'F*cked' record companies in 'cataclysmic' meltdown - manager
So are live promoters the new pigopolists?
As some of the biggest figures in the music business weighed in on the future of music this week, there were very mixed views on its future.
"If Ford's revenues were down 40 per cent, the shareholders would be revolting," said Tim Clark, former Island Records MD and co-founder of management company IE Music, whose roster includes Robbie Williams.
The latest CD revenue figures suggest 40 per cent declines in some markets. "Their model is fucked. It is. Physical revenues are going down like nobody's business and it's cataclysmic," Clark told a panel at the London Calling music expo at Earl's Court.
Clark hears the sound of pigeons are coming home to roost, and outlined a post-major label future that would be a lot more flexible.
"Deals have been struck with ISPs, but I've yet to hear of a single penny going back to an artist. Leaving aside the black boxes, is it anybody's surprise that an artist doesn't trust the record company?" he asked.
"Record companies deserve to be attacked for many of the things they've done," he added. "There are great A&R people and great marketeers at these companies, but they haven't been serving artists [or] fans over the years."
Industry veteran Clive Rich, making one of his first panel appearances since leaving Sony BMG, cited one big label practice that wouldn't be mourned: bonuses.
"These bonuses are for their mates. It's a little club passing around these monies. It's amazing that their shareholders allow it - it wouldn't happen in any other business," said Rich. "Except maybe the film business."
Don't panic... just yet
John Kennedy, chairman of the IPFPI and Alison Wenham, head of the indie labels, publishers and managers association AIM, shared the event's keynote. Without the crippling cost base of the major labels, independent labels are better placed to face the face future. But they still share the same problem: getting people to pay for music.
"The old model is not working," said Kennedy. Japan gave the business cause for optimism he thought: 90 per cent of music was acquired and enjoyed through phones, rather than PCs. It was the first large mature market to show growth, he said, calling it a "Holy Grail".
He said large holes needed to be plugged: there were no performance rights in Japan, and no broadcast rights in the USA. Kennedy cited a recent deal in China to license karaoke bars, however.
DRM was still needed for today's services, said Kennedy, although he left the door open for new models.
"Rumours of the death of DRM are exaggerated. A subscription remains a subscription and should not become a download to the rest of the world." The final decision to DRM or not-DRM should lie with the artists themselves.
"I applaud AT&T's decision to take action to clear their networks of infringing material", he said, "and I look forward to seeing how this will work in practice."
Wenham doubted if Japan really was growing, noting that it's one of the few Western markets that hasn't adopted the iPod.
"The iPod is one of the biggest problems we have in monetizing our music," she said.
Both agreed that the iPod had encouraged people to dig into their record collections, and reinvigorated interest in music.
"People are re-familiarising themselves with their old record collections and not buying new music," said Kennedy. "I hope there will come a time when people say, 'enough old music, how about some new music?'"
Wenham said that we were seeing "the first generation of kids who didn't see music as a generational weapon. In my day music was definitely used to divide us from our parents."
Wenham was more explicit than Kennedy in how to tackle piracy.
"You can fight piracy valiantly on the beaches and in the trenches, but you can't win it. The average file sharer has as much chance of being caught as they have of being hit by a meteorite."
"We need to monetize the usage of our music - whether or not we delivered it in the first place."
"We are not in control of these new business models, we live in a technologically advanced era and these models are growing up whether we like it or not."
Live music kickback
Asked about the growth in live music, Kennedy cited a report (entitled Megastars play to empty seats after fans balk at ticket prices) in The Times to warn promoters and artists not to get too greedy.
The report describes poor ticket sales and show cancellations of concerts by some of the biggest performers, in reaction to astronomical ticket prices.
"The artists have lost 40 per cent of their revenue in four years so they are getting back by stinging the public," concludes a Paris-based music journalist.
Said Kennedy: "At one time, artists would work and perform live for a low price to drive records sales. Now that records sales are damaged they are trying to drive ticket prices higher - and there's a kickback. This shows the overall ecosystem is severely damaged. Damage to one part of the industry has an impact on another."
"No other industry anywhere puts 20 per cent pack into R&D".
Kennedy said he was ultimately optimistic for a few reasons.
"The biggest problem in the industry is competing with free. We are going to get better performance rights and better broadcast rights, they will be good enough ... if you're in China and Russia and Pakistan, that's revenue we didn't have before."
"The new model is going to be made up of a variety of different models. One mobile phone operator came to me and asked if you can make this happen, and we can get 2.5 per cent of our customers to use it, that's 10 per cent of your current revenue. And I thought to myself, 'if I can get ten of these, that would blow away the doom and gloom.'"
"I worry about music industry revenues in the short term, and short-to-medium but term; but we are going to turn the corner. The music industry shares I have, I'm not selling." ®
Yes, keep your music shares
And keep fucking up your customers, and then look at the figures... my oh my.. 40% down in sales..
OF COURSE you're loosing sales! thats what happens when you greedy bastards hike the prices of CD like there's no tomorrow! well guest what, today is the "tomorrow"!
You're applauding AT&T shitty practicing of traffic shaping? guess what.. that only advances innovation to bypass those tricks. You killed Napster? then Kazaa, eMule, eDonkey and other came. You killed Kazaa? then Bitorrent came. You're trying to kill Bitorrent? fine, the bitoreent "headless" feature came where you don't even need a web site with the torrents!
Buying music OTA might be a bit helpful to you, but as people understand that they only need to stick their cell phone to a USB port and transfer their music, they won't buy OTA because the price is way too high!
Music execs - you just don't get it! people are sick and tired of paying those super-high prices for music, so they'll copy and download from P2P and they don't give a flying fuck whatever you tell them it's totally wrong (and stealing from your artists and from the consumers by you is right? give me a freaking break!). In this game, lads, you're the looser.
It's not hard is it
On behalf of the public, I want:
1. DECENT quality recordings out for me to download when I want. That's high quality, so when I listen to the product I have just purchased I actually hear it properly on my new expensive sound system.
2. Freedom. Fuck subscriptions, I don't care about them. Charge me 50p or something for the song, and as long as I don't make it easily accessible for everyone to copy from me (putting it on BitTorrent etc.) you should ensure that I can put it onto a CD, or my phone, or my Creative MP3 player, or even onto another computer. DRM free please - When I pay for my music i'm paying for the right to listen to it when and where I want, using whatever technology I decide I want to use. i've paid for it, let me listen to it on what device I want when I chose.
3. Reasonable prices. Stop feeding us this crap. It's still costing around £8 for an album on iTunes - nearly the same as what Play.com charge. If they can charge £9, and you charge £8 - then what the hell is all that crap about distribution and media costs for? An artist is in a studio, send it electronically to the distributors (Napster, iTunes etc), job done. There's no comparision to the CD or cassette market, so stop pricing it like there is.
So in summary:
If I can get, for 50p a track (or £4.50 for an album) 320kbps quality tracks with no DRM then i'll stop borrowing mates CD's and ripping them, and I'll stop using BitTorrent.
Then, and only then will I be prepared to part my hard earn't cash - e.g. when the product and service is worth it.
"[E]nough old music, how about some new music?"
My sentiments exactly!
Where are new musicians that actually produce the new music that's actually worth listening to?
I search hard and long for artists and tracks that I would want to hear even once. I haven't purchased more than a few CDs that were recorded in this millennium. Most of the new stuff I hear is has little more than 4/4 timing and 3 chord guitar riffs with party girl or pretty boy singing about their personal problems and angst.
What happened to the idea of compiling a set of songs (like an "album" - okay that dates me doesn't it?) that gave texture and story in words and sounds that could take you somewhere and back emotionally? What happened to musicians that had sufficient training to play a variety of styles and instruments and wove the lyrics with the instrumentals in songs lasting longer than 160 seconds?
I find that I am buying mostly electronica styles of music now as at least that can have some rhythm and texture but these are from indie artist selling at emusic.com. But it's frustrating because I would really to buy and enjoy new music a whole lot more. I just can't find anything worthwhile.
Joni Mitchell is quoted as saying that music is no longer "meditative" but instead "calculated" and it's calculated to pander to the stupid end of the masses. Then she goes on to say that "just how stupid do they think the masses are?" She mentions an advet for the record companies that says they aren't looking for talent anymore, just a certain look and a willingness to cooperate.
Maybe that's why music sales are tanking