Why Tech Pundits Should Just Shut Up About The Music Business, Continued: Mourn Not The Precious, Money-Losing Startups

May 8th, 2009 // 1 Comment

I am no fan of the major labels or their business practices by any stretch, but more and more these days, when I come across a tech-blog post that has as its thesis something like “Is [Evil Record Company X] Killing [Innocent And Pure Digital-Music Startup Y]?” I want to go out and buy a truckload of Pussycat Dolls CDs–at full price!–just for the purposes of throwing them at the clueless “evangelists” who pen them, over and over again, while blithely ignoring the fact that music may actually have a cost, and as such, may be worth something.


Today’s case in point: Om Malik’s “Is Warner Music Killing Music Startups?,” which is a lament over the music company taking a $33 million write-off in its investment in the ad-supported streaming sites imeem and lala. “At a royalty rate that is $10 per 1,000 plays, there is little chance any of these startups making money,” Malik writes (with a [sic], yes), somehow conveniently forgetting that without the content afforded by those royalty rates, quippily named sites like the two aforementioned WMG write-offs would be racing even more quickly to the dot-com trash heap. (I guess lala could just switch business models again, which, hey, has helped it stave off death a couple of times already.)


I know that the way royalties are computed usually results in artists–who deserve any money from a song being streamed through crappy computers more than any label bigwigs or digital-music “visionaries,” let’s be honest–being paid after everyone else. But the kind of thinking that posits that one cent per play equals “overpriced” seems pretty dangerous to me, and its long-term effects wind up screwing, well, you can take a guess. And please don’t tell me “but the DISCOVERY ASPECTS of these sites are great, and INDEPENDENT ARTSISTS would rise up through these services if only the evil majors would step aside,” because a) thanks to the snake-eating-its-own-tail nature of the Internet the only musicians able to afford their craft would be people who made their bank in the superstar era like Trent Reznor, geek-panderers like Jonathan Coulton, or bedroom hobbyists; and b) I seriously doubt people will be mass-inspired to change their behavior because a bunch of people on Digg clicked a button saying that they should. Yes, the major labels have been consistently ruled by people who have their fingers in their ears when it comes to the notion of change, and most of their digital initiatives up to this point have been failures; but simply tossing a “U SUCK” bomb in their direction when music startups–and, as some as the commenters on Malik’s post correctly posit, the clueless venture capitalists who think that “disruptive” equals “moneymaking”–are just as guilty of wearing huge, honking blinders is not really the way to go when it comes to critiquing the digital-music sector as a whole.


Is Warner Music Killing Music Startups? [gigaOM]
Earlier: Why Tech Pundits Should Just Shut Up About The Music Business And Maybe Do Some Research For Once In Their Lives

idolator

  1. Thank you Maura Johnston!

    Couldn’t have said it any better myself… though I might add that for profit music business models from here on out may NEVER support artists sufficiently. There are many dissimilarities but I can see a future in “member supported models” a la public radio and TV, where an organization provides opportunity, resources and financial support for independent artists because they simply want said great artists to be able to make their music and have a chance.

    This is what we’re trying to do at Weathervane Music. I hope you will check it out! (http://weathervanemusic.org). Big announcements coming soon!

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