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> ... without added value.

I think this allegation betokens a certain ignorance of how the music industry works. Firstly, producers, recording engineers and assistants, mixing engineers, and mastering engineers certainly do add value -- where "value" is defined in the narrow artistic sense. These roles are certainly part of the "Phonographic Industry".

In addition, just because record labels, promoters, publishers, managers, and agents, etc. don't "create" music doesn't mean they don't add value. When they do their job well -- which, granted, is not always the case -- they allow the artist(s) to focus solely on the music, rather than on tasks which they're not particularly suited to, like organizing international, multi-leg tours, getting ads on billboards, doing distribution deals with the likes of iTunes, Spotify, and the traditional music retailers, plugging artists' music into commercial radio stations. Record labels also act as a quasi insurance policy for artists; by using a portion of the revenue streams from "hit" and established artists, they can finance new acts. There is certainly value to that. Jazz music was, after all, only a niche art form known to very few before Norman Granz's efforts to popularize it. In this sense, while he was certainly no Miles Davis or Bird, his work had an immense impact on generations of listeners. (I'd add that in an age of segregation and prejudice against blacks, he stuck his neck out to sign them, and insisted on equal pay for all colours and genders -- see wikipedia) Again: no value?

I find it curious that the tech-savvy world of Hacker News, which should be comfortable with the idea of specialization in modern capitalist economies, seems to pine for a return to a "cottage" music industry, where the musician is to perform all of the afore-mentioned roles himself. Am I alone in thinking this would be a step back, rather than forward?

Sadly, in order for this system to work, people need to pay for records (but obviously, they should be much cheaper than in the heady 90s days). I therefore applaud the Swedish courts for upholding the rule of law and holding the facilitators of rampant piracy accountable for their actions -- which have, unquestionably, led to much misery for many low-level, up-and-coming musicians (myself included ;)




As a musician and songwriter I find it amusing that the large media conglomerates 'The Majors' did anything but create an closed system, that only that the anointed could enter.

I have watched the heavy-handed tactics of ASCAP / BMI in their 'enforcement', bulldozing anyone who would stand in their way. Not to mention the dragnet of lawsuits from the RIAA, using their copyright bludgeon.

The value you speak, was not created through true market forces but a controlled system of monopolies that relied on payola and 'insider information' to sustain their industry. It was 'services' such as Napster that opened people’s eyes to the true diversity of music, which never existed on mainstream radio.

The 'cottage industry' you refer is the power the 'modern musician' has at their fingertips, V.S. the controlled environment of the rent-a-studio producer and engineer, with a union watchdog that would make it impossible for the 'Artist' to touch a knob. If this story is to have a happy ending it will be the relegation of the Majors to marketing and distribution, signaling the end of their unsustainable business model.


I find it curious that the tech-savvy world of Hacker News, which should be comfortable with the idea of specialization in modern capitalist economies, seems to pine for a return to a "cottage" music industry, where the musician is to perform all of the afore-mentioned roles himself.

That would be tantamount to a programmer founding a company.


No; it's tantamount, upon observing that single programmers can and do form companies, to calling for the death of all software companies that employ more than one person. Like google. Or the pirate bay.


Record labels promote and distribute music.

New communication methods mean old ways of promotion and distribution no longer work.

New ideas like TheSixtyOne.com etc. are great approaches to new means of connecting musicians with music lovers.


> Record labels promote and distribute music.

True, but not exhaustive. As I explicitly mention above, they also find (in some sense, act as a filter) and finance new acts. And, in any case, you seemed to have ignored my point that recording engineers, producers, etc. are very much a part of the phonographic industry. Care to explain how "new communication methods" have rendered them obsolete?

> New communication methods mean old ways of promotion and distribution no longer work.

The millions of drivers in the world who listen to the radio disagree with you. And do you really think that just because the internet exists, people don't register offline advertising anymore?

> New ideas like TheSixtyOne.com etc. are great approaches to new means of connecting musicians with music lovers.

Thanks for letting me know about that site, it looks really cool!


Fair responses.

I guess I'm imagining that artists and recording engineers etc. could connect themselves without giving away the majority of the profits to a third party. I don't know enough about the industry to know if this is possible.

Offline advertising still works I'm sure but I guess because of the circles I'm in even "regular" (non-geek) people are willing to use technology to find the music they like. I don't know how hard it is for small artists to sell their stuff on iTunes but like I said sites like TheSixtyOne help but ultimately I think that the role of the broadcaster is becoming diminished (and this is evident in all broadcast industries such as t.v., newspapers, movies, music, gaming and more) as people look for better ways to connect with content creators that don't involve both them and the creators being shortchanged.

You are right about radio being popular but this is more a case of being everywhere. I think it's role is being diminished as you see a lot more people walk around with mp3 players etc. listening to the music they want.

The point I'm awkwardly making is that the value of traditional distribution is not necessarily so valuable now. To borrow an Australian example, it's like Telstra (the central phone company) trying to punish people back into using them and not competitors after years of being shafted when there was no competition.

I'd like to see companies considering initial piracy a marketing cost - the people that don't end up buying probably wouldn't have anyway and you'll end up gaining loyal customers who like what they've seen/heard.


> I'd like to see companies considering initial piracy a marketing cost - the people that don't end up buying probably wouldn't have anyway and you'll end up gaining loyal customers who like what they've seen/heard.

I'd very much like to see it as that also, but sadly it flies in the face of most of the evidence. Anecdotal stories to the contrary notwithstanding, the majority of studies indicate that filesharing replaces demand for (paid) recorded music, rather than stimulating it. Moreover, a bird's-eye view, it is difficult to reconcile the piracy-as-free-publicity (and hence as a stimulus to demand for music) with the rather obvious fact that, even adjusting for lower average prices for music (due to the renewed strength of the singles market thanks to iTunes), revenues from recorded music have fallen drastically over the last ten year (not adjusting for the singles/iTunes effect, revenues are down by 50% in less than ten years).


>the majority of studies indicate...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_word

>that filesharing replaces demand for (paid) recorded music, rather than stimulating it

"Altin asked Wallis if there is any connection between illicit downloads and lost sales in the music industry. Contradicting the opinion of John Kennedy of the IFPI in his testimony yesterday, Wallis said that downloading caused an increase in sales of live event tickets and although there has been a reduction in CD sales, this won’t continue.

Wallis went on to explain that while some people download, these people also tend to buy more CDs than others that don’t. It’s not just downloading causing competition for the industry, other things have an effect such as the growth of computer games, he said."

"Professor and media researcher Roger Wallis appeared as an expert witness at the Pirate Bay trial yesterday. He was questioned on the link between the decline of album sales and filesharing. Wallis told the court that his research has shown that there is no relation between the two."

I suppose you did read TFA and related so you know who the man with the flower-showered wife is.


I find it curious that the tech-savvy world of Hacker News, which should be comfortable with the idea of specialization in modern capitalist economies, seems to pine for a return to a "cottage" music industry, where the musician is to perform all of the afore-mentioned roles himself. Am I alone in thinking this would be a step back, rather than forward?

You could have smaller companies created that consist only of audio engineers, music marketers, distributors, etc. allowing musicians to pick & choose which company helps them out. Currently it seems like the labels force you to use certain people and if you don't like it, too bad.


Only a short time ago, planning a trip without a travel agent would be crazy. Travel agents allow the vacationer(s) to focus solely on the vacation, rather than on tasks which they're not particularly suited to, like organizing international, multi-leg flights, getting deals on hotels, and finding fun things to do once they get there.

In... The Age of the Internet... the networking ability of a music industry studio is less useful. The equipment is much cheaper, and the techniques are more accessible, so you can have cross country collaborations that produce music that sounds better than the Beyonce sound debacle.

The musician doesn't need to perform all of the roles himself, but it would help if he could choose the roles he needs without signing a 6 CD 3 pence a tour date contract.


I find it curious that the tech-savvy world of Hacker News, which should be comfortable with the idea of specialization in modern capitalist economies, seems to pine for a return to a "cottage" music industry, where the musician is to perform all of the afore-mentioned roles himself. Am I alone in thinking this would be a step back, rather than forward?

Specialization is great, but only when it's necessary and efficient - I find it particularly interesting that you make this complaint here, in a startup forum, where programmers are acting as CEOs, web designers, PR men, testers, etc., often quite successfully. You can trim a lot of crap out of the equation and still do quite well if you're motivated.

Many of the roles you mentioned are all but irrelevant to most musicians, and given the great advances in software, they can replicate them themselves as needed, quite easily compared to the difficulty of mastering an instrument: a good musician that spends a couple weeks learning what to do can produce music that approaches release quality by himself on a laptop with a few $100 microphones. Learning about recording is now almost a prerequisite for taking on the job description "musician." The other things, which musicians rightly have no interest in learning to do for themselves (managing tours, etc.) are what managers should be doing, and I don't think anyone is arguing that managers be taken out of the equation, because they unquestionably add value, much like a secretary adds value to a business person.

Anyhow, as someone that has at one point worked on both sides of the music industry (as a musician and in production), I'd suggest that the vast majority of musicians have always been in the "cottage" music industry mode, but have still been happily and consistently producing fantastic amounts of music. The friends that I have that remained in the industry as musicians almost all make livings by playing shows and teaching lessons; the few that have gotten record deals with real companies have all ended up feeling cheated, and tend to wish they'd never signed the damn papers. Google the horror stories yourself: I assure you, this crap happens all the time, I've seen it from both sides and it's pretty sickening.

Most working musicians have no need for copyright protection, as it doesn't tend to affect their careers one bit. There will always be demand for live music and lessons, and the financial rewards from those things allow them to do what they love and produce new music constantly. Even when they do produce their own CDs (usually to sell at shows), they don't rely on copyright to sell them - to the contrary, most of them freely share almost everything they produce online anyways, as they tend to be more interested in forming new partnerships and gaining respect and attention than locking in sales.

I won't argue with the point that the music industry adds some value to some acts, as I've seen how much work has to happen behind the scenes to get a major label release out the door; but the fact remains, if every big studio was to up and disappear overnight, we would still see tons of music coming out, and the huge demand for music would lead to the popularization of the best stuff in a quite natural fashion (exactly the way it does with websites, videos, and everything else on the Internet).

This is the fundamental problem the music industry is faced with: while at one time it was the only way to produce, popularize, and distribute music, and added massive amounts of value to the market, now these things could all happen without it. Its primary current value is its ability to elevate a few acts high above the din very quickly by throwing lots of money towards promotion, and it's true that this might not happen without it.

But in my personal opinion (one I suspect is shared by many), the ability to create these overnight hits is exactly what is wrong with the music industry, and I would be happy to migrate to a situation where such things could not happen, where quality acts had to fight their way through the rest of the noise to reach stardom. Without the huge acts in the way, the smaller ones would have a greater chance of getting bigger. If this is accelerated by people stealing music online, they you know what? Burn it down and salt the earth. We'll do just fine without that particular industry, and perhaps something better and more interesting will emerge in its place.




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