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The Future of Music – by Dave Kusek and Gerd Leonhard

The Future of Music book is available in various forms.

future of music

 

You can buy the book on Amazon.

 

You can purchase the audiobook from Audible.

 

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.

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.

Other things to do from here:

We have a wide variety of blog posts and articles on the music business and the future of music. Please click on any of these links to read more.

How to Promote Your Music

How to License Your Music

How to get your Music on Spotify Playlists

How to book bigger and better Gigs.

Instagram for Musicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me review my key points so far:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 9: Make music fun again”

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

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.

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.


Another Wordle rendering.

This is how Wordle sees my blog

This is how Wordle sees my blog

A friend just sent over this post on how the newly elected Chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association,  said that illegal P2P filesharing is the greatest challenge facing entertainment retailers and urged members to lobby Government for a crackdown on a problem he said “is bleeding our industry dry”.

Speaking at the association’s annual general meeting, Quirk said, “Too often the debate over illegal filesharing is portrayed as an ideological battle, but for us this is a commercial matter. Illegal filesharing is damaging our businesses, both physical and digital, on a daily basis, and the Government needs to tackle it swiftly and decisively in order to protect jobs, businesses and investment.

“First the filesharers targeted the music business and the Government did nothing. Now the filesharers have come again for TV and movies. Unless action is taken the filesharers will come for computer games, books, in fact anything which can be digitised and what will be at stake will be not just the entertainment industry but huge swathes of the UK economy. We need action now.”

Read more of this insanity here at Mi2N

Well now…

I was visiting with my Dad last weekend and thought of an interesting parallel between digital music and encyclopedias.

When I was a kid, my father had a summer job going door to door selling Comptons Encyclopedias.  He would carry a couple of these huge books under his arms and try and get the husband or wife to buy the complete Comptons collection for the kids.  This was big business and my dad made a healthy living during the summer.

Well, over the years the encyclopedia book business began to dry up.  To start it all off, Comptons put their entire encyclopedia library on a CD-ROM and sold it via a new company they formed, called Comptons New Media.  They put the CD-ROM in a chipboard box and sold it at Comp-USA,  Software Etc and other retailers for $200-$300.  It became big business for a while in the early 1990’s, and Comptons New Media flourished and was eventually purchased by the Tribune Co for a lot of dough.

It didn’t take long before some hackers cracked the CD-ROM and then pirated versions of the whole enchilada began making their way into stores and online outlets.  By now, of course, the multi-volume Comptons Encyclopedia Book business had gone the way of the dinosaur, and countless pavement pounding salespeople were no longer going door to door selling encyclopedias – and the entire book business basically went away.  Gone in a matter of a few years.  I think they still sell some to schools somewhere.

The same thing soon happened to Comptons New Media as digital competitors emerged, from Microsoft “Encarta” and others, and soon price competition and the internet gave way to this information moving online for free.

Now we have something called “Wikipedia”.

The information contained in the encyclopedias is still being researched and published and edited by now, tens of thousands of people who put it online in a living, dynamic format.  By and large, no one is getting directly paid to do this work, yet no-one can dispute the fact that society in general is benefiting from Wikipedia and other community-based information resources.  You might even notice that there is a lot more information being produced and updated and cross referenced than ever before.  This is all without the infrastructure of the past (ie Comptons) being in-place anymore, and almost no money changing hands.

Just like Comptons, the record industry digitized all of its assets and put the entire thing out there for the public to enjoy.  And just like Comptons the record industry in now suffering from price erosion, shifting formats and piracy.  They can try and hang in there and bash the problem away with legislation, or they could seriously consider other methods of delivery and renumeration, or they could sell off their remaining assets and shut down.  No matter what, the game they have played is over, caput.  Time to face the music and change.

There are no guarantees in business that things will remain the same.  Indeed, the only real constant is change and businesses that try and hold onto the past will be crushed by their own weight and failure to adapt, or in some cases, to just shut down.  Nothing is forever except change.  People should stop complaining about it and start working on creating a future that benefits us all.

Do I know exactly what that future is going to be?  Of course not.  I wish I could say with certainty but I can’t – for now.  But I think it will look a lot more like wikipedia than comptons encyclopedia sets.

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

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

The full script of the speech everyone is talking about in Cannes, as made by U2 manager Paul McGuinness at Midem.

McGuinness: “Good afternoon and thank you for giving me this opportunity. I don’t make many speeches and this is an important and imposing occasion for me. What I’m trying do here today is identify a course of action that will benefit all: artists, labels, writers and publishers.

I have been managing the best-known of my clients, U2, for exactly 30 years. Sure we’ve made mistakes along the way but the lineup hasn’t changed in 31 years. They are as ambitious and hardworking as ever, and each time they make a record and tour, it’s better than the last time. They are doing their best work now. During that time the music business has been through many changes.

At the beginning U2’s live appearances were loss-making and tour support from our record label was essential for us to tour and that paid off for the label as U2’s records went to No.1 in nearly every international territory starting in the mid ’80s and I’m happy to say that continues to the present day. They have sold about 150 million records to date and the last album went to No.1 in 27 territories.

U2 own all their masters but these are licensed long-term to Universal, with whom we enjoy an excellent relationship. With a couple of minor exceptions they also own all their copyrights, which are also licensed to Universal. U2 always understood that it would be pathetic to be good at the music and bad at the business, and have always been prepared to invest in their own future. We were never interested in joining that long, humiliating list of miserable artists who made lousy deals, got exploited and ended up broke and with no control over how their life’s work was used, and no say in how their names and likenesses were bought and sold.

What U2 and I also understood instinctively from the start was that they had 2 parallel careers first as recording and songwriting artists, and second as live performers. They’ve been phenomenally successful at both. The Vertigo Tour in 2005/2006 grossed $355m and played to 4.6m people in 26 countries.

But I’m not here to brag. I’m here to ask some serious questions and to point the finger at the forces at work that are destroying the recorded music industry.

People all over the world are going to more gigs than ever. The experience for the audience is better than ever. This is proved by the upward trend in ticket prices, generally un-resisted. The live business is, for the most part, healthy and profitable. Bands can gig without subsidy. Live Nation, previously a concert and venue company is moving into position with merchandising, ticketing, online, music distribution as one of the powerful new centres of the music industry.

So what has gone wrong with the recorded music business?

More people are listening to music than ever before through many more media than ever before. Part of the problem is that the record companies, through lack of foresight and poor planning, allowed an entire collection of digital industries to arise that enabled the consumer to steal with impunity the very recorded music that had previously been paid for. I think that’s been a cultural problem for the record industry — it has generally been inclined to rely for staff on poorly paid enthusiasts rather than developing the kind of enterprise culture of Silicon Valley where nearly every employee is a shareholder.

There are other reasons for the record business’s slow response to digital. The SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) of the ’90s pan-industry, was a grand but ill-fated plan to try and agree rules between the content and technology industries. It went nowhere. SDMI, and similar attempts at cooperation by record companies, have partly been thwarted by competition rules. The US government has sometimes been overzealous in protecting the public from cartel-like behaviour.

I love the record business, and though I may be critical of the ways in which the digital space has been faced by the industry I am also genuinely sympathetic and moved by the human fall-out, as the companies react to falling revenues by cutting staff and tightening belts. Many old friends and colleagues have been affected by this. They have families and it is terrible that a direct effect of piracy and thievery has been the destruction of so many careers.

Nonetheless there is one effective thing the majors could do together. I quote from Josh Tyrangiel in Time Magazine: – “The smartest thing would be for the majors to collaborate on the creation of the ultimate digital-distribution hub, a place where every band can sell its wares at the price point of its choosing”. Apple’s iTunes, despite its current dominance, is vulnerable. Consumers dislike its incompatibility with other music services, and the labels are rebelling against its insistence on controlling prices. Universal the largest label in the world has declined to sign a long term deal with iTunes. “There’s a real urgency for the labels to get together and figure this out,” says Rick Rubin of Columbia Records.

There is technology now, that the worldwide industry could adopt, which enables content owners to track every legitimate digital download transaction, wholesale and retail.

This system is already in use here in Cannes by the MIDEM organisation and is called SIMRAN. Throughout this conference you will see contact details and information. I recommend you look at it. I should disclose that I’m one of their investors.

Meanwhile in the revolution that has hit music distribution, quality seems to have been forgotten. Remarkably, these new digital forms of distribution deliver a far poorer standard of sound than previous formats. There are signs of a consumer backlash and an online audiophile P2P movement called “lossless” with expanded and better spectrum that is starting to make itself heard. This seems to be a missed opportunity for the record industry — shouldn’t we be catering to people who want to hear music through big speakers rather than ear buds?

Today, there is a frenetic search for new business models that will return the record business to growth. The record companies are exploring many new such models — some of them may work, some of them may not.

Sadly, the recent innovative Radiohead release of a download priced on the “honesty box” principle seems to have backfired to some extent. It seems that the majority of downloads were through illegal P2P download services like BitTorrent and LimeWire, even though the album was available for nothing through the official band site. Notwithstanding the promotional noise, even Radiohead’s honesty box principle showed that if not constrained, the customer will steal music.

There is some excitement about advertising-funded deals. But the record companies must gain our trust to share fairly the revenues they will gain from advertising. Historically they have not been good at transparency. Let’s never forget the great CD scam of the ’80s when the majors tried to halve the royalties of records released on CD claiming that they needed this extra margin to develop the new technology even as they were entering the great boom years that the CD delivered. It’s ironic that, at a time when the majors are asking the artists to trust them to share advertising revenue they are also pushing the dreadful “360 model.”

As Allen Grubman, the well-known New York attorney said to me recently… “God forbid that one of these acts in a 360 deal has success. The next thing that will happen is the manager gets fired and the lawyer gets sued for malpractice.”

Maybe it would help if they were to offer to cancel those deals when they repair their main revenue model and the industry recovers, as I believe it will.

But that’s an issue for the future, when we’re out of the crisis. Today, there’s a bigger issue and it’s about the whole relationship between the music and the technology business. Network operators, in particular, have for too long had a free ride on music — on our clients’ content. It’s time for a new approach — time for ISPs to start taking responsibility for the content they’ve profited from for years. And it’s time for some visionary new thinking about how the music and technology sectors can work as partners instead of adversaries, leading to a revival of recorded music instead of its destruction.

It’s interesting to look at the character of the individuals who built the industries that resulted from the arrival of the microprocessor. Most of them came out of the so-called counterculture on the west coast of America. Their values were hippy values. They thought the old computer industry as represented by IBM was neanderthal. They laughed at Bell Telephone and AT&T. They thought the TV networks were archaic. Most of them are music lovers. There are plenty of private equity fund managers who are “Deadheads.”

They were brilliantly innovative in finance and technology and though they would pay lip service to “Content is King” what many of them instinctively realized was that in the digital age there were no mechanisms to police the traffic over the internet in that content, and that legislation would take many years to catch up with what was now possible online.

And embedded deep down in the brilliance of those entrepreneurial, hippy values seems to be a disregard for the true value of music.

This goes back some decades. Does anyone remember Abbie Hoffman? He was one of the “Chicago 7,” the ‘Yippies” of the Youth International Party who tried to disrupt the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and got beaten up and put on trial by Mayor Daley’s police. He put out a book with the title “Steal this Book”. I think he has a lot to answer for.

I’ve met a lot of today’s heroes of Silicon Valley. Most of them don’t really think of themselves as makers of burglary kits. They say: “you can use this stuff to email your friends and store and share your photos”. But we all know that there’s more to it than that, don’t we? Kids don’t pay $25 a month for broadband just to share their photos, do their homework and email their pals.

These tech guys think of themselves as political liberals and socially aware. They search constantly for the next “killer app.” They conveniently forget that the real “killer app” that many of their businesses are founded on is our clients’ recorded music.

I call on them today to start doing two things: first, taking responsibility for protecting the music they are distributing; and second, by commercial agreements, sharing their enormous revenues with the content makers and owners.

I want those technology entrepreneurs to share their ingenuity and skill as well. Our interests are, after all, steadily merging as lines get more and more blurred between the distributors of content, the makers of hardware and the creators of content. Steve Jobs is now in effective control of the Walt Disney Studio and ABC Television so his point of view may be changing now that he owns content as well as selling those beautiful machines that have changed our world. Personally I expect that Apple will before too long reveal a wireless iPod that connects to an iTunes “all of the music, wherever you are” subscription service. I would like it to succeed, if the content is fairly paid for. “Access” is what people will be paying for in the future, not the “ownership” of digital copies of pieces of music.

I have met Steve Jobs and even done a deal with him face to face in his kitchen in Palo Alto in 2004. No one there but Steve, Bono, Jimmy Iovine and me, and Lucian Grainge was on the phone. We made the deal for the U2 iPod and wrote it down in the back of my diary. We approved the use of the music in TV commercials for iTunes and the iPod and in return got a royalty on the hardware. Those were the days when iTunes was being talked about as penicillin for the recorded music industry.

I wish he would bring his remarkable set of skills to bear on the problems of recorded music. He’s a technologist, a financial genius, a marketer and a music lover. He probably doesn’t realize it but the collapse of the old financial model for recorded music will also mean the end of the songwriter. We’ve been used to bands who wrote their own material since the Beatles, but the mechanical royalties that sustain songwriters are drying up. Labels and artists, songwriters and publishers, producers and musicians, everyone’s a victim.

For ISPs in general, the days of prevaricating over their responsibilities for helping protect music must end. The ISP lobbyists who say they should not have to “police the internet” are living in the past — relying on outdated excuses from an earlier technological age. The internet has moved on since then, and the pace of change today means a year in the internet age is equivalent to a decade in the non-internet world.

Remember the 1990s, when the internet was being called the Information Superhighway? At that time, when the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the EU Electronic Commerce Directive were drawn up, legislators were concerned to offer safe harbours restricting the responsibilities of ISPs who acted as a “mere conduit”. This was a different era: only a few hundred thousand illegal files could be accessed from websites. There was no inkling
at that time of the enormous explosion of P2P piracy that was to follow. If legislators had foreseen that explosion, would they have ever offered immunity for so-called “mere conduits” and, in doing so, given ISPs a decade of excuses for refusing to protect our content?

And as it turned, the “Safe Harbour” concept was really a Thieves’ Charter. The legal precedent that device-makers and pipe and network owners should not be held accountable for any criminal activity enabled by their devices and services has been enormously damaging to content owners and developing artists. If you were publishing a magazine that was advertising stolen cars, processing payments for them and arranging delivery of them you’d expect to get a visit from the police wouldn’t you? What’s the difference? With a laptop, a broadband account, an MP3 player and a smartphone you can now steal all the content, music, video and literary in the world without any money going to the content owners. On the other hand if you get caught stealing a laptop in the computer store or don’t pay your broadband bill there are obvious consequences. You get nicked or you get your access cut off.

It is time for ISPs to be real partners. The safe harbours of the 1990s are no longer appropriate, and if ISPs do not cooperate voluntarily there will need to be legislation to require them to cooperate.

Why does all this matter so much? Because the truth is that whatever business model you are building, you cannot compete with billions of illegal files free on P2P networks. And the research does show that effective enforcement — such as a series of warnings from the ISP to illegal file-sharers that would culminate in disconnection of your service — can address the problem.

A simple “three strikes and you are out” enforcement process will see all serial illegal uploaders who resist the law face a stark choice: change or lose your ISP subscription.

Fortunately, there has recently been some tremendous momentum to get ISPs engaged — notably in France, the UK, Sweden, Norway and Belgium. President Sarkozy’s plan, the Olivennes initiative, by which ISPs will start disconnecting repeat infringers later this year, set a brilliant precedent which other governments should follow. In the U.K., the Gowers Report made it clear that legislation should be considered if voluntary talks with ISPs failed to produce a commitment to disconnect file-sharers. I’d like to see the U.K. government act promptly on this recommendation.

In Sweden, the Renfors Report commissioned by the Ministry of Justiceg ISP cooperation. And in the courts, the Sabam-Tiscali ruling spelt out, in language as plain as could be, that ISPs should take the steps required to remove copyright-infringing material from their networks. The European Union should now take up the mantle and legislate where voluntary intra-industry agreement is not forthcoming. This is the time to seize the day.

ISPs don’t just have a moral reason to step up to the plate — they have a commercial one too. IFPI estimates say illegal P2P distribution of music and films accounts for over half of all ISP traffic. Others put the figure as high as 80%. This is traffic that is not only destroying the market place for people who are trying to make a legitimate living out of music and films, it is hogging bandwidth that ISPs are increasingly going to need for other commerce, especially as a legitimate online market for movies develops.

I think the failure of ISPs to engage in the fight against piracy, to date, has been the single biggest failure in the digital music market. They are the gatekeepers with the technical means to make a far greater impact on mass copyright violation than the tens of thousands of lawsuits taken out against individual file-sharers by bodies like BPI, RIAA and IFPI. To me, prosecuting the customer is counter-intuitive, though I recognise that these prosecutions have an educational and propaganda effect, however small, in showing that stealing music is wrong.

ISPs could implement a policy of disconnection in very quick time. Filtering is also feasible. When last June the Belgian courts made a precedent-setting ruling obliging an ISP to remove illegal music from its network, they identified no fewer than 6 technologies which make it possible for this to be done. No more excuses please. ISPs can quickly enough to block pornography when that becomes a public concern.

When the volume of illegal movie and music P2P activity was slowing down their network for legitimate users recently in California, Comcast were able to isolate and close down BitTorrent temporarily without difficulty.

There are many other examples that prove the ability of ISPs to switch off selectively activity they have a problem with: Google excluded BMW from their search engine when BMW started to play games. This was a clear warning to others not to interfere. Another show of power was Google’s acceptance of the Chinese Governments censorship conditions. The BBC has spent a fortune on their iPlayer project and the ISPs are now threatening to throttle this traffic if the BBC doesn’t “share costs of iPlayer traffic.” All this shows what the ISPs could do if they wanted. We must shame them into wanting to help us. Their snouts have been at our trough feeding free for too long.

Let’s spare no effort to push the ISPs into taking responsibility. But that’s only one part of the story. There’s a huge commercial partnership opportunity there as well. For me, the business model of the future is one where music is bundled into an ISP or other subscription service and the revenues are shared between the distributor and the content owners.

I believe this is realistic; the last few years have shown clear proof of the power of ISPs and cable companies to bundle packages of content and get more money out of their subscribers. In the UK, most ISPs offer different tiers of services, with a higher monthly fee for heavy downloaders. Why are there “heavy” downloaders? Isn’t that our money? News Corporation offers free broadband to light users if they take at least a basic Sky Television package for £16 [$31.78] a month.

Looking at the events in the last year, this revenue-sharing model seems to be taking hold in the music business.

Universal — U2’s label — recently struck a deal with Microsoft that sees it receive a cut of the revenues generated by sales of the Zune MP3 player. It’s unfortunate that the Zune hasn’t attracted the sort of consumer support that the iPod did. We need more competition.

Under the agreement, Universal receives $1 for every Zune sold. When you consider Radio Shack sells Zune players for $150, you’ll see that Universal has asked for less than 1% of revenue — for a company that is supplying about a third of the U.S. market’s chart music at the moment. This isn’t really enough, but it’s a start, I suppose, and follows from the U2/Apple deal, the principle that the hardware makers should share with the content owners whose assets are exploited by the buyers of their machines. The record companies should never again allow industries to arise that make billions off their content without looking for a piece of that business. Remember MTV?

Nokia has announced it will launch “Comes With Music,” a service that effectively allows consumers to get unlimited free downloads of songs for 12 months after they buy certain premium Nokia phones. At the end of the 12 months consumers will be able to keep the songs they download. Nokia gets to supply premium content and Universal gets to boost competition in the digital marketplace, to make it more competitive and open new channels to customers. A proportion of the revenue generated by sales of the handsets will flow back to Universal. The question must be asked; will they distribute that revenue fairly? Do artists trust the labels? Will artists, songwriters and labels trust the telcos and handset companies?

These are obviously commercial deals driven by self-interest. But there is a moral aspect to this too. The partnership between music and technology needs to be fair and reasonable. ISPs, Telcos and tech companies have enjoyed a bonanza in the last few years off the back of recorded music content. It is time for them to share that with artists and content owners.

Some people do go further and favour a state-imposed blanket licence on music. Let me stress that I don’t believe in that. A government cannot set the price of music well any more than a rock band can run a government. The market has to decide. The problem with the global licence proposed in France two years ago was that it would not have worked in practice. But it is in France recently that legislators have been most innovative and have shown most willingness to act to support recorded music rights. France leads the world on this.

So far I’ve focused mainly on the role of ISPs. But there are similar issues in mobile too. The mobile business accounts for half the world’s digital music revenues and, crucially, is starting out from a much better position than the internet music market. You only have to look at a market such as Japan to see the amazing potential of mobile music for getting to the young demographic.

I believe that in mobile music we have the chance to avoid the problems that have bedevilled the recorded music industry’s relationship with ISPs: and I’m not talking just of their tolerance of copyright theft. Other problems, like the lack of interoperability between services and devices; the lack of convenient payment mechanisms except via credit cards — which of course are not available to all music users; the hacking and viruses that have undermined people’s trust in online payment. All these problems can be avoided in the mobile sector, this is a task that should command the support and cooperation of labels, artists, publishers and writers. We’re all in the same boat here.

That’s a lesson for the mobile industry internationally. Don’t go the way that many of the ISPs have gone. Mobile is still a relatively secure environment for legitimate content — let’s keep it that way.

So, to conclude — who’s got our money and what can we do?

I suggest we shift the focus of moral pressure away from the individual P2P file thief and on to the multi billion dollar industries that benefit from these countless tiny crimes — The ISPs, the telcos, the device makers. Let’s appeal to those fine minds at Stanford University and Silicon Valley, Apple, Google, Nokia, HP, China Mobile, Vodafone, Comcast, Intel, Ericsson, Facebook, iLike, Oracle, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Tiscali etc, and the bankers, engineers, private equity funds, and venture capitalists who service them and feed off them to apply their genius to cooperating with us to save the recorded music industry, not only on the basis of reluctantly sharing advertising revenue but collecting revenue for the use and sale of our content. They have built multi billion dollar industries on the back of our content without paying for it.

It’s probably too late for us to get paid for the past, though maybe that shouldn’t be completely ruled out. The U.S. Department of Justice and the EU have scored some notable victories on behalf of the consumer, usually against Microsoft. They have a moral obligation to be true, trustworthy partners of the music sector. To respect and take responsibility for protecting music. To work for the revaluation, not the devaluation of music. To share revenues with the community fairly and responsibly, and to share the skills, ingenuity and entrepreneurship from which our business has a lot to learn.

And the message to government is this: ISP responsibility is not a luxury for possible contemplation in the future. It is a necessity for implementation TODAY — by legislation if voluntary means fail.

There’s more exciting music being made and more listened to than at any time in history. Cheap technology has made it easy to start a band and make music. This is a gathering of managers; our talented clients deserve better than the shoddy, careless and downright dishonest way they have been treated in the digital age.”

(Paul McGuinness delivered the above speech January 28 at Midem, Cannes.)

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.

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.