Music Industry Lessons

Music lessons. “Things you can learn from the music business (as it falls apart).”

9 thoughts on “Music Industry Lessons

  1. Seth Godin establishes celebrity with me, writing like this. Makes him hard to forget. Thanks Matt!

    I couldn’t agree more: the cost of information of all sorts, and anything that can be transformed into information, is asymptotically approaching zero. “Too cheap to meter” – maybe not yet (after 50 years) for nuclear power – but seeming on-track, for information.

    Cheap information (in the persona of the Web) helps the United States and the West achieve its goals and maintain its status within an uncooperatively changing world. Therefore, whatever adversities may have naturally or by contrivance been in the path of continuing geometric growth of the Net-phenomenon (which will one day be the 8-track cassette itself) are preemptively & summarily dealt with.

    Seth is using the music-industry woes as an example – but he stresses that it is an example with very wide applicability at all scales from global to individual. Agreed.

    Ted Clayton

  2. I couldn’t disagree more. I laugh at his quoting Dylan.. Godin’s intent wasn’t a movement in the sense Dylan was referring to, nor was it to benefit music fans or musicians. It’s about piracy, further consolidation. It’s about depressing the ability of musicians to earn a living, and actually to be able to get their music out there. The anti-copyright movement was just another act of libertarian style theft. No different than what the music industry did when it ripped off musical artists back in the day. Say hello to the new boss, no better than the previous one.

  3. I have mixed feelings on this. I’m a working stiff – and I’ve also been in the music industry for about ten years, watching the trends, reading up on the jargon … by no means an expert.

    I admit, the day of CDs really is nearing it’s end. The replacement is digital. Sure, they still sell CDs like mad, but it’s a far cry from what it was like when I worked for a music store in my teens. Downloading music (then in WAV format, MASSIVE!) would have been outlandish to think of. Not to mention the Internet was still stretching its wings and everyone used AOL.

    However, now you can download MP3s from iTunes, Yahoo Music, Rapsody, Napster … for costs. But I fear that this format is only going to bite the musician (and industry) in the face. Not enough honest people out there who are going to spend $1 per song. Not when you can get your music pirated from friends or download sites.

    So, while this ‘consolodation’ has it’s merits, I think there needs to be a better solution. Weeds are a good start, honestly. But not widely used. I remember having to get licensing for some videos I purchased some time ago – so before I could play the avi (or mpeg or mov .. whatever it was) I had to input a code which my player would remember next time I loaded the video. If somehow they could do something similar for audio downloads, that would be a good step to stopping piracy.

    Also – in a billion dollar industry, I don’t think piracy is as big of a deal as the ‘big wigs’ scream about. Though, it hurts the little guys more than the big dawgs. Since the large label artists make most of their money from publishing deals than from record sales anyway. Tours, merchandise, movie soundtracks – this is where artists make the money. But the little guys, on smaller labels or independant, get screwed from piracy. Since they don’t get the $10,000 contacts to have 30 seconds of a song in movies or shows they have day jobs or live in vans and tour only to get food.

    The music industry isn’t fun – but I don’t think the current model of digial downloads is going to really help … but perhaps it’s a good start.

  4. I’ve been asked to write a book about my way of connecting my previous professional music career (as it worked back in year 2000-2002 when was still a good music site) with my web design business of today. It would be an interesting topic to explore since both things worked with the same basic idea: Making a living by giving away a high-quality product for free.

    Godin’s post was interesting, but it would be easy to write a lot more interesting points than that. I would have done it myself if it wasn’t for the fact that nobody cares about my old story today. Especially not the part of the music industry that rather spends billions of dollars on trying to slowing down the progress rather than just being a part of it. 🙂

  5. @Mary,

    The first social dynamic that I took note of & interest in, was musicians & their music. I soon discovered the band-class and became first-chair clarinet. Then we moved, and the new school – gasp! – did not have band! Well … they had this dumb orchestra thing. So I got a violin and squawked & screeched for a few weeks.

    In a few months, I was not only first-chair violin, but began to notice that I could lead, train & influence the 2 dozen or so other members of the orchestra. Soon, we were producing short, modest sessions of true orchestral music. It was beautiful to hear & be part of, and it was personally empowering & affirming that I, a dreamy, usually-out-of-it little boy, could have a social role like this. I was in love with music, and I was a young musician.

    It was never any secret, that there was an enormous schism between the individual & small-group social role of music in human culture, and the corporate music-industry enterprises that undertook to leverage musicians and their love into an industrial commodity. Certainly, I feel for the many performers who have been caught in the business-struggles … that are now being lost by our erstwhile ‘traditional’ music industry hegemony.

    But I also know that the musician herself really holds what is actually of interest & of value. Many musicians are indeed not good natural business-people, and I know that that is part of how The Industry came to be so exceptionally overweening.

    The Net, as Seth Godlin articulates, favors the individual. This is a very serious heads-up for musicians, because they more than many other groups, are relatively helpless in the 3-button suit world (notwithstanding the self-industrialized examples before us).

    We know that The Industry has been corrupt and abusive, for generations. It is no exemplar that merits defense & preservation. It is deeply engrained as a serious social malady that all concerned will be better off to have behind us.

    But yes, I do feel for the many aspiring musicians would thought they knew how to approach the task of earning a living with what they have & love … and now find the ground-rules & conditions different than they had prepared for. Though I am no longer a practicing musician, I will always relate.

    Ted Clayton

  6. I tend to side with Mary on thing I cannot get past in the statement about information having a zero cost (maybe I am always misreading it, as i believe it should be the distribution, not the production?) is that the production of music has a very real cost. I usually hear something about how “anyone can make music on a laptop”..implying that everyone has a laptop and can produce whatever they desire through the manipulation of samples and free software..and in some (in fact a lot of)examples this sounds to be the case..shitty derivative uncreative “laptop” music..but for those who take different routes, including actually recording live skilled improvising musicians..guess what sports fans? there’s a lot of real costs involved. So who is it that pays for that when it’s all free? And how can musicians and composers who are paid squat to begin with, fork over the dough to produce music for your free consumption? answers please, i am still waiting.

    Another strange thing here is that due to the above mentioned free software etc, there are some actually quite talented people doing things on laptops..but if the only way they will be paid is by “selling souvenirs”, then how is that supposed to work?

    This all has a whiff of things from the stores sponsoring “talent shows’..the real force here is that somebody is making the $$ off of musicians and composers.

  7. @John,

    First Mary accuses:
    “The anti-copyright movement was just another act of libertarian style theft. No different than what the music industry did when it ripped off musical artists back in the day. Say hello to the new boss, no better than the previous one.”

    And then you accuse:
    “This all has a whiff of things from the stores sponsoring “talent shows’..the real force here is that somebody is making the $$ off of musicians and composers.”

    I understand the distress at how innovation and cost-reduction affects real, live musicians. My first priority is to clearly communicate my sympathy.

    But – both you & Mary are flirting with the conspiracist-bin. Neither of you can personify the ‘they’ you say are after us. Com’on.

    Ted Clayton