Over in the UK, on Thursday evening, there was a music industry panel discussion that involved a massive number of panelists (ten -- which seems a bit too many) covering a wide variety of viewpoints from the music industry. Mostly they came from the traditional parts of the music industry, but the interesting participant was Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, aka brokep, from The Pirate Bay (and now Flattr), taking part in the discussion with a group of folks who regularly call him all sorts of unfriendly things. Stuart Dredge, over at Music Ally, ran a nice live blog of the conversation
, which mostly went down about as you would expect. Dredge noted that it was mostly an "industry" audience, and he worried that "there’s a bit of a kick-the-Pirate-Bay mood bubbling" in the audience.
Thankfully, it doesn't look like things got that far. Mostly it was the typical back and forth. Industry folks whining that they can't compete with The Pirate Bay... even as they were talking about the variety of ways they were competing with The Pirate Bay. Basically, what becomes clear is they would prefer competition that they control, rather than competition that consumers drive. Tragically, innovation doesn't work that way.
Peter made the point that a lot of people were confusing the music industry with the recording industry, and mocked them a bit for not actually talking about culture or music:
"Most of the things we're talking about today are about the record industry, not about the music industry. Everyone is talking about percentages... nobody is talking about music. It sounds like most people here could be selling diapers instead!"
While technically true, the discussion was
about the business of music, so I think it's fair to be discussing some numbers and the business angle. But there is a larger point to be made here. With studies showing that more music is being created, the complaints about the "death" of the industry are clearly misplaced. The real complaints from the industry types are that they
aren't able to make money off of it any more -- but that doesn't mean the music industry is in trouble at all. Instead, it's thriving. In fact, Peter also made that point:
It's not a right for the record industry to make a profit.... Technology has come that has made most of the record industry less valuable. We need to just move on, it's sort of an evolution... It might not be good for people working in the record industry, but the music industry is better than ever."
The industry folks on the panel still seem to be living in a state of denial at times, talking about how they should milk the 40 and 50 year olds who are still buying CDs, rather than really understanding the changing marketplace. My favorite laughable quote came from Guy Moot, of EMI Publishing, who said:
"The joy of ownership is a very different thing from the joy of a digital download or stream..."
Sure, it is, but the record labels have worked very, very, very hard to make it clear to people that they don't get to "own" anything
. How many times have been told "you just get a license." If we really got to own stuff, there wouldn't be so many complaints.
There were so many people taking part, it's difficult to cover them all. Will Page (whose interview
we recently posted) made some good points, and Jeremy Silver, from the Featured Artist Coalition (who's also a very interesting guy to chat with about these issues) comes off as being quite sensible in saying that file sharing of unauthorized works is here and not going away -- and the industry should take some of the blame for sitting on the CD cash cow and never innovating. Rather than complaining about it, it's time to look forward.
On that note, it seemed like the most reasonable speaker may have been David Stopps, who spoke from the perspective of an artist's manager. He noted that the it's absolutely possible to "compete with free," talked up the importance of touring to make money and using the music to boost those revenues and also played down the "demise" of the record labels, by noting that "they still have the back catalogue" to milk for a long time and
that their job has become a lot easier
thanks to technology:
He says A&R is becoming easier for labels, because sites like Hype Machine and We Are Hunted are where A&R guys are looking to see "who's listening to what music". It's less about "taking a punt" than in the old days. "Artists are building up fanbases themselves… and that can be monitored."
He also brings up the band Metric as an example of a band that has "gone all the way" without a record deal, noting that they turned down a variety of major label deals with massive advances to "do it on their own" and that it's working:
"They're doing a fantastic job, they use Topspin to sell their music, and that seems to be very successful for them. We're gonna see more of that..."
Along those lines, he also notes that The Pirate Bay can be a really great way for people to discover new music, and monetize them elsewhere, pointing to Imogen Heap, who discovered tons of people in Indonesia downloading her music in an unauthorized manner... but when she went there, she was able to sell out a 4,500 seat arena, making "a lot of money."
Finally, he also knocks BPI and others in the industry for still thinking that DRM is a reasonable solution -- pointing out that it's totally anti-consumer:
"The problem is, nobody really asked the consumer," he says, about attempts to put DRM on CDs. "They absolutely hated it. You put the CD into the computer and it wouldn't play... In the future, we've got to bring the consumers into the business model. In fact, they already are part of the business model."
Geoff Taylor, the head of BPI (basically the UK's RIAA) comes off as about what you'd expect. He trashes The Pirate Bay repeatedly, claims that it's "destroying national cultures" (with no proof, of course) and says that there needs to be "disincentives" to dealing with unauthorized file sharing.
It's the same story as usual: they're so focused on negative incentives for people doing stuff they don't like, they never seem to care about creating positive incentives for those they should be targeting. That's BPI's problem. Not The Pirate Bay.
Anyway... given the participants, it was about what you would expect, and didn't seem to get quite as nasty as some feared before the event. I doubt anyone's mind was changed about anything, but it still sounded like a pretty good discussion.