Archives For Music

Rutgers master’s degree candidates, Tom Engelhardt and Shaun Ellis, tapped into Billboard’s record sales database of over 4,200 popular songs and examined compositional data points of these hits (including: tempo, key, loudness, and danceability, among others) in search of correlations between this compositional elements and record sales performance. The scholars’ purpose: to derive the formula of a hit song. In fact, the results appear to mirror the sounds of many popular radio stations here in the Los Angeles area. For example, their findings indicate hits songs are usually Continue Reading…

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

I cannot wait to see this film!  It is an exciting time in the (r)evolution of intellectual property – particularly with respect to the interest garnered by organizations like the Creative Commons and their omnipresent campaigns for change.  What are your thoughts?  Should remixes be presumptively permitted as fair use?  How much change would the secondary artist need to incorporate for their art to rise to the level of a sufficiently transformative and, therefore, permitted remix?

After 35 years as a recording artist John Cougar Mellencamp felt compelled to reflect on today’s art.

People remember when music existed as an art that motivated social movements.  Artists and their music flourished in back alleys, taverns and barns until, in some cases, a popular groundswell propelled it far and wide. These days, that possibility no longer seems to exist.[1]

Distinctions can easily be drawn between calls to action like Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” and calls to complacency like John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change.”  As Mellencamp points out, music is in a sad state.  Furthermore Barlow suggests “[c]reative people may have to renew their acquaintance with humility.”[2] Artists should write songs because they need to, not because they fit in shrink-wrap and generate revenue.

Pitchfork, an uber-respected music-criticism site, playfully rated “Music“ a 6.8 out of 10.[3] According to the review, authored by Pitchfork editor in chief Ryan Schreiber, the popular medium that predates the written word shows promise but nonetheless “leaves the listener wanting more.”[4] While obviously created in jest, there certainly exists some truth behind this point.  Perhaps this young generation of technology embracing pirates are nothing more than the product of the vacuous state of today’s content.  If the record industry provided goods that had intangible social value, as music purportedly used to have, their concerns of declining perceived value would be instantly alleviated. Continue Reading…

Hundreds of startup companies came to the marketplace each year.  The biggest challenge these brave startups faced is to compete with “free” illegal alternatives. As the sellers of cable television have known for thirty years, and the sellers of bottled water for much more than that, there is nothing impossible at all about “competing with free.”[1] One company has managed to thrive against “free” by simply being more user friendly than its illegal competition.  As experts predicted when Apple launched the Music Store, it could beat “free” by being easier than free is.[2]

A different approach to competing with free was successful for Indie911.  Indie911’s CEO, Justin Goldberg, believes traditional gatekeepers were an inefficient way of allowing music to flow to the public and sought to create a place where the public could find artists that were slipping through the cracks.[3] In his tenure as an A&R person, songwriter, and employee of Sony Music Publishing, Mr. Goldberg took issue with the fact that less than 1% of the music out there would ever be heard.[4] Continue Reading…

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:

Continue Reading…