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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer


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On the music biz

This recent post in The Lefsetz Letter is ranty, but cutting, in its synopsis of what's wrong with music today. Granted, that's a major theme of his blog in general, but he's a very credible source and has some interesting things to say. Here's an excerpt:
CDs are in free-fall. This week sales were off 22.8% from last year’s numbers. That’s front page news in my book. But somehow, it’s not on the very first page of the "New York Times" or the "Wall Street Journal", the newspapers of record. And if it were, Warner and EMI stocks would tank. For Wall Street, which does not read the "Billboard Bulletin", seems out of the loop.

Recorded music sales are now a joke. If you’re an act, unless you make Top Forty music that would benefit from TV exposure and terrestrial radio play, in other words unless you make mainstream pop or hip-hop music, WHY BOTHER WITH A MAJOR LABEL? They’re not interested in artist development. Hell, EMI won’t EXIST by time you put out your SECOND album, never mind your third or fourth. You want to get caught in that vortex? Where contractual hassles, being tied-up in merger/downsizing/bankruptcy, will kill your career?

All this talk about Apple’s dominance with iTunes, DRM, per track prices…IRRELEVANT! Every band is now a cottage industry, charging at a different point in the food chain. In other words, the music is the loss leader, the taste, that gets people in the door.

Oh, it didn’t HAVE to be this way. If only the majors had legalized P2P, had been willing to stop fighting to preserve their distribution monopoly. I mean what difference does it make if you own the CD sphere if the CD sphere is CRUMBLING?
Canadian-born hit songwriter/producer David Foster was interviewed by Nora Young on The Arts Tonight last night, and he works for a record label now, and he backed up some of what Lefsetz says here. He says that without some major changes, many of the major record labels will simply be gone within a few years. His prediction was that CDs will be the cost of a Big Mac within the next two years (two years?) and that there will be a whole paradigm shift in music distribution.

I think the paradigm shift has already happened. Whoever isn't satisfied with the musical pablum being poured down their throats on commercial radio and music TV is probably knowledgeable about what they like, and they download it for free on BitTorrent. The rest don't give a shit about music at all and never have, and they probably only buy one or two CDs a year.
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baal_kriah March 13th, 2007
In addition to Bitorrent there are other ways the music gets shared. My friends and I buy CDs, but if one of us gets a good one, everyone else rips it from them. Also, you'd be amazed at how many good CDs are sitting in libraries just waiting to be copied onto your computer :-)

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