Didn't Expect This: Disney Records Finds A Business Model That Works

from the so-can-we-roll-back-the-mickey-mouse-copyright-extensions? dept

Perhaps no company has been more involved with the disastrous expansion of copyright than Disney, which pushes for new laws and copyright expansion every time Mickey Mouse approaches the public domain (despite the fact that Disney's history is filled with using the works of others). However, it appears that Disney's record label subsidiary Disney Records has learned how to do quite well in an age when many consumers ignore copyright. That's because it focuses not just on selling the music, but selling a much wider overall "experience" -- mainly targeted at young kids. For example, both Hannah Montana and High School Musical have been Disney Records efforts that involve not just music, but television shows, plays and movies -- to create a much broader overall experience, including plenty of scarcities worth purchasing. And it's working. The company grew 40% last year -- something you don't hear from the big record labels these days.

Of course, Disney Records would still claim that copyright is important to all of its activities, but that's not really true. In giving people specific scarcities beyond copyright content that they can consume (including ad-supported television shows, concerts and movie tickets), it's really helped drive the business forward without having to seriously worry about any sort of copyright infringement. While it may not be possible for others to easily copy the overall Disney model (given Disney's vast media properties that it leverages), it still does seem ironic that Disney Records seems to be one of the "brand names" that has built a more infringement-proof business model.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Hmmm?, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 5:34pm

    While it may not be possible for others to easily copy the overall Disney model

    Which is pretty much your model ... which is pretty much an admission that your model would not likely work well for the average independent artist.

     

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  2.  
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    Mike (profile), Jun 11th, 2008 @ 5:46pm

    Re:

    Which is pretty much your model ... which is pretty much an admission that your model would not likely work well for the average independent artist.

    Er... no. First of all, there is no single "model" I'm describing. I'm explaining the economics and showing a variety of different models that work, given those economics. This is one. The *reason* this particular model won't work for others is because they don't have Disney's other media properties.

    But that doesn't change that other models embracing these economics work great for independent artists -- as independent artists like Maria Schneider, Jane Siberry, Jill Sobule, Jonathan Coulton and others have discovered.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Hmmm?, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 6:02pm

    these economics work great for independent artists -- as independent artists like Maria Schneider, Jane Siberry, Jill Sobule, Jonathan Coulton and others have discovered.

    I've never heard of these people or seen them mentioned anywhere but here. Neither has anyone I know.

    And every time I've heard you suggest "models," they all sound suspiciously close to what you describe in this post. So, umm ... er ... no.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Hannah, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    Maybe the parents of the Disney set don't have time to look for bootleg music to download. Or even better, maybe there are some people who want to set an example for their kids. 'When we want music, we pay for it'.

    For teenagers past the Miley Cyrus age, if they're downloading bootleg music, there's not much their parents can do about it.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Dave, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 6:16pm

    Re:

    So, because they haven't been on FoxNews or Christian Music Live, they aren't successful?

    Maybe you and your friends need to get out more?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Hmmm?, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 6:22pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe ... but I don't watch FoxNews or listen to Christian Music Live. Do you? Is that how you know they're not on there?

     

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  7.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 11th, 2008 @ 6:42pm

    Re:

    I've never heard of these people or seen them mentioned anywhere but here. Neither has anyone I know.

    You did say indie artists right? So if you're not into the scenes, then you probably wouldn't know about them. If you want to talk major music stars, we can trot out those names as well.

    However, your implication that these independent artists are "nobodies" is easily proven false with simple Google searches.

    Maria Schneider won a grammy with her album. That makes her a nobody? There are over 5 million google results on her name, though she shares the name with a famous actress. Yet, a lot of those results do point to the musician.

    Jane Siberry has nearly half a million Google results.

    Jill Sobule has about a quarter of a million Google results.

    Jonathan Coulton clocks in with half a million.

    So, while you may not have heard of them, an awful lot of people have -- which is the point.

    And every time I've heard you suggest "models," they all sound suspiciously close to what you describe in this post. So, umm ... er ... no.

    Huh? When before did I describe a model that involved putting on TV shows and movies?

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    cram, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 8:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Hi Mike

    Even if we assume that these people are "nobodies," I think it's wonderful a "nobody" can use the free music model to carve out a success story. And Trent Reznor exemplifies how this model works for established artists. What really matters is a proper strategy, which will likely differ even when the model's the same.

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Kevin (profile), Jun 11th, 2008 @ 9:49pm

    The real point

    ..has been lost, I think. What the writer, Mr. Masnick, was getting at is that the BRC (Big Record Companies) could very easily duplicate Disney's model. Warner is already debuting songs in TV shows (Smallville is one) that helps promote sales. They could also give stuff with CD's or MP3 downloads that can only be gotten by purchasing them legitimately - how about "I support (insert artist here)" bumper stickers that teens would collect just to show off how many CD's/MP3's and artists they own.

    The BRC's got stupid and went about this all wrong. I remember the days of vinyl records. It was possible to bootleg someone's copy by taping it, but by buying the album you got cover art, lyrics, and often posters. (The posters were the best because they annoyed your parents almost as much as the music.)

    When CD's came out, they got cheap and stopped doing all that. Now with digital distribution they want the same prices (bigger margins than CD's) but aren't willing to give any goodies to sell them.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Rev. Jesse, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 5:06am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Maybe ... but I don't watch FoxNews or listen to Christian Music Live. Do you? Is that how you know they're not on there?

    And what if he does? You got a problem with that?

    Just because someone doesn't watch John Stewart or listen to Amy Winehouse's idiotic attempts at music, doesn't mean there's something wrong with them. On the contrary, they're smart educated people that stay away from the liars and haters you think are wonderful.

     

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  11.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jun 12th, 2008 @ 5:52am

    Re:

    "I've never heard of these people or seen them mentioned anywhere but here. Neither has anyone I know."

    It's funny how this always happens. Someone gives examples of independent artists who are successful with alternative models, and it doesn't count because they're not mainstream enough (and that was what you just said whether you realise it or not). If they bring out known artists, then that doesn't count because they are already famous.

    Look, it doesn't matter whether you are personally familiar with the artists mentioned. What matters is whether they can crave out a successful career in the P2P age. All of those artists have. Success doesn't always mean Billboard #1s and constant radio airplay.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 6:25am

    Re:

    If you have not seen or heard of them, or anyone that you know has seen or head of them, it doesn't mean that the rest of the world out there has a similar view as you do...

    Therefore, your point of view is not really relevant.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 6:27am

    Re: The real point

    Kinda agree with you, but guess we all enjoy slamming the other guy... :D

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    John Wilson, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 9:54am

    Re:

    You know, Hmmm?

    Just because you haven't heard of Jane Siberry and your inner circle hasn't doesn't mean she isn't and hasn't been successful.

    That she's well known and respected in Canada would be an understatement. Not everyone likes what she does, mind. Being Indy has given her the freedom to do what she wants.

    She's well known in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, too.

    Another Indy label performer you WILL be hearing from is Lesley Feist. She broke out huge in Canada and the US Northeast last year on the basis of a single 1-2-3-4. In an interesting bit of Indy label marketing the song was covered by artists ranging from hip hop to balladeers and hard core rockers.

    There are also successful artists who have been forced to an Indy existence because of the band name. Say The Payola$ in the 80s or the Cowboy Junkies.

    Producer Bob Rock came from The Payola$ where he as their (brilliant) guitarist. So I guess he's a failure?

    I think you need to look harder and listen more.

    ttfn

    John

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Corey, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 8:01am

    Huh?

    "Of course, Disney Records would still claim that copyright is important to all of its activities, but that's not really true."

    Here we go again. Without copyright, do you know how many companies would be purchasing Hannah Montana and other merchandise? I know, I know, you are going to say there's people out there who will want toe "official" product, and that's true, but there's also many, many people who will take the cheaper scarce good, whether it's official or not. Result equals Disney loses money. I know, in their case they make a ton of money, but with smaller artists, who needed everything they get to be able to do their career full time, copy right is very important, not just for music, but scarce goods as well.

     

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