Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Music Media

Music Industry's Future Foretold in China? 398

Posted by michael
from the magic-eight-ball-says dept.
sapphire writes "An article today in the International Herald Tribune provides a look at music piracy from the point-of-view of pop stars in China. China is a country forced to deal with the reality of unchecked piracy of digital media products. Will their experience lead to new business models for the world-wide recording industry?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Music Industry's Future Foretold in China?

Comments Filter:
  • by infolib (618234) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:21PM (#5358179)
    is the printer-friendly version [iht.com]
  • by Rojo^ (78973) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:23PM (#5358187) Homepage Journal
    "There is no income from the royalties, so artists in China record single songs for radio play instead of albums for consumers," said Lachie Rutherford, the president of Warner Music Asia-Pacific. "Stars need to look elsewhere to finance the rock-star lifestyle."
    So how is this different from the U.S? The RIAA keeps all the money from album sales. Or, according to those wacky flash animations with Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield -- you know what I'm talking about (reliable source of factual information), a few pennies of each CD. The real money comes from concerts or other live performances. Or, in Will Smith's and DMX's case, movies =)
    • by blincoln (592401) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:34PM (#5358244) Homepage Journal
      The real money comes from concerts or other live performances.

      While major label artists may make a small amount per CD, you have to factor in the large number of sales of those albums.

      For example, I've often heard the figure of 80 cents being a standard royalty per disc. If a million of those albums sell (not a big stretch for a star IMO), that's $800,000, or a nice chunk of change for each of four or five band members.
      • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:45PM (#5358307)
        Except that the labels tend to bill the artists for things like production and promotion and tour support. So while the artist may earn $800,000 from album sales, they wind up owing the label a million.

        See Courtney Love does the Math [salon.com].


        • This opinion is one I really haven't formed yet, so as I speak about Napster now, please understand that I'm not totally informed. I will be the first in line to file a class action suit to protect my copyrights if Napster or even the far more advanced Gnutella doesn't work with us to protect us.

          She then goes on to praise file sharing after basically admitting that she doesn't know what she is talking about. As we can see from the article on China, it's not exactly a musician's paradise.

          Yes, the music industry is full of inequities. The inequity is that the artists are getting screwed and the RIAA isn't. Piracy merely ensures that everyone gets equally screwed. :-)

          -a
    • by twitter (104583) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:25PM (#5358466) Homepage Journal
      So how is this different from the U.S?

      Chinese people might be free to copy and share music they enjoy with their friends? Unless it's political, then they shoot you and the band. Here they just put you in jail. How's that for killed dead?

      Someone in China was complaining about having to work so hard? Say it ain't so! ''In China, we have to give so many concerts that we do not have time to rest our voices.'' It must be true.

      My fingers are sore, and so are my sides.

    • "There is no income from the royalties, so artists in China record single songs for radio play instead of albums for consumers," said Lachie Rutherford, the president of Warner Music Asia-Pacific. "Stars need to look elsewhere to finance the rock-star lifestyle."

      Keyword rockstar lifestyle. If you really think about it, it is probably about time the economy stoped rewarding stupidity, and start giving money to better things like technological development and not people who snort lines of ants and sing. Just my 2 cents.
  • The article. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:24PM (#5358190)


    Copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

    Pop stars learn to live with pirates
    Thomas Crampton/IHT International Herald Tribune
    Friday, February 21, 2003

    SHANGHAI Dimpled good looks and saccharin-sweet love songs may have made him an idol to millions of teenagers in China, but dark passions emerged at an album-promotion party recently when Wang Lee Hom brandished a sword to slash an oversized compact disk marked with the Chinese character for "theft."

    In case anyone missed the point, the normally demure Wang announced that his favorite track on the new album was "Why," a pop-music diatribe against piracy.

    "Pirates have already killed China's music industry dead," Wang said. "It frustrates my life and destroys China's creative future."

    That may be an overstatement. Record companies say that what piracy has really done in China is to cause fundamental shifts in the way the country's music industry operates. It has simply forced Wang and his fellow stars to change the way they live, work and play. ''There is no income from the royalties, so artists in China record single songs for radio play instead of albums for consumers,'' said Lachie Rutherford, the president of Warner Music Asia-Pacific. ''Stars need to look elsewhere to finance the rock-star lifestyle.'' Industry executives say this reality also is beginning to draw attention in Europe and the United States, where music companies face falling revenue from compact disk sales as Internet piracy increases. ''The financial effect is the same for record companies whether people get illegal compact disks for $1 on the street in China or download a song for free from the Internet in Europe,'' said Jay Berman, chairman and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a London-based group representing 1,500 record companies worldwide. ''Record companies everywhere find that they not only need to fight piracy, but also develop alternate revenue streams.'' Piracy -- which accounts for 95 percent of music sales in China, according to Berman's organization -- has forced multinational record companies serving the world's most populous country to abandon classic-style album contracts, drop development of formal distribution channels and eliminate any possibility of a top-40 list based on sales. ''China is the ultimate example of industrial-scale piracy and its impact,'' Berman said. ''The business model for the record industry worldwide is moving toward resembling what we see in China today.'' Alternative sources of income tapped by top Chinese stars include paid appearances, sponsorship deals and extended concert tours through the nation's vast hinterland. ''In the United States and Europe, stars have it easy if they make a hit record,'' said Han Hong, named best female artist this year at Channel V's China Music Awards, and whose renditions of Tibetan songs have become nationally popular. ''In China, we have to give so many concerts that we do not have time to rest our voices.'' To add to the concert revenue and combat piracy, Hong slashed the price of compact disks sold at her concerts to 15 yuan ($1.80), compared with 5 yuan for pirated disks and the 70 yuan that she formerly charged. ''You cannot fight piracy, so there is no point in even getting angry,'' Hong said. ''We must adapt to the environment.'' For Wang Lee Hom, that involved advertising campaigns and an intensive series of personal appearances. ''Until they pirate my body, I can rely on personal appearances,'' Wang said. ''I am forced to view albums only as a promotional tool.'' Concerts themselves have also become pure promotions, with corporate sponsors underwriting the entire cost and passing out tickets for free. Several singers usually take to the stage to maximize the revenue from sponsors. In China's mixed-up musical world, Wang considers his big break to be the day a national bottled water company, Hangzhou Wahaha Group, put his face on its products. ''They sent my face to every corner of China,'' Wang said, adding that other sponsorship deals soon followed for sneakers, sunglasses, shampoo and clothing. ''These deals support my fame, but they do not pay for my music.'' Fame may finance Wang's designer clothes, but the lack of revenue from music sales cripples record companies. ''Our survival strategy required switching to a talent-management business model,'' said Zorro Xu, managing director in China for Warner Music. ''As piracy increases in other countries, this is what record companies elsewhere may have to try.'' While classic record-company contracts are built around albums, record companies in China now sign up to manage all aspects of an artist's career. In exchange for a percentage of the earnings, the record companies arrange promotional events and negotiate product endorsements. Berman of the phonographic industry federation cited a groundbreaking deal made late last year between the British singer Robbie Williams and EMI Group PLC as an example of China-style recording contracts moving westward. The record company signed up to take a share of all profits linked to Williams's next six albums, including merchandising, touring and music sales. In China, the scramble for sponsorship often results in the pre-selling of songs to finance production costs. The hard-edged Beijing-based singer Pu Shu, for example, wrote a theme song for the launch of Windows XP. Payment for the song, ''Out of Your Window,'' covered the cost of album production, and each time he performed at Microsoft Corp.-sponsored events, Pu and Warner collected a fee. Epson Corp. selected a song by Zhou Xun, a singer and actress, to promote color printers in a deal that financed the song's music video. ''Sponsored videos and songs must not be too obviously commercial,'' said Xu said. ''They need to fit a concept and set a mood.'' Warner Music soon plans to begin a talent search for members of a five-girl band to be called Mei Mei, with the winners signed up for a two-year contract to promote M&M candy. Reliance on advertising and the inability to measure consumer response through sales figures makes it difficult for artists and record companies to determine hits. ''China's music industry is driven by institutional sponsorship instead of consumer preference,'' said Andrew Wu, head of Sony Music China. ''Piracy prevents record companies from properly reaching new consumers through in-store promotions.'' Although pirates offer an efficient means of distributing hit albums, the thousands of pirate stalls across China discourage record companies from promoting new artists. ''These stalls are poorly lit, difficult to find and mostly run by old ladies totally out of touch with modern China's music scene,'' Wu said. ''There is no way for record companies to connect with consumers in order to promote new artists.'' As a result, Wu said, there are fewer than 20 professional-quality albums produced per year in China. This lack of large-scale music production inhibits the entry of talented newcomers. ''I know I have the talent and ability,'' said Wang Jue, the son of one of China's first pop stars who studied music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. ''Since the record companies just don't have any money to invest, I had to put up the money myself.'' Relying on investors rounded up by his mother, Wang spent 100,000 yuan promoting his album by plastering posters along a fashionable Beijing street and paying to have his song played as the hourly jingle on radio stations. Wang's rhythm-and-blues-style album, largely self-financed but released under the Warner Records label, became a radio hit thanks to the song ''Tomorrow'' and won him the award for best hit and best new artist at the Channel V China Music Awards last month. ''Not everyone can be so lucky as to have the support of a famous mother,'' Wang said. ''I just hope this album will bring enough sponsorship deals to pay for the investment from her friend.''

    Copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune

    • Re:The article. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Patrick13 (223909) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:38PM (#5358261) Homepage Journal
      I just can't imagine my favorite popstar having to pitch the new version of windows in order to finance the recording of his/her new album.

      There was a group in the 80's (Sigue Sigue Sputnik [sputnikworld.com]) that sold the space between the tracks of their album to Revlon and other advertisers.

      I guess this is the next step.
      • Re:The article. (Score:3, Interesting)

        How about the Rolling Stones renting "Start Me Up" to Unlcle Bill for the Windows 95 launch? The world's greatest rock band sucks ass...
        • I realize I didn't make me feelings very clear. I think I would hold more of a grudge against Mick Jagger & Co. if they wrote a song called "Rock Out Your Windows" for a Windows launch than I do if that they have licensed one of their hits after the fact. One thing is about making money, which I think all musicians deserve to do, another is compromising artistic integrity to make a "jingles".

          Can you imagine an entire album, where each track had a commercial sponsor...

          Track 1: "They Really Know How To Build 'Em (GM Tough)"

          Track 2: "So Delicious (I Can't Believe Its Not Butter)"

          Track 3: "No Place Like Home (With Century 21)"

          etc., etc...

  • so what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:24PM (#5358191)
    So people can't get rich playing music anymore. I guess they'll have to find another reason to play.
    • Amen! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      and not funny at all! Who says pop stars should be millionaires?

      Recording is ultra cheap now with PC-based studios. Record your stuff, put it out on the net and make money charging for seats at a show. Let the masses decide to make you big instead of a label with deep pockets for payola.
    • So people can't get rich playing music anymore. I guess they'll have to find another reason to play.

      Would you find another reason to work in your field if you didn't get paid?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:25PM (#5358195)
    You pirate music!

    Which means that

    In Capitalist America

    Music pirates you!

    Calling Hillary Rosen and the RIAA, we've cracked your code...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:27PM (#5358200)
    I think that quote sums it up best. They must "look elsewhere to fund the rockstar lifestyle".

    I don't fucking pay artists to fund their 'rockstar lifestyle'. I pay them to make music. If they get the intense rich/famous shit going on because they sell loads, well, that's a bonus. If they make enough to live on and keep producing, then they're with the rest of the population.

    To me, that keeps what they say in their lyrics all the more relevant to me.
    • by baryon351 (626717) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:41PM (#5358275)
      Agreed. perhaps not in such harsh terms but hey, I agree all the same. Is there some inbuilt expectation that if you're in music, you're not successful unless you're exceptionally rich? It's a side effect of the social phenomenon of 'celebrity' that goes along with whether you make music, act, write, are a politician, famous scientist etc. It's all well and good when that's deserved fame that can be used to reach a wide audience (as say, stephen hawking) but not when it seems to be pushed as an entire reason to exist. Who the hell is Zsa Zsa Gabor anymore? she's famous for being famous.

      (way off topic rant sorry. ignore this post :)
  • Excellent (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timesprout (579035) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:27PM (#5358201)
    Pop stars learn to live with pirates
    The sooner we can get some of our 'pop stars' off shore onto pirate ships the better. May I reccomend the vicinity around Bermuda as a suitable anchorage.
  • by BuhSnarf (633686) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:27PM (#5358203) Homepage
    Sorry, but it really gets to me when a "band" only does their stuff for the money.

    I know plenty of bands that just thrive to hear a live audience, no, they're not big and they don't have a flash Porsche but they enjoy what they do and get to pay the bills.

    All pirating means is that people that expect that when they get into music that their life is sorted and they can go round smashing up hotel rooms and stuff.

    Bah! They don't even usually write their own songs.
    • by missing_boy (627271) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:51PM (#5358330)
      That's really cute, you know. I thought everybody around here was all in favour of making your own fortune, not considering the fact that one man's gain is another man's loss.

      I think your point is excellent! It's the very same thing that leads to the bancrupty of NHL teams (too high salaries, tickets too expensive, etc.): the league is getting out of touch with the market. Who can afford 4*$100 tickets + parking and burgers to bring the family to a hockey-game? This might seem off-topic, but my point is this: a "rock-star lifestyle" is ridiculous any way you look at it. Also, why on EARTH do the Friends "actors" make ~$1M per episode?? This is what I'm talking about: overpay. Get real and be happy with a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. That's many times more than what most of us make.

    • You do realize that these "bands that only do their stuff for the money" are just going to work everyday like you or I. I am a professional musician and have played many a gig just to make money, not because I particularly liked the music I was playing. I definitely do not live the "rock-star lifestyle," but not one of us can say that all that money wouldn't be nice. We definitely can't blame these rich artist for enjoying their money. As far as the article goes, it seems like a good idea in general. Musicians get paid for appearances, companies license songs for ad campaigns, and, most importantly, record companies basically act as talent agencies. This is one model that the RIAA could look into. Most of these agencies skim a huge percentage off the top for booking gigs for artists. The record companies could make much more money from this method than their current model, which is probably why they aren't doing it yet. Easier to complain than change.
      • by God! Awful 2 (631283) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:01PM (#5358586) Journal

        The record companies could make much more money from this method than their current model, which is probably why they aren't doing it yet. Easier to complain than change.

        Ahh yes... the miraculous money making machine. It's amazing: /. readers have all the answers, but everyone in the industry is too dumb to see them. I wonder why some enterprising young readers don't put their money where their mouth is. Somebody outta overthrow the system and make millions in the process by being first to market (like they did with open source).

        -a

    • Sorry, but it really gets to me when a "band" only does their stuff for the money.

      You know what bugs me? When hookers only do it for the money. I remember when they used to do it for the crack. ;-)

      But seriously, what does the /. crowd have against people who try to make a buck doing something they enjoy? The whole reason I went to university and studied engineering is so I could have a career I enjoyed. I could have studied something less applicable (such as literature) and then done my pennance in an unrewarding job. I used to have a job writing proprietary software (which I enjoyed), but now that's been vilified. Is this like a new form of puritanism or something?

      -a
  • talent? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ergonal (609484) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:28PM (#5358210)
    'Our survival strategy required switching to a talent-management business model,'' said Zorro Xu, managing director in China for Warner Music. ''As piracy increases in other countries, this is what record companies elsewhere may have to try.''

    Talent-management? You mean, for an artist in China to actually be successful, they have to have some form of TALENT?! Yes, I DO hope other record companies elsewhere try this, yes indeed!

  • In China (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Henry V .009 (518000)
    In China, artists don't recieve royalties for CDs. Needless to say, this makes it a damn sight better than the U.S. where most record contracts will leave the artist in debt.

    Down with the RIAA!
    • In Debt? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:31PM (#5358485)

      Not completely. The magic word is "recoupable." The record label gives you X amount of dollars to record your album, to hire outside players, to live on while you dedicate your life to music, etc. Usually they will say that this money is "recoupable." Recoupable how? Through record sales, mostly. Basically, whenever a record sells, the record companies takes your cut and puts it back toward your "debt."

      However, this debt is not like a loan from the bank. If you end up never making enough money to pay back the full costs that you owe through record sales and the ilk, then that's it. Some guy in dark shades won't show up on your door asking you for more money, no bankruptcy, etc. The company eats the loss.

      The real debt comes with long term deals. Let's say Band A records album 1. The album costs $20K to make. The band ends up making a cut of $15K on record sales. They're $5K in the hole. The record label could drop the band and just eat the $5K loss, but they tell the band that they want to do a second album (generally, the label has the option to force the band into another album or drop them at their free will). However, this time, since the band did ok last time, the label decides to spend a bigger budget on the band with hopes of a bigger return. Even though it has to eventually come out of the band's pocket, the record label will have a lot of say in how much gets spent. So Album 2 has a budget of $50K. The album goes out, the band recoups $30K back in record sales. So that's another $20K in the hole.

      Since the company took an option for the second album, now they have to do a third album (options often come in pairs). They say "We're not wasting anymore money on this band than we have to since they're not recouping." They make a back-to-the-roots Album 3 with a $10K budget. The album is technically a hit. The band recoups $40K in record sales. But guess what? You still owe $5K from the first album, and $20K from Album 2. From your first hit record, you get a grand total of $5K. And now that you're a hit, the record label may not let you leave...

      This starts a vicious perpetual cycle in which an artist can potentially NEVER see cash back from selling albums. If I had to personally say that there was a way to fix this system, I would say: spend less money on albums. Only sign naturally gifted talent and cultivate grassroots appeal rather than hiring talentless hack pairs-of-breasts and spending millions on their production fees. I'll bet John Mayer, who writes his own stuff and performs fairly simple music, saw some profits from his MTV hits, though I can't say for sure.

      BTW, performance royalties for getting your song on the radio or performing live can never be used to recoup expenses for the album, partly because these are paid out by a different organization. This is why musicians usually need to perform to see any money for themselves. It's quite possible for a musician to make a half-decent living playing music while the label is losing money on him. If you walk up to a musician and tell him you paid to see his gig because you downloaded his music off the net, he may not be too peeved at you.

  • Who pays? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gwernol (167574) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:31PM (#5358232)
    One of the interesting results of the Chinese experience is that consumers no longer pay for the music. This would seem on the surface to be a good thing, after all informationm wants to be free. Of course the musicians are still paid - but by a few large corporate sponsors rather than individuals.

    This is certainly a different business model than the one in Europe and the US. Is it better? Perhaps: the artists still get paid and consumers get free or very cheap music. But it may have a downside. Instead of the economic power being in the hands of the people who want the music it is transfered to large corporations.

    Are we just trading one set of large corporate interests (the RIAA) for another (corporate sponsors)?
    • by silentbozo (542534) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:59PM (#5358362) Journal
      While I would be filled with glee to see the RIAA and it's parasitic minons take the fall they so richly deserve, there are severely negative aspects to a culture that pirates everything, and pays for very little. The Chinese situation is a unique one in that the primary form of piracy is commercial - I perform a song, and tommorrow my work is being sold on the roadside for a slight markup over blank media. It's the situation before copyright existed - when musicians (like Beethoven) would write knockoffs of their own work at a fever pitch to beat out the guy down the street who was copying his stuff.

      Basically, the scenario is diminishing returns where grubby knockoff businessmen with better promotional/distribution networks get to make money off the creative people... which is pretty much exactly the same situation witht the RIAA here, except that here it's legitimized in restrictive contracts that forbid competition.

      What's the main difference? With the RIAA, they have an incentive to take care of their master works (master tapes, for film, master negatives) in order to profit from them in the future. The grubby merchant on the corner could give a rat's ass about preserving art/information - he's just out to make a buck, just like those bootleg T-shirt merchants you find at sporting events, and in downtowns everywhere.

      In the end, what does this mean? It means that monopolies as we know them would be broken under the Chinese scenario. It also means that the focus would be on production, rather than milking assets. It also means that assets would be worth less than they would under the current system, which might make licensing information easier (faced with making something vs. making nothing, and losing control of the material anyways, I'd think they'd choose making something.)

      This poses problems in that a devaluation in the asset means you can't borrow against it (one way companies expand is to leverage their existing library to buy other properties.) If your star dies (ie, Elvis), you can't bank on that property, because of all the ripoffs that will devalue any records/products you put out. This means a big shakeout in terms of overhead - no longer can you support lawyers on staff, etc.

      It also depreciates intellectual capital - if you can't bank on the performance of a particular group, then they're worth less to begin with. Instead of getting $250,000 to do a deal, they get $25,000 to do a gig. I can't decide if this means that they'll use more or less marketing to sell product in the face of all that piracy... I'd say at a certain point, they'll just cut back and go local. If that's the case, then they have nothing to lose by opening up their back catalogs, because that material is no longer competing with their big acts, because there won't be any big acts anymore.

      Arrgh. Basically, if the Chinese model happens here, a shitload of people will be laid off (some for the better - ie, bloodsucking lawyers and parasitic promo/marketing people, some for the worse - ie, recording engineers and packaging people.) For that reason alone, expect both artists and the existing business interests do whatever it takes to make sure widespread COMMERCIAL piracy stays illegal. As for widespread downloading, that's another issue entirely...
      • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:16PM (#5358631) Journal
        I'm not quite sure it's worth comparing China's music industry situation with the possible future of the industry here in the US. Arguably, the piracy in China has far different causes than piracy here has.

        From the CIA World Factbook 2002 - China [cia.gov]:
        GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $4,300 (2001 est.)

        To me, that says that piracy is probably as prevalent as it is because people simply cannot afford music at the prices they'd be with a legitimate album sales market in place. Perhaps I'm wrong - it could very well just be a social issue, stemming form differing cultures.

        Here in the US, though, there are probably a number of factors for music piracy.

        Price may be an issue for some. As a college student, I can't really afford to spend $20 a pop on CDs when my school is sucking me dry.

        For others, downloading music may simply be a way to preview music. The radio stations play nothing but top 40 crap unless an artist pays the station to get their stuff on air. Sometimes the only way to expose yourself to new music is find it online and download it.

        Still others pirate music because of a philosophical disagreement with the industry's treatment of artists - money from albums goes almost entirely to the labels. If we want to support our favorite bands, we would be better off going to concerts.

        On top of this, typical record contracts state that the label owns the music. To me, this is a travesty, and totally contradictory of the whole point of intellectual property and copyright. Who was the most successful band in history? The Beatles. Who owns the rights to all the music produced by The Beatles? The Beatles? No. Why not? Their contract gave the rights to their label, and when the copyright came up for renewal, someone else (Michael Jackson) renewed it. Personally, this part bothers me the most.

        Many artists get stuck in contracts that give ownership of their music to their label, and if they wish to perform their music after their contract expires, they have to pay their old label to do it(assuming the label even allows them to play it). However, this isn't limited to the music industry, and the rant is best saved for a "why copyright law needs to be gutted and rewritten" topic.

        Other people dislike how the record labels treat music consumers. Price fixing, filler music, bogus copy protection schemes, DMCA, DRM, and to top it all off, big, rich executives telling me how, when, and where I can listen to music I bought... doesn't make me think fondly upon the prospect of supporting the music industry. It seems that with every RIAA-related press release, I find myself more determined never to buy CDs again.

        In spite of all this, though... I genuinely want to pay for the music I have, so long as I could guarantee that the artists get a decent share of the money. I like the feel of owning things, and I like the feel of giving money to people who make things I like to use. I would imagine many people feel like I do. As a result, I can't really see the Chinese model happening here. There's a certain pride embedded in the idea of owning something in our particular culture. Instead of seeing pirate booths lining the streets, I can forsee labels finally getting the clue and changing how they sell their music or the artists breaking free of labels and finding a better way to distribute music...

        ...that, or the RIAA/MPAA will successfully lobby Congress to enact further legislation that effectively limits our consumption of intellectual property to what the RIAA and MPAA want us to consume. If (when) that happens, I'll start practicing my "eh?" and move north.
      • Really good analysis. I enjoyed it.

        I wanted to add one possibility. Your discussion assumed that all artists are immediately mass=pirated... which seems unlikely to me. It seems fore likely that an artist is likely to be pirated in proportion to their popularity. A mass pirate may not even notice a starting artist that's able to produce and sell 1000-2000 CDs, and even if they do, it may not be worth it to them to try and compete with the legitimate product offering. As a musician ramps up to 10000 CDs, notice is still something of a problem, but economically, piracy may begin to be worthwhile. However, it's still possible that a real economy of scale would have yet to kick in here, and it's probable at this point that said artist is still driving sales largely through personal performances and distribution outlets with which they have personal contacts and might not be friendly to piracy. When you move up to 20000, 50000, 100000 CDs and up, piracy is certainly going to be worthwhile.

        What my theory would predict would be that the point where marginal costs and marginal returns would balance out (on recording sales only, mind you) would be somewhere in between 5000 and 20000 fans. The mass media market would probably be hurt significantly... but maybe in waves, because at it hurts, so would parasitic/pirates, unless they find exactly the right level at which to drain the mass-market host without killing it. Regional artists, or artists with marginal national fame, would find it tough to break profits on recording sales through a certain ceiling, but would find themselves with a reasonably sustainable small to mid sized business -- much the way things are now.
        And breaking into national fame might become a much more emergent/chaotic phenomenon, rather than the carefully controlled steeplechase it is now.

        Just a theory.
        • It seems fore likely that an artist is likely to be pirated in proportion to their popularity.

          Very good point. Public awareness of the artist would be a definite driver of sales, pirate or otherwise. For the current market in software/music, etc. in the US, I would attribute the marketing blitz that aims to sell product to everyone, regardless of need or income, for driving non-commercial piracy. The analysis for a commercial pirate, on the other hand, would be affected not only by the amount of demand, but by potential profit as well. That's why there are counterfeit copies of Microsoft Word/Windows sold in bulk with retail packaging - high profit margin.

          However, if you look at the kinds of street vendors hawking CDs in China (the China model again), they'll sell you collections of everything, and anything - including stuff repackaged to look like the flavor of the week (ie, a generic Pocahantas film by a no-name studio being sold in Disney Pocahantas packaging.) Thus, it isn't inconceivable that someone may bootleg a performance that I might do at a local jazz n blues house, it might get uploaded to Kaaza, and then downloaded by a commercial pirate. From there, my performance would end up a generic track on a generic 1001 blues/jazz MP3 tracks CD, much as freeware and shareware font designers were ripped off during the early to mid nineties by so-called "shovelware" CD producers.

          When your overhead and marginal cost are next to nothing, you can afford to sell CDs at such a low cost that any kind of filler helps to increase marginal value. In that case, I'd be surprised if some enterprising soul didn't take to making compilation CDs of MP3s of whatever he could get his hands on (popular acts or unknowns), especially for bandwidth challenged folks.

          Basically it boils down to the fact that any public exposure creates the possiblity of recording and distribution that you have no control over. In that situation, if I'm an artist trying to promote my band, I'd make sure I uploaded my MP3s first (ie, official MP3s), with ID3 tags to make sure that when some music/film producer picks up a 1000 track MP3 cd (or DVD as the case may be), my contact info is there. I might not get compensated for the use (I know the piracy is going to happen), but I might be able to get a gig out of it at least.
    • coroporate sponsorship of media is the norm if you take a historical view. Indeed for all known history the arts have been almost exlusively supported by patrons not the masses. the wealthy, the kings, the lords, the church, and the state, have been the source of artisitic patronage beyond all written history. (think of the surviving art from the ancients: the mayan murals, the egyptian pyramids were the public art but it was not private). Micheal angelo painted for his patrons.

      at only breif flickers in history has there been a middle class that could support the arts through small sales commerical routes. Troubadors may have made aa living but they were not stars, whose offerings were trades to others. Perhaps breifly in egypt there was a middle class. Perhaps briefly a few art centers, like venician glass makers held brief monopolies on desirabel art. but never for long.

      it is only the rise of the ubquitous middle class, and a widespread media that has created the commerical conduits for art we have today. there is nothing to suggest these channels should or will be enduring. We as a generation or two grew up and thought these the norm but we were wrong.

      To the extent that artistis are conduits of expression and the exchange of ideas, is this good or bad? its not clear. there are commmercial forces to tow the political norm on all artists whether they have patrons or must please the masses. Indeed one might claim that given the financial independence offerec by a patron is what frees the artist to challenge popular norms. You would not see many commercial artist these days advocating buttfucking small boys, but certainly many poets in greece spoke well of the idea. I know thats a bit gross, but I say it to make the point that stong ideas can come about when you dont have to please everyone.

      • by Radical Rad (138892) on Saturday February 22, 2003 @01:28AM (#5359110) Homepage
        You bring up a good point that our current system is relatively new and seems to allow the middle class to shape the culture. That sure seems like a good thing.

        Many seem to fear that a model like what is happening in China strengthens Corporatism because they would likely be the most common patrons. So we would end up with all 5 girl groups called "Mei Mei" performing songs which extoll the virtues of M&M candy. But don't we already have that? Look at Britney Spears and the Pepsi commercials. But patronage isn't the only way to make money under a free distribution system. Endorsements would be another way. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods didn't get rich by being sponsered to play sports. In the same way, popular musical artists could become fabulously wealthy.

        I think true artists, even the starving ones, can survive under such a system but they need something in return for the loose distribution of their works, if nothing else then at least name recognition. What if an electronic signature could be worked into the data format not to use for restriction but for positive identification. If free distribution were allowed then consumers would have no reason to strip that information off. This header could contain copyright, license, and contact info, the date of the performance, and the names of the patrons who paid for the performance thus freeing it for everyone.

        PS. In regards to your sig, in Fascism the government controls industry but in Corporatism government is controlled by industry.
    • This is certainly a different business model than the one in Europe and the US. Is it better? Perhaps: the artists still get paid and consumers get free or very cheap music. But it may have a downside. Instead of the economic power being in the hands of the people who want the music it is transfered to large corporations.

      In a lot of ways, though not currently in music, it actually gives the consumer a much better deal than what they get in the United States. Look at NASCAR, for instance. The cars are covered in advertising, the drivers are covered in advertising, the announcers are spewing advertising, the broadcast rights are bought by a cable channel and contain not only commercials but also sponsorships from whoever pays the most money, etc. But yet, are the tickets to the events free? Is the food and merchandise at the events priced reasonably? Hell no. The consumer pays far more than a fair price and still has to deal with all of the annoyances of corporate subsidization, because two business models are more profitable than one.
    • Ah, but what if all the corporations get is the value of the promotion in sponsorship? i.e., the recordings themselves are not viewed as a source of income, but sponsorship of them is *sold*, just as sponsorship of concerts is sold ( or sponsorship of racing car, arenas, etc.)for the value of the advertising?

      So Pepsi sponsors my single. They cover the recording costs, and I agree to putting a "brought to you by Pepsi" label in the upper corner. Now we aren't talking about "power." We're transacting a simple business deal. A bit of private "product placement" as it were.

      Now I sell the disks, or even *give them away,* not for profit, but as a *promotional item,* like free t-shirts or ball point pens, to promote my concerts.

      Now, I'll put on a full show for you in your living room if you want. A thousand bucks plus traveling expenses. Invite all your buddys. Get 100 buddies to chip in ten bucks apiece and you're covered.

      I make a good living. You get my recordings for little or nothing, and the question of "power" never comes up.

      By the way, I'm noted for putting on a fun show. Call me if you're into acoustic folk oriented stuff.

      KFG
    • Well, in the grand old days of radio it used to be pretty heavily tilted in favour of advertising, as opposed to record sales and such. It's definitely a different business model, and it's actually more top-down and less user-generated. Users can't even pick what they want to buy, they just have to buy what's being played.
      However, with the current state of technology, internet radio is becoming entirely viable as a mass-market revenue stream. This means that there will be just as much choice as with file-sharing (they can offer and support hundreds of channels and still advertise on all of them), while the artists get paid regularly.
      The next problem is to figure out how to get people not to switch immediately at commercial.
  • Music as marketing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by James_Duncan8181 (588316) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:33PM (#5358238) Homepage
    Personally I can see recorded music becoming much more of a promotional tool for concerts, movies etc (see Will Smith) if it becomes impossible to make a direct profit from music distribution. For this reason, I can't help thinking that the claimed danger to the concept of the 'star' posed by the comodification of music is somewhat misguided IMHO - there is still massive value in the artist as brand. Eminem sells clothes, movies, music, books, pencil cases, and his earnings from endorsements and concerts make quite a healty living for him without royalites. The shift would seem to be from marketing the music to music as marketing.

    The worring thing is the vision of a future of excessivly maketed pop drones designed to build a valuble brand...oh, wait...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just read between the lines:

    ''Stars need to look elsewhere to finance the rock-star lifestyle.''

    Everyone who claims that they are pirating music "because its good for the artists" had better consider carefully the consequences. Sure, the extravagance of some pop stars may lead some with a Marxist bent to argue that they don't "deserve" their wealth, but the fact is that in a market economy, merit is rewarded with wealth, and the motive for any person to work hard is the possibility of this reward. This article is very clear: Unchecked and tolerated copyright violation destroys most of the market for recording music.

    People who constantly argue that "record companies should adapt their business model to piracy" are missing the point. They shouldn't have to: It's their intellectual property, not yours, and they have every right to dictate the terms of its distribution under existing law in every civilized country, even in Red China. Right now Americans enjoy much more freedom to innovate and achieve their own dreams then those in Communist China, and mainly it is because of impartial and fair laws which promote respect for private property, including intellectual property, and allow markets to function. But if we allow these laws to be desecrated, we could fast backslide into a world like that envisioned by the Soviet commisars, where wealth is stolen from those who are capable and worthy and forcibly redistributed to the benefity of the lazy and dishonest.

    • Sure, the extravagance of some pop stars may lead some with a Marxist bent to argue that they don't "deserve" their wealth, but the fact is that in a market economy, merit is rewarded with wealth, and the motive for any person to work hard is the possibility of this reward.

      Only the truly mega-super stars are rich. Most other bands are not multi-millionaires. Most are probably still in debt after having 2 "hit" records. The ones that are getting rich are the music company execs. In a true markey economy, it would be the musicians that would be making the money since they can set up a direct marketing system and buy airtime at radio stations, etc. However, the current system is not even close to a true market economy.
      People who constantly argue that "record companies should adapt their business model to piracy" are missing the point. They shouldn't have to: It's their intellectual property, not yours, and they have every right to dictate the terms of its distribution under existing law in every civilized country, even in Red China.

      The IP shouldn't even be the property of the record companies. Shouldn't the IP reside with the artists who wrote the lyrics and who wrote the melodies? Singers and other musicians, who only play other people's songs, are more like employees than artists. At least the Chinese "system" makes these people work for a living, just like everyone else. Wang Lee Hom, in the article, sounds like he does everything himself from song writing to promotion. He also doesn't seem to be starving, either.

      The article itself was basically very pro-RIAA. It would be nice to know how hard is it to "break into" the Chinese system as compared to the already-industry controlled system in the U.S and Europe.

      Anthony
    • by eniu!uine (317250) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:51PM (#5358769)
      You clearly are not familiar with the laws of your own country. The intellectual property that you speak of... the stuff that's not 'ours'.. it doesn't belong to the artists who created it. Recording is done as a work for hire for one of the few huge corporations that control the flow of music from the artists to the listeners. Those impartial laws you speak of, they weren't concieved by some grassroots movement. No one marched for this shit. The laws were the results of lobying by the RIAA. The politicians we elected to protect our rights sold us out for Sony and Time Warner. Very little, if any of the money made by the average artist comes from royalties. If piracy were to become the accepted standard by which the public obtained their music, artists on average would actually make more money. Why? Because the primary source of their income(concerts/public appearances) would be increased by their increased exposure. Forget about the benefit to the public of not having the recording industry decide for us what is good. Copyright laws serve more to protect the corporate stranglehold than anything else. You seem to be a fan of capitalism, but we've failed to realize one of capitalisms most important goals: promote competition. Don't kid yourself, the RIAA and the MPAA are monopolies. When was the last time you saw a movie in the theater that wasn't produced by a member of the MPAA? When is the last time you heard a song on the radio that wasn't being marketed by a major record label? I say pirate until we have the option of buying from the people who actually made the music.
    • by ewhac (5844)

      People who constantly argue that "record companies should adapt their business model to piracy" are missing the point. They shouldn't have to: It's their intellectual property, not yours, and they have every right to dictate the terms of its distribution under existing law in every civilized country, even in Red China.

      No. They shouldn't.

      The proof of this is precisely because they have no control over independent duplication, nor can they ever reasonably expect to obtain that control.

      Consider: Oxygen is a valuable commodity. Indeed, you cannot live without it. Oxygen is exuded from plants every day, including those in your garden. Now, given that there are significant, measurable costs to tending and maintaining your garden, and given that the oxygen it produces has clear market value, shouldn't you be able to charge for it? Aren't those who have received value from the oxygen you produced morally and ethically obliged to stuff money into your wallet? (Or, to take it to more absurd extremes: If Bill Gates bought the entire Amazon rainforest, could he legitimately start billing the world for the oxygen it produces?)

      The answer, of course, is a big fat "no," because that's not how reality works. Anyone forming a business model based on this presumption would -- correctly -- be laughed into bankruptcy.

      The reality of digital media is that it is easily and cheaply duplicated by anyone, anywhere, any time. It was designed to do this, making it a feature, not a bug, and, despite Micros~1's ambitions with Palladium, it's not going to change any time soon. This reality of digital media has never been a secret -- indeed, it's one of its big selling points -- and for media executives to whine shrilly about it speaks less toward their business acumen and more forcefully toward their stubborn unwillingness to face facts.

      Schwab

    • Americans enjoy much more freedom to innovate and achieve their own dreams then those in Communist China, and mainly it is because of impartial and fair laws

      You spoiled son of a bitch...

      Yeah, mod me down I can take the karma hit, I want the karma hit. Anonymous cowards piss me off. And that one got modded UP for this nausiating trolling...I'm hoping that the modding down will come from the same moderators that upped that twisted fuck's post.

      Fair and impartial? How drunk are you? The DMCA is fair and impartial? The tax cuts for the disgustingly rich are fair and impartial?

      the Soviet commisars, where wealth is stolen from those who are capable and worthy and forcibly redistributed to the benefity of the lazy and dishonest.

      You arrogant bastard.
      You lying, dishonest, hypocrite! I'm choking on my own rage here!

      Yeah, Lance Bass deserves his millions of dollars more than the men, women and children who worked 10h days in sweat shops to make his shoes! They are so damn lazy! Working themselves to death just so they can scrounge enough money to keep their children barely fed and clothes! How dare they not pay as much as his highness demands for his crappy music?

      I'll be modded down as troll or flamebait for loosing my temper, but fuck it. I would jam dollar bills down your throat until you choked if I ever got the chance. You don't deserve the air you breath if you're going to pollut it so when you talk.
      Someone needs to show you true pain and suffering, to get you out of your ivory tower and make you smell the sweat and the blood that the poor have to shed to make people like you so damn comfy.

      Sure, the extravagance of some pop stars may lead some with a Marxist bent to argue that they don't "deserve" their wealth

      Call me names all you want (Marxist? I do have a goatee...) but britney spears does NOT deserve her money. She works hard? Well so do many other whores, and they don't make as much money as her! Sure she got a better deal (duh!), all she does is tease the Johns and they give her cash without her ever needing to deliver the goods. Most other whores don't get that chance; they do it the old fashioned way. Her pimp is better than most pimps, but he doesn't deserve his cash anymore than that little bra stuffer does.

      Are you so totally devoid of basic human decency that you really think that Ozzy deserves his wealth more than any other burned out drug addict with a bit of musical talent? You think that most LSD horror story deserve to slowy rot while their unemployability prevents them from earning a living, but that one married into money (he did, Sharon's dad was quite wealthy), so he deserves it?

      he fact is that in a market economy, merit is rewarded with wealth

      FUCK YOU

      What kind of god-given bullshit are you using to justify that insane bit of rationalisation?

      99% of people with money never did anything to merit that money, they were born with it. No, being born into money does not merit immense wealth.

      The french had it right in 1789: Cut off their heads.
      The very rich do NOT deserve or merit their wealth. They kill and lie and cheat to get it. They get liposuctions while other starves.
      They
      make
      me
      sick.

      No, I'm no red commie, I don't think that a bureaucracy would be better equipped to manage the mind-boggling riches that vast industrial nations can generate, yes, I enjoy freedoms. Including freedom to earn and spend varying amounts of money. Yes, some people are lazy, and some are freeloaders...but povrety and lazyness are VERY DISTINC ISSUES. Don't you DARE tell me that there are no rich freeloaders out there...don't you dare.

      merit is rewarded with wealth, and the motive for any person to work hard is the possibility of this reward.

      You disgust me.

      No, no and no. I have done very hard work in the past for the sole purpose of benefiting others. I give my time to charities, I volunteer and do hard work, not only for money (gotta eat, gotta work to get the money to eat), but also to help my fellow human beings. Why? Because I know I'm incredibly lucky to have been born in a rich country where its possible to do hard work for good money, and I want to be at least a tad helpfull to others who might be doing hard work for bad money...or for good. I just like to help people (and unlike you, I don't mind if I get nothing in return, a good action is its own reward...sometimes).

      Money can be a great motivator, but to worthwhile persons it is not the only one. To sleezy jerks like you it is, but I don't think of people with such low morals as yours as human. More like meatbags (spoiled meat).
      Lazy people might have gotten that way by being born in a world where no matter how hard you try, you'll never get out of the hole you're in. Maybe they got a learning disability and never got diagnosed because the fucking bastard of a doctor wouldn't see him without first seeing the green stuff? Maybe? Huh? Maybe a billion other stories like that...
  • by Goronmon (652094) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:38PM (#5358259)
    Where CD's only cost a few bucks instead of $13-15.

    If you really look at the article all you really get out of it is that some artists expect to make a few hit songs and be able to live in luxury for the rest of their years off the millions they supposedly make. Whenever I hear artists complain about how they are suffering from the effects of piracy, I just laugh. They are making lots of money doing something they supposedly love to do and they get made when they aren't making millions?
    • You think music is homogonized now? Did you notice the quote about there only being 20 professionally produced cd's a year?

      Granted, this is an extrememe "worst-case" scenario; I'd really like to see what the music industry in China was like before piracy was rampant, like pre-cd.

      Our system is broken, and the RIAA is evil; but this one is worse. The answer isn't to download all those mp3's of the 8 Mile soundtrack, reassuring yourself that it's ok cuz you're sticking it to the man. The point is, fuck Eminem, Brittany, and major label music in general. Expand your tastes and buy something you didn't hear about on the tv. Something local. Something original.

      Those are the people getting screwed over, doing what they love and not making millions, making good music no one will ever hear because the singer wasn't in this years big action movie.
      • The point is, fuck Eminem, Brittany, and major label music in general. Expand your tastes and buy something you didn't hear about on the tv. Something local. Something original. I'm not saying that its ok to download tons of mp3's without paying for them. All I am saying is that the industry sucks the way it is run right now. They pick bands or people they feel will make the most money and help promote them as much as possible.

        However, the best way for different, original music to be promoted is the use of music-sharing over the internet. I mean, new bands can't just produce a CD and if they can use the internet to promote their band they have a better chance of being noticed.

        What I would like to see is a regulated form of internet file-sharing where people can easily find new bands and try out their music. I mean, I am more likely to buy a CD if I know what the rest of the CD is like.
    • Where CD's only cost a few bucks instead of $13-15.


      If you really look at the article all you really get out of it is that some artists expect to make a few hit songs and be able to live in luxury for the rest of their years off the millions they supposedly make.


      Aren't the majority of China's people considered to be living at poverty level? Has it occurred to anyone over there that music might be a considered a luxury item? When you have a choice between your rent and a music CD, what do you pick? Or better yet, what if you can pay your rent and afford a lower-quality knock-off CD of the music you like? Maybe lowering the price of music is something they should have done a long time ago. Now, everyone is used to buying the music from the "black market" and, too late, the industry is complaining about "piracy" hurting sales.

      Sounds more like they were priced out of the market by a competing distributor (the article mentioned "little old ladies") that had a cheaper distribution method. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the US industry could increase CD sales by simply cutting in half the cost of the CD's and utilizing the distributed networks as a way to promote artists. Geez, that's already happening. They are just too blinded by their greed to notice.

      The RIAA needs to go back to "Economics 101" and remember that the consumer is only willing to pay so much for a CD - especially if there is another more affordable way to get songs.

      blue

  • by vga_init (589198) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:38PM (#5358262) Journal
    Piracy has seemingly always run rampant in China (always meaning the past few years I have spent examining its occurance in the country), and may be considered even worse in other parts of the world.

    This article deals mainly with music theft, but in reality, all manner of digital information is finding ways to slip through industry fingers as media becomes cheaper and the internet becomes popular.

    I once spoke to a Russian programmer on Odigo who claimed that he had never met anyone in Russia who had paid for windows; according to him, all copies he had ever seen were pirated.

    Though I don't have anyone to bear testimony, a similar trend seems to be occuring in China as well. Not too long ago I remember an article posted right here on /. about Microsoft offering the Chinese government large sums of money to use Microsoft products (primarily in eduction, I believe) as well as attempt to crack down on high levels of piracy. Did China ever accept that money; was the deal even real? Though I never heard the end of that tale, the "Chinese government officially adopts linux" announcement came, ironically, shortly thereafter.

    The bottom line is that people just won't pay for something if they can get it for free, be it software, music, or what have you. While piracy is not as blatant in America (ie you can't just walk into your local supermarket and buy pirated Windows CDs), the problem continues to escalate.

    However, there is economic light being shed on the subject. As the article points out, it isn't destroying musicians, but just changing the way they operate. As record sales decline, artists need new sources for revenue (god forbid anyone should have to go out and actually play their music).

    In software, there have always been little tricks to combat piracy, but they don't always work as well as intended. I believe that the software industry will be hurt by, and therefore change more drastically as a result of, piracy more so than the music industry.

    The real question is, what changes are going to come about as a result of this fact? To me, only time will reveal the answer.

    • by sebi (152185) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:59PM (#5358361)

      You only read what you wanted to. The article explicitly states, that piracy is in fact destroying musicians. According to this very article no more than twenty albums are professionally produced in China per year. One of the artists interviewed for this article states, that he was only able to 'make' it because he has a rich and famous mother helping him to produce and promote his first album.

      It is true that some artists make their living, because they can use their popularity to secure corporate sponsorship deals. Their only other source of possible income is to tour all year, or to quote from the article: "In China, we have to give so many concerts that we do not have time to rest our voices."

      The problem is, that new artist have no way to get their music to any kind of big audience. They can't get an album produced, therefore they can't get on the radio and therefore they can't get the popularity needed to register on the radar of corporations. If that is the future of music I'm starting to feel sick.

    • The bottom line is that people just won't pay for something if they can get it for free, be it software, music, or what have you.

      Bullsh*t. Of course they will. If it is inexpensive, convinient and provides incentives to purchase. I know this example has been beaten to death, but what about bottled water industry? They are doing fine, though water is availble... *gasp*... in every house for free. Actually, strike "inexpensive" from my previous list. I am paying anywhere from $1 to $2 for a regular small bottle of water. People will buy a product if it is convinient and provides incentives to purchase it.

  • Couldn't an artist give away the music and make money from live performances and shooting commercials for Pepsi?
  • by yo303 (558777) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:40PM (#5358271)
    According to the article, the pirates in China
    • keep all of the money and give none to the artist
    • have an efficient distribution system, but one that does not promote enough new talent
    • make it so that the musicians have to make most of their money by concerts and commercial sponsorships.
    This is clearly not fair. In the United States, artists are protected by the member companies of the RIAA, who
    • keep all of the money and give none to the artist
    • have an efficient distribution system, but one that does not promote enough new talent
    • make it so that the musicians have to make most of their money by concerts and commercial sponsorships.

    yo.

    • 50% funny? 50% funny??? People parent is not funny, this IS how things ARE.
    • Beautiful. Abso'fuckin'lutely beautiful.

      You left out one bit though. At least in the United States the consumer takes it up the backside. So we've got that going for us at least.

      KFG
    • Or, to translate it into a well-known aphorism:

      "Under Communism, man exploits man. Under Capitalism, it's the other way around."

      Schwab

  • by Josuah (26407) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:42PM (#5358286) Homepage
    Music is one thing, because China happens to be even more pop-culture crazy and trendy than the U.S. But software is another. There is _no_ software development in China. The only people who are successful are those developing proprietary solutions for corporations, e.g. the telecom industry.

    And if you talk to the developers of those projects, you'll find that the only reason they don't pirate their solution themselves is because you can't use the same software in more than one place. If you think about that, it means the software industry is highly inefficient. If you purposely have to make things non-reusable, then it is guaranteed to be less valuable and require more resources to operate in China. (Of course, labor is cheaper, but that's a separate topic.)

    Of course, I also think it's pretty unfair that pop stars have to work so much harder than they really should just to survive. There's a reason pop icons over there tend to be singers, actors/actresses, spokespeople, and even porn stars all at the same time.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Of course, I also think it's pretty unfair that pop stars have to work so much harder than they really should just to survive."

      Excuse me while I laugh.

      For the money a 'pop star' makes in one year, a dozen families could 'survive' for decades, if not longer.

      Survive. Hah, that's a good one.
  • Don't celebrate (Score:2, Insightful)

    You all can bet that open source products will be severely hurt by China. There is nothing stopping Chinese businesses from ripping off GNOME, Mono, RedHat, Debian, Apache, etc and selling proprietary versions. That simultaneously hurts OSS and commercial software. Say what you will about it, but it is better that Microsoft be taken down honestly by Mono, et al than have some sleazy asshole in China build a "better .NET" from Mono .80 or .90 when it's out and knock both down a peg.
    • There is nothing stopping Chinese businesses from ripping off GNOME, Mono, RedHat, Debian, Apache, etc and selling proprietary versions.

      If some Chinese guy can make money selling software that is otherwise free, more power to him!.

    • Re:Don't celebrate (Score:2, Insightful)

      by buttler (443147)
      Grab a brain. There is nothing in America that stops a company from selling a proprietary product based on Apache (or any open source product). Who will buy this product? Nobody. Why? Because Apache, and products like it, are updated more regularly, and there are plenty of companies will to offer support for the free version. Who pays money for a product that is falling behind technically, equivalent to a free product, and unlikely to have the support of the 'official' version?
    • Re:Don't celebrate (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mclove (266201) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:25PM (#5358467)
      Um... no. If you can't make any money selling software in China, you *certainly* can't make any money selling FREE software in China; not only will your 'proprietary' versions of RedHat be sold everywhere for the equivalent of $0.60 without a penny going to you, but some other guy will take the same free software, make the same half dozen proprietary enhancements, and sell the same thing in legitimate stores right next to your software for half the price.

      This happens all the time in China; whenever one person has an even marginally successful idea, many many other people will do the same thing and nobody ends up making any money off of it. Pretty much every big and/or profitable Chinese company has either
      • excellent political connections,
      • a massive industrial plant, or
      • lots of foreign partners
      (or some combination of these three); innovation alone, be it in software or restaurant management or just about anything else, is never enough to make a successful business venture in China, and an easily-copied innovation like a proprietary RedHat knockoff is even less likely to turn a profit.
  • Musical Diversity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by diakka (2281) on Friday February 21, 2003 @09:47PM (#5358314)
    What scares me about this though is that from what I know of the Chinese music scene, is it's pretty much all pop garbage. There is very little diversity in mainstream music as compared with what we have in the English speaking music scene. I hate the RIAA with a passion and I'd like to see them die a gruesome death. But I just hope that we don't end up with a music scene that is only fincially viable for boy bands & Britney Spears look alikes.
    • If you think about it, this is no surprise. If the only real way you can make money is by gaining corporate sponsorship then you pretty much have to aim at the lowest common denominator. Reducing the profits of the RIAA will only hurt musical diversity if you don't find a way to divert the money to the artists. Under the current system, the artists may get very little money from album sales, but at least the fame may allow them to sell concert tickets; the artists in China don't even have that. As usual, /. readers have proposed the overthrow of one system without providing a cogent reason why the new system will be better.

      -a
      • by updog (608318) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:57PM (#5358574) Homepage
        dude, all the really great music comes from indie artists anyway. i can't remember the last time i bought a CD from major record label.

        get your ass out to your local bars and clubs, and support local music!!!


        • dude, all the really great music comes from indie artists anyway. i can't remember the last time i bought a CD from major record label.
          get your ass out to your local bars and clubs, and support local music!!!

          That's your opinion and you are entitled to it, but mine is different. I like highly-produced, virtuoso music, and I'm not much for concerts because it aggravates my tinitus. Very few of the bands I like ever tour where I live.

          So these bands have very little chance of getting money from me via concerts. However, I don't support piracy so I will buy their CDs if they are reasonably priced (by my standards $20). If they want to make more money, they can skip the middleman and sell me the CD directly from their website (or let me download it).

          -a
    • Re:Musical Diversity (Score:3, Interesting)

      by saihung (19097)
      I remember touring China a few years ago. Everywhere you went, the souveneir stands were selling the same cheap trinkets. Buddhist temples, imperial palaces, whatever - same junk everywhere. The Chinese pop music scene is just about the same. My Chinese friends were SHOCKED that I thought the theme from "Titanic" sucked - they just assumed that all young people in the US swallow the current pop trend without question. Whoever the current model/singer/actress/porn star is, that's who everyone loves, almost without question.

      Being different in China is a liability. Few youth subcultures around, and even the ones that do exist (the Beijing rock scene springs to mind) are all different in exactly the same way (and suck in the same way. Seriously.). "Let's all be individuals by doing the same thing!" is the cry going out across the continent.

      And meanwhile in Japan this year, hoards of teenagers are dying their hair bright orange and wearing all orange clothes, all trying to rebel by doing the same thing at the same time. Fucking hopeless.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:02PM (#5358375)
    To be honest I don't listen to pop music at all. It's the auditory equivalent of "My Mother the Car". I am far more interested in music as art - and from what I've seen here China is failing miserably in producing anything that I would want to listen to.

    I couldn't give a rat's behind whether or not the latest Devo album cost $2 or $20. But I do care if the music industry and where it is headed is going to make it impossible for me to get a DVD-Audio recording of the works of somebody who actualy making a real contribution music.

    The prediction that the music industry is heading towards the current situation in China does not please me at all.

    • I couldn't give a rat's behind whether or not the latest Devo album cost $2 or $20.... But I do care if the music industry and where it is headed is going to make it impossible for me to get a DVD-Audio recording of the works of somebody who actualy making a real contribution music.

      Are you suggesting that Devo isn't contributing to our musical heritage? Or were you just saying that you'd be willing to pay any sum for their new album? Or perhaps you meant that their contributions are more literary than musical. That I could understand.

      I'm a speed racer and I drive real fast;
      I drive real fast - I'm going to last.
      I'm a pirate and a like to kill.
      I like to steal, so here's your bill.
    • by cyberon22 (456844) on Saturday February 22, 2003 @03:31AM (#5359435)
      I am an ever-struggling student of China, and am continually amazed by the quality of music I hear coming out of the Beijing rock scene. Beijing is without doubt one of the most vibrant places for cutting-edge rock and roll, perhaps because no one expects to get rich off CD sales. Even relatively old artists like Cui Jian are still producing great music.

      Western record producers can gripe about piracy all they want, but it is simply a fact of life in China, and not just in music. A friend recently gave me a VCD of "Hero" - the new Zhang Yimou / Jet Li film. It is clearly a pirated copy, but is so visually stunning I plan to see it in theaters when I hit Beijing in two weeks (I don't know when it is scheduled to be released here....).

      Realistically though, until someone explains to me why Chinese popular music is BETTER in quality and inventiveness than the stuff being played on MTV, I'll remain suspicious of arguments that tight copyright controls provide for better end-products.

      p.s. Anyone hunting for good Chinese music should definitely check out Cui Jian. There was a really good documentary on China on PBS about a week ago that can be viewed here [pbs.org]. It has a pretty decent soundtrack as well.
  • Cheap shot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by m00nun1t (588082) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:10PM (#5358407) Homepage
    'The financial effect is the same for record companies whether people get illegal compact disks for $1 on the street in China or download a song for free from the Internet in Europe,' said Jay Berman, chairman and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a London-based group representing 1,500 record companies worldwide.

    This is a pretty cheap shot and consistent with the music industries tendency to blame all their woes on downloaded music. Personally, I often "download a song for free" but if I like it, I buy it (although I know not everyone does). I doubt very much the Chinese buying pirated CDs then go and buy the genuine CD.
  • by Blorgo (19032)
    This article agreees with what David Bowie has been saying. The money (for most artists these days) is in the personal appearances (mainly concerts), not the royalties. It takes a HUGE-selling artist, or one who sells well to the non-downloading crowd, to get rich on royalties these days.

    Still, I wonder about the 'intensive persnal appearances' this artist mentions. (Insert your own Natalie Portman jokes about the 'pirate my body' part).

    "For Wang Lee Hom, that involved advertising campaigns and an intensive series of personal appearances.

    "Until they pirate my body, I can rely on personal appearances," Wang said. "I am forced to view albums only as a promotional tool."
  • I weep when I read "Stars need to look elsewhere to finance the rock-star lifestyle." NOT. Impoverished singer whines she can't afford Vera Wang designer dresses anymore. Tough shit.
  • China's gross national income per capita (GNIPC) in the year 2000 was ~700$ (see worldbank) - the average chinese made less than 2$/day.

    Poverty is the real source of piracy - furthermore bussiness strategies that work for people making 2$ a day will very likely not work for people making a 100$ a day and viceversa.

  • I don't see this happening in the US any time soon. Information piracy is like the national pasttime over in China (Despite government control over the Internet, which shows how much that matters.) We're amateurs by comparison.

    At the same time the damn RIAA needs to take a clue before stuff gets that bad over here. Gouge 19 dollars a CD? Don't think there is no alternative. I'd buy, if they were fairly priced, and I doubt I'm alone.
  • Reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by falsification (644190) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:26PM (#5358468) Journal
    Let's face reality. The customer is tired of financing the rock and roll lifestyle. He is tired of spending many dollars per album, increasing over time, only to hear about how not only the performer is living in some huge mansion, but how he wastes incredible amounts of money getting stoned and buying stupid stuff. Then we hear about how the producers are driving around in limos. Then we hear about how the record company executives are making the real money. Then we hear about the profits of the mega-corporate radio stations. Who's paying for all this? Us. We're sick of paying for it.

    And the music just gets worse. There hasn't been much original music released since Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins broke in the early 1990s. It's not because the artists suck. It's because the record companies only invest in sugar-pop acts that are too watered down to be interesting. Is there a band that has artistic ingenuity or a political point? They won't get a contract, because the record company won't take a risk.

    I'd pay about a dollar per song for a CD today. If I could find one I was interested in.

    The whole music thing is overrated anyway. It's all just entertainment. In the end, you can get too much entertainment.

    The big record companies have dug themselves into a deep hole. They're too big to release innovative or strongly artistic acts. They're too large and bulky to move nimbly. The giants are going to fall. Both music and art in general will be better for it.

    • Really, I didn't stop buying music because I was "sick and tired of helping finance the rock & roll lifestyle". I agree that it's wasteful and more than a little senseless/stupid -- but I also firmly believe in everyone's individual right to spend their own money as they please.

      The simple fact is, the artists aren't giving me anything I feel is worth spending my money on!

      The other fact is, the Internet and all the recent alternative ways to listen to new music (XM Radio, the music played on satellite and digital cable TV, organized by format on seperate "music only" channels, etc.) are starting to make the idea of the "album" obsolete.

      I'm interested in individual songs I hear that I like. The whole idea of selling music by the "12 pack" of songs recorded by one artist at the same time is not really so attractive, unless the artist really puts out a lot of top-notch material on said album/CD/cassette.

      In the past, people just bought albums because that was the only way to get the song(s) they liked. (Well, that or buy singles, which many people do and have done.... But then you have this annoying piece of physical media that only plays a few minutes of music, and has to be ejected/removed from your player. Annoying!)
    • Re:Reality (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rsilvergun (571051)
      Actually, I think American's like their pop stars rich. Why else would crap like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous be popular? People want to be weathly; failing that they want to follow the lives of wealthy people. I was often baffled by American's willingness to tolerate the grotesque wealth held by individuals until I grasped this point. American's are hesitant to take that wealth away because if they do, then they can't go on pretending they have the ability to obtain it themselves.
  • by ramdac (302865) <ramdac [at] ramdac.org> on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:26PM (#5358472) Homepage Journal
    "In the United States and Europe, stars have it easy if they make a hit record," said Han Hong, named best female artist this year at Channel V's China Music Awards, and whose renditions of Tibetan songs have become nationally popular. "In China, we have to give so many concerts that we do not have time to rest our voices."

    Am I supposed to feel sorry? Since when is it news that musicians, for the most part, have always been largely poor? It's those "posers" and "fakes" that somehow strike it rich are now bitching. They've been a part of the "corporate pop" machines for so long that they've forgotten what it meant to be creative in the first place. They've been given songs to sing and now get paid to sing a song that someone else wrote just because teens these days need to hear a new song from the same old cookie-cutter pop star.

    Let's get real people. Music is good this way, honestly. We want to be able to choose for ourselves who is and who isn't "in". I'm tired of the radios force-feeding me the same old shit. I want something new, fresh, or maybe not-so fresh. Something raw but honest is way better than a "polished" whore/hottie who can sing. It's about time the fans demanded honesty in a musician's musical expression. After all, music isn't about honesty, it's about one's unique interpretation of a song, genre, or otherwise. Music is about allowing those who truly love it to choose what they love. The musician is the one who must also love music enough to effectively stress how much appreciation he or she has for music. Let us all live well together and with music, we can all continue our sanity.

  • Warner Music soon plans to begin a talent search for members of a five-girl band to be called Mei Mei, with the winners signed up for a two-year contract to promote M&M candy.

    The corporate sponsorship trend has already started here. M&M has already found their North American spokesman. It's all subliminal, baby.

    -a
  • So who's read Idoru? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:44PM (#5358532)
    Hey - here's a question...

    Of all the record companies out there, do any of them have the wherewithal to really skirt the problem? Specifically, do you think anyone will actually start to work towards a virtual star?

    It's certainly not inconceivable now. You hire (on salary) an actor to provide a body-motion template for the mocap; you also hire (salaried) vocalists and songwriters to provide the music. Never let any of these people meet, keep their contracts separate. Real human backing bands are easy enough to hire. Also get yourself a floor full of Dicreet Logic stuff, and a fully outfitted music video soundstage, and you could basically render yourself a rock star.

    It's funny - we talk about how backwards and tech-challenged the record companies are, because they cannot deal with the likes of P2P... it's almost inconceivable to imagine one of them taking the initiative like this. Well, one of the old ones, anyways....

  • by The Jonas (623192) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:05PM (#5358598)
    No matter how rich or poor these Mega-Celebrities become, there is one thing you can't take away from them and that's millions of idolizing fans ready to hop_in_the_sack with them on sight. Pay me in poontang, I'll sing for my supper!
  • According to the article, Han Hong, named best female artist this year at Channel V's China Music Awards said:

    "In China, we have to give so many concerts that we do not have time to rest our voices."

    Maybe that's why Chinese pop singers have voices that sound like cats being scalded.
  • by preetamrai (637011) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:38PM (#5358708) Homepage
    Having spent some time in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, China and India, I believe the model for young artists to follow in these countries is the Grateful Dead model. More and more kids are going online in Asia. China already has a good broadband infrastructure. Give away your music. Join with other artists to set up local gigs. I have seen some of the campus gigs in these countries. They are so much full of life. This region has such a large population (and geographically large). I am sure the artists can sustain themselves. All we need is some entrepreneurs to come up with localised event management companies.
  • Shocking failiure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SiliconEntity (448450) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:50PM (#5358767)
    Did you see this line?

    As a result, Wu said, there are fewer than 20 professional-quality albums produced per year in China. This lack of large-scale music production inhibits the entry of talented newcomers.

    Unbelievable! Granted China is a poor country, but with their population they must have millions of talented musicians. Yet only 20 professional albums are produced per year. I can't think of a sadder commentary on the effects of universal piracy. Let's hope we don't end up in the same state here in the West.
    • by kalinh (167661)
      Who cares if albums are professionally produced? And what is professional production anyway?

      Pretty much all [thewaxmuseum.bc.ca] of [deerandbird.com] my [vitvitrecords.com] favourite [salon.com] albums [krecs.com] from [thefiresideroom.com] the [corblundband.com] last [oldreliableband.com] year [justconcerts.com] were produced well by talented producers [hivestudios.net], and released on labels [scratchrecords.com] run by people who care about music [deerandbird.com]. More importantly, I've seen all the bands multiple times in great intimate venues.

      I don't know if any of these acts will ever be well-known by anyone outside of Vancouver/Edmonton and area, but so what? Why should music be national? Why is that even important to people? There are hundreds of amazingly talented people in every city who could work on music full-time if more than a couple of thousand people cared to listen to something produced for the love of it and the love of doing something new rather than some celebrity death-wish.

      The whole notion of national celebrities is one of the strangest consequences of copyright law and if we lost it I'm convinced we'd be ther better for it. Having the state sponser monopolies by restricting speech, funnelling money into cartels and creating the celebrity-class is at best bizzarre, at worst it's seriously fucked.

  • by Sydney Weidman (187981) on Saturday February 22, 2003 @12:20AM (#5358884) Homepage
    Music is a calling, not an industry. Thank heavens the record companies are being squeezed out. Now a musician can reach his audience without being shrink-wrapped first.
  • Faye Wong (Score:2, Informative)

    by fluppy88 (473039)
    The piracy of music in China is really ridiculous. My friend wanted to collect all of Faye Wong's CDs while in China, but ended up quiting after realizing that half of the CDs were just random assortments of her songs with (sometimes) new cover art.
  • karma strikes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Johann (4817) on Saturday February 22, 2003 @12:44AM (#5358976) Homepage
    What can you say? After decades of the abuse of consumers by the RIAA and the record companies production of 'pop' stars, the crows are coming home to roost.

    When they (recording industry) continue to make ever-unreasonable demands on us (the consumers) how much longer do they think we will put up with it? Just like open source, the will of the masses will become reality.

    It's sad that in the China example, artists again get the shaft by the recording companies, blamed on 'pirates' (or is that terrorist? I'm no longer certain.)

    Everyone on /. knows about karma. I guess RIAA is in for an education.
  • by geekee (591277) on Saturday February 22, 2003 @03:25AM (#5359422)
    Leave it to slashdot to try to put a positive spin on an anti-piracy article. Musicians and record labels shouldn't have to struggle because people pirate their music. Of course this is ok in China. That's the nature of socialism. History and reason both show that socialism is doomed to fail. Let's not take cues from societies that steal the freedom of the individual for the good of society.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

Working...