Music sales vs Video Game sales
BrianT
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#1
13th June 2003
Old 13th June 2003
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Music sales vs Video Game sales

Here's a few questions to toss about.

In the UK last year, video game sales exceeded music sales for the first time. In the US, video game sales are close to parity with music sales, and are growing at a healthy clip while music sales are taking a dive. At this rate, in the next 1-2 years, video game sales will move ahead of music sales in the US.

The nature of this contrast should throw all manner of red flags up for those of us who make music for a living. This info flies in the face of some of the well worn explanations we hear. Many of the arguments being made to explain the drop in music sales should apply to game sales, some even more severely. But the opposite is true.

CDs cost $10-15 US, and that's supposed to be a ripoff and a big turnoff to buyers. But video games cost between $30-50 US and some even more. So right away, we can dismiss cost per title as "the" issue. If a kid really wants it, he'll pay $50 for it. I do think CDs will need to come down in price, but that's beside the point in this contrast. The point is, the video game industry is selling less titles at more $$$ per title and growing in the process.

Then there's demographics. Of all buyer groups, gamers are the most technically and internet saavy. If any industry should be liable to piracy, it should be video games, given the target group. Especially considering the money saved "per title" by pirating.

There are other parallels and contrasts that I hope others will make here, but in my mind, the bottom line is that the average kid thinks video games are a better deal than music CDs, even costing 3 times more.

1. Would lower CD prices fix that, or not?

2. Would better artists/music fix that, or not?

3. Would better copy protection fix that, or not?

4. What would fix it?



Regards,
Brian T
#2
13th June 2003
Old 13th June 2003
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Re: Music sales vs Video Game sales

Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
1. Would lower CD prices fix that, or not?

2. Would better artists/music fix that, or not?

3. Would better copy protection fix that, or not?

4. What would fix it?
No, it's a content issue, not a price one.

Games are interactive and cutting edge, generally.

They also cost far more to produce than music titles...
#3
13th June 2003
Old 13th June 2003
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I think it's mainly a marketing/promotion thing. Some would say that the promotion and marketing are about the only thing the industry is getting right, and that's true if you mean they do a great job at marketing Creed. Yes, they've sold Creed to about twice as many people as wanted it. But they've done a trerrible job marketing music in general.

If most people find out what they'd like to buy from the radio or MTV, then you've alienated a ridiculous number of people by playing cookie-cutter stuff.

The content sucks, yes, but it's only the content of the crappy stuff they've decided to market that sucks so badly, so I call it a marketing problem.

Is Sparklehorse on commercial radio? (I don't know, since i don't listen.) I think they'd have bigtime pop appeal if played and marketed, just to name one of many many examples.
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13th June 2003
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Poserchild, I agree that the way people listen to music has changed somewhat, but not so hugely. I think the biggest use of music now is as it ever was, as background. Background to driving, to partying/hanging out with friends, to doing the dishes, to riding the subway, etc.. Attentive, uninterrupted listening has probably always been a small minority, though certainly a bigger one in the past.

(Will someone who is older than me step in to confirm or deny?)
#5
13th June 2003
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I have been addicted to games at all stages of life, from Monopoly to Game Of Life to Cards to computer games which are a bunch of dots to the arcade games in my home town by the shore to text adventures to programming them myself to skipping school to play them to the present day first person shooters interactive broadband mayhem.

When I go to the Virgin Megastore I have real trouble.....buying music!!

Games are terrific. Within twenty years no one will have grown up without them, and their ability to look like the real world and use accurate models based on technical data of all types will be widespread, and more far reaching than we can imagine

The reason that people are buying games at such a pace is because we have only just entered the computer era - everything else was just a prelude - and now they are coming of age - for the same reasons as we're now all able to work at home on our DAWS

And games are fascinating!! And there's no duff tracks. And you can replay them. And your friends can join in. And now they bring with them an entire online community.

This isn't competiton. This is something else. It doesn't mean music is declining because of it.

And if I'm such a geek how come the whole world is joining in? Well, it's fun...and now the industry is old enough to make the games it wish it had when it was young...

This is a rant. Not an argument. I'll post it anyway.
BrianT
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14th June 2003
Old 14th June 2003
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Quote:
Originally posted by BevvyB


This isn't competiton. This is something else. It doesn't mean music is declining because of it.

I've been a long time gamer myself and still play online fairly often, just to remind 16 year olds that us old farts can still tag 'em at will.
dfegad

I can relate to both the pull of games and the love of music. And they are different.

But I think that it is a competition for free time and disposable money. There are only 24 hours in a day, and anyone who is focused on gaming has less time and money to devote to to music.

Shame is, far fewer kids in the future are going to know that incredible feeling of being in a room jamming with some of your buddies, and everybody getting off when you feel it working. Instead, they will know the cool feeling when your Rainbow Six team is in sync and the bad guys are going down like clockwork.

Both are cool feelings, but only one of them lives in, and can take you somewhere in the realworld.


Regards,
Brian T
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14th June 2003
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Re: Music sales vs Video Game sales

Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
1. Would lower CD prices fix that, or not?

2. Would better artists/music fix that, or not?

3. Would better copy protection fix that, or not?

4. What would fix it?

Growing up in the 70's, I had an atari 2600, but I would still drive 80 miles in a blizzard to see Queen at the Chicago Stadium. Because a rockshow like Queen in no way could be compared to playing tank battle on my crappy tv.

Since then, the 'resolution' of the video gaming experience has increased exponentially. One could argue that the resolution of music has not changed at all. I would still drive to that Queen show than pretty much any other music experience if it was possible.

Maybe it's surround music, maybe it's SACD, I think it has to be something way beyond that... something that gets you INSIDE the music in an intimate and high-resolution way that provides a fresh and stimulating experience. For now the public has been educated that audio + video > audio.
#8
14th June 2003
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I beleive that games themselves could turn people onto music, just as films can.

All media 'follows through' when it reaches maturity.

Good case in point is Grand Theft Auto. Killer 80's soundtrack. Even had me going to the web page just to see what that last track I was playing in the car was

(For those of you who have yet to enjoy the unparallelled mayhem that is Grand Theft Auto, basically the premise is you run around a city stealing vehicles, each one which is blaring out music on the radio from the 80's. There's about 6 CD's worth of music in total, sometimes you don't hear the same track twice for days. The first track that was playing in the first car I hijacked was 'Billie Jean'. How cool is that. The first game ever that didn't have me reaching for my own cd player.)
#9
14th June 2003
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I've been convinced for some time that it's ALL about #2. Would better artists/music fix that,

Where it gets tricky is in defining "better." The only thing I'm pretty sure of is that it isn't going to sound very much like anything popular.

Most of what I hear today is a watered down version of something earlier that was much more exciting. In pop music this would be the transition from Chick Webb to Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra to Bobby Darin to Frankie Avalon. In rock the progression goes from Chick Webb to Louis Jordan to Little Richard to Bill Haley to the Everly Brothers to the Beatles and so forth.

As you move back up the chain, you find people who were so exciting and compelling that they were completely redefining the music industry, artists who people were buying record players and radios in order to hear, artists who stations were actually changing their formats in order to include.

How do we create an environment in which something unique can flourish? The current environment is too hostile for too many artists or it probably would have already happened like it did for Grandmaster Flash.

I don't think most of the answers lie in recording or "access to recording."
BrianT
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14th June 2003
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I agree with Bob O, in concept, but the big question is, "Is there revolutionary, inspired creativity to be found?".

I dunno. Who does? But one other thought is this:

Electric guitar.

I think that, like a modern Helen of Troy, the electric guitar lauched a thousand ships.....errrr, bands. Think about it. The EG was an object of desire, even lust and worship in some cases. It is amazingly expressive, sounds like the Hammer of Thor, makes whoever straps it on feel like a rock star, and has completely driven most modern music since it showed up. It has been explored and charted until it seems there is little left to discover.

I really think, and yes this is just one guy's opinion, but I really think that if an instrument showed up that was as revolutionary as the electric guitar, the cycle would begin anew. Call me screwy, but it is innovation that we're missing I think we all agree. It may require a new horse to get there. Those of us old enough to have heard the first Zep record just as it released, or Eric Clapton (Cream), or Hendrix or David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), etc know how electrifying that felt. When that happens again, nobody will need to tell you it happened. I'm just not sure it can happen with out some sort of new territiry to explore. Where is that?




Regards,
Brian T
#11
15th June 2003
Old 15th June 2003
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I think posterchild has hit the nail on the head there.

I understand Brian's electric guitar thinking and I immediately think of men not women in that scenario.

I don't know what that means about the past or the future.

For many the synthesizer and the sampler are/have been as revolutionary
as the EG...

-----

I think there is some truth in the games v music notion, especially the teen market, music is too passive for a lot of kids now.
#12
15th June 2003
Old 15th June 2003
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First off, I'd like to welcome BT to the forums. Excellent topic start!

Ok, here goes with some thoughts....

First Bevvy hit the nail on the head with why games sell so well these days. Now as far as the music side goes, you have to take into account the numbers that the RIAA has released and what those basically say. There is some excellent analysis of those numbers and basically they don't add up with what the RIAA wants the public to think. Here's a link that goes into pretty good detail http://www.azoz.com/music/features/0008rr.html

As with any technology there will be Pro's and Con's. It's a matter of how it's adapted and used. Apple is on the right track with their online store. But I think that in order for online purchasing to truly work, to be adopted, and embraced by the general public will require a couple of things IMHO.

First the cost per unit will need to be reduced to the point that the public is enticed to actually purchase the music. I'd think something in the area of 25 cents per tune would be cheap enough. I know I'd be spending quarters just like the early days of video arcades. It was nothing to waste $10 - $30 bucks in a night session at the local game shop.

Second would be the requirement of the labels to post their complete catalog online. There's a lot of stuff that I'd love to get hold of but it's out of print or just isn't available in a format I can use. Just think about it. You could pop online to the central repository of music and peruse by genre, year, title, whatever method you wanted to use. People could get what they want and the labels would make an absolute killing selling music online.

Now mind you, these are just a couple of my viewpoints, your mileage may vary.

As an aside, I'm thankful for the internet and the music that I've been introduced to by it. I know that a few labels in Europe love me for all of the cd's that I've been buying online. That's another thing, when I buy cd's these days, I buy them for the content. If given the choice of buying a standard release vs an Enhanced release, you can bet I'll be buying the enhanced one. I like the extra goodies. Be it a much larger liner notes booklet, extra cd of unreleased cuts, extra dvd of goodies, heck even a free poster is cool in my book. It's a tactile thing with me I guess. I like the extra stuff.

Now if the labels would only give us what they promised us when the CD as format was unleased upon the world. I seem to remember that the initial cost would be fairly high as it was a new technology and well, we all bought that statement. Then there was the promise that over time the cost would be reduced once everything got clicking with production and whatnot. But ya know what? Never happened. As matter of fact the cost of cd's has increased thru the years. Wonder why?

Well I've rambled enough. Just my .02 cents worth.
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15th June 2003
Old 15th June 2003
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I've been looking into writing music for games.

Not as a career path, that would suck, but as a way to push some boundaries in interactivity and writing to picture.

Generally, the graphics support and code for these games (I've been looking into the Unreal2003 Engine) is way beyond the audio. I'm trying to make a noise to sort it out, simply because I would love to write some music to a game that was groundbreaking - not necessarily because of the music itself but by its interactivity.

Some people have had a go. But I don't think anyone has come close to just how immersive it could be.

Has anyone here had any experience in writing or producing interactive music?
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15th June 2003
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Everybody forgets that we started out with infinite regional niches. Whatever the next thing might be, it will cut across niches and consolidate rather than differentiate audiences exactly as the most important artists of the past have.

I agree with Brian that it could well be focused around an instrument. The other factor is that successful music has always happened within the context of some sort of a social activity. It's something people listen to together and feel some kind of group identity with, a lot like sports. This is why on-line sales haven't put the slightest dent in record store sales, going to the store and hanging out seems to be a significant part of the experience many people want EVEN though most record stores charge considerably more than on-line sources.

What it's going to take are new record stores, new venues, new DJs, new agents/managers and a new music press. Exactly that happened during the 1950s. A lot of our problem is that those folks have all cashed out or died leaving lawyers running their companies.
#15
15th June 2003
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Quote:
Originally posted by BevvyB
Has anyone here had any experience in writing or producing interactive music?
I have a number of friends who have.

Unfortunately game development budgets approach the size of feature film budgets. The developers usually want either something that is ridiculously cheap or else some kind of star power that will help sell the game. A game will tie up many months of your life and you will have little to show for it other than a salary unless you are already a bankable music star.
BrianT
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18th June 2003
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In line with what we're saying here is THIS LINK .

Does this article sound like an industry in peril or freefall? Hardly.

Why not? Why are things so happy in game land? They sell CDs that can be copied and pirated (at least the PC versions can) to the same people we sell music.

We better start smelling the coffee and take some lessons from what is working.

I really am convinced we need better music. Something inspired and fresh. Waaaaay too much rehashed rock right now.


Regards,
Brian T
#17
18th June 2003
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games are interactive, music is passive. nothing will change that. even with "better" music, it will be relegated to background noise while games are played.
#18
18th June 2003
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the target for game developers is to deliver a product with 300 hours of playing time before the user is either bored with (action games), or has completed (quest games), the game.

THREE HUNDRED HOURS !!!

Anyone have a disk that they've listened to for 300 hours? anyone? there's just no way to make a disc that holds someone's attention for that long. And that makes the game a much better entertainment value per dollar.

-sm
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18th June 2003
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Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
games are interactive, music is passive. ...
An interesting comment, sounds like pop music is taking its self way too seriously if people think of it as being passive! COMMERCIAL music has always been highly interactive with people singing and dancing together to it.
#20
18th June 2003
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thats not interactive... thats just repetative. interaction is based on cause and effect and active involvement, while music is simply follow the leader... or passive involvement.

there are numerous reasons why video games in particular are more entertaining than simply listening to music. the one thing music does have over games is that you cant drive down the road and play video games.
#21
18th June 2003
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Quote:
Originally posted by BevvyB
Has anyone here had any experience in writing or producing interactive music?
I composed a game soundtrack for a recent Mechwarrior game. Bob Olhsson pretty much nailed it, audio is at the bottom of the food chain in game development, by the time it gets compressed and pushed through software mixers the fidelity is less than optimal, and in competition with missiles and explosions it becomes moot.

If audio is taken into consideration with game design, it can be much much more, like 'Frequency' on playstation2. GTA did some fun stuff, actually I thought the talk radio stations were hilarious.

But there is a long LONG way to go before video game audio realizes it's potential.

Regarding the '300 hours' comment of gameplay, that is pretty overstated. Currently the target is 40 hours for most major publishers.
#22
18th June 2003
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Quote:
Originally posted by smoothmoniker

Anyone have a disk that they've listened to for 300 hours? anyone? there's just no way to make a disc that holds someone's attention for that long....
Off the top of my head,

Sgt Peppers
Dark Side of the Moon
What's Going On
Rough Mix
Kind of Blue
Eagles' Greatest Hits 1

all certainly qualify as albums that plenty of people have spent that kind of time listening to. I agree I don't know of any new titles that people listen to like that. The fact that positive comments about new releases are few and far between on this board actually speaks volumes.
#23
18th June 2003
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by alphajerk
Quote:
[i] music is simply follow the leader... or passive involvement.
[/B]
When you sing along full voice with Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," I'd hardly call it a passive listening experience!
#24
18th June 2003
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great thread...

I've always been sceptical of the 'internet piracy is killing the industry' line the major labels are feeding us.

I was recently signed to 1 of the 5 major labels. After 1 album I was developing nicely as an artist - the album was a critical success although sales were modest and both myself and the A&R dept were excited about the next album. Then a new MD comes in and all hell breaks loose. He meets with my A&R guy and goes thru the type of artists on the roster... a few of us were in the 'developing nicely - have potential' category... the MD's exact words 'there is no such thing a 'developing artist' in my book' and we were all dropped within weeks. The directive was simple... quick hits, fast returns, get the share price up, don't sign anything that isn't of instant chart potential.

If this is way major labels are responding to falling sales then IMO they are making a huge mistake.

Without getting into arguments about 'better' music... its quite obvious that the major labels are not coming up with the kind of music that makes people en masse want to go out and buy CD's.

I think the lack of development and experimentation at this level is 1 important factor.

When the majors fall behind, the independents usually fill the gap... however it seems the fragmented nature of todays music scene (dance music alone has hundreds of 'media created' sub-genres) doesn't allow for any 1 band to come in and appeal en masse in the way bands used to do. The independent labels seem to encourage this fragmentation by releasing quite a narrow range of music - whereas the great labels of the past like Atlantic, Island, Reprise, etc would release a wide range of music appealing to a cross section of people.

However I feel the biggest reason for the lack of record sales is socio-cultural. For me the 'golden-age' of music was between 1967-1974' - a time of huge social upheaval. Music was an important communicator and a universal language for all kinds of social groups during this time... just compare the bands of this era (Grateful Dead, The Band, Dylan, Joni, Santana, Led Zep, P Floyd, The Stones, The Who, Traffic, Bowie, T-Rex, Roxy Music, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, America, Earth Wind & Fire, Blood Sweat & Tears, Miles Davis, Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orch ETC, ETC, ETC) just compare it to today... IT'S A JOKE!

In 67-74 you could still opt out of a conventional life and rebel, etc. Now in our homogenous capitalist countries what do people have to sing about or identify with? Singing protest songs about Vietnam is one thing... singing songs about losing your job cos your company is going thru a coperate merger is another. Life seems different.. music just doesn't seem to play as important a role in young people's lives as it used to... now they either see music like the majors - as a transient quick fix - who's on the radio everyday this week? type of thing... or they make music themselves on PC's...

ramble ramble ramble I could go on...

Burt

PS. listing those old bands really has put it in perspective for me... its scarey how bad things have gotten.
#25
18th June 2003
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Olhsson
When you sing along full voice with Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," I'd hardly call it a passive listening experience!
its still passive involvement. the song does not change regardless of what you sing. now if you chould choose when it did what, then it becomes active involvement. kareoke is closer to active involvement because you take the place of the singer and are performing for people... but still not active in the sense that gaming is.
#26
18th June 2003
Old 18th June 2003
  #26
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active/passive

when you listen to a great record, singing along with it is just the first active part of a process that can become so interactive that you start dressing like, behaving like, and worshipping the singer... the artist/band will then respond to this as they develop a fan base and so it goes...

I'm sorry but I think buying and listening to records is deeply interactive. You're interacting with a whole lifestyle in some cases.

I haven't as yet seen any of my mates dressing in medieval armour and carrying swords despite being Ultima Online addicts



Burt
#27
18th June 2003
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  #27
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ive never taken up a fashion because a bands image provokes it... none of my friends have either.

and i dont think thats interactivity anyway. nor is singing along.

although i do agree with you that the record industrys number one problem is lack of artist DEVELOPMENT... the quick returns are shallow and weak for long term payback to shareholders. what would a shareholder rather own a piece of; a christina aguilera single or the beatles catalog?
#28
18th June 2003
Old 18th June 2003
  #28
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shareholders

yes, and surely these execs who run these labels must know that... so why don't they act in the shareholders best interests by developing acts with more longevity?

1. i think they are paid too much and are too scared of risking mortgage/standard of living/drug funds by signing a few acts that may not break big until the 3rd-4th album.

2. developing an act from 'potential' to 'success' is much more difficult than signing a 5 day pop hit. its probably beyond the capabilities of most A&R men...

burt
#29
18th June 2003
Old 18th June 2003
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Bob Olhsson
[B]Everybody forgets that we started out with infinite regional niches. Whatever the next thing might be, it will cut across niches and consolidate rather than differentiate audiences exactly as the most important artists of the past have.

I wonder, though, if it has to consolodate audiences. It seems to me that people's tastes have widened where it is not uncommon to find the soundtrack from "Oh Brother", 50 Cent, The Buena Vista Social Club and Metalica all in the same car CD changer. People's taste in food has widened, too. Even my grandparents eat Chinese takeout now. Maybe it is the ability for the different niches to capture people's attention, even if just as a flavor of the month. The "Oh Brother" phenom. comes to mind the most here. Maybe part of what appealed to people about it was that is WAS really just niche market music before the movie. It didn't reek of focus group music. It was like discovering that great authentic Mexican restaraunt across town. I think American's really like diversity and we musician's just have to find our niche and be happy with a blue-color existance and ride the wave when our "sound" becomes flavor of the month. Worked for Ralph Stanely.
#30
19th June 2003
Old 19th June 2003
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Peoples' tastes have always been amazingly diverse. The other side is that the biggest hit records have only sold to 5% of the people who regularly buy records! The market potential for music is absolutely amazing but the challenge is connecting up the dots.

Consolidating audiences creates a genre and hence creates a market. It's what the most successful artists have always done. Then others try to sell into their audience. It's called being a leader. If we had a few, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation! (We were mostly followers at Motown and dug ourselves into exactly this kind of a rut a couple times. Thankfully we had Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder along with the guy who produced Del Shannon's "Runaway" who had enough balls to release their experiments.)

I think today's development problem is more at the local gig level than at the label level. Even in "New Age" electronica (one of my bizarre specialties) almost the only successful artists have been the ones having eyeball to eyeball experience PERFORMING their music to an audience. That kind of development offers immediate feedback as opposed to just throwing out records and seeing what sticks. They may have done you a big favor in the long run!

That said, the second shoe of Universal appears to be about to drop which means every label is about to have a lot more money available. You can bet they've all had a fortune set aside in the hopes of being able to pick up Elton John for pennies on the dollar.

My biggest problem with piracy is that it has killed individual "angel" investment in new artists.
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