New Music Locker Startup Looks More Like Sucker's Bet To Transfer Cash From Investors To Music Labels

from the do-the-math dept

A few weeks ago, at the Digital Music Forum East event, right before I went on stage to interview Gary Shapiro from CEA, there was a presentation from a new music startup I'd never heard of, called Beyond Oblivion. The presentation (which is embedded below) was interesting, if incredibly vague. It looks like they're trying to create a music locker of sorts, but to avoid the various legal woes of other such music lockers by throwing a ton of cash at the labels. It's basically "don't sue us" money. Literally, the company has promised to pay $500 million to labels. It claims that it will monitor digital locker usage and any use of a song -- whether it was legally obtained or not -- will result in payment to the copyright holders. The presentation certainly created some buzz, but I couldn't figure out how the model made any sense at all. Apparently some investors are willing to give it a shot. Based on not much of anything in terms of proof that this will work, the company has raised an astounding $77 million, much of which you have to assume will just be handed over to record labels. Of course, as Hypebot notes, how much of that actually goes to artists appears to be an open question.

But really, the whole thing is head-scratching. How does the company make money? By charging device makers to pre-install its software. But why will device makers agree to pay to install this software? Yeah, that's the big question mark in the quest to the "profit" stage in the game plan. I'm sure the record labels will gladly take the cash that the investors just handed over to Beyond Oblivion, but that hardly makes this an offering that is likely to gain any traction in the marketplace.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 1:07am

    "A fool and his money are soon parted."
    ~Thomas Tusser

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 1:37am

    you have to assume will just be handed over to record labels. Of course, as Hypebot notes, how much of that actually goes to artists appears to be an open question.

    "Hi, I'm a complete nerd that knows nothing about the music business. I like to make sweeping generalizations about how all transactions between musicians and record labels occur. I know so little about how things work, that I assume artists never choose to sign with a record label to further their career, but that a gun was held to their head while the label rep whispered "I'm taking all your money and your Aunt Bertha's too".
    I've never seen a royalty statement from a successful band on an indie label, but I'll just go ahead and state that the artist only made 1% of the profit. I think that the employee list at record labels is comprised of animatrons, not people that believe passionately in an artist. I think it's better if an artist just uses the internet to gain recognition, and ignore all the professional workers that are already skilled at bringing interest to an artist via multiple outlets.

    Oh, and btw, I'm tone deaf and couldn't capably play a musical instrument even if you paid me a million dollars to do so.

    Please do as I say. You'll be famous in music."

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 1:45am

    Bass Ackward

    Opportunity knocks and the music industry says "Go away, Im waiting for opportunity."

    Now maybe Im looking at this the wrong way, but this seems to be completely BACKWARD. The music industry should be paying this service a license to use their technology and then collecting the projected profits for themselves.

    Promising the labels half a billion dollars to avoid a lawsuit is like giving a bunch of crack addicts a big bag of crack and saying "You can have this big bag of crack right now if you promise to give up your addiction." What do you think the response will be????? The labels will just suck the well dry and when the money runs out they will sue for whatever is left of the dried up well, claiming that the service is just another form of piracy.

    Personally, I think the idea is a good one, but it should be implemented by the labels and they should license the technology. If it doesn't work out, at least they tried a new business model.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 2:56am

    Re:

    No one holds a gun to musicians' heads to make them sign. They just have to promise them things they'll never have. Like money. The labels would never come out and tell them that they're going to bleed them dry and lock up their music in perpetuity. No one would sign with them if the labels were honest about their intentions. That's how they get people to sign.

    If you can see this from your overly-tall horse, I'd suggest you read it to see exactly how the artists are talked into screwing themselves with a major label contract:

    http://www.negativland.com/albini.html

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 3:16am

    News Corp is the primary investor.
    The labels will be able to tell everyone "see? they are paying us, so everyone else should pay us too."

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 3:42am

    Re:

    I can't even begin to understand why you decided to share all of your personality disorders/musical inadequacies with us. It's probably a good thing you are anonymous, or else it could've been embarrassing.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 3:44am

    Re:

    The 3 times we were asked to sign (in the 90s):
    1.Publishing deal: 70 to him 30 to us, no money - we walked out
    2. Management (v well known): he pushed the papers over the desk we said we thought we should have a lawyer look over it, he said fine 'here's my lawyer' - his lawyer walked in. We walked out.
    3. Record Deal (v well known label): 'the same that Suede got - a few hundred quid and a big bag of coke' We walked out.
    So, yes it was all pretty shoddy especially at the 'indie' end of the market. its probably great if you come out of Brit School.
    So, on the whole i would say that ye

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Mr Big Content, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 4:06am

    Obvious Business Model Is Obvious

    The business proposition seems pretty clear to me: the music they will have access to will be worth far more than that $500 million, so there’s instant profit right there. In fact, I can see the labels having second thoughts about letting this outfit having things too cheaply, and demanding more later. Though they probably won’t be able to stop this company from ripping them off in the meantime, and then going bust to avoid paying up all the billions owed.

    It’s a wonder the record labels still keep their faith in human nature and don’t become completely cynical, the number of times they’ve been stiffed like this. Still, good on them on being willing to keep trying.

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 5:31am

    Re:

    Oh, and btw, I'm tone deaf and couldn't capably play a musical instrument even if you paid me a million dollars to do so.

    If I were a musician I would rather be advised about business models by someone who knows economics and business than by another musician.

    If I were a dog I would rather be operated on by a vet then by another dog.

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    Andy D (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:26am

    Re:

    "A fool and his money are soon elected."
    ~Will Rogers

     

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

  11.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    Should be named Oblivion and Beyond.

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    pringerX (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 8:39am

    "The presentaiton (which is embedded below)"
    -friendly neighborhood typo officer

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    So if there are grammar nazis you must be an officer of the GESTYPO

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

    Re:

    So you've shown the world that you suck as a musician. We get that. Now you're determined to prove that you suck at economics as well? Great start, but you have a ways to go before you get down to the same depths you reached in music. Keep trying...

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re:

    Uhh newsflash.. Everyone knows Albini. He's a perpetual cynic who wrote that article in the 90s. There isn't a word of truth to it now.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    adamkidron (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 4:09pm

    Please excuse me for barging in… Beyond Oblivion is not paying the labels $500 M – that figure is our target of licenses sales by Beyond Oblivion prior to commercial launch. It is an ambitious figure but doable. We have promised to pay a very significant percentage of revenues to content owners, be they major labels, indies or individuals. Why? Because they created to content and deserve to reap its rewards and because it is good business to encourage an active and fair marketplace, just as it ludicrous to continue to support a model whereby a few suckers dumb enough to pay for music subsidize the consumption of those who wont.

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    adam

    You do know, unless you are part of the record labels, they will bleed you dry. It will follow this path ...

    1) wanting to partner with you or become investors.
    2) a law suit to be used to force you to capitulate to their terms.
    3) you taking their terms.
    4) the eventual failure of your business.

    That is if this isn't a quasi-legal scam to rip off investors.

    Now some questions....

    1) Will this be free to the end user?

    If not it is destined to fail. With 5 million bands on MySpace and FaceBook you have massive competition for the labels dollars. The economics of free (FMA, CC, etc) will bleed the labels dry over time.

    2) will you be paying independant artists directly? or through some colletion society where they will never see a dime?

    3) how will indies register for payment?

    4) will the monies paid out be based on negotiated contracts with the labels? or real life "whats stored in the file locker" data?

    if it is contracts with the labels then you are boned (see 5 below)

    5) have you read any of the CC licenses?

    You can get nailed for copyright infringement and soon felony infringement (COICA) if you pay out against certain CC licenses.

    thats it for now.

    David

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This