[LINK] More on the Music Industry

Chirgwin, Richard Richard.Chirgwin@informa.com.au
Mon, 24 Feb 2003 13:22:19 +1000

Hans, what you say is reasonable enough - except the premise that the
decline in income is even partly the result of Internet piracy.

There are many influences playing out simultaneously; and even though the
decline in income is partly contempraneous with the decline in revenue, that
is not sufficient to demonstrate causality.

It's been put, in overseas forum, that popular recording industries have,
over some years:
- reduced the number of artists in their catalogues (particularly by culling
new artists), at the same time as they have
- vastly escalated the spend on a small number of high-profile deals.
This looked like sound marketing economics, at the time - reduce the cost of
sales by shrinking the catalogue; expand the margin by focussing on products
of highest potential. The result, however, could be what's observed:
catastrophic decline in sales, because the catalogue isn't worth the
consumer's time and money.

Or it could be not Internet piracy, but the more simple tourism piracy.

Or it could be the decline of leisure - longer hours etc means less time to
listen to a CD.

So in criticising the industry - let's be more precise, and say "the popular
music segment" - for its attitude, I am particularly focussing on that part
of the industry which wants a 'free ride' on the consumer's back; and wishes
to do so at the detriment of the citizens' existing rights.

Now, to some details:
The purpose [of copyright] is to promote creative endeavour...
- ok. I'll buy that. In fact, the "anti-all-copyright" movement offends me
greatly; because mostly it's founded on "because I can" as the reason it's
okay to copy. But if copyright *as it is now practised* is failing its
mission, then a new model has to evolve.

> it takes a lot more resources to make a top quality recording of Berlioz'
Requiem or
> the complete Beethoven string quartets.
Hmmm. Yes and no. I can't speak for the Berloiz, but is a string quartet
harder to record and render than an electric band? Not necessarily. Yes, the
Beethoven is a demanding piece of performance - but it's not an especially
demanding recording task. 

A symphony orchestra is a different beast alltogether. There aren't many
studios fit to the task of providing a recordable silence into which an
orchstra can play; you have to make tradeoffs because the number of
instruments is so much greater than the number of available recording
tracks; so a great symphony recording is a work of genius by the producer.

Returning to topic: the EMIs of the world trot out the "cross subsidy"
argument so often that I doubt its validity. They make the same claim about
the local pop scene, ie "we charge $30 for Bruce Springsteen so we can find
the next silverchair". But it's not an assertion that stands much

Richard Chirgwin

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Hans W. Groenewegen [mailto:hans.groenewegen@sims.monash.edu.au]
> Sent: Monday, 24 February 2003 11:30
> To: Robin Whittle
> Cc: link@anu.edu.au; Michael Lean
> Subject: Re: [LINK] More on the Music Industry
> One of the many things that annoy me about this too 
> frequently repeated
> LINK discussion on the music industry is the fact that most 
> contributors
> seem to equate "music" with rock and other forms of contemporary (and
> generally ephemeral) popular music. There is very little consideration
> given to the fact that the music industry has for years been cross
> subsidising their serious music output from the income generated by
> popular music sales. With the decline in that income, partly 
> due to web
> piracy, the amount of money being spent by the recording industry in
> commissioning new recordings of serious classical music, for example,
> has reduced significantly. Many of the classical CD's that are  coming
> on the market are in fact re-issues of recordings made many 
> decades ago.
> Although the sound quality is still good and the recording artists are
> often legendary, it does mean that the opportunities for new 
> artists to
> make their name and for new - and perhaps slightly more 
> esoteric - works
> to be recorded are declining. 
> The purpose of copyright is not, as Chris Maltby (quoting Richard
> Stallman) said, merely to cover the significant costs
> associated with traditional methods of physical duplication and
> delivery. The purpose is to promote creative endeavour which is
> obviously much wider than that and not really affected by the 
> changes in
> technology. No doubt it is quite possible for some uncouth local rock
> band to distribute its latest creation on the Web. But it takes a lot
> more resources to make a top quality recording of Berlioz' Requiem or
> the complete Beethoven string quartets.
> Hans.   
> Robin Whittle wrote:
> > 
> > "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:
> > 
> >   http://www.firstpr.com.au/musicmar/
> > 
> > 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:
> > 
> >    http://www.peppercoin.com
> > 
> > This is Professors Silvio Micali and Ronald L. Rivest.  But 
> others, such
> > as DigiCash, have failed in this micropayments business.
> > 
> >      - Robin
> > _______________________________________________
> > Link mailing list
> > Link@mailman.anu.edu.au
> > http://mailman.anu.edu.au/mailman/listinfo/link
> -- 
> -----  
> Hans W. Groenewegen,			
> Associate, 
> School of Information Management and Systems,				
> Faculty of Information Technology,		
> Monash University,
> Level 7, 26 Sir John Monash Drive,
> Caulfield  East.  Victoria  3145.
> Australia. 
> Tel.:     +61 3 9903 2633
> Email:    hans.groenewegen@sims.monash.edu.au
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