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Interview With Will Page, Music Industry Economist

from the some-things-to-think-about dept

While I have some very serious concerns about the way the UK’s collection agency PRS for Music conducts its business when it comes to threatening small businesses — including going after a woman playing music to her horses and woman singing while stocking the shelves at a store — over the past few months I’ve been having a series of interesting conversations with Will Page, the Chief Economist for PRS.

Page, of course, put out that famous report last summer, that pointed out that the music industry in the UK appeared to be getting bigger, not smaller (contrary to what you hear from many people). Page is a fun guy to talk with about music industry economics, and we decided to run a little interview with him here. There’s plenty that I disagree with him about, but plenty that we agree on too. There’s so much in this interview that I’d like to dig deeper on, and I hope to do that in a series of posts in the future — and some more back and forth with Page — but I figured at this point it was worth getting our discussion as it stands out there for people to read.

We wrote about your study last year showing that the UK music industry was actually increasing — contrary to most of the headlines were saying. Can you give a quick summary of why your numbers show a very different story than the popular press keeps saying?

It’s a ‘different story’ to what people are accustomed to simply because, for too long, people have characterised the music industry as being about just the recorded music industry. That’s largely due to the fact that the only data out there for people to discuss is recorded music statistics. When we published ‘Adding Up The Music Industry for 2008’ last year, it was an important step towards showing (i) how much the whole music industry was worth and more importantly (ii) how it all hangs together. One of the many audiences we aimed this work at was Government, who need to understand the broader picture of what the music industry comprises of, and the value that it brings. The Insight paper allowed two new pieces of the pie to be illustrated and properly understood: firstly live music revenues of £1.4 billion and secondly business-to-business licensing revenues which were over £900 million. From a total pie worth £3.6 billion, that implied that recorded music made up a nudge over a third of the total revenues — that’s a significant sum, but definitely not the only show in town.

Both of us are skeptical that the digital music sales market will ever replace the physical music market. Can you summarize why and what numbers you've seen about the digital market?

My concerns about the digital market start with the same word that introduced me to economics: ‘scarcity’ — there is little scarcity in selling digital media goods and that inevitably affects price. I think the best way to illustrate this is to look, instead, at the live music industry as those folks are the masters of pricing scarcity — they view tickets as ‘lots’ and want to maximise the willingness to pay for each. Live music mastered their demand curve a long time ago; digital music is still trying to discover theirs. Another problem with this topic is that interpreting digital music revenues is not a straightforward exercise, especially in Europe. We published a paper on ‘Understanding and Interpreting the Digital Market’ two years ago to help folks try and get their head around this complex market, and it’s not got any easier since!

I’d like to flag two observations for your readers. Firstly, don’t view digital in isolation, when it’s shown that one-in-five albums sold in America were digital, that tells you more about the collapse in the five, that the outperformance of the one. Secondly, the UK has really outperformed its European neighbours in developing a large, and importantly diverse, digital market. UK digital revenues per capita are twice, maybe three times, that of our main European neighbours, which is a great testimony to the work that Jez Bell at PRS for Music and folks like Francis Keeling at Universal have done on the licensing front as well as the incredible achievements of the services like We7, Spotify and 7 Digital which have taken out the licences and launched here.

Finally, whilst the digital makes up 20% of recorded music revenues, and 5% of PRS for Music collections, what I really have learnt to appreciate is that these digital services are legal ‘venues’ — a concept that Eric Garland drilled home to me — and somewhere north of four million folks in the UK are going to sites like Spotify or We7 and doing their thing — now it might not be producing the monies people once wished for but they are arguably not going to Mininova, an illegal venue, and that’s an important achievement — especially when Mininova celebrated its 10 billionth torrent download three months before iTunes celebrated theirs. Engagement with legal venues is worth more than the top line revenues might initially suggest.

You mention ‘scarcity’ in the context of live vs. digital, but live has a real scarcity (seats — over which they can control access). Digital doesn’t have that kind of scarcity. You say that digital hasn’t ‘discovered their demand curve,’ but might the bigger issue really be that without the scarcity the supply curve is the issue? My view has always been that the digital market is a red herring due to the lack of scarcity, but instead the music world should focus on external scarcities that widespread digital music creates (including things like seats at concerts). Is the real issue not the demand curve but the supply and the failure (of some) to recognize that they need to think broader in terms of what they’re selling?

That’s a very insightful question — and you’re right as one of the many mistakes economists make is to forget about the supply side dynamics of a problem, and instead focus on demand. It’s worth citing Jean Baptiste Say, and his Law of Markets which is that “supply creates demand.” What this means, with regards to your question, is that “overproduction” in a free economy is actually impossible. That’s a controversial proposition though, as I think it comes up against another trade off which we could call the attention economy, where a wealth of information leads to a poverty of attention. Stepping back from the theory, there is clearly more noise in the market place — more artists, more songs, more places to hear them — therefore more investment is needed to stand above the noise, to enable the benefits of your ‘external scarcities’ to kick in. One final piece of twisted economics is this idea of a ‘freemium’ model, which is cool but has a flaw — if everyone did it, the less successful it would be. Point being there would be more noise in the free market, which erodes the value of the premium offering — an increase is supply depresses price, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that basic principle.

You call services like Spotify and We7 “legal venues” and things like Mininova as an “illegal venue,” which I assume many of our readers may have an issue with — especially given that Mininova has long had a program for artists to offer up their own content, and there certainly are a small, but growing, number of artists who have embraced those venues for legitimate marketing reasons. Is there an argument to be made that, given the size of some of the userbases of those venues that you (and many) deem illegal, that there may be ways to embrace and engage with them, rather than write them off as such?

The best way to embrace those users is to ensure the services they use are licensed and respect the value of music. Now, we have over a thousand digital music licencees here in the UK, and we’ve been granting online licenses since 2002, long before iTunes — a fact often overlooked. The best way to approach the unlicensed services is to think of it this way — we’re all chatting about whether Spotify will sink or swim, right? That’s the hot debate at the moment. Well, I would argue that at the margin Spotify would have far more chance of swimming, or up selling the subscription service, had they not had to face this unfair competition of illegal free. That’s a powerful argument when you run it through, as it moves away from the old arguments and towards a more plausible observation: what opportunities are being foregone in the legal digital market due to the unfair competition of illegal free? One last thing on Spotify, which is that they went legal before going popular, bucking a regrettable trend. When you explain that to an emerging artist or songwriter, offering a counterfactual of many other sites which have become incredibly popular (and then flipped for incredible amounts of money) before taking out licences — it really hits the message home.

Both of us are still quite optimistic that there's still a huge opportunity for the overall music market to grow. Where do you think that opportunity exists — and why is it mostly ignored?

If we pick up on ‘Business-to-Business’ revenues, or licensing income, this makes music free at the point of consumption with compensation taking place elsewhere. This part of the music industry is likely to make up an increasing part of an increasing pie, and that by default presents opportunities However, what’s frustrating is that music licensing is an area of the industry that’s often least understood by emerging bands and songwriters — the MySpace generation — who are trying to get one foot on the ladder to success. To realise those opportunities, the first thing artists and songwriters need to do is protect their rights by joining PPL and PRS for Music in the UK, or their equivalents in their respective territories. Secondly, it’s very important that the licensing bodies around the world get involved with the artists and songwriters. Here at PRS for Music, we’ve got Myles Keller leading our membership development and we’re getting increasingly involved with our songwriters through programming events like The Great Escape on the 13th May, whereas in America you have ‘walking encyclopaedias’ like Todd and Jeff Brabec who are very accessible on the panel circuit and their bible ‘Music Money and Success’ is required reading. I guess my point is that the best way to realise the licensing opportunities that exist is to get involved. Passivity doesn’t pay.

You stress the importance of getting people to sign up for collection societies/licensing organizations — which isn’t surprising, given your employer — but myself and many of our readers are concerned about the incentive structures when musicians rely on such organizations (even when– as in many cases — they’re non-profits). With such organizations, you can take away some aspect of market-pricing, especially when there are issues of compulsory licensing and/or only one provider in the market. It also creates situations where those organizations constantly push for greater rights, or the ability to collect from more places for more reasons– often upsetting other aspects of the market (for example: bars and restaurants no longer letting bands play live or hosting open mic nights to avoid having to pay licensing fees). While I agree that, given today’s setup, it makes sense for musicians not to pass up revenue that’s there for them via these organizations, isn’t there a risk that these types of organizations distort the market from a purely economic viewpoint?

Each collecting society is different, so firstly — let’s be wary of generalisations. In America, for example, you are absolutely unique in that you have competition within collecting societies with ASCAP, SESAC and BMI — the latter which is owned by the broadcasters! Similarly, the story behind SoundExchange is unique too — and in many cases the US is playing ‘catch up’ with the rest of the world when it comes to neighbouring rights. So, I just want to be clear for a predominantly US Techdirt audience, the US experience with collective rights organisations will be unlike anywhere else in the world. I really mean that too — it’s such an exception to the rule.

Now to your question — let’s start by asking what is the rational for collecting societies. I would argue that the answer is three-fold: (i) reducing transaction costs for both rights holder and user, (ii) preventing fragmentation and (iii) solving co-ordination in many-to-many markets. The bottom line is this: PRS for Music enables start ups to start up, and songwriters to get paid. If you wiped the board clean and tried to devise a new model, which can hold together a blanket licence and balance the needs of unprecedented digital services, you would probably end up with what PRS for Music is doing just now. It’s not an easy task, and armchair critics would do well to consider the complexity in this two-sided market and the trade-offs that we face every day, but to read that We7 now feel that add funded music can add up is heartening as it suggests we’re getting this delicate balancing act right.

You've noted that the UK music market appears to have again gone up in 2009 over 2008 and appears to be growing faster than other countries.
Why do you think the UK market has been different than elsewhere?

Firstly, The UK is not alone in bucking the downward trend as Sweden, Denmark and Australia can also claim to be outliers in some form. However, these are the exceptions as opposed to the rule, and it’s a stark contrast to the downbeat sentiments I’m hearing from the US, and chalk-and-cheese to the situation in Spain which really is frightening on many levels. I’d offer three exceptions which have bucked global trends rule. Firstly, the live music industry has continued to exhibit robust growth in the UK even in the middle of a credit crunch, whereas other territories suggest the market might have matured. Secondly, UK labels have arguably done a better job of diversifying their revenue streams , due in part to the success story that is PPL, and I doubt that level of diversification is being reflected by labels in many other regions. Third, the UK really values music. It’s a simple point, but it really matters. Think: the role of the BBC in championing emerging bands, the explosion in music festivals in every corner of the country, the insane amount of work of Feargal Sharkey at UK Music has put in to get all the stakeholders (including ISPs) to banging heads together to face up to the challenges — all these ingredients help illustrate that this thing called “music” actually matters to the UK. Conversely, I’m spending an increasing amount of time in Spain now, and what you see there is that music doesn’t matter as much…if at all. It’s one of the few western countries that can claim a thriving digital AND physical piracy problem and investment in domestic talent is drying up as there simply no return. It’s actually kind of eerie when you compare the quality of debate and level of activity being had in the UK to that of other countries, it’s not that we’ve solved all the problems, far from it, but it’s more about not dodging them and actually doing something about them.

On Spain, I know the IFPI’s recent report said the industry is in trouble there, and you do the same here, but we keep hearing from people who claim otherwise — that there’s a renaissance of music in Spain due to more widespread ability to promote and distribute musicians. Anecdotally, in the last year, I’ve actually picked up (yes, legally bought, on CD) albums from a few Spanish bands. Do you have some numbers for Spain — since between the two of us, we seem to have very different anecdotal experiences? Could it just be that the business models haven’t adapted yet?

Neither of us is from Spain, nor do we currently live there — so we have to work this one out based on our own anecdotal experiences. What I’ve noticed is that trade revenues of record labels have halved in less than a decade, in nominal terms. I’ve also noticed incredible resentment to ‘paying for music’ in Spain, there’s a real ‘stick it to the man’ attitude which is puzzling. I come back to the point on domestic investment — given the situation there, would you (and that could be a label, publisher, manager or third party) invest in developing domestic talent in Spain, or would you invest somewhere else with a lower risk profile and then import into Spain. I’m sure there are lots of opportunities down there on the ground, but how many of those opportunities lead to a sustainable living for professional artists and songwriters. For me, Spain’s situation is like a tipping point which other countries should take note of.

One point that you’ve noted is that the live music market has grown and actually surpassed revenue from recorded in the UK. Critics dismiss this, claiming that the live numbers are dominated by "heritage" or "legacy" acts. Is this true? You claim that the revenue for live covers "more bands, more tickets, more seats, more events." Who's right?

You’re right to pick up on the changing of the guard observation from last year, and it’s incredible to think that five years prior, live was less than half the size of recorded — which makes you ask three questions: (i) how has live captured so much value, (ii) how has recorded lost so much value and (iii) is there a link. However, read beneath the top line and you can consider the distribution of those revenues: who got what share of the spoils. As with recorded music, in live we’re witnessing a hit heavy skinny tail distribution, and that intuitively makes sense. The bigger you are, the more forms of revenues you’re able to exploit and the distribution skews to the head naturally. When Take That played to over a million people, that’s an example of more tickets, more seats and more events but it’s just one band. Down in the tail, the picture is less clear — with worrying stories of support bands having to pay to play needing to be balanced with the fact that the explosion in festivals gives more opportunities for acts to get wider exposure. There’s some interesting signals coming out of the market place though, for example I was told that there was noticeably less record label A&R presence at SXSW this year, with agents and promoters filling up the bars on Sixth Street — perhaps that’s a sign of the times.

You've noted in the past that 60% of the UK population don't buy music anyway and that "you can't cannibalize zero" when it comes to things like file sharing "taking away" revenue. Do you believe there's evidence that the 60% of people who don't buy music are helping to contribute revenue elsewhere — and if so how and where?

It’s a vital observation that needs to be rammed home as the rights holders are understandably obsessed with cannibalisation, but sometimes blinkered to the wider problem. The legendary Rory Sutherland remarked on that "Can't Cannibalize Zero" phrase as a masterpiece and told me that it reminded him:

“Of working with ATOC, and First Great Western. They were obsessed with the risk of Revenue Abstraction — the rail phrase for cannibalisation. In other words, any special off-peak offer was viewed with terror, lest it attract people prepared to pay full fare. But, just like music, 60% of people don't use trains – ever!”

Rory makes you think about the problems differently — and here, the problem is how can we re-engage the lost majority? I collaborated with Spotify on a piece of research called “How to dance to ARPU” which allows rights holders and users to approach that infamous acronym with more clarity. At the back of my mind, though, is this: most of the folk of my parents generation love Spotify and none of them ever bought music …ever. Engagement is the horse, and monetisation is the cart — if services like Spotify are helping re-engaging those who gave us nothing, there’s a better chance of getting something going forward.

Following up on the B2B side of the market, some also point out that this part of the market may also be dominated by large legacy acts who can score big sponsorship deals. Do you think that's true and if not why not? What opportunities are there for less well known bands in this area?

To quote from the paper, ‘brands investing in music trough sponsorship are drawn to it through the potential audience affinity and reach; this means that much of the major expenditure is biased towards the larger priorities and artists, which provide larger fan bases.’ That means that it’s tough in the tail for bands wanting to strike sponsorship deals. That said, there is a lot of scope to use initiative to innovate in this sector. Here in the UK, we have organisations like Music Ally and FRUKT who are doing some great work in this sector, especially in terms of offering training and workshops for artists and managers — their material is well worth tracking as opportunities in this sector don’t find you, you have to find them.

Lots of people have suggested that even if live is now outpacing album sales, it was still the record labels that really financed tours and the growth of live. Are there mechanisms to support and nurture live if the record labels continue to decline? Where might it come from?

The kicker is this — the money is live is centred around the head, and much of that head is heritage in status — so the question I always ask is who’s going to offer the tour support for new bands to build the sort of fan bases that provide the live industry with the heritage acts of the future. That’s a legitimate question to ask, and not an easy one to answer, but you’ve got to look forwards not backwards, and I’m really hype on the company Songkick it’s basically Facebook for folk who love going to gigs with full functionality for ticketing, recommendations et al. I think that what Ian Hogarth has done there is a real game changer when you fully think it through — and it also helps level a heavily tilted playing field as emerging acts can benefit as much as the established bands from Songkick’s functionality. You have to manage expectations as it won’t make touring across a country in a bus sitting next to a drummer with an odour problem any less unpleasant, but it does have the potential to lead to more bands performing to more fans, and importantly more data to build upon that success.

Notably absent from your discussions on these numbers is anything (outside of live) having to do with direct-to-fan opportunities that we've discussed on Techdirt. These numbers may get mixed in elsewhere as they sometimes include album sales and sometimes include live, but do you have any thoughts on that market? Do you have any numbers on how those efforts are doing?

Firstly, I’ve recommended your excellent Trent Reznor case study to literally everyone and their dog. What’s really good about that is that you echo what I’ve stressed every time I’ve explained ‘In Rainbows, On Torrents’ case study which was that this was a solution for Radiohead, and was NOT a solution for the music industry. That said, what Radiohead and NIN did were ‘experiments’ and we’ve got to learn from these experiments. You got to ask the right questions — so ‘of what worked, what’s transferable?’ Second, whilst Topspin was behind your Trent Reznor case study, there’s another Toronto based company worth checking out called Official Community. They’re providing direct artist to fan infrastructure which allows for disintermediation of the value chain, more empowerment of the artist and faster cash flow. When you look into these models though, it’s important to keep a balanced perspective and manage expectations — it’s not going to change the world, and it might not even change the actors involved in a ‘conventional deal,’ but this existence of more options should, if anything, allow artists and songwriters to negotiate better terms. Third and
finally, I agree with the premise of the question — what’s happening outside the conventional radar is probably bucking the southward trend, but because it’s not being picked up — the trend continues southward. I learnt recently that the annual Cambridge Folk Festival is a massive player in selling CDs of those folk artists to fans — literally tens of thousands of CDs being shifted on location. Now, you may be tempted to dismiss this as just a niche festival and just niche CDs, but they’re shifting lots of them and there’s are lots more similar festivals up and down the country who are increasingly doing the same thing and its questionable how much of this is getting picked up on the conventional radar. That offers optimism for the future as regards the “known unknowns” which are out there, but also presents numerous headaches for myself and Chris Carey as we try to calculate this year’s ‘Adding up the Music Industry’ report together which is due for publication in July 2010.

You mention the “skinny tail” and that some of the success today is from heritage acts, but then we see numbers from folks like TuneCore that show a massively successful long tail. It makes me wonder if — as TuneCore notes — the long tail success stories simply aren’t being seen in the data because it’s the wrong data. We hear so many stories of musicians successfully embracing new business models down the tail that it makes me wonder if what’s happening down there is simply not being counted. Thoughts? Any ideas on better ways to measure?

Both Chris Anderson’s work on Long Tail, and our analysis since, has suffered a lot of misinterpretation because you can’t dive into this topic and expect a simple tabloid headline to explain it all. Statistical distributions of large data sets are not the sexiest topic for the music industry to discuss — on that we can both agree! But let’s roll back to what I’ve stated repeatedly in our work here — I loved the concept of the Long Tail, still recommend the book to colleagues and wish it would work the way we all hoped. However, it is a book about the supply curve — here’s what happens when lots of goods can get to market. What I was able to do, thanks largely to the mathematical guidance of Andrew Bud, is derive the demand curve for digital music — which is like saying “okay, once you’re on the digital shelf, who actually wants you.” You need two curves to tango in economics, and we’ve been able to develop an unprecedented understanding of this digital music market place as a result. What’s great though, is to know where economics needs to hand over to other disciplines, such as psychology, sociology or anthropology — basically how do we understand culture.

I can illustrate what I mean by offering your readers a genuine exclusive — by exhibiting the Lorenz curves for We7 and Spotify side by side, and comparing those with the sort of distribution Chris Anderson’s theory predicted:

The red line is to show what a “great example of the Long Tail at work” should look like, where 95% of the niche inventory (reading from bottom left to bottom right) makes up 75% of the streams — a fat tail. Clearly, neither We7 nor Spotify look like that, with both curves tugging into the bottom left hand axis point and this is what’s meant by a hit heavy, skinny tail distribution. However, the curves are different, and that is to be expected — as We7 has a strong editorial with excellent artist promotional campaigns, whereas Spotify is editorial free and allows the consumer to graze the field at their leisure. Consequently, you can see that We7 (blue line) is more hit centric with a 90/5 rule and Spotify (green line) is more democratic with an 80/5 rule which, when you step back, is common sense made complicated but it’s nice to see the math adds up!

The key thing for Techdirt readers is that’s what economics can tell us when rights holders and users collaborate to understand unprecedented markets, and it’s great that PRS for Music and Digital Music Services are willing to work together like this — I think it’s a important part of the success story in the UK. However, economic analysis can only tell us so much and it’s at this point when the baton must be passed on to folks from other disciplines or backgrounds who can bring new insights to the table to work out what that actually means in terms of this intriguing thing called ‘culture’ — which also means this is a good point to conclude this interview.

Thanks to Will for this fun discussion… which I fully expect to continue. If you want to see one of Will’s recent presentations on the state of the music market, it’s embedded below:

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Comments on “Interview With Will Page, Music Industry Economist”

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Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Surprisingly sensible

For a PRS employee he sure has a pretty well adjusted view of the music market. More than I thought possible.

The only part that made me “Harumph” was the part where he gave his recruiting spiel for the PRS and suggested that all musicians starting out needed to join a collections society.

Mike, perhaps you could ask him to explain the disbursment scale that the PRS uses, because even if their’s is fair (which I doubt) the way ASCAP and most others do it is outright robbery. Which Mr. Page doesn’t seem to acknowledge.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Surprisingly sensible

“For a PRS employee he sure has a pretty well adjusted view of the music market. More than I thought possible.”

Its probably because he is an economist and not a stock “we believe our own cobbled together numbers” record label exec. He does the number crunching and seems to be attempting to find out what is happening to the industry in reality. The xxAA types create reports for political reasons and after being repeated often enough they become facts to the industry insiders. He is actually a breath of fresh air in an industry of wafting odors.

“recruiting spiel for the PRS and suggested that all musicians starting out needed to join a collections society”

Personally I found that a bit distasteful. But what do you expect? him to preach the wonders of the creative commons. Or to point the artists to a non industry affiliated collection service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

hi mike. why dont you sign on?

it is nothing new. the only thing that is new is that the entire entertainment business would be forced to finance itself only through those means. as the guy says, if too many people do it, it wont work. cwf+rtb doesnt scale off the other end very well.

Chris Mikaitis (profile) says:


Wow, this was a fantastic read…. this was an incredible interview that I hope you follow up on. I am going to immediately look up this guy as he is one badass interviewee (I sure hope that’s a word). I’ve often thought that we would enter a terrible period where old-age people would divide against new-age people in some legacy battle where nobody could win. I now see that technology is too fast to allow such a simplistic problem. The divide has already happened and we are just accelerating faster… Though certainly new-age, he seems to understand most of my arguments to a greater degree than I do. If this is the future of business, I support it.

UK Based music buyer says:

share of (high) digital price

As someone based in the UK I have to say most of my music spending is on live music, followed by CD/DVD (always after the disc has been out for a while as then price drops to what is affordable) – new release prices are silly, I like music but do not want to pay what it takes me 2 hours of hard work to earn (once I factor in “take home” pay per hour after deductions via tax etc.) for one CD as the cost / benefit ratio is not high enough compared to, say, food
Digital downloads a poor last for me (& only because I was given an iTunes voucher as a gift!).
Digital download is also very expensive in the UK, especially when you know that the share the composers and performers receive is so poor. I would sooner have physical media then I can convert it to digital format of my choice, get a bit of artwork, otehr content such as lyrics etc if I am lucky.

If people knew the actual creative forces behind music made a decent share of the purchase price then this would alter some of my purchasing decisons, but when currently I pay a lot and know the artist gets a miniscule amount of that outlay, I have little incentive to buy music to reward the artist: I know my best way to reward them is see him/her/them live.

The UK try before you buy scenario is less rosy than painted – spotify is now closed for free users (unless you know someone with a paying subscription to invite you, and subscription cost is too high for a casual user with little free time) – my daughter has a free spotify account from when it was open, but as a school person obviously has little income to buy songs. I have income but now excluded from spotify unless I pay an excessive subscription, so the chance of me buying things is lost.

A lot of other free services have limited range of music via the “majors” (most of my “likes” are smaller groups).

Last.fm has a reasonable range but now limits a song preview to 30 seconds – not enough to get a real feel for a song unless they are poppy pap that sound similar for their whole duration – anything with a more complex structure cannot be adequately represented in 30 secs.
Fortunately a few (smaller) bands do try hard and allow last.fm free downloads to promote themselves – and so I can do a “try before buy” on a small percentage of artist.

So, illegal downloads are often the only way to sample something in the UK (as UK radio is not that diverse, a few companies controlling nearly the whole market, and “pirate” stations illegally broadcasting something different are usually closed down by the authorities)

masquisieras says:

thoughts from spain

First the CD has always been overpriced in Spain, they have the same price that in France for example but the average salary has been always quite lower here, by law the collection agencies get several hundred millions for private coping while they complain and publicly insult any one that point that to the public. The collection agencies has killed the small venue with charges over what has been economically reasonable for the spanish economy crippling the indie record companies, and if I keep thinking I am sure i can find several other mishandling of the music industries.

Add that as a entertainment the music by itself has socially a lower value, compare with the gathering and going out with friends an family in Spain and you get a perfect storm

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: thoughts from spain

“The collection agencies has killed the small venue with charges over what has been economically reasonable for the spanish economy crippling the indie record companies”

Is it possible to just play creative commons, indie, non collection agency associated music? Or is the law written in such a way that it is monopolistic, and all music even music not associated with a collection societys must be charged for.

“by law the collection agencies get several hundred millions for private coping while they complain and publicly insult any one that point that to the public.”

From a psyche perspective this is the worst thing to do. It makes people believe it is perfectly fine to infringe. It also sets up an anti-industry sentiment that once created cant be undone. There is a certain point at which it also becomes a societal norm making whatever laws are implemented ineffective. It becomes a political death sentence to use the laws on the books once it is a societal norm … I love history

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: thoughts from spain

Is it possible to just play creative commons, indie, non collection agency associated music? Or is the law written in such a way that it is monopolistic, and all music even music not associated with a collection societys must be charged for.

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked that way. That’s been my big issue with ASCAP/BMI. If there is music playing in your venue, they assume it’s music by one of their members, even if it isn’t. Venues that play original material have tried to argue that the music is not being represented by ASCAP/BMI and they have even gotten permission from the songwriters to play that music, but ASCAP/BMI argue that the odds are that you are playing music by one of their members and there’s been no way for anyone to prove otherwise that they will accept. It’s a guilty-unless-proven-otherwise approach.

It’s frustrating because the songwriters aren’t allowed to give permission for their music to be played without a licensing fee being paid by the venue.

Sometimes venues opt out of playing music rather than to pay ASCAP/BMI for music.

Since most songwriters don’t get any money from ASCAP/BMI there really isn’t much reason for them to join. But if ASCAP/BMI get lots of songwriters to join, it strengthens their argument that most venues must be playing music by one of their members. ASCAP/BMI collect on their behalf, but then don’t have a system to identify whose music was actually played. So most of it just goes to the top songwriters.

Since it is theoretically possible to monitor what music gets played where, it should be possible to know exactly what music is being played at any venue and then have the venues only pay for music by ASCAP/BMI members, but that isn’t being done.

masquisieras says:

Re: Re: thoughts from spain

“Is it possible to just play creative commons, indie, non collection agency asociated music? Or is the law written in such a way that it is monopolistic, and all music even music not associated with a collection societys must be charged for.”

Is posible but you must be willing to go to trial, the collection agencies has take several places to trial for it, and you must never play, any even by error, collection agency asociated music they can put the license that they want so playing just one is more expensive that entering in a contract with them and paying a fix amount, and they never tell you which music they represent so the only real posibility es quite recent wit the CC music.

“From a psyche perspective this is the worst thing to do. It makes people believe it is perfectly fine to infringe.”

Is worst than that by lobbing the agencies got Spain in a situation where depending how you read the law we are the country with the lower infringement in the world or one with the higher and the agencies are misappropriating hundred of million of €

The thing when like this the original law said that they charge that money to compensate for the loss due to copies made privately for personal use so in spanish law at that moment NO PRIVATE PERSON COULD INFRINGE (you can see it as a compulsory license for the whole population at the time of the cassette (it was a levy over music cassettes)) then the digital distribution revolution arrived and the amount that they charged was recalculate and extended to CD, DVD, Hard Disk penddrive… to compensate for the new copies, and then they changed the law so it is to compensate for copies made privately from lawful copies for personal use but what a lawful copies is is undefined so the agencies wish to define them as original copies but making original copies for personal use is call the Backup right in spanish law and is regulated separately.

So the personal copy is in a no man land to be decided by the judiciary what the agencies are trying to do is calculate the levy including all personal copies while making most of the personal copies infringing. So whenever any one point out the inconsistency they go in a frenzy of bad PR so Spain is probably the only country where the collection agencies are hated by the general public.

Chargone (profile) says:

seems less …urm…. insane? than most industry-associated opinions i’ve encountered before, but something about this seems very off…

something akin to ‘the best lie is the one that deviates as little from the truth as possible’ or something. (not that i’m really accusing anyone of lieing about anything, i don’t know enough to be able to judge that)

mostly the PRS recruitment spiel… but also a certain slippery ‘not actually answering the question asked’ type thing in some places (one gets very adept at noticing when that happens after watching political debates where i live :-S)

still, it made an interesting read. (though late night after a busy day is not the best time to do so if one wants things to stick in the brain, apparently…)

hxa (user link) says:

Avoids the crucial question -- but may have accidentally undermined himself

Pretty much his entire business model rests on the special monopoly privilege of copyright, yet he avoids any examination of its increasingly shaky legitimacy.

That monopoly is important: it means the public is being systematically overcharged, and that extra money is going straight to the privileged businesses. Of course it pays those businesses richly to avoid bringing the matter up, but when the public might be losing so much it requires serious justification.

Interestingly, he appears to give a notable piece of evidence: “there is clearly more noise in the market place — more artists, more songs”. Overall copyright enforcement is down — it is weaker than ever with the internet allowing free distribution of music (as the music industry itself complains). But at the same time creative production is up! Copyright’s sole justification is to increase production, yet it seems to be doing the exact opposite since the *lack* of it is helping. This music industry economist is actually supporting the case that the legal monopoly basis of his business is malfunctional and should be reduced if not removed.

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