Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cost of Touring Undermines Free-Music Theory

Free-music subsidized via tour income - widely utilized as an excuse in the justification of music piracy - has always been a long shot, unchallenged concept; but the rising cost of gasoline has recently shed light on just how difficult it is to make a living by touring - even in the best of times. Adding insult to injury, artist's creativity is now further taxed with deriving new ways to hit the road without going bankrupt in the process.

From Luciana Lopez, The Oregonian

Tune up the bikes and scrape up the french-fry grease: It's summer touring season for bands. As gas prices climb ever upward, musicians have had to get creative at something more than their music. Portland band Blind Pilot, for example, is traveling under pedal power, and nationally touring psych-rockers Apollo Sunshine are converting their van to run on vegetable oil. There's an easier way to save gas money, though: Portland rocker Michael Dean Damron is just flat-out canceling dates.

Different solutions, but all applied to the same problem: how to balance the need to tour set in motion by declining CD sales against the skyrocketing cost of gas, which makes touring more expensive and less profitable.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Music Performance Fund in Peril

From Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times

For 60 years, the Music Performance Fund, an unsung charity financed by a small fraction of record company sales, has paid the piper -- and just about every other kind of musician -- by helping to bankroll thousands of free concerts annually all over North America.

Now, though, the popularity of music downloads and file-sharing via the Internet has eaten away at record company revenues. And as the industry has dwindled, so has the performance fund's ability to underwrite pro bono shows.

"'Dwindled' is an easy way of saying it's gone to pot," said John Hall, the trustee who has managed the Music Performance Fund for most of the last 18 years.

At its peak in the early 1980s, Hall said, the fund got more than $20 million a year from record companies. Last year, the figure was $3.4 million. In 1984, the fund helped pay musicians' salaries for 55,000 free performances. Last year, there were 9,060. The organization's staff is down from 36 to eight.

Monday, June 09, 2008

U2 Manager: ISPs Strangling Music Industry

From Patrick Frater, Variety:

U2 manager Paul McGuinness launched a blistering attack on the world's Internet providers Wednesday, accusing them of strangling the music industry.

Speaking at the Music Matters confab in Hong Kong, McGuinness likened ISPs to "shoplifters" and accused them of "turning their heads" away from the music industry's troubles and "rigging the market."

"The recorded music industry is in a crisis, and there is crucial help available but not being provided by companies who should be providing that help -- not just because it is morally right, but because it is in their commercial interest," McGuinness said.
Link Loses Warner Music on Demand

From Peter Kafka, Silicon Alley Insider:

Warner Music Group (WMG) has pulled its catalog out of's "on demand" free streaming service, which the CBS-owned service launched to great fanfare in January. Users can still hear Warner artists via the site's "radio" option, which doesn't allow you to select individual songs. But you can't order up individual songs from WMG artists.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

International Labels Push For Baidu Boycott Over Music Piracy

From Dow Jones:

Chinese and international record companies called Tuesday for an advertiser boycott of Inc., the country's leading search engine by search volume, over complaints of music piracy.

The statement was signed by record companies including Universal Music Group, EMI Group PLC, Sony BMG Entertainment, Warner Music Group Corp., and local Chinese companies.

The group of companies and associations has sent a letter to advertising companies asking them "to carefully consider whether they should continue to place advertisements on pirating media," the statement said.

Baidu's search engine provides links to thousands of sites that carry unlicensed copies of music. Record companies have filed a series of lawsuits against the site in
Chinese courts.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Recording Industry Lobbied $1.5M in 1st Quarter 2008

From AP:
Recording industry spent $1.5 million in first quarter to lobby on piracy, Internet broadcasts
The Recording Industry Association of America spent more than $1.5 million in the first quarter to lobby on copyright theft and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

As the main trade group for music recording companies, RIAA lobbied the federal government on legislation to strengthen U.S. laws against counterfeiting and piracy, including online theft of music. Piracy is one of the top issues for RIAA, which says music theft results in $12.5 billion annually in terms of lost jobs and wages, tax reeves, personal income tax and lost corporate income and production taxes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Still No Proof of the Existence of Bigfoot, Ghosts, U.F.O.s, or Music 2.0


"I think it was a one-off response to a particular situation," Thom Yorke said of the band's decision last October to let viewers pay what they wanted for digital downloads of the new album "In Rainbows."

"Yes. It was a one-off in terms of a story. It was one of those things where we were in the position of everyone asking us what we were going to do. I don't think it would have the same significance now anyway, if we chose to give something away again. It was a moment in time."

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers

Created by ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

We have the right to be compensated for the use of our creative works, and share in the revenues that they generate.

We have the right to license our works and control the ways in which they are used.

We have the right to withhold permission for uses of our works on artistic, economic or philosophical grounds.

We have the right to protect our creative works to the fullest extent of the law from all forms of piracy, theft and unauthorized use, which deprive us of our right to earn a living based on our creativity.

We have the right to choose when and where our creative works may be used for free.

We have the right to develop, document and distribute our works through new media channels - while retaining the right to a share in all associated profits.

We have the right to choose the organizations we want to represent us and to join our voices together to protect our rights and negotiate for the value of our music.

We have the right to earn compensation from all types of "performances," including direct, live renditions as well as indirect recordings, broadcasts, digital streams and more.

We have the right to decline participation in business models that require us to relinquish all or part of our creative rights - or which do not respect our right to be compensated for our work.

We have the right to advocate for strong laws protecting our creative works, and demand that our government vigorously uphold and protect our rights.


In the US, 58% of Music Isn't Paid For

From Guardian:

In 2007, there was an increase in the volume of music acquired for nothing and a sharp decline in the amount paid for, according to NPD's annual survey of Internet users.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Music Piracy is About the Money

If the reasonable logic that follows is accurate, then nothing short of an ISP filtering mandate will save music.

From Chuck Klosterman, Esquire:

Whenever writers try to explain the collapse of the music industry, they inevitably blame the labels themselves; they point out how wasteful and inefficient the corporate structure was at places like Elektra and Chrysalis, and how unfair it is to charge kids so many dollars for a disc that costs pennies to make, and that modern consumers have come to the realization that "music longs to be free." This may all be true, but I'm not sure it's a viable explanation for things like huge layoffs at Def Jam. Lots of industries succeed despite being poorly modeled. What happened is this: Young people needed more money to pay for their rising levels of self-imposed debt, so they unconsciously gravitated toward the first technology that provided a cost-saving alternative. Because four-minute digital-song files are relatively small (and thus easily compressed), ripping tracks for free became the easiest way to eliminate an extraneous cost. It wasn't political or countercultural, and it had almost nothing to do with music itself. It was fiscally practical. It was the first, best solution.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Chris Castle on WMG's Jim Griffin's ISP Tax

From Music Technology Policy:

Capitulating to the wisdom of mobs:

I view the ACS (alternative compensation scheme), voluntary or involuntary, as capitulation. Supporting these systems means that you have lost confidence that the legal system can enforce laws and that you are going to simply define the problem out of existence by making something that is illegal into something that is legal, the alchemy of mere analytics, the chorus of consultants, the wailing of the amicii, the proselytizing of the professoriate. Boy, I’m glad that they solved that problem.

Agreeing to ACS is like agreeing that the mob is right. And that’s a very, very dangerous step in a democracy.
Sampling mechanism could just as well facilitate filtering:

First, how do you answer the question that artists and songwriters will ask, namely “how much do I get paid?”

One way to divide up that money that advocates often raise is based on some kind of sampling of usage. (Jim’s EFF seems to think this is how ASCAP divides up their revenues.)

This sampling idea is, of course, dangerous ground for the defenders of Grokster at EFF. If you are going to sample peer-to-peer or BitTorrent files in order to divide up that disaggregated chunk of money, you need to identify tracks. That can be done with fingerprint technology, and there are several companies out there with fingerprinting tools. I personally don’t think fingerprinting works very well at the network level, but can work very well at the client level. There would have to be some discussion of how to get at the client.

If you can identify the tracks on P2P systems enough to sample—and this is where you would probably lose the EFF and apologists for piracy--you can identify the tracks enough to block and filter—meaning you could stop illegal tracks from ever getting onto the network in the first place.
Beating a dead horse:

This idea has been vetted, argued, legislated and rejected for a good five years, and actually goes back even further than that in the Internet world. Discussing ACS is like going to Thanksgiving dinner with your crazy uncle who always wants to argue who lost Poland. You get really tired of it after awhile.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

EMI's Ex-Google Merrill Clueless Out of Gate, Offers Platitudes, Panders to Pirates


Piracy bad, file-sharing okay. The industry's fight against piracy just got harder now that EMI is on record stating that it all depends on how you look at it:

"I'm passionate about data," Merrill said during a phone interview Wednesday with CNET "For example, there's a set of data that shows that file sharing is actually good for artists. Not bad for artists. So maybe we shouldn't be stopping it all the time. I don't know...I am generally speaking (against suing fans). Obviously, there is piracy that is quite destructive but again I think the data shows that in some cases file sharing might be okay. What we need to do is understand when is it good, when it is not good...Suing fans doesn't feel like a winning strategy."
Try anything and see what sticks - never mind how long this is going to take to deploy (and quantify) and that we might run out of cash first:

More specifically, Merrill said he would see whether a Google ad model will work for music. But he's willing to try music subscriptions and even an ISP fee. Certainly, what came across about what strategies Merrill intends to use is that he's not married to any one idea.
We've already witnessed ten years of failed experimentation, with the looting worse now then ever - systemic and virtually unfettered - yet EMI is keen to embark on a costly super-complication of the distribution of otherwise free content:

"I think there is going to be a lot of different models," Merrill said. "Those are two (subscriptions and ISP fees) you can imagine. I'm not sure that either one of those will be the most dominant model. But they are both interesting. We should try them and see what the data says. Other options will be things like you can imagine supporting music through relevant targeted ads, the Google model. There is a dozen of other things...we should try them all. We should see what the data says and whatever it says, we should follow the data, and follow our users and let them help guide us. We should engage in a broad conversation about art."
Spoken like a true geek department; or, now might be a good time to study the history of Motown, Atlantic, etc.:

"I think it's important to figure out where can record labels add value," Merrill said. "I don't know the answer."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Corporate Sponsorship: Bacardi, Groove Armada in 360 Deal

From Lars Brandle, Billboard:

Global spirits giant Bacardi has developed a serious thirst for music, via a 360-degree-style deal with British electronic duo Groove Armada.

The integrated marketing deal encompasses recordings, touring and audiovisual content, leading Bacardi global experiential manager Sarah Tinsley to declare: "Essentially we are taking over the role of a record label -- producing the music, promoting new music, and the artist is playing at our events."

"Bacardi doesn't see this as something that they want to earn money from, which is, quite rightly, something a label has to do," Groove Armada manager Dan O'Neil says. "They are looking at it from a point of view of association, and they're getting access to a license to use the music to implement their strategy worldwide."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Music 2.0 and the New Economy

Don't buy the hype.

From Wikipedia:

New Economy was a term coined in late 1990s by pundits to describe what some thought was an evolution of the United States and other developed countries from an industrial/manufacturing-based wealth producing economy into a service sector asset based economy from globalization and currency manipulation by governments and their central banks. At the time, some analysts claimed that this change in the economic structure of the United States had created a state of permanent steady growth, low unemployment, and immunity to boom and bust macroeconomic cycles. Furthermore, they believed that the change rendered obsolete many business practices. When the stock market bubble burst, analysts soon realized they had been wrong.

A lot of start-ups were created and the stock value was very high where floated. Newspapers and business leaders were starting to talk of new business models. Some even claimed that the old laws of economics did not apply anymore and that new laws had taken their place.