We've been pretty big critics
of the music tax concept, that was being pushed by Jim Griffin's Choruss along with Warner Music (who had hired Griffin to create this program). Of course, we've only been able to criticize what bits and pieces have leaked out from those who have seen Griffin's presentations. That's because, despite a busy conference schedule, Griffin never seems to publicly describe what Choruss really is. So, every time we hear some new info about Choruss, and explain why it's bad
, we get angry emails from Griffin calling me all sorts of insulting names, and insisting that I've mischaracterized Choruss. So, we ask for more details, and we don't get them. Instead, we're given amorphous descriptions about how it's "an experiment." But what is the experiment? Well, it will be lots of things. As soon as we narrow in on an example, however, and explain why it's bad, we're attacked because the plan might not include that particular example. But we haven't yet heard an example that makes sense.
Griffin had agreed (as part of an angry email) to answer questions from the Techdirt community, and we obliged
by sending him a long list of questions. Griffin had some personal issues to deal with over the summer, which was totally understandable, but we still haven't heard any answers. I'm beginning to wonder if we ever will.
But the biggest question I had was if he could explain who the "tens of thousands" of students
were who Griffin told a conference in June would be using Choruss this fall semester. It seemed odd to find out that so many students had signed up for something when we still weren't being told what it was. As the fall semester started, we asked
to hear from students who were using Choruss, and got silence -- which seemed odd. Apparently, it's because those tens of thousands of students hadn't signed up for the fall.
However, as a bunch of you have sent in, now the claim is that six college campuses will be testing Choruss this spring semester
, but Griffin won't say who they are and the campuses won't admit to participating. They claim that they're afraid of backlash from folks like us -- but that makes me wonder. If the concept is so good, why not stand up and defend yourself for being a part of the program? If you can't defend the reasons for testing the program, it makes me wonder why you're doing it in the first place.
The article at the Chronicle of Higher Education provides a few new details that don't sound particularly appealing. Rather than (as some had suggested earlier, but since Griffin never made it clear, we just don't know if this was ever true) a system that would let students share files freely under some sort of blanket license, it sounds like "yet another limited music service." It will allow unlimited downloads, but you have to use the Choruss service (again, perhaps the article is wrong, but that's what it says). Similar services have been tried on various campuses and failed
, so we're curious to hear what's so special about Choruss that will be different.
It still seems like Choruss is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. We're seeing more and more smart musicians put in place business models that work. They work in a way that lets fans choose to send money to the artists they want to support directly, without a big middleman. Choruss appears (from all we've heard) to be an attempt to set up a big middleman that will take big chunks of money and then use some magical process to figure out how to dole it out. But why do we need that overhead? The market is figuring stuff out. It doesn't need another middleman.