1. The major labels, like most of the big content producers, are extremely interested in short term gains, even if it means losses down the road. As long as something is still "down the road," it won't affect this year
Take a look at Hulu. It's a shadow of its former self. It used to be a solid site with great content, but those controlling the content have decided it's not making enough money fast enough. The fix? Remove content. Move it around. Chop it up. Stagger releases randomly. Put X season on Hulu but have Y season exist only as a selection of clips or have it go missing entirely.
See also: Netflix. Because the major studios are unwilling to trade DVD dollars for digital dimes, they've gone about pricing themselves out of the market. Netflix is also a "piracy killer," but the studios are too concerned with getting the money up front to pay attention to how much content is being leaked out the back.
The studios also seem to think that people will follow them to their own sites or digital offerings, but the content they offer is generally crippled by DRM or requires the installation of proprietary software or another set of logins and passwords and people in general just do not have an interest in setting up yet another account just to watch a couple of Lost episodes.
2. Even though everything mentioned is a "piracy killer," the simple fact is that, for many people, the service (Spotify, Netflix, etc.) becomes the end product. The services don't lead towards more sales of other physical or digital goods. This doesn't fit into the major labels'/studios' plans at all. They want to sell more of their stuff, not necessarily collect royalties from someone else's service.
So, if they manage to drain Spotify completely or at least force it to give up its US operations, it won't hurt them much. By that point, another service will come along and they can pile on and bleed it dry as well. The plan, I suppose, is to keep riding these little income spikes until it's 1994 again, or something.
They must still harbor the belief that, once the other options dry up, people will head back to the brick-and-mortar and purchase content in physical forms that carry much higher profit margins.
The intermediaries in the music distribution network (i.e. "the labels") already know that they have lost in the long term.
They know that their best move now is to extract what revenue they can from the current examples of the types of service that will eventually replace them.
Maybe this is "evil" or maybe the execs think of it as their job to try to earn as much as possible, perhaps for their shareholders' sake.
Ironically, those services which seek to replace the labels in a way compatible with the law (i.e. startups rather than torrent sites) are the ones who will end up paying (perhaps too much) for it, and will risk going bust as a result.
Meanwhile, sharing via torrents etc. is gradually killing off the labels. It may be in the interest of everyone to just let this occur without starting up a business which tries to find a middle ground.
But there will always be companies springing up to take a gamble on being the first to exploit a new opportunity. If Spotify (or whoever) fails, perhaps the next music streaming service will be the one to meet a much weakened music distribution industry in the courts.
Once the labels are gone, services which offer subscription models for music will thrive without the threat of legal action. And the quality and variety of music available to the masses will thrive.
This is a waiting game, and I think we all know exactly how this will eventually play out. Meanwhile we're still in the wild west, waiting for the shootout at the O.K. Corral.
You have GOT to be kidding me. These entities along with their purchased congress-critters and executive appointees are ready to go nuclear vs. the Internet (which is the fundamental change agent that allows them to be disintermediated).
They are not going down without a fight - this is the same industry that decided suing their customers was a great idea, they would not think twice about burning down the commons by destroying the Internet as we know it.
As an analogy, we've had electric cars for sale since the 1970s, but only recently have we gotten any real options... imagine if the music mafia could achieve that kind of life extension? It's certainly a probability this could happen.
The labels put up the money for the projects, and the risk is terrible. If you are a label almost every one of your products loses a lot of money. In fact all of the money you invest! You hope to make it back on a handful of hit acts. In some sense acts that fail commercially come out on the long end of the stick, in that they burn throughs hundreds of thousands in cash and are not on the hook to pay it back. This is why the classic case of hit acts not making any money exists, the deal is structured way in the labels favor. Without this the labels can't make money.
How you all feel about a company that agregated other companies software products and started giving them away for free? Any objections to that? Would you look down on efforts of developers to get as much as they can for their products?
A vital music culture cant exist without some kind of viable business model. Many attempts have been made to build a business on indie bands (my space , mp3.com) it can't work because indie artists don't have near the resources to create a true modern music product. Not to mention most indie music is not that good, and nobody wants to hear it.
Certainly not as an article of faith. It needs to be configured according to evidence, and that is about as far from the case as possible today.
> It is vital for our whole economy
That as a whole statement is definitely false, since plenty of things have nothing to do with it. And it is quite possible it is not vital to any part of the economy.
Economic research has not been able to determine the value of IP (see, for example: 'The economic structure of intellectual property law'; Landes, Posner; 2003. Conclusion, p422, s3.). That means, as far as anyone knows, we might actually be better off without it. That might be surprising, but there you are.
If there were no, or much limited, IP structure/law, business activity would re-arrange; it would do different things. Putting forward an argument that business could not do what it currently does rather misses that. And if, as you describe, music recording is a business where "almost every one of your products loses a lot of money", it seems there is indeed a very great deal of room for improvement economically.
Dead on. If any amount of extrinsic motivation is removed from the music industry with the death of record companies I will be a very happy person.
In this perspective the record labels are considered rapacious
and entity like Spotify as being unfairly squeezed. Actually the
labels put in tremendous resources to create the product, what value
added does Spotify bring? As it stands, copyright is the law of the
land. The whole concept of property, including intellectual property,
is what enables business as we know it to exist. Think about just
trademarks and how critical they are to so many types of business.
Would you feel bad for a retail store set up in a market with razor
thin margins because their suppliers are asking for prices that are
too high? I might feel bad but you can hardly say the suppliers are
My other frustration is a lack of acknowledgement of how many
resources go into creating modern music entertainment products. It's
true that there is compelling music made by amateurs, and that has
always been and will continue (essentially folk musics of different flavors).
But most of the recorded music that we love is made by pros. There are other ways to
support it: government funding, patronage. Advertising based business
models as we know them are completely dependent on our current
intellectual property structure.
As a point of common sense I don't think we as a society should be
enforcing copyright against individuals. But to abandon intellectual
property as a whole concept is a very radical proposition.
BTW, the reason most music business projects lose money is inherent to
the endeavour: most people don't like most music. To get a product that
is successful, you have to do a lot of projects knowing that most will
fail hoping for the hit that makes up for all the losses.
Courtney Love's famous article http://sodacity.net/system/files/Courtney-Love_Courtney-Love...
is disingenuous because she knows what's up with this business model and
conveniently leaves that out of her argument.
I appreciate everyone's thoughts on this subject!
It's interesting how everyone seems to want to make choices for artists..without even asking them.
Without a way to make money, we will see less music. Why? Because artists will be forced to get day jobs. As it is, there is a small chance you will make a full living as an artist.
If anything, it will kill the indy scene because the only companies that will be able to even come close to a profit are the the ones with deep pockets (IE: the huge record labels or something like it).
Like software piracy, Adobe and Microsoft can handle it. Small companies go out of business if piracy us unchecked. I've seen it happen.
So? This is how it has been for centuries. Call it the invisible hand meets the art world. They can get jobs being music teachers. They can record using vintage equipment, like Blake Schwarzenbach did (used 4-track and 8-track recordings while he wrote for GamePro).
>If anything, it will kill the indy scene because the only companies that will be able to even come close to a profit are the the ones with deep pockets
Something tells me you don't understand the definition of "Independent Music".
The fact is, the labels function as a market for pump and dump stocks, where the stock is a band or album. Independent music doesn't (or in my opinion, shouldn't) work that way. It can take 5 years for your album to blow up. (See: Mumford and Sons). You might have a bigger following only after you're dead and buried (See: Elliot Smith and Bright Eyes). You might have every single one of your fans wanting you to quit your main gig for a side project they've done (See: Death Cab For Cutie/The Postal Service).
Disclaimer: I am a founder of a failed start-up company that would work with artists in a way that was designed to supplant the labels and exploit long-tail effect, etc.
The sad, sad thing is that indie bands are getting picked off quicker and quicker by labels and pumped up for the first-album success. It's actually a huge issue (read up on MGMT) when the artists then try a new direction for a second album and the label is hesitant to financially support an album unless fans move the product in the first two weeks. This becomes at catch-22. How do you enjoy the success of radio play when nobody's paying to play you on the radio? This leads the labels to relegate these bands (by the second or third album) to a "we don't help you" status, forcing the band to break up or just be a small indie band forever on tour.
If anything, major labels playing in the indie scene is akin to making the indie bands "build on a flood plain".
TL;DR: NOPE. Artists make very little money from albums. It is known.
Again, you are making choices for them. You don't see anything wrong with this? Nobody is guaranteed a living. However, you should be given a chance. You are taking away that chance completely.
"when the artists then try a new direction for a second album and the label is hesitant to financially support an album unless fans move the product in the first two weeks."
This is the consequence of going with a label. The label wants to make their money back in the short-term and you, as an artists, give away your creative control. It's almost the same as getting VC for your startup.
Over time, people with your attitude have pushed many artists to go with big labels. They have little to no chance making any kind of living on their own (because people just share their music and don't pay for it). So, the label offers them money and some sort of living.
" I am a founder of a failed start-up company that would work with artists in a way that was designed to supplant the labels and exploit long-tail effect, etc."
I hope you weren't charging any money, because you sure don't seem any better than a regular label.
I don't even see where this is coming from. I think you jump over a few points in your logic here, or you just know nothing about an industry which you're trying to debate about.
>Over time, people with your attitude have pushed many artists to go with big labels.
NOPE. Where are you getting your talking points? The RIAA's "downloads = lost sales" page?
If people didn't broaden the market and fanbase for independent music and independent labels, it wouldn't exist, and you'd only have major label music.
They have little to no chance making any kind of living on their own (because people just share their music and don't pay for it). So, the label offers them money and some sort of living.
The labels offer an incredibly bad deal. And all the artists who, you know, actually make a living without belonging to a major label might want to have a word with you about your data.
>I hope you weren't charging any money, because you sure don't seem any better than a regular label.
Actually, we were tons better. We basically set up our store to be the reverse of the apple store: They get 70% we get 30% (agency model). So selling your album for $5 bucks nets you 3. The same album on iTunes, would you net you about $1.50.
Except, as an independent, you'd have to go through a service which functions as a 'label' that takes 50%. So an album that nets you $.75 on iTunes would make you $3 off our site.
Oh, and one of our founders actually owned an independent record label. The problem is, all of the small indies have no internet strategy, and everyone in the business knows that's the name of the game. Fortunately, sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp are actually there for independent musicians these days.
I'd love to go on, but to me it seems like you have no clue as to what you're talking about and I've got better things to do than re-hash the research we used in our pitch. Good day!
Given the course of recent history (i.e. ever expanding copyright terms and regulation), I don't see that more consideration for artists is warranted.
huh? Since when is sharing someone's copyrighted material without their permission "freedom of speech".
You've got to take into account the fact though that the labels don't give two poops about what they're doing to the services they're killing.
Spotify. MOG. Rdio. Hulu. They're all fronts to appease those of us that are interested in a different delivery route for our content. They're the proverbial pylon that the industry can point to and say "there, we tried to innovate, piracy is bad, killing us!"
We talk about guaranteed failure of the labels and studios in the long run because of their pig-headed nature and their resistance to change - but they say "nay-nay".
They know that these short term gains will accomplish a few goals that will guarantee their business model for decades to come.
Paying their lobbyists to run up to capital hill and enact new favorable legislation...
If we've learned anything, having power is the key to business, not a good idea or a steady execution.
Once you get to a certain point you're immune to the regular rules of market dynamics.
Just as the banks before them, we're currently seeing legislation being put forward to protect a broken, legacy, business model by ensuring a monopoly for a select few, and stifling innovation for many.
And just as the financially misguided before us, the people in black suits will soon be coming to take our homes, or in this case, our domains.
1. Launch free to cheap streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify, to draw people away from DVRs and piracy and dry up the pirate networks. Since the services are streaming only, users don't own archived copies of the media they enjoy.
2. Lobby governments and hire lawyers to crack down on the remaining pirates, flood their ISPs with DMCA notices, etc.
3. Once the pirate networks are dried up, kill the legitimate services that everyone used instead (mostly done on Hulu for many shows, work in progress for Netflix).
4. Since people don't have archived copies of the media they enjoy and stopped using their DVRs, media companies hope consumers shell out for the DVDs and CDs to restore access to the songs and shows they used to enjoy for free/cheap.
Amazon, Netflix, and now Microsoft are getting into the original content business (MSFT is actively poaching TV execs to lead its new content division). Facebook has a few folks in Hollywood already. Google has been trying to make content deals for years now, and it's only a matter of time before it gets more sophisticated about doing so.
What's to stop digital music services from going directly to artists, and acting as labels? All it takes is one or two big hits to prove the viability of the model. And promoting self-owned artists through organic and inorganic discovery within the digital services can effectively replace the massive marketing efforts that major labels currently rely upon to break out new artists.
A recent, slightly analogous example: Few execs in the network TV business took AMC seriously until it produced "Mad Men." After that, people took notice, though many assumed it was a fluke. Then AMC produced "Breaking Bad." Suddenly, this basic cable channel -- this two-bit backwater -- was on the map in a big way. The rise of on-demand and time-shifted viewing sufficiently democratized content discovery, allowing a relatively small outlet to produce high-impact hits. AMC's rise arguably could not have taken place in a pre-DVR, pre-on-demand world. I suspect many more small shops will generate big shows in the coming years. And some of those shops will not be traditional TV, or even cable, networks.
I'm not as familiar with the dynamics of the music business as I am with those of the TV business. But I have to imagine that they follow a roughly similar pattern.
[Full disclosure: I work in TV, though increasingly, I will probably be saying that I work in "content." The world is slowly becoming network-agnostic, and it's only a matter of time before it becomes medium-agnostic in earnest.]
Think about it, if traditional label struggles with people no longer buying full albums, how is a subscription label going to survive on $10/month?
Logic now costs $200 and a MacBook. I daresay that most musicians pay far more for their instruments than they have to for a production studio.
The idea that you have to invest $$$ to produce an album (hire Timbaland as a producer, spend megabucks on marketing and A&R) is more a byproduct of the blockbuster music market than a logical necessity. If you want to produce a blockbuster, spend blockbuster money, but don't assume that this is the only path to success (success defined as being able to make a living as a musician).
That's precisely my point. In an oligopolistic market, when the oligopolists (the entertainment congloms) overplay their hand, new entrants emerge to compete with them. Sometimes by choice, and sometimes by necessity. In this case, what's happening is what you're describing: distributors are getting priced out of carrying the product they distribute; ergo, they will need to create their own product. This is what I mean by saying that the entertainment companies will "kill themselves" if they keep squeezing distributors for much longer. They don't have viable distribution pipelines to compete with these distributors, and their ignorance of that fact will be their downfall.
In the long run, it's much easier and less expensive to create a great show (or album, or film) than it is to build, grow, and maintain a great digital distribution company. The distributors will have an easier time getting into the original content business than the content companies will have getting into distribution. Time and economics are on the distributors' side in this battle.
"Think about it, if traditional label struggles with people no longer buying full albums, how is a subscription label going to survive on $10/month?"
A traditional label's economics depend on getting consumers to buy albums in excess of $10 a pop, or tracks at $1 a pop, because the label bears so many costs in producing and marketing its music. It spends a fortune on advertising, promotions, executive salaries, and so forth, and it passes all of those costs on to the consumer in the form of CD prices that are astronomically higher than the raw price of the discs themselves. Present-day a la carte music pricing is still, by and large, reflective of the marketing and overhead costs of these labels.
If you take the costs of running a traditional label out of the equation, and build a label from the ground up -- entirely digitally -- you can avoid a lot of the costs that traditional labels continue to bear. For instance: if a company like Spotify or Pandora were it to court its own artists, it would not need to spend a fortune on marketing and advertising. It could rely on the mechanics of collaborative filtering, organic search, and word of mouth to get its artists discovered by users. As for the $10/month pricing, that would depend on generating enough new artists at scale, so that users felt satisfied by the overall selection on the subscription service.
"I am paid $0.00029 per stream of a song on Spotify, and even this amount depends on whether the song is being streamed by a paid user or someone using the service for free. This means it will take upwards of 3,500 streams of a single song on Spotify to earn $1.00 versus that same revenue for one iTunes song purchase...I’ll go even further to say that I actually prefer illegal downloading over Spotify because when you get music illegally it’s at least implicit in the transaction that what you’re doing is potentially harmful to the artist. But with Spotify, your conscience is clear because you’re either enduring ads or paying to use the service and access the music. But from the blue-collar artist’s perspective...there’s little discernible difference between $0.00029 and $0.00...which is why I will withhold any new releases from Spotify in the future."
Read the whole blog, it jam packed with more than enough insight to make it worth multiple readings.
Even absent the labels, Spotify is a lousy deal for individual music makers.
The search for a viable, sustainable online business model for music is still underway, but unlimited streaming for a low monthly fee is not it.
Let me guess, Netcraft confirms it? I'll believe it when I see it.
Spotify (and similar services) is transforming the way we can listen to music, and, at least for me, I vastly prefer the Spotify experience over anything else I've tried. Also, with Spotify, I'm spending more money on music than I ever did before, and I'm not even considering bothering with piracy. I'm living the promise that if only accessing music legally is easy enough, the pirate will stop being pirates.
So small artists are getting screwed over. Is that in Spotifys interests to sustain that? I would not think so, because the value proposition falls apart if the available collection isn't comprehensive. But right now, they're preoccupied in a land grab, for which they need to focus on the big labels, as the land grab will be possible without small indies, but not without Rihannas full back catalogue.
If you're an artist and you don't think Spotify is a good deal, feel free to withdraw your music - that will push them to think about how to adjust their business model to better accommodate indies.
Spotify is nowhere near having finalised their business model. Declaring the whole thing dead on the back of a few blog posts is just a little bit premature.
- the distributor (iTunes or Spotify, for example) or it is not sustainable
- the users, or they won't use it
- the makers of music, or they won't put their music on it
- the owners of music, or they won't put their music on it
If it works for all four, then things are aligned for a sustainable business model. If any one is missing, then the thing can't stay together.
iTunes, check, check, check, check. Four fingers fold in, thumbs up.
Spotify. Works for users, at its existing price point. Doesn't work for makers of music, unless the price point changes, at which point it won't work for the users - unless we are all missing that Spotify can charge significantly more and users would still be happy. Can work for large music owners, but as the original article points out the large owners can achieve this for themselves in a way that no longer works for Spotify.
Spotify is a valiant attempt at a new business model. If anyone can make it work, they are the ones and I salute them for trying. I just don't see how they can succeed.
But where I think you're mistaken is in that the business model conceptually doesn't work for makers of music. If I'm anything to go by (and anecdotally I am), Spotify facilitates a lot of new revenue to enter the system. The concrete distribution of that revenue currently doesn't favour indies, but there's nothing inherent about the business model that says that couldn't change.
Perhaps tier the payment per stream: Random access gets low (radio-like) payment, repeated access get higher and higher payment until $1 (iTunes price) is hit, then little to nothing after that. My listening patterns would certainly make such a model sustainable.
I strongly suspect that you are not the typical user. last.fm has been around for years, but still barely anyone uses it. It seems the majority of people use iTunes and Spotify in the same way- to look up and listen to their favourite artists.
Wouldn't musicians continue to produce and distribute music even if they weren't able to monetize it through sales? Sure, its great to reward musicians for their work, and they'd love to sell CD's and digital downloads, but being a practicing musician seems to be one of those things that musicians are driven to do, regardless of whether there is a paycheck associated with it. If music sales disappeared tomorrow, my guess is that musicians would continue to produce quality music and find an audience.
If Spotify isn't "working" for makers of music, then either Spotify will fail, the expectations of "makers of music" will change to match the reality of Spotify.
In any case, you can not compare Spotify's subscription model to direct sales, it is just not the same thing.
But it is properly not the labels that killed it.
I have no problem with paying reasonable prices for stuff (I have brought way too many books on kindle, plenty of music on iTunes, etc) but I see no reason to use spotify/last.fm/pandora over grooveshark.
It lets me stream what I am interested in (whether a specific song or a particular genre of music) when I want it. That is really all I want in a music service.
The irony is that it makes me a pirate (maybe, I am not quite sure if it is still called that when I don't upload) but I am a paying member of grooveshark (and has been for years). If the music guys makes a legal clone of grooveshark, I would properly be a member there instead.
It seems to have a pretty sustainable business model.
And by "un-disintermediatable distribution", I mean: distribution without viable substitutes. If Spotify were so awesome that I'd never switch, then they'd be in the money. But I also use GrooveShark and Pandora, so Spotify is in for pain.
Sure, you can make nice money for a short time [again, see: Netflix], but the folks that own the content will raise prices as the market becomes attractive.
I pay $14/month for cable (so that I can get cable modem access). How in the hell can Netflix offer the full range of content for $8/month when that would cost me an additional $80/month if I bought it directly from Comcast?
Comcast negotiates directly with HBO to carry HBO's content. Is Netflix going to do better as they negotiate to carry HBO's content over Comcast's lines? Net neutrality helps, but the logical conclusion of that is to have the distributors representing themselves on the Net, not to have Netflix represent the distributors on the Net.
Comcast is TV. I want to say the average American watches something like 3 hours of TV a day.
The article implies that even this is not the case. If there were a single distributer who could increase pricing, the labels would simply increase their take accordingly, leaving the single distributor in the lurch.
Until the labels are forced to deal with standard market economics directly, rather than using VC funds to back a series of failed distribution schemes, I don't see why they would allow anyone else to make money.
If Spotify were so awesome that I'd never switch,
then they'd be in the money.
Again, it comes down to bargaining power. Non-content-owners and non-disintermediatable-distributors don't have it. TFA is saying so but is doing so in such a way that suggests that the music industry is novel. It isn't.
I’m guessing a lot of hot dogs would get stolen, and then the hot dog supplier would lobby the government to hire guards for hot dogs. If a guard saw a person eating anything that looked like it might be a hot dog, the guard could confiscate all of that person’s food, without any kind of evidence.
Also, since backpacks were often used to hide stolen hot dogs, the government would be asked to charge an annual fee to everyone who used a backpack, so that the money could be given to the hot dog supplier to cover the cost of stolen hot dogs. Even vegetarians, who never eat hot dogs, would have to pay the annual fee.
You'd imagine a band that's put out a record on a successful label and toured the world multiple times would be covered in wealth. That's not the case at all. In fact, most touring bands don't even make enough money to be in the black. At the end of the day, past the flights, cost of gas, and cheap meals lies an elastic state of negative to mediocre profit.
Why then do small acts still tour? Well, it's fun and it's probably been a dream of theirs for some time now. I for one am extremely thankful that bands continue to put out amazing music with only enough money to barely support themselves.
Here's the thing: bands don't need major labels anymore. That's because it's basically level playing field now: you can make an amazing album on your laptop in a barn in rural Massachusetts and still have the ability to compete with the major labels. No longer are people sucked into the radio aggregate of the 90's when all you could discover were boy bands. Now we have these amazing things like Bandcamp and Spotify that allow you to stream virtually anything! That's pretty amazing, but what's the use if everyone is listening to the demands of a major label?
So with that being the case, couldn't this problem be solved? All it will take is a push for bands to stay away from huge labels and for listeners to find that music. That's where Spotify should come in.
What's interesting about this entire thing is that a long tail company like Spotify is potentially able to shift the power from the shit that most major labels produce to better and more meaningful music. If Spotify can find a way to direct people's tastes away from most major label garbage, they might be able to solve this issue.
Maybe Spotify will push for more independent artists and incorporate musicians on Bandcamp into their catalog.
Although I'm pretty sure that musicians who put their music directly on Spotify only receive a pretty small cut, Spotify should be able to overcome their major label woes by putting a focus on smaller more niche based music.
It is my hope that musicians stay away from large labels. And no, I am not some indie purist, I just think that major labels are diluting the quality and diversity of music and that we have the power to change that.
In response to this there was an older article posted here about some of the numbers behind Spotify: http://pansentient.com/2011/04/spotify-technology-some-stats...
One quote in particular speaks to your point, interestingly in a section called "The Short Tail?":
"During a week-long analysis of all music played via Spotify:
88% of track accesses were for the most popular 12% of all tracks on Spotify.
79% of server requests were for the most popular 21% of all tracks on Spotify."
While it might be a nice idea that Spotify could somehow shift user taste towards more independent artists, the numbers here seem to say that people go to Spotify for mainly popular, culturally relevant tracks. I think a company attempting more of what you're saying is the YC company Earbits with their model focusing on discovery of smaller artists. Personally I'd rather listen to popular music I know on Spotify, and I think most people feel the same way. I just wish there was a viable business model there. Music is a very tough vertical.
It also says that only 60% was ever played: 79% of plays are for 35% of the played catalogue. There are some numbers missing, but I would expect those 35% to represent a far greater selection of music than what was available in even the largest record shops in the 90s - and totally eclipsing the combined play lists on the radio at any one place at any one time.
Also, Spotify is available anywhere, not just to those living in big cities with many radio stations and big record shops. Oh, and then there's the 21% of plays for the other 65% of the catalogue.
Sounds a lot like the long tail to me.
I think you overestimate the reach of broadband internet. There is certainly a lot more rural radio access than there is high speed internet.
Don't be so sure about that. Labels still offer what they always excelled in- marketing. Bands that self-promote often have no idea what they're doing, and even when they do they are up against thousands of other bands making their best efforts at self-promotion.
Accessible music production + the internet != your music reaching it's audience. It's still a massive uphill climb. And most people are still listening to the radio and discovering boy bands.
I now see why it is popular here on HN for artists to give away their work when we as 'entrepreneurs' would never dream of giving away ours: the artist is labor, and we want to minimize that cost.
The startup ecosystem exists, in large part, because a huge number of hackers created and freely gave away things like GCC, *BSD, Linux, PostgreSQL, MySQL, Redis, Apache, Nginx, Ruby, Python, etc. Without free, open source, software large amounts of funding would be necessary just to acquire the tools needed to build software systems.
People admire Louis CK's position because it strikes a good balance between the need to make money and the desire to share.
The distinction to me is one's work on open source is generally considered charity, pro bono, representing a fraction of one's total work.
Louis C.K. on the other hand, and digitally replicable artists generally, are not producing their work for free as a charitable gift to mankind, nor is this free work being produced within a small fraction of their total working time.
We here on HN, as producers and consumers, hope for the success of efforts like Spotify because it makes our lives better. Our own business plans become more likely to be realized, our own entertainment consumption becomes easier and fuller.
And yet efforts like Spotify require artists to accept that they must ask for voluntary donations.
But the point was that he made it available for everyone at a small price. You didn't need HBO for $10/month (typically where a comedian of his calibre would air their new special) and Comcast at $60/month on top of that. You didn't even need to pay Netflix $12/month or whatever. You didn't even need a PayPal account. Just pay for what you get in a DRM-free format.
I don't think this was even a sacrifice on his part. Sure he could sell DVDs through Amazon but how much of that does he actually profit? His costs for this experiment were the actual production of the performance (he smartly paid for it himself so he owns it, comedians are doing this more often now) and whatever server costs he has. His advertising costs are $0 through Twitter, positive press and retweets he's getting for this.
It's a win for everyone and I think bands would be wise to do the same.
It's not about lowering the cost for labor, it's about getting rid of the artificial, unnecessary middlemen.
For anyone who would like to form an opinion of their own here is the link: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3338065
I remember some Steve Jobs quite about the scary truth about news organisations producing washed down trite because that is what people are asking for, is the same true of the music industry?
This is not something music fans are likely to admit, but their tastes are determined more by shrewd marketing than by some "objective" measure of talent or quality.
It reminds me of an article I read recently - a world-renowned violinist played in the DC Metro for a day. Not a single person recognized him, and very few people recognized the quality of his performances. Most just passed him by and some dropped quarters as if he's just a run of the mill subway performer.
IMO, people do not have the discerning taste they seem to attribute to themselves. This goes for movie buffs, music fans, video game connoisseurs. Everyone.
So, in an environment where people's perceptions of art and media is more determined by preconceptions and biases than any pseudo-objective measure of quality, the difference between winners and losers is who can shape their image the best. This takes a shitload of money, spent in a shrewd way - record labels are still very, very good at this.
Spotify has a long way to go before that happens though. Its music discovery features are almost worthless. The What's New section lists nothing I care to listen to. It would also be nice to see tour dates and real social features.
I think this is why Pandora is so popular. People can pick something they know, turn the station on and just treat it like the radio. The sad thing is that if they hear something they like on Pandora, all you can do is thumbs up it, which then can be retrieved later by finding a link buried deep in your profile...a place most Pandora users never go.
The smarter people in the music industry know that their future is dependant on staying close to the artists. The tables are turning, in the past the artists served the labels, in the future the labels will serve the artists.
Has it? It's 10 years since Napster lost the court case and the music industry is still awash with money. Have the record labels lost much revenue in the last 10 years? I don't believe that "piracy is killing the record labels", because if it was, they would have been killed by now.
It's difficult to change in a decade what the law has been saying since 1662 (that's when copyright law came into the existence, around the time printing was invented).
What we've seen since then is simply a natural result of the slippery slope that resulted as a pretty good idea. It will take a long time to go back up such a slippery slope again.
Are there studies showing that copyright brought an increase in creativity or art excellence?
What copyright did was create financial incentives for distributing the existing levels of creativity far and wide--so people other than rich patrons can enjoy creative works.
Without copyright I can just copy your book, claim it as my own, sell thousands of copies and you don't see a cent.
You don't need copyright law for that.
It wouldn't stop you from publishing it, but it would stop you from claiming to be the original author.
Paper books actually cost money to print, so people who love the paper book experience will likely be the only ones buying books. I strongly suspect the ratio of those purchasers to those who consume ebooks is steadily decreasing. And if ebooks race to the bottom as I have no doubt they would, I suspect that ratio would drop even more.
Copyright not required.
The majority of published authors don't really make much money at all. it's not uncommon to make less than $10k for a book that took over a year to write. Clearly they're not all in it for the money.
Maybe you wouldn't have as many mega successes, but are the current mega success really anything more than a product of the artificial scarcity caused by the publishing house gatekeepers. Again, who knows?
People have their priorities all wrong. You can get brilliant art/music/whatever for negligable prices. Or at least as much of it as is healthy to consume.
Removing copyright places a draconian burden on creativity, while only providing a slight real gain in accessability.
The basic structure of copyright-based business is this: the creator expends effort up front, then hopes buyers will pay later. The information flow, or rather lack of it, introduces a large risk of producing what is not wanted. Also the copy restrictions necessarily raise prices far above the real marginal costs of near zero. That means there is a large potential value the public is prevented from getting.
Such a structure consumes a scarce resource -- creative effort -- wastefully, and restricts an abundant resource -- copyability of information -- needlessly.
That seems very much the opposite of economically efficient.
From the article: "For a stream on Spotfy, on average $0.0013 is paid to Projekt's Digital Distributor." That means an artist would have to get one million airplays to make $1300.
I'm finding it hard to sympathize with Spotify if that's the terms they set when they have the position of power.
7. Most favored nation. This is a deal term demanded by every major label that ensures the best terms provided to another label are available to it as well
... means that Spotify cannot offer small labels better deals else it would put them out of business because they would have to match the deal for every label.
That's less than if they were to sell the album in a shop. However they don't have the same distribution costs and Spotify users are almost always going to listen to far more music than they would if they bought CDs.
So while $0.0013 per stream sounds stupid, it's closer to a sensible level than one would intuitively think.
I also see this as a boon for indie musicians. They have access to a much more accessible means of distribution through services like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, etc. and the ability to compete with the big labels.
Item: If record labels state that they invest a ton of money in musicians and nearly all of them do not make money, this means that the foremost goal of any musician must be to become one of the few acts who actually do make money. Hence, they don't really need to sell a lot of records at first, they need people discovering them. Spotify is like radio: it does not make much money, but it advertises musicians. I have discovered more new music on Spotify in a month than on iTunes in half a year.
Item: I really really like Spotify. All the friends who have seen it like it. I have given Spotify the same money I have given iTunes before. And Amazon before that. If streaming services will attract a big number of people, they will get better deals.
Item: Any time an 'industry veteran' says that 'something can not be profitable' I sense fear. What he is really saying is that he does not want it to be profitable the same way record labels did not want iTunes or Amazon to be profitable.
At the end of the day, its people who drive the market. If people want to listen to streamed music, they will. Maybe some companies can dry up some sources, but they never succeed in the long run against their customers.
It means that record companies fraudulently inflate their "expenses" in order to bleed off all profit from the industry.
For a record band to make money, they have to avoid record companies at all costs. Unfortunately, even with the internet disintemediating the record companies, it is still very difficult to get around the blood suckers.
Ironically, this gets re-discovered about every 5 years...
One of the reasons why Spotify cannot make money is because they don't tell the user how much they pay for each song. And I bet prices vary wildly among different labels/albums. Letting the user pay the correct price is the only way.
At least if people think it's too expensive, they can only blame that this specific song/artist is too expensive, others aren't.
I think it's a fun idea to pay by the stream, you could make it very easy to use, with some capped monthly budget or something. And then after so many listens of one song, it makes you "own" the song (when you reach the iTunes price for example). That would be transparent, less risky and understandable for customers.
If you can't get to the point where you're the 800 pound gorilla, however, you are very much still at the mercy of the content owner.
However, you are right - there should be....
The result is mainly an overwhelming 'meh' from consumers, who can find some artists but not the others.
Why is this a surprise?
once they see how much is being skimmed off the top, they can easily not renew contracts with major labels and go to straight online distribution directly, bypassing the labels.
So why are they posting profits?
There's tons of good bands doing original stuff. Screw the big names, I'm tired of listening to the same dozen on Pandora anyways.
The problem is not the keepers of the status quo. It's the people that can't see past it.