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The Sad Truth about the Music Business

Music_Evolution_lowres1

Music is a much smaller and less significant part of many people’s lives than 10-20 years ago.  There is more competition for our attention and the value of music has declined precipitously. This graphic shows the rise of digital against physical music, and the overall impact of piracy, widespread distribution and digital media on the music industry. The sad story is that overall the music business is shrinking. That is a fact that we all have to face.  The silver lining in all of this may be on the horizon, but it cannot come soon enough for me. We have to do something to reverse the trend.

Courtesy Daily Infographic.

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Before the Music Dies documentary

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

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

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

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

Before the Music Dies

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Appetite for Self-Destruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Why do they think they have it figured out now?

Doug Morris on the state of the music industry. The problem, he says, is that “there’s sympathy for the consumer, and the record industry is the Shmoo.”

Oh my God.

Wired writer Seth Mnookin interviews and skewers Universal Music Group Chief Executive Doug Morris in the latest issue, which speaks for itself. You just got to read this interview.

“There’s no one in the record company that’s a technologist,” Morris explains. “That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do. It’s like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?”

Well, for one, maybe – instead of suing the technologists from Napster 1.0 – perhaps you should have considered hiring them. Just a thought…

Unbelievable. No wonder we are in the situation we are in.

Total Music. Hmm… Why do they think they have it figured out now?

For another great history lesson on how the major music labels ignored change and tried to impose their will on the masses, read this. Disturbing and painful. Great work Seth.

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CD Sales Take Another Dive

CDs are now sliding precipitously, especially in the United States, and that has intensified media diversification efforts at major retailers.  At the halfway point, year-over-year disc sales in the United States dropped 15.1 percent, according to Nielsen Soundscan.  That gap has since broadened to 18.4 percent.

For retailers like Trans World, Hastings, and Virgin Megastores, diversification has now become an accelerated survival tactic.  During the recent quarter, music-specific sales at Trans World dropped 19 percent on a comparable store basis.  That is more severe than dips of 16 percent recorded during the same quarter last year, and represents a worsening trend.  "Trans World has 950 stores and we would expect them to continue to deemphasize music over the next 12-24 months," said Richard Greenfield of Pali Research during a recent investor note.  Greenfield noted that Trans World has already lowered its music-specific selection to 43 percent of total inventory, down from 47 percent last year.

The decreased selection means less consumer matches, and lowered sales volumes.  "As floor space continues to contract at physical retail, we are increasingly concerned that the rate of decline in CD sales will materially accelerate in 2008," Greenfield asserted.

From Digital Music News