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The Dream Is Over: Music Labels Have Killed Their Digital Future

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John Lennon would have been 70 years old this week. It got me thinking about one of his most famous lyrics, a line from

This article originally appeared in The Music Void.

17 Responses to “The Dream Is Over: Music Labels Have Killed Their Digital Future”

  1. IceMonkey

    Nice useless rant, been watching old Dennis Miller shows lately? Offer a viable solution next time. (Illegal sharing of copyrighted files is not “viable”.)

  2. been_to_ny _too_many_times

    As a former founder of two music related startups, I agree wholeheartedly with this article. The process of licensing is impossible and the upfront payments are ridiculous. Since Youtube, the labels now add insult to injury and now try to take equity stakes in any music startup (as part of the licensing). It’s a shame to see the complete industry run by attorneys who wouldn’t know how to start a business themselves if their life depended on it (but they sure know how to use the RIAA and their legal avenues to destroy any innovation). Hopefully, innovation will find a way to overtake the music label oligopoly and finally the artists and innovators will be rewarded (without the attorneys in the middle).

  3. vivienne_b

    As always, you’re bang on target Wayne. The record industry has been sabotaging its own digital future since Napster took off in the 90s, first by ignoring what was going on and then by making it nigh on impossible for legitimate services to license music for online sale. The eventual ‘winners’ were the huge multinationals which could afford to compete by offsetting the cost of music licenses with profit from their hardware or other services. What your detractors don’t realise is that Grokster was throwing down the gauntlet to the industry. It was challenging the majors to fill the void of music that wasn’t available to purchase legally online and that, since Grokster’s demise, you have been campaigning tirelessly to create a service that would monetise the peer to peer audience rather than alienate them. Bravo!

  4. Richard Tobin

    I submit, frustrating though it may be, the fundamental core of the wish to MAKE people pay for content (music, film, news or whatever), the angry petulant desperate demand, is a dated paradigm.

    The correct desire should be no more than to provide the best service possible; and along the way people will pay for a good service. The correct desire should be to provide that service at a price which reflects no more than the essential commercial margin in addition to the true, nuts and bolts, cost of provision (to allow for investment, development and a return).

    It does not matter what you were selling the stuff for in the past. It matters not what you think something is worth or even what you can resoundingly prove enough people will be happy to pay enough for it to make a viable profit.

    It is only by having an absolute monopoly, over all the content people want and over all the means of distribution people use, that the market can be forced to comply with price. That monopoly exists with copyright but not with distribution. It is the opening-up of distribution that is the game-changer so far.

    The next step will be a further and enormous proliferation of available content. Presently the market, the customer, still think they have to draw their media from the traditional sources – but the market just takes time to adjust. It is the current content providers that must predict and adapt to the new paradigm.

    People will pay for good content. Some people will pay a good price for the content they want. Most people, nearly everybody, will pay a peppercorn price for unlimited access to unlimited content.

    King Canute the Great knew this. He sat in the sea to make clear he could not stop the tide no-matter how Great he was thought to be. Miss the boat and today’s content providers will become tomorrows historic-media archives.

  5. Every comment I read misses the mark. This has nothing to do with the music labels, consumers, or technology and everything to do with the product – the music recording.

    It is the music recording artist who is the only one culpable in this whole scenario – they are the enablers of these record labels and illegal file sharing by not taking control of their product. This same thing is going to happen in the publishing industry if publishers do not have the fortitude to take control of their own paid content strategy…

  6. Johnny Appleseed

    Here’s the ULTIMATE irony from this bullshite article: Loser Wayne says this, “What’s most ironic is that the record labels have now put themselves in the position of having to depend on the bulk of their digital sales from companies that actually couldn’t care less about selling music: Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), and now Google…”

    Sorry, Wayne, that’s not ironic. What’s ironic was that you expected the music industry to allow you to offer a platform where people could just trade music around FOR FREE! Yeah, as if YOU could have cared less about SELLING music.

    What a total douche.

  7. Richard Tobin

    From my personal perspective, how I use digital music, Spotify has been the game changer. I have every record/track I can think of in my playlists and can access my streamed music all over the house and via any computer anywhere. If I want to pay a subscription I can save my Spotify playlist on my iPhone (so in my hotel room and car). Before Spotify I had never purchased (or stole) an MP3 on-line, why would I? I always purchased a CD which I could rip, lend, leave in the car and sell on eBay.

    (As it is I have my phone full of free podcasts and never want for excellent music or talk ‘programs’ when on the move – indeed I don’t think I will ever catch-up with what I have yet to listen to).

    The problem is not artists, big corporate music companies or the few big cogs in the current digital music distribution market. It is the consumer. The consumer has become stupefied and soporific; how can I say this kindly? I can’t. They are stupid and lazy. They are programmed to march to the comforting and predictable drum-beat of the big branded spoon-feeding money-relieving machines.

    The opportunity is to offer an environment where people, consumers, realise it is OK to search, filter, discover and enjoy the enormous wealth of music that is ‘out there’. Independently created, historic, global and varied. Right now they are so stuffed with the idea that it is only today’s music, today’s big name, that is valid. That is the paradigm that was sold by the record companies and is now almost hard-wired into the public’s psychology. The fact is though; it actually does not need to be crafted-fashion ‘branded’ celebrity to be good, with-it, edgy, sexy or profitable. The task is to sell, or un-sell, that to the market.

  8. davidgjester

    Standard API and simple licensing processes would have gone a long way to solve their problem earlier. Wayne is right. No VC in his or her right mind will touch music with a bargepole.

    Anyone could sell records. Almost no one was allowed to sell files. They did this to themselves. file sharing has nothing to do with it at all. Apart from the obvious lack of consumer understanding, the labels have been spitting out boring artists and endless compilation discs for ages. No excitement no message nothing to go crazy about.

  9. Don Schlonzo

    good article.
    I’d say it would be a good start for the industry to start reversing their fortunes by making access to the files easier (an industry Standard API perhaps) and also by introducing one single reporting format. it’s gotta be one hell of a pain for every start up to deliver different reporting formats to each label / content aggregator

  10. Articles like this that offer no solutions make me sick. What’s the solution, genius?

    If you ask me, I would suggest that the evolution of technology has killed the music industry as well as the ability to monetize recorded assets. The Labels missteps in past years are not really the overarching issues. Broadband infrastructure, indexed data and low complexity to download are what have killed the industry.

  11. sheepeater

    Wayne Ross is just a sore loser. Next time get a license. Cheaters and thieves never prosper.

    The music industry is going to fight back against all the hardware manufacturers, software companies, computer companies, telecommunications, who have been feeding on the carcass of the music, film, newspaper, and other traditional media industries for the past 10 years.

    It is going to change and simpletons like Mr. Ross and the rest of the geek squad could have been a force for good but instead they decided it was their god given right to use everyone’s copyrighted material for free. Well guess what?? You’re all going to pay now, and it’s not going to be the major music companies or film companies or the riaa or mpaa that are going to stand up and fight for all artists rights.

  12. Let’s be honest here – the real culprit is the music artist themselves. They are the ones who want “credibility” by being signed to these major labels instead of distributing their own music. Most of these music artists actually record their own music in their own studios and just give these labels a digital copy to distribute – WTF are these music artists still signing deals with music labels for?

    It is the music artists that still got that outdated dream 50s-80s dream of getting a “record contract” that are the real problem in this whole picture. The day the music artist becomes independent and cut out these obstructing music labels is when the music industry can bounce back.

  13. Jerry Mandering

    Doug Morris, Lucian Grainge, Barry Weiss, Roger Faxon, Jimmy Iovine, Sylvia Rhone, Monte Lipman, Lyor Cohen, Craig Kallman, Julie Greenwald, whooever runs Sony now a days, and ALL of the major publishers… Please read this article.