Once again, most of this month's “Feedback” came in response to our May “What Can Save the Music Industry?” issue. Unabridged versions of these and other letters, and a chance to add your own two cents, can be found atwww.mixonline.com.
The main problem with the music industry is the quality/price relationship of the product. Rather than admit that, the “industry” blames everything and everyone else except themselves. I think they could learn a lot by the incredible success of the recent Norah Jones CD. Nothing on that very pleasant record was revolutionary, but its success was and should be a wake-up call to the industry. In studying one of their rare successes, they could learn the following: It's possible to sell the same CD to different age groups at the same time; melody is in huge demand now; you don't have to over-sing and excessively emote to get your point across; and the public longs for something real and “straight-ahead.” The answer is not in creating more contrived, producer-created “artists” putting out questionable product at inflated prices. Everyone knows CDs cost less than $2 to manufacture.
Whoopy Cat Music (ASCAP)
Your May special edition answers the question of how to save the music business very well, in bits and pieces. Bob Clearmountain asks, “Wouldn't it make sense for the labels to add value to the CDs they're trying to sell for $18 apiece?” Yes, it would. Luke Lewis proposes “great, unique artists and music.” Absolutely. Bruce Iglauer says, “Music is losing its prominence as a leisure-time activity, competing with DVD, video games, 100 channels of cable, and rampant copying and downloading.” But it's Stephen St.Croix who really puts his finger on it when he states, “There is no excuse for what these things [CDs] cost. But wait. Who cares? The real point is that there is no excuse for them still existing at all.”
Why are DVDs flying off the shelves while CDs languish in their bins? Value. Why would anyone in their right mind buy a shiny silver disc that just has an hour of a band playing on it for $18, when two aisles over they can buy a similar disc that has an amazing two-hour, $100 million mega-hit movie with a great 5.1 soundtrack and tons of extras for virtually the same price and sometimes less? The movie biz has done an excellent job in identifying what used to be called the sell-through point and moving from a rental to a retail market, while the music biz has just tried to force its fantasy valuation down the public's throats. You also report that Listen.com and others feel that the online market will settle out at $.50/song. Based on that model, we should be paying $6 for a typical 12-song CD: A great price point for a forward-looking, growth-oriented business, if you ask me.
Santa Monica, Calif.
What can save the music industry? In one word: content! The Big 5 have gotten too big for their own good. They're too busy trying to make a fast buck by hitching their wagons to the next pop sensation, while alienating great musicians who actually deserve to have their music heard!
This whole stink about how file sharing is going to put the record companies out of business is absurd! It's like saying instant messaging will bring down the phone companies. Sure, there are a few cheapskates out there who won't buy CDs when they can just download the tracks. But I can't tell you how many people I know who have heard tunes from bands that they've found through file sharing and then gone out and bought CDs from that band. When I find bands that I like, I'll support them. Who wants to support a handful of multi-billion-dollar companies pumping out the same old crap?
Music is not an industry. Music is the deliberate excitation of air molecules. That's the “product.” One cannot have an industry based on that. Based on electronic equipment, little plastic discs, advertising, yes; everything except actual music. When you buy a CD, what you are buying is the plastic and the packaging. It's the only element that can be sold.
The move to CDs — the digitizing of “record albums” — was done for reasons of pure greed on the part of the “industry,” and it turned around and bit them on the ass. Once you commit something to the digital domain, you can no longer control its reproduction. You can code it, but codes can be easily hacked. No other industry in the world could survive doing business the way the “music industry” has gotten away with for 100 years. Because it isn't an industry. It's been a house of cards.
If it was a real industry, the head of personnel at XYZ Records could hire a bunch of musicians in China to make records at $0.20 a song and no royalty rate, just like every other industry is doing. Oh, wait, they sort of used to do that, didn't they? That's why the movie Standing in the Shadows of Motown is such a revelation to most people.
If a record company is only marketing five releases, MTV is only playing five releases and a radio conglomerate is only airing those same five releases over and over again on five channels it owns in each of 500 markets, then the record company is only going to sell five releases. Because all five are directed at the same kiddie market, the rest of the listening public is ignored. Why is this such a mystery?
WE WERE WRONG
Nice interview with Bob Brockman and Yaron Fuchs (“Producer's Desk,” April issue), but I must correct several of Fuchs' and Brockman's statements. Lou Holtzman founded Eastside Sound in 1972. I met Lou in 1979, and I was involved in a major renovation of the studio and building at 98 Allen St. Along with several other people, we left our blood, sweat, tears and sanity in that renovation for a period of two years. In what can only be described as a labor of love, we created one of the finest control rooms, and certainly one of the first, on the now fashionable Lower East Side.
Yaron Fuchs made an investment and became a partner in 1990 in a studio that had been around for 18 years. Eastside added a “B” room when Mr. Fuchs got involved.