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On the issue of moral outrage, you should do unto artists as you would have their
fans do unto you. Part of the ambivalence that music fans have about
downloading music for “free” is the sense that record labels rip off the artists
anyway. If fans truly understood the extent of unfairness with which you treat the
majority of their idols, that ambivalence would harden into downright hostility.
The answer? Play fair. That means no more 7-album deals, bogus royalty
reductions, excessive recoupables, controlled composition clauses, domain name
hi-jacking, etc. Treat the talent as valued partners; Hollywood and the
professional sports reluctantly did that decades ago and are thriving today.
6. Technology isn’t the enemy, it’s a potential ally.
P2P, MP3, AAC, as threatening as technology must seem to you, it can help
create some win-win solutions. Think catalogs and indie music for example. If
you eliminated access to the fewer than 50 multi-platinum albums a year that the
industry salivates over, it wouldn’t make a dent in the demand for music online
because people care for a lot more than the current pop flavor of the day.
The fact is that the current major label dominated system doesn’t do a good job of
marketing and distributing current non-pop and catalog material – to the
continuing frustration of artists and fans alike. There is a tremendous opportunity
here to leverage catalog materials in new and exciting ways. But don’t forget to
play fair with artists and fans. Paying mechanical royalties of 2 cents per sale to
songwriters on classic songs sold in 2003 is simply unconscionable. Charging
consumers an arm and a leg for music that has generated profits for decades is
7. Don’t meter music. Make music ubiquitous!
The key to success with music online is in making music more easily and widely
available, not locking it up and metering its use. You must increase, not reduce,
access to music.
The last thing you should be doing is devising ways to prevent people from
listening to music. Apart from the fact that it is an impossible task (see point#3 –
DRM is DOA - above), you’re competing with films, video games, books,
television, and other forms of entertainment for people’s leisure time. Viewed
properly, your task is to gain as large a share of the 24 hours in a day with
compelling, convenient and affordably priced content that the consumer values
and will pay for.
The only way to make online music ubiquitous and profitable is in collaboration
with technology partners, especially broadband ISPs and consumer electronics
players. But don’t forget rule #1!
8. It’s bigger than the music industry.
First, artists – the creators without whom there truly is no content – have not been
adequately represented in the little that has passed for debate about the future of
music and copyright. Next, the changes that the record labels and the movie
studios are fomenting affect a lot more than copyright but extend to freedom of
speech, privacy and other civil liberties. With all due respect, the global
information society cannot afford to have the music industry in the driver’s seat
on these critical issues.
Already, the RIAA and MPAA’s litigiousness and bullying is having a chilling
effect in academia. Further, it adversely affects the economic interests of the
telecommunications, computer hardware, software and consumer electronics
industries whose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues dwarf the record
industry’s $12 billion.
9. You must prove your relevance. How? By reinventing the recording
In the past decade or so, the minimum cost required to create the two essential
music business assets – copyrights in music compositions and sound recordings –
has dropped remarkably, thanks to new recording technology. Yet, neither
musicians (your suppliers) nor music fans (your customers) have benefited
economically from this change because the old industry with its bloated economic
infrastructure is fossilized. Way too much is spent on promotion and marketing, to
the main benefit of radio and Viacom’s music video properties.
Technology has also undone CDs and other physical media as containers and de
facto units of trade. This means that unlike CDs, introducing audio DVDs will not
create windfall revenues. In fact, you can no longer lock people into paying for
music they don’t want – regardless of the medium. If the album is to remain
relevant as a format, it has to represent compelling value to the consumer.
If there is any single lesson to take away from the success of the MP3 format, it is
that convenience, choice and affordability trump sound quality for the modern
music fan. Give the people what they want!