A Look Back At Major Label Online Strategies A Decade Ago

from the how-far-we've-come? dept

The excellent MusicAlly blog has a neat look back at a piece written in March of 2001 covering the digital strategies of the major record labels. Some of it is quite amusing in retrospect -- such as how Warner Music's plans were entirely focused on how its newly merged parent, AOL Time Warner, would offer it all sorts of digital opportunities (how'd that work out)?
The company's internet strategy begins and ends with AOL. The thinking here is that AOL, with 24 million subscribers, has a natural customer base for Time Warner's extensive music catalogue, as well as serious Internet expertise in house. Although MBI World Music Report lists Warner Music Group's global market share as equal to BMG's at 11.9 percent (tied for fourth), AOL was working to secure licensing rights from the other music titans.

Combined with Time Warner's cable-modem Road Runner service, AOL also has control of fat pipes in the US. The reason many people didn't use Napster is because it is slow and expensive. With control of broadband, subscription is that much more compelling.
Of course "compelling" in theory is different from "compelling" in execution, and AOL, Time Warner and Warner Music never bothered to come up with anything close to compelling (for years we were amused by the fact that the company even refused to let AOL work together with Road Runner, despite them being the same company!).

As you read through the rest, you just keep seeing names of long-dead sites and projects -- none of which came up with anything compelling. You see plans for "new proprietary digital formats" that rely on RealPlayer (yeah, there's a winner) and other short-sighted concepts. But what you see is really the same old story, and effectively still the same thing we're seeing today. Everyone was focused on recreating the same old retail world, pretending that the digital world is just a replica of the physical world. It's all focused on direct sales of recordings, rather than anything larger. And, of course, all of these plans ran into trouble when backwards-looking execs freaked out about being too open or too free, and so all of the plans were locked down, inconvenient, expensive and useless (if they ever came out at all).


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    transmaster (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    What could have happened

    Just think what could have been if these clowns had not acted like divorce lawyers, going by the mantra I am going to screw you over first.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    Merely as a humorous aside, last night I happened to catch a segment on television where a musician who appears to have made a come-back using YouTube to generate renewed interest in his work was being interviewed. During the interview the musician was asked what he hopes happens next. His answer? Getting noticed by a record label and signing a contract with it.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 6:22pm

      Re:

      His answer? Getting noticed by a record label and signing a contract with it.

      Not sure what's humorous about that. For many musicians that absolutely makes sense. We have nothing against the concept of labels. Just the way the major labels have acted. It makes tons of sense for certain musicians to work with labels.

       

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        The Anti-Mike (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 11:20pm

        Re: Re:

        This is sort of like your answers for piracy... you don't support piracy, just all the infrastructure that it uses, the end result of it's existence, etc.

        Hopefully in 2010 you won't waffle so much.

         

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          identicon
          TDR, Jan 1st, 2010 @ 8:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hopefully in 2010 you won't troll as much. Or grasp for as many straws.

           

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jan 1st, 2010 @ 5:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You really don't understand anything about technology or culture or art or people.

           

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jan 1st, 2010 @ 8:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I don't support running over people in my car, but I do like those darn roads.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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            The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 2nd, 2010 @ 12:06am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            ... and if 90% of the people on the road were running people over every day, well, you know the roads would be closed down.

            Carry on, anonymous troll.

             

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2010 @ 12:33am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Oh, good thing you can pull random numbers out of your ass to back up your also-anonymous trolling.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2010 @ 2:13am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I totally agree with you. Once you can prove that copyright infringement results in 90% of people using the Internet dying, we can shut it down.

               

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                The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 3rd, 2010 @ 11:57am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                All I did was take your stupid analogy and stuff it back down your (anonymous) throat.

                Fail. At least the holidays are over and you will have to head back to high school, so you won't be polluting the site on school nights.

                 

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2010 @ 12:37pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You're officially dumb.

               

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 9:06pm

    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/15-12/mf_morris?currentPage=all

    [Universal's CEO Doug] Morris insists there wasn't a thing he or anyone else could have done differently. "There's no one in the record company that's a technologist," Morris explains. "That's a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn't. They just didn't know what to do. It's like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?"

    Personally, I would hire a vet. But to Morris, even that wasn't an option. "We didn't know who to hire," he says, becoming more agitated. "I wouldn't be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me." Morris' almost willful cluelessness is telling. "He wasn't prepared for a business that was going to be so totally disrupted by technology," says a longtime industry insider who has worked with Morris. "He just doesn't have that kind of mind."

     

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    David Gerard (profile), Jan 1st, 2010 @ 4:23am

    erm, yes.

    PUBLIC ENEMA, The Hit Parade, Thursday James Blunt's Back To Bedlam was the UK's biggest-selling album of the 2000s, objectively establishing the final death of pop music after fifty years.

    The 2000s were the decade of falling record sales, plummeting profits for the six five four major labels, a number one single requiring only a few thousand downloads as opposed to a hundred thousand physical records twenty-five years earlier and a race to the bottom by the music industry to come up with something, anything, so horrifyingly insipid and stupid as to destroy instantly the mind of anyone exposed to it, like a saccharine Cthulhu, in the quest to find a sufficiently common lowest denominator.

    Pop has been replaced in popular youth affection with DVDs, games, Internet pornography, White Lightning, stabbing each other and filling in applications to join al-Qaeda after accidental exposure to James Blunt.

    The record industry blames the downfall of pop on the Internet, MP3s, USB hard disks, fanzines, cassettes, radio and player pianos rather than, e.g., James Blunt. The fragmentation of tastes, where people could easily learn of and obtain music they actually liked rather than whatever bilge the record companies deigned to serve up, is considered a serious problem in need of firm resolution.

    Peter Mandelson reassured the record industry that the Digital Britain bill would keep the future firmly reined in and reinstate the culture industries' tap in the wallets of the young for the benefit of the entire country, or a small portion thereof. "Remember, home taping is killing music! But not James Blunt. You cannot kill that which does not live."

    (originally posted by me at http://is.gd/5HYMI)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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