Leaving A Major Record Label... And Seeing How The Music Business Is Thriving

from the it's-all-good dept

A few years ago, after seeing Ethan Kaplan speak, I had suggested that Warner Music promote him. At the time, Ethan was VP of technology for Warner Bros. Music, one of Warner Music's sub-labels. I'd followed Ethan's writings for a while, but hearing him speak convinced me that he was definitely one of the folks inside a major record label who really understood where things were headed. There definitely are a few such folks mixed in here and there, but they're not always easy to find, and they usually don't get the attention they deserve within those labels. Warner Music didn't promote him until sometime last year, when they moved him up to the parent company, Warner Music Group, but the company's top management still never seemed to recognize quite what they had in Ethan in terms of his ability to recognize where the market was heading and how a major label could (and should) respond to those challenges. So it was disappointing, but of little surprise when he left Warner Music a month ago. I have little doubt he's now in high demand from a variety of forward-looking companies doing technology stuff in the music space, and I imagine he'll pop up somewhere interesting soon.

However, as we wait, he's written a fascinating blog post about his view on the music industry, now that he's out of a major record label and seeing what else is there. The whole thing is so worth reading, I'm having trouble picking a part to excerpt, so here's a tidbit, but you really should read the whole thing:
A lot of the sentiment I've been living under for the past few years has been based on fear. Things slipping through fingers never to be returned. What I found leaving however is that while things slipped through fingers, they didn't fall to the ground. A whole other ecosystem of hands was there to catch it.

The music business didn't die. And it isn't dying. I argue that the human race will have to die before an industry around music fully succumbs. It is changing. Shrinking, contracting and expanding. It is also diversifying and competing for attention and dollars with ecosystems and markets that weren't even imaginable five years ago. Where one dollar might have gone toward a record before, it is now split between entertainment bills, ad-hoc entertainment, subscriptions and the increased cost of providing us the unencumbered connectivity and freedom brought by devices like iPhones.
As I said, there's a lot more in the post, including why he's optimistic and excited about the new ecosystem that's evolving. While we sometimes (if you count the comments, quite frequently) have "music industry" insiders stop by to tell us that we're crazy for saying the music industry is thriving and there's more opportunity than ever before, it's always nice to see someone who's deeply involved on the inside making the same point. I have no idea what Ethan will be doing next, but I'm sure it will be worth paying attention to.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Justin Olbrantz (Quantam), 2 Mar 2011 @ 5:22pm

    Re:

    Part of the problem is the simple math, as I believe I've said on TechDirt before.

    Previously, the record labels largely controlled music distribution and so effectively controlled the number of bands that went public. Now that the internet has made distribution nearly zero-cost for everyone with an internet connection, and computer technology has caused the costs of producing and recording music to plummet (I make no statements about the relative quality of the music), the total amount of music being produced is increasing exponentially.

    The problem is that there isn't an unlimited amount of money available to make from music, as it's always limited by the number of consumers, the size of their paychecks, how much of those paychecks they're willing to spend on music, etc. The result is that the amount of money available per musician is falling. The end result may be that music will become less of a profession and more of a moonlighting activity because money is spread so thin among the enormous number of musicians. This is a problem that even CwF+RtB can't help with, and something I've been worried about for a while now.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer
Anonymous number for texting and calling from Hushed. $25 lifetime membership, use code TECHDIRT25
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.