Bands Rushing To Ditch Labels And Embrace Free; Are The Floodgates Opening?

from the tipping-point dept

We've only been predicting that music would eventually go free for about a dozen years, but it feels like we may be nearing a tipping point among musicians recognizing this simple truth as well, kicked off by last week's Radiohead announcement. Suddenly, similar announcements seem to be coming fast and furious. Apparently both Oasis and Jamiroquai are interested in following Radiohead's lead and the Charlatan's (managed by a member of Oasis) is already doing the same. On top of that, Trent Reznor proudly announced today that Nine Inch Nails is now free from its record label contract. Will.i.am, from the band The Black Eyed Peas, announced "the new distributor is your niece" in discussing how he plans to promote his new solo album.

There are two key things to note in all of this. First, all these bands feel the need to ditch big record labels to do this (and, no, that doesn't mean that small bands without recording contracts can't succeed this way too). This is a sad state of affairs for the record labels -- because there still should be a place for them in helping to promote and market a band, even if they're giving away the music for free. It's just that they're not venture capitalists any more and bands don't need help in distributing content -- two businesses the record labels insist they're in. What's really sad here is how clueless the record labels remain to this reality. In a Reuters article about the Radiohead move, a record industry insider mistakenly claims that this trend is going to hurt the music business because bands will rush out singles instead of albums. Apparently that insider only read the first half of the details of what Radiohead is doing (as well as what others are doing). They're doing exactly the opposite. They've put together a whole "discbox" with lots of extras to make it more compelling to buy. Will.i.am specifically made his latest album a "cohesive story" to encourage people to buy the whole album. Reznor purposely tried to make his CD as cool as possible (it changes colors when you play it in a CD player) to encourage people to buy it -- even as he tells people at concerts to download his songs.

That brings up the second key point. For all the whining about "free" music, the complainers keep missing the fact that free is only a part of the business model. This seems to be the thing that people get most confused about when we discuss business models around free music. They get stuck on free and assume that if something's free, there's no way to make money. But, all of these bands are showing exactly the opposite is true. The Times Online has a story incorrectly headlined "The day the music industry died" discussing these exact changes, but as you read the details, the music industry is doing just fine -- it's just the folks in the recording industry who are in trouble. Musicians are raking in record revenue from concerts -- and the artists are realizing that the free music only helps generate more interest in those concerts. Listen to Alan McGee from Oasis and the Charlatans, saying that giving away the music for free was a can't miss proposition: "We increase our fan base, we sell more merchandise, more fans talk about the band and we get more advertising and more films (soundtracks). More people will get into the the Charlatans and will probably pay the money to see the show. I presume it will double the gig traffic, maybe even treble it."

In other words, more bands are recognizing exactly what a bunch of folks knew was inevitable at least a decade ago. Unshackle the music, give it away free, and use it to make a lot of other stuff a lot more valuable, and there's plenty of money to be made. The only sad part in all of this is that the record labels have been not just blind to the idea -- they've actively tried to discredit anyone who pointed it out to them.


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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 11:05am

    > two businesses the record labels insist their in.

    I think that should be 'they're in.'.

     

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    Overcast, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 11:35am

    Rock on :)

    Perhaps the 'tide of war' is about to change.

    I make a prediction: Watch... the lawsuits go from RIAA vs. Consumer to RIAA vs. Artists

     

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    muzakaz, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 11:50am

    the music industry is dead.

    Bands make money. What about the song writers :0

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

      Re: the music industry is dead.

      Write your own songs.

       

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        Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:14pm

        You don't get it.

        Songwriters do write their own songs. They just don't perform them. How are the songwriters to be compensated when they get no royalties from free music?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:22pm

          Re: You don't get it.

          Guess they are gonna have to wake up find a job then. Besides, there are still commercials they can write for. Or they can sell their work directly to the band.

          But is it not sinking in that this whole "you owe me for everytime you play my song" mentality is dying? Adapt or get left behind. The people don't want it, and the bands obviously don't want it. If songwriters don't like it, then maybe they shouldn't be songwriters. Plenty of career oppitunities out there: pick one.

           

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            Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:27pm

            Re: Re: You don't get it.

            But that diminishes the amount of music being created. Do we really want to encourage prospective music writers to find new jobs?

             

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 7:13am

          Re: You don't get it.

          perform them. problem solved.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:12pm

      Re: the music industry is dead.

      An unfortunate moniker to post under, for what you have to say. Not too long ago Muzak got their ass handed to them by ASCAP for not securing mechanical rights, which means song writers didn't get paid.

       

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      comboman, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:29pm

      Re: the music industry is dead.

      AOL used to send out millions of floppy discs in the mail for free. Do you think the company that made the floppies for them didn't get paid? Of course they did; it just wasn't a percentage of the retail value of the discs (which was zero).

      If the song writer is a member of the band, no problem, they'll get a cut of the money anyway (probably a bigger cut, but that's for the band to decide). If they're not, song writers are not going to work for royalties if there are no album sales to base them on. Song writers working for artists who give away free music will just have to use a different formula, maybe demanding a large payment up front or small royalty-like payment multiplied by the number of downloads.

       

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        Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:25pm

        That won't work

        An up-front payment for the assignment of the rights to a song will not work because coming up with a price will be completely arbitrary. A song is not valuable until it's popular. A song does not become popular unless and until it is performed for the populous. How can a musical act responsibly know the value of a song when it has never been performed for the people?

        And a royalty-based compensation only works if the royalty-imposed item is actually sold for something. If you impose a royalty on an item that's freely available for download, the performer loses money every time the song is downloaded. A performer will never go for that.

        Making music freely available is fine for the performers. It sucks for the writers.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:37pm

      Re: the music industry is dead.

      You sell your songs to the band. The band sells the act. You, the songwriter, must charge an up front price for the song or agree to a revenue sharing model with the band. Copyrights aren't dead...you will still get royalties and credit for your work.

       

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        Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:54pm

        Why would a band buy a song

        if the band has to turn around and give it away for free?

         

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          Jon, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 5:23am

          Re: Why would a band buy a song

          If the band needs songs from professional songwriters to succeed, they will have to find a way to compensate these songwriters; otherwise they wouldn't be able to get any songs to make them successful in the first place!

          Good songwriters will still be paid for their services, the onus is on the bands to find a way to generate the income THEY need to pay the songwriters for these songs.

          The songwriters are content creators (just like Techdirt's Insight Community), and will sell their content to the highest bidder (or along other criteria). Bands who make money from touring/merchandise/etc will be able to buy songs from good songwriters - exactly how they compensate the songwriters is a matter of what they agree to in the contract. Bands who aren't able to make money, won't be able to buy songs from good songwriters (but could get songs for free from new songwriters who need to build a reputation for themselves).

          Bands (who buy songs from others) are content performers, and thus at the mercy of whatever commercial agreements their songwriters will agree to. Just like today, in other words.

           

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      HIppieG, Oct 9th, 2010 @ 10:02am

      Re: the music industry is dead.

      The mucisians should be writting thier own material in the first place. That is what makes them an "Artist". Besides, there is nothing stopping them for paying for usage rights directly to the song writer.

       

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    glitch, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 11:58am

    riaa aint going nowhere

    they will still maintain their hold on the stuff already out there. the lawsuits will continue.

    and they will also abuse their rights as they always have. watch and see: even tho riaa may have legit hold to some music, they will make it difficult by using a "shotgun" effect, targeting groups that uesd to be members. it iwll be too hard to distinguish between what is theirs and the newer stuff, and easier to stop it all.

    and riaa will still make a bunch of money, through SoundExchange.

     

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    Danny, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:12pm

    Nice...

    It's good to see the artists jumping ship. Now the labels can't claim their valiant battle against piracy is to protect the artists. Perhaps the reason why the artists have been pretty quiet (for the most part) all this time is that they knew they needed to ditch the labels but had to bide their time until they could break away safely.

    One of the saddest parts in all this just as I've said before that the record labels had the golden opportunity to take the lead in digital distribution but instead they fought against it.

    And I agree with comment 4. I can see it now, The RIAA suing Madonna for willfully allowing infringment of their copyrighted music. But it may not be so bad. Imagine Trent Reznor only encouraging fans to download his new music that is not under contract with a big label. As long as he only encourages the download of his new stuff then the RIAA should not be able to touch him. But I'm sure the RIAA would change the argument to something to the effect of, "When he encourages fans to download his new music and they start swapping it and the older music which we still hold the copyrights to then Trent and the fans in question are infringing on our copyrights. Now make them pay us. And as a part of the irreparable damages we are seeking compensation for we should be given copyright control over the new music he was encouraging the download of."




    And on side note about irreparable damages. That term implies that someone has suffered damages that cannot be repaired. If that is the case then why sue for ugodly amounts of money?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:12pm

    "helping to promote and and market a band"
    You have and twice :)
    Good article though!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:14pm


    I presume it will double the gig traffic, maybe even treble it."


    Since this conversation is music related was that intended to be treble and not triple?

     

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    Supporter, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:22pm

    Revolution is underway....

    ... Not just in the media, the radio too...

    http://www.radiou.com

     

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    loyalist, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

    Don't forget one of the pioneers of the new trend

    Prince aka (the artist formerly known as) made the move years ago. Everyone thought he was nuts for writing "Slave" on his cheek. Funny how now everyone wants to be free.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:41pm

      Re: Don't forget one of the pioneers of the new tr

      That whole name change to an symbol was Prince's way of fighting back at what he considered a one-sided recording contract. He made sure the label didn't make any money off him while he remained under contract. As soon as he was able to dump his label he dropped the stupid symbol thing as well.

       

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:37pm

    Re #8

    NIN / Trent Reznor already did tell his fans to download whats already out. He did so at his concert in Australia where they were charging an arm and a first born for a CD.

    I believe the artists also have the right to trump the RIAA's efforts to restrict copyright control since they are *supposed* to be representing them.

    Again I think it is illustrated by Trent Reznor and his Year Zero campaign where he leaked songs ahead of the CD release to drum up demand for it, and the RIAA tried to have sites take the songs down. Then he told them a whole bunch of mean things and the rest of them got to stay up.

    Wikipedia I believe is where I read all that last week?
    Me loves me some NIN. =)

     

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    TheDock22, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:41pm

    Yea....

    I don't really consider any of the artists in this article big money-making artists. Until artists like Garth Brooks, Rolling Stones, and Cher (ick I hate typing those names) make the switch I'm not sure the industry will feel much of an impact.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:48pm

    Now if they could get some non-washed up bands to do this it might actually mean something.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:58pm

    The reason you don't see some of the bigger names do what NIN and RadioHead are doing is because they own their own label but have signed distribution deals with the majors. RollingStone doesn't need to do this because they are their own label.

     

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      TheDock22, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:07pm

      Re:

      RollingStone doesn't need to do this because they are their own label.

      But they still rely on the recording industry for promotional purposes instead of completely cutting them out of the loop.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:13pm

    radio

    I think whats going to be interesting to see is how this will effect radio stations (air and internet).

    With artists going their own seperate ways, then you have to wonder what will happen with the broadcast royalities.

    Could this possibly mean more music selections over the airwaves? Less commercials on the radio?

     

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    bshock, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:14pm

    Yes!

    If the "floodgates" are indeed opening, this is indeed good news. For a while.

    But it's just another step along the road. There will be chaos and independence for a little while, and then enterprises will pop up for the purpose of aggregating these functions along somewhat more commercially feasible guidelines than the old record companies. Eventually the business model of these companies will become obsolete, but they will remain convinced that the world owes them ongoing profit, and so on, and so on.

     

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    Pedro, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:33pm

    Free The Music

    The Grateful Dead have been doing this for 40 years...

    Does anyone still listen to 'radio'???

     

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    Pedro, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:33pm

    Free The Music

    The Grateful Dead have been doing this for 40 years...

    Does anyone still listen to 'radio'???

     

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    Simon, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:35pm

    Minor point: Charlatans

    Managed by Alan McGee, who signed Oasis to Creation Records (he's not a member of Oasis).

    I have to say, the Charlatans fall into the washed up category. I had no idea they were even still going, and I used to be a moderately big fan (own the first three albums). Other than Radiohead, I'd apply that statement to most of those bands. But this is still an interesting development. maybe not quite a tipping point, yet.

    On the songwriters: how about songwriter sells song, agrees a payment per # of downloads? Not a %, obviously (10% of nothing is nothing). But say $1000 up front, then another $1000 for every million downloads (or whatever, those figures may be totally unrealistic but it's the principle that's important).

     

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      Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:53pm

      That's still a bad principle

      What musical act would want to pay up front for an unproven song? If the song does not become popular, that $1000 was a waste of money. And setting a payment by the performer to the writer to trigger at an arbitrary number of downloads creates a negative incentive for the performer to limit the number of downloads of that song. Every time that payment triggers, the performer loses money.

      Moreover, if you have a set payment that triggers at some arbitrary number of downloads, how do you track that sort of thing so that the writer gets paid? That's almost impossible to administer, especially when you can have an instance where only a small number of people download the song from the source and then share it with the rest of the populous. Songwriters will never go for that.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:42pm

    i'm going to laugh REALLY hard when metallica starts offering their songs free (madonna too) - and then continue to hate them.

    Free music downloads won't put anyone out of work... records will still be sold as much as they are now (since piracy has made such a dent in it already) - sales might even go UP since more people will listen to more artists. By offering something on top of just songs, artists can really market themselves by giving the user something to really buy.

     

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      Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 2:01pm

      What if the song is all the writer has to offer?

      Does it seem fair to punish the artist that can only offer his song and not the performance? Doesn't that seem counterproductive if the goal is to increase the production of music?

       

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    lazloman, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 2:32pm

    Can I get Metallica for free now?

    :) They had been as rabid as the RIAA about music downloads. Maybe they'll chill out now.

     

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    J, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 4:12pm

    Re:

    This isn't a new concept, it's just moved over to the music world, offering something for free to build intrest, you know like when someone offers you a joint, ooh, that's good stuff, I want more. well you'll have to pay for more. see how that works. Simple. The concept is a very efective one.

     

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    Gunnar, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 5:40pm

    Thursday, back when they had a top song on MTV (2001?), said on their headlining tours for people to download their songs.

    "What musical act would want to pay up front for an unproven song? ect., ect..."

    Wow.

    I don't think anybody here knows how songwriters make their money. They're almost never hired by bands, they're hired by labels. Usually major labels, and usually to capitalize on other band's success or to fill out a band's ep for a full length (or for N*Sync, B-Spears and the like, write the whole album). They're lucky to get a writing credit beyond the one-time payment. The majors don't give real bands decent cuts of the royalties, do you really think they give anything to people the public doesn't see?

    "Does it seem fair to punish the artist that can only offer his song and not the performance? Doesn't that seem counterproductive if the goal is to increase the production of music?"

    Songwriters are no different than studio musicians, and they'll be no worse off. They actually make money from their music, as opposed to touring bands who are lucky to break even after selling 10,000 albums when they work for a major.

    "An up-front payment for the assignment of the rights to a song will not work because coming up with a price will be completely arbitrary."

    You pay for the writer, not the song. A new writer will make whatever the starting rate is. If they write a top-40 hit, they'll make more on the next song they sell. Same goes for screenwriters and TV writers.

     

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      Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 6:32pm

      Songwriters no different from studio musicians?

      Are you a songwriter? I doubt you are, because otherwise you'd understand that songwriters have legal ownership rights to the music they write (assuming they file for a copyright), whereas studio musicians are basically labor for hire.

      Songwriters make their money not only from being hired by record companies, but also by licensing their copyrighted works (i.e. songs) and receiving royalties for their performances. That is the true impetus of being a songwriter. A songwriter knows that not every song he writes is going to be a hit. But there's a chance that one or two or ten will be, and he will be compensated for those hits via licensing and royalties.

      Without that sort of compensation, the songwriter profession does become like that of a studio musician, except that the songwriter is hired to create something new, whereas the studio musician is hired to reproduce something already written. The former is much harder than the latter. Without the compensation from licensing and royalties, the songwriter profession become grossly unattractive.

       

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        Willton, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 7:02pm

        Re: Songwriters no different from studio musicians

        I also forgot to mention that songwriters get paid very little by record companies because record companies take on great risk by paying for the services of a songwriter. A songwriter may write two worthwhile songs within the span of a year. A record company is not going to pay a lot up front for the chance of recording that number of songs, especially if the company then feels compelled to give those songs away for free.

         

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    Annoyed Musician, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 7:09pm

    Uh, hello, McFly?

    "Musicians are raking in record revenue from concerts -- and the artists are realizing that the free music only helps generate more interest in those concerts."

    Congratulations, you've just assassinated all adult musicians from ever being able to make money from their art, while having a private life too.

    Some day you will find yourself being 39 years old, and STILL kick major ass on the bass guitar, love current and emerging sounds, and want to be a part of it. The only problem is that the business model you so valiantly fought for as a youngster makes it impossible for you to participate now that you have a wife, kids, and responsibilities that arise when you become an adult.

    Baby, you ain't going on tour.

    So now only young people get to make money off of their music, as the only way to do it is while touring? Something tells me this is either a non-musician dreaming up this crap, or someone that never thinks past step number one.

     

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      Mike (profile), Oct 9th, 2007 @ 7:50pm

      Re: Uh, hello, McFly?


      So now only young people get to make money off of their music, as the only way to do it is while touring? Something tells me this is either a non-musician dreaming up this crap, or someone that never thinks past step number one.


      Might help if you actually read the links we provided. Touring is *one* business model that works. But it is not required. There are plenty of other business models that work for musicians as well.

      Also, note that this business model appears to be working quite well for Radiohead, who does not like touring and has said it probably won't tour to support this new album.

      So, yes, while touring is one way to make money while giving away music, it's not the only way.

      Try again (and maybe read what we've wrote before you trash us next time).

       

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    Annoyed Musician, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 8:24pm

    Re: Uh, hello, McFly?

    Perhaps I come across as "trashing" - if that's the case then so be it, as this article is simply out of touch with reality; and as a musician I find it terribly frustrating for the situation to be so trivialized. That said, I'm not commenting on the links you provide, but on your own article:

    "In other words, more bands are recognizing exactly what a bunch of folks knew was inevitable at least a decade ago. Unshackle the music, give it away free, and use it to make a lot of other stuff a lot more valuable, and there's plenty of money to be made. The only sad part in all of this is that the record labels have been not just blind to the idea -- they've actively tried to discredit anyone who pointed it out to them."

    I gave up making a living on music decades ago, as I got tired of sleeping on people's couches while the labels pillaged with reckless abandon. So you're preaching to the choir here. But your message is just plain silly, the holes in this logic are massive.

    If you're not able to tour to support your music, and you're supposed to give it away for free, then where is the income supposed to be? It simply doesn't add up, and I do find it infuriating to see people spout off what appears to be half-cooked fantasies about business models for musicians. Nothing personal against you, but most of these ideas make it painfully obvious that the folks with all these great ideas aren't even musicians.

    If I was as big as radiohead, or as big as trent reznor, then sure - I don't need to tour. Other than maybe being slightly taller than trent, the rest is not true. Under your concept, the only option for me as a smaller fry would be to tour. Where else am I to look for income, when all I got is the music itself, and apparently should give it away for free?

    As a musician there must be a way to make music and earn a living at it. Right now there does not seem to be a way, and so far I'm seeing a lot of silly conjecture - and not necessarily you personally, but usually from people who have absolutely no idea how hard it is to be a musician and try to survive.

    To quote the time-honored .com business model:

    1) start band
    2) give away all music for free
    3) ???
    4) PROFIT!

     

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      Mike (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 1:43am

      Re: Re: Uh, hello, McFly?

      If you're not able to tour to support your music, and you're supposed to give it away for free, then where is the income supposed to be?

      For nearly a dozen years, I've been suggesting other areas where bands can make money. Touring is *one* aspect, but hardly the only one.

      The trick is to find what other *scarce* goods you can sell. That includes *time* *access* and even the *creation of new songs*. All of those are scarce -- and none require touring. Again, read a bit more on what I've written in the past. There are many business models for music that don't require touring at all.

      If I was as big as radiohead, or as big as trent reznor, then sure - I don't need to tour.

      This is kind of like saying if I were as famous as Walt Mossberg, then maybe I wouldn't have to write so much. Fact of the matter is, if you want to make money, you need to work -- and you need to do it in a space where the money is. Touring is one such space. Just because *you* don't want to do so, doesn't mean that the world owes you money.

      Where else am I to look for income, when all I got is the music itself, and apparently should give it away for free?

      I've given plenty of examples... If you really think that all you have is the music itself, then you're sorely mistaken. You use the music to build up a fanbase, and then there are tons of ways to make money from those fans, and it doesn't have to include touring. There's access -- virtual access to you if you're so afraid of actually meeting your fans. There's the ability to create new songs. There are sponsorship opportunities. There's merchandise. The list goes on and on.

      I'm not sure why you keep repeating the false claim that there aren't other business models out there. We've pointed out plenty of examples, and explained the economics at work. It's not hard to come up with plenty of other ideas if you didn't want to blame everyone else for not handing you money on a silver platter.

       

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    Jase, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 8:32pm

    People who make music for the love of making music are the ones who are going to benefit most from this idea.

    Which is the way it should be!

    To make something for the shear love of doing it and not expect anything in return is the way the world should run. And I'm glad the music industry has finally taken a positive step towards rewarding the people who most want to leave their mark on the world.

    If you love it, they will too!

     

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    Annoyed Musician, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 9:01pm

    Re: Uh, hello, McFly?

    Jase just perfectly illustrated my point. Jase, I'd like you to talk to my landlord, as well as the grocery store, the electricity company, phone company, and a few others... Because they need to do their thing for the "shear love of doing it and not expect anything in return" just like you said.

    I'll shut up now, as I'm not trying to start a fight but just cannot sit here quietly and read all these non-musicians prescribing the perfect scenario that benefits the consumer, the user, the lover of the music, and provides a big fat zilch to the people that work so hard to create it. I hate the labels just like everyone else, but that doesn't mean musicians need to become musical monks who have to sleep in boxes just so they can practice their craft. And if you're not willing to tour, that's exactly the scenario staring you in the face if this "logic" prevails.

     

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    Jase, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 9:34pm

    I think the main idea behind this move is to adapt to this ever-changing world. With music piracy and whatnot removing a significant amount of value from music, artists need to create value elsewhere and give people more of a reason to purchase their products.

    This is probably just the first step in a series of events that will reshape the industry and allow musicians to give their music a new sense of value that has been lost in the digital age.

    There is no way to stop people pirating music, we need to adapt!

     

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    Alexander van Elsas, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 3:17am

    Ian Rogers from Yahoo entertainment just wrote an excellent post on the failure of the music industry to innovate itself into something consumers are actually waiting for. If interested info cna be found via my post on this earlier:
    http://vanelsas.wordpress.com/2007/10/10/the-end-of-a-defensive-music-industry-era/

     

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    PaulT, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 3:20am

    Well here goes, this is a fantastic piece of news for me. I've avoided major label artists for a couple of years now, still buying a lot of music but normally either straight from the label of eMusic. It's great but there's a few acts I missed out on because I can't bring myself to support the leeching majors.

    I splashed out on the new Radiohead album - for almost 3 times what I'd pay on eMusic but still 1/2 the typical CD RRP. I'm definitely getting the new Charalatans, I'd love a similar move from NIN and Jamiroquai. I'm not that keen on the Black Eyed Peas and Oasis, but I'll still be happy to throw a couple of bucks their way to support the new business model.

    There - 5 acts I've not been buying music from recently and one (NIN) whose advice I'd already followed to download for free, who might now get a decent amount of cash from me directly. Any other major-label signed acts who want to do this, my cash is waiting for you.

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 5:49am

    Re: Annoyed Musician

    Hey man, touring with a family is possible.
    Granted he isn't quiet a singer, check out Jeff Foxworthy. He tours but has a family.

    And for your music. If you want to keep it all locked up, thats your choice. By your anonymous name, you must have been one of those no name bands (I am giving you benefit of a doubt and assuming you aren't a shill in disguise). So, go ahead, keep all your music locked up, and nobody will ever know about you, just the way you seem to want it. Offer it for free, and you will be making yourself more popular. For a limited time only will releasing it for free get you additional news attention. Soon shedding the majors will be the norm, and it will get much less attention. It is in every musician's benefit to do this as soon as they possibly can before they are just part of the wave instead of helping to set the trend.

    So, by all means, keep all your music to yourself, then you will just remain a small musician way in the back.

     

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    Annoyed Musician, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 7:44am

    I see a lot of "it has to be free, you're sticking your head in the sand" but I'm still not getting legitimate, logical, plausible examples of alternate sources of income. Other than that, this is a great discussion ;-)

    Let's get something straight here, right off the bat. I'm not a major player. I actually just came out of semi-retirement, as I've spent the last seven years as an open source developer instead. Yes, I come from another industry where everyone just assumes you live on freaking AIR. But I digress.

    I live in a major metropolitan area, so I can gig without having to tour. The gigs on such a small scale typically don't even cover the costs of having a place to rehearse. And you know what? I'm just like thousands (millions?) of other musicians out there, working a real job while trying to find a way to survive doing what I love.

    You say "I'm not sure why you keep repeating the false claim that there aren't other business models out there. We've pointed out plenty of examples, and explained the economics at work. It's not hard to come up with plenty of other ideas if you didn't want to blame everyone else for not handing you money on a silver platter." but fail to respect the cold hard reality that in order to produce music you burn time, effort and money. "Music" doesn't just spring out of the rear end of the Music Fairy™. The creation of music requires years of effort, significant investment in equipment, and dedication.

    So to you that has no value. To me that is a slap in the face. All of this is worthless, and what I really need to do is sell t-shirts?

    Let's flip this discussion around where it belongs, as musicians are still making music like they always have. In a sense, the musicians and their music isn't what is causing all the upheaval. The internet has made it possible for the bands to connect directly to the fans, leaving the distributors and middle-men scrambling for alternatives.

    However, this universal hatred for the labels is now being forced on the bands themselves, as folks are switching from the "getting reamed by EMI" realities of decades past to "getting a free ride". Telling the bands they have to find other ways to get paid for their work - when everyone really was screwed by the labels (including the artists) - is a case of decapitation for dandruff.

    Knowing that I spend a couple thousand dollars on a decent rig, another couple thousand dollars on recording equipment (or equivalent studio time), and countless hours creating this music, can someone succinctly and intelligently justify that you are entitled to enjoy those efforts without needing to pay for it?

    Maybe I'm not the one sitting around making demands, expecting things on a silver platter. I'm not demanding anything for free. I'm not telling people their time, effort and investment is worthless. I've spent thousands of hours of my time over the past years giving away for free, volunteering my time to help others, and making a difference in this world - and not expecting anything in return but the occasional hand shake or pat on the back.

    How about you? Does having an MP3 player somehow entitle you to a lifetime supply of free music from people that put significant effort into creating it for you?

     

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      Danny, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 8:58am

      Re:

      I can't speak for everyone that is against the labels but I personally don't think that I should get my music for free. When I say bands need to find another way to get paid for their work I mean that they need to find a way to get paid that doesn't involve the lion's share of the profits going to some executive in a suit that's not really doing anything but distributing albums. I would love to see the artists get paid properly.

       

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      Willton, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 9:06am

      This is why we have Copyright

      Annoyed Musician is pointing out why the Copyright Act was created and why the provision that grants Congress the power to enact the Copyright Act is in our Constitution. The music, as well as film and literature, is the product of these artists. It takes time and money (in some cases loads of money) to create that product. If the public does not compensate them for their labor in creating the product, it makes the profession much less attractive and causes fewer and fewer members of the public to choose this profession.

      If an artist wants to forego that compensation that comes with licensing his music, that's fine; it's the artist's choice. But by doing so the artist gives a very large revenue stream that made the profession attractive in the first place. If an artist must do that, the artist must then make every other service he provides (assuming he has one, like performance) much more expensive to compensate for that lost income. What's more, since an artist's career, especially that of a music creater, tends to be rather short, the artist may feel a need to gouge the public of money for his other "scarce" products, like performance time and merchandise, so that he may live comfortably in case the public does not find him attractive later on. This does not sound very attractive to the purchasing public.

       

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        Mike (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 11:01am

        Re: This is why we have Copyright

        Wilton,

        This really is an amazing statement:

        If the public does not compensate them for their labor in creating the product, it makes the profession much less attractive and causes fewer and fewer members of the public to choose this profession.

        Because the whole freaking post above is about how these musicians STILL are being compensated (and compensated better than before) by NOT relying on copyright.

        I can't believe that it's so hard for any of you to get past the basic concept that the FREE part is only part of a larger business model that does involve making money. The bands are being compensated.

        So, you're wrong. There's more music being created today than ever before. The profession is more attractive because it's more attainable than ever before.

        But by doing so the artist gives a very large revenue stream that made the profession attractive in the first place

        Ask most musicians how much they make from actual music sales. The answer is almost nothing.

        If an artist must do that, the artist must then make every other service he provides (assuming he has one, like performance) much more expensive to compensate for that lost income.

        You ignore the fact that by making the music free, you now have a great (free!) promotional tool that increases the size of your market quite a bit.

        As for the things being necessary to make money being "more expensive" up front, boo hoo hoo. That's like the buggy whip maker again. It's a lot more expensive to make a car than a horse carriage, so I'm not going to make cars.

        That doesn't generate much sympathy does it? The market has moved on. Insisting on making buggy whips doesn't change that, and having the federal gov't artificially boost the buggy market with monopoly rights doesn't help either.

         

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      Mike (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 10:56am

      Re:

      but fail to respect the cold hard reality that in order to produce music you burn time, effort and money

      Do you even read what I wrote? I guess not. Because one of the very points I made was that creating music costs money -- and therefore it's something that you could charge for.

      So to you that has no value. To me that is a slap in the face. All of this is worthless

      NO! Not at all. I never said it's worthless. I never said it has no value. I just explained the basic economics. I'm not sure how many times I need to repeat myself, but go learn some economics. Price DOES NOT equal value. You value the air around you quite a bit, but you don't pay a dime for it. Why? Because it's abundant. Price is determined by the intersection of supply and demand. Value is a part of the demand curve, but if the supply is at infinite, the price will still be zero. It's a simple fact of economics. It doesn't mean the music doesn't have value.

      In fact, if you stopped crying for yourself long enough to read what I wrote, you'll note that I pointed out the music has TREMENDOUS value... but that value is manifest in *making lots of other things more valuable*. The music makes a little piece of plastic called a CD valuable. The music makes *YOU* more valuable so that people come to see you play. The music makes a t-shirt with your name on it more valuable so people will buy that. The music makes *YOUR TIME* more valuable so people will pay you to appear somewhere. The music makes *YOUR SKILLS* more valuable so people will pay you to write music for them.

      Seriously, if you want to trash us, at LEAST take the time to understand what we've said. And, at the very least, learn a little economics.

      You sound like the buggy whip maker. "Oh, poor me, it costs a lot of money to make a buggy whip, but why won't anyone pay for them now that automobiles are here!" Learn to understand the market around you and you'll see there are LOTS and LOTS of opportunities to make money.


      what I really need to do is sell t-shirts?

      Man. You really just hate yourself don't you? First you say I only say you can make money from concerts. Then I give you many different ideas and you say "I can only sell t-shirts." Maybe if you stopped complaining and started doing the things necessary to make money you wouldn't be in such a sorry state.

      Telling the bands they have to find other ways to get paid for their work - when everyone really was screwed by the labels (including the artists) - is a case of decapitation for dandruff.

      Yeah, how dare I tell them they can make more money by understanding the basic economics at play... when they got screwed by some company that didn't. I don't quite get your logic here. The labels screwed you, so now you have to screw yourself? Bizarre.

      can someone succinctly and intelligently justify that you are entitled to enjoy those efforts without needing to pay for it?

      Ah, here's your problem again. You think that I said people are entitled to your music. I NEVER said that. I NEVER said that people should take music unauthorized. Did you even READ one thing that I wrote? I said that the bands themselves can be BETTER OFF if THEY decide to give their music away for free and make it up elsewhere. So, don't say I said others are entitled to your music. I never said that.

      I'm not demanding anything for free.

      Nor am I. I'm simply telling you where the market is going and explaining how you can take advantage of it. If you think that's "demanding anything for free" then you've got big problems ahead.

      I'm not telling people their time, effort and investment is worthless

      Nor am I. I'm saying the exact opposite. I'm saying that their time, effort and investment is extremely valuable, and there are much better ways to realize that value than selling music.

      I've spent thousands of hours of my time over the past years giving away for free, volunteering my time to help others, and making a difference in this world - and not expecting anything in return but the occasional hand shake or pat on the back.

      And that's part of your problem. Why not set up a business model that *DOES* enable you to make money, even as you are giving away your work for free? Why do you think the world now owes you because you were unable to sit back and have the business model come to you?

      How about you? Does having an MP3 player somehow entitle you to a lifetime supply of free music from people that put significant effort into creating it for you?

      Nope and I never said I did. It amazes me how often people like you can't seem to get past the simple fact that this is what IS happening. The economics pretty much require this to happen. And yet, you CAN still make money (assuming you're any good), but it means actually understanding the business you're in and the economics at play.

      I do NOT download unauthorized music. I do NOT feel entitled to free music. I'm simply trying to help musicians understand the market realities and how they can use them to their advantage, and the thanks I get are folks like you who can't even bother to read and then attack me for feeling "entitled" to free stuff when that's not what I've ever said.

       

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 10:19am

    AM & Will

    No, it wouldn't be very attractive to the public to be gouged.
    Hence the awesome appeal of Radiohead's idea. They technically give away the music. But, they offer a perfect avenue for people to compensate them for the music directly.
    From everything I have heard about how little the musicians make from CDs sold by the labels, not to mention a multi musician band would have to split that tiny amount, I would venture to bet that Radiohead will make more money by offering a simple choice to the public than if they went through the label.
    I have said it before to my friends, and I shall say it online to you now:
    If I like the music, such as is the case with Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, etc, I would gladly play a dollar a song or 7$ for a CD or some such equivalent IF I knew it was ALL going to the musicians, and not to some stupid label.
    I have bought a whole ONE CD since the labels started this BS campaign of suing everyone. If they never started suing, downloading or not I would have bought more for those that I felt were worth it. But, one is left with very few avenues of protest, and I found mine.

     

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    Annoyed Musician, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 11:26am

    I fear Mike's head is going to pop

    Hey Mike, I'm critical of your article and even quote some of the stuff you wrote verbatim. Other people have chimed in, some of which I've responded to as well.

    You don't need to insult my reading level. You don't have to insult my understanding of economics. And you don't need to insult my intelligence or emotional condition (whether that is a good place or bad place is none of your business).

    And from what I've written, I don't think I've personally insulted you either. I'm pointing out that your article espouses some theories that simply don't work in the real world. What's the saying? "In theory, theory and reality are similar. In reality, they are quite different." or some such.

    I'm a MUSICIAN. I don't want to start a clothing line, I am not into the idea if custom designed picnic napkins or whatnot, nor do I want to live out of a stinky 1972 school bus that requires constant repairs to the hydraulic systems just so we can go to the next hole in the wall. I just want to make music. People paying to listen to that music is a simple exchange, one that shouldn't be any different from eating in a restaurant, watching a movie, or getting a cab ride across town. That's not a silver platter, not a selfish demand. I should be able to make music and ask that people pay for it if they want to listen to it.

    Look at the title of your article, please. Now think about that for a second.

    I'll cut to the chase and move on here. I make music, and that's it. If you're too CHEAP to pay for it, then there's nothing I can do to stop you from putting it online for free. However, you're "my way or the highway" arrogance is using two wrongs to make a right. I've tried to point that out, and feel that some folks here at least understood my points - even if they disagreed they understood. I suppose that's all I should ask for. Thanks for allowing me to comment here, and apologies for getting you all worked up as that really wasn't the intent.

     

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      Mike (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 11:52am

      Re: I fear Mike's head is going to pop

      You don't need to insult my reading level. You don't have to insult my understanding of economics. And you don't need to insult my intelligence or emotional condition (whether that is a good place or bad place is none of your business).

      Indeed. I'm sorry for doing so. But, it is frustrating to me for you to say some of the stuff you said when it's clearly quite different from what I am saying. It's frustrating to see you fight against the opportunity that's there by blaming the messenger.

      I'm pointing out that your article espouses some theories that simply don't work in the real world.

      The problem is that they DO work in the real world, and they ARE working in the real world, which is exactly what we've been pointing out for years.

      I'm a MUSICIAN. I don't want to start a clothing line, I am not into the idea if custom designed picnic napkins or whatnot, nor do I want to live out of a stinky 1972 school bus that requires constant repairs to the hydraulic systems just so we can go to the next hole in the wall. I just want to make music.

      I'm not saying that YOU need to start a clothing line, but I am suggesting that you team up with someone who can help you implement the business models that allow you to make money.

      The "I just want to make music" defense doesn't work. It's like saying "I just want to write a blog" or "I just want to watch TV". That doesn't pay the bills. So you have to be able to build a business around doing what you want to do -- and to do that you need to understand the economics at play. So, if you don't want to do the heavy lifting on the business side, partner with someone who will.

      People paying to listen to that music is a simple exchange, one that shouldn't be any different from eating in a restaurant, watching a movie, or getting a cab ride across town. That's not a silver platter, not a selfish demand. I should be able to make music and ask that people pay for it if they want to listen to it.

      But it IS different than eating in a restaurant. That's what I'm trying to explain. The economics are entirely different -- and that's important for you to understand.

      Yes, you can ask people to pay for the music, but if everyone else is giving their music away for free, your business model has gone away -- completely.

      Look at the title of your article, please. Now think about that for a second.

      I have thought about it. I've been thinking about it for a dozen years, and the point is that by embracing "free" as a *component* of your business model you have the opportunity to make MORE money. I don't see why that's so troubling to you.

      If you're too CHEAP to pay for it, then there's nothing I can do to stop you from putting it online for free.

      Again with these false accusations. I'd ask you to take that back. I do not download unauthorized music. I pay for music all the time.

      However, you're "my way or the highway" arrogance is using two wrongs to make a right.

      It is not *my* way or the highway. It's basic economics. You're blaming the messenger for telling you that the market has changed. It's like I spoke about the other day, you're making a moral argument about how you want things to be, rather than how they are. This isn't about how I want things to be, this is about how they are -- and how you can use that to your advantage. I'm sorry that I'm trying to help you make more money -- and that you feel the need to call me "cheap" for doing so.

      Please don't equate music to buggy whips. That's simply absurd - buggy whips are obsolete, but music is FOREVER, baby!

      Ah, you made the wrong analogy. Music is forever... but so is transportation. But selling music is just like buggy whips. It's obsolete. Music remains, transportation remains... but the means for both changes.

      Second, and lastly, I totally agree with your philosophy that new, unknown bands should give away their music to grow their fan base as quickly as possible. That is a common approach, and thanks to the Internet it is possible for the bands to bypass the labels by going directly online where they can touch the fans. This is the biggest weapon we have to defend ourselves against the label cartel.

      So then why not embrace the ways to take that and make more money from it?

      Now excuse me while I search bittorrent trackers for a crack of Adobe Creative Suite, I gotta go design some "Annoyed Musician" toilet paper. Something tells me it would sell.

      You'd do better selling RIAA toilet paper. *That* would sell. ;)

       

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    Annoyed Musician, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 11:35am

    One quick last thing

    Please don't equate music to buggy whips. That's simply absurd - buggy whips are obsolete, but music is FOREVER, baby!

    Second, and lastly, I totally agree with your philosophy that new, unknown bands should give away their music to grow their fan base as quickly as possible. That is a common approach, and thanks to the Internet it is possible for the bands to bypass the labels by going directly online where they can touch the fans. This is the biggest weapon we have to defend ourselves against the label cartel.

    It's important to me that you at least understand that I don't totally disagree with your ideas.

    Now excuse me while I search bittorrent trackers for a crack of Adobe Creative Suite, I gotta go design some "Annoyed Musician" toilet paper. Something tells me it would sell.

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

    Oh poop

    I better trademark some RIAA toilet paper fast. That is a darn good idea.
    BRB .. going to visit trademark office ....

     

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    Marc Cohen, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 1:28pm

    Advertising is the business model

    Free is not the business model. It is a necessary but insufficient condition to the business model. Advertising is the business model. Advertising supported music is the future of the record business. Check out the Ad-Supported Music Central blog: http://ad-supported-music.blogspot.com/

     

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      Willton, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 7:27pm

      Re: Advertising is the business model

      Great, so I gotta sift through advertisements to find the music I want? That makes finding music much less attractive.

       

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        Mike (profile), Oct 10th, 2007 @ 11:25pm

        Re: Re: Advertising is the business model

        Great, so I gotta sift through advertisements to find the music I want? That makes finding music much less attractive.

        Yeah, I agree. Advertising is not the new business model for music. There are plenty of other business models that involve giving people what they want -- not annoying them.

         

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    maths, Oct 10th, 2007 @ 5:59pm

    Breaking Free from Music Label Excess & Ignorance

    Someone is still paying for the music, but the record labels are slowly being cut out of the equation. And that's the price they have to pay for their years of excess but even worse, they are continuing their act of ignorance. Music2dot0 examines it in more detail at http://www.music2dot0.com/archives/58

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Oct 11th, 2007 @ 5:16am

    Add #67

    Yeah, I agree. Advertising is not the new business model for music. There are plenty of other business models that involve giving people what they want -- not annoying them.

    Which you have already mentioned more times than I care to count.

     

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    Aaron, Oct 11th, 2007 @ 7:40pm

    good article

    Mike,

    Great article and retort in the comments. I just added techdirt to my rss feed because I love free content and when I find something as compelling as this I often feel like compensating the creator of it because I can. And I know there are others out there like me. I will click some ads for ya when I see some that really interest me.

    By the way, I paid $20 for the new radiohead album. Why? Because I have been a fan for a long time and have a relationship with their music. They successfully leveraged that relationship by appealing to my dislike of the current music labels and got an order of magnitude more money out of it from me.

     

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    rob marrs, Oct 12th, 2007 @ 4:53am

    The same tasks need sorting however people want to pigeon hole things.

    anyway the best things in life are free.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2007 @ 5:31am

    Its all about striking the right balance!

    www.we7.com

    this is a great site that allows users to get their music for free but the artists still get paid because there is a targeted ad on the tracks. this ad only lasts temporarily though (4 weeks) and after that users keep their tracks. Its DRM free too and supports all media players. great service!

     

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    Mr Ken, Oct 12th, 2007 @ 4:14pm

    Mike,

    could u list out very quickly what are the other ways of making revenues in a free distribution of cd model u mention?

    On another note on the main topic, i will say that it seems very hard for unknown artists to make it big meaning being well known for their music and financially profitable on a no label model.

    A few points to consider

    The established talents can pull this trick as they have many fans already who will still buy their records and attend their gigs.

    Could there also be too many free label artists competing for the music consumers attention as many musicians will be on the market from your high school dropouts to your middle aged teachers? Too much market competition.

    Touring will be very hard as the profits will be little, nobody want pay too much for infamous acts, attendance will be low, and yet production standards will be lower due to budget restrains.

    The biggest problem? The lack of funds will result in lower quality of music production due to lower quality production team( songwriters, sound engineers/mixers) equipments. If this happens, the music audience are the ultimate losers.

    Feel free to counter with your point of views though. I personally have bought very few albums these past few years. With the online distribution of music and the declining quality of music, it does not attract me unless it is a favourite artist of mine.

     

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    identicon
    Mr Ken, Oct 12th, 2007 @ 5:24pm

    To follow up, i just run into a post on another site that sums up my point. The major weakness of the no major label method. Lack of musical exposure and lack of financial income, which ultimately is the bottom line for any aspiring musician. To get their music "out there" and make a living with music.

    As many have pointed out, however, Radiohead is only able to pull this off (assuming that it's working) because of its high profile -- which is, to a certain extent, a result of their having been promoted by their former label (EMI) for so long before that.

    "The only reason they could pull something like this off without making a dent in their income is because they are a huge world-renowned force in the music world. If 'Pablo Honey' [the first Radiohead album] was sold and promoted solely through a website at a fan-determined cost, the 17 people who purchased it via that medium would have been happy, but alas 'Radiohead' would be another on the 'where are they now' circuit."

    If labels become obsolete as their well-known bands bail out, where are tomorrow's "established" artists going to come from? Hopefully not MySpace.

    Of course indie bands giving away their music has been going on for years, distribution online is just a new way of doing the old give our new ep for display for free at the local records store to promote our band trick but to a much wider audience.

    Summary, i can see established talents drop the label but how would upcoming indie bands and artists get there without the label financial muscle, experience and connections? It's definitely a step in the right direction though, for years, the power scale has been over unbalanced in favor of the label.

     

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    finknottle, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    live music and online promotion are the answer

    Great post! I liked the Times post as well, although as you mention, the title was incorrectly pessimistic. I still wonder how local acts, especially new indie artists, can break it through with online word-of-mouth, as it seems that the online promotional tools are very limited. We need to provide tools to the ardent fans of the artists to promote them with little effort.

     

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