On The Media Takes On The Music Industry

from the good-summary dept

WNYC's excellent radio program On The Media this week decided to spend an hour discussing the music industry. It's quite well done, in that it highlights how this is actually a great time in the music industry for musicians and fans -- with the only party really in trouble being the old record labels. The program talks to numerous knowledgeable people, including James Boyle, Amanda Palmer, Greg Kot and others. The one section, however, that I thought was a bit weak, was the section on live shows. That section only focused large stadium/amphitheater shows -- the kind that only a very small number of bands deal with. It doesn't even mention the much more common forms of touring and live shows. Furthermore, that section only seemed to talk to one individual -- a smaller concert promoter who used the part to basically bash Live Nation. Now there are things you can complain about with Live Nation (though, I'd argue that they've got a much better understanding of where the market is heading than most people give them credit for based on conversations I've had with Live Nation folks), but that segment was incredibly one-sided.

The other thing that I found incredibly telling was that the person who sounded most out of date and most in denial was not the RIAA representatives (who actually sounded at least somewhat circumspect on how the music industry was changing), but Rob Levine from Billboard Magazine, who still insists that it makes no sense to pay attention to "those who steal music." He brushes aside the band Ok Go for just doing "ok" as if you don't count unless you go platinum in record sales. He dismisses things done "as a hobby" as simply not mattering. He is, of course, defending Billboard's obsolete "charts" which are still based mostly on CD sales and radio play, but just comes across as someone who doesn't even realize what he's measuring (at 43:15 on the podcast):
"Right, okay, the one thing that does skew our ratings is that older people buy more music. They steal less music.... So like, you know, a Bruce Springsteen or a Madonna might overperform on the album sales chart relative to some more subjective measure of their popularity. But as far as like who's stealing what... I mean, what use is that?"
And that, right there, is why Billboard has become so obsolete. It's lead by people who think that file sharing is "stealing" and that it's meaningless in figuring out where the money is in music. It ignores the studies that have shown that people who download also end up buying more music. It ignores the studies that show people who download are more likely to attend a show or buy merchandise (things that Billboard doesn't appear to think matter at all in the industry). It's as if Billboard wanted to judge the popularity of the transportation industry by judging how many buggy whips are sold. Yes, as automobiles became more popular, buggy whip sales declined. Sucks to be you if you're focused just on measuring buggy ship sales, but the problem is that you're measuring the wrong thing.

Instead, the guy who sounds like he's really looking to the future is Duncan Freeman, of the site Band Metrics, who shows that the really important thing is not figuring out how many CDs are being sold, but how much fans are devoted to an artist (disclosure: I've met Duncan a few times at events, and talk to him occasionally about the music industry -- he's also given me an account on Band Metrics to check it out, even though it's not yet fully public -- though, I actually haven't used it yet). The program shows how a band can actually figure out where their biggest fans are, where they're getting the most buzz, and actually helps bands better connect with fans in multiple ways -- not just on the old model of selling them more CDs.

Oh yeah, one other point. Some Hollywood lawyers were getting on my case earlier this year, every time I claimed that the RIAA announced last year that it was no longer suing end users, even though it did keep suing. Those lawyers insisted that the RIAA said no such thing (even though that's what all of the press reported). In this podcast, the RIAA's Jonathan Lamy repeats: "Last December, we officially announced that we would end the litigation program against end users." Except it hasn't.

Overall, the program is a really great hour's worth of discussion on the types of things we regularly talk about here, and well worth a listen if you're interested in these things.


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  1.  
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    Old Fashioned, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:35am

    I think this site is always interesting. However, I do disagree with a basic premise - file sharing of property of others - is wrong.

    If someone wants to be paid for a product and you just take it without paying for it - that is wrong. Its true of a physical product and its true of a digital product. If the producer gives it away for free - fine- take it. Pay for what you use.

    That being said, I do think that the length of copyright is ridiculous in U.S. No one should have exclusive copyright for years, decades and maybe centuries. Same goes for Patents.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    "Last December, we officially announced that we would end the litigation program against end users."

    No, Mike, he's right, they made an announcement in December that they would end their litigation program against end users. They just didn't announce *when* they would end it.

    Crafty devils. :P

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:40am

    Re:

    I think this site is always interesting. However, I do disagree with a basic premise - file sharing of property of others - is wrong.

    I don't think it's "right." I just think it's THERE and it's not going away. Fighting it doesn't help. Why not figure out ways to use it to your advantage?

    (And by the way, it's not property -- property is something entirely different.)

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    Re:

    Mike has often stated that he does not condone unauthorized file sharing.

    However, it is possible to disapprove of something while still recognizing that it is an inevitable trend of the market. Moreover, while it is always "wrong" to take something without permission, it is arguably also "wrong" to attempt to monopolize an infinite good and limit access to it. In any case, the latter is sure to fail eventually.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    I say we lobby the IRS to have music industry re-codified as a utility, and re-regulated as such.

    Why? Well, competing in an free marketplace is too difficult for these guys to grasp.

    Plus, it will save a lot of money, time, and lobbying monies in the long run.

     

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    AC's love child, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    You apparently don't read this site very much then. Mike has been VERY clear that he does NOT support copyright infringment (unauthorized sharing of copyrighted files). But you still cannot equate downloading a file with taking a CD. When you download a file, the original is still there to be downloaded by others. When you take a CD, there is one less CD on the shelf for sale. Or put differently, when one takes a cd off the shelf at the store, they are denying the store the opportunity to sell that CD to SOMEONE ELSE. If get a file through a torrent or the like, I am not denying anyone the opportunity to sell that file to someone else. I'm not even denying them the opportunity of selling it to ME. All that is lost there is a potential sale (to me). Now, I'm not saying I support copyeright infringement either (I'm a musician), but this really isn't much different than when we were in college and made mix tapes for our friends - it's just a lot easier now..

     

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    Richard (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    file sharing of property of others - is wrong.

    True if it actually were property but legally it isn't property. If it is a straightforward copyright its a monopoly concession by the government. If a specific license is involved it may be a contract (that is being breached). Of course that doesn't make it right and this site doesn't officially take the line that it's OK (even if some commenters do).

    On the other hand the fact that it may be wrong legally (or even morally) doesn't mean that you can stop it and even if you could it doesn't mean that you should because of the collateral damage that you might be doing to others.

    The point is that if you can make money without enforcing copyright then that is a sounder way to do business and paradoxically you may get more respect for your "rights" that way.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    Economics is like that

    >>I just think it's THERE and it's not going away.

    There are a lot of things that seem unfair or that are undesirable in any free market economy. There are things that fly in the face of the modern sense of justice. However, they are there as Mike says.

    What the recording industry is fighting is basic economics. They are trying to pass laws that say people must continue to buy plastic disks. They have the additional problem that they can't really say that they want to force people to continue buy plastic disks, so they strike out at the symptoms of the problem. If they managed to kick every file sharer off the Internet tomorrow, CD sales would not return to where they were. In fact, it is even possible that CD sales would decline because the illegal downloads may be serving to promote the music. The real problem is basic economics, and that is a very hard thing to fight with laws and regulations.

     

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    Rob Levine, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Not exactly . . .

    Either NPR's program or your post misrepresents my position; I'm not sure which, since I haven't listened to the program.

    First, I _never_ brushed aside OK Go. I may have said it wasn't a big business - I don't remember my exact quotes - but I would never say that a band like that doesn't count. Many of my favorite bands don't sell many records, and I would never dismiss a band that I think is talented.

    Secondly, I never said that the music people STEAL - morally, that's what it means to take things that don't belong to you - is uninteresting. I simply said that this information is not very interesting to many of our readers because there's only sometimes a correlation between what people will steal and what they will pay for. For example, Chris Anderson's book "Free" was downloaded more than 250,000 times, according to his blog. So far I don't believe that it has sold more than a tenth of that in the U.S. For the same reason, I would not expect the behavior of people at a buffet to be any guide to their dining habits in restaurants.

    As I said, your blog post misrepresents my position significantly, although it may not be your fault. If you are curious about what I think, or what Billboard does, you could try calling - or would that be too close to old media reporting for your taste?

     

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    Comboman (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    Billboard Charts

    Billboard didn't even count PAID downloads (i.e. iTunes) prior to 2005. They count radio play, but not streaming (i.e. internet radio). They need to update their system or risk becoming irrelevant.

     

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    Mesh, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re:

    Great point! Those who download songs without paying for them ,probably wouldn't have bother paying for them in the first place.

     

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    Mesh (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re:

    Great point! Those who download songs without paying for them ,probably wouldn't have bother paying for them in the first place.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    Re: Not exactly . . .

    I'm having trouble reading past your inability to grasp the definition of a rather simple word like "steal," or even "take."

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Re: Not exactly . . .

    First, I _never_ brushed aside OK Go. I may have said it wasn't a big business - I don't remember my exact quotes - but I would never say that a band like that doesn't count. Many of my favorite bands don't sell many records, and I would never dismiss a band that I think is talented.

    It's entirely possible that was in the editing by NPR. They were talking about how Ok Go didn't sell that many records, and it immediately jumps to you talking about your "Snakes on a Plane" theory, which implied that Ok Go didn't much matter. My apologies if I interpreted that wrong.

    But that's how it comes across: that the only bands that "matter" are those that sell a ton.

    Secondly, I never said that the music people STEAL - morally, that's what it means to take things that don't belong to you - is uninteresting.

    I quoted you directly. You did in fact say "But as far as like who's stealing what... I mean, what use is that?" Did NPR edit that quote somehow?

    And, no, copying is not "stealing." Please, that's just fundamental. Copying is copying and it may be infringement, but it's hardly stealing.

    For example, Chris Anderson's book "Free" was downloaded more than 250,000 times, according to his blog. So far I don't believe that it has sold more than a tenth of that in the U.S.

    I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. No one suggests that downloads then equals sales. In fact, Chris himself says that you should expect less than 10% of the folks who get your stuff for free to pay for something related to, but that's ok. Have you read Chris' book?

    But, thanks to those 250,000 people downloading Chris' book, he made plenty of money in other ways. Some of the downloads were ad supported. Some of the downloads resulted in lucrative speaking gigs for Chris. Some resulted in consulting gigs. If those "free" downloads resulted in Chris making a lot more money, then who cares how many people bought the actual book?

    That's the point we're trying to make. If file sharing leads to people making more money, then who cares if they sell fewer CDs.

    I would not expect the behavior of people at a buffet to be any guide to their dining habits in restaurants.

    Yes, you said that on the program as well. But, that assumes that buffets are rarity and restaurants are more common. That is true in the dining world, but not in the music world any more. Again, the buggy whip analogy applies. You're focused on a market that is less and less relevant, because you're measuring the wrong thing.

    As I said, your blog post misrepresents my position significantly

    I quoted you directly. Again, perhaps the Ok Go thing was an editing issue -- and for that I apologize -- but it does appear your position remains that it's not important unless it's a massive selling *album*. The point we're trying to make is that the album is of less and less importance.

    f you are curious about what I think, or what Billboard does, you could try calling - or would that be too close to old media reporting for your taste?

    First, I am not a reporter. Oddly, I have told you this before, when your publication tried to push an opinion piece pretending it was reporting. So I'm not sure why you would again make that mistake.

    Given your own statement above, shouldn't you have "called me" to make sure I was a reporter?

    But, to the point, I was merely commenting on what was on the program. Are you disputing the comments you made on the program? Is that not your voice? Did you not say "what use is that" and call file sharing "stealing" multiple times?

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Re: Not exactly . . .

    "Many of my favorite bands don't sell many records, and I would never dismiss a band that I think is talented."

    Okay, but at what point do you stop dismissing bands altogether and just start considering them a part of a whole? Why do YOU have to think they're talented before they count? There are small and medium sized players in every market...why the parsing?

    "morally, that's what it means to take things that don't belong to you"

    Being an educated person, I'm sure you're aware of this already, but morals are extremely subjective. Why even enter them into the discussion, when yours are likely to differ to some degree from so many people? It's like trying to tell the canibals that feed the princess to the volcano to pacify their god, "Hey, you can't do that, it's MURDER!" Meanwhile, their religion, their morals require the sacrifice. What other reaction do you expect to a moral argument other than just having yourself chucked into the volcano as well?

    So why not just go with, oh I don't know, definitions from the dictionary, rather than colored and ambiguous definitions tainted by varied moralities?

    Steal:
    v.intr.
    1. To commit theft.
    2. To move, happen, or elapse stealthily or unobtrusively.
    3. Baseball To steal a base.

    Okay, so I assume we can toss out 2 & 3 from the discussion. So how about the legal definition of theft?

    "A criminal act in which property belonging to another is taken without that person's consent."

    Okay, now let's get the definition of "take" out of the way, so that we now it isn't synominous with "copy":

    "to gain or obtain possession, including the receipt of a legacy from an estate, getting title to real property, or stealing an object."

    The key parts of that definition are "to gain or obtain possession" and "real property". That means take, in legal parlance, means to obtain something that the other person has, thus depriving them of their real property. That ain't what copying is.

    So, you're moral definition is at odds with...you know...the REAL definition. And THAT'S the problem with these discussions, in that people want to react to what they FEEL rather than what IS.

     

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    Jon Bane (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Re: Not exactly . . .

    I have to ask, why Mike should call? Is that so you are not on record as having said something? Perhaps something more damning or contradictory than what you have already said? Or maybe you are unwilling stand up for your position in a public forum?

    If you believe your interview, positions, and statements to be intellectually honest, then why do you post your criticisms here?

     

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    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    It's true. CD sales don't matter anymore...

    I haven't bought a CD in 9 years. Who the hell wants to pay $15-$20 dollars for a CD with 10 to 15 songs on it? After that, the songs have to ripped to mp3 or ogg format to be of any real use (portable devices, laptop, pc, etc). And dragging around a CD collection while your on the go? Hell no! Music CDs are out of date. Something that needs to fade away in the same fashion as casette tapes did. only faster! ;)

    The RIAA and other organizations like them, are Mafia Families operating in different parts of the world. They are dinosaurs of the past whose business models became extinct long, long ago. And what happened to the all the other dinosaurs? Eh?
    Why would anyone believe anything they say, anyway. };>

    - Power To The Music Fan :D

     

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    Richard (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Re: Not exactly . . .


    Secondly, I never said that the music people STEAL - morally, that's what it means to take things that don't belong to you


    You have to be careful using the S word here as most readers of this site are quite sophisticated about the point. However suffice to say that copying a physical object you own is not the same thing as taking one that you don't. It is an impoverishment of language to use the same word.

    - is uninteresting. I simply said that this information is not very interesting to many of our readers because there's only sometimes a correlation between what people will steal and what they will pay for. For example, Chris Anderson's book "Free" was downloaded more than 250,000 times, according to his blog. So far I don't believe that it has sold more than a tenth of that in the U.S. For the same reason, I would not expect the behavior of people at a buffet to be any guide to their dining habits in restaurants.

    I think this statement is a bit too strong - the correlation may be difficult to assess with any accuracy - but then so was the correlation between singles sales and album sales in the 60's when the dominant mode of buying switched - and again more recently when it started to switch back again. I would have thought that the role of an organisation like yours would be to attempt to address difficult issues like these - not ignore them.

    Also I'm sure George Bush doesn't eat broccoli even if it's free although he might if he were starving.

    Thanks for joining the debate here btw.

     

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    Jon Bane (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Re: Billboard Charts

    And really what does radio play matter? Since when did the vast majority of songs on the radio get chosen by the listeners? I have always seen it more as an advertising platform for the music than a way for me the consumer to show my interests.

     

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    AC's love child, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Re: Re: Not exactly . . .

    DH is my hero!

     

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    Robert Levine, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    It's hard to respond because I haven't heard the NPR program. When I said "of what use is it" to have this information, I was specifically talking about album sales. There are plenty of uses for that information - sociological, for one. The context matters. But I believe that information on what people are willing to pay for is much more valuable than information on what they're willing to take. From the feedback I get, our readers seem to agree.

    >>>But, thanks to those 250,000 people downloading Chris' book, he made plenty of money in other ways. Some of the downloads were ad supported. Some of the downloads resulted in lucrative speaking gigs for Chris. Some resulted in consulting gigs. If those "free" downloads resulted in Chris making a lot more money, then who cares how many people bought the actual book?

    I imagine that his publisher would care quite a bit, actually. Chris became famous (at least by tech-pundit standards) because big companies - first Wired publisher Conde Nast, then whichever publishing house put out "The Long Tail" - put significant resources into promoting him as an expert. I very much doubt that Chris' publisher gets a share of his speaking fees, and I very much doubt that the sales of "Free" justified that publisher's investment. That would probably mean that he'd have trouble getting a next book advance and continuing his speaking career. Perhaps he could do as Nine Inch Nails does - give away his next book and charge more for speaking gigs. But your question was who cares - there's your answer.

     

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    Richard (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Re:

    But I believe that information on what people are willing to pay for is much more valuable than information on what they're willing to take.

    No - information is information.

    Information on what people are willing to take is harder to interpret than information on what they're willing to pay for.

    But you owe it to your readers to try. They may not be ready for it yet - but it's your job to lead.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Re:

    But I believe that information on what people are willing to pay for is much more valuable than information on what they're willing to take. From the feedback I get, our readers seem to agree.

    Rob, I'm not sure how many times this needs to be repeated: we ARE talking about what people are willing to pay for. And it's more than just "album sales."

    I imagine that his publisher would care quite a bit, actually. Chris became famous (at least by tech-pundit standards) because big companies - first Wired publisher Conde Nast, then whichever publishing house put out "The Long Tail" - put significant resources into promoting him as an expert. I very much doubt that Chris' publisher gets a share of his speaking fees, and I very much doubt that the sales of "Free" justified that publisher's investment. That would probably mean that he'd have trouble getting a next book advance and continuing his speaking career. Perhaps he could do as Nine Inch Nails does - give away his next book and charge more for speaking gigs. But your question was who cares - there's your answer.

    Indeed, but you claimed you could dismiss it because 250,000 who downloaded did not buy the book. But as I pointed out (which you entirely skipped over) at least some of them likely DID buy the book because of the free version. AND, on top of that, many Chris was able to monetize things in other ways.

    And, if Chris is able to monetize things in other ways -- even if the publisher doesn't directly see a cut of that -- then any publisher should be able to figure out ways to monetize.

    Besides, even while giving away "Free" to 250,000 people, it was also a NY Times best seller: http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2009/07/a-new-york-times-bestseller.html

    Yeah, but it's all "stealing" and morally wrong, right?

     

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    Chris Connelly, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Re:

    Robert - just a quick question. I don't meant this sarcastically at all: do you realize that there is a link to both the transcript and the audio of the NPR program listed in the story?

    Wouldn't it be more helpful to comment on something you've actually heard, so you understand the context in which it is being addressed?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Re:

    "Chris became famous (at least by tech-pundit standards)..."

    Wow, supercilious much?

     

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    Richard (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Re:

    information on what people are willing to pay for is much more valuable than information on what they're willing to take.
    But even the things that aren't paid for in cash are not cost free. You have to spend your time to listen. In a buffet you also "spend" your hunger.

    The real problem is distinguishing the stuff that people actually listen to from what they download and just leave on the drive gathering electronic dust. I have plenty of the latter - even some that I have paid money for. Not to mention the CD's bought but never even unwrapped.

    My time is scarcer than my money at present.

    Data about what was bought in the past is only really interesting insofar as it predicts what will be bought in the future (except perhaps to accountants!). The latter is best predicted by what was listened to - and payment being made is not a guarantee of that.

     

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    RD, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:11pm

    Nope

    "I imagine that his publisher would care quite a bit, actually. Chris became famous (at least by tech-pundit standards) because big companies - first Wired publisher Conde Nast, then whichever publishing house put out "The Long Tail" - put significant resources into promoting him as an expert. I very much doubt that Chris' publisher gets a share of his speaking fees, and I very much doubt that the sales of "Free" justified that publisher's investment. That would probably mean that he'd have trouble getting a next book advance and continuing his speaking career. Perhaps he could do as Nine Inch Nails does - give away his next book and charge more for speaking gigs. But your question was who cares - there's your answer."

    Then that is just too bad for the publisher, he should have made a better or more equitable deal. OR, and here is rather the ENTIRE point of all this, maybe the publisher should EMBRACE these other methods and USE them instead of getting cut out of them. Also, good luck EVER getting ANY author to agree to a contract that states a PUBLISHER gets a cut (or most) of his SPEAKING and appearance fees. I'm sure it's happened, but I'm also sure (mostly because I know many authors) that it'll be a cold day in hell before that happens as the norm. Unless the publisher wants to up the royalties to something like 40%-60%? Yeah, didnt think so. I'm sure you'd have a heart attack if someone demanded that much.

     

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    vivaelamor (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Re:

    I find it funny that a society that tends to have a taboo against restricting how many children a couple can have to avoid overpopulation, is content to restrict peoples choices on how to support (or not) artists whose work they use.

    As things are now, people are being convinced that there is value in a CD with a recording on even when they don't want to use a CD. Artists shouldn't be as valuable as how many CD's of theirs you buy, they should be as valuable as how much you want to hear something new or show your appreciation for something you have heard. As long as people are convinced to think of music in quantity then that is what we will get: An overinflated market for an artificial product. Where is the sense in that?

    When businesses stop trying to only make money out of artists by making people 'buy' their work then we will have more money to spend on actually supporting the artists, rather than CD manufacturing and all the other costs associated with retail. If business can market boybands and other worthless junk as 'cool' then I am sure they can convince people that supporting artists just because it makes sense is cool, even if it is just by incorporating that idea into existing and developing business models.

    I'm all in favour of unauthorised file sharing. So far all the opposition have taught me is how to misuse words.

     

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    Robert Levine, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    >>>do you realize that there is a link to both the transcript and the audio of the NPR program listed in the story?

    Yes. But I got the impression that the reporter had the story written in his head before he added my quotes, so I didn't bother to read it. I know some people don't like me from reading this blog.

    >>>Wow, supercilious much?

    No. Just meant that Chris isn't _really_ famous. Didn't mean to be snotty. He's a lot more well known than I am.

    >>>Besides, even while giving away "Free" to 250,000 people, it was also a NY Times best seller

    Yes, but only for the initial week of release. If you look at an entry from Chris' blog from that time - http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2009/07/a-new-york-times-bestseller.html - he says that he expects sales to increase once "word of mouth from all the free readers turns into sales." But they never did! Instead, according to BookScan, sales have declined since then - rather sharply. That either implies that word of mouth hurt the book or that the free good served as a substitute for the paid good. And it didn't sell _nearly_ as well as "The Long Tail," which was not given away - surprising considering that Chris is much better known now.

     

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  30.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Speaking of Chris Anderson's "Free"

    For example, Chris Anderson's book "Free" was downloaded more than 250,000 times, according to his blog. So far I don't believe that it has sold more than a tenth of that in the U.S.

    Ok, lets just look at that statement for a second. Less than a tenth of 250,000? Well "less than a tenth" is ambiguous, and I cannot find actual sales figures, so I'll go on the side of caution and say 5%. 5% of 250,000 is 12,500 copies of the book sold. Now according to Publisher's Weekly:
    “Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies” (Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006).

    So, if 12,500 copies of "Free" sold, then that puts "Free" in the top 2% of books sold. Do you really think his publisher is disappointed with that? Do you really think that if he hadn't been giving it away in the way he did that he would have sold even more?

    Based on the above info nearly 80% of books don't even sell 99 copies. It looks as though obscurity is actually the largest cause of "lost sales".

     

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  31.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Speaking of Chris Anderson's "Free"

    "So, if 12,500 copies of "Free" sold, then that puts "Free" in the top 2% of books sold. Do you really think his publisher is disappointed with that?"

    Knowing at least a little about the publishing industry, yes, that would disappoint them. They publish books in a neverending search for the top .01% of published works in terms of sales (this figure is taken from several books for authors looking to get published). Sadly, that is because of the way they spend their money, rather than a cost of doing business. Smaller publishers tend to do things differently, but marginally assisted self-publishing is going to end up being the way it's done en masse very shortly, IMO...

     

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  32.  
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    Block (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Not exactly . . .

    You can fix that problem - you can listen to the program. They are very good editors, but I don't believe you're quoted out of context in any way.

    You point out that OK Go represents a failure in so far as 'modern music publishers' weren't able to use the traditional means in their power to turn OK Go into a platinum seller. I suspect most people listening to the podcast slapped their hands against their foreheads collectively and said "Duh".

    Billboard's position - your position, espoused in the podcast quite clearly, and as you're the mouth of Billboard for the purposes of that interview, Billboard's - is that you don't see the point of tracking music that isn't selling.

    But music isn't selling, and you don't know why, and one of those reasons is that you haven't got a clue what people are listening to anymore.

    NPR's right on the money, on this one. You've chosen to remove one of your eyes, somehow convinced that depth perception is just getting in your way.

    If Billboard's purpose in creating a 'top 100' list of music is to chart what is selling in CD shops, then you're fine and dandy. If the purpose of the top 100 is to find out what a bunch of middle-aged people who are afraid of their laptops wants to go buy, that's great. In response to your comment, I don't know what that top 100 list is actually good for if it doesn't represent music I'd actually be interested in buying - and if I'm not interested in buying it, that's because the music industry is busy pushing the records on your list, the one I could care less about.

    Don't accuse TechDirt of skewing your opinion - the tone of the report here was much more even handed than I'd have written up myself on what amounts to corporate myopia on your part.

     

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  33.  
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    Chris Connelly (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:08pm

    Re:

    Well, to be honest, I had no opinion of you before reading this blog, as this is my first visit here. While your name rings a bell from my days reading a lot of Billboard, I can't say I know you specifically. But to openly state something like this doesn't lead me to think very highly of you:

    >>>Yes. But I got the impression that the reporter had the story written in his head before he added my quotes, so I didn't bother to read it. I know some people don't like me from reading this blog.

    How are you any better, then? You're operating on an assumption that the writer had the story written in his head before going to print - but you're doing exactly the same thing. Of course, you participated in the interview, but you haven't heard how it was cut. So isn't it possible your beef is with NPR?

    I'm all for defending your work, and more power to you for coming here and responding and engaging in some dialogue. I seriously applaud that, as it takes guts. But man, at least give us the respect of listening to what people are talking about so you understand the context. Even IF the author wrote his story based on preconceptions, the rest of us aren't the author - we're simply viewing your exchange, and repeatedly commenting without putting it in the same context comes off as bullheaded and ignorant.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Speaking of Chris Anderson's "Free"

    IMHO book publishers have something going for them that the music industry never had. I trust the publisher (or not), and I expect a certain level of quality from a book from a specific publisher. That is added value. I didn't know (back when buying plastic discs made sense) which publisher released an album, I simply knew which band it was. I still don't know. But if I want to discover a new author I'll probably go to a few specific publishers. Of course that too can change if CC is widely adopted.

     

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  35.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Not exactly . . .

    "STEAL - morally, that's what it means to take things that don't belong to you"

    Language is very flexible, you can use a word in an undocumented context to make a point and many words develop colloquially through such use. By saying that copying is stealing you may intend to create a simile between the effects of copying and the effects of stealing for example.

    Such a use of the word in relation to copyright causes conflicts because stealing already has a usage in that context. If you are to argue that there is such thing as intellectual property, which I accept to the extent that it shares many concepts with real property such as that of ownership, then you must recognise that a copy is not property because in common usage intellectual property refers to the right itself. To steal someone's copyright you would have to deprive them of their rights.. not merely ignore them. Thus the correct term is infringement.

    I'll give you an analogy I am growing fond of to explain why this distinction is important. You can steal a kiss, but to include a kiss in a list of items that have been stolen is deceptive. To steal a kiss does not have the same meaning as to steal a TV.

    When people start saying use of the word steal is a moral definition they are asking to be battered around the head with a cluebat until they respect the fact that the more they try to deceive me the less I will respect them. Go ahead and tell me how copyright infringement is similar to stealing all you want, I have no problem with that. Start calling it stealing and I'll be inclined to take the same liberties with your patience as you take with language.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Not exactly . . .

    But he used ALL CAPS, how can you have trouble reading it? The louder the easier to understand.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Don't give me your "facts"

    Truth is not what you think with your head, it's what you KNOW with your HEART!

     

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  38.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Don't give me your "facts"

    "Truth is not what you think with your head, it's what you KNOW with your HEART!"

    Then truth is a subjective, stupid thing that need not be considered when discussing reality...

     

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  39.  
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    wallow-T, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:22pm

    Idle thought: Billboard's chart business, historically, is to provide guidance to those in the entertainment industry who have to allocate limited resources -- retail shelf space, terrestrial radio play-time, possibly even manufacturing plant capacity.

    Most or all of that functionality becomes meaningless in the infinite-supply world. To Tower Records, it once mattered a great deal, the difference between the #1 selling album and the #100 selling album. To iTunes -- not so much.

     

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  40.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Don't give me your "facts"

    AC:"Truth is not what you think with your head, it's what you KNOW with your HEART!"

    DH:Then truth is a subjective, stupid thing that need not be considered when discussing reality...


    He was quoting one of Glenn Beck's more idiotic statements. My personal favorite is "Believe in something, even if it's wrong. Believe in it!"

     

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  41.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Don't give me your "facts"

    Oh, wait, No. AC's quote was actually from Stephen Colbert. My bad.

     

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  42.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Don't give me your "facts"

    "He was quoting one of Glenn Beck's more idiotic statements. My personal favorite is "Believe in something, even if it's wrong. Believe in it!""

    Ah, my bad. Can I add another similar and awesome quote that seems to apply to the content industries today? It's from failed Chicago Bears Head Coach Dick Jauron:

    "Sometimes, you do things that are unsuccessful. Even if you know the play is going to be unsuccessful, you still run the play."

    Bwah??!!!?!?

     

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  43.  
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    Nethos (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:04pm

    "stolen"...

    So here's a true story illustrating how piracy often works:

    At one store I worked in for a while, there was one employee who was always playing music I liked. Not the really popular rock bands that most of the other people played over and over, but smaller and lesser-known bands. One day there was this really catchy tune that I had never heard before, and it got stuck in my head so I asked him who sang it. He told me it was a kinda small band called Say Anything. That night, I downloaded their (only) album and listened to it for a while as I worked on the computer. I really liked the band's sound, and now I am a pretty big fan who goes to their shows whenever they are in town and actively supports the band.

    So long story short, while some may just look at the fact that I "stole" their music and call me a criminal who is killing music, downloading and listening to their music resulted in me becoming a big fan, giving the band more money and support by attending concerts and spreading their music to friends than just the price of one CD.

     

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  44.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    Re: "stolen"...

    At one store I worked in for a while, there was one employee who was always playing music I liked.

    Oh no!!! They were playing music in the store? Did they pay their public performance licensing fees? You know that every song they played cost the music industry 325 trillion dollars. By not paying they are supporting raporism!!

     

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  45.  
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    Mojo Bone, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:39pm

    "If file sharing leads to people making more money, then who cares if they sell fewer CDs."

    I think that's about as dumb as Billboard not paying attention to sharing and streaming. The problem for many is that file sharing leads to different parties making different amounts of money, with the result that in the traditional music biz paradigm involving a label and an artist, the entity that pays for the manufacture of CDs makes less. I seriously doubt that physical product with embedded music will ever completely go away. Once I have a CD, I needn't worry about backing up any MP3s I rip from it, and I have some words and pictures that add value as well.If I don't care for any of that, and can't be bothered with storing the item in such a way that I can have access when needed, I can take it to an indie music shop and trade it for something else or sell it outright, so it still has a value. (somewhere far south of $16.98, but still a value)

    The ratio of extralegal downloads to sales of legal downloads/physical sales can vary wildly from artist to artist, even song to song. I'd expect Billboard's customers could really use some help in making some sense of that, and how it applies to their business model.

    It's up to the individual to decide whether infringement is the moral equivalent of stealing; by my reckoning, it's far worse to offer unlimited free copies of someone else's hard labor than to steal a single CD from a store shelf. Speaking as an artist, I'm down with as much one-for-one trading/sharing as any of my fans want to do, given that they paid once, they have that right, but if some third party is going to give away my work to thousands, they at least owe me a share of their ad revenue and the data they collect on those that download my work.

     

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  46.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:56pm

    Re:

    Once I have a CD, I needn't worry about backing up any MP3s I rip from it, and I have some words and pictures that add value as well.If I don't care for any of that, and can't be bothered with storing the item in such a way that I can have access when needed, I can take it to an indie music shop and trade it for something else or sell it outright, so it still has a value. (somewhere far south of $16.98, but still a value)

    Except that the RIAA says that what you describe is also copyright infringement. According to them if you sell, give away, or even have the original CD stolen from you, then you no longer have the right to the MP3s that you made from it.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 4:10pm

    It's not "Identity THEFT"! It's "Identity SHARING".

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 4:57pm

    "The problem for many is that file sharing leads to different parties making different amounts of money, with the result that in the traditional music biz paradigm involving a label and an artist, the entity that pays for the manufacture of CDs makes less."

    And why is that a problem?

     

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  49.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 5:01pm

    Re:

    Actually, it's "fraud."

    But you're fundamental point is correct, and I've always hated the term "identity theft" because of it. It's not theft, although the fraud can be (and typically is) used to commit actual theft.

     

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  50.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 5:22pm

    Re: Re:

    It's always possible there are body-snatching aliens roaming around stealing peoples identities to give the term a literal application.

     

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  51.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 11:42pm

    Re:

    Yes. But I got the impression that the reporter had the story written in his head before he added my quotes, so I didn't bother to read it. I know some people don't like me from reading this blog.

    I'm not sure if that's in reference to me or the NPR guy, but I didn't have anything in mind when I listened to the show. I figured it would be the RIAA guy who sounded out of touch and was shocked when I heard your quote.

    A few friends who know you have said that you're really sharp and doing great things with Billboard -- but, man, your quotes... wow. It just makes you sound really out of touch.


    No. Just meant that Chris isn't _really_ famous.


    Which is the point we were making originally about Ok Go. Why does being "really famous" matter?

    Yes, but only for the initial week of release. If you look at an entry from Chris' blog from that time - http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2009/07/a-new-york-times-bestseller.html - he says that he expects sales to increase once "word of mouth from all the free readers turns into sales." But they never did! Instead, according to BookScan, sales have declined since then - rather sharply. That either implies that word of mouth hurt the book or that the free good served as a substitute for the paid good. And it didn't sell _nearly_ as well as "The Long Tail," which was not given away - surprising considering that Chris is much better known now.

    There are a lot of reasons why Chris' book hasn't sold well -- some of them I brought up in my own review of the book, but more seriously, I think he went overboard with a "give it away and pray" strategy, rather than giving people a real reason to buy. No one around here says that free automatically leads to sales (I know you've said in the past you don't read Techdirt, so perhaps you don't recognize this), but free combined with a smart business model absolutely leads to sales. We've seen it over and over again.

    But, in your mind "free" is just stealing and meaningless. No offense, but that's wrong and sounds clueless.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 12:50am

    So his previous book that was offered at a set price sold A LOT MORE than his follow-up book that he had offered for free?

    Does 2+2 actually equal 4? What kind of crazy world is this?

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 10:15am

    Re:

    Maybe the first book was better than the second?

     

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  54.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re:

    I wonder which book made him more money if you count total income rather than just sales?

    Whichever one, it's pretty dangerous to draw any conclusions from it. As the other reply points out, there's too many variables that can affect this single data point.

     

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  55.  
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    Robert Levine, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re:

    >>>But, in your mind "free" is just stealing and meaningless. No offense, but that's wrong and sounds clueless.

    I NEVER said "free" was stealing OR meaningless. I think giving things away is great - Billboard gives some things away (I'm not in charge of this - the publisher is - but I think it's great).

    But there's a difference between giving things away and taking things which are not yours to take. I call this "stealing." You can call it something else. But I see a big difference between reading our free content at Billboard.com (please do!) and sharing the content behind our paywall (please don't!). This could be described as a freemium service: Some content is free and some is not. As you do, I think this is great. Where I think we disagree is that I believe that the system wouldn't work without the paywall. (This is my personal opinion, not a corporate one.)

    Also, I never meant to say that free music is meaningless. It's meaningful in all sorts of ways - artistically, for one, if it's good music. As a business, though, Billboard mainly counts who's making money: Not only by selling records (the charts we're best known for) but by selling concert tickets (Billboard BoxScore) and getting paid for publishing rights (in our publishing quarterlies). Whether you think we should be counting music that's not paid for depends on whether you think it's a reasonable predictor of music that will be paid for or concerts that will be seen. In some cases, it is (Lil Wayne). In too many others, however, it isn't.

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 4:37pm

    Whichever one, it's pretty dangerous to draw any conclusions from it. As the other reply points out, there's too many variables that can affect this single data point.

    Really? It's "Pretty dangerous"? Have you ever actually read a TechDirt article? One of the cornerstones of this blog and Mike's ideology in general is drawing conclusions from tenuous (at best) sources and trying to extrapolate the micro into the macro.

     

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


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