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Fair sharing new music

by Sven Triloqvist Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 at 08:23:23 AM EST

Wired music: New In Rainbows Numbers Offer Lessons for Music Industry

Radiohead's "pay what you want" distribution gamble paid-off despite -- or perhaps because of -- rampant file sharing, according to new analysis from Will Page, chief economist at the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a British rights organization, and Eric Garland, CEO of Big Champagne.

Jump now...

Another nail in the last resting booth of the record industry (as it exists now). A company called Live Nation represents a possible future for the Big Music Business - namely as a promoter of live music events, leaving the artists free to distribute their recordings. But it is still big media business running the show. (Live Nation is a spin-off from Clear Channel Communications)

Radiohead's notorious release strategy for In Rainbows, which allowed fans to download it for an optional price with a valid e-mail address, was considered to have been a failure by some because the album became wildly popular on file sharing networks almost immediately upon its release.

The new model depends on 'audibility' - a version of the old marketing gambit of 'visibility' - where ubiquity affects purchase behaviour.  

But Garland and Page's, "In Rainbows, On Torrents" report, slated to be released on the MCPS-PRS website on Friday, indicates that Radiohead's strategy was a success nonetheless, contributing to the album topping the charts in both the UK and United States and a successful worldwide tour. When it comes to judging whether an album is a success these days, the old metrics just don't cut it.

The report found that torrent users traded 400,000 copies of In Rainbows on its October 10 release date, and that it was shared a staggering 2.3 million times by November 3 (chart courtesy of BigChampagne). By comparison, albums by Gnarls Barkley, Panic at the Disco and Portishead released around the same time using conventional means were shared less, the most-frequently shared being Panic at the Disco's album, which was downloaded 157,000 times in a week -- about three times less than In Rainbows' peak day of trading.

The problem for the big music media companies is that their model depends on the elevation of a few artists - that they choose - to superstar sales status. But the model of most music buyers over the age of 15 is to explore music. And they explore until they find something that turns them on. What once happened through a pair of headphones in half an hour a booth in a record store - with no obligation to purchase - has now changed into a 'no obligation to purchase' exploration of almost every bit of recorded music in existence, and, of course, the fragmentation of the genre market to the chagrin of the media companies.

The hard lesson to the music business here is that it must license venues for music acquisition that fans prefer to file sharing networks or otherwise make the toleration of file sharing part of their business plans. If even Radiohead's freely available album was torrented 2.3 million times in the first three and a half weeks, how can more traditional offerings successfully clamp-down on file sharing? They can't, pure and simple.

In addition, official offerings like InRainbows.com need not be considered to be in competition with file sharing networks, as hard as that may be for longtime music insiders to comprehend.

"Frequently, music industry professionals suggest that an increase in legitimate sales must necessarily coincide with a commensurate reduction in piracy, as if this were a fact," says the report. "Yet, the company BigChampagne has made no such consistent observation in nearly a decade of analyzing these data. Rather, it finds that piracy rates follow awareness and interest... The biggest selling albums and songs are nearly always the most widely pirated, regardless of all the 'anti-piracy' tactics employed by music companies. Or, to sum up by paraphrasing an earlier argument, 'popular music is popular everywhere it's popular.'

my bolds

Which brings us to Equal Dreams.

Disclaimer: a client of mine

Equal Dreams is a Finnish music site launched yesterday, August 1st.
It brings together 3 exchange models: Downloads, Investment and Charity.

  • Uploads: An artist uploads their own music (FLAC), adds descriptive information, and decides on the download price of each recording. The service is non-exclusive - you can upload anywhere else.

  • Downloads: FLAC or MP3. You can download again if you lose it. No DRM. Payment is fairly easy as ED has built not only a rather comprehensive connection to external banking, but also an account management system to handle profit splits etc.

  • Investment: Through something called the Equal Share Offer, an artist can propose a new recording project and invite funding. The artists decides how much money they need, ED calculates the unit price and number of shares - which include  10% fee to ED, copyright fees and taxes. One pre-order entitles the shareholder to download the finished project and also share in the potential profit. Additional shares are cheaper but only produce the profit, if any. An internal communication system allows artists to tell 'investors' how the project is progressing.

  • Charity: Equal Aid. ED is working with eg Amnesty International. An artist can automatically share download income with nominated charities.

There are other Royalty Sharing, and Investment models around. ED is the first to combine several functions AFAIK.

My guess is that critical mass will be hard to achieve in the mid term, but if they can promote the site to attract quality new independent music in a large number of genres, an audience might then be available to attract more mainstream artists.

No-one really knows how the 'music business' is going to pan out. All one can say is that people are never going to stop making music, any more than they will stop making love. We won't know which model will 'become popular until it becomes popular'.

You could quite fairly take off the LQD in the title, me duck.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 at 12:15:11 PM EST
It started short ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 at 01:13:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, EQD? Expanding ...

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Aug 4th, 2008 at 11:57:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How often I remember musicians telling me that they got almost nothing from album sales.  The songwriter got a royalty.  Someone who performed other people's songs got very little.  They were told that they had to tour if they wanted to make money.  Laura Nero refused to tour.  That was why The 5th Dimension was formed to provide lick for lick coverage of her songs both on vinyl and on tour.  She got the royalties as lyricist and songwriter.

Artists such as Linda Ronstadt had to produce enough albums to satisfy her Capitol Records contract, sell enough albums to be a valuable artists, and then her agent was able to negotiate an excellent deal with Assylum.  And on it went.  Your first 5 albums were your "dues" to the "industry."  Not a very artist friendly system!

I would imagine that Radiohead learned during their "apprenticeship" not to rely on album revenues.  The industry screwed the talent.  The talent has taken its revenge.  Sweet it is!

Congrats for helping make it happen, Sven.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 at 07:28:43 PM EST
Courtney love statement about how the recording industry works.

Salon.com Technology | Courtney Love does the math

Jun. 14, 2000 | Today I want to talk about piracy and music. What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist's work without any intention of paying for it. I'm not talking about Napster-type software.

I'm talking about major label recording contracts.

I want to start with a story about rock bands and record companies, and do some recording-contract math:

This story is about a bidding-war band that gets a huge deal with a 20 percent royalty rate and a million-dollar advance. (No bidding-war band ever got a 20 percent royalty, but whatever.) This is my "funny" math based on some reality and I just want to qualify it by saying I'm positive it's better math than what Edgar Bronfman Jr. [the president and CEO of Seagram, which owns Polygram] would provide.

What happens to that million dollars?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 at 09:05:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is the audience that has taken revenge ;-)

I regard one of my greatest achievements in the Finnish music business as exposing the great publishing scam. Performing Rights collections agencies split PR income 3 ways to members - between the composer, the lyricist and the publisher. The publisher, historically, got their share for publishing sheet music - sales of which died by the late 50s. I know a few record company  bosses whose pension fund was the publishing company they set up legally separate from the record company. A third of all PR income for doing fuck all.

What I did was to explain this little system to bands and their managers. It wasn't easy because understanding business, and living rock and roll, were not a good fit. And that business naivity and indifference is what the record companies had been exploiting for decades: "we love you, you are fantastic, more champagne? - sign here."

My main advice, as I've said before here, has always been that no-one pulls out a contract on a sunny day. Contracts have to be written and agreed for when there is a fight. They are pre-nuptial.  

Royalties, mechanical rights, performing rights, merchandise - artists have been screwed since the dinosaurs. They have also allowed themselves to be screwed. The same is true for the audience.


You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 04:35:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the big problem is that the ammount of bands who get into the business to become millionaires can probably be counted on one hand.  (If you want to become a millionare, you're much better off working in Finance) most get into it to either play music or for the drink/drugs/women/men(depending on taste) which makes it very easy for the record companies to wave the shiny things in front of them, while shoveling the money out of their back pockets.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 07:23:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I hope will happen with any new business models for music, is radical income redistribution.

Instead of one freak getting 600,000,000 bucks and everyone else gets 1000 bucks a year, millions of musicians around the world would be able to live and create their music full time.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 08:25:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're insanely optimistic about this - at least with this current model.

The problem is - as soon as the music hits the networks, why would anyone pay for a download?

There are ways to suggest to buyers that paying for music is a good thing and not a bad one, but I don't think the investment model on its own is enough to do that.

The problem is, simply, buyers have no incentive to pay. 'Name' artists already have the recognition to make paying relatively irrelevant - they'll sell out their CDs regardless.

Non-name artists will beaver away in their bedroom studios for nothing, as usual, believing that 'exposure' is somehow valuable in itself - it isn't - and that you can make a career like this. (You can't.)

So - why would anyone invest more than a little pocket money in an artist (if that) if there's no lack of music for them to download for free?

There was a huge amount wrong with the old model, but the 60s, 70s and early 80s business model had some paradoxical and counter intuitive positive effects which file sharing or investment in its current form will never be able to copy.

Thinking about music as product - content, bytes, stuff with hard edges - is part of the problem. It doesn't matter which model you use - if you start from that premise, the model is already broken.

You need a more sophisticated model of music making and consumption to get beyond that, and it's not going to be something that money types come up with.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 4th, 2008 at 09:16:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Making music has many components - inspiration, technical facility, funding, motivation, recording, selling recordings, profile narratives and performing (etc etc). In many cases, these are vertically linear - write songs, record songs, perform songs.

The record business has focused on the middle section - control of the recordings for sale, with lesser emphasis on creation and performance.

Historically, from the music creator's POV, the center process had to be industrial because big money, marketing and big logistics were not only needed, but were monopolies. Alternative channels were few. But creators were allowed to keep most of the performing income (subtractions for gig promoters etc) because performance was a marketing tool from the POV of the record companies.

Today the industrial part has been superceded (albeit that Live Nation is trying to industrialize the performance part). So the whole life-cycle of music creation and sources of income has changed. Recordings are becoming the loss leaders for performance. And I have met very few musicians who did not love the rush of performance. It's the bit where they really feel alive ;-)

If recordings are the loss-leader, then why not give them for free? Well, the relationship between the audience and the content is not entirely monetary. Music is much more than just listening to recordings - however you paid or did not pay for them. There is a real social relationship between musician/creators and their particular audience. The closer the relationship, the less likely that either side would want to rip the other off. The trick is how to achieve such a close and honest relationship. But if you can do it, then gifts are appreciated - there is a place for giving in any relationship, and also a sense of paying one's share.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Aug 4th, 2008 at 11:16:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One further point: until the Nineties, I always wanted to know, in a briefing, whether the audience with which I was being paid to communicate, were captive or non-captive.

These two broad categories require a totally different approach. Captive means that there is some kind of bond that requires the audience to pay attention to the messsage. EG If you've paid for tickets to an event like  cinema, you've made a commitment to seeing the entire message. An internal corporate presentation is the same - except the bond is loyalty.

Non-captive means your message is competing with many others to attract an audience. At a trade fair presentation, you are competing for customers - the most important thing is to get them to step onto your stand. TV audiences are notoriously non-captive - with shorter attention spans tracking the availability of channel choice.

Some audiences, such as for investor/shareholder presentations are both captive and non-captive.

Post Nineties, the audiences I work with have changed quite a lot. The corporate audience in the 60s/70s showed 1 hour 16mm movies about their companies in their auditorium. Then it was 15 to 20 minutes of movie or multiscreen slides. Next came 12 minute videos. By the 90s, a 6 minute video was quite long. Now you've got 3 minutes presentation time or less.

Funnily enough, I was asked today to write a Lanterna Magica corporate presentation with synchronized screen, live action, props, and acting that interfaces with it all. And it is to be 10 minutes long! Luxury!

So the audience changes. But the subtleties of captive v non-captive continue to be refined in the light of these changes. Is a group of buyers of downloads (and thus investors) going to be captive or not? Are file sharing teenagers non-captive? Or are they just doing what all teenagers do until they get married - which makes them captive to their gang - their peers?

I wish I could predict how all this technology shift will affect the making of music - but until we try different methods, we cannot find out. The only thing that is clear is that this industry is no more! It has ceased to be! 'It's expired and gone to meet 'it's maker! 'It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed it to the perch it'd be pushing up the daisies! 'It's metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'It's off the twig! 'It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off it's mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-INDUSTRY!!

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Aug 4th, 2008 at 02:23:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

It is the audience that has taken revenge ;-)

It seems to me that the artists were the most personally aggrieved.  To have the creativity and passion that make the enterprise possible so massively and contemptuously dismissed in favor of accounting tricks and legal shenanigans hits them where they live.

The audience was over charged for, and worse, deprived of offerings, many of which they never knew existed.  The audience became the instrument of the revenge.  It is a wonderful symmetry that the greed of the audience, (BAD,) should be the undoing of the greed of the industry, (GOOD.)

If this model can be replicated throughout the economy we might get to a livable world.  It is the old struggle between life and death, eros and thanatos.  I will stand with The Party of Eros.  An excellent book of that title was written by Richard King, UNC Press, Chappel Hill, NC, 1972. The subtitle is "Radical Social Thought and the Realm of Freedom."  

I found it in a used book store in Oakland in the early '90s.  It lives on my bookshelf right next to Life Against Death by Norman O. Brown, which serves as the subject for the next to last chapter of Kings book. A brilliant illumination and contextualization of the strengths and weaknesses and of the contributions of Freud and Reich, Paul Goodman, Herbert Marcuse and Brown.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 10:24:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This and Jerome's essay about ExxonMobil really ask the same question.

What determines public preference? Hundreds of offerings are made each year (clothing, music, movies, books, gadgets, consumer items of all sorts, etc) and some catch on while other don't.

A lot of what succeeds is obviously due to big marketing pushes, but not always, which only shifts the question to why do some campaigns work and others not?

So were people buying into the cheap oil/big car/suburban lifestyle being misled as many claim, or were they adopting this over any other number of other choices?

Is Miley Cyrus the latest teenybop sensation because she is better than the others or because Disney gave her a lot of exposure?

There was an article recently about viral marketing used to appeal to those who are "too smart" to be taken in by big business, the example used was Pabst beer which pretends to disdain advertising and the usual tricks, but is really just another big beer company.

So even those who think they are too clever or too savvy to be taken in get fooled.

The next war will be sold on false premises, just like the current ones were. So people who claim that those who are taken in just haven't been doing their homework will have come up with a better explanation for fads.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 03:28:50 PM EST
What seems central to Sven's accomplishment has nothing to do with which group or song or video is successful.  Rather, it has to do with the artists getting a fair deal and appropriate remuneration for their work.  It has to do with deflating some of the biggest and least productive parasites in the business.  Then, should the artists wish to enter into a deal with Disney, they don't have to do so from a position of total dependence and legal servitude.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 04:06:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As you know, I am interested in all expressions of bottom-up and horizontal 'organizations'. And RDF raises an interesting question: will we fool ourselves through the power of bottom-upness, as much as we have been fooled by professional marketing?

Because in the end , we all want to belong in a 'gang'. Being in a gang means adjusting your behaviour in relation to the other members of the gang/flock.

On the other hand, I see the joy of creativity as something which is the right of everybody. The fair share systems help to allow that. They don't, however, turn crap into talent. But I think they can turn real passion into talent because passionate people are motivated to learn and get better.

I've mentioned before the movie Star Wreck. A Finnish movie made from the beginning to be freely released on the web in low res. It took them seven years with a budget of nothing. Swathes of unemployed kids contributed computer time to the renderings. (200 people gave their time for free in acting, production etc). The movie is not great. Student humour, terrible acting, great green screen work and fantastic space animation (the reason why they did it in the first place - being nerds)

Star Wreck is the most viewed Finnish film ever! There were 3 million downloads in the first week.

Then people all around the world ordered the DVD (High res). And brought in enough money for their second, bigger budget production (that they are working on now).

Now all these DVD buyers were not comparing the filmic qualities of 'Star Wreck' with 'Battleship Galactica'. They watched it with the pride and suspension of critical faculties that are normally reserved for six year old boys playing violin at a family gathering after 10 lessons. They felt part of the family. They also were saying thank you for giving this movie to us first for free. We reward you with a purchase. They were also wondering if it was a historical moment to celebrate (as I think it was).

And once we see Terry Gilliam's new movie in which Heath Ledger's role has been completed by 3 other actors, a Pandora's Box will be opened. Decentralized movies! Anyone around the world could make one scene.

But I digress.

The point is that it was the availability of a low cost unfiltered distribution channel that motivated them to embark on a Quixotic project that would take 7 years (or grew to 7 years). Either way it was madness. But what had lead up to it was the desktopping of almost all movie technology and the ubiquity of decent  consumer electronics. The threshold of entry to movies had suddenly dropped to the height of a low curb.

I got my union card in '68 because I was the only cameraman willing to take on helicopter shoots after 2 recent fatal crashes - caught as I was in the paradox of 'no job without a card, mate - and no card without a job'. I think it should be easier to get to make movies. You can learn to become fully competent in almost any similar process in about 2000 hours of hard work. The Star Wreck boys have done their 2000 - I expect to see a very much more professional and entertaining movie from them soon.

So it's about learning. And community. And not being too critical of the 6 year old violinist. He will get better if he's encouraged. Even if he turns out not to be a prodigy, he's still learned something.

BTW AR - my only accomplishment on the Equal Dreams site was in trying to demystify the 'how-it-works' site explanations during the pre-launch panic.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 05:53:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have re-read the posts and I may have mis-taken rdf's intent.  If I came across as dismissive or harsh, it was unfortunate and not conducive to dialog.  Sorry, rdf.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 08:59:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
Either way it was madness. But what had lead up to it was the desktopping of almost all movie technology and the ubiquity of decent  consumer electronics. The threshold of entry to movies had suddenly dropped to the height of a low curb.

I disagree, because it hasn't. What makes art good is - essentially - a good story.

What Star Wreck is selling as a story is - 'Look! We can do special FX as well as Hollywood! At home! We are movie makers too!'

This impresses geeks, who seem to be the majority of the audience.

But the problem is someone who really understood movies could produce a much more captivating non-parasitic and original piece of art with the movie recorder inside a mobile phone and a $25 editor.

Star Wreck is geek media. It's an excuse for problem solving and engineering, with cult media references. The concept is parasitic on Hollywood, only without the understanding of story telling, emotional resonance, psychological insight, and all of those things which make real movies worth watching once you're no longer a teenager.  

There's been a slew of Star Trek knock-offs, and all of them suffer from the same problem - people who can do special FX but can't write a good story for toffee. Star Trek, bless its Heisenberg Compensators, was always a story-driven show, and some of the best writers in the business contributed to its success because of that.

So the problem equally for film and music is that technology on its own is useless if have nothing interesting to say with it. And over the last decade the narrative has shifted from 'Here's something to get passionate about' to cargo-cult superifical recreations of the imagery without the content.

Star Wreck, and almost all of the remixed content on YouTube, is the creative equivalent of pub bands doing bad covers.

This isn't inevitable - there are a few people doing exceptionally interesting things on YouTube. But being able to hack together a rendering machine on your kitchen table isn't artistically interesting if you don't have a creative vision to explore with it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 4th, 2008 at 09:33:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I disagree (as you know) that there is such a thing as a good story. Good stories depend on an audience - they do not exist in a vacuum. If the audience changes, the stories change.

Any audience will define the level and type of literacy (in its broadest interpretation) of the stories that it will accept. Compare (again) the ladies in the front row who ran out of the Lumiére brothers theater, screaming at the approach, on film, of a train into a station, and my multitasking, 'spot the Mayerbridge animation reference in the music video' daughters. They have learned a different visual language, and they want their stories told in the visual language that they understand. They are not even so keen on linear narratives - they can make connections across many 'units' of AV presentations.

If you are arguing for some exclusive classical training in how to make movies - then you know I am not with you. I've done lecturing myself, and I have nothing against 'classical learning' as ONE path to creativity. But to say that that can be the only way, and that all other ways produce mindless rubbish is elitist.

Geeks are an audience. Romantics are an audience. Teenagers are an audience. Grey Panthers are an audience. 7 year olds are an audience. The ignorant are an audience. And they all like different stories.

I regret the passing of the type of TV documentaries that I used to make in the Seventies. I am still emotionally moved by any Kubrik movie. But they were made then. This is now.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Aug 4th, 2008 at 10:23:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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