Music Choice, which is essentially digital radio on your TV. There are 30 or 50 channels of music that are programmed and streamed to my house constantly that I pay for on my cable bill every month. I’ve been doing that for fifteen years. I have no choice about it. I just do it. It comes with HBO and the basic cable service. So there already is a music utility that millions of consumers in the U.S. have paid for many years. Why can’t that service just get a little bit better? If you add a random access mechanism where I can select what I listen to at a finer level than just picking the channel that Music Choice gives me, the service becomes better. I think it’s inevitable. I don’t understand what all the teeth gnashing is about. That’s a personal opinion.

R&G: What role will labels play in the future business models?

Dave: The major labels are going to be able to sign new artists, so they will have influence. But I think the indie labels and the no-labels that artists are forming – their personal labels – are going to be just as influential. If you get a super-hot band that decides they’re going to help pioneer a new format or a new distribution vehicle, and people love the band, they’re going to pick that up. They’re going to inherit that into their life. If enough new bands do that and connect with their fans, that will matter way more than what the four big record labels do. Eventually, they’re going to come around and say, ‘Oh man, we’ve got to get on this bandwagon,’ as opposed to doing it deliberately. You can see in the last four or five years, and particularly in the last two years, that labels are willing to abandon DRM, experiment and take a little bit more of a risk in how their music is put out there, which they absolutely, categorically refused to do four or five years ago. The rest of the music world is pulling them along. The fans and the new music are pulling the bigger labels into the future, as opposed to the big labels setting the pace. I think those days are over.

R&G: The majority of people I talk to feel that the next killer app is a filter that will enable users to find music they enjoy.

Dave: I think that’s certainly a critical element of whatever system of music delivery we evolve into. Findability, discovery are going to be critical features. I don’t know that there’s going to be a technological solution to that problem. Again, various forms of word-of-mouth have driven the popularity of all music through the years. So, to the extent that we can supercharge that word-of-mouth that’s happening in blogs like yours and services like Last.fm and Pandora that are kind of aggregating the opinions of others, uncovering and making those available, I think that’s going to be very important. But again, I don’t see how that’s any different than my telling friends in 1963 that I heard this cool band on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s the same thing.

R&G: What do you think of blog aggregators such as The Hype Machine and Elbows?

Dave: I frequent The Hype Machine. Elbows, I’ve looked at a couple times. I think it’s a great thing. The more somebody can make it easier for people to find music they’re going to like, the more value that entity will gather. I don’t know that a computer-based search is going to be the ultimate winner. I tend to doubt it. I think it’s going to be more in the mobile space. It still blows my mind that people sit in front of their computers and listen to music on these absolutely shitty little speakers. They’re listening to crappy files in an uncomfortable chair. When I grew up, having a killer stereo was all that mattered, other than a car and a girlfriend. The stereo/audio business has completely gone away and been replaced by shitty ear-buds from Apple and MP3 files. It blows my mind that people tolerate that. I think it’s impacted the experience of listening to music, how you listen to it, how you enjoy it. So I’m not sure that a computer-based model is going to get enough traction to supplant other ways of acquiring, listening to and finding out about music. I think it needs to be easier, better sounding, portable and more integrated into your life. It needs to get outside of your bedroom or den.

R&G: I read on your blog that Douglas Merrill, President of EMI Digital, said he agreed with data that suggested file-sharing is good for the music industry. I found that interesting, but he also came from Google and didn’t have any experience in the music business. Do you see a trend in technology guys coming to the labels and figuring out how they can make this work; a technology guy versus the old-school music guy?

Dave: Not necessarily. I think the great labels of the past were run by music people who understood what the artists were all about and how to create great product, great songs and how to put great people together. I don’t think we can wave a wand and put a bunch of techies in the driver’s seat, and everything will suddenly be good. You need educated people that understand the technology, the music, the creative process, the marketing and the relationships with fans. As those skill sets get implanted in the people running the companies that matter – not just labels, but publishers, touring companies, marketing companies and distribution companies – then things will get better. I’m pretty confident of that, but I don’t see technology solving the music industry’s problem.

Read more great interviews here at Rollo & Grady

“In a digital world there’s no up-front cost to have infinite inventory that replicates itself on demand as a perfect digital copy and it only does that after it’s been authorized to do so, which is usually with a purchase. It has really been a shift from having infrastructure and access to distribution to just having access to distribution.” -Jeff Price

My friend Charlie McEnerney recently interviewed Jeff Price of Tunecore. Here is an excerpt. Listen to the complete interview here.

“As anyone who buys music knows, the way we are finding it and buying it has changed radically over the last 15 years.

For musicians, it used to be that if you wanted someone to release your music, you’d have to get the attention and approval of an artist and repertoire (or A&R person) at a label, work to sign a deal either big or small so that the label would then press up your product and work with distributors to get your vinyl or 8-track or cassette or CD to ship them out to record stores where the music fan could have access to them.

Now, all you have to do it is get some audio files online and instantly be able to have your music available to the current online global audience of 1.5 billion people, which is still just about 23% of the world’s population, so the potential for reaching new audiences continues to grow. As mobile devices get smarter, it’s inevitable that consumers will be downloading more music and playing it without a desktop or laptop computer even being involved, too.

As a result of the rise of digital download stores such as iTunes and Amazon mp3, the need has come for new companies to aggregate songs and distribute them out to all these growing online stores.

That’s where TuneCore comes in.

After SpinArt, Price went on to work with eMusic.com, first as a consultant, then as interim VP of Content Acquisition, and finally as the Senior Director of Music/Business Development. He contributed towards the creation of eMusic’s initial business model and created and implemented the first subscription-based music sales and distribution structure.

In 2005 Price started TuneCore, which is an aggregator which helps get digital music into online stores such as iTunes, Amazon mp3, eMusic, Rhapsody, Napster, Amie Street, Groupie Tunes, ShockHound.com, and lala.

TuneCore has also been in the news in recent months as some very mainstream acts have used the service to get their music direct to consumers, including Nine Inch Nails and Paul Westerberg. Just a few weeks back, it was announced that Aretha Franklin would be using TuneCore to distribute her version of My Country Tis Thee that she performed at the Obama inauguration.

TuneCore’s competitors are services such as IODA, The Orchard, and CD Baby and I discuss with Price about what makes TuneCore different from these services.

This episode includes music from a variety of independent music that has been submitted to be for Well-Rounded Radio.

Listen to the interview here along with some great new music.

My friend Terry McBride was recently interviewed by Carter Smith of Rollo & Grady. Talk about the Future of Music, Nettwerk is doing it now. Here is the interview:

R&G: What made you decide to focus your business on digital products versus physical ones in 2002?

Terry: It was an intuitive thing for me. Obviously, digital had been seeping into our world for about three years and the Napster effect was apparent. Being a small company and working directly with artists, we could really hear and see what was starting to happen. It was a realization that fighting it wouldn’t work; understanding it and being able to grow it was what was going to work. It was a psychological shift for us. It took a few years to get the rest of the company and analysts focused towards that, but that was the psychological shift for me, which means that the company shifts.

R&G: About 80% of your business is from digital sales now, right?

Terry: Yes, that’s correct.

R&G: Why did you drop DRM in 2003?

Terry: I didn’t see any purpose in locking down files; it made no sense to me. People have always been sharing music. Why would I want to stop them? Why would I want to tell them what to do? The way to win was to get them to support my artists, not to force them to do it a certain way. I know I wouldn’t like anyone telling me that.

R&G: You recently spoke about cloud-based servers, mobile applications and smartphones being the future of the music business.

Terry: What’s happened in the last ten years is kind of moot. The next 18 months will determine the future of the music business. It’s a situation where the turnover on phones by the average consumer – now I’m being generous here – is every two years. It’s probably shorter. The smartphones that are starting to dominate the marketplace are specific platforms now open to applications that are being developed outside of the R&D departments of all of the various carriers. Apple, when they opened up their App Store, I think they sold, what, 150 million apps in maybe 9 months. It stunned the world, and Apple is a small player. They might be a noisy player, but they’re a small player within the mobile space. Research In Motion launches their store this month, Nokia is launching Ovi in April and Google has already launched their Android site. You’re going to see millions of applications come onto the marketplace. You’re going to see social filtering of the really good ones, and what’s going to be in there are applications that change the behavioral habits of how you consume music. The need to download music will no longer exist. If anything, it will be a hassle. You’ll have smartphones that can probably handle two to three hundred songs. That’s a gradual download; you’re actually not streaming it. It’s actually on your phone but it’s pulled from some sort of server, whether it’s your own server or a cloud server. To make all of these applications work, you have to have really good metadata, which means that business has to focus its efforts on really good metadata. Rich metadata is going to work with all of these applications. You’re going to see digital maids, digital valets. You’re going to see applications for maybe five bucks a month where you can access all the music that you want, how you want it, when you want it, imported to any device. So why would you want to download? Why would you want to go online to try to find it for free? Besides, something you find free might not work with these smartphone apps. Five bucks is no big deal to have unlimited access. That’s where everything’s going. All of the current arguments and debates are moot. I would even say that the ticker has now started on when the iPod goes away. I think Apple saw that.

R&G: So their primary focus will be to promote the iPhone?

Terry: They’ve been pushing the iPhone more than anything, and when they opened up their App Store, their intuitions were proven right. It is the App Store that has driven iPhone sales.

R&G: Do you think the major labels will sign off on these applications?

Terry: I don’t think they have any choice in the matter. It’s really just a subscription model, but it’s the application. A subscription model has never worked to date because it’s always been a hassle. It only works on your laptop, you can’t port it between devices, and it’s always streaming and always a pain in the ass. Last.fm and Pandora have been nice, but transferring that around has been really difficult. The applications coming with these smartphones will change all that and make it a hassle not to use them. Downloading will seem like a hassle two years from now. It will be like, ‘Download something? Are you nuts? Here, I can instantly access it. Watch, I’ll just type it in and my valet will go find it for me.’

R&G: Your valet, meaning your filter?

Terry: It’s an app. You’ll program your valet to look at what your 20 closest peers are listening to and create something for you to listen to. Maybe you’re a Led Zeppelin fan and all you want to hear is Led Zeppelin today. Maybe something bad happened and you want to listen to Sarah McLachlan today. Your valet will do that for you, and your digital maid will clean up your library for you.

R&G: That will be huge. It will make music consumption easier for the end user.

Terry: I always call it the hassle factor. It’s a hassle right now to be part of a subscription model. It’s even a hassle to download. These smartphones are radically going to change that. I mean, with Shazam you go, ‘What is that song?’ and you can instantly know what it is and instantly buy it, if that’s what you want to do. Slacker is the first one that comes close to being a digital valet. It’s only going to get better. Anyone with a really good idea can actually make it happen. You’re going to see this coming out of garages and university dorms, not Apple and Blackberry campuses.

R&G: You’re a member of the RIAA. What are your thoughts of them monitoring ISP usage?

Terry: Here’s my whole view of this, and this hasn’t changed for quite a long time. Out of all of the sharing of music, who’s making an economic return? Whoever is should then share that with all the people that allowed it to happen, creating a nice alignment of interests to grow any business. A lot of the providers have viewed music as free content, while at the same time paying for the cable content to grow their networks. They’ve been making money off the backs of the artists without any compensation for the artists at all. I think that’s fundamentally wrong. I’ve also said it’s fundamentally wrong to go after the consumers that are using that opportunity. That’s not the right approach either. The phone companies and the cable providers have gotten away with murder in this whole situation.

R&G: What’s your opinion on music blogs?

Terry: I love music blogs because they’re music fans. They’re authentic and passionate about music. They’re no different than me. All they’re doing is spreading the word about stuff they like. The authentic will rise to the top, which is why I like aggregators like The Hype Machine. I think it’s brilliant. It’s a great way of seeing what music fans are talking about versus some other filter. I’d rather the filter be a social filter, and then you can go into niches. Maybe it’s a bluegrass filter or a country filter or a hard rock filter or an ambient filter. Whatever. Those people are really passionate about that music. You know what? That’s what it’s about. Songs are not copyright. Songs are emotions.

Read more great interviews at Rollo & Grady here.

From SPIN.COM

MC Lars, a self-proclaimed “post-punk laptop rapper,” may be best-known for his fast-talking rhymes about Hot Topic stores and hipster girls, but the Bay Area musician is notably literary, and therefore a fitting participant in our ongoing series of musicians talking about their favorite books. Not only has MC Lars penned songs about Moby Dick, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” and Hamlet, he’s also published a book of his own poetry called Bukowski In Love.

For his SPIN.com Book Club pick, Lars veers away from iconic works of literature, instead choosing a practical tome for anyone making music these days: The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution, authored by two veterans of pop music who outline the music industry’s digital future.

SPIN: Why did you pick this book?
MC Lars: I studied English literature in college, but in a few years I want to do a PhD in media studies, so I’m always reading books about music technology and the digital music revolution and the evolution of content and new media economics. I read this book because one of the authors, Dave Kusek, is a professor at Berklee College of Music and he’s a really smart guy [who actually was one of the co-developers of MIDI technology, a revolutionary development in electronic music]. It’s really influenced my philosophies on technology and media and it’s also really influenced my business model as a guy with a label.

How many times have you read it?
Three times. It’s a good one.

Do you reread the whole thing or do you just have sections you go back to?

What happened was I read it casually and then I read closely and then I read it again because I wrote a song that was inspired by it. I took some of his philosophies and made it into lyrics. It’s called “Download This Song.” The author heard my song, and on the website for the book they did a little piece about how the song reinforced those philosophies. It was really cool to have this author I really love like the song I wrote about his book.

Read the Spin Article here.

Here is a very interesting study of how Netflix took on the better financed and entrenched players of the day, and took over. This is a true digital revolution and a cash machine to boot. There is a lot to be learned here from studying this model. I invite your comments below.

Netflix is a solid example of the Long Tail concept.

“Customers have flocked to Netflix in part because of the firm’s staggering selection. A traditional video store (and Blockbuster has some 7,800 of them) stocks roughly 3,000 DVD titles on its shelves. For comparison, Netflix is able to offer its customers a selection of over 100,000 DVDs, and rising! At traditional brick and mortar retailers, shelf space is the biggest constraint limiting a firm’s ability to offer customers what they want when they want it. Just which films, documentaries, concerts, cartoons, TV shows, and other fare make it inside the four walls of a Blockbuster store is dictated by what the average consumer is most likely to be interested in. To put it simply, Blockbuster stocks blockbusters.

Finding the right product mix and store size can be tricky. Offer too many titles in a bigger storefront and there may not be enough paying customers to justify stocking less popular titles (remember, it’s not just the cost of the DVD – firms also pay for the real-estate of a larger store, the workers, the energy to power the facility, etc.). You get the picture – there’s a breakeven point that is arrived at by considering the geographic constraint of the number of customers that can reach a location, factored in with store size, store inventory, the payback from that inventory, and the cost to own and operate the store. Anyone who has visited a video store only to find a title out-of-stock has run up against the limits of the physical store model.

But many online businesses are able to run around these limits of geography and shelf space. Internet firms that ship products can get away with having just a few highly-automated warehouses, each stocking just about all the products in a particular category. And for firms that distribute products digitally (think songs on iTunes), the efficiencies are even greater because there’s no warehouse or physical product at all (more on that later).

Offer a nearly limitless selection and something interesting happens: there’s actually more money to be made selling the obscure stuff than the hits. Music service Rhapsody makes more from songs outside of the top 10,000 than it does from songs ranked 10,000 and above. At Amazon.com, roughly 60 percent of books sold are titles that aren’t available in even the biggest Borders or Barnes & Noble Superstores4. And at Netflix, over two-thirds of DVDs shipped are from back-catalog titles, not new releases (Blockbuster outlets do about 70 percent of their business in new releases). Consider that Netflix sends out 45,000 different titles each day. That’s fifteen times the selection available at your average video store! Each quarter, roughly 95 percent of titles are viewed – that means that every few weeks Netflix is able to find a customer for nearly every DVD that has ever been commercially released.”

From John Gallaugher David becomes Goliath – Netflix case study

There are many lessons in here for the music business to pay attention to.

Listen to this episode of “With A Voice Like This” where I am speaking with Jim Goodrich about the future of music.

It’s been four years since The Future of Music book came out and this radio interview starts with what has changed and what has stayed the same since the book was published. But there’s a twist. At the beginning of the show Jim asked that we not focus on the technology itself, since the book had so much more to offer than just a discussion of technology. Among other things we talk about what’s going on in China currently, the Universal Mobile Device (UMD) and of course, the Music like Water concept.

Listen to the interview here.

Download the MP3 file here.

If you are into music as a career, you got to watch this.

Narrated by Forest Whitaker, BEFORE THE MUSIC DIES is an unsettling and inspiring look at today’s popular music industry featuring interviews and performances by Erykah Badu, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Branford Marsalis and a wide variety of others. The documentary film has built a passionate following as “the most important film a music fan will ever see” (XM Radio) by providing “a balanced overview of the state of the rock scene of America” (WSJ) and adding “passion to the eternal debate about the industry” (NYTimes).

Since its release in November 2006, the film has screened over 200 times in over 130 North American markets with hundreds of additional events anticipated worldwide during 2007. (I wonder how many times this is going to be watched now?)

Use this site to learn more about the film, where you can see it, ways you can own it, and – most importantly – how you can get involved in sharing it with others.

Before the Music Dies

I have know Terry McBride for many years now and have had the privilege of working with the entire Nettwerk team on overall strategy a while ago. I am very proud to see some of what we worked on taking shape. What I love about Terry is his ability to act on ideas very quickly and make things happen one way or another. He is not afraid to experiment. He is also not afraid to take risks and transition his revenue model to something that makes more sense and is sustainable.

He got out front very early on in forming a “network” of companies to manage artists, promote tours (remember LillethFest), create merchandise, distribute both physically and digitally, publish writers and integrate the marketing. He tried memory sticks, free downloads, free stems for people to mash up, artist-owned labels, viral and crowd-based marketing.

I met with him in Vancouver a month ago and am preparing a video interview. In the meantime, here are some excerpts from a fine piece by Mark Glaser at PBS.

“At the vanguard of the movement of crowdsourcing music and putting the fans in control is Nettwerk Music, a record label and band management service in Vancouver, BC, that has become synonymous with digital music and alternative revenue streams. The label completely revamped itself in 2002, putting digital music and Internet promotion at the forefront and downplaying physical CD sales. Fans have been able to remix albums by Barenaked Ladies and rapper K-OS — even before his new album comes out — and Avril Lavigne has racked up millions of plays and possibly millions in revenues on YouTube.

The driving force behind the digital makeover of Nettwerk is CEO Terry McBride, a man who has helped pay legal fees for people sued by the RIAA for sharing music online. After McBride took such a strong stance for digital music — and away from CD sales — he started speaking more at conferences and talking to the media to spread his vision for a “digital valet” service. He thinks we will all end up paying $5 to $10 per month for access to all music, TV and movies, with a digital valet that knows our tastes and finds media for us.

While most music labels have been squeezed by the shift to digital music, Nettwerk has had growing revenues, McBride told me, and he expects 80% of the company’s 2008 income to be from digital and alternative revenues — and not CD sales.

“In 2007, about 70% of our sales on intellectual property was all digital, and this year it will be around 80%,” he said. “A lot of physical sales comes from our bigger artists and we do print-on-demand for our smaller artists, for their mail order or for touring…My stance on file-sharing did not match what my brethren in the music industry believed. I remember giving a keynote speech three or four years ago, and having a lot of pissed off people.”

When did you realize how important digital music would be vs. physical music and CDs?

Terry McBride: We started our whole change internally in spring or summer of 2002. We did it really quietly. We had one of these executive team summits. We looked at where everything was going. We looked at the fact that 25 million [CD] sellers would be 5 million sellers. The fact that million sellers would be quarter-million sellers. And how our existing model would work within that. Would we take the same stance, to protect the castle and fight, or was there a different way of doing it?

The interesting thing then was that we had the initial digital data to look at. We saw a lot of what was happening. And we said, ‘Where will all this be in five years, and will we be ready for it?’ There was a conscious decision made at that meeting to get out of the physical music business. So we decided to retool our whole company and over the next two years, that’s what we did. For a company that had had an attrition rate of 1% or 2%, a company of 120 or 150 people, over the next three years we had a turnover of almost 25% a year as we changed almost everything.

Rather than have a marketing team with marketing meetings, and promotion team with promotion meetings and sales team with sales meetings, we got rid of all that and created silos. We created three teams that had everything from Internet to traditional marketing to sales to IT to promotion — all in one group, and got rid of the meetings. So everything you needed for an artist was in that group. There was no heads of marketing. We shifted from 12 traditional marketing people to 3 traditional marketing people and 8 or 9 Internet marketing people.

Then we aggressively went after every DSP [digital service provider] that was interested in music that we had, and we set up a team to deal with the programming of metadata behind what we were actually doing…All of our marketing is not around albums but around bands and brands. Our marketing is about understanding the social elements of songs, of music, of emotions.

Fortunately we’re a growing business right now. We didn’t protect the castle. We also made the switch at a very good time to make the switch. Avril had broken, Coldplay had broken, Dido was doing amazing, Sarah [McLaughlin] was doing amazing. The Barenaked Ladies were doing amazing. We were flush with cash. If we made those changes now, it would be very very difficult because money is much more tight.

You have been pushing many bands to start their own labels. How did that start?

McBride: That came from a point of view of how do we get collapsed copyright. How do we get an authentic relationship between the artist and the fan? How can we remove everything that we possibly can from the relationship — or between the relationship — of the artist and the fan. Artists owning their own copyrights and being able to be in direct communication is a far more authentic relationship.

There’s a risk and reward to that. If an artist is signed to a major label, then the manager has no risk, but then you’re only getting a commission from publishing and master royalties combined, maybe a maximum of $2 [per CD sale]. With an artist [label], we had to finance it, but we were commissioning off a $5 or $6 net [per sale]. So obviously we get a much better commission, but it’s a much higher risk. With these artist imprints, it takes two to three albums for them to work.

We’ve found in the digital space, that you will sell anywhere between 25% to 50% of your volume from your catalog upon release of any new albums. So you are layering intellectual property. In the digital space, where you don’t need to buy shelf space, if you create the right metadata behind what you’re doing, and market it in an effective way — you’re not marketing the new album, you’re marketing the brand. By the time you make it to album three, you are selling as much of the catalog as the new album, but you don’t have the cost with the catalog and everything starts to make sense.

So I had to get people here to believe in this, and stop people from having a heart attack over the equity we were tying up, which we had no ownership in. But proving the model that you have have an artist like State Radio, which is a great example of an artist who makes a couple hundred thousand dollars a year from intellectual property, which will help finance the next album.

Chad [Urmston of State Radio] just played to 2,800 people with a $25 ticket price in New York on the weekend. He’s marketing a brand, he’s not just marketing intellectual property. Now it all makes sense. He’s happy, he owns his future, his audience has grown with him really well. Now everything makes sense to him, where initially he was unknown and had to work from the ground up.

The Internet marketing team and his manager did a spectacular job of understanding who his tribe is and would be. Out of the eight artist imprints that we launched, seven of them are very profitable, but it took time and selling the managers on the fact that there were no commissions to be made to a certain point. If they signed an artist to a major label there was instant commissions. And it took the lawyers years to get their heads around it because they just didn’t believe in it. It’s taken time, but now the managers are looking at a very steady cash flow, and the artists aren’t fighting for their creative freedom but actually using their imagination — and those are two very different things.

For the marketers of music these days, how has their job changed? It used to be about talking to radio and retailers. Now is it about search engine optimization (SEO)?

McBride: Search engine optimization, the ability to write basic code, understanding how social networks and blogs work together, how to connect that interaction back to the sale of music or monetization of behavior or crowdsourcing music. It’s understanding all of those things, and having a very imaginative marketing plan around the artist vs. around a product. It’s really brand marketing. What are the artists’ causes? Are there cause alignments? Are there other brands we can hook up with to align our causes? And if the other brand is bigger, can we give them free music and get exposure to their audience because it’s like-minded tribes?

It’s basically social marketing. It’s understanding social tribes and peer-to-peer interaction that the social networks have taken from a small group of 20 of your peers to 250 of your peers. And not focused on recommendation engines, but the social aspect of recommendations. So it’s not a computer making the recommendation, but social groups doing it. Looking at the technology but not using it for what it was meant for. That’s what the creative arts do. The technologists build something with a certain purpose in mind, and then the creative people take what the nerds have done and take it in a completely different direction than what people saw coming.

You’re doing a lot of crowdsourcing of music, where you put out pieces of music and let people remix them. Is that about engagement and interaction more than business?

McBride: Well it’s both. We started initially with T-shirts. We found out that the T-shirts that the fans designed — even if the artists didn’t like them — the people who went to shows liked them more than the ones that the artists designed. That was consistent whether it was Barenaked Ladies, or Avril or Sarah — the fans’ T-shirts always sold more. The fans would do the designs and vote up the ones they liked, and filter them to the top, and we would take the top 3 voted designs and put them in production. And they were consistently the top sellers out there.

In 2005, we took it a step further by releasing Barenaked Ladies songs in stems [pieces of the music tracks]. That sparked the idea for the guys who created Rock Band. That was more of a remix. Now I’m more about the mix; to hell with the remix! We have an artist named K-OS, and we released all of the stems two weeks ago, and the fans have not heard the album. It’s not due out until March, so they are actually mixing the album. So we will release physically and digitally the artist version and the fan version. And when we go to radio, we will service the artist version and fan version. So we are taking it the rest of the way.

You can even take it beyond that. With K-OS, we’re thinking about having the audience vote on which 10 to 12 cities he plays in Canada. We might even take it one step further: pay as you go not as you enter. And maybe when you leave you get a copy of the fan mix for your donation, so there’s karma pricing on the exit. Let’s take this whole tribal/social interaction the whole way. Everyone including Nettwerk has dabbled with it. We have probably dabbled more than any company with a wide assortment of artists, so we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work. But with K-OS it’s the first time we’ve gone all the way with it.

Read the whole PBS Interview here.

Most of this is old news, but you got to love this line:

“You can’t roll a joint on an iPod,” the singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne told The New York Times Magazine early last year. And, O.K., I suppose that’s among the iPod’s drawbacks. But it’s hard to think of an electronic device released in recent decades that’s brought more pleasure to more people.

Should anyone care that in the process, the iPod has all but killed the music industry as we’ve known it? Maybe not, Steve Knopper writes in “Appetite for Self-Destruction – The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age,” his stark accounting of the mistakes major record labels have made since the end of the LP era and the arrival of digital music. These dinosaurs, he suggests, are largely responsible for their own demise.

Mr. Knopper, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, provides a wide-angled, morally complicated view of the current state of the music business. He doesn’t let those rippers and burners among us — that is, those who download digital songs without paying for them, and you know who you are — entirely off the hook. But he suggests that with even a little foresight, record companies could have adapted to the Internet’s brutish and quizzical new realities and thrived.

“The CD boom lasted from 1984 to 2000,” Mr. Knopper writes. Then the residue of old mistakes and a wave of new realities began hammering the music industry from all sides.

One of the first things the labels got wrong, Mr. Knopper says, was the elimination of the single. It got young people out of the habit of regularly visiting record stores and forced them to buy an entire CD to get the one song they craved. In the short term this was good business practice. In the long term it built up animosity. It was suicidal.

When Napster and other music-sharing Web sites showed up, the single came back with a vengeance. Before long MP3 — the commonly used term for digitally compressed and easily traded audio files — had replaced sex as the most searched-for term on sites like Yahoo! and AltaVista.

The record industry bungled the coming of Napster. Instead of striking a deal with a service that had more than 26 million users, labels sued, forcing it to close. A result, Mr. Knopper writes, was that users simply splintered, fleeing to many other file-sharing sites. “That was the last chance,” he declares, “for the record industry as we know it to stave off certain ruin.”

Read more of this book review from the New York Times.

PARIS, (BUSINESS WIRE) — Music Ally, the leading digital music strategy and research company, and MIDEM, organizers of MidemNet, the international forum dedicated to reflection on the music business in the digital age, are delighted to announce the winners of the second Music Ally/MidemNet “New Business Showcase.” The winners presented their ideas at MidemNet’s 10th annual conference in Cannes in January 2009.

About the Winners

Instinctiv Shuffle
Ever thought random shuffling of music was too, well, random? Instinctiv has had that thought too, and has come up with Instinctiv Shuffle. It’s an iPhone / iPod Touch application that aims to provide a smarter shuffle feature, guessing the user’s mood by what songs they listen to and what ones they skip. The app has so far only been available on jailbroken iPhones, but has been causing a stir.

MPTrax
MPTrax is focused on bringing Web 2.0 connectivity to the live music arena, connecting bands, rappers and DJs to venues, clubs and party planners – including people arranging house parties and other small events. Currently in beta, it offers a dedicated booking platform, complete with a feedback/rating system, invitation tools, sample contracts and social networking features. It could be a crucial tool for bands looking off the beaten track for their live revenues.

Mustik
Mustik is an interactive musical instrument which allows non musicians to play music. The way you interact with the Mustik alters the way that the musical track plays back. It’s a kind of Guitar Hero on acid. Conceived from a University project on embodied interaction, this is one product you have to see to believe.

Passionato
Launched earlier this year, Passionato is a website targeting classical music fans with higher quality downloads, selling DRM-free music as 320kbps MP3 files, or lossless FLAC files for proper audiophiles. The store also builds in reviews, user ratings and community features, as well as the obligatory Facebook and MySpace widgets.

Play Anywhere
Catch Media’s Play Anywhere scheme is certainly ambitious, aiming to offer a grand solution to interoperability. It’s about allowing users to playback music that they own, or which they’re legally entitled to access, across all possible devices. The company has already obtained new Play Anywhere licences from two major labels, and is ultimately hoping to entice all players within the digital value chain, including retailers, mobile operators and ISPs.

Soundcloud
It’s been described as “a Google Docs for audio” and a “Flickr for music,” so Soundcloud has solid Web 2.0 credentials. It’s an online audio platform designed to let people move music quickly and easily, whether they’re artists, labels, producers or other professionals. It’s attracted more than 2,000 labels and 50,000 users so far without splashing the cash. It’s been winning praise for its flexibility and featureset from early users this year.

The Echo Nest
Founded at the prestigious MIT Media Lab, The Echo Nest claims to be “the software equivalent of a hardware store for music developers.” In other words, it offers open APIs covering artist information, music search, recommendation, remix applications, mash-ups and analytic tools. The idea is that clever developers tap into these APIs to build innovative new music services. Early proof of concepts have showed how powerful these tools can be.

Music gaming is a huge growth area for the games industry. Started by Harmonix with Guitar Hero quickly selling 1.5 million copies. Then came the sequels, Guitar Hero II and III, and a string of successful stand-alone titles such as Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

Then came Rock Band (also from Harmonix) via Electronic Arts. Launched late last year in America, the game received widespread acclaim and sold four million copies, with global revenues of $600 million – and since its release, players have downloaded more than 28 million songs via the game. It has a guitar, a bass, a drum kit and mic, and you can play in single- or multi-player mode, or battle it out online against rock fans worldwide. Following its chart-topping success, Rock Band 2 was released this fall.

With CD sales in free fall and authorized digital downloads not expected to make up the shortfall, the combination of video gaming and music looks promising for the future for the music business. “Industry insiders are learning that video games are the radio and distribution channel for the music industry of the 21st century – and they’re learning quickly,” says Tommy Tallarico, a game composer who has scored more than 275 video games – a world record.

In 2007, Guitar Hero and Rock Band made more than all digital music sales from services such as iTunes. The Aerosmith single “Same Old Song and Dance” was featured in Guitar Hero III. And according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks digital and retail music, sales of the song jumped by 136 per cent the week after the game was released in late 2007, and by 400 per cent a week after Christmas that year. Even the most successful groups are getting in on the act. Rock Band has secured the rights to release a stand-alone video game featuring The Beatles, scheduled for release next year.

Read more from Jimmy Lee Shreeve and The Independent here.

Paul Brindley

Paul Brindley and his team at Music Ally have created a comprehensive list of digital music startup companies from 2008.

Social and Sharing
Video
Stores and Services
Streaming
Place Shifting
Recommendation
Discovery
Digital Labels
P2p
File Sharing
Games
Virtual Worlds
Live Music
Ticketing
Artist Tools
Online Mixtapes
MP3 Search Engines
Tools

Now who says the music industry is dead. Seems like Santa’s Elves have been up very late nearly every night this year building new, cool services and tools for musicians, artists, writers, labels and fans.

Real all about these innovative new businesses here from Musically.

Mobile Phones will soon become the primary means of discovery and distribution for digital music. The market penetration for mobile phones already far outstrips that of music players. “You’re still going to see millions of iPods sold,” Resnikoff says. “It’s a great item. It’s not going to go away. But the move is toward the iPhone and more diversified devices, more complicated systems. That’s where the battle really starts to heat up.”

Mobile phones are a radio-killing app, making the Web’s entire panoply of music fully portable. While music players are great repositories for music you already own, they aren’t gateways to what you might want to discover. To learn about new artists, many now look to online entities where they once spun the radio dial.

With personalized streams, shared playlists, and huge catalogs of music within arm’s reach, the mobile phone’s access to social networking sites, Internet radio, and subscription services threatens to revolutionize the idea of “broadcasting.” Using cellphones as their portals, online music companies can specifically target the techno-savvy, tastemaking under-35 demographic radio has left behind and offer programs tailored to personal tastes.

Read more from the SF Weekly.

The Long Tail theory is being challenged by a pair of researchers from the UK. A new study by Will Page and Andrew Bud, of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the not-for-profit royalty collection society, suggests that the niche market is not an untapped goldmine and that online sales success still relies on big hits.

“I think people believed in a fat, fertile long tail because they wanted it to be true,” said Mr Bud. “The statistical theories used to justify that theory were intelligent and plausible. But they turned out to be wrong. The data tells a quite different story. For the first time, we know what the true demand for digital music looks like.”

They found that, for the online singles market, 80 per cent of all revenue came from around 52,000 tracks. For albums, the figures were even more stark. Of the 1.23 million available, only 173,000 were ever bought, meaning 85 per cent did not sell a single copy all year.

Read more here.

I had the good fortune of meeting Matthew Daniel of R2G in China a couple of weeks ago. He presented his thoughts on the Chinese music market and reconciling the intrinsic value of music over there. It is very interesting that Intellectual Property has had very little monetary value in China and they are struggling with a situation that the rest of the world is just beginning to learn about.

Music in China has essentially always been free. They are now just trying to put structures in place to encourage people to pay for recorded music. Access and Convenience are the keys to his strategy. Lots of lessons to be learned for sure.

“While commercial music consumption has never been more widespread in the known history of man, and with the Internet offering the most capacious vehicle the world has ever seen to disseminate the near infinite body of musical works that exists universally to the greatest number of people, the existing music industry powers-that-be have yet to formulate a system to set this music free – even 10 years after Napster showed the way technologically.

And as elements in the music industry still continue to control the amount of legally accessible music to consumers, and only feed them the acts from which it can make the most money while keeping its vast catalogs in obviously porous vaults, other companies and intermediaries have capitalized on the clarion call to set the music free in all senses of the word. But some of these very companies and intermediaries are themselves simply in the game to enrich themselves via other ancillary services and products which use the pull of music and the accompanying audience, with minimal revenues trickling back to the very creators of the music.

Whilst this tug-of-war continues, one casualty is the increasing reference to music as a commodity,which is a gross misrepresentation of what music really is. Music is food for the soul which creates an emotional attachment with the listener and where it strikes a chord, an intrinsic value in the music is realized.

The industry needs to re-focus on this value in music that many seem to have forgotten, and which others have seemed to have contributed to its devaluation.”

Here is a link to Matthew’s Blog and his presentation from the Transmission Conference I recently attended in Vancouver.

From the Business Innovation Factory Summit, my presentation on the Past, Present and Future of Music.

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Here is the story they wrote about me for the Summit.

Back in the seventies, David Kusek walked from his freshman dorm at the University of Connecticut, down a long hill to the music department for classes several times a week. When the routine got a little stale, he began taking other routes. One detour took him past the computer science building where he quickly noted the “hot” cars in the parking lot. Naturally, he began taking computer science courses.

Great ideas are born in such serendipitous ways. When Kusek melded his deep-rooted love of music with his newfound affinity for computers, he opened up unchartered territory in the music world by inventing the electronic drum. His company, Synare, took a relatively unfamiliar technology (computers) and combined it with an indigenous musical tradition that tuned percussion to the key of the song. Kusek also knew how to start a business, develop products, and take them to market. Having the right price point added to the appeal of the electronic drum and attracted the attention of fledgling artist Donna Summers who took a chance on the new sound and propelled her career.

“For better or worse, we had our part in the disco age,” Kusek says. “We helped to define the sound of the era.”

Taking another detour for curiosity’s sake led Kusek to study animal communication in California with noted biologist John Lilly. They were trying to use sound to communicate with dolphins when the Apple II computer came to market.

Kusek was already synthesizing the sounds that dolphins make, so he devised a way to do the same with musical instruments, to “put the Apple II between the instruments.” He explains that his new company, Passport Designs, “broke music down into a language of expression, which we mapped to simple computer code and connected it to the instruments. We created a computer language for music.” Witness the birth of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), developed by a group of companies including Passport, which has left an indelible mark on the music industry by becoming the prototype for all music interface software.

If only they had patented it.

Kusek, along with Dave Smith and the other people responsible for creating MIDI could have made millions with MIDI, but he remains philosophical about this missed opportunity. “Maybe the reason why it took off was that it was absolutely free,” he says. “It was a compact way of representing music in a simple and cheap format.”

Kusek has learned to appreciate and even extol the benefits of free and open access to music. He helped create musical notation software and was instrumental in developing enhanced CDs for the commercial market. He supports the creation of a music utility to “monetize” the immense wave of file-sharing that has become standard operating procedure in the industry. He reasons that Internet users already pay for access to a network that supplies the music, so why not add a nominal fee to the ISP bill and allow for legal trading? With approximately 80 million households using the Internet, a monthly music utility fee of $3 would generate almost $3 billion in annual music sales from households alone.

“If you tracked what was downloaded,” Kusek says, “you could create a system where the money flows exactly to the people who are listening. It could be a 30 to 40 billion dollar business again, as it was in the nineties.”

Admittedly, this system would spread those billions among a larger base of artists, establishing an unfamiliar sense of parity in the music industry. But Kusek says that the megastar is gone, anyway: “In the last four to five years, new artists coming to market are not making anywhere near what artists like Madonna made. I think that happens because of file-sharing, but also because the music industry was taking its eye off what was important. In the mid-nineties, the record companies thought their customers were WalMart and Target. They had no connection to their audience at all.”

File-sharing may have killed the megastar, but not the art, Kusek insists. “I think it’s a great time to be an artist,” he says. New performers may have smaller audiences, but they also have a more efficient way of finding that audience and staying connected to it through online chats, newsletters, and blogs. And instead of the record industry’s marketing machine pushing music at fans with an $18 plastic CD case and the elaborate promotion attached to it, word of mouth is shaping the musical tastes of the rising generation.

As it should, according to Kusek. He has brought technological innovations to the music industry by accepting such change and using it to open up the possibilities of sound. He envisions music flowing in a clean stream wherever people communicate, allowing artists and fans to express themselves freely.

Derek is the musician who started CD Baby, the world’s largest online music store for independent musicians. Here are some current stats from the site:

– 242,846 artists sell their music at CD Baby
– 4,574,622 CDs sold online to customers
– $83,590,381 paid directly to the artists

With more than 2 million digitized tracks under management, CD Baby is also the largest provider of independent music for iTunes… and it all started as a hobby. A lot to learn here.

Tim Ferriss is the author of the hugely popular book The Four Hour Workweek.

Here is a recent interview between Derek and Tim. Interesting to see how Derek adopts Tim’s philosophy for CD-Baby. Note that Derek just recently sold CDBaby to Disc Makers and is now a free agent.

http://services.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/271539270

From my co-author Gerd Leonhard – a presentation on the future of music.

British Music Rights survey on music consumption of people aged 14-24. The average age of respondents was 22. This is the largest UK academic survey of its kind.

* 14-24 year olds love music – arguably more than any previous generation.

Well I am not quite sure about this one, but lets move on.

* But their consumption of music is changing significantly – the perceived value of sharing, recommendation and copying have all increased.

The world has changed for the digital kids.

* The upshot? Emotional importance does not correlate with spending – especially compared to other entertainment sectors.

* Around 90% of respondents now own an MP3 player. They contain an average of 1770 tracks – half of which have not been paid for.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE – the MP3 player is only about 8 years old.

* 58% have copied music from a friend’s hard drive to their own, and 95% copy music in some way.

* 63% download music using P2P file-sharing networks.

* 42% have allowed P2P users to upload music from their computer. Much of this behaviour is viewed as altruistic.

* 80% of current P2P users would be interested in a legal file-sharing
service – and they would pay for it too.

* The CD is not dead. Even if a legal file-sharing service existed, over 60% say they would continue to buy CDs.

* Money spent on live music exceeds that spent on recorded music

This is all very good news for the music industry.

British Rights Survey

These days there are hundreds of options for acquiring music from free legal download and streaming services. Many of these sites offer streaming and/or downloading options. Some are up there for the love of music, some are driven by advertising and some are building business models behind the scenes. They are alternatives to paid services like iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster.

There are an ever expanding number of these services that offer great music from both established and emerging artists. Free Geekery has compiled an interesting list of 100 of these sources for your music enjoyment. Happy listening.

Great coverage from Rolling Stone.

While up-and-coming bands may find most of their licensing offers in the $2,500 range, established bands can make much more: from $30,000 at the high end for TV shows to $100,000 for movies and $250,000 for commercials. To introduce last year’s Sky Blue Sky, Wilco licensed six of the album’s songs to Volkswagen for ads. And the veteran duo They Might Be Giants, who have been releasing recordings on their own for the last six years, made a deal with Dunkin’ Donuts for around $1 million to create original music for over two dozen spots, according to industry sources.

Perhaps no band has been more aggressive — or creative — with its licensing than OK Go. When the group treadmilled its way to YouTube stardom in 2006 with the no-budget video for “Here It Goes Again,” it was having the kind of careermaking hit that bands dream about, just as the commercial record industry was tanking. So OK Go manager Jamie Kitman sought licensing opportunities for the group — making deals for its music to be used in everything from TV commercials and video games to corporate seminars and cable TV “bumpers” (the music that’s used to come in or out of a program). Kitman estimates that when all the uses are tallied, OK Go will have granted more than 200 licenses and made old-fashioned hit-record money. “The accepted wisdom now is that no one is selling records,” Kitman says. “So how do you keep the wheels on the bus? There’s a person in my office who spends half her time fielding licensing queries.”

Ian Montone, whose Monotone Management handles the White Stripes, Vampire Weekend, the Shins, M.I.A. and the Raconteurs, says his bands no longer make most of their money on CD sales. “A lot of artists are looking toward touring and merchandising sales at shows, because that market is still vibrant if you grow it methodically,” he says. The Shins have licensed songs for use in commercials for McDonald’s and Zune. Still, Montone says the Shins turn down 90 percent of the licensing deals they’re offered. So why McDonald’s? “Why not?” says Montone. “They have kids and want to own houses.”

By comparison, the White Stripes have focused on touring and coming up with creative merch: The band sells limited-edition CD singles on the road, as well as unique posters created for each show. “We do that because it’s something special for the fans, but it’s also a way to make money,” Montone says. “I think you’re going to see artists doing more direct-to-consumer sales.” The Stripes have already been able to reapportion the record-company pie to their advantage: The band owns its masters and strikes distribution deals with the major record companies on an album-by-album basis.

Those kinds of partnering relationships are also being sought by the major record companies, who are offering artists better money if they sign deals that include more than just recording rights. Generally referred to as “360 deals” because they seek to cover every facet of an artist’s career, including publishing, touring, merchandising and licensing, the new deals are a way for record companies to hedge their bets in a declining record market and to recast themselves as music — rather than just recording — companies.

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One of the savviest labels is Fueled by Ramen, which boasts Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, Paramore and Cute Is What We Aim For. “A lot of people hear about 360 deals and think it’s a land grab, but when you own the content, there are so many interesting things you can do,” says John Janick, who started the label in 1996 while going to college in Gainesville, Florida.

Unlike conventional labels, Fueled by Ramen, which has a partnership with Atlantic Records, does everything in-house: from building Websites that sell merchandise and recordings to producing the T-shirts it sells at chains like Hot Topic. In fact, Fueled by Ramen uses T-shirts to introduce fans to new music — both Panic at the Disco and Paramore placed tags on shirts with PIN codes that enabled buyers to download advance singles at home. “We’re creating a culture for each artist,” Janick says. “Obviously everyone is still looking for new ways to monetize recordings, but our company is growing into many other areas, and that’s great.”

Read more here.