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by Mike Masnick

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la times

LA Times Kills Editorial On How To Revitalize Both Music And Newspaper Industries To Avoid Pissing Off Both

from the how-dare-you-make-a-suggestion-that-will-help-us! dept

Last month, when the news first came out that Prince did a deal to have a UK newspaper give away a free copy of his latest CD with every paper, we noted that this showed a great way to increase the value for both the music industry and the newspaper industry in one single move. Apparently, I wasn't the only one to think so. A columnist for the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein, felt the same way as well -- and actually had some fantastic ideas to improve on Prince's experiment in a way that would add tremendous value to a bunch of musicians and the LA Times in a single move. Of course, the LA Times sometimes is known for catering to the incumbent established entertainment industry which so dominates LA -- and perhaps that's why the LA Times' new associate editor killed the column and refused to run it (found via Romenesko). Of course, in true Streisand Effect fashion, the column has leaked and it's hard to see any reason why the LA Times would spike it, other than it was afraid of pissing off the established recording industry.

You can read the whole spiked column at the link above, and it's a worthwhile read. The smart changes Goldstein proposed were that it be a regular series of free CDs distributed with the newspaper (encouraging more subscriptions and positioning the paper as a "tastemaker"). And rather than have the newspaper pay the musicians directly (which is how the Prince deal worked), have a sponsor pony up the money to be associated with the musician (this is exactly how much music is already created). Everyone wins in this deal... except stubborn record labels who don't understand that they should be in the music promotion business and think they're only in the business of selling plastic discs. The musicians get paid, get a lot more attention and are likely to make even more in terms of a wider audience willing to go to more shows, buy more merchandise and increase the amount future sponsors will be willing to pay. The newspaper gives people a fantastic new reason to subscribe and reinvents the role of the newspaper as a tastemaker. Sponsors get a great way to associate their brand with hot musicians. And, most importantly, everyone else benefits by getting access to more good music. Yet, in a town where the entertainment industry rules all, apparently, protecting obsolete business models is more important than publishing interesting columns with fantastic suggestions for creating a great new service.

Goldstein's final paragraph is too good not to repeat (especially since the LA Times doesn't think it's worth even printing once:
"Giving music away doesn't mean it has lost its value, just that its value is no longer moored to the price of a CD. Like it or not, the CD is dying, as is the culture of newsprint. People want their music -- and their news -- in new ways. It's time we embraced change instead of always worrying if some brash new idea -- like giving away music -- would tarnish our sober minded image. When businesses are faced with radical change, they are usually forced to ask -- is it a threat or an opportunity? Guess which choice is the right answer."

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Jeff from NJ, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 9:58am

    Goldstein article

    Perhaps we should all write a non-letter to the Editor of the LA Times, congratulating them on the brilliant non-editorial? I'm guessing the article was killed as much for the comment about the dying culture of newsprint as much as for comments about the music industry.

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

  2. identicon
    Old Skoolz, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 10:40am

    They did that back in the day...You bought a magazine and got a cd of various artists.....duh.....

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 10:46am

    Corporate Sponsored Censorship

    hooray for corporate sponsored censorship!!! of mis-information, home of the corporate slave.

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

  4. identicon
    CharlieHorse, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 10:54am

    what about the LA Times competitors ?

    so ... if I was one of the competitors to the LA Times - guess what I'd be doing right now ... ?

    yep, on the phone with every music promoter and band manager I could find ... I'd implement this RIGHT AWAY ... (before Steve Jobs steals the thunder again, LOL!)

    I really hope this happens ... OH PLEASE won't some forward thinking execs from one of the LA Times' competition step forward and DO THIS?!

    the fear in hollywood (read: riaa, mpaa) is not that this will fail ... but that it will succeed. it is clear that it has already succeeded. Prince's fan base is applauding what he did in Britain - AND the Sunday Mail got huge boost in ad revenue for that edition ... next question: how long before Sunday Mail does it again - and perhaps even implements a form of Jeff's ideas ? I wager it's not long ...

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

  5. identicon
    Banana Froth, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 11:57am

    I think it's a great idea. However, I am not so sure about transforming a newspaper into a "tastemaker". I tend to hold a large newspaper like the LA Times to a high journalistic standard and expect serious, well-researched, and thought provoking articles (though that doesn't always happen).
    If a newspaper is to be transformed into a "tastemaker", I feel you lose some of that journalistic long before the LA Times degenerates into US Weekly or Cosmo and has the front page article "48 sex tips you never knew existed"? Not that I feel it will get that bad...this business model for a newspaper seems like it would work, but at the cost of putting the actual news second and entertainment first. Actual news is something I feel newspapers cover the best even if it only happens once or twice a week. Local news has far too much filler, CNN doesn't seem to have a news report that lasts more than 30 seconds, the national news is too short to really get into the details and don't even get me started on the strange mix of mediocrity and stupidity that is the blogosphere.

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

  6. identicon
    comboman, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 11:59am

    Re: what about the LA Times competitors ?

    next question: how long before Sunday Mail does it again - and perhaps even implements a form of Jeff's ideas ? I wager it's not long ...

    Actually the Sunday Mail (and other UK newspapers) have been including promotional CDs (and DVDs) for quite some time. I think what was unique about the Prince CD was that it was a major American artist and was commissioned specifically for the newspaper.

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

  7. identicon
    snoow, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    It paid of big time for prince

    There is a big article
    which tell how prince could p9ossible make millions from this deal how many millions $35mill in tix and merchandising

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

  8. identicon
    Mikester, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 12:23pm

    Surprise - it's been patented

    In order to distribute a CD with their newspaper, the LA times would need to pay eTagz, who hold a patent on "placing advertising or other content on a piece of digital media that accompanies merchandise"

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 12:55pm

    I bet the LA Times is pissed the article got leaked. Sucks to be them, though -- they could have printed something that could have actually gotten the RIAA off its ass and doing something RIGHT for a change.

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

  10. identicon
    John, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 12:57pm


    Is that all of people with absolutely no interest in the music on that CD will toss into the landfill. More pollution.

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

  11. identicon
    A.L. Flanagan, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 12:59pm

    Missed point?

    Print is dead. So are CDs.

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

  12. identicon
    PTTG, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 1:04pm

    1984 & 1/2

    Is the journalist's name really Goldstein? If it is, then this is an interesting coincidence. Though The Book it isn't, a contraband article against the status quo, boldly released in secret fits rather closely.
    Although in the book Goldstein is not real...

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

  13. identicon
    Marc Cohen, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 1:40pm

    Coming to your town soon...

    Goldstein in right and the cat is out of the bag. It might not be the LA Times but I predict that very soon we will see a major daily (NY Post?) give away CDs with the paper. Check out the Ad-Supported Music Central blog:

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

  14. identicon
    andy, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 2:38pm

    maybe other factors

    i don't know if it's corporate censorship, although that is one possibility. i know that my editor wouldn't let the story run if he saw all the disparaging figures about our own paper... there's only so much bad news a newspaper can report about itself before it just starts to hurt its own image... i think that may be the case here.

    he would've been better off to point out across the board slouching numbers, or chosen another big daily newspaper as an example. at least, that way, he's not directly biting the hand that feeds... or, in this case, the hand that runs his story.

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

  15. icon
    bodiby (profile), Jul 25th, 2007 @ 4:38pm

    Free Music!

    I think Prince came up with a good idea and Goldstein's is better!

    I not very familiar with the print publications in L.A. even though I have lived here 2 years. I read some of the RSS feeds from the LA Times, but rarely touch the paper itself. Thinking of New York City where I have lived/worked for 15 years, I can think of a few papers that could probably pull this off quite well. The Village Voice was my first thought.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Surprise - it's been patented

    That site is kinda iffy looking. The front page is nothing but talking about their patent. I'm sure the "company" is real but the site loads slowly and earlier today I tried to go to it the site froze my pc and required a reboot. I get the feeling if some newspaper and artist tried to do what Prince did in the UK these guys would immediately cry foul. The term patent hoarding comes to mind...

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

  17. identicon
    snoow, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 8:46pm

    I don't think a newspaper will be givin out a CD regularly!
    how many ppl can pull off what prince did just a very few handful: The reason is

    Prince albums r self financed and r made on the cheap: he has never used a producer and he is song writer and plays pretty much all the instruments on the album in his own studio and it doesnt take him a long time to record a CD

    No label is goin to finance ur album and give it for free
    The producers will want a cut
    the Song writers will want a cut
    The musicians playin all the instruments will want a cut

    So unless u r independently wealthy and pay for ur own album and pay the producers and song writers

    And u have to be a big enuff star to be attractive to the papers

    Only a handful of artist can do this so u can see this only happen several times an yr.

    Prince doesnt live off his album sales anymore! most of his money comes from touring he was recently chargin something like $3,000/ per tix for a concerts in ny and in LA.

    This album release in the uk is to coincide with his tour in london where he plays 21 nites in the same arena (uks largest arena O2) and he will make tons of money from those shows sellin close to 1/2million tixs in one city so all the album hype is generating all the publicity for his shows!
    Another clever thing he did is have all the shows in one arena his touring cost will be very low since he isnt moving any equipment or ppl!
    just few yrs back he gave away free CDs in the us to his tour and u know what he ended that yr as the bigest money maker of the yr! So he is still raking in money but he is using the CD as a promotion tool!

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

  18. identicon
    bdozer, Aug 8th, 2007 @ 10:23am

    Re: Surprise - it's been patented

    Mikester is absolutely correct. We do have a patent on this. You can contact us in Seattle if you want to learn more.

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

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