The Opportunities To Sell Music The Way People Want To Listen To It

from the making-it-easier,-not-harder... dept

For a while now, many people have been trying to point out to the music industry that their ongoing attempts to stop file sharing, rather than embrace it, has put them in the position of actually shutting down a huge opportunity. Mark Cuban’s latest post does a good job articulating that sentiment. While his post is officially on why the CD is on its way out, what he’s really talking about is the opportunity the music industry has if they just decided to sell straight MP3s, and made it easy for people to get them on whatever devices they use to hear music these days. His problem with the CD is that he doesn’t listen to CDs any more. Instead, he listens to his iPod, so buying a CD requires a multi-step process before he can listen to it. The same is mostly true for online download stores: “To buy music these days, I have to make all kinds of choices… Do I want to limit myself to 5 computers. Do I want to always keep my subscription live. Do I want to store the music in a proprietary format that only a couple devices can use. Those are all tough decisions to make when the only thing I know with certainty is that the device I’m using as an MP3 player today, is NOT going to be the device I’m going to be using 18 months from now. There will be players that have more features, or I will consolidate multiple products into a single device. I may be using my phone, my PSP or PDA or something other device for my music.” The point is pretty simple (and should be drilled into marketers heads): give people what they want. Music lovers just want music they can listen to without worrying about these hassles. When there’s something lots of people want, there are always ways to make money off of it — whether it’s via Cuban’s suggestion of selling the MP3s or some alternative means, such as using the MP3s to promote other aspects of the musicians in question (concerts, fan clubs, merchandise, etc.). Instead, the industry wastes time suing everyone and trying to come up with copy protection schemes that lower the value of the music. Embracing the opportunity to give people exactly what they want (reasonably priced music without restrictions in a standardized format) is a recipe for success — and none of the major labels seem to see it.

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Comments on “The Opportunities To Sell Music The Way People Want To Listen To It”

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Tim (user link) says:

No Subject Given

Yes, mp3s are nice and open/well-supported and everything, but what’s to stop someone buying to download and then transferring it around between multiple people beyond any definition of fair use?

While the implementation is dodgy, Apple’s system – taking a well-known format such as AAC or m4a or whatever it is, and adding a bit of protection, is moderately sane. The way I would refine it is to take Bruce Schneier’s meme: if you’re afraid to tell everyone your algorithm, it probably sucks. So let there be a format that takes mp3 or ogg and encrypts it sensibly where the only uncrackable thing is a long crypto key identifying the user with the online store, then we’ll be getting somewhere.

Richard says:

Re: No Subject Given

@Tim, crappy solution man. You’re just relying on the same thing the music-industry does: make it harder to get to the music. This only alienates the customer from the artist. And eventually someone will find a crack/solution to your encryption and it all starts again.
Better come up with a different approach. Instead of prohibiting the online spread of music the industry should encourage it. Two different options. (1) Make online music insanely cheap. In this way it is easier to find the music you want through offial channels than on the “illegal” p2p-networks. You choose to spend the few cents on the song. People who still choose to copy a song were also the ones who copied music using the cassetteplayer in the old days. (2) Change the bussiness-model. Don’t rely on making money of off the song, instead use them as a marketingtool. Lure them to your concert. Try to get them to buy merchandize. Etc., etc.

Bill says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Merchandise and concerts are generally the moneymakers of the artists, which is why few give a shit about record sales possibly lost. And why the smaller artist tends to agree. For them, the CD basically promotes the tour/merchandise. Why not toss in MP3s as well.

The RIAA and it’s like represents the companies that profit from CD sales, which is why they beat away any attempt to get anything for free. Only the artists that sell multiplatinum actually see money from these sales, which is why the bigger artists might lean toward being on their side. That and being corporate machine stooges…

I don’t know why they don’t set up promo sites and offer free MP3s, but only a couple of featured tracks per album and at 64K instead of the usual 128K. That keeps the quality near radio and serves the purpose of making P2P useless for the casual downloader, while ensuring music lovers (who typically purchase) have a reason to spend their $$$s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

“When there’s something lots of people want, there are always ways to make money off of it”

Is that true? I imagine, lots and lots of people would want free peanut butter. Is there necessarily a way to make money off of that? There’re probably even more people who would like 3 free dollar bills. Can someone for sure capitalize on that and, if so, why haven’t they yet?

UserDriven (user link) says:

RE: Bill's Point

If the root of this is indeed embedded in the standard contract arrangements between labels and artists, which label will be the first to step up and renegotiate so that they give up their CD revenue in return for a cut of the other revenue streams? This will free up both labels and artist to freely give away the music as a promotion for the other possible revenue streams. The first label to “get this” would appear to have a huge comptetitive advantage. It would also be a win for everyone else as well.

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