Saturday, 19 March 2011

Chris Port Blog #128. On Music and the Internet - Specialist Subject: The Bleeding Obvious?

© Chris Port, 2010

As a Socratic ingénue, the following naive points occur to me. Please slap them down as you wish so that I can revise my early thesis :)

1) Before the internet revolutionized human communication, and before the digital miniaturization of data, most musical artists were almost totally reliant upon the working practices of the distributors. The whole industry was geared towards their requirements. Production companies would try to anticipate or manipulate audience fashions. Pimps and agents would scavenge the pubs with their menus, sampling all the desperate young meat. Once the artist was taken on by the brothel, they would be bathed and milked for a year or two then tossed out onto the back alley circuit. All the cost overheads were born by the pimps, so it was only fair that they receive the majority of the return on their investment: legal contracts, expensive recording facilities, fashion design, photo shoots, advertising campaigns, merchandizing deals, cheap sweatshop manufacturers, etc. The artist was usually a pathetic bedsit starlet in this artistic equivalent of sex trafficking.

2) All of this has now changed out of all recognition. Production costs have been reduced exponentially by technology. Most of the professional expertise (apart from the contractual side) is now common knowledge or easily researched. Mass promotion and distribution over the internet is easy.

3) The most obvious and logical way to develop the music industry, and protect the artistic and commercial interests of the artists, would seem to be mass cheap legal download forums acting as easily navigable musical libraries. Profit margins could be protected by mass turnover, perhaps download licenses (e.g. you download a track for a year then have to ‘top up’ if you still want to keep it in your collection).

4) Given the global diversification of musical audiences and tastes, and the huge back catalogue, the current niche in the market would seem to be for the expertise of musical commentators, Internet DJs and on-line librarians, who can guide customers through the data maze to the hidden gems as well as the mass-marketed chav shit. A small monthly subscription fee for a large menu of online support access and services would seem to be a good place to make money. The artist should receive a healthy percentage (I’m no legal expert here – see your free online legal advice page) on the number of downloads from their catalogue page. Standard DTI approved legal licensing could protect the artist from the sharks.

5) The opportunities for media cross-fertilization would seem to be limitless. Advertising links, film links, discussion pages etc. Perhaps struggling young new artists should receive funding support from some common ‘pot’ from mass commercial artists who could also act as patrons and promoters of up-and-coming talent that catches their eye. There would seem to be wonderful scope for philanthropy and patronage of the arts here, as well as whole new forms of dodgy dealing which it will be a delight to commentate on as a musical journalist. I’m excited. I smell an opportunity here...


  1. What does the future hold for the music industry? Gerd 'Friction is Fiction' Leonhard outlines his vision: open platforms and licenses, flat rate for digital music, social networking, etc.

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Influential/Educational Videos

  2. 'Google music streaming would boost industry, says Universal executive'
    The Guardian, Technology, Wednesday 27 February 2013

    'Google's plans to launch a music-streaming service would give the record industry a welcome boost on its path to recovery, according to a digital executive at Universal Music Group.

    Francis Keeling, global head of digital business at Universal Music Group, said Google's scale could turn millions more music listeners into paying subscribers.

    Google is understood to be in negotiations with major music labels about launching a streaming service, similar to Spotify, later this year.

    Speaking in London at the launch of industry body IFPI's annual report on Tuesday, Keeling said: "We talk about for subscription services, the need to have a funnel. Google, with its hundreds of millions of users through search, YouTube with its more than 800 million users, arguably is the biggest funnel we could have.

    "Clearly if we could get consumers into a legal funnel through that route and encourage them to subscription, that would have a very positive impact on the business."

    Google launched a cloud-based music player in the US in 2011 in a bid to compete directly with Apple's iTunes, which commands more than 60% of all digital sales. Last year, the service expanded to the UK, Germany and other European markets.

    A move into the fast-growing music-streaming market would be hugely significant for the industry. Google's influence in the smartphone market – its Android software is activated 1m times each day – would give the music player an advantage over rivals such as Deezer, Rdio and Spotify.

    Google has declined to confirm the detail of reports about its streaming player, including suggestions that its price plan would mirror the three smaller competitors. Deezer, Rdio and Spotify offer a free, ad-supported service alongside a £9.99-a-month subscription for premium users.

    But Google's streaming ambitions still have stumbling blocks to overcome. Music groups remain frustrated that Google and other search engines are slow to downgrade illegal-filesharing sites, which the industry claims are visited by a third of all internet users.

    However, Keeling said Universal, home to artists including Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber, has a "great relationship" with Google.

    "Google is a massive organisation with the many parts it operates, such as the search business and the device business and the music business with respect to YouTube and streaming," he said.

    "Like all search engines, there is a problem; we're asking all search engines to prioritise legal services. We know that search engines are a primary route for consumers to be able to find music and hope all search engines will implement those changes."

    Online subscription services, including Spotify and Rdio, are expected to have contributed more than 10% of the music industry's digital revenue for the first time in 2012 – a sign of their growing influence. They are also being quickly adopted by music fans, as the number of paying subscribers leapt by 44% last year, to 20 million people globally.

    The continued rise of digital in 2012 helped the music industry report its first lift in annual revenues since 1999, as the IFPI reported a 0.3% year-on-year increase to $16.5bn (£10.9bn). Digital music revenues were up 9% last year, to $5.6bn, thanks mainly to download stores.

    Google declined to comment. Universal declined to comment on any negotiations for a Google streaming service.'

  3. Technology Didn’t Kill the Music Industry. The Fans Did…
    Paul Resnikoff, Digital Music News, 14 November 2013

  4. Scalar Aesthetics?

    Digital Humanities 201: Introduction to Digital Humanities @ UCLA
    Mike D’Errico: The “Info-Aesthetics” of Content Management: A Review of Scalar

    Mike D’Errico: The “Info-Aesthetics” of Content Management: A Review of Scalar

    Aesthetics - Scalar