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Is free music really the answer?
Old 21st July 2007
  #1
Lives for gear
 

Is free music really the answer?

Another great article by Bob Lefsetz....


Quote:
The hardest part is getting noticed.



There are numerous media competing for the audience's mindspace. And numerous musical enterprises/records as well. So, the plan must center first around getting attention, not getting paid.



In the old days, the major labels controlled a finite landscape. They had what was perceived to be the best music, and they owned both radio and retail, which were the major ways of learning about music. So, there were few companies with few products fighting over little mindspace. Furthermore, you had to buy the product to experience it.



Now we live in a land of abundance. There are tens of thousands of acts and albums emerging/coming to market every year, the majors don't necessarily have the best, and just about all of them can be experienced at the listener's leisure, on the Web. The question is how do you get people to listen?



If you've got a pop confection, the major labels are the place to go. They control the old outlets, which can reach the most people most quickly. The only problem is the old outlets, the mass media, are only interested in the mass market items, and a great percentage of the public isn't even paying attention. So, even if you're the beneficiary of a carpet bomb campaign, a great percentage of America will still be clueless as to who you are, and won't care that they're out of the loop, might even be proud of being out of the loop. So, the question becomes how to reach these people.



You can't reach them by asking them to buy first. Quite the contrary, it's like catching a fish. You've got to drop quality bait and wait.



Quality bait...



When there was limited product, quality was less of an issue. Kind of like Trabants were the automobile of choice in Eastern Germany, they were all that was available. But with the fall of the Wall, the higher quality of the Western world's automobiles was embraced, and the Trabant ceased production.



In other words, how are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?



The Web is Paree.



But it's worse. It's infinite. And there's no road map. And no guide, not yet, saying what is good.



You can rail against this new world, or try to figure it out.



You establish a beachhead. You try to get people to notice you. And the way you do this is not through endless cross-linking and widgets and all the tools of the helpless, hapless wannabes, but quality music. It's the only way you can get recognized. Unless you take your clothes off. But that still does not sell records. Just ask Tila Tequila.



That's scary. Because although they won't admit it, most acts suck.



Don't think of how you're going to sell your music, but how you're going to get better. Learn how to play your instrument, not how to style your hair. Image is far less important in the new world, where everybody is accessible. You want to be a member of the group, not above or below. You certainly don't want to be below, in the dreaded world of TMZ, where those with a modicum of celebrity are ridiculed. Your identity must take a back seat to your music.



And this music must be freely available.



The tunes themselves are no longer enough to rally around. The tunes are the enticement to your lifestyle, your club. You don't want people to buy your music, you want them to become members of your club.



Everybody wants to belong. And exclusivity is not the key, but quality. Style is trumped by substance. Case in point, the iPod. First and foremost, it is perceived to be the easiest used and highest quality MP3 player. The fact that it looks good is just the sauce. The fact that everybody has one degrades its integrity/likability barely a whit. Because if something is truly great, people don't care that others are on the ride along with them (like the Beatles!) Most people only reject mass groups when quality is perceived to be lousy. Or when style is triumphant. Like the Razr. It looked cool, but it didn't do anything new and different. And now Motorola is in trouble. Apple is not in trouble.



So, make someone a member of your club, and then they'll give you all their money. I.e. the iPhone. Apple loyalists, indoctrinated by their purchase of an iPod or Mac, or both, needed the iPhone as evidence of their club membership. They needed to let everyone know where they were coming from, where they belonged. Just like your fans will buy your t-shirt if they believe you're good. Wearing it makes them feel good, it lets everybody else know they're a member of the group. Most people don't want to be a member of an evanescent group, they want someone who stays. So focus on staying, unless you're in the major label pop category above.



But, you say, Apple charges for their products.



That's apples and oranges. Google doesn't charge to search. And didn't even have a business plan until it had reached a critical mass of users. You need the critical mass first if you're selling software. And, Google and your music are just bits. Whereas iPods and iPhones are physical objects.



Oh, don't get caught up in the mind-set of people paying for your music. They will, but you must entice and hook them first.



So, how do you spread the word?



You don't. Your audience does.



Your audience has tuned out marketing messages. You've just got to get a few diehards to believe, and they'll do the marketing work for you. And for this work, you pay them. Not in dollars, but kind. Free access to your shows. Rehearsal tapes. Their main goal is to feel a part of something. Let them in. And instruct them. Not to force your music on to everybody. That this isn't a job, but a calling, a cause. That could take years to reach fruition.



And what is fruition?



A self-sustaining music career.



Right now, music is almost free. The new modes of acquisition need to be monetized, but until they are, don't focus on selling the music, but everything else. The live show. The merch. If you get really big, destination gigs, cruises. Be inventive. Everybody wants to hang with the club. Furthermore, hard core fans will still buy the CD as a badge of honor.



The key is not to reach everybody instantly, but to keep satisfying your core. Their friends will follow along just to experience what they're dedicating their lives to.



I know this is all very confusing and hard. Because it's the opposite of what you've been told for fifteen years. The opposite of Tommy Mottola style, the opposite of Clive Davis style.



Tommy Mottola was about orchestrating a campaign. But now very few people are paying attention to any campaign. You can't get all the eyeballs you used to.



And Clive Davis eviscerates the honesty of the acts. He calls in professional songwriters, he crafts an image and an identity. All that is left is the song, you're just a cog in the wheel, you can be quickly forgotten. You don't want to be forgotten, but remembered.



It's less about crafting a catchy hit than capturing the ears and minds of your fans. Look at Dispatch. They might not make music memorable to Clive, but most of Clive's charges can't sell out arenas years after they've broken up. Kelly Clarkson can't sell out arenas seeming moments since her last big hit, still in the public eye all the while.



You're in control. It's not about getting the attention of some mover and shaker. Your team is you, all the time. You're convincing the end buyer, middlemen are no longer relevant. Forget radio, forget retail. It's about having a presence on the Web and allowing people to find you. And playing live. But that's actually less efficient than your Web campaign, you reach fewer people playing gigs. The tour is the victory lap. If you can go on the road and charge, if you can put together a whole tour, you're on your way to success, you know you've got something going.



Sure, some people can make it based on the live vibe first and foremost. Then the Web is about the community first, not the music.



But if music is first, it's got to be free and available and a cadre of fans must be motivated to spread the word.



This is not hard. That's what people do, tell others about what they're enjoying.



But their friends know when they're sincere, when they're getting paid, and when they're doing it from the bottom of their heart. Sincerity, believability, credibility, they're key to longevity. There's no longevity in the shenanigans on TV and TMZ. If you want to play there, be my guest. But it's not about music so much as fame. And you're a musician, right?
Old 21st July 2007
  #2
Gear Addict
 

I think so. Make money off of live gigs.. use the free songs as promo.
Until you get noticed that is...
Do what kiss did and make bucketloads off merchandising and all that extra crap. Cd sales wont get ya squat i think...

Then again.. what do i know.. i'm just basing this off the ramblings of a jaded man.
Old 21st July 2007
  #3
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Saudade's Avatar
 

"The hardest part is getting noticed". tutt

The hardest part is writing quality music that happens to have commercial value.

Of course, wearing a funny costume, jumping around like a monkey on youtube, or giving away your CD with the newspaper wouldn't hurt (for most cases).

But would people feel the need to do that if they really have SOMETHING on their hands?
Old 21st July 2007
  #4
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

freakin' brilliant. so few people have a grasp of the new marketplace and the realities of the modern consumer here in the birth of the internet, this guy is tapped in.

if i've said it once, i'll say it a million times: read _the purple cow_. the trick, the one absolutely indispensible trick to short-burst success and sustained longevity is remarkability. in this case --- music --- it is remarkable to write and record great music.

thanks for posting this article, i'm pasting it into my desktop. where else can one read what this guy has to say?


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 21st July 2007
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Hell yes.

I'm surprised to see how similar our "gameplans" are.

I had a very similar idea in mind before my old band broke up.

Great article.
Old 21st July 2007
  #6
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HIGHENDONLY's Avatar
 

Think about it, you start getting a big buzz on the net by letting all your music out for free. People will think, wow these guys are great, You will start to build your own fan base, lots of people will admire and respect what you are doing by giving away your music, These are the people that will pay $20 at the door to see you live. I thought that was what music was really suppose to be. Not making all these well over produced fake tracks to fill up targets and walmart. It was about waking up excited on tuesday to go down to the record store to get that album you been long waiting for. Than few months later you and your friends would all go out on a sat night to see them perform. Guys i miss the old days.
Old 21st July 2007
  #7
Lives for gear
 

There is a basic principle in life, which applies to studio time or art or business or anything else for that matter:

If you value your worth as zero, and give away your product or service for free, then nobody will respect you. They will take and take, and expect more for free. If you then try to charge for your product or service, it will come as a total shock and it's really hard to change their opinion. If you did this for free yesterday, how come you want to charge for it today?

Also - they won't value the product or service. If they have to pay something - anything - then their investment in it makes them appreciate it.

The internet and file sharing is challenging that view I know - but really its only an illusion of being free. But basically, there is still no such thing as a free lunch. You pay serious money to own a computer and purchase bandwidth on the internet (or somebody else is paying this for you). You are involuntarily investing a lot of your time in watching ads that somebody pays for. Generally, the genuinely free websites run out of money and disappear, because fundamentally - people don't respect free products or services.
Old 21st July 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwiburger View Post
There is a basic principle in life, which applies to studio time or art or business or anything else for that matter:

If you value your worth as zero, and give away your product or service for free, then nobody will respect you.
See, that's the trick. DONT give it away for "free", get them to join your mailing list instead. That's one aspect almost no bands focuses on, and its CRUCIAL. Internet marketers' most valuable asset are their mailing lists, and the same should apply to musicians. It's cool if you have a lot of MySpace friends, but how are you gonna reach them? Spam them with bulletins? No, you get them to join your list, and give them something in return for it. And then through that list you sell them other stuff (tickets, merch, etc).

And lets be real here. Kids always find a way to get music for free, they nowadays even rip songs from MySpace, using special software. Before they do that, I'd rather be the one who gives it to them, and in return gets their email so I can market other products to them.
Old 21st July 2007
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Derrick View Post
I dont think he was asking about Seth Godin...

UBK, read more about Lefsetz here: Lefsetz Letter
Old 21st July 2007
  #10
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sahiaman's Avatar
 

Utter Crap! This guy doesn't get why people seek out music in the first place. He seems to be speaking to cookie cutter boring bands, just good enough that they can play clubs and not get booed!
The problem is not many people are rewarding risk in the industry right now.
Old 21st July 2007
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sahiaman View Post
Utter Crap!
How I love music industry noobs who act like big shots. If you're that smart, why arent you writing the #1 music biz newsletter on the net, instead of Bob?
Old 21st July 2007
  #12
Deleted bd1be4f
Guest
I have to disagree on this one. The future of music isn't that it should be free, but part of a viable unrestricted subscription model (think cable TV), but not the restricted crap like Rhapsody or Napster. There has to be ownership involved, because people like to own stuff.

The problems no one here has addressed with the idea of all music being free, is what about songwriters who aren't also the artist? What about record producers? How do they get paid, or their continued existence justified in a world where the product that they work on generates no money, therefore no money for them? Or is the future of the music business going to mean the death of the outside songwriter and producer?

And what about artists who aren't the kind of acts that are going to be touring successes? There are many genres of music and artists that simply aren't the kind that traditionally people like to go see live, and prefer to simply listen to their recorded music.

Depending on live performance as the only primary revenue source in a future music business would mean the end of careers for many talented songwriters, producers and artists.
Old 21st July 2007
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zboy2854 View Post
I have to disagree on this one. The future of music isn't that it should be free, but part of a viable unrestricted subscription model (think cable TV), but not the restricted crap like Rhapsody or Napster. There has to be ownership involved, because people like to own stuff.

The problems no one here has addressed with the idea of all music being free, is what about songwriters who aren't also the artist? What about record producers? How do they get paid, or their continued existence justified in a world where the product that they work on generates no money, therefore no money for them? Or is the future of the music business going to mean the death of the outside songwriter and producer?

And what about artists who aren't the kind of acts that are going to be touring successes? There are many genres of music and artists that simply aren't the kind that traditionally people like to go see live, and prefer to simply listen to their recorded music.

Depending on live performance as the only primary revenue source in a future music business would mean the end of careers for many talented songwriters, producers and artists.
I agree, but Bob's article was about up and coming acts, who want to get exposure. This particular post of his wasnt about how the music industry should solve the piracy problem. If you'd be a subscriber to his newsletter, you'd realize that he also would like to see a music flatrate/subscription kinda solution. He has mentioned that in numerous other articles of his.
Old 21st July 2007
  #14
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sahiaman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by quietdrive View Post
How I love music industry noobs who act like big shots. If you're that smart, why arent you writing the #1 music biz newsletter on the net, instead of Bob?
This "noob" thinks that long before this newsletter, people were giving music away for free. Hence, the utter crap, its hasn't worked, it never will work, and you can cry about it all you want. Guess what works? A good product, period. Why don't you try his business model and see how far it takes you, big shot.
Old 21st July 2007
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sahiaman View Post
This "noob" thinks that long before this newsletter, people were giving music away for free. Hence, the utter crap, its hasn't worked, it never will work, and you can cry about it all you want. Guess what works? A good product, period. Why don't you try his business model and see how far it takes you, big shot.
Did you even read the article?

Quote:
exclusivity is not the key, but quality.
Lefsetz isnt saying "give away your music for free, and you'll become huge". It's a no-brainer that what he suggests wont work without a great product. All he's saying is, "The hardest part these days is getting noticed, so create great music and give it away for free so you WILL get noticed, after that start charging. But your primary goal should be to get exposure!"
Old 21st July 2007
  #16
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sahiaman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by quietdrive View Post
Did you even read the article?



Lefsetz isnt saying "give away your music for free, and you'll become huge". It's a no-brainer that what he suggests wont work without a great product. All he's saying is, "The hardest part these days is getting noticed, so create great music and give it away for free so you WILL get noticed, after that start charging. But your primary goal should be to get exposure!"
Ok, lets follow this logic with me please....
If everyone started to give away music, how are you suppose to be standing out of the crowd then? Would the next article be about "charging $50 for a cd"?
Thats why, the best way to stand out is let the product speak for itself. No matter what the trend of the time, i.e. myspace, napter, giving away music, etc.
Old 21st July 2007
  #17
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Riddler's Avatar
 

Wow, this Lefsetz guy has just said what I've been thinking for quite some time.

I strongly agree that music used to be a much larger form of entertainment whereas now, leisure is divided up amongst many other pastimes. Assuming an artist is talented, the biggest struggle is to get some attention and then, hold that attention for long enough for people to sink their teeth in and really find out what the artist is about.

Just because music is given away for free, it is NOT worthless, regardless of how much moaning the majors do about covermount CDs. If music is about expression, then an artist would want as many people as possible to hear their work. If music is about money, then an artist would want a marketing campaign and hairstyle to engineer the most profit.

Tim.
Old 21st July 2007
  #18
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fanriffic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riddler View Post
Wow, this Lefsetz guy has just said what I've been thinking for quite some time.

I strongly agree that music used to be a much larger form of entertainment whereas now, leisure is divided up amongst many other pastimes. Assuming an artist is talented, the biggest struggle is to get some attention and then, hold that attention for long enough for people to sink their teeth in and really find out what the artist is about.

Just because music is given away for free, it is NOT worthless, regardless of how much moaning the majors do about covermount CDs. If music is about expression, then an artist would want as many people as possible to hear their work. If music is about money, then an artist would want a marketing campaign and hairstyle to engineer the most profit.

Tim.

..but..an artist isn't going to have alot of time or energy to create his art and 'express himself' if he's working a 9-5 to pay his bills....we have to invest(somewhere) in what we feel has value if we wish it to continue.

Interesting article doe..crystalised a few thoughts for me..
Old 22nd July 2007
  #19
Gear Head
 
kenevill's Avatar
 

i don't see the breakthrough here - it's just common sense to me (a good article regardless). more artists just need to not care about money as far as i'm concerned and just write good music and play it well live. the rewards will come in after that. i guess it comes back to how people give a **** about what they do and put their heart and soul into it, rather then looking for their next pay check.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fanriffic View Post
..but..an artist isn't going to have alot of time or energy to create his art and 'express himself' if he's working a 9-5 to pay his bills....we have to invest(somewhere) in what we feel has value if we wish it to continue.
^^ not true - i know plenty of bands that work/go to uni/whatever (including myself) who's music i truly value more than most of the crap out there. and guess what, they have me buying their cd's and keep going back to their shows.

to me, writing music for it to be "commercially viable" is on par with working a normal 9-5 job... you don't want to work 9-5 because you're not doing something you really enjoy, but on the other hand, you write music which you yourself are writing for someone else to enjoy, and to me, i would get sick of that very quickly. integrity > $$ imo. and just to get back in track, if you write music you love, you will love sharing it with other people regardless of whether you take their money for it or not.
Old 22nd July 2007
  #20
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If you are willing to sell your soul, the real way to get noticed is to do stuff for "charity". Of course, the charity never gets to see much money, if any, but that was never the whole point, was it ...
Old 22nd July 2007
  #21
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sahiaman View Post
Thats why, the best way to stand out is let the product speak for itself.

it seems to me you and the author are saying the same thing. if i'm reading him correctly, he's simply advising artists to put monetization of the product on the backburner and to keep the focus on building a following/buzz/etc.

it seems like common sense, but there's actually a subtle (yet crucial) twist to his message. namely, that the key to generating massive buzz is not by getting zillions of copies to zillions of listeners, but to carefully target and cultivate the loyalty of what viral marketers and network theorists call "hubs". hubs are the opinion makers and trendsetters, the early adopters. these people like to get in on the next big thing, and when they're 'in' they work like hell to get other people in their network (social circle) on board. thus, with the right kind of concerted effort towards a small population of fans, you can watch as they do the work for you and spread the gospel of your music far and wide.

the author also rightly understands that while the music itself has to be remarkable, this in itself is not enough to win over the hubs. they also have to feel like they're in an elite vanguard, and they have to have certain privileges and perks that are not available to the general population. this is their status symbol, their reward for getting in while the getting's good.

as for producers, songwriters, etc., i take this article to be aimed at the average everyday artist who, once upon a time, dreamed of getting signed to a label and going platinum, but now is faced with 1) an industry that is taking no chances and 2) a music consumer whose attention is saturated with competition by many many other forms of entertainment and diversion. hanging flyers on telephone polls and playing the local haunts every week ain't gonna get you a following anymore, the world has changed and so have the means by which we get people's attention.

so in addition to _the purple cow_ i'll also recommend _the anatomy of buzz_ for anyone who's interested in the kinds of yammering i just engaged in.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 22nd July 2007
  #22
Lives for gear
 

I don't really see what's breakthrough about this. Bands have been doing this for years and years. Either giving their stuff away and/or selling it as cheaply as possible. Traveling around playing live, selling merch, getting street teams of devoted fans.

He mentions a "web campaign". Did I miss where he explained what exactly that is other than having a place where people can find you, which is useful if they already know about you.

And when was it when quality was not an issue? I thought the general opinion was that the quality of music has never been worse.

I think the idea is generally good, nothing new about it, and I'm sure it will work for whatever percentage of bands it usually works for, which is a very very very very very very small amount. The rest will struggle like they always have until they give up.

The thing that's funny to me about all this stuff (recording/music/biz) is the idea that there is some magic answer.

Like "getting good". What a great idea!
Old 22nd July 2007
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
SyncSailor's Avatar
 

Question... do you work for Karl Marx Productions?
Old 22nd July 2007
  #24
Not being a music professional, I do have some questions about these undoubtedly insightful remarks:

"...Image is far less important in the new world, where everybody is accessible."

I thought image was more important than ever. No? Isn't image a major part of "the club"?

"...some people can make it based on the live vibe first and foremost."

Don't most people learn how to create a vibe by performing live in the first place?

"Sincerity, believability, credibility, they're key to longevity."

I assume talent is the main thing though, no?
Old 22nd July 2007
  #25
Gear Nut
 

Here is an interesting concept that I have been watching for a little while

Cookies are Blocked :: SpiralFrog

They have quite a few labels signed up. They plan to distribute CD quality music for free. You just have to deal with some advertising on the download. That way the corporate sponsors are paying for our music. Kind of like radio :P

Good idea. Unfortunately only in Canada for the beta test. I have tried it though and got some buckcherry :P

S!
Jason
Old 25th July 2007
  #26
Lives for gear
 

I came across this. It was written by Charlie from Counting Crows(he's the keyboard player). I thought other people should read it. enjoy.


Quote:
Let's start with the facts:

(1) People spend less on recorded music than they used to. The average person spends only $22.53 on CDs or records or iTunes out of every $10,000.00 they spend. Back in 1994 they spent $37.21. That's a drop of almost forty percent. The difference comes to around eight billion dollars a year.

(2) There has been heavy consolidation and downsizing in the music business since the middle 90s. Historic labels like Def Jam and Motown have been shut down. A huge number of people were laid off as label after label disappeared.

(3) Retail record stores have been steadily closing their doors for the last ten years, culminating with the demise of Tower Records this last summer.

That should convince you that the record business was seriously wounded by something around the same time that most people started using computers to play and share music. Many different things have been blamed: including downloading, burning and sharing CDs, changes in the retail world, changes in radio, compilation CDs, lot's of other things. No one is sure. But here's something to think about: it would be a hell of a coincidence if computers weren't involved -- the timing is just too perfect.

How Computers Changed Music

In 1991, it cost about $2,000.00 to store 100 songs on a hard drive. By 1996, the price had dropped to $86.50 and people started using Napster and swapping files. By 2001 the price was down to $1.50 and you could put a computer in your pocket (an iPod is really just an inexpensive computer in hip new clothes). Today the cost is just pennies. That's the way the computer business works: things get better incredibly fast. Something is science fiction and then it's possible and then it's easy, all in the course of a few years.

In 1996, exactly the same year that it became cost effective to store music on computers, music spending dipped for several years. When the iPod came out in 2001, CD spending starts to sink as steadily as the Titanic did. The timing is, as I said, perfect.

It was clear from the beginning that people just plain liked storing their music on their computers. People don't really want to have hundreds of CDs in bright plastic jewel boxes. They just want to listen to music. All those CDs clutter up the living room, it's impractical to carry them all in your car and it's impossible to carry them all when you're jogging. As soon as it was possible to use a computer to store music, people started doing it. As soon as it was easy, everybody started doing it.

The music business was very slow to recognize what was happening. Late in the game the RIAA (who speaks for the recording industry) cracked down on people who got their music for free. This seemed cruel and pointless to most people, and worse, it hasn't stopped CD sales from continuing to slip.

I agree with those who have suggested that the real problem was never downloading -- it's borrowing CDs. Only 3% of the music on the average iPod was downloaded -- the other 97% comes from CDs. We can't tell if the CD has been paid for by the same person who owns the iPod. You can load in all of your parent's Beatles records and then burn some of them to a mix CD for your new girlfriend and she can share it and so on. Most people don't even think of this as stealing at all, but it is. You've just stolen about $150.00 worth of music access. The RIAA has spent a lot of effort trying to make sure that the 3% is paid for but they've done nothing about the other 97%: we still sell unprotected CDs and people can copy them all they want and there's no way we can stop it.

Why Apple Is Our Friend

In fact, the only place where no one is stealing music is from the iTunes Store. iTunes has excellent top-to-bottom DRM (digital rights management). You can't steal music from it. When some hacker breaks in, they can download new software into all those iPods and fix it. No one else can do this. (Maybe we should only release our music on iTunes and just chuck the CD altogether. But then the problem would be this: not everyone can afford to buy an iPod. Maybe we could talk Steve Jobs into giving away iPods for free so that we could sell more music, rather than Steve Jobs trying to talk us into giving music away for free so that he can sell more iPods.)

Why Apple is Our Enemy

Which brings up another issue that rarely gets talked about. There is a conflict of interest between computer/software industry and the recording industry. They want to make computers indispensable to everyone and music is part of that. The recording industry wants to have enough money to promote new artists and buy big houses. The computer business would prefer that music cost nothing -- it's in their interest, it helps sell computers and software. So we can't expect them to help us get paid unless they are forced to; they don't care if artists get paid or not. Software executives are just as ruthlessly selfish as record executives -- they're in business to make money, too. I don't think it's right to cast the music business as the bad guy here. It's a little more like David and Goliath -- the recording industry is worth a little over 12 billion, whereas the combined personal computing industries are probably worth trillions.

To summarize: Microsoft wants to make money selling you Windows Media Player so you can listen to free music. I want to make money selling you August and Everything After. Consumers would rather keep their money and have everything for free. Are you starting to get it? It's really all about the money. That's it. Don't let anyone tell you different.

The Magic Land of the Future Where Music Is Free and Software Costs Money

There are people who make some kind of moral argument that recorded music should be free -- that everything on the internet should be a kind of free hippy wiki where we all share and no one uses money and the evil record company Man is banished and all bands are equal and we all get day jobs and live in lofts and make art for love not money. It suggests that no one is morally justified in making money here except the computer business. (The people buy this line tend to be from the computer business.) This is usually accompanied by the gloating observation that this future is inevitable since there's no way we can stop it. The computer industry will absorb the recording business as it once absorbed the typewriter business as a kind of digital manifest destiny ... so embrace it: resistance is futile (as the Borg used to say on Star Trek). This is a dumb argument made by some very smart people.

Standing There to Sell Plastic Ware

I'll say it again: it's about the money. Everyone wants the money -- the record business, the computer business and yes even you, the consumers. I don't think the record executives are even the greediest people in the game, despite what most people think. We're accustomed to thinking of them as vipers and confidence men, but I don't think that's really fair. The ones I have met are mostly just people who love music and want to be close to it. Over and over again, record company executives have put their careers on the line to support artists just because they liked the music. That's why original and challenging artists like Jimi Hendrix or Nirvana were signed, it's why Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye got to make records their own way. It's why Neil Young didn't get dropped when he had that dry spell in the 80s. It might be why American pop music has always been so full of change and soul and energy; it wasn't shaped by market forces as much as by the tastes of the record company executives who controlled it. Yes, they had the power to force down our throats any music they chose, but the interesting thing is that they tended to use these powers for good rather than evil. I think this fact would surprise most people.

You might have noticed that around the same time that record sales started to drop, music on the radio began change -- you heard a lot of attractive pop stars or music connected to sex and violence (like some rap or hardcore). I think this might be because dropping record sales forced record executives to concentrate more on the bottom line after the layoffs left everyone in fear of losing their jobs. In this climate it seems to me it would be hard to risk your reputation by spending precious promotion money on anything but a "sure thing." I think they may have had to throw out their famous instincts and look for "products" that "test well" in market surveys. Now pop music is far more subject to market forces than it was and the quality has suffered. So it's possible we have experienced an unexpected tragedy -- the death of American pop music as we knew it back in the day.

We're Going to be Okay

The record business as we knew it is dying, changing and being reborn. It is slowly being dismantled and folded into the computer business, like a dozen other industries before it. Tell the telephone and movie businesses to get ready --- they're next.

Luckily for us, we actually have two businesses, a touring organization and recording organization. The touring company has continued to do better and better and we make most of our income from it. The recording business hasn't done as well. We used to tour to promote records -- now we release records to promote tours.

So here's one thing you can do to help out -- go see as much live music as you possibly can. It won't save the record business but it will keep musicians from having to get day jobs.


References

My statistics on music sales come from http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata/purchasing.asp. I've divided these numbers by consumer spending numbers from Multiyear Tables. This should correct for some of the effect of "a bad economy" -- I'm not counting cases where somebody didn't buy a record because they lost their job or whatever; I'm counting people who had enough money but just didn't spend it. The "8 billion" is derived by calculating what people would have spent if they still spent the same percentage on music.

The extraordinary improvement in computers is governed by something called "Moore's Law." if you're interested, you can read about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore's_law. The actual numbers I used for hard drive prices are derived from Cost of Hard Drive Space. (I picked the cheapest drive of the year and then figured how much it would cost to store 100 mp3 songs at 5 megabytes each.)

These are studies that show downloading hasn't caused the (whole) down turn in the music business: Music sharing doesn't kill CD sales, study says | CNET News.com and Study: P2P effect on legal music sales "not statistically distinguishable from zero". Note that these don't prove that computers haven't hurt the music business; just that downloading didn't hurt the computer business (much). As I say above, I don't think downloading is the real problem either.

At RIAA's Statistics Don't Add Up to Piracy there is someone who thinks that the problem is that the record business is releasing fewer records. Of course, he has it backwards: the music industry is releasing less records because they don't have the money to promote more records.

The statistics for iPods downloads comes from Apple - Thoughts on Music where Steve Jobs gives a great rundown of the DRM issue. You should also note that he takes a couple of jabs at the music business, illustrating my point about the conflict of interest.

The size of the recording industry is also from http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata/purchasing.asp . I guessed at the size of the computer businesses (sorry!).

The "music should be free" argument is all over the net but the most recent place where I saw it taken for granted was in the Atlantic where Michael Hirschorn writes "[I] accept as an article of faith ... that the existence of digital media means that everything will eventually be available everywhere for price that will approach zero." See The Digital-Music Mosh Pit.

The rest of this drivel is strictly my own opinion and doesn't represent what Adam or the rest of the band thinks, or for that matter what our management or Universal Records thinks, either.
Old 25th July 2007
  #27
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ryst's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sahiaman View Post
This "noob" thinks that long before this newsletter, people were giving music away for free. Hence, the utter crap, its hasn't worked, it never will work, and you can cry about it all you want. Guess what works? A good product, period. Why don't you try his business model and see how far it takes you, big shot.
I guess you never heard of Metallica? They used to give away tapes a shows to get a following. So did Anthrax and many other bands from "back in the day".

And I guess you never heard of Artic Monkeys? Well, they did the same thing, encouraging there fans to share their music. They were selling out shows before they got a record deal. And when they got signed and released their first record......It was number one the first week, selling around 250,000 (please correct me if I am wrong) copies or more and became the broke the record for most records sold in it's first week by a debut record in England. Again, please correct me if my "facts" are a little off but this is what I remember reading.
Old 25th July 2007
  #28
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sahiaman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryst View Post
I guess you never heard of Metallica? They used to give away tapes a shows to get a following. So did Anthrax and many other bands from "back in the day".

And I guess you never heard of Artic Monkeys? Well, they did the same thing, encouraging there fans to share their music. They were selling out shows before they got a record deal. And when they got signed and released their first record......It was number one the first week, selling around 250,000 (please correct me if I am wrong) copies or more and became the broke the record for most records sold in it's first week by a debut record in England. Again, please correct me if my "facts" are a little off but this is what I remember reading.
Ok, here is why its a bad business model. First let me throw out these questions. How many bands haven't you heard of that were giving away free music at the same time these bands where? What lesson do you think the ones who didn't get famous learned from giving away free music? Do you think this was a good business model for these bands that lost a lot of money and time?

What the author doesn't take into account is that if everyone starts to do this what then becomes the "standing out factor". Lets assume we have 100 bands, all giving away free music. Then who has the edge? The one that comes out on top will be the one that has the best songs that people relate to most. So giving away music is pointless unless you have good songs. How do you find if you have good songs and people want to buy them? Simple, you charge money.

Now, if I owned a company, and had a roster of 100 bands. I could use this practice to see who has marketable potential. Then and only then could I bank on the fact that atleast 1 out of 100 bands might have marketable potential. I could then give music for free, find out who gets shared a lot, downloaded alot, and then invest more in that band and let go of the others. (Sound like something that already exists?*cough record label cough*) But how many bands would be willing for the record label to give music out for free without making a dime?

Now, lets do this practice the way the author says. 100 bands, all independant, no label, and the same budget for recording. If these bands started to give away music and out of the 100 bands, 1 band saw that the were getting more hits, more downloads, and turning out more people at their concerts. What happens to the other 99? Their business fails, didn't make a dime. So it was worth it for only 1 band out of 100, and 99 bands lost money and time.

How could the other 99 bands have brought the risk of this business down? They could have charged money, and seen if anyone was buying before they got in too deep. **( Do you see the pattern? Its the same as a record label. See the market dictates the reason that record labels exists, as this outcome is what record labels model their business after.)**

The common denominator in all famous bands and musicians are good songs. There is no way to find out if you have a good song unless you find that people are willing to buy your cds instead of just downloading.
Old 25th July 2007
  #29
Lives for gear
 

I have trouble focusing on the author's points given the rampant negativity, but I believe his point might be (for new artists) to give away the music and then charge when they are better known and have a following (who are willing to buy).

Read this blog post:

Thing 2: Hear / Like / Buy at New Music Strategies

Basically, people need to hear the music first before they will part with their money. Radio and word of mouth is how it used to be done. Now it's the internet and word-of-mouth. Just because new artists can put their music on iTunes and charge money doesn't mean they are going to make squat doing so.

People hear the music, like the music, and then finally buy the music.
Old 25th July 2007
  #30
Lives for gear
 
ryst's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sahiaman View Post
The common denominator in all famous bands and musicians are good songs. There is no way to find out if you have a good song unless you find that people are willing to buy your cds instead of just downloading.
Well of course good songs are the common denominator here! I definitely agree.

But I disagree that the only way to find out if you have good songs is if someone pays for them or not. Again, the Arctic Monkeys didn't sell their music. But they sold out shows and got a big following before they got signed. Probably because of good songs. And there are bands out there like Phish who don't sell a lot of records sell out shows everywhere.

99 out of 100 bands didn't make it when they were trying to sell there music "back in the day" so nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is the way to market a new unsigned act. Things are different than they used to be. Everything is still changing and evolving. I don't see many bands giving away there music at all. I do see a lot of bands charging 10 bucks for an 8-10 songs or 5 bucks for 4 songs and the music/songs suck. The DIY model has to change with the times. But I don't think most bands are willing to give away their music or try something different than what everyone else does.

But I will be giving away music when my new record is done post back on the progress...good or bad.
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