[LINK] More on the Music Industry

Robin Whittle rw@firstpr.com.au
Fri, 21 Feb 2003 12:24:01 +1100

"The Music Industry" - really the "Western Recorded Music Industry" may
look from the outside like one thing, but I think it is internally
fractured in quite a few dimensions.

Musicians, song-writers, managers, producers, recording studios, record
companies, music publishers, various copyright collection agencies, TV
and especially radio are all fractured individually between themselves
and often in tension or conflict with other sectors.    For instance
musicians need managers and both need record companies to finance and
distribute their work.  But record companies, who really know nothing
about music (otherwise they would be musicians themselves) only go on
last year's trends and what they think they can get airplay for.   Radio
wants to play generally familiar music, with a bit of fresh stuff, to
attract the demographic which spends most money on things which
advertisers want to sell.  But that is not necessarily the same
demographic of the younger people who buy most CDs - or who are most
interested in the fresh musical endeavours which the most artistically
significant musicians are pursuing.   Radio needs music which supports
advertising - so long or instrumental pieces are impossible.  Therefore,
because of the central role radio plays in the discovery of music,
"popular" music is continually guided into being compatible with the
increasingly crass and manipulative adverts.

This is not to mention personal tensions between people who are strongly
driven artistically or by business building desires.

Then there is the intense stylistic differences and the fact that one
person's heavenly song sounds like torture to someone else. (Billy
Joel's "Piano Man" anyone?)

The Western recorded music industry goes back a century or so and I
think that the people at the centre of it, in the big record companies,
are extraordinarily resistant to accepting what has changed, with both
CD-Rs and with the Net.   They do not seem to understand how the Net
gives artists so many new opportunities for facilitating music discovery
and two-way communication with listeners.   Quite a bit of this makes
big record companies partially redundant, unless you really need to sell
tens of thousands of CDs.  But nonetheless, a smart record company would
develop its own software for websites which are optimised for promoting
artist - listener discovery and communication.

My page on this is:


Two other problems which are harder to solve for Net-based sales of
music are that many of the customers are too young to have credit card
accounts, and that the costs and security problems of credit card
transactions are not suitable for low-value transactions like AUD$1 etc.

There is a startup hoping to solve this:


This is Professors Silvio Micali and Ronald L. Rivest.  But others, such
as DigiCash, have failed in this micropayments business.

     - Robin