ONCE AGAIN, IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE MUSIC
August 9, 2013
"There's something missing in the music industry today ... and it's music. Songs you hear don't last; it's just product fed to you by the industry."
-- Jimmy Buffet
Back in November of 2003, in the very first issue of the newsletter, I wrote an article titled 'Brave New World,' in which I wrote the following, "How did it come to this? Did we suddenly wake up one day and realize that 60 to 100 million people were downloading music for free from a myriad of websites globally and that's the reason the music industry is in dire straits? Sure, file-sharing and downloading can be blamed for some of the problems inherent in the industry today, but to point a finger at the Internet and say it's the prime reason for the music industry's ills is just plain irresponsible and without merit ... during this time the number of REAL artists established with long-term potential, diminished as the focus was shifted to "product" to fill the distribution/retail pipeline."
I remember the very first time I heard the music we were selling referred to as "product," and how much it bothered me.
It obviously bothered Wilco's Jeff Tweedy as well. In 2004 he said, "Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts...A piece of art is not a loaf of bread."
Yeah, I know, that's what it really is, isn't it? It's a product sold to consumers made by artists, right?
But, I also remember many executives referring to it as "new music," "exciting music," "new artists," etc.
But, somewhere along the line as the industry bloated itself on profits from CD catalogs they released in the mid-'80s through early '90s, the music became "product" and it had to "fill the pipeline" so each and every fiscal quarter read with black ink, not red.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with any music label/company wanting to generate as much profit as possible. The problems started when labels didn't care how they made big profits, and artist development and great A&R all but dissipated in the process.
This week, from an article by Steve Knopper in Rolling Stone titled Album Sales Nosedive as Cruel Summer Rolls On : "After more than a decade of online piracy, record-store closings, major-label layoffs and superstar artists abruptly turning independent, the record industry may have finally hit bottom this summer. At the end of July, U.S. albums sold just 4.68 million copies, the lowest weekly total since Nielsen SoundScan began keeping track in 1991, and for the first time ever, labels sold fewer than five million albums in each of five straight weeks. The dismal sales strongly suggest growing streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube have begun to cut into CDs and download sales. "We're in a transition," says Daniel Glass, president of Glassnote Records, home of Mumford & Sons, Phoenix and others. "Streaming is up. The economic model is not there today, but it will be there."
Yes, Spotify, Pandora, You Tube, etc., have all cut into music sales. But so has something much bigger than all that. The QUALITY of most of the music the industry is trying to still generate those big profits from.
Adele sold 10 million plus with all the problems in the industry, Taylor Swift has sold probably 20 million-plus if you add up her combined album sales, and new artists like Mumford & Sons are going Platinum. And yes, the list of artists selling the mega-gazillions isn't what it once was, but how many artists out today are making extraordinary albums that people want to own?
Daniel Glass is right; "The economic model is not there today, but it will be there."
It will be for those labels and executives with the vision to sign the talent that will connect with the audience at large and make them see the real value in buying an album instead of one or two tracks from the artist(s) on iTunes.
I have believed since the first day I started work in the music industry many moons ago, it was always about the MUSIC business, rather than the BUSINESS of music.
When the next 10-15 million selling album happens (and I absolutely believe it will), like Adele, it will prove that despite all the challenges the industry faces today, great MUSIC cuts through it and engages people to still buy albums in big quantities.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
MUSIC PUBS NOT HAPPY AT ALL ABOUT YOUTUBE'S FULLSCREEN
Crying copyright infringement, the National Music Publishers Association is suing popular YouTube channel Fullscreen.
"The NMPA, the biggest trade association for music publishing, alleges that numerous artists in Fullscreen's network of more than 10,000 channels illegally use songs in their videos, and that both the artists and Fullscreen profit from the advertisements that appear with those videos," The Wrap reports.
Domestically, Fullscreen is currently the second biggest network after VEVO. Read the whole story
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
COMCAST WANTS TO HELP FIGHT PIRACY
From Variety comes the news that cable operator Comcast is in the preliminary stages of developing a piracy-fighting system that "would provide offending users with transactional opportunities to access legal versions of copyright-infringing videos as they're being downloaded," writes Andrew Wallenstein.
Currently the company is having preliminary talks with film and TV studios and ISPs in hopes of getting them to join the effort, "even for a beta trial that would be concentrated to a limited selection of programs and Internet subscribers. No timetable has been set, however." Read the whole story
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
A "RADIO FRIENDLY SONG"
Thanks to reader and old friend David Cole for sending me the link to this terrific song and video by Jon Lajoie, which sums up why so much of what people hear the radio sounds alike.
Watch it, listen to the lyrics, and you'll be nodding your head in agreement with it all
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
YOUTUBE STARTS VIDEO SNIPPET SERVICE
Following months of rumors and speculation, YouTube cofounders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen unveiled their latest program on Thursday.
Named MixBit, it's a video snippet sharing service like Twitter's Vine. "But as the name suggests, MixBit is all about mixing and editing video," The New York Times' Bits blog notes. Read the whole story
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
MORE TV PROBLEM STUFF
How can cable companies prevent more customers from cutting the proverbial cord in favor of broadband services?
Get rid of the cord, Cablevision CEO James Dolan suggested, this week. Yes, as Dolan told The Wall Street Journal, "There could come a day" when Cablevision abandons its TV service in favor of broadband. "His comments may be the first public acknowledgment by a cable CEO of the possibility of such a shift," WSJ notes. Read the whole story
Cord-cutting is "picking up the pace as the cost of cable and satellite TV service continues to climb skyward," writes Todd Spangler.
In total, the U.S. pay TV industry lost 316,000 subscribers for the 12-month period ending in June, according to a Moffett Research report that called the loss far from huge, but "statistically significant." Cable operators were hit the hardest. Read the whole story
THE 'A-SIDE' - THE BONUS TRACKS
* The All-Time Hot 100 List: Nos. 10-1
* Sammy Hagar, Kid Rock, Joe Satriani Get Heavy on 'Knockdown Dragout'
* Hear Bob Dylan's Lost 1970 Gem 'Pretty Saro'
* Robert Plant joins the digital age
* Katy Perry Posts 'Roar' Snippet In New Teaser Video: Watch
* Lady Gaga Strips Naked in NSFW Video For 'The Abramovic Method'
* Turtles File $100 Million Lawsuit Against SiriusXM
* Musicians: Hate Spotify and Pandora? Here's An Alternative Proposal
* 5 Movies That Improved the Book (According to the Author)
* Get a three-month Rhapsody subscription for $1
* A $1,300 sound bar for music lovers
* Wi-Fi routers: More security risks than ever
* Vizio adds three sound bars fit for small TVs, starting at just $80
* Simple, straightforward laptop we approve of
* Lenovo kicks off $600 Windows 8 Miix convertible tablet
* Surface Pro Is No Bargain Even After $100 Price Cut
Short News Items ...
GEE, IT'S A LITTLE LATE TO TELL THEM NOW:
Madonna and Lady Gaga could face prosecution in Russia for violating the terms of their visa to enter the country, officials there say. The singers were each allowed in to Russia on "cultural exchange" visas, The Guardian reports, which don't permit commercial activity like performing concerts.
Lady Gaga has responded to the Russian government's claim that the pop star could face prosecution for violating the terms of her visa by performing in the country. "Why didn't you arrest me when you had the chance?" the pop star posted on Facebook. Read More
SUTCLIFFE BOOK COMING:
Stuart Sutcliffe, the late artist and early bassist for the Beatles, will receive an art showcase from Harper's Books in East Hampton, New York on August 10th (running until October 14th). The exhibition, titled "Stuart Sutcliffe: Yea Yea Yea" and curated by artist Richard Prince, will feature 21 of Sutcliffe's paintings and paper-based works.
ELLEN TO HOST OSCARS:
Ellen DeGeneres will host next year's Academy Awards. It will be the talk show host and actress' second time leading the Oscars.
In an exclusive interview, Tom Petty tells Rolling Stone the Heartbreakers are making an album "unlike anything we've ever done." As yet untitled, the record should be out early next year: "I always say this, but I'm tremendously excited for his one," he says. Read More
BECK & BRIAN:
Jeff Beck is set to join Beach Boy Brian Wilson on a month long U.S. tour this fall which will kick off on September 27th in Hollywood, FL, as announced on USA Today.
ELVIS STAX STUFF:
Elvis Presley's recording sessions at Stax Records are now released together for the first time, the Associated Press reports. Titled 'Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition,' the three-CD box set also features outtakes and rare photos from the July and December 1973 sessions, which resulted in three separate albums.
GET WELL WISHES:
Elton John is recovering at his home in France after undergoing surgery to remove his appendix. The 66-year-old singer had the operation at Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco last Thursday, according to the BBC.
BRUCE WINDING DOWN:
Springsteen fans hoping to catch another show on the 'Wrecking Ball' tour better start booking flights to South America. His camp just announced a show on September 14th in Buenos Aires, one of four dates that will be the final ones of the tour, according to Bruce's website.
Friends, family and fellow musicians will honor the late Richie Havens on August 18th with a concert at the site of the original Woodstock festival, which he opened. They'll also scatter his ashes over the site. Havens died in April of a heart attack at age 72.
NEW DYLAN ART FOR SALE:
A new collection of Bob Dylan's artwork is headed to a U.K. exhibition next month. According to the BBC, 12 pastel portraits by the Bard will be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The pieces are a mix of real and fictitious characters that art historian John Elderfield called "products of the same extraordinary, inventive imagination."
BEZOS BUYS POST:
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Internet retail giant Amazon.com, will buy The Washington Post's flagship newspaper and affiliate publications for $250 million in cash, the newspaper announced late Monday. Amazon will have no role in the acquisition, which also includes the Express newspaper,
CHRIS BROWN IN TROUBLE YET AGAIN:
Chris Brown went to jail briefly Monday after pleading not guilty to charges stemming from a May hit-and-run crash. The singer turned himself in to police, reports MTV, and was released about 40 minutes later without posting bail.
MAYER ALBUM COMING:
John Mayer's sixth studio album, "Paradise Valley," will feature two high-profile guests: the guitarist's frequent collaborator Frank Ocean and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Katie Perry.
George Duke, the Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist and producer whose sound infused acoustic jazz, electronic jazz, funk, R&B and soul in a 40-year-plus career, has died, reports the AP. He was 67. A representative for Duke said the performer died Monday night in Los Angeles. Duke was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Cowboy Jack Clement, a legendary figure in Nashville as a producer, arranger, songwriter and performer, died Thursday after battling liver cancer, The Tennessean reports. He was 82. Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year, Clement leaves behind a remarkable legacy in country music. He was close friends with Johnny Cash, for whom he wrote "Guess Things Happen That Way" and arranged the horns on "Ring of Fire."
Tim Wright, bassist in the pioneering punk-era bands Pere Ubu and DNA, died Sunday, former Pere Ubu bandmate David Thomas posted on Facebook. The cause of death and Wright's age weren't available.
Marilyn King, the last surviving member of popular singing family The King Sisters, who released dozens of records throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s and influenced generations of jazz-vocal groups, died on Wednesday following a battle with cancer. She was 82. King was surrounded by her family in Laguna Niguel, Calif. at the time of her death, according to her publicist.
Karen Black has died at 74. Her husband, Stephen Eckelberry, confirmed the death on Facebook on Thursday. The actress, famous for her performances in 'Five Easy Pieces' and 'Easy Rider' and 'Nashville,' had been battling cancer for the last few years.
Quotes of the week
"I'm just trying to be a friend to him but it is unfortunate that I do have a set of t–s.'"
-- Katy Perry, on what she texted Kristen Stewart following rumors about the singer's relationship with the Twilight star's ex, Robert Pattinson, to Elle UK. (Yeah, and that's so "unfortunate" for John Mayer, right?)
"I don't think he could have done the gig, to be honest. He's incredibly overweight. A drummer has to be in shape. He's already had two heart attacks. I don't want to be responsible for his life."
-- Last year Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward. Said why he wouldn't participate in any current Sabbath reunion activity, citing contractual disputes; now, Osbourne is citing Ward's weight as one of the reasons he won't be playing with Black Sabbath. (He might be overweight Ozzy, but at least he's sane)
"Don't worry mainstream America. After this X album, it'll probably be my last album."
-- Chris Brown, tweeting Tuesday that his upcoming album, due out on August 20th, could be his final new release. (And wouldn't that be great news? Please keep that promise Chris)
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
Fans Flock To Lollapalooza To See All Of The Biggest Brands
Music lovers are in Chicago's Grant Park this weekend to engage with all of the hottest companies and corporate sponsors targeting their demographic.
Watch the video and laugh
The Music Industry Past, Present & Future, And The Internet I answer questions on EconTalk
I did an interview about the industry and the Internet at EconTalk with host Russ Roberts. Russ is also a professor of economics at George Mason University, blogs at Cafe Hayek, and has written three novels that teach economics. He's also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap video. (And if your understanding of the economic meltdown that occurred needs to be enlightened, this video will do it)
In the interview we talk about the evolution of the music industry, the impact of the digital revolution, and I give my reasons for believing in the virtues and potential of the Internet in enhancing the music industry. I point out, as I have many times here in the newsletter, that the internet allows numerous artists to make money from their music and it can enhance revenues from live performances by expanding an artist's base. We also discuss the challenges facing record companies and I suggest that the full potential of the Internet as a distribution channel has yet to be fully exploited. There's a lot of ground covered, but based on the comments already posted of those who have tuned in, they've enjoyed it.
Read more about it by clicking here.
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