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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.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/I1xJV7

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/I1xJV7

I did some interviews recently with Jacob Templin from Time Magazine about the realities of the music business today and what is working for some bands.

Here is one of the videos.  Unfortunately you have to endure a 15 second ad before viewing the story.

With hit songs like Code Monkey, the software developer turned musician turned internet superstar Jonathan Coulton has figured out how to market his music online. His strategy: Give music away and let people play with it.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

There are two other videos on the Time.com website.  Enjoy.

1) Progressive rock band Umphrey’s McGee gives fans a chance to take part in its live shows. All they need is a cell phone and an idea.
2) The New Orleans trombone rock band Bonerama is playing a private show for Julia Lunetta’s thirtieth birthday. It’s part of a program that offers fans unique experiences with the band at premium rates

My friend George Howard recently wrote a great article for Berklee’s Music Business Journal.  In it he explains how music marketers can connect more closely with the fans that matter as they try and propel their band forward.  Here is an excerpt from the article and solid advice for any marketeer.  The complete text can be found here.

The Life Cycle Curve

In order to find your audience you must consider several details. The first is to accept the fact that you cannot market to the majority; you can’t afford it, and even if you could you would fail because of issues related to frequency of contact with these gatekeepers (i.e. radio/press).

Take the Mavens and Early Adopters and focus on these two groups. The Mavens, a term popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, applies to people who actively and aggressively seek out new things. They are the ones who are not only the most connected to the information channels, but are also most predisposed to discover new things, and new channels as well.

These mavens have a personality type that generates deep satisfaction from not only the seeking out and discovery of new material, but also the sharing of this material. The first class of people with whom they will share are so-called Early Adopters.

These Early Adopters are one standard deviation closer to the majority than the Mavens, and thus there are more of them. However, while they will adopt new things more quickly, they are not typically at ground zero of discovery. If the mavens are the bloggers, the Early Adopters are the readers of these blogs, and — to a degree — the re-bloggers. Again, these Early Adopters are a more populated class, and thus their influence is potentially greater than the Mavens.

There is crossover between the two groups. The area of focus is detailed below:

In every product category there are Mavens and Early Adopters. Whether you are dealing with music or any other product or service, you must find a way to bring your product to both groups.

Pyschographic Modeling

In an era of interconnectivity, demographics and geographics, while still important, are less important than the habits, trends, personality of a customer; i.e. their psychographic profile. Finding your audience requires you to understand profoundly the psychographic profile of your customers. What do they look like, where do they shop, what type of food do they like, etc.?

Determining these factors allows you to create a “model” customer. This is the person who, if you could get your music to her, would deeply embrace it. Also, given the fact that she is a Maven/Early Adopter, she will likely share what she has discovered with her network. Significantly, defining this Model Customer allows you to determine where this customer is likely to congregate, and thus where you must bring your music.

The Straddle: Offline and Online

We do not make profound connections with products, services or people online. Profound connections occur offline — in person. The genius of Facebook, and why it has eclipsed networks such as MySpace, is that it represents a Straddle of offline and online; we upload pictures and detailed stories of our offline activity so that our friends and family can be aware of these offline experiences. In this manner, you must understand that technology is simply an accelerator of your offline activity. By locating the Mavens/Early Adopters within your psychographic landscape, and taking your music to them — in person — you greatly increase the odds of these people developing an emotional attachment to your work.

Architecture of Participation

One of our most primal urges is to share information; this is why babies make the massive cognitive leap to learn language skills. Your job, once the initial offline experience has been established, is to create an architecture of participation; a method for frictionless sharing of information so that those Mavens/Early Adopters who have discovered you offline can begin to share their discovery with their network (i.e. online).

This requires a series of steps related to value exchange. Your first task is to establish four things:

1. Your own site
2. A Facebook Fan Page
3. A Twitter Account
4. An email newsletter

Your Site

On your site you must present a value proposition that begins with exchanging some type of content for an email address. Email is your currency; the more of it you have, the more likely you will be to convert what is essentially a non-scarce resource (i.e. your music) into something of tangible value. Do not be fooled into thinking you can get away using a third-party site as “your” site. While, undeniably, service providers such as Reverb Nation and Bandcamp provide value, you do not own these sites, and fundamentally your participation does more to increase the value of these sites than increase your own value. This is not to say you cannot extract value from these third-party sites; however, this requires using them like Facebook, Twitter, and others, to drive potential customers to your own proprietary site.

Facebook

Your FB fan page, similarly, must also represent a value proposition. The value here relates to engagement. FB allows for easy engagement via its makeup. Consider contests, polls, short videos, or other ploys that will keep your fans not only engaged with you on FB, but will encourage them to direct those in their network to your FB fan page. Of course, you must use FB to direct customers to the value proposition that exists only on your site: a content-for-email exchange, and other site-specific offerings (chats with the artist, etc.).

Twitter

Twitter should be used to establish your voice and to direct people to your site. The establishment of the voice comes as much from your affiliations — who you link to, who you follow — as it does from your actual tweets. As above, use it to engage and to direct traffic to your site. Employ time-sensitive offers and offers only available to those who follow you on Twitter. The goal is to inter-connect these tools, and to leverage them to enhance the offline experience. In all mediums you must encourage and facilitate sharing. Your site must have a FB “Like” button and a share on Twitter so that whenever you post content, your constituents can share with their network.

Email Newsletters

The single best tool for conversion of fan to customer is email. While email is an increasingly ineffective tool for communication it still yields a higher return with respect to sales than any other tool.

Therefore it is imperative that you use your email newsletter wisely.

1. They must be short; highlight one and only one action. The total length should be less than 500 words.
2. They should be frequent; once a week on a regularly-scheduled basis.
3. They should have a call to action; tell the recipient what you want them to do: come to the site to get something, come to a show, etc.
4. They should be forwardable; ask your recipients to forward the email to someone they think will enjoy it.
5. They should have sharing functions embedded; allow people to Tweet, add to a FB status.
6. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

Don’t worry about overwhelming people with email blasts. If people are unsubscribing, they’re likely non-value adding “fans” any way. Instead, focus on presenting real, timely, share-able value to your current fans so that they have a tool to help you gain new ones.

Converting your Audience to Customers

It is an immutable law of business and nature that somewhere close to 80% of your activity (engagement, profit, etc.) will come from 20% of your constituents. This is referred to as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. This means that if you have 10,000 people on your email list something close to 2,000 of them will generate 80% of your total sales. The other 8,000 will be largely non-value adding.

The problem of course is that you won’t know which of the 10,000 are the true fans. Thus, you must continuously work to increase your overall amount of constituents. Rather than having 2,000 of 10,000 contributing, strive to have 20,000 of 100,000.  In order to sift through the layers of participation to find the most valuable customers, you must create a filter. Think in terms of a funnel. At the widest point of the funnel is the easiest level of engagement: a free song for an email address.

Summary: The Value of Psychographics

The key is to determine what you deeply care about; what your purpose is, what your values are. From there you can begin — via a psychographic analysis — to find fans that share these same values. At that point, your goal is to bring your music to them, and create the architecture for more participation. Straddle between an offline and an online engagement strategy, but use both.

Once you’ve aggregated these Mavens and Early adopters, you must begin converting them into both customers and evangelists. This is done by honoring the 80/20 rule and working to extract maximum value out of your loyal 20%. Always work to increase the overall pool of your fans.

By George Howard

George Howard was President of Rykodisc, is an original founder of Tunecore and  Assistant Professor and Executive in Residence in the College of Business Administration at Loyola University.

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.

Patronage of the arts is a time honored practice that is still alive and well in the music business.  Many examples of fan financing from Ellis Paul, to Jill Sobule and many others have been reported and detailed recently in this blog and others.  Now a group of musicians from California have put together a very interesting program to raise money for commissioning projects that I hope catches on.  We need more thinking like this in the music industry today.  Effective and creative methods of connecting music fans to artists, writers, composers and producers will help propel the next generation of music making.

Symphony of a Million

“Symphony of a Million” is a 6-month campaign, a commissioning project that brings together composers, performers, and the general public.

The goal is to sell 1 million notes. Purchased notes will be used in not just one single million note work, but rather many new works. Composers will work with performers and compose pieces of varying lengths. The first work to be written will be a 1000 note work for solo marimba composed by Music Academy Online founder, Dave Schwartz, and written for percussionist Nobue Matsuoka. The second work will be a 4000 note composition for saxophone and harp and it will be composed by Anthony Lanman who will be working with saxophonist Dr. Noah Getz and harpist Jacqueline Pollauf who perform together as the duo Pictures on Silence.

* Buy a note for $1

* Each note becomes part of a piece of music composed by award winning composers. Throughout the process we will be commissioning composers to write new works of varying lengths using the notes that you purchase.

* A special “Symphony of a Million” concert, sponsored by Music Academy Online and featuring world-class ensembles, will premier all of the works created using the notes you buy. The concert will be held May 18, 2011, the 100th anniversary of the death of Gustav Mahler, the man who composed the “Symphony of a Thousand.”

* Buy as many notes as you wish. Dedicate the notes to someone special. Help to shape entire sections of new music with the notes you select! Your name (and theirs) will forever be part of the final scores.

* Encourage your friends and family to buy notes.

Find out more here.

Gerd Leonhard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R&G: Serving as filters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more great interviews here at Rollo & Grady

Future of Music Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more great interviews here at Rollo & Grady

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.

I 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.

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.

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.

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.

Great to see a band of this stature make a bold move like this.  Radiohead has released their latest album "In Rainbows" online and for free, if you want it.  They will also accept whatever amount you wish to pay for the songs.  Brilliant!

Bertis Downs, manager of R.E.M., says "This is the sort of model that people have been talking about doing,
but this is the first time an act of this stature has stepped up and
done it. . . . They were a band that could go off the grid, and they
did it."

Just watch what happens when they launch their tour!  Tickets, t-shirts, hats, box sets, other goods – watch the cash register ring.  KA-CHING

LA Times reported the story on Sunday.

Watch a fascinating social commentary on the state of affairs in copyright and the internet.

See the whole hour long movie here.

New Formats

In a recent interview with Doug Dixon, David Kusek argues that the industry needs to develop new formats for music
distributed in physical formats. "Dual Disc is certainly a pointer in the
right direction," he says. "You need to create something that has
great value in order to continue to compete."

For example, in the movie A Clockwork Orange, says Kusek, "even
before CDs were out, they played music on a disk that was a little bigger than a
silver dollar. It reminds me of the idea that perhaps there are other formats
that could be developed, nontraditional formats, from what we have seen so far.
If you had a recordable format that was more convenient than CD, and held more
data, and was faster to record, then perhaps you could have a system where the
recording could be inside the stream of commerce."

The other critical trend, he says, is that "the price of these physical
products needs to come down. I’m encouraged that Dual Disc seems to be priced
around $18 to $20, and discouraged that CDs continue to hover in the $15 to $18
range. I don’t know how much control the manufacturers have over this, but to
the extent they can encourage their customers to be more realistic about pricing
CDs, the longer they will be able to stay in business. I really do believe the
price point for an audio CD is south of $10 at retail."

Music Commerce

But isn’t piracy destroying the industry? "There are two forms that are
currently labeled piracy," says Kusek. "You have the wholesale
replication of CDs and DVDs. To me, that’s counterfeit products and is obviously
not to be tolerated. It is certainly evil and criminal, and bad for
business."

"But the other kind of behavior that is labeled as piracy — downloading
files and trading files with your friends — I’m not sure that I would put that
in the same camp. Often there is no profit margin, there’s no distribution
network, other than yourself and a handful of people that you know. Generally,
you are not selling files to your friends."

"You can measure wholesale piracy and replication in many billions of
dollars, whereas for downloading and file sharing, it’s hard to quantify whether
it has had any negative impact at all in terms of real sales. I actually think
that is good for music, as painful as it may be for to the record
companies."

"I don’t think that file sharing and downloading of music is going to
stop," says Kusek, "until there is something easier, and better, and
cheaper, and more appealing. So as I argue in the book, why not embrace that
behavior, license and tax it, and somehow derive money from it? Make it easier
to find music, improve the quality of the files, and make it easier to record,
instead of trying to fight it. It seems a completely losing battle; People are
never going to stop doing it as long as the price of CDs is too high. So why not
go with the flow and embrace it?"

Investing in the Future

Says Kusek, "by and large the record companies are not in touch
with their customers at any significant level. They thought that their customer
was Wal-Mart. They are out of touch with their ultimate customer, and their
customer shifted away from them. They are still selling a ton of CDs, but the
whole file sharing thing was off their radar screen until someone told them
about it. So then they decided, let’s just go sue all these bastards."

"That bothers me as well," he says. "I ran the numbers, and
somewhere between 30 and 40 million dollars is being collected in the
settlements from the RIAA. But none of that money is going to the artists or
songwriters. It is going to the attorneys and the courts to process the papers,
and whatever is left is going to fund more lawsuits. It’s incredibly wasteful.
The numbers I see show file sharing growing on a monthly basis, ever since they
started the lawsuits, so it is not working. Imagine if they took $40 million and
invested it in a new way of delivering music that is attuned to the way people
want to buy."

To help people in the industry examine these options, Kusek runs an online
course on "The Future of Music and the Music Business" through the
Berkleemusic.com online extension school. "The course is for people at any
level of the music business," he says, "from artists, songwriters,
managers, record company, publisher, promoter, venue. We have had a lot of
people sign up from those areas trying to figure out what am I going to do in
the future: I own a record label, and how I get into this digital thing, or I am
a manager, and I can see that the labels are not really servicing my clients
anymore, so how can I grow my business in an appropriate way. A lot of the work
we do in the class is class projects or personal projects where you apply what
we are talking about to your situation and try to figure out what the next step
might be."

From his classes and consulting work, Kusek also sees differences in the
music business across the global economy. "One of my online students runs a
CD and DVD manufacturing company in India," he says. "They’re finding
that sales are actually quite healthy because the computer thing has not taken
off in the way it has in other parts of the world. I think there are many areas
in the global economy where there are lots of legs left to the existing physical
media, and those folks have more time to figure out alternatives."

Read the complete interview here at Manifest Technology.

Watch this week’s Nightly Business Report on NPR and Public Television to see a special series on the Music Business, featuring Dave Kusek and Gerd Leonard.

"On December 6th, 1877, Thomas
Edison shouted a nursery rhyme into his new talking machine. The recording
industry was born.

Over more than a century, the technology evolved from wax cylinder to
shellac platter to long-playing vinyl to cassette tape to compact disc.

But the business model remained the same: The artist recorded to the
label`s satisfaction, the label did the manufacturing and handled the
distribution, and the consumer could take it or leave it.

That changed in the mid-1990s, when personal computers got the ability
to make digital compact discs. Unlike analog, digital recordings are
simply computer data files, and the tools need to create, capture and
manipulate digital music are inexpensive, high quality and widely
available.

Now, consumers can use the recording industry`s compact disc to create
their own compilations, re-edit to produce derivative products, and yes,
make perfect copies.

When the cost of the blank needed for a copy fell to pennies, the
industry`s business model fell apart.

If the ability to easily copy compact discs was a problem for
the recording industry, Napster and other file-sharing systems were a
disaster. Created in 1999, Napster let consumers freely trade the computer
files of songs with others over the Internet. The artists, publishers and
recording companies never saw a dime.

Nearly 40 million people were said to be using Napster when
it shut down. And for every Napster that was shut down, another method to
share files sprang up.
The industry`s trade association sued thousands of people, mostly
college students, to stop the practice. The lawsuits, tens of thousands by
some counts, continue today.
"

More info here.

The Digital Age and The Future of Music.

It’s no secret that the music industry is challenged on multiple fronts. Now that we’re in the digital age, how can they change their outlook? Celia Hirschman, KCRW’s music industry commentator, speaks with Gerd Leonhard, co-author of The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution.

Listen to the Interview (Real)

Held back by fear, you are.

The music industry can’t preserve its current model of total control. Rather, it must embrace P2P and other new technologies because consumers won’t accept anything less than full freedom. In the future,preventing customers from doing things they have grown used to will equal a quickly executed death blow. For the music business, this means that any innovation that will be offered to the marketplace must be without any catches. It must be flat-out in synch with what the consumer will accept and wants, and its integration into the daily lives of the average music consumer must be unobtrusive and effortless.  In other words, keep it simple and give customers what they want.

As Yoda might say, “Held back by fear, you are. To the Dark Side, your stubbornness will lead.” It’s a
fate the music industry may want to avoid.

Read the second part of the interview here.

New York – WFUV Presents – If the new world of mp3 blogs, mash-ups, downloads and ringtones boggles your mind, tune in to Let’s Get Digital as host Jen Guerra takes a musical look at all things online.  The New Yorker Pop Music Critic Sasha Frere-Jones, CDBaby.com Founder Derek Sivers, Berklee College of Music Vice President David Kusek, Creative Commons Executive Director Glenn Otis Brown, Analyst Phil Leigh and others join Guerra for an hour-long program examining how the race to get online affects not only musicians, but music fans and the music business in general. 

Let’s Get Digital can be heard on WFUV (90.7 FM) www.wfuv.org and streaming online.

"Like modern  plumbing, the music industry could operate almost as a  utility—with copyright holders able to meter usage down to  how many people listened to particular songs at particular  times. In such a world, the industry could live off of micropayments flowing seamlessly back to the owners of  content rather than rely solely on the disjointed and  inefficient distribution of CDs to retailers. Artists, meanwhile, would have unprecedented access to new listeners  as their songs spread virally into vast musical networks  that fans can access literally anywhere. As the most  accessible artists find their audiences, those artists would  enjoy increased concert attendance, new forms of merchandise  and countless other opportunities to connect with fans like  never before."

Read part one of the two part interview

Part two is here

To The Best of Our Knowledge

Seven hundred million people get their music from the Internet. More than 10 million people own iPods. Does this mean that compact discs and record companies are going the way of the gramophone and eight-track tapes? In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll look at this digital music revolution…as we explore the future of music.

Check out this program from Wisconsin Public Radio

Forbes_80_100

People should pay for their music the way they pay for gas or electricity.
Forbes Article 2005

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