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Remembering Music Producer Phil Ramone

Here is an interview with the great Phil Ramone, recorded at his home in Connecticut. Phil discusses making hits, songwriting, music production, the music industry, the listening experience, working with artists, the studio, spare parts, preparation, working style and gives his advice for artists and writers. A true master, he gives us a glimpse into his thought process and how he works to get the most out of the creative process. Notice how his mind easily shifts from the artistic to the technical and back without missing a beat. We will miss you Phil.

Phil Ramone is one of the most respected and prolific music producers of all time in the recording industry. Ramone’s musical acumen, creativity and use of audio technology are unmatched among his peers. Phil played a huge role in shaping the careers and songs of both Billy Joel and Paul Simon and is going to be missed so much. Such a gentle and graceful man who filled the world with optimism and carved such a wide swath across the music business.

He won 14 Grammy Awards, including producer of the year, nonclassical, in 1981, and three for album of the year, for Mr. Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” in 1976, Mr. Joel’s “52nd Street” in 1980, and Mr. Charles’s duets album, “Genius Loves Company,” in 2005. He also produced music for television and film, winning an Emmy Award as the sound mixer for a 1973 special on CBS, “Duke Ellington … We Love You Madly.”

Mr. Ramone was born in South Africa and grew up in Brooklyn. His father died when he was young, and his mother worked in a department store. A classical violin prodigy, he studied at the Juilliard School but soon drifted toward jazz and pop, and apprenticed at a recording studio, J.A.C. Recording.

In 1958, he co-founded A & R Recording, a studio on West 48th Street in Manhattan, and built a reputation as a versatile engineer, working on pop fare like Lesley Gore as well as jazz by John Coltrane and Quincy Jones. He ran the sound when Marilyn Monroe cooed “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and three years later won his first Grammy as the engineer on Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s landmark album “Getz/Gilberto.”

As a producer, he had a particularly close association with Billy Joel and Paul Simon; the back cover of Joel’s 1977 album “The Stranger” features a photograph of Mr. Ramone posing with Mr. Joel and his band at a New York restaurant.

“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band,” Mr. Joel said in a statement on Saturday. “He was the guy that no one ever, ever saw onstage. He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with — longer than most. So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.”

Acknowledged as one of the top creative music producers, Ramone has also played an integral role in pioneering many of the technological developments in the music industry over the years. He ardently supported the use of the compact disc, digital video disc, hi-definition recording and surround sound.

Ramone’s impeccable list of credits includes collaborations with artists such as: Burt Bacharach, Bono, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Quincy Jones, BB King, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Liza Minnelli, Sinead O’Connor, Pavarotti, Peter/Paul and Mary, Andre Previn, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, Phoebe Snow, Rod Stewart, and Stevie Wonder.

Kelly Cha – Singer / Songwriter / Television

Kelly Cha, nicknamed Zhazha in China, is a Chinese-American singer/songwriter, author, and TV/radio personality. She has published three books and released several singles in addition to hosting radio shows in Los Angeles and China for the past decade. Kelly is currently the acclaimed host of “Action English’s Action DJ,” a daily television show in China for which she wrote the theme song. She also hosts for the popular Hunan Satellite TV channel, plays in the Beijing rock band Orange Factory, and hosts a radio show on China Radio International’s Easy FM.

Jill Sobule – Singer / Songwriter / Performer

Jill Sobule is a singer-songwriter best known for the 1995 single “I Kissed a Girl”, and “Supermodel” from the soundtrack of the 1995 film Clueless. Her folk-inflected compositions alternate between ironic, story-driven character studies and emotive ballads, a duality reminiscent of such 1970s American songwriters as Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson, Loudon Wainwright III, Harry Chapin, and Randy Newman. In 2009 she released an album funded entirely by fan donations.

Paul Hoffert – Performer / Composer

Paul Hoffert is a founding member of Lighthouse a rock band that sold millions of records, toured the world and earned three Juno Awards as Canada’s # 1 pop band (1971-1973). He was inducted into the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and is a multi-awarded composer and conductor of movie and television soundtracks. Paul is also an entrepreneur and CEO of Noank Media Inc., Fine Arts Professor at York University, Chair of the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, and Chair of the Guild of Canadian Film Composers. He is former Faculty Fellow at Harvard University Law School, President of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, Chair of the Ontario Arts Council, and a founder of the Canadian Independent Record Producers Association (CIRPA). He presents his recipes for thriving in the Information Age in his best-selling books: “The New Client”, “All Together Now”, and “The Bagel Effect”. He received the Pixel award in 2001 as the new media industry’s “Visionary of the Year” and was awarded the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest honor – in 2005 for his contributions to music and media.

J the S – Performer / Songwriter

J the S is a New York-based underground hip-hop artist born in the West Indies and raised in Boston. In just four years, J the S dropped two internationally distributed full-length albums and a pair of venomous mixtapes, landed singles on Rap Network, Rap Attack Lives and CMJ charts, and enjoyed rotation on more than 300 college radio stations including Boston’s renowned WERS, where he earned “Artist of the Month” honors in June 2007. Beyond his East Coast ethos, J the S is also marked by his experience as a middle school teacher and his socially progressive mission, which has landed him on bills alongside dead prez, Brand Nubian and KRS-One. He has also opened shows for Kool G Rap and Wu-Tang Clan, and has gained buzz for his music video featuring Atlantic Records’ rapper B.o.B.

Cris Williamson – Singer / Songwriter / Performer

Decades before indie labels and DIY were the norm, and years before women had any real access in the industry, Cris Williamson was busy changing the face of popular music. Cris’s stellar vocals and compelling persona are regarded as legendary for good reason. Despite being like a well-kept secret, and dwelling almost completely in the independent music world, she nonetheless had an impact worldwide. Her now-legendary classic, The Changer and the Changed, is one of the best-selling independent releases of all time. For nearly 30 years, Cris has toured incessantly, selling out Carnegie Hall numerous times and headlining various folk festivals.

criswilliamson.com/

Amber Rubarth – Singer / Songwriter / Performer

Amber Rubarth is a young singer/songwriter from New York City who only started playing music in 2004, but is making a full-time living touring, including many tours of Europe, booking it all herself. She got her start by learning to play and working for a booking agent for a brief period and just doing it. She makes most of her money selling cds at shows and custom items. She has an incredible online following and so much to offer the aspiring indie artist and songwriter.

 

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Artist Revenue Streams Research Project

Artist Revenue Stream Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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Fighting for Future Table Scraps

The future of the profitability of the recorded music business is unquestionably in jeopardy.  One might speculate that new “access based” services like Rdio and Spotify could re-start a failing record industry.  I hope so.

But as sales have fallen to less that 1/2 their heights at the turn of the century, artists and their managers and attorney are looking to every means possible of generating revenue both now and in the future from their recorded works.

The New York Times published a great piece on the coming battles over song rights, excerpted here.  This will be a very interesting fight to watch as it has the potential of forever driving the nail into the coffin of the traditional record labels, forcing a complete restart of the business if it is to survive at all.

“When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, were granted “termination rights,” which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. Recordings from 1978 are the first to fall under the purview of the law, but in a matter of months, hits from 1979, like “The Long Run” by the Eagles and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer, will be in the same situation — and then, as the calendar advances, every other master recording once it reaches the 35-year mark.”

“The provision also permits songwriters to reclaim ownership of qualifying songs. Bob Dylan has already filed to regain some of his compositions, as have other rock, pop and country performers like Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and Charlie Daniels, according to records on file at the United States Copyright Office.”

“In terms of all those big acts you name, the recording industry has made a gazillion dollars on those masters, more than the artists have,” said Don Henley, a founder both of the Eagles and the Recording Artists Coalition, which seeks to protect performers’ legal rights. “So there’s an issue of parity here, of fairness. This is a bone of contention, and it’s going to get more contentious in the next couple of years.”

“My gut feeling is that the issue could even make it to the Supreme Court,” said Lita Rosario, an entertainment lawyer specializing in soul, funk and rap artists who has filed termination claims on behalf of clients, whom she declined to name. “Some lawyers and managers see this as an opportunity to go in and renegotiate a new and better deal. But I think there are going to be some artists who feel so strongly about this that they are not going to want to settle, and will insist on getting all their rights back.”

“Given the potentially huge amounts of money at stake and the delicacy of the issues, both record companies, and recording artists and their managers have been reticent in talking about termination rights. The four major record companies either declined to discuss the issue or did not respond to requests for comment, referring the matter to the industry association.”

“But a recording industry executive involved in the issue, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the labels, said that significant differences of opinion exist not only between the majors and smaller independent companies, but also among the big four, which has prevented them from taking a unified position. Some of the major labels, he said, favor a court battle, no matter how long or costly it might be, while others worry that taking an unyielding position could backfire if the case is lost, since musicians and songwriters would be so deeply alienated that they would refuse to negotiate new deals and insist on total control of all their recordings.”

“Right now this is kind of like a game of chicken, but with a shot clock,” said Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, which advocates for musicians and consumers. “Everyone is adopting a wait-and-see posture. But that can only be maintained for so long, because the clock is ticking.”

Read the entire NYTimes article here.

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How Will Musicians Earn Money in the Future?

Here is an excerpt from a great piece from Wyndham Wallace of The Quietus on how the music industry is killing music and blaming the fans. This rather dark opinion is spot on in so many ways and raises some very difficult questions about the future of the music business that most people do not want to talk about.

“All the time the industry talks of money: money it’s lost, money it’s owed. It rarely talks about the effects upon artists, and even less about how music itself might suffer. But no one cares about the suits and their bank accounts except shareholders and bankers. People care about their own money, and the industry not only wanted too much of it but also failed to take care of those who had earned it for them: the musicians. And it’s the latter that people care about. Because People Still Want Good Music.”

“In March this year, for instance, the RIAA – the Recording Industry Association of America – and a group of thirteen record labels went to court in New York in pursuit of a case filed against Limewire in 2006 for copyright infringement. The money owed to them – the labels involved included Sony, Warner Brothers and BMG Music – could be, they argued, as much as $75 trillion. With the world’s GDP in 2011 expected to be around $65 trillion – $10 trillion less – this absurd figure was, quite rightly, laughed out of court by the judge. The RIAA finally announced in mid May that an out of court settlement for the considerably lower sum of $105 million had been agreed with Limewire’s founder.”

What is questionable about all of this is exactly how much of the settlement of $105 million will flow to the musicians, songwriters and producers whose work was the subject of the infringement to begin with. In previous settlements including Napster ($270 million), Bolt ($30 million), Kazaa ($130 million) and MP3.com ($100 million) it is unclear how much, if any, of the money received by the labels ever reached the pockets of the artists. I have yet to see an accounting of this and many managers I have spoken with have simply laughed when I asked the question if they ever received any payment from these settlements. I suppose that proceeds from litigation may be considered recoupable costs.

“But if the industry wants to talk money, let’s talk money, albeit the ways that developing musicians are encouraged to make up the loss of sales income in order to ply their trade. Someone’s got to bring this up, because it’s not a pretty picture. Consider, first, direct-to-fan marketing and social networking, said to involve fans so that they’re more inclined to attend shows, invest in ‘product’, and help market it. In practise this is a time-consuming affair that reaps rewards for only the few. Even the simple act of posting updates on Facebook, tweeting and whatever else is hip this week requires time, effort and imagination, and while any sales margins subsequently provoked might initially seem higher, the ratio of exertion to remuneration remains low for most. It’s also an illusion that such sales cut out the middlemen, thereby increasing income, except at the very lowest rung of the ladder: the moment that sales start to pick up, middlemen start to encroach upon the artist’s territory, if in new disguises. People are needed to provide the structure through which such activities can function, and few will work for free – and nor should they – even though musicians are now expected to.”

“Still, if an act can find time to do these things, or has the necessary capital to allow others to take care of them on their behalf, then they can hit the road. Touring’s where the money is, the mantra goes, and that’s the best way to sell merchandise too. But this is a similarly hollow promise. For starters, the sheer volume of artists now touring has saturated the market. Ticket prices have gone through the roof for established acts, while those starting out are competing for shows, splitting audiences spoilt for choice, driving down fees paid by promoters nervous about attendance figures. There’s also a finite amount of money that can be spent by most music fans, so if they’re coughing up huge wads of cash for stadium acts then that’s less money available to spend on developing artists. And for every extra show that a reputable artist takes on in order to make up his losses, that’s one show less that a new name might have won.”

“Touring is also expensive. That’s why record labels offered new artists financial backing, albeit in the form of a glorified loan known as ‘tour support’. Transport needs to be paid for, as do fuel, accommodation, food, equipment, tour managers and sound engineers. These costs can mount up very fast, and if each night you’re being paid a small guarantee, or in fact only a cut of the door, then losses incurred can be vast, rarely compensated for by merchandising sales. Again, financial backing of some sort is vital, but these days labels are struggling to provide it. In the past, income from record sales could be offset against these debts, but with that increasingly impossible, new artists will soon find it very hard to tour. Everyone’s a loser, baby.”

From Beck’s ‘Loser’

Forces of evil in a bozo nightmare
Banned all the music with a phony gas chamber
‘Cause one’s got a weasel and the other’s got a flag
One’s got on the pole shove the other in a bag
With the rerun shows and the cocaine nose job
The daytime crap of a folksinger slob
He hung himself with a guitar string

Soy un perdidor
I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?
(Know what I’m sayin?)

“Whether the industry likes it or not, music is now like water: it streams into homes, it pours forth in cafés, it trickles past in the street as it leaks from shops and restaurants. Unlike water, music isn’t a basic human right, but the public is now accustomed to its almost universal presence and accessibility. Yet the public is asked to pay for every track consumed, while the use of water tends to be charged at a fixed rate rather than drop by drop: exactly how much is consumed is less important than the fact that customers contribute to its provision. Telling people that profit margins are at stake doesn’t speak to the average music fan, but explaining how the quality of the music they enjoy is going to deteriorate, just as water would become muddy and undrinkable if no one invested in it, might encourage them to participate in the funding of its future. So since downloading music is now as easy as turning on a tap, charging for it in a similar fashion seems like a realistic, wide-reaching solution. And just as some people choose to invest in high-end water products, insisting on fancy packaging, better quality product and an enhanced experience, so some will continue to purchase a more enduring musical package. Others will settle for mp3s just as they settle for tap water. Calculating how rights holders should be accurately paid for such use of music is obviously complicated but far from impossible, and current accounting methods – which anyone who has been involved with record labels can tell you aren’t exactly failsafe – are clearly failing to bring in the cash.”

“The problem is, it’s not really the industry that is being cheated. It’s the artists and their fans. People get what they pay for, but – whatever the industry claims – most fans know that. They just don’t want to hear the businessmen fiddle while the musicians are being burnt. Revenues are unlikely ever again to reach the levels of the business’ formerly lucrative glory days, but in its stubborn refusal to recognise that both the playing field and the rules themselves have been irreversibly redefined without their permission, the industry is holding out for something that is no longer viable. Lower income is better than no income, and the industry has surely watched the money dwindling for long enough. Musicians, meanwhile, are being asked to make more and more compromises as they’re forced to put money ahead of their art on a previously unprecedented scale.”

Read the whole ugly story here at The Quietus.

The comments alone tell the sad story of the state of affairs in the music industry today.

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Making a Living as an Artist in the Future

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr

From the Wharton School, an article on the new economics of life for creators and how they will be compensated in the future.

Making a living as an artist has never been easy — whether in film, music or publishing. But the digital revolution — and to a lesser extent, the global economic crisis of the last two years — is transforming the business of content creation. One of the biggest shifts is in how filmmakers, musicians and writers are compensated. There is an evolving relationship between creator and publisher in which the artist bears a larger percentage of the upfront costs for the production and marketing of his or her work. In this new world, artists’ pay is based to a greater degree on how their product sells in the marketplace, a change that has major implications for the content creators themselves, large firms like Hollywood studios and music labels, and consumers.

“In the past, it used to be the case that content creators got paid the bulk of their salary in advance and whoever made that payment — whether it was the music label, the book publisher or the studio — would take on the risk of marketing and distributing that product,” says Kartik Hosanagar, a Wharton professor of operations and information management. “If [the project] was a success, [the publishers, studios, etc.] kept the upside, and if it was a failure, they bore that failure. Now the upside — or downside — is shared with the content creator.”

This shift is largely driven by the move away from shipping physical products toward increasing digital distribution. In music, the threat of digital piracy has made the business of selling songs more challenging, even as the shift from album sales to digital singles has further undermined traditional revenue streams in the music industry. In film, the decline in home entertainment revenues as consumers switch from DVD purchases to online streaming video has also put pressure on profits. And in book publishing and journalism, the move toward e-readers and online news platforms where revenue models are still in flux has created additional uncertainty. The difficulty in predicting the profitability of these products, Hosanagar notes, means that marketers are trying to shift their cost base. “A lot of firms are asking, ‘How do we move from fixed costs to variable costs?'” he adds. “That makes a lot of sense when you have unpredictable returns.”

In the music industry, the pressures on the business model have been even more intense. Ed Pierson, a Seattle-based attorney who represents musicians, says the 1990s were the heyday of big advances for musicians. According to Pierson, easy credit and a war for talent led labels to pay escalating upfront fees to musicians. But as music sales began declining, in part due to piracy and digital downloads that allowed consumers to buy just the songs they wanted and not the entire album, the flush times came to an end. The result these days, notes Pierson, is that labels are making fewer advances and the upfront money they do dole out is smaller.

Artists have responded by taking greater control of their business. “The risk is shifting away from the label and toward the artist,” says David Kusek, chief executive officer of online music school Berkleemusic.com and a digital music technologist. Some big names, including the Dave Matthews Band or the Eagles, have created their own recording labels. Lesser known artists have been forced to become entrepreneurs of sorts. Kusek points to firms like ReverbNation and Top Spin Media that have sprung up to help artists sell their music on platforms like iTunes, to promote a group or artist, or to help sell merchandise. Those firms, in many cases, will charge a small upfront fee and then get a cut of the sales the act generates. “It is a different gamble now,” adds Wharton’s Whitehouse. “The corporate players may be gambling a bit less and the artists may be gambling a bit more. But those artists can now have more control over their work than they did before.”

Read the whole article here.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Will Artists Profit from Digital Distribution?

For the past 5 years I have been delivering presentations, in a wide variety of contexts including Digital Music Forum, AES, Billboard, IEBA, Music Hack Day, NAMM, Digital Hollywood and at many, many other private consulting gigs.   The essence of the presentation I have been making since 2006 is shown below with a couple of updates, roughly based on the Top 10 Truths described in our Future of Music book.  All along I have been advocating for artists, songwriters and publishers to challenge the way iTunes transactions were accounted for by the labels on the legitimacy of the splits.  The way iTunes royalties have been distributed is just wrong, a scam and a holdover from the accounting practices of the record companies past.

http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=kusekkeynote-101024210138-phpapp01&stripped_title=kusek-keynote&userName=davekusek

Kusek keynote

Finally someone (Eminem’s production company), challenged Universal Music Group in the way that artists and labels split the money generated by iTunes transactions and won an initial ruling in their favor.  Just this past week Universal Music Group’s inevitable appeal was rejected meaning that the industry giant may now have to split its digital music royalties from money earned from ringtone sales and iTunes.

San Francisco’s US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided last month that all royalties made by the record label from such sales must be shared in higher proportions with producers. The recent court rejection will result in this case proceeding in a lower level court which will then determine exactly how much Universal owes Eminem and his producers, taking into account both damages and royalties.

This could be a very significant development for the entire recorded music industry.  When Steve Jobs and his team negotiated the original iTunes deal with the major labels, the economics of what iTunes would receive from transactions was roughly 35% of each download, a similar number as a  distributor/retailer of CDs would receive and the remaining 65% would flow to the labels and be split as with a traditional CD sale.

This was a masterful negotiation by Apple, effectively granting itself amnesty from claims of copyright infringement or inducement to infringe copyright on the part of the major labels and publishers in exchange for the promise of digital cash flow, potentially reigniting the recorded music business for the labels.  Even if most of the music contained on iPods was pirated, now the labels would have a new revenue stream and Apple would be safe from litigation.  This move paved the way for Apple to become the dominant company in the music business and one of the most valuable brands on the planet.  A transformational revenue shift was underway whereby Apple would effectively eat the labels lunch.  The ultimate iCon.

But what artists and writers failed to question at the time, was the way the 65% label share would be split.  The labels assumed that these downloads were “sales” of copies of the songs and that artists would receive their royalties based on traditional accounting practices.  In the early days of payments from iTunes, labels often continued to deduct fees from the artists share for “packaging” and “marketing” and “coop” often when there were no actual costs being incurred.  No one questioned whether iTunes downloads were “licenses” versus “sales” which would have tipped the accounting in favor of the artists.  Indeed Steve Jobs himself referred to his deal with the labels as a “license” in his rare and open “Thoughts on Music” letter posted February 6, 2007.

Now fast forward to 2010.  Although not directly listed in the UMG suit, Eminem could benefit from the results, as he could get a much larger share of the payments. The case is being touted as a landmark decision for the music industry as it could determine a precedent that could see 90 per cent of contracts signed before 2000 change for the benefit of the artists and songwriters.  If this ruling holds up and is widely interpreted, it will destroy the traditional record labels.

The ruling will hinge on the standard record deal contract, which predates the digital era and changes that have come with it. New rulings will most likely govern how digital royalties will be accounted for.

In the most recent decision the court has defined record companies’ deals with such firms as Verizon and iTunes as ‘licensing’ contracts as opposed to music sales, meaning the 50/50 split would apply.  This will be devastating for the labels and great for artists.

When I commented on this issue in an earlier post, one of my readers wrote “if Eminem eventually prevails it will be the end of discovering and nurturing new talent by record companies and will throw the music scene into more disarray that P2P ever did.”  While this may be true, I am completely convinced that the old record company model must change, will change, and will eventually be replaced by something more clearly aligned with the times and the new digital reality.  There is no doubt that these times are truly wrenching for the music industry – but music will prevail and the interests will realign into something sustainable.

Read more here and stay tuned to see how this all turns out.

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Peter Jenner on the Future of Music

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/18lnuFf

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/18lnuFf

Former Pink Floyd and T Rex manager Peter Jenner, now emeritus president of the International Music Managers’ Forum, talks online music, copyright and the future of the music industry.  It is very satisfying to see the ideas expressed in our Future of Music book becoming mainstream concepts in the industry.

>As physical sales decrease, how should the music industry be monetising its content?

Record companies believe that music is about selling bits of stuff to people in a retail environment. They always looked on the internet as a potentially huge retail environment and it’s actually a service environment. The record companies should be working out what services they can provide.

They should also be talking to ISPs instead of fighting them. The key thing is people are going to want music as part of what they get on their digital connections. The ISPs are going to have to invest more and more to develop better services, and in that context they will have to start charging for content, whether they charge for content directly with a meter or whether they bundle it or use advertising or sponsorship.

Another way to go would be to look at statutory licensing for different types of usage. It would be incredibly bureaucratic but it would be one way. So let people access whatever music they like and pay a set rate. The same with commercial businesses.

>Do record labels still have a role to play in the music industry?

Yes absolutely, particularly for investment and promotion and marketing. And they could become very good at licensing, at helping artists to develop their website. But they have to get away from this idea of control and instead become partners of the artists. Many of the record and film companies are very enamoured with the idea of control because it’s how their model has always worked, with in-house lawyers and copyright advisors. There is huge inertia in the way the industry licenses and administers content. We have to fight this.

>How have the sources of revenue in the music industry changed?

Until the CD came along I think artists overall got a better deal and more control and a better bite of the money. After they invented the CD the record companies increasingly fought back, decreasing artists’ revenue share and increasing their control. That’s just got worse with the advent of the internet because there is less money available. You used to be able to sell 5,000 albums, now that is incredibly hard so the industry has to look at digital options, but a lot of web services don’t pay properly. Google will pay you a share of the revenue you generate for them, but if you don’t make them money you don’t get money.

>Has social media changed the way bands are marketed and content is discovered?

Yes, but it has huge potential to do more. At the moment, because it isn’t licensable, it isn’t doing the job that it ought to be doing. But what it can do is alter the value chain. With less money available in the music business we have to instead look at what we do have. And what we have is lots of data on music fans. Marketing has always traditionally been more expensive than recording but we can cut these costs by using social sites and viral links. And maybe we can cut out advertising costs because acts can just directly email their fans.

>Can music-streaming services support the music industry?

They are good, but they don’t have all the music. I manage Billy Bragg and there are a hundred versions of his tracks online. I can get a recorded version but a lot of the times on these services there are no live versions. And globally there are billions of tracks so the problem remains of how people find a particular piece of music or if they like something how they find similar bands. People aren’t just looking to buy the music, they are looking to buy a service which is personal and recommends music and enables discovery and which saves them time. I’m not sure anyone is really offering this yet.

>Is there a future for physical music?

Yes, but its role in the industry will become less. Probably physical music, like CDs, will become very expensive and luxurious and they will be like hardback coffee table books and people will only buy maybe one or two a year. The music industry’s job is to make as much money as it can from a track or album, and that includes physical sales alongside digital sales, access services and anything else they can come up with.

>What do you think the music industry will look like in 10 years?

Probably very similar. But what we might look on as broadcasting income will hugely increase. Most revenues will come from users paying to access the content. You won’t notice that you are paying for recorded music so much.

I think the artists ought to be much more powerful, whether they will get it together is another matter. There will be record labels, but whether they will be labels that own content or just be agents I don’t know. They might be more like the Performing Rights Society and less like Universal.

Read the whole interview here from Sara Vizard at Strategy Eye

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Networking Musician Interviews Dave Kusek

Last week host of Networking Musician Radio, David Vignola interviewed me about Music Power Network and the Future of Music.  Here is the audio interview along with a link to David’s site.  Great resource for indie artists.

Music Power Network provides a wide variety of music business education, tools, interviews and lots of resources for the D.I.Y. musician. The site also offers an equal wealth of information / education for producers, managers or publishers.

http://www.podbean.com/podcast-audio-video-blog-player/mp3playerlightsmallv3.swf?audioPath=http://networkingmusician.podbean.com/mf/play/nsumyj/MusicPowerNetwork.mp3&autoStart=no

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Insight in music business & management

The music industry is being reinvented before our very eyes. Learn how it is developing from today’s entrepreneurs including Ian Rogers from TopSpin, Steve Schnur from EA, and Derek Sivers and how you can capitalize on the changing opportunities.

MPN is my latest project and an online service for music business people and music and artist managers creating the future of the industry. MPN provides online music business lessons, exclusive video interviews and advice, career and business planning tools and thousands of specially selected resources designed to help you achieve success in this ever changing industry. MPN gives you the tools, expertise and guidance to help you get organized and take your music career to the next level. Learn from industry experts, set your goals and realize your vision.


Future of music tag cloud

Another Wordle rendering.

This is how Wordle sees my blog

This is how Wordle sees my blog

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Artist Management – from the Top

Get Busy Committee

Get Busy Committee

My friend Ian Rogers, CEO of Topspin has started to co-manage the band “Get Busy Committee“.  He has begun to blog about ALL the activities that an artist manager needs to drive their band to success.  It is a fascinating read and a real world education on how to take a band to market in the new music business.  This is going to be really fun to watch as Ian lays out step by step what he is doing to break this band and “get busy” in the marketplace.

To bring a band to market in today’s indie music market is a hell of a lot of work.  You need to be an entrepreneur and you need to build a team of people to help you market, package, promote, distribute, brainstorm, license, and develop a successful artist.  Ian is taking the indie artist management route described at Music Power Network.

Here are some excerpts from his blog.  Required reading for the indie artist and manager today:

The first thing we did was define success: as I mentioned earlier, the goal is to get this music to as many people as possible, connect directly with the ones who like it, build products those people want to own, and turn a profit. Sure it would be great to make enough money that Get Busy Committee could be their primary income, but we definitely aren’t starting with the “if we don’t get a song on a radio this is a failure” mentality. We are starting at zero. The goal is to grow every single week and not lose money.

We started by putting together a release plan. I opened a Google Doc and started dropping ideas and info into it, and encouraged others to do the same. We needed a team, so we started assembling the roster of people, services, and tools which would help us get this record out the door:

Building a Team

Press Relations and Marketing
Creative Direction
Web site design and development
Digital distribution
Physical Distribution
Non-traditional physical manufacturing
Performing rights organizations
Legal

While getting the album to iTunes is the main thrust for a lot of artists, it’s only part of the story (and a very small part so far) for us. We’ve been preparing for this release for months, started selling the album in six different package two weeks ago, are selling the album for $1 on MySpace all weekend, and much more.

Web Site

The object was to make the site:

Home base. The top SEO result for “Get Busy Committee” and anything else related to the band.

Vibrant. It should update with the latest information about Get Busy Committee with very little effort, from a variety of sources. Furthermore, we weren’t going to spend time or money building any of these tools from scratch. We integrated WordPress and Twitter to make sure it was easy to update with long or short-form updates (respectively) easily.

A fan acquisition tool. The site should be sticky like fly-paper. If you visit the site you should have an incentive to leave behind your email address, follow GBC on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, a friend on MySpace, friend on Flickr, subscriber on YouTube, or subscribe via RSS. We may only get one chance to make a connection with you. We don’t want you to bounce in and bounce out without granting us permission to reach out to you later with an update.

A tool for fans to create other fans. Every page of the site is instrumented with simple ways to share on Facebook and Twitter, and feedback for having done so either in the form of a counter or free music for having done so. We want it to not only be easy to spread the word but for you to be recognized for having done so.

A place to convert at whatever level of fan you happen to be. Never heard of Get Busy Committee? No problem, you can stream the record or download a few songs for free. Super fan? How about the T-Shirt/USB Flash Drive combo for $55? Somewhere in between? No worries. We have something for you.

Useful. If you’re a college radio DJ who needs a clean version to play on your show or a beatmeister who wants an acapella to remix that should be easy to find. If you’re a blogger writing about the band there should be, even if it’s not linked from the front page. Anything you email to people regularly should be on the site and easily linked to.

Read much, much more about marketing, pricing, making connections, creating awareness and all the things a smart artist manager needs to know.  Brilliant!

Thanks Ian.

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Gerd Leonhard Interview at Rollo & Grady

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

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Dave Kusek Interview 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

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More from Terry McBride of Nettwerk

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.

Music Ally’s predictions for digital music in 2009

Artists will kick off about digital rights

Several artists have already clashed with their labels over digital royalties – for example the Allman Brothers Band suing UMG – but expect more rumbles in 2009. Not least because artists are potentially getting stiffed when it comes to the raft of new deals being signed by labels for unlimited, subscription-based or ad-supported music services. Expect managers to be pressing for fairer remuneration from these deals, with new bodies like the UK based Featured Artists Coalition to the fore as well.

More unlimited music services

Comes with Music (UK) and TDC Play (DK) were just the start. There’ll be many more examples of unlimited music being bundled with other products or services around the world in 2009. The unique aspect of these new models is that consumers appear to get the music for free; and ISPs, handset companies and brands are all taking an interest. We also expect to see DRM-free files becoming a selling point for these services if they can persuade the major labels that they won’t spur piracy.

ISPs under more pressure

One of the reasons ISPs are so keen to launch branded legal music services is the pressure they’re facing from the music industry to do more to combat file-sharing. And by that, we mean more than send out ‘educational’ letters scolding persistent file-sharers for their naughtiness. We predict more filtering at ISP level, if they can find filtering technologies that actually work. Meanwhile, we wonder if the recent Danish lawsuit in which an ISP was ordered to block access to The Pirate Bay will set a precedent for other markets.

The industry will wake up to web-based piracy

We wrote about the growth of Rapidshare and other online locker services last issue (27th Nov 2008), as well as the ecosystem of blogs showing people where to find copyrighted music on them. Web-based piracy – including browser plug-ins as well as these locker sites – will be much more on the music industry’s radar in 2009, even though industry bodies may prefer to keep focusing on P2P and BitTorrent in their public utterances on The Fight Against Piracy. There could be more GEMA-style legal action against the Rapidshares of the world, though.

The Torrent tipping point

BitTorrent is still a bit geeky, even though plenty of consumers are using the technology to download free music, films and TV shows. But in 2009, there’s something of a perfect storm building, with more users sitting on super-fast broadband connections, and more inventive ways of helping them find copyrighted content. If you think BitTorrenting is about downloading individual tracks or albums, think again: nowadays, people are downloading artists’ entire discographies at the click of a button.

Streaming and downloading to converge

You’ll hear a lot of blather in 2009 about The Cloud – the idea of accessing stuff stored online from any device you like. The impact on music next year will be to accelerate the blurring of the boundaries between streaming and downloading music. For example, iTunes might evolve into a cloud-based service, allowing people to stream their iTunes library to whatever device they’re using at the time, over whatever network it’s connected to. Third-party software already allows this, of course. The point is that consumers increasingly don’t care whether their music is stored locally or remotely, as long as they can listen to it right now.

Comes With Music to grow slowly

Nokia’s unlimited music scheme won’t definitively succeed or fail in 2009, but we will get a good sense of just how sustainable it is as a business model. It’s no secret that Comes With Music will roll out on more sophisticated handsets than the launch 5310 XpressMusic, and likely with at least one large mobile operator. However, we sense that Nokia may push the scheme more in emerging markets than in, say, the US. Watch for developments in Latin America in particular. We also have a mischievous thought that Nokia may ‘sign’ its first band in 2009, becoming a pseudo-label.

More DIY social media campaigns from artists

We expect artists and their managers to take social media by the scruff of the neck and dream up some really good online viral campaigns in 2009, alongside the efforts of their labels. Artists will be using the web in innovative ways because they’ve grown up with it, not because they’re following some kind of Web 2.0 marketing template. Although there’ll be plenty of people following Web 2.0 marketing templates too, in an effort to copy the (inevitably) more successful grass-roots stuff.

More high-end physical product

People don’t want to buy $15 CDs, but they are happy to buy an $80 luxury box-set collectible… things. Radiohead and NIN showed that, while US country-pop singer Taylor Swift has recently been doing great business with her own $60 luxury box set (sold off her own widget, incidentally). Labels will spend 2009 trying to shore up their physical revenues with more imaginative collections, whether it’s five albums bundled together, or an entire artist’s discography in a Blu-ray box-set.

Microsoft will launch a ZunePhone

It may or may not have the Zune brand attached, but we’re confident that Microsoft will get into the mobile handset game early in the year, likely at CES (January) or Mobile World Congress (February). The rumours are pointing to a consumer-focused handset with an emphasis on music and messaging. We also predict hundreds of ill-advised claims that whatever comes out is an iPhone-killer.

More mini-albums and live EPs

The album isn’t quite dead yet – indeed, Amazon is actively promoting the idea of buying whole albums from its MP3 store. But we predict more mini-albums following in the footsteps of Coldplay’s Prospekt’s March, filling the gaps between major releases. Although whether that’s a positive trend or an example of fleecing fans for songs not good enough for the album is a matter of some debate. Meanwhile, intense competition among digital stores will see more exclusive live EPs and remix packages, thrown together to get homepage promotion.

Subscription services are dead

At least in the form we’ve understood up until now. The only way for services like Napster and Rhapsody to survive is by being bundled into the price of other products – home streaming systems, maybe, or mobile handsets, or computers. In short, they’ll shift to being unlimited music services akin to Comes With Music or TDC Play, as part of a bigger offering. The only company that can make subscription work in 2009, we predict, is Apple. If it chooses to.

Streaming startups thin out

Can you really turn a profit from ad-supported streaming music? If you can, why are so many of the popular sites up for sale? 2009 could be a harsh year for the iLikes and Imeems of the web, despite their millions of VC dollars, millions of users, and seemingly firm partnerships with major labels. We see many of these services selling up to larger companies who can afford the royalty payments, in the face of competition from CBS-backed Last.fm and Murdoch-backed MySpace Music.

The next Radiohead won’t be Radiohead

But at least one big-name artist will do something innovative in the digital space, probably after leaving a major label at the end of their contract. But it won’t be the same honesty-box offering as with Radiohead’s In Rainbows. We’ll be keeping an eye on firms like Topspin Media or Mubito and the artists they’re working with to try and figure out what the innovation will be.

The next Rick Astley won’t be Rick Astley

There’ll be another forgotten artist revitalized by The Power Of Viral Internet in 2009, following the rickrolling craze this year that led to Rick Astley being named best artist ever at the MTV Europe Awards. Who it’ll be is another question. Our suggestions include Tiffany, Jive Bunny, Ted Nugent and Menswear. Or all of the above.

Labels will intensify their Direct to Consumer efforts

The majors have been notably unsuccessful in selling digital music direct to consumers in the past, but EMI’s launch of a D2C website this month show that they haven’t given up on building direct relationships with fans in this way. However, the interesting aspect here isn’t huge all-encompassing portals selling a label’s entire catalogue, but more the slicing and dicing of this catalogue and monetizing it better.

The growth of emerging markets

We’ve already mentioned how Nokia may target emerging markets next year; but with the recession biting in the west in 2009 we expect to see stronger performance coming from Latin America; the BRIC countries (it’s an acronym you’ll need to know in 09) and Africa where mobile is seeing huge growth.

From Music Ally, a great digital music information service.

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The Future of Music Book and Podcast

Our book is available in various forms.

The Future of Music Book

You can listen to the book on iTunes as a podcast for free. Go to the iTunes store and search “Future of Music” podcasts and subscribe.

You can buy the book on Amazon for $11.53 or less.

You can purchase the audiobook from Audible for $7.49.

Here are a few of the reviews.

Publishers Weekly
Two innovators in music technology take a fascinating look at the impact of the digital revolution on the music business and predict “a future in which music will be like water: ubiquitous and free-flowing.” Kusek and Leonhard foresee the disappearance of CDs and record stores as we know them in the next decade; consumers will have access to more products than ever, though, through a vast range of digital radio channels, person-to-person Internet file sharing and a host of subscription services. The authors are especially good at describing how the way current record companies operate – as both owners and distributors of music, with artists making less than executives – will also drastically change: individual CD sales, for example, will be replaced by “a very potent ‘liquid’ pricing system that incorporates subscriptions, bundles of various media types, multi-access deals, and added-value services.” While the authors often shift from analysts into cheerleaders for the über-wired future they predict – “Let’s replace inefficient content-protection schemes with effective means of sharing-control and superdistribution!” – their clearly written and groundbreaking book is the first major statement of what may be “the new digital reality” of the music business in the future.

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FUTURE OF MUSIC IS NOW
Gian Fiero (Hollywood, California)

This book is so brilliant that it makes the vast majority of music industry books that are being published seem irrelevant. It discusses in detail, the reasons why the future of the music industry is headed into the digital/mobile entertainment era. It also provides statistical information that professionals, marketers, entrepreneurs, and educators can use constructively. Both Dave and Gerd (the books co-author), have their fingers firmly planted on current music industry activities and trends. They also possess and display a clairvoyant eye toward the future that offers beneficial insight and foresight to those who may not be aware of what this whole digital (i.e. independent) revolution is about, and most importantly, what it will entail to prosper in it. The book is easy to read, easy to understand and simply brilliant. If you buy just one industry book this year, this should be THE one. Buy it now!

5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible
Stephen Hill “Producer, Hearts of Space” (San Rafael, CA USA)

A stunningly candid source of concentrated, up to date insight about the music business and its turbulent transition into the digital era. This book tells it straight and will make the dinosaurs of the music industry very unhappy.

Like Martin Luther’s ’95 Theses’ nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, Kusek and Leonard drive nail after nail into the sclerotic heart of the old-fashioned music business. Their rational vision of the future of music rests on the idea of unshackling music from the hardcopy product business in a yet-to-be-realized era of open content licensing, facilitating sharing and communication among users, and growing the business to its full potential.

It provides as clear a vision of the future of the music industry as you will find, from two writers with a rare combination: a solid grounding in the traditional practices of the music business, an up-to-the-minute knowledge of the new technologies that are changing it, and the ability to think through the consequences.

I’ve dreamed about a book like this, but thought it would be impossible in today’s hyperdynamic environment where every week seems to bring a breakthrough technology, device, or service. But by digging out the underlying trends and principles Kusek and Leonard get under the news and illuminate it. Along the way they provide a brilliantly concise history of the evolution of digital media.

I can’t think of any book more important for artists to get the full re-orientation they need to survive and prosper in the digital era. It’s no less critical for members of the music and broadcasting industries who need to consolidate their thinking into a coherent roadmap for the future. In a word: indispensible.

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The “spin” on Music

Ian RogersI recently interviewed Ian Rogers of Topspin Media for a new project I am working on the – “Future of Music Toolkit”. More to come on that later…

Ian brought me up to speed on the development of the Topspin platform for music promotion. They are creating very cool marketing software and services to help artists and their partners build businesses and brands. This is clearly part of the future. Here are some comments from Ian and a link to his presentation to The Recording Academy at the GRAMMY Northwest MusicTech Summit 2008.

“The lamenting we read in the press is not the story of the new music business. Continuing to talk about the health of the music industry on these terms is as if we’d all been crying about the dying cassette business in 1995. The difference is that when we moved from cassette to CD the winners were the same (big companies who owned access to cash, distribution, and marketing) and the definition of winning was the same (more units sold for these big companies).

Music consumption isn’t declining: iPod sales up 59% Y/Y (source: Apple), P2P filesharing volume up 35% Y/Y(source: NPD), audio streaming up 25% Y/Y (source: Accustream). And despite the endless discussions about the “pirates,” there isn’t an unwillingness to pay for music, either: 1.6B decisions to buy music in 2007, up from 1.3B in 2006 (source: Neilsen Soundscan), 40% Y/Y increase in worldwide digital music sales (source: IFPI), 8% Y/Y increase in North American concert revenue — an all-time high (source: Forbes.com), 40% paid an average of $5 in Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want model, Nine Inch Nails self-release generates $1.6M in first week sales, includes sell out of $300 box set in first 48 hours (source: NIN.com).

IMHO the only perspectives that matter, that of the artist and the fan. I see news about the health of the music industry as defined by the stock price of WMG or quarterly earnings of UMG, Sony, and EMI every day. What I don’t see, apart from a few articles on Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, is an update on how the world is changing from the artist point of view. But I tell you, when I talk to managers and artists they feel it, they feel an ability to take their careers into their own hands, to redefine what success means for them, and that is the emergence of the new music business.

I say this with all respect to our friends in the existing music business. We all know smart people who are busting their asses trying to solve the Innovator’s Dilemma those companies are facing.

Again, there are only two players in the music business that matter at the end of the day: the artists and the fans. The rest of us either add value or get in the way. Don’t get me wrong, over the years labels have added a tremendous amount of value through financing, A&R, marketing, promotion, etc. I’m just saying that every player needs to either understand how it truly adds value or it needs to get out of the way, Topspin included. Our business does not operate on lock-in, ownership of copywritten work, or long-term contracts. We either add value today with a compelling service or we die. And I’m perfectly happy with that.”

See Ian Roger’s complete presentation here.

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Cycles in Music – Video

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.

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Access, Convenience and Trust

The last few weeks have heralded some great news for the music industry. Radiohead’s experiment with user-based pricing, Madonna’s new deal and the formation of ArtistNation, a “360” model for music where the artist and the company partner on numerous levels including recordings, touring, merchandise, etc., and Apple’s repricing of DRM free tracks to $.99. These are all very positive moves that continue to point toward a healthy future of music.

Madonna left Warner Music for a newly formed ArtistNation designed to optimize the revenue potential and investment strategy by combining multiple revenue streams into a package deal. “Madonna is the first step to making Live Nation into the next-generation music company,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said during an investor conference call. “We believe it should help attract additional artists.” Let’s hope so for them.

Read more about this deal here.

The Irish Independent published a great commentary on the state of the music industry this past week. “Madonna – the most successful female artist of all time – is the latest high-profile artist to turn her back on the music majors, ending a 25-year relationship with Warner Music in favour of a lucrative deal with Live Nation. The deal follows the recent excitement around Radiohead’s decision to ditch EMI and offer their new album for download with the consumer choosing what to pay – a move set to be echoed by The Charlatans.

Earlier this year, Prince gave away his new album to readers of The Mail on Sunday. Meanwhile, a slew of yesteryear’s superstars, including Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell, have signed record deals with Hear Music, which is owned by the coffee chain Starbucks.

It appears that artists of all calibres are forsaking the traditional route to fame and fortune – making a hit record with a household-name label – in favour of giving music away and making money off the back of touring and T-shirts. Arguably it reflects the way that consumer attitudes have changed toward music over the past decade, with today’s consumers happy to pay vast sums to see a band but unwilling to pay for songs they can download for free. Many of today’s music fans – and artists – hold a very dim view of the music majors, arguing that they have charged too much for CDs for too long and that the dinosaurs of the industry – namely Universal Music, EMI, Warner Music and Sony BMG – were too slow to harness the power of the internet and the way the industry has changed.”

This potentially is great news for established artists seeking to renegotiate their contracts or establish new deals with more forward thinking companies willing to write the big check. However, it has yet to be seen how this model will benefit emerging artists looking for marketing muscle to help them break through the noise level. Can a LiveNation afford to break acts now in order to develop the revenue streams it will need in the future? If not them, then who?

With the widespread sharing of files online moving into the end of its first decade, and the rapid disintegration of the old-school record business clearly in sight, what exactly will the future hold? Will these new models make it easier to find new music? Will the new 360 companies garner the trust of the consumer and make it possible to grow the music business again? Will it be more convenient for the music lover to get all their Madonna stuff from one source, or will the widespread choices available online keep pulling control away from the center and distributing it out to the edges of the equation, namely in the hands of the consumer. Interesting times to be sure.