Archives For Gerd Leonhard

Futurists and industry analysis agree we are on the verge of a revolution in the music business.  Gerd Leonhard posits in “the days of the lauded ‘Internet music revolution’ were just a mere testing ground, like the first kicks of a baby during pregnancy.”[1] Similarly, music business analyst Bob Lefsetz believes “[w]e could be on the verge of a renaissance…[t]he death of the traditional label model could eliminate looks-based music and formulaic radio…[e]verything you hated is essentially gone.” [2] This revolution in the music business has been predicted for well over a decade.
In “The Economy of Ideas” John Perry Barlow draws the poignant analogy of the music industry of the future being like “selling wine without bottles on the global net.”[3] He argues it was the ability to deliver wine (music) in a physical form that the rights of invention and authorship adhered thereto.  The value was in the conveyance of property, not the thought conveyed.  Throughout history “[p]roperty was the divine right of thugs.”[4] The record industry caused it to be “the bottle that was protected, not the wine.”[5] Music, being a non-physical idea, has been converted into property through industry.  Building upon Barlow’s concept, Leonhard argues music will no longer viewed as a product but rather a service.[6] Music only became viewed as a product because of the agenda of an industry that quickly learned “selling the bottle can make a lot more money than only selling the wine…[f]or the future, think of a “record label” as a ‘music utility company.’”[7] It appears the record industry is broken but the music industry has a future.  With the right concept and execution a revolution in the way consumers access music will continue to happen.  The business models of the future bear this in mind.  A growing number of artists refusing to deal with traditional record labels have experimented with the following alternatives:

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The record industry’s poor financial state has received frequent but shallow coverage by the media.  Most often the headline is followed by a sound byte about pirates and the music-stealing teenagers that support them.  While the proliferation of piracy is certainly a factor in the industry’s financial health, it may simply be a symptom of a much greater war; a struggle between two industries that has been largely ignored by the media, Content vs. Technology.  Some savvy pundits have described the battle between California’s content and technology industries as an economic civil war.[1] Here, the virtual Mason-Dixon line divides southern California, the historic capitol of content creators and rights holders, from northern California’s Silicon Valley, a potent cluster of technology juggernauts like Apple, Facebook, and Google.  Although content currently appears to be losing ground to technology’s blitzkrieg in this most public of battles, both content and technology will need to find an amenable compromise -a treaty of sorts – to thrive together in the marketplace.

The value of content is much broader than its oft-celebrated sociological, psychological, and cultural benefits.  Content is a source of not only geopolitical capital and influence abroad but also tremendous wealth for our Country.  Some might be surprised to learn that intellectual property, including compositions and recordings of music, is the United States’ number one export. [2] In a time where much of America’s manufacturing has relocated to more cost-effective locales, such as China, intellectual property has maintained its position as a dominant source of revenue.  Maury Yeston, Ph.D, a multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway composer and former director of undergraduate music studies at Yale University, encourages us to “consider the massive and disproportionally [sic] positive influx of income the export of our intellectual property has on our nation’s balance of trade, not only in song, but also in film and theatrical products.”[3] Intellectual property is one of a shrinking number of “products” America exports with a positive trade balance but for some reason it is losing the consumer adoration and respect it once had. Continue Reading…