Category - “industry”

As it applies to music, the term “industry” is obsolete — a 19th century construct applied to a new 21st century paradigm. Still it’s interesting to see how much people use the expression “Music Industry.”

Is Apple Finally Headed for “The Cloud” ?

Whatever Apple is planning, "The Boss" will be part of it now that Sony has signed on.

File this one under” useless speculation.”

Because, while the news is intriguing, it really is pointless to speculate what Apple is planning to do with these licenses until they actually announce whatever it is they are going to announce.

Personally, I will be woefully disappointed if, after all this time (a year and a half since acquiring, all Apple comes up with is a better “cloud storage” locker.

If there is no “subscription iTunes” component, Apple will have lost an opportunity to be as disruptive — and ahead of the curve — as they were with the original iPod and iTunes.

I don’t think Apple is motivated by their potential to be “disruptive.” I think they’re motivated by a clear sense of where the holes are in the market and their driving their digital truck right through it. So I remain hopeful that Apple is finally going to do what needs to be done, and pave the way to a viable subscription service.

And make now mistake, as disruptive as iTunes was when it started offering 99c downloads, a subscription service will be as disruptive again. So fasten your seat belts, and let’s just wait and see what Cupertino is going to come up with.

For A Streaming Subscrption Model That Works, Look No Further Than NetFlix

If It Works for NetFlix...

I wonder how many among my vast legion of readers who scoff at the idea of streaming music subscription services are Netflix subscribers?

If they are, then they’ll want to read this well-reasoned assessment from Billboard analyst Glenn Peoples, who makes an excellent case from numerous angles re: why the Netflix model would work if anybody had the brains or means to apply it to music:

With Netflix consumers have proven they will rent content – even re-run content – and stream it from the cloud. They will pay for digital content they could get for free through illegal means. They will pay if the service allows streaming through multiple devices – including mobile….

If a music service can reach the scale of Netflix, it too can pay rights holders handsomely while continuously improving the product and giving subscribers a high level of service. In the first quarter, Netflix shelled out $192 million for the acquisition of streaming rights on top of the $377 million it paid to rights holders related to its subscription revenue.

I have had several occasions over the past couple of years to engage Glenn Peoples in some discussion about music delivery systems, subscription services, etc. The problem usually is that Glenn’s side of the discussion is informed with facts, data, and astute analysis – while my side is typically “by the seat of my pants” and fueled by a tankful of attitude.

So it’s nice to see that we are in complete agreement on this particular analysis. The music industry has much to learn from Netflix, and music “consumers” (listeners, users, fans?) have much to gain if the industry can ever have muster the fortitude to follow Netflix’ lead.

Netflix: A Subscription Model the Music Business Should Aspire To |

Habits Change: Music Ownership in the Cloud Era

iTunes In the Cloud?

Amid reports last week that Apple is quietly lining up licenses for some kind of “cloud” service from the major labels, the debate about “access -v- ownership” likewise begins to show up in popular channels, like this post from Brad Hill at the Huffington Post:

That is really what the cloud represents: a different concept of ownership….

Most people dont like this deal, because it’s not true ownership. Drop the subscription, and you lose all your music, because it’s not really your music. I get that. But here’s the thing. It feels like ownership, and in the end, thats what counts to me and the minority loyalists who embrace music subscriptions. I feel like I own 11-million music tracks, because I can access them, transfer them, and listen to them as if I had bought them on iTunes.

Lets imagine I did buy them on iTunes. Id be at least 11-million dollars poorer right now — and believe me, I cant afford it. How much have I actually spent? Over 10 years, at $15 a month, Ive dished out $1,800 for ownership rights to a vast celestial library available anywhere, anytime.

via Brad Hill: Music Lockers vs. Subscriptions: Music Ownership in the Cloud Era.

Count me among the “minority loyalists” who continue to believe that “access” to $11-million worth of music for some nominal monthly fee is an infinitely superior model than chunking out 99c per track to own a very limited catalog (for “consumers,” anyway. I’m still not convinced it’s a viable model for the creators.).

And the idea of “cloud-based storage lockers” — like Amazon introduced a couple of weeks ago, like Google is supposedly developing, like Michael Robertson pioneered a decade ago — likewise leave me thoroughly underwhelmed.

Here’s the simple fact that even Apple would prefer you not grasp quite yet: all the music you could ever listen to in your lifetime is already stored “in the cloud” — i.e. on servers somewhere. The guardians of that vast library continue to dole it out to us in 99c chunks, and then think they’re doing us some kind of big favor by offering to “store” it for us remotely, so that we can have “access” to our purchases from “anywhere.”

Well, all of that is a crock, and it is only a matter of time before the music-listening public catches on to the fact — and subscription services catch fire. Buy your stock in MOG and Rdio now. Hell, Apple might still be a bargain at nearly $400/share.

Remember, 10 years ago, the “experts” were doubtful that music fans would actually pay even 99c for downloads – and now that is one of the most common ways that music is distributed. There is only one constant in the digital era, and that is: habits change.

The State of the Celestial Jukebox: Part 2: The Dinosaurs Attack!

The only thing more stupid than the cloud locker scenario is the music industry’s gathering reaction to it.

Along with the news that Amazon has launched a cloud locker comes the not altogether surprising news that the megaliths of the music industry – the major labels, the PROs – are taking a dim view of the service. Indeed, as reported in Tuesday’s NPR story and elsewhere,

The head of marketing for ASCAP worried that the Cloud Drive is simply a way to avoid having to pay songwriters and composers … as well as artists.

Music industry, meet ass. Insert head.

If “the industry” had any foresight at all it would be embracing the cloud locker concept instead of condemning it, because cloud storage of an individual’s private music collection reinforces the “ownership” model of music delivery that now has nine toes in the grave.

The only potential upside I see in Amazon’s new service is the prospect that it will introduce more music fans to the possibilities of cloud-stored music. One recent study demonstrates that the public level of awareness of the availability of streaming services like Rhapsody, Rdio, or MOG is generally very low. But if something like Amazon’s locker catches on, its users will eventually realize the ultimate value in their new experience. Eventually they will stop buying-and-storing and just start subscribing-and-streaming.

Connected users who have not already made the leap will discover that the bandwidth is adequate, the connections are generally pretty good, and that the ability to “access” a vast library of music is much more consistent with the desire to hear “whatever/whenever/wherever” than the private ownership of a very limited library of shiny plastic wafers or digital files, regardless of where they are stored.

By resisting the “cloud locker” service, the music industry has drawn its guns and unloaded both barrels right into its own nailed-down feet. Read More

The State of the Celestial Jukebox: Part 1: Amazon’s Music Locker is Stupid

Let me repeat that for those of you on drugs – or for those of you who still haven’t discovered streaming subscription music services.

Amazon’s music locker is stupid.

I know, everybody’s all excited because somehow Amazon is the first to market with a “music locker” service, beating Apple and Google to the punch.

But I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

I don’t see the advantage being able to store 1,000 songs (the approximate capacity of Amazon’s free service), when there are already services that store millions of songs “in the cloud” for me.

It’s like the year is ca. 1920: Horseless carriages are swarming over the landscape, and Amazon is first to market with an amazing new buggy whip. Ooh, this one has a sparkly handle!

Good luck smacking the side of your Model-T with it.

Now, admittedly my music “consumption” (Spoiler alert: I hate that word, especially as it pertains to music. Food I consume. Music is still there after I’ve listened to it…) habits are pretty atypical. Again, I seem to be there before the curve itself.

But these days, I am getting pretty durn near all the music I want right out of the cloud. After sampling both Rdio and MOG last year, I settled on MOG and, given that it’s still pretty much a Model-T, I’m pretty happy with what the service offers. I would say that 90% of the time, music that I want to hear is available, and I can listen to it at home, in my car, or at the office (oh, wait… I don’t have an office…)

Why would you care that you can store 1,000 songs in your own personal locker when there are now services that offer millions upon million of songs for roughly the cost of a single CD per month?

The argument for the locker seems to be, as expressed in this NPR piece, quoting Amazon VP Bill Carr:

I recently bought this album by Fitz and The Tantrums but I bought it on my work computer. But the minute I bought it I saved it to my cloud drive so it’s already available to me right here on my phone, I can click play and it will start playing.

I guess that’s a kinda slick feature, cloning a purchase from one device to another so that you have access to it from any location. But that just makes me wonder, “why didn’t you purchase it on your phone in the first place? You take that home with you, don’t you?”

So forget “the locker in the cloud.” The future of music maybe be in the cloud, but the cloud is in your pocket.

Read More

Scenes From A Desert Island: Folk Alliance 2011

Last week, after I returned from the Folk Alliance International annual conference in Memphis, somebody asked me “so, how was Folk Alliance?” and I found myself blurting out rhetorically, “like three days on an overpopulated desert island.”

The more I think about that spontaneous response, the more apt it becomes.

I know, the whole “desert island” analogy paints a rather bleak picture. But it’s pretty hard to look at most of what constitutes the “music industry” these days and not think “bleak.” Like these charts that have been flying around the Internets in the past week serve to illustrate.

Fortunately, tectonic shifts, declining prospects, and undefined new business models do little to deter the legion of 1,500+ souls who descend upon the Downtown Memphis Marriott Hotel every February for four days of keynotes and panels of endless nights of showcases, some in actual meeting rooms but most on three upper floors of the hotel where ordinary rooms are turned upside down to create impromptu performance spaces.

And however slim the pickins of the “industry” may be, there was no shortage of outstanding performances. The days and nights were rich with newcomers and veterans alike, displaying awesome talent on the one hand while struggling to come to grips with vanishing business models on the other.

(Unnecessary, shamelessly self-promoting historical reference: Folk Alliance was very much at the center of my constituency in a former life. In 2000 my company, had the largest single booth in the Folk Alliance exhibit hall, sections of which were farmed out to individual artists in the roster. It was pretty impressive, if I do say so myself, which of course I just did. But I digress…)

So herewith are some of the ideas that the inhabitants of the island were offered as to how they might find the hidden nuts and berries that could sustain them until some sort of rescue vessel arrives to take them off the island… Read More

More Topspin

Charles Alexander

Good friend Charles Alexander has just just posted this very detailed assessment of the Topspin “direct to fan” music marketing platform, and the Berklee School of Music online course that comes with it. Anybody who is considering using the Topspin platform now that it is about to “come out of beta” should read it before making the plunge.

Money quote:

The software package and interface has a steep learning curve. This course helps alleviate some of that.

“Steep learning curve” is putting it mildly. If you do follow the link make sure you scroll down to the comments to find my own observations on Topspin and what Charles has written about it.

Meet Eldridge Reeves Johnson: Inventor of the Recording Industry


From the spring of 2003 until the early 2009, I researched and wrote a biography of a man named Thomas Townsend Brown, a 20th century scientist and inventor whose life is shrouded in all manner of mysteries. During the course of that research I also encountered the story of a man named Eldridge Reeves Johnson, aboard whose yacht the Caroline Brown served as a radio operator on a deep-sea research expedition in the 1930s.

What I learned in the course of that research is that that Eldridge Reeves Johnson could rightly be regarded as the man who created the modern recording industry.

Last week when somebody asked if I could identify “the grandfather of the recording industry,” I offered the name of Eldridge Reeves Johnson. The correct answer to this particular quiz was not Johnson, but a contemporary of Johnson’s named Emile Berliner. That is also a good answer, as readers will learn presently. But first, let me introduce you to the man who founded the Victor Talking Machines Company — and built that venerable firm into what might rightly be regarded as the first “media conglomerate” of the early 20th century.

The story begins with Townsend Brown arriving at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the winter of 1933 to board the yacht Caroline

– – – – – – – – –

Except from Chapter 30: The Caroline


The “Caroline” belonged to a man named Eldridge Reeves Johnson. The yacht was named for Johnson’s mother, who died when he was a child in the 1870s — well before her son would become one of the world’s wealthiest industrialists in the two decades that spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Amid the railroad tycoons, steel magnates, and oil barons of the Gilded Age, Eldridge Reeves Johnson became the era’s first great Media Mogul when he started an outfit called “The Victor Talking Machines Company.”

* * *

Eldridge Reeves Johnson was a giant of 20th century industry whom time seems to have forgotten. History has recorded that Thomas Edison invented the “tinfoil phonograph” in 1877, but nobody did more to popularize the “talking machine” than Eldridge Johnson. Edison may have invented the first practical sound recorder, but Eldridge Johnson created the modern recording industry.

Read More

Dear Rick: It’s The SUPPLY, Not The Pirates

Last week I read an article at Huffington Post by Rick Carnes, President of the Songwriters Guild of America, in which Mr. Carnes beats the same dead horse he has been beating for more than a decade, decrying the impact that “piracy” has had on the decline of recorded music revenue.

SGA Prez Rick Carnes, who has apparently not been photographed since 1966

To make his case, Mr. Carnes supposes that if the Beatles were around in today’s shrinking music business, there would be no “Sergeant Pepper” or “Abbey Road” — by recalling the Fab Four’s retreat to the studio after their final, screamed-out tour in 1966:

After their world tour in 1966, The Beatles quit touring as a group…

Album sales allowed The Beatles to retire from touring and devote themselves full time to writing and recording. By focusing on albums as a unified musical statement in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Abbey Road,” The Beatles raised the bar for all the albums that followed and changed recording quality and technique worldwide….

The Beatles, by abandoning touring and focusing instead on writing, recording, and selling albums, invented the “Recording Artist.”

I’m sure that Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and a host of others would take issue with that particular point, but that’s a minor detail compared to the backward looking observations that follow. For example, this bold declaration:

Today there are few, if any, examples of true recording artists left.

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