The Minnesota Grizzly Bear

Roaring about life since 2009

music, markets, property

Here is an article from the UK about record companies and music downloading.  As a musician and a borderline-libertarian here in America, I’m really torn between the concept of file sharing and property rights.  Well, intellectual property rights.  I’ve been trying to firm up my thoughts on the subject, because it’s an incredibly important issue for several reasons, and the several reports and studies I’ve been devouring lately has given me some meaty ideas to grapple with.  For instance, is this statement true or false?  Why?

The music industry and the government need to understand that sharing music is not stealing.

Record labels must face the music

Is it?  If it isn’t stealing, what is it?  Promotion?  When you sell an album on vinyl or a CD or internet, are you selling the music or the vinyl record and packaging, or the CD plastic and booklet?  Or the digital code that makes up the muic file?  Are you buying concrete materials or a musician’s recorded idea or both?  Or perhaps, as he says later, “Music should be a service, not a product”?  This is the Thanksgiving-feast when it comes to food for thought.

I do fully agree with him on the issue that problems with the monopolistic business model of the major labels did come before the great leveling that is the Internet.  The article says this:

The labels’ fundamental problems predated the internet. Recorded music has been a bloated industry. To take a band from obscurity to popularity is hugely expensive, but that’s what companies have had to do to be given coveted shelf space at the record store. So record companies seek out only potential superstars, since less than 10% of CDs are profitable. Revenues from the best sellers cover the losses of all the rest.

In this context, the internet should have been a godsend. It can distribute a digital copy of a song to hundreds of millions of listeners at virtually no cost. By sidestepping the industrial age infrastructure, many more musicians can be profitable. It would be smart business for companies to nurture many small artists, rather than focusing all energies on just potential superstars. As a society and culture, we would be much better served by such an approach.

Record labels must face the music.

I fully agree with this assessment, it’s the same thing that is happening to BigLaw firms and what I predict will happen (or should happen) with medicine.  The Internet is the great equalizer, with more universal access to information, the decentralization that is occuring across the country is becoming more pronounced as people are able to learn more and more about things previously left to the big bad “industry professionals.”  There was also a story on Hypebot a few days ago about how even though music revenues are decreasing, musicians overall are getting more of a smaller pie due to their ability to do more themselves.  As a musician, I can agree, but the huge workload increase that comes from knocking out the middlemen is almost debilitating.

I see mid-level artist income growing – perhaps not dramatically, but significantly. The growth is coming from increased direct to fan sales with fewer middlemen taking a piece of the pie. In many cases, the pie may be smaller than it was, but the artist is retaining more.

As Labels Struggle, Is Artist Income On The Rise?

I swear, I’m going to beat up the next person who says either of these to me:

A – “Music is all party and no work, it must be awesome.”  Yeah, say that after sleeping in a van for a month and eating nothing buy Ramen and Walmart hotdogs.  Sure it’s a great adventure, but no party. 

B- “When are you going to get a real job?”  All I have for this one is “….”

So what the hell are we going to do about Intellectual Property?  I’m totally open to ideas here!

Have it good!



December 3, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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