Every month in this space, we print ourreaders’ reactions to the audio production and applicationarticles, news and product reviews we usually publish. This month, weapproached individuals from all walks of the music industry and askedfor their “Feedback” to one question: What can save themusic industry? We’ve compiled an expanded version of our printcolumn here on Mixonline, with unabridged answers and additionalletters. Like to add your thoughts here? Tell us what YOU think cansave the music industry, by writing email@example.com,and we’ll post your response —Eds.
Read more feedback here.
Being an engineer, a pro musician (bassist) and a DJ at KVNF publicradio gives me a unique perspective with which I can antagonize yourreadership. Let's begin with the word "Industry." Music is not anindustry; music is the deliberate excitation of air molecules. That'sthe "product"! One cannot have an industry based on that. Based onelectronic equipment, little plastic discs, advertising, yes;everything except actual music. But waves in the air? No. When you buya CD, what you are buying is the plastic and the packaging. It's theonly saleable element. "Service Industry" is a slippery slope. Anyonein the service industry realizes that the "service" has only beenperformed when both parties agree that it has. "This is a rip-off andI'm not paying for it!" is a commonly heard phrase in serviceindustries. Get ready for: "I heard your music, I don't likeit—give me my money back!" I'm in the service industry, I play inbars. The audience damn-well better like the music I make or I ain'tgonna get paid. So if some freshman with a computer and a pile of CD-Rssays, "Why should I pay for this music if I can get it for free?" theanswer is: YOU'RE RIGHT. The move to CDs, the digitizing of "recordalbums," was done for reasons of pure greed on the part of TheIndustry, and it turned around and bit them on the ass. Once you commitsomething to the digital domain you can no longer control itsreproduction. You can code it, but codes can be easily hacked. No otherindustry in the world could survive doing business the way the "musicindustry" has gotten away with it for a hundred years. Because it isn'tan industry. It's been a house of cards. When did you ever hear asculptor or a painter say "I'm in the Fine Art Industry"? That'sbecause they don't manufacture chisels or tubes of paint in a factory.It isn't an industry. This distinction has to be made. If it was a realindustry, the head of personnel at XYZ Records could hire a bunch ofmusicians in China to make records at 20 cents a song and no royaltyrate...just like every other industry is doing.
(Oh, wait...they did sort of used to do that, didn't they? That'swhy the movie "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" is such a revelationto most people.)
The following are quotes from a research paper I wrote for an MBAclass:
Bands need to be encouraged to go out and greet their fans andconnect with them on a personal level. A loyal fan will want to buyyour CD, not download it from some file-swapping service!
You have to treat your artists like gold. Without them, you would haveno CDs to sell. Major labels tend to treat artists as property, and theartists are finally starting to rebel. By treating artists well andshowing them that you have the utmost respect for them and their art,you will be much more effective in working with them than if youtreated them like a possession."
I feel that these two key points—giving the fans what theywant and earning their loyalty, and treating the artists like peopleinstead of property— are the only ways to save the music industryfrom the downward spiral it is currently in.
Owner - Crazy Fungus Records
If a record company is only marketing five releases, and MTV is onlyplaying five releases, and a radio conglomerate is only airing thosesame five releases over and over again on five channels it owns in eachof 500 markets, the company is only going to sell five releases. Since all five are directed at the same kiddie market, the rest of thelistening public is ignored. Why is this such a mystery?
First, thanks for the very excellent and timely issue of Mix.The perspectives of the people you gathered for the issue wereincredibly valuable.
Regarding the "Beat to Hell" "The Fast Lane" column, a portion ofwhat Stephen St.Croix proposes already exists in spades. Stephen shouldgo to http://launch.yahoo.com and experience LaunchCastonline radio. I've been using LaunchCast for nearly three years andwhen they recently converted from being strictly ad-supported to asubscription model, I gladly paid up. See, on Launch you do just whatStephen suggested: you rate everything that they play you from theirfairly deep catalog; you can rate album, artist and song. The more yourate, the more LaunchCast customizes itself to your tastes. You canfind even find other users and have their tastes and ratings influenceyours.
The one thing missing, and I am in complete agreement with Stephenthat this would be fantastic, is to take LaunchCast's functionality onthe road. How much would I love to be at my garden with LaunchCast inthe headphones? I'd love it a lot.
Deprivatization. The music industry can be saved by artists formingtheir own guilds and firing all of those people that take advantage ofthem. The corporations that water down music are counterproducingthemselves into a corner. When I heard that TVT refused to let TrentReznor make his music the way it came to him, I was disheartened. Theydid him a disservice. This is not the only instance of music companiespirating creativity from artists that cost them big. Why sign a talentif you are going to meddle? Artists should never have to weigh thebenefits of compliance with noncompliance. That kind of soul stealingon the part of the corporations involved damages the work being done.Musicians banded together, reaching their fans on the Internet andraising money for charities by touring. The entire music industryoperating as a nonprofit; that is the way of the future. I am alreadyworking toward that end. We may not be able to salvage that industry asit stands but we can save the music.
adam michael sheedy
This is in regards to the article "The Fast Lane," "Beat to Hell" bySteven St.Croix in your May 2003 issue. Firstly, I must say that Iagree with his description of the record industry's current scenario ofeventual demise. However, I must disagree with a big part of thearticle, which is that people will not pay ANY price for music if theycan get it for free. Period. The concept of Internet subscription musicwill eventually fall by the wayside as people become more savy atpirating...oh excuse me... I mean file sharing. The emergence of streetvendors hawking MP3 CDs or (shutter) 10,000+ song MP3 DVDs in the nearfuture for the price of a song (pun intended) is around the corner. Asfar as streaming Internet radio, these streams will be captured on thehard drive and burned to MP3 regardless of their lower sound quality.The horizon speaks of new compression algorithms as well as improvementin MP3 that will give an even clearer sound to the "ripped" music. Highresolution formats? Well Sony/Phillips has an idea; just like Dumont inthe 1950s. "Let's make both the media AND the player!" Great idea, huh?But Dumont delivered their media (e.g., Jackie Gleason) for FREE andmade their money selling advertising to sponsors. Sony believes youshould fork over $25.00+ for a SACD as well as the price of their SACDplayers. And most of these titles are already available on thefile-sharing market now (and let us not forget sound quality is a mootpoint here). In the future I can see Sony Records releasing anexclusive artist exclusively on SACD. Wow, great! Except someoneconverted the title to PCM, compressed it to MP3 and the rest ishistory. DVD-A? Thanks to the greed factor it has been a circus. Due tothe lack of cooperation on the part of all involved DVD-A and DVD-V,music is a mess. Surround sound may be a savior but was Quadraphonic?(Okay, not a good example). Surround sound can be ripped just as well.Every piece of software needed to do this is either available for freeor is being developed as we speak. Paying for music is the dinosaurnow. Not just the CD. A solution? Hmm. I'll start with the obvious. Forthe true artist, it's playing live. If the incentive of getting thatmagic record deal is gone, then all of those rip-off clubs in NYC (myhome town) may see their supply of untalented willing to play fornothing bands dry up. That would revert things back to the golden dayswhen only pros played the live venues and got paid fairly to do so.Selling their studio music at the gig would be an outlet as isrecording the show and then selling at the exit door. But again thisrequires a serious live commitment. Unfortunately, every bad act cannow record and upload their music to some server (without ananticipation of getting paid) making the Internet a vast sea of junkand all the harder to find the pearls. These servers will be the newexploiters of the untalented willing to play for nothing bands. Asolution for the record companies? I'm not that savvy in theirworkings. I do feel that they will cut their losses and get into thesinger/movie actor/product endorser/national anthem-halftime showperformer/etc. business and eventually resemble Hollywood more thanwhat they once were.
Bellsong Recording Studio
Your May 2003 mag may be the first step in the comeback of the musicbusiness. What we have is one incredibly complicated businessnightmare. FIRST, the piracy in China and the third world isdevastating the World Wide audience for Western civilization music. Thevast copy shops have to be stopped, somehow. SECOND, "pop" artists likeBritney and Maria are VASTLY overpaid. Jimmy Page, when he was writinga major hit ALBUM every other YEAR, was getting 5% of what the teenybopper flavor-of-the-months draw now for a song!!! THIRD, when I, or mykids can (for the same money) get a 2-3 hour long Harry Potter, Hobbitor Star Wars DVD movie, with a great soundtrack, plus 3-4 hours ofinteresting movie back-stories, for the same (or less) than a new CD,(which has one, MAYBE TWO decent songs on it) - an occurrence I amfinding ever more common, something is very wrong. FOURTH, when saidnew rock CD, (even the BEST NEW groups are guilty of this) for moredough than the Motion Picture, in other words, $7.00 per decent song,that's not right. Something is way wrong. Heck, I used to pay a LOTLESS THAN 7 bucks to see a 3-4 hour Led Zep (or Pink Floyd) (or Yes) orHeart CONCERT!!
NEXT, when the radio stations, mostly owned by the same companies,are virtually ALL stuck in the 1975-85 era, something is amiss. On theother hand, groups back then, like Zep, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd,had a major hit every 3rd song, on their good albums; almost ALL oftheir LP's songs were FM friendly. That's no longer the case... By along shot. ADD TO THAT the propensity of the younger generation to feelthe sense of "we own the music" free (i.e., entitlement) that "Beat toHell" articulated, you have a major problem. A set of them, in fact.New groups cannot get heard or promoted, the existing artists areoverpaid, bloated cost-centers. This would appear to be an industrybadly needing a major re-organization. Add to it the fact that theheavy duty, gold-standard Uber-gruppes either don't exist, anymore, orcannot make it to the big times, plus the money studios have to spendto keep up with a rapid-fire electronics/technology revolution, youhave one mixed up, convoluted problem, with only limited, drasticsolutions available. They are there, but people are going to have todig mighty deep to get them. This situation did not develop overnight,and won't be solved without some mighty deep soul-searchingindustry-wide. Everyone is going to have to compromise, or this couldget worse. No one wants that. It's in everyone's interest to worktogether and solve this situation, and quickly...
Please forgive my two-parter. In yesterday's email to you, I forgotthe main component of what I was trying to convey!! In mentioning that,with DVD/movies you can get HOURS of entertainment, world-classsoundtracks, movie, back-stories, etc., AND with most of my recent(last 5 years) CD purchases, I enjoy ONE, maybe 2 songs, at best, perCD, my point was the VALUE to the consumer is not there. With asimilarly priced movie/DVD you get HOURS of enjoyment, whereas with theaudio CD, I get 4 or five minutes (7 or 8 min's if I am lucky) ofentertainment, out of a $14-17 investment!! That formula simply isunworkable. Face it, THAT is a failed business model.
There is no value to the consumer, relatively speaking. That is arecipe for failure at the most basic level. Until THAT changes, much ofwhat we are discussing about Napster, et. al. is moot. Only a majorreassessment, and drastic restructuring will change this simple, butfatal flaw in the entire premise of the industry.
John Trickett was absolutely correct in his assessment of the twentydollars spent on a CD as opposed to a DVD. However, is this not a trendalready begun by major labels and major artists? The latest releasesfrom Dave Matthews, Jurassic 5 and the Foo Fighters included DVD's withlive performances, music vids and 5.1 audio. This is a trend that willsurely rise and which is more accessible to indie artists thancurrently realized. 5.1 DVD when pushed makes a standard CD appear tobe an MP3, keeping in mind that most consumers reproduce their MP3's atthe lowest possible bit/sample rates, making most engineers nauseousafter listening. So the quality gap between what people are accustomedto (even on radio) and what could be out there is something of a grandcanyon. No wonder sales are down. There is no competition, It's eithercrap or crap. Your only salvation quality wise, isn't being pushed (butit is on its way!) So just let go of the CD! No double disk! I justwant the DVD! The desire for independent and small label music is aflame quickly fanning to fire. Even in this small corner of the world(NW Wyoming), it is not uncommon for people (In large numbers) totravel as far as Denver, Salt Lake or even Seattle to see Jack Johnson,Ani Difranco, OAR, Bela Flek, The Weakerthans etc. As for Local Music?Every where you go, Local Music has always been and always will be astaple of Community, and the larger a community is, the larger anartist can be in that community.
Saving the industry, as people have known it for the last fifty orso years, is simply an exercise in futility. Things are changing. Rollwith it. To say that the big labels current system is on it's way out,is simply to say, "Look Mommy, the emperor's naked!" To say that indielabels and indie artist are on their way out is to say that you areblind and deaf. Every time I blink a new indie label pops up stealingpart of the precious big label market, so what if Britany Spears mighthave to settle for a Farrari instead of a Diablo. The only way you'regonna kill the industry is if you first kill music. Human beings andmusic are pretty much innately attached, so we're all concerned overpretty much nothing. Unless of course you are a big label record execand you're worried your christmas bonus next year might be 2 milliondollars instead of three. Welcome to capitalism (That's what were allin music for anyway right? Money? F&*% off!). Offer a productpeople want and they'll buy it, but your competition (whether that beindie labels or kazaa) just happens to get a chunk of the pie too.
The music industry is floundering because the evolution of music hasbecome stagnant. The industry has eliminated the process of naturalselection. Survival of the "musically-fittest" relies on markets drivenby open-minded consumers that are exposed to a variety of product.Natural selection takes place when consumer input dictates what we willhear "more of" in the future. If you read industry postings, you see ayear in advance what trend that MTV and the majors are looking to pushin the future. This isn't a response to a market trend as much as aforce feeding a captive market. Let's face it, if you aren't signed ona label affiliated with a major, you don't have large-scaledistribution, and your tunes aren't going to find their way onto majormarket radio anytime soon either (controlled by another handful oflarge conglomerates). Look for the next trend by our corporatepandering legislators to permit the majors (most of whom loose money onpaper) to have an above-board affiliation with the broadcastingconglomerates (not that they don't already unofficially exist). An OPECof the entertainment industry.
The demise of locally owned radio stations is a major contributor tomusical stagnation. The international broadcast conglomerates are pouring multiple channels of demographically driven dribble on multiplestations into the same markets. The variation between stations isdeliberate, but nearly imperceptible to most listeners. Each isstatistically tailored to attract a specific audience by severelylimiting their song rotation, and never moving more than inches off themainstream. Each station is designed not to compete with otherconglomerate-own stations. This divisive cultural isolation has createda nation of musical bigots. Local consumer demand has little meaningfulimpact on the miniscule play lists. This creates an incredibly closedmarket for new product. All this demographic specialization is done forthe convenience of the advertisers, not to better address the tastes ofthe public or in any way serve the community. For evolution to takeplace, there has to be variation in order for selection to occur. Forthat reason, music seemed better, and seemed to evolve faster in thedays of the "Top 40" stations.
Predictions of indie bands hocking their basement recordings overthe internet have yet to prove out on a large scale (with a fewexceptions). Most of these sites are the Public Access Cable channelsof the music industry. (How much time do you spend watching publicaccess?) Perhaps recent successes by non-label affiliated commercialsites will succeed for leveraging downloadable music into a profitableventure. There is a crucial cultural ingredient missing from thisscenario, however. It is the widespread exposure by broadcasters of newmusic to a common mass audience that allows us to make selection on alarge scale; to identify and share mutual interests with similarlyinclined people. Whatever succeeds the existing system must facilitatethat unifying experience while somehow allow the music creators to makea reasonable living for their efforts.
WHAT WILL SAVE THE MUSIC BUSINESS? How about a new philosophy ofputting more than one good song per CD (maybe two?) and giving theconsumer something other than one hit wonders surrounded by mediocrity?How about realizing its not just music but MULTIMEDIA works that go ona dvd with video, clips, photos, and all sorts of great attachments?When I bought Led Zeppelin or Loggins and Messina twenty years ago Igot a DISK FULL of greatness. Nowadays if an artist gives a label tengreat songs the label will break those into ten CD's with each one goodsong and ask for the artist to provide lots of marginal material forfiller. That’s just ten CD's with not enough on each to attractmuch of anybody. I have teenagers that tell me they’d ratherdownload the one good song if that’s all that’s on thealbum. But they’d be happy to buy CD's with least a half dozengood songs, and would love an entire album of great materials like, asmy oldest says, "ANY GOOD PINK FLOYD ALBUM”. In my small labelall of our CD's are enhanced and designed to put music into a stereoand video into your PC! We make the bulk of revenue from derivativestreams, like the T SHIRTS, posters, concerts, etc. I still have theoriginal posters CASABLANCA RECORDS put into KISS ALIVE. WOW! Puttingposters into a record! What a concept!
As far as piracy and Internet: even with their DSL lines thedownloading of DVD sized video files in the gigs makes it (just alittle) a test of the patience for the perpetrators. and with MPG7 andMPG21 coming down around the corner [www.tektronix.com has the bestfree MPG tutorial in the biz] it will be very interesting. SO: streamthe video and don’t worry about it. Progressive download can be agreat vehicle for delivery after their credit card gets charged.It’s a beautiful new technological century and just takes timefor mortals to adjust. Small audio-only files are too easy to transferand keep so LETS PUMP UP THE SIZE by adding video or other multimediacontent.
Alfred A Reyes, CEO/president
Your May special edition answers the question of How to Save theMusic 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'retrying 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, competingwith DVD, video games, 100 channels of cable, and rampant copying anddownloading". But it's Stephen St. Croix who really puts his finger onit when he states that "There is NO excuse for what these things (CDs)cost. But wait. Who cares? the REAL point is that there is no excusefor them still existing at all."
Why are DVDs flying off the shelves while CDs languish in theirbins? Value. Why would anyone in their right mind buy a shiny silverdisc that just has an hour of a band playing on it for $18 when twoaisles over they can buy a similar disc which has an amazing two-hour100-million-dollar mega-hit movie with a great 5.1 soundtrack and tonsof extras for virtually the same price - sometimes less? We wouldn'tand we aren't, obviously. The movie biz has done an excellent job ofidentifying what used to be called the sell-through point, and movingfrom a rental to a retail market, while the music biz has just tried toforce their fantasy valuation down the public's throats, withdiminishing success as we find alternative outlets. You also reportthat Listen.com and others feel that the online market will settle outat $.50/song. Based on that model, we should be paying $6.00 for atypical 12-song CD. A great price point for a forward-looking,growth-oriented business, if you ask me.
Sassoon Film Design
Here is my suggestion. Songs ordered as I hear them on the radio. 10cents a minute. Compiled until they fill a DVD at 24/96 (or CD), ormade downloadable. So often I am listening to the radio and I do nothave time to wait and hear who it is but I would gladly pay 10 cents aminute for the song. I make a lot of money from the music industry,with their help, I would like to give some back.
Jeff Sherman Santa Monica, CA
President - Platinum Audio Rentals
My two cents on the impending doom slated for the musicindustry.
Wonderful issue, and I raise my chalace to you for addressing theproblem in print. However, I think that a great part of theproblem has been overlooked. It has been said that music reflectsthe time in which it was made. Nowhere has this been more truethan today. Music, in general, is easy, pre-packaged, convenient,contrived and perfection oriented with an enormous emphasis on the wayit looks (musician, or movie star, which is it). This in myopinion is a gleaming proof that Orwell is giggling his little brainsout as we speak. You couldn't process cheese more than musicthese days. Whether it's downloaded, or it's bought as a new cd,or it's bought as a used cd, or it's 24 bit, or the band is hiredto play in my living room, or it's on vinyl, or Donald Fagen plays thespoons on it, or Bob Ludwig mastered it in a bamboo hut onthe moon, or it's on the radio, it's still just crap music. Everything is too easy for everyone. The best art isseemingly always created under conditions of tension. No onehas to fight for anything, and I'm not talkin about getting your lameband into the hippest club in town. Too many options, too much overanalysis, too many decisions to make, too muchconfusion. Too many open doors and too much time to contemplatewhich one to go through. I'm envisioning some sort of mildlyfascist re-education camp for people who want to play or write music,while Brad Pitt tells them through a bullhorn that they are not specialand that they will return to the ground like the rest of us.....I sayto hell with the industry simply to de-value music in a financialregard. I sometimes wonder what it would all be like if the onlything to gain would be personal and collective satisfaction. Atthe end of the day, I don't care if I steal it from the internet, or Ibuy a cd, tape, or record of it, just show me some soul. That'sall I ask.
Thanks for any time wasted on my rant.
Here's an idea:
Quit shoving the same old artists down our hole. And once youfix that- quit shoving the same old "best of re-mastered BS" down ourthroats. Until then I am going to continue to spend my money onlive local music and cold beer. I would rather pay an unknown artist $5for their lo-fi demo than pay Sony, RCA or Atlantic $17 for something Ican simply tune in on the radio and hear anytime, anyplace, over andover all day long. I agree with Bob - Clear
Channel needs to go!
Stephen St. Croix's article in the May issue is right on the money.The industry has to get with it or get left behind. Getting myissue of Mix the day after Apple announced iTunes 4 and theonline music store associated with it gave me an interesting feeling ofdeja vu while reading the article, cause he sure hit the price ofthings to come on the nose. With all 5 of the big labels involved maybemusicians have a future besides only playing live shows with tightersecurity searches for recording devices than you'll ever have to gothrough at the airport. Let's hope the online delivery system Apple hascome up with will give us the short path.
Strange Parts Music
I just read your May issue and want to congratulate the writers, TomKenny and all of the Mix editorial staff for addressing a difficulttime in our industry and exploring various reasons for as well aspossible answers to our current situation. The music industry needs toacknowledge that not one problem has created a downfall in sales butseries of problems, some of which we have simply chosen to ignore.Blair Jackson's well written article "A Fine Mess" drew us a road mapto how we got to this dark place and offered a light of hope for thefuture. Paul D. Lehrman's "The Kids are all right" gave an insight toour consumers, those the major labels have taken granted for far toolong until MP3 came along. The dumbing of America is over, America haslet the music industry know that substance is worth $18.99 a CD nothype. Audio technology has made making records easier but our we makingbetter records? Why does the music industry choose to let the Internetbe a problem instead of another solution? Perhaps we should stoplooking to others for blame and instead take look inside at ourselves.Thank you once again for bringing these issues out in the open forhealthy and hopefully productive discussions.
Shivaun M. O'Brien
Sound City Studios
Well, it’s about time. Fletcher, is absolutely right!Everything old is new again. Step back, and look at it. As Owners, Whydo we spend fortunes, Designing, Building, and Operating Studios ? AsEngineers, and Producers, Why do we still, give 110%, to localMusicians, to get their work out there? It’s all about the“Recording Arts and Sciences”. Let’s not forget, whywe enjoy what we do. The Major Labels, have forgotten, what got themstarted, to begin with, it’s time, that we remind them.
.....and the Answer is....
The True Artist, within the Musician, Owner, Engineer, and Producer.The Major’s have done this to themselves. We need to drop back tothe Mid-70’s, and use this new technology, to help promote“Real Musicians”. Not this Corporate, Bean Counting,No-Talent, BS, that the Major’s call Music!
We (all of us), need to pave the way, for the next generation.
Wizard Works Studios
You've got the question all wrong my friends. It should read :WHO Can Save The Music Industry ? We suffer from the same greedinspired short term thinking as the rest of Corporate America. It haslead the industry to long term apathy.
What we need are inspired, common sense leaders who are notafraid to take risks.
If we ignore the so-called rules and do what we believe is rightrather than what is expected, there will be those who appreciate whatwe create and want to share it.
Producer/Engineer, Composer/Lead Vocalist
"Gimme Some Skin"
I really enjoyed Mix's recent "What Can Save the Music Industry"issue. Kudos to editorial management for flipping the switch - bychoosing creative discourse over tired morality crisis diatribes. OK,so Goliath wants to control the intellectual rights to allsling-shots. Of course. So what? Let's move on. I'd love for Mixto adopt these new topics as ongoing dialogues, rather than a 1-timeflash. So, may I humbly suggest that there are other interestingdimensions to this subject worthy of further exploration anddiscussion?
With all due respect to the issue's theme, today's music industry -I think - is just fine thank you. It continues to travel alongthe trajectory that it has chosen - and for which it has stockpiledconsiderable expertise: Commercialization Media.
As a mass production enterprise itself, today's music industryunderstands and brilliantly serves the marketing needs of other massproducers. It will (and should) continue its stance as a logicalextension (the outsourced audio-visual marketing department) of massmarketing. Much of the world has still never had a Coke, and thepop music scene is not going to evaporate. Addressing this massmarketing/production/distribution challenge will still demand itsconsiderable skills—skills that the new "music service providers"will not need. They will face different challenges. I'm not atall convinced that today's music industry can, or should be "fixed." Itis simply about to be "resized and refocused" to the market that it haschosen to serve. This resizing has less to do with victimization(please!) than to the simple fact that the music aficionado market (whohave viewed today's music industry as increasingly irrelevant for quitesome time) is beginning to have a viable market alternative. There is no technology or pricing model tweak to clothe this to thisparticular naked emperor.
In my opinion, the emerging music service provider players will needentirely new skills—darn near 180 degrees removed from today'smusic industry. They must deliver individualized (notstandardized) and intimate (not superficial) music services (notproducts) to micro segments (not mass market) of aficionados (notconsumers) of an extremely diverse (non-popular) palette of music, andperhaps more importantly: music information. They will berelationship-based sellers of services, and they will succeed or failbased on their ability to win the hearts and minds (read: brandloyalty) of music creators and music lovers. They must, in short,become trusted enablers of music creation and enjoyment—a verytall order—and as different from today's music industry asPepsiCo Inc (equal time, after all) is from your favorite localbartender.
Let me preemptively state (to those that that might misread thisletter) that I'm not advocating the end of fair compensation toartists, producers and engineers. Quite the contrary. I thinkthat tomorrow's music service providers might actually undo theunbalanced compensation models and impediments to diversity oftoday. After all, on the timeline of music, today's musicindustry business model has occupied a mere blink of an eye.
I'm sorry but the cover story by Blair Jackson and the article byStephen St. Croix is so sad, boo hoo, I got tears in my eyes. Wait... those are tear from laughing too hard. I didn't say Itold you so, but who didn't see this crap coming. It's not toobad for the recording industry, it's too bad for the recordcompanies. Too bad that they're painting such an evil, axis thereof, picture of kids who download music, not to mention porn, digitaltechnologies, and the Internet. To bad for most professionalengineers at Mix also. They never got me a high dollar job, maybebecause they were worried about job security. Their job was topromote musical art. It's not rocket science, and they are notrocket scientists.
We, as engineers, must embrace technology, and not try to limitit. We should be promoting the internet. We should bepromoting art, and artists if they have the cash or not, and rejectingthe music business. "We are the music makers, we are the dreamersof dreams". Oh Willie, where are you now after you gave away yourentire chocolate factory to some kid who broke the rules and drank thebubble up soda. In the same way investors diversify, we need tocarefully study all things including marketplace, technology andespecially people, and with a whole lot of luck, we can guess where thefuture is going and be a part of it. With only a little luck, wecan decide our place in the music industry, and make a comfortableliving. With barely any luck, we can survive, music industry ornot, and practice the things we love. No more yelling at kids toget off your lawn. We can be that hip old guy down at the end ofthe street that happens to be named Bob Moog, or Jeep Harned, or LesPaul, or Albert Einstein, or (Your Name Here). Some of us havedone it, and some have not. Usually the ones who haven'tdiversified, were the engineers, artists, and corporations that werepulling in all that cash in the past few decades. Closing theireyes to the future, and rejecting development.
I couldn't read the whole cover story, sorry. I read all of Beat toHell, but what I did read, I now know why the recording industry isscrewed up. The two stories seem a bit contradictory. Anyway, In the forth paragraph of A Fine Mess, it is explained that acandid conversation with a record industry executive reveals that they,the music industry, and this person, didn't understand what theunexpected consequences of moving into the digital domain wouldbe. They thought they were doing a great thing of improving thesound, blah blah blah. They did no such thing. They suck,and they sound like Al Gore declaring that he invented theinternet. Anyway, this guy sounds like a real asshole. Iremember how damaging it was going to be for the music industry toembrace CD technology, because you wouldn't have to go out and replacea CD every few months like a vinyl LP that would basically wearout. CD's didn't wear out so buy it once and forget aboutit. BIG RED FLAG. Cassettes had generational loss and wouldwear out too, so CD's were going to kill cassette sales. Therecording industry was getting pissed at Maxell for making better andbetter quality tape for the consumer. Remember Windom Hill andthe virgin vinyl records. Wow, how long these albumslasted. 2, 3 weeks tops. The recording industry neverembraced shit, only money. Engineers embraced technology, and Ithink they will forge ahead. And for that music industryexecutive who thinks they are great saviors of the audible arts, andthat they basically created CD's to show how great they were and theyare all giving to the people, and promoted the digital domain, I havenews for them. It took 20 years for them to go to hell, now takeyour small penis and leave. They have lasted longer than mostbusinesses that suffer the same fate. And I think that's longenough. Just like a murderer, blame someone else for yourfailings. The internet didn't kill the recording industry, themarketing department did.
I disagree that if the record industry fails, there will be nomusic. Concerts will continue, recordings will continue, andsales will continue. Work for engineers, producers, and everybodyin the music business will continue, but differently like Stephen St.Croix explains. They will have to mutate, or die. Therailroad industry isn't dead, people still travel. Tobacco isgetting clobbered, but people still smoke. Guns are being banned,but there are still criminals with them, and law-abiding citizens thatcarry, such as myself, who defy the odds. Pot is illegal, butmillions still smoke it. Airlines are going quick, but they stillare giving their executives millions in bonuses. Go figure. Music will live. Maybe not as a huge industry, but it willcontinue on.
My question is "who really cares?" the music industry is beingcrushed by its own weight and it's just as well. what the musicindustry-at-large lacks is integrity and authenticity, and this will beits undoing. "artists" like britney spears and 50 cent embodyabout as much artistic dignity as a ham sandwich; they are money-makingentities, serving a money-making monster and one doesn't have to thinklong to figure out why people are downloading music by the gigabyte:the music they get online is a product, and what's better than a freeproduct, right? If these kids regarded these individuals asartists and were truly appreciative of their contribution to the"artistic culture" in its entirety, downloading the music wouldn't bean issue. I, for one, do not download music; I buy all my musicon vinyl directly from the record label. No middleman and I knowthat the artist is being paid for their craft. You see, theindependent music industry is alive and well, based on the simple factthat the record-buyers understand that that 12-inch piece of plastic isthe artists direct output, and as both record-buyer andrecord-producer, I can appreciate it from both sides. I love paying aband 10 bucks for their hard work, and every 10 bucks I get for one ofmy albums counts. so let the record industry fall. Nobodythat really cares about music has anything to do with it anyway.
Am I the only guy who loved being manipulated by record companies?In your issue on our current woes, nobody mentions all the perquisitesthat come from a profligate record industry (leaving cocaine aside).Think of all those kitschy disco album tracks that required a big room,30 string players, brass quintet, a piccolo solo, harpsichord, and astaff of arrangers and music copyists. Sorry, but no "grass roots"effort can afford the kind of overblown production that keeps us allgainfully employed.
Crowded Air, Inc.
It's real easy. The music business can save itself by first beinghonest with itself. Blair Jackson writes "there's no doubt thatbillions of dollars are being drained out of the music industry everyyear by [online file sharing]." As the saying goes, there are lies,damn lies, and then there are statistics. Statistics can be used tohelp understand what goes on in the world (no doubt Jackson believeswhat the RIAA tells him about file trading), but, as any marketing execor PR company knows, they can also be manipulated to tell a particularstory.
Dan Bricklin (remember him, the inventor of visicalc?), who knowshis way around statistics, did a wonderful analysis on the recordindustry numbers. Bricklin finds that if the RIAA is right aboutpeer-to-peer networks and CD burners damaging CD sales, then, whencombined with other negative factors such as a slow economy, andcompeting entertainment choices, the numbers should look a lotworse.
Instead, in his essay "The Recording Industry is Trying to Kill theGoose that Lays the Golden Egg,"(http://www.bricklin.com/recordsales.htm) Bricklin argues that filetrading is one of the few factors that may have prevented the RIAA fromhaving to report far worse sales damage in recent years.
After crunching RIAA sales figures and revenue generated for variousmusic formats over the last several years, he concludes that, whileunit sales numbers have indeed dropped, "revenue has not dropped asmuch because of an unprecedented 7% rise in prices."
Using the RIAA's own reasoning-that access to free music is killingsales-Bricklin trots out another set of numbers suggesting that radioshould be a much greater negative factor than online file trading.However, he points out that, in the end, finding and buying music is acomplicated emotional process, and that the RIAA's statistics,reasoning, and actions may be making matters worse.
And one other thing. Most folks don't buy what they haven't heard,and they haven't heard much they want to buy on the radio. Severalrecent studies have in fact correlated file sharing with an INCREASE inCD buying. It's doing radio's job for the music business, and theyshould be pleased.
Here's perhaps the most important point that Blair missed: high CDprices and junk music don't help, but declaring war on your customersinstead of finding creative ways to win them over has been the greatesterror the labels and the RIAA could have ever committed. You have nowlost a good percentage of an entire generation of music buyers.
And it may have all been based on the big lie about filetrading.
Well your latest issue showed up in the mail today. The cover“What Can Save the Music Industry?” caught my attention offthe bat. I flipped it open and the Doonesbury cartoon (on thelast page) was the first thing I read. It set the tone for what(so far) has turned out to be the best Mix magazine that I have read inquite a while (and I have been reading since the late 80's).
After Doonesbury I flipped to the front and started to read. By the time I finished with page 14 (Letters to Mix) I even turned tomy wife and said “This is the best issue of Mix I have read in along time!” I enjoyed the format change for the Letters toMix. The different outlooks are interesting andeducational. Very thought provoking!
So now I have read “The Fast Lane” by Stephen St. Croixand “Insider Audio” by Paul D. Lehrman. I put the May2003 issue down, grabbed my laptop, and I am now typing thismessage. This IS the best issue of Mix I have ever read. Thank you!
The winds of change are indeed growing stronger everyday. I have a small but modest personal home studio in SoutheastMinnesota. As you guessed, not a lot of major label acts hang outat my place. I use the internet to stay informed, learn, and growas an audio engineer. It has changed the way I work. Overthe past few years it has allowed me to communicate with people that Iotherwise never would have had the opportunity to talk with (PaulLehrman, Fletcher, EveAnna Manley, John La Grou, Dale Epperson, DavidRoyer, and the list truly goes on and on).
I also work a “day job” at Saint Mary’s Universityas the Multimedia & Information Technology Support Manager. It is a small private liberal-arts college in Winona Minnesota. Here I get the chance to meet with a wide variety of the student bodyand from this I find new music. I am always asking what peopleare listening to. If they say that they don’t know then Iask “Well what is in your CD player”. Moretimes than not the topic turns to “I really don’t buyCD’s I get my music online”. The amount of musicinterest that is shared online is truly unreal. Like most otherschools we deal with the file sharing issue. But Paul Lehrman isright, talk with the people who are going to decide the future of themusic business: the kids. It is almost always aninteresting conversation (after they understand that I am not trying tobust them for file sharing). The internet is how the studentsstay informed, how they communicate with mom and dad, how they chatabout what is new, how they search libraries for homework assignments,how they search for jobs and careers, and it is how they find newmusic.
It is a digital future and the world (not just the music industry)is changing because of it. In the mean time, I will continue tolearn and grow as an audio engineer while recording good music (withanalog and digital gear) from the bands and musicians in thearea. Trying to put out quality independent music and broaden theminds of mainstream listeners.
Thank you for a great issue.
As Nick Lowe told me in an interview in 1978 "Lee Abrams has a lotto answer for". As soon as I saw his name in that interview I hadto stop just to calm down.
Here is a man who should be blamed for the rapid decline of radiobeginning in the early 70's. Once everyone realized those FM stationswere worth a lot of money there was Lee Abrams. Having worked on localradio in the Bay Area from '68 on, it was easy to see what wascoming.
Research equals the death of radio as an art. Not that every localstation or DJ was genius, but it sure is better than what you hear now.I did work with a guy who's handle was "J William Weed" and he thoughtIn-A-Godda- Da-Vida was the height of modern rock and roll.
There were stories that when punk/new wave hit, Abrams would badgerhis focus groups trying to convince them they hated this music. Youhave to remember he produced a Gentle Giant album around the same time.Nuff said.
A couple of us from KSAN are now comfortable up here doing radio inMontana, where even the Clear Channel has to compete with us over atthe college station. My format? Whatdaya got that's good? I have about20,000 records that I can choose from. Didn't sell all my promos for'rugs.
Director Of A&R