The music industry's still tearing itself apart - no need to help, just sit back and wait for the fireworksat Friday, May 02, 2008
Little by little, the music industry is tearing itself apart. Be it uncertainty, ignorance or unwillingness to accept the inevitable, we may never know (but I have a good idea). Not even a week ago, the RIAA announced that CD shipments are down 17.5% but digital is now 23% of total revenue. Metallica, always late to jump on the bandwagon, are also apparently mooting a Radiohead-style DIY-price-it-yourself release - after Radiohead have announced that their release was most likely a one-off (one thing it didn't do was make them money!)
And, in the same breath We7 finally gets a fuller-scale launch, with the licencing of SonyBMG's content to bolster its indie label content (with more from the other labels on the way apparently). Wake me up when the paradigm changes, because I gave we7 a spin (with some out-of-copyright material) and to be honest I was disgusted by the way the whole concept of forced 10 second preroll advertising on the start of EVERY track devalues the music.
The industry is always harping on about how digital downloads and rampant unlicenced P2P distribution is devalueing and commoditising music to the extent where people don't care about it - but when you have major launches of new web sites like We7 (famously backed by Peter Gabriel!) whose core revenue model revolves around commoditising music by placing adverts before the start of each track, what do they bloody expect? It ruins the listening experience because the technology hasn't yet caught up with the concept, and it's a stupid idea to try and roll an idea like We7 out now when they can only offer a "bodged" end product. I saw an email containing details of revenues to labels for putting their catalogue onto We7 - it wasn't even guaranteed revenue but PROJECTED revenue! And even then, it was an absolute pittance.
I have my own ideas for how to save the future of the music industry, and while they are a little "out there", I have a few good ideas cooking gently on the back burner and they do in places overlap with the shared goals of Michael Robertson. (If you used MP3.com, and particularly my.MP3.com, that was his project.) Unfortunately, Michael's currently being sued AGAIN by EMI for his latest innovation, the Oboe locker which ties in with his (legal) web site MP3Tunes.com. Another classic case of litigation in place of innovation - especially poignant given last month's ruling in the US by a federal judge against the music industry, which shatters one of the key arguments in many of the RIAA's legal cases against individuals accused of illegal filesharing. You can come to your own opinions about that (I'm sure of mine!)
We live in interesting times... Turmoil is still rife; the industry itself predicts that 2012 will be the year when digital revenue overtakes physicals - but I severely doubt the sales channels will even vaguely resemble the form they currently take. Sales platforms like iTunes are nothing more than a flash in the pan (and won't all those iTunes fans be crying into their proprietary players when they buy a different branded DAP and find they can't put their M4P AAC files onto it?!)