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Media Research Exec Says Music Industry Is On Its Last Legs 401

Ponca City, We Love You writes "For years, the major record labels have fought a pitched battle against the MP3 format. Although major labels like EMI and the Universal Music Group have embraced MP3s in recent months, a story from the Mercury News says early returns from those moves indicate they've had little impact on the industry's fortunes — for better or for worse. 'These are ailing businesses on their last legs,' said Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne, a market research company focused on digital media. The question of copy protection on song downloads 'matters a whole lot less to them than it once did.' The industry has a bigger problem. Consumers used to buy CDs for $10 or $15 a pop. Increasingly, they're buying songs at about $1 apiece instead. So, even if transactions continue to increase, the industry is seeing far less money each time consumers buy and it's having a difficult time making up the difference."
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Media Research Exec Says Music Industry Is On Its Last Legs

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  • by PollGuy ( 707987 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:26PM (#21533573)
    So long Music Industry, and thanks for all the Phish!

    • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs@nOspam.ajs.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:48PM (#21533903) Homepage Journal
      The music industry isn't going anywhere. Remember that they're "on their last" $200B leg.... Lots of change is coming, change that should have come long ago. That's the nature of business. The industry isn't going anywhere.

      • by devjj ( 956776 ) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:02PM (#21534151)

        Don't be so sure. When a band can distribute its albums by posting a zip file on a web site, there's a lot less incentive to turn to labels. The industry exists right now because it exists - not because it's necessary. As people start to see how the economics of giant media labels work against them, the tide can turn.

        Entire industries (as we think of them) don't disappear overnight, but they do sometimes disappear, or change into something so different you couldn't really call it the same industry with a straight face. That's where we are. They're a dying breed, whether they know it or not.

        • by bckrispi ( 725257 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:29PM (#21534621)
          Mod parent up! Record labels exist for two reasons:
          1. To put up the cash for recording.
          2. To package, promote, and distribute the end product.
          With inexpensive, accessible recording software, artists can create a quality product much, much cheaper than they could in the past. Plus, with the Internet, there is really no compelling reason for physical media anymore. Music can be promoted and sold virally, with nearly 100% of the proceeds going directly into the artist's pocket. Compare this with the paltry 2-5% artists would get through the traditional sales model!

          The Record Labels' days are numbered. Their sales model is outdated, inefficient, generally produces an inferior product, and siphons cash away from the artists themselves. They are now nothing more than an expensive middle-man.

          • One more reason (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:33PM (#21535663)
            3. To act as a filter. Few people have the time to sift out which acts are good and which are not. It is this case where the industry has failed most miserably.
            • Re:One more reason (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Perl-Pusher ( 555592 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:56PM (#21536053)
              Your confusing the record label and media. Streaming sites such as you and satellite radio are taking the place of conventional media. The public needs to be told 'what is hip' at least to a degree. Your filtering has been done by DJ's , your friends and TV for years. I think that is what the music industry will eventually be. The marketing filter. Notice how TV shows are telling you where to get the music heard on the show. What eventually morphs out of all this has the potential of being either the greatest thing to happen to musicians, or that the amount of choices gets so great that many artists offerings get never get noticed. Basically nothing new. That has always been a problem. Even with the thousands trying to get 'discovered' few actually do. Many painters and writers die before being proclaimed a genius and never see the millions generated by their inspiration and talent.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by billcopc ( 196330 )
          Sure, but a zip file on a web site won't get them beer, coke and groupies. That tip jar won't buy them a new tour van either.

          I hate the record industry with a passion, but even I have to admit that if they go tits up, it will affect a huge swath of the entertainment industry. Who's going to sell out stadiums ? Who's going to book festivals ? Who's going to front the cash for up-and-comers to pay for studio time ? The RIAA bastards are to musicians what banks are to homeowners. They're both dirty cheat
          • by devjj ( 956776 ) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:36PM (#21534721)

            Kind of missing the point, no?

            Think about a music industry where artists don't need labels to get "beer, coke and groupies." Imagine an industry where new channels make it easier for unknown artists to get noticed. It's hard to get noticed right now because you almost can't do it at all without going through labels. Right now, labels are necessary because the system has been architected such that you can't go it without them. That is what stands to change.

            So far as online delivery goes, I think you're flat-out wrong. iTunes accounts for more than 2% of music sales on its own, and in an increasingly "green-friendly" world the concept of digital distribution, which requires no printing presses, no petroleum-based products, etc., is the way forward. That's why I laugh a little every time I think about the BD vs HD-DVD argument. In a few years when DOCSIS 3 is ubiquitous, and fiber is available to many homes, the idea of having to go buy a little round piece of plastic looks increasingly stupid.

          • by Stewie241 ( 1035724 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:45PM (#21534865)
            We techies may well be open to online delivery, but the other 98% of the world is not. That's why Wal-Mart still makes gobs of money and will continue to do so for many years to come. People just aren't psychologically and emotionally ready to grow out of the brick-and-mortar system yet.

            Right... because iPod and iTunes sales are only to techies. While I agree that not everybody is ready to give up on CDs, iTunes and P2P have made significant inroads into the way that people get their music. Downloading music is definitely not just for techies.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ubrgeek ( 679399 )
          In journalism school, we were taught that no new medium ever eliminated an old one. My teachers didn't like my opinion that they were basing that belief on a limited data set: Their constant example? Newspapers didn't kill radio. But the Internet is doing a pretty good job of doing so.

          The reality seems to be that new media will replace old formats if you consider it in just such a manner - Formats change, content doesn't. Paper replaced papyrus, telephone replaced telegraphs (I know, I know, not really th
          • by devjj ( 956776 ) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:59PM (#21535091)

            Does the industry really need billboards in every city? I'm talking about a grassroots, fundamental reformulating of the industry as a whole. It makes no sense that a shitty, commercially-architected pop group can gross $10m on a single album while truly talented artists can't even get off the ground. We need to go back to square one, focus on the music, and let the industry reinvent itself from there. The music, and the artist(s) that produce it.

            • by clodney ( 778910 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:51PM (#21535993)

              It makes no sense that a shitty, commercially-architected pop group can gross $10m on a single album while truly talented artists can't even get off the ground

              I see statements like that all the time, and I just shake my head in disbelief. The reason that comercially-architected pop groups succeed is simple - more people like them and are willing to pay for their music than that of the "truly talented artists". Deal with it.

              We see this all the time, in different areas. Windows outsells Mac OS, and both are more widely used than Linux. More people watched "Transformers" than will ever see "No Country for Old Men", regardless of how many film critics rave about it. More people will read Harry Potter books than will read "War and Peace", despite English Lit being a required course in most (U.S.) schools.

              You can't force people to like something against their will, and ridiculing their taste will just piss them off.

        • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:07PM (#21535237) Homepage
          Oh wait.

          The movie folks fought like heck to kill the VCR. And in the end, not only did home video not kill the movie biz, it likely saved it. Try to image a movie industry that only makes money from theatre showings and the occasional soundtrack. Now it's not tapes but discs, but we have the movie, the director's cut, the remaster, the collectors box set. I doubt Disney pumps out all those direct-to-video sequels because home video is killing their business model.

          Likewise, when the music industry folks finally get their heads out of their butts, they'll realize direct digital distribution is not a threat, but rather the savior.

          I don't know why they haven't jumped on board years ago. You mean we get to sell music without the overhead of a physical plant to produce discs/tapes/whatever, without a transportation infrastructure to deliver the product to retailers, without having to share the profit with stores? What's the catch?

          Yes, making quality copies is easier for the consumer than taping off the radio or making a dub from a friend. But 1) that fact doesn't negate any of the positives of the above paragraph. And 2) playing luddite and ignoring all the positives of the above paragraph doesn't prevent any of the issues of unlicensed digital copies.

          So as it is now, the RIAA folks get all the negatives (from their point of view) of the internet and digital music, while refusing to partake in any of the positives.

          One day they will wake up, just like the movie folks did. When that happens, not only will the digital revolution not kill the music industry, it will save it.

          To the folks who say the music industry will go away because bands don't need it, I disagree. Not everyone has the resources to build/rent a studio and make masters. And throwing up your mp3s on the band web site is trivial when you're a local hit and expecting a couple thousand downloads; it's not quite the same when you're hoping for millions of downloads. Putting together a tour of college town bars with an old VW van is not quite the same as organizing an international tour of stadiums.

          Yes, the current business model is something akin to the record companies are property owners and artists are overworked dirt get combed by share croppers. Yes, I hope direct community built between bands and fans through the web will give artists move leverage. But I doubt music companies as we know them will disappear any more than the web and digital distribution has freed authors and killed off the publishing houses.
          • by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:41PM (#21535845) Homepage

            ...Not everyone has the resources to build/rent a studio and make masters. And throwing up your mp3s on the band web site is trivial when you're a local hit and expecting a couple thousand downloads; it's not quite the same when you're hoping for millions of downloads. Putting together a tour of college town bars with an old VW van is not quite the same as organizing an international tour of stadiums....
            When was the last time you tried to do any of that stuff?

            A lot of hard work is required sure but it's not as money intensive as you think. My younger brother was in a local band for a while, he's not any more but he's still friends with the former members and during that time they got an album recorded... it cost a few hundred bucks and the quality is just as good as any major label CD you'd buy in the store (arguably better than some). Having a few hundred discs pressed and packaged complete with artwork was a few hundred more... Essentially they got an physical product they could sell at shows for less than the cost of a new gaming rig.

            As for touring/getting noticed etc. while my brothers band broke up one of the guys started a new band and decided to just tour and promote their website instead of selling physical CDs, booking shows the next city over a few weeks in advance and moving around the country that way. By the end of the tour they had a record deal with an indy label and are making quite a bit from iTunes download alone, enough that they all bought BMWs and have an actual tour bus and roadies.

            My brother is in school now for video production. he has another friend who writes his own music, he saved and spent a couple grand on his own recording equipment, plays local shows and sells his music online, my brother produced a music video for him using his own camera (Cannon GL2) and put it on YouTube. It became the #3 most watched video the week it was put up and now his friend is making enough from his online sales that he was able to quit his day job and concentrate on his music full time.

            My Uncle is a local Jazz musician, is digitally distributed and has pressed several cds which he sells through his website, and the indy label also distributes to record stores in this region of the US. He also works part time as a music instructor.

            NONE of these people are superstars... but, they're all making a living in the music industry outside of the RIAA and without the "resources" of a major label... Not everyone in the music industry wants or needs to be a multimillionaire superstar... some are quite content to do what they love and make enough money doing it to live comfortably.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Red Flayer ( 890720 )
            Emphasis mine:

            I don't know why they haven't jumped on board years ago. You mean we get to sell music without the overhead of a physical plant to produce discs/tapes/whatever, without a transportation infrastructure to deliver the product to retailers, without having to share the profit with stores? What's the catch?

            Yes, making quality copies is easier for the consumer than taping off the radio or making a dub from a friend. But 1) that fact doesn't negate any of the positives of the above paragraph.


    • by ISoldat53 ( 977164 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:52PM (#21533955)
      The real reason the music industry is dying is because of the crap they have been putting out. Why buy an entire CD when only one track is worth listening to.
    • by vimh42 ( 981236 )
      The "Music Industry" isn't going anywhere. It's simply going to shed some weight, adapt, but it won't die. The old guard will pass away. However, as long as people make music and as long as somebody listens to music, the "industry" will be alive and well. It's just the groups that can give people what they want that will be bringing in the money, or if nothing else, simply have an audience.
    • by rudeboy1 ( 516023 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:58PM (#21534065)
      You know, I thought about it, and it hit me: What would happen if the music industry (at least the Big Guys) collapsed? Well, aside from Best Buy having a lot more floor space, not a whole lot. Big artists would be forced to adopt more modern means of distributing their music, without a giant, bloodsucking middleman. Recording studios would be hit rather hard, but I think that's coming anyway, with the increasing influx of commercial-level products and software that can be bought for next to nothing (comparatively speaking) and produce professional results. The CD would find continuing life in sales at local shows, but would die as a retail product. Touring bands (again, adapting to the modern age) would need to hire their own publicity people to get butts in the seats at local venues, instead of letting the record company do it for them, but would probably be able to afford it, as the record companies normally take the majority of a tour's gross anyway.
          There would be some implosions in the current model that would on the surface appear to negatively impact the artist and consumer. While the artist would spend more promoting on their own, distributing on their own, recording on their own, they would likely be letting go of a static percentage similar or likely less than they do now to industry giants.
          The state of DRM would change, as there would be no more litigation funded by record companies (leaving the MPAA to twist in the wind without a partner in crime) and less funding toward P2P obfuscating and software rootkit technologies. The online download would become the primary medium of the industry, and while I agree there is a need for some copy protection, to prevent widespread distribution, without a monolithic industry behind it, less invasive alternatives may finally see the light of day.
          Personally, I wouldn't say I've been actively boycotting Big Music, but I guess you could say I have been, subconsciously. I haven't bought a CD in probably 10 years. I do support larger artists through iTunes and Amazon's DRM-free initiative. I also spend WAY more time and money on local/touring artists on a face-to-face level. Local artists, I buy tickets to shows, help promote (street team style), buy merchandise when it moves me, and basically just stay active in the scene, cross genre whenever possible. Touring artists, I will buy a ticket to a show, avoiding Ticketmaster at all costs, buying their CDs and merch in person, where they generally get a larger cut of the sales.
          I'm all for the collapse of the industry. It appears to be the only means of innovation, and it will right a lot of wrongs currently out there. Unfortunately, the best way to do this still seems to be choking their sales as much as possible, usually by illegal downloads and bootlegs. I hate to see the artists suffer, but it is definitely causing a positive effect, as more and more artists are breaking away from Big Music to go it alone. Sometimes the best way to change a law is to break it. We shall see.
      • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:23PM (#21534505) Journal
        Recording studios would be hit rather hard

        I think not. There are a few studios here in Springfield (with a population of only 110,000), but none of the bands who record for the majors are using them. Instead it's the major labels' biggest threat who are using them - talented locals who play in bars.

        MP3 is killing the RIAA labels because that's mostly the format the local guys post their songs on the internet in. And those MP3s are selling CDs. Every two indie CDs sold is an RIAA CD that isn't.

        I have quite a few musician friends here, and not a single one of them would sign a contract with the majors and give up copyright to their own music, only to have "creative accounting" eat up any of the tiny royalties they would get.

        The king is dead. Long live the king!

        -mcgrew [kuro5hin.org]
        • by rudeboy1 ( 516023 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:34PM (#21534705)
          Yes and No. I guess I should qualify that the larger studios would be hit hard. The ones near you are built to cater to exactly the clients you describe. But whereas they are charging ~$100 an hour, the high profile studios charge much more than that. Of course, these are also the kinds of places that the record industry actually pays the studio time for while the artists write the album in the studio!. What a complete waste of money. Also, larger (usually label funded) projects spend MUCH more time in the studio perfecting an album. Most indie projects aim for maybe 40 hours of studio time for an album. Mid level projects maybe 2 or 3 times that much. A-List artists can spend months in the studio, logging thousands of billable hours.
          The point I'm driving at is that the high-end studios that attract all the (current) A-list clients also drive the technological innovation for studio equipment. Mics. Mixers. Sound isolation. Software. Media (as in DAT, etc.). While that innovation wouldn't go away, it wouldn't see the same level of development that these studios enable through Creating A Need, and early adoption of new technologies (because they can afford the latest and greatest).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by killproc ( 518431 )

          I'd like to add, as a musician who has home studio, that there is one benefit that you get from a "pro" studio.

          The Engineer.

          Some of these guys are freaking geniuses. There is definitely an art to recording, as much as there is in playing an instrument or belching out that killer vocal.

          I've spent enough time in "pro" studios to know that my engineering skills are tiny compared to some of the guys I've seen (or should I say heard...). My mixes are usually good enough for a demo and/or working out all o
      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:34PM (#21534701) Homepage

        Whenever people talk about the "collapse" of the record industry, I always want to ask, "Do you honestly think people will stop making music?"

        I wouldn't be surprised if things changed, but things are constantly changing. Ultimately though, people won't stop writing music, playing music, or performing music. The tendency of the human race to make music didn't start with the record industry, and in fact didn't start with musicians being able to get rich off of their talent. The fact is, Homo sapiens are a musical species. You'd have a hard time getting us to stop making music if you tried. If all the governments of the world made music illegal, people would still do it.

        • Exactly ... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ianare ( 1132971 )
          Look at pre-2001 Afghanistan - music was considered sinful and evil and was banned. But people would still meet in secret and sing, and would still find ways of obtaining cassettes or CDs and listen to them behind locked (and presumably sound-proof) doors.

          In fact I would say that BigMusic is anything BUT. They are only in it for the money, they don't care about art, about expression, or about individuality. Not that there's anything wrong with making money off of art, but it should most definitely not be
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by quanticle ( 843097 )

        The state of DRM would change, as there would be no more litigation funded by record companies (leaving the MPAA to twist in the wind without a partner in crime) and less funding toward P2P obfuscating and software rootkit technologies.

        Not necessarily. The RIAA was litigating independently long before the MPAA joined it. Remember, the MPAA's original attitude towards downloading was that it was only an issue for the music industry, since movies were too large to download, given the asynchronous nature of most users' internet connections. Then Bittorrent came along, and forced the movie industry to rethink that basic assumption. Given that the MPAA is an industry organization of similar clout and power compared to the RIAA, it could

  • by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:27PM (#21533589)
    They need to do a better job of recruitment. On any given night I can find better bands playing at local clubs then I hear on the radio. How about they all chip in to recreate a free classic MTVesque station to market directly?
    • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:32PM (#21533665) Homepage Journal
      You need better radio stations.

      • by rudeboy1 ( 516023 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:08PM (#21534233)
        True. I have yet to understand why ClearChannel can get away with almost a complete monopoly of the radio business. I bet you if you looked up every major radio station in your area, (assuming you live in the US) you will find that the vast majority of them are run by this one company. They have openly admitted they play a very strictly regulated playlist on their stations, driven by sales, not by listener demand, or the search for new music. They are generally limited to a very small list of songs as well, both as a means of "playing it safe", playing only songs they think everyone wants to listen to (thereby not taking risks on new music) and as a means of keeping their royalty fees down. It's a sad state of affairs, but unless you have satellite radio, you're stuck with pretty bland choices.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Myopic ( 18616 )
          Who the hell listens to radio? Anybody? Come on, speak up. I haven't listened to radio for a decade, and before that I only listened because I didn't know any better, because I was a child.

          iPods have delivered us from the slavery to radio. For a very small price you can listen to what you want, when you want, skip what you want, and all without commercials. Only a fool would continue wasting his time listening to radio.

          And you are correct, ClearChannel is absolutely to blame for that. Radio sucks because Cl
    • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:45PM (#21533857) Journal
      Aye... I can only think of two modern artist that's released a CD that I like all but (at most) two songs in the past decade.

      I look at older stuff; Don Henley, The Eagles, Chicago, Billy Joel, earlier Metallica, etc, etc, when in any given decade from between the 60s and 90s where I can easily find multiple artists with multiple CDs fitting that criteria.

      The problem isn't the new formats; the problem is the quality of the groups that are out now.

      A good set of experiments to verify this

      Survey people with 1-5 albums that have come out each year from 10 years before the person was born, until he/she turnes 50 (obviously younger people won't have as many). Say the top 5 albums, and 5 random albums

      List the albums and the tracks. Have the individuals pick which songs (assuming they weren't available) the users would pay $1 to download.

      Correlate data to two charts
      (1) %of songs people would buy vs. year
      (2) %of songs people would buy vs. year relative to birth

      That would be an interesting experiment, you could use data from chart 2 to help normalize the "it was popular when I was younger and more influential" bias.

      Anyone know if anything like this has been done?
  • by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:27PM (#21533595) Homepage Journal
    ...playing the world smallest violin.
  • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:29PM (#21533619) Homepage Journal
    Seems to me TFA predicts the end of the album as we know it, not necessarily the music industry. Could we be entering the golden age of the one hit wonder?
    • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:37PM (#21533737)
      You, Sir, were not alive in the 80s.
    • I would imagine just the opposite. It takes a lot of money to get those artists signed onto a label and then touring. If you have a group/singer/whatever that can only sing one good song, they're not going to have the touring ability that a great group with more depth will have. The one hit wonder made a lot of money because people bought it for 10x the price. Now that people can buy albums in whole or in part, they can choose to pay more money for albums with multiple good singles on it.
    • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan.jaredNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:41PM (#21533783)
      I think that it means the end of the arbitrarily compilation of an album. With digital dissemination artists can release music as they create it, and receive support as they create music. An artist no longer has to rely on marketing a compilation every year or so. The album dominated market is artificial scarcity. It tries to create a market where that is the only music you are told to expect from an artist for a long time. It simply doesn't happen like that. I know sometimes it helps to release songs together as they sometimes compliment each other. By and large however, albums are just another way to generate revenue for the distributor and not the artist. So I say good riddance to the album. Really, half the time albums are about 80% fluff just to pad the track numbers in order justify the price.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I'm not too current with my History of Albums Worldwide knowledge, but isn't the album a relatively recent occurance? Weren't songs previously released as they were finished? If so, this might be just the death of the (relatively) short-lived album concept.

        As a side bonus, since they won't have recording industry execs telling them "If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit" and cutting the song down to 3:05. We might see more songs five or more minutes in length. Of course, this might lead to s
      • But releasing only singles every few months/weeks means the entire marketing engine for the music industry has got to change too... making 7 or 8 mini-campaigns every 45 days (rather than 1 big one every year) might make the labels be even MORE stingy about who they bother promoting, because I'm guessing a lot of the costs don't disappear after the 1st iteration. So in exchange for the death of the album, we might be getting the death of top-level diversity.

        On the other hand, that sounds more like a proper
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )
        I think that it means the end of the arbitrarily compilation of an album.

        And that'd be a damned shame, if you ask me.

        I believe the album, as an artistic concept, marked a significant change in the way music was conceptualized. No longer did artists just release one-off hit singles meant to have decent radio play. Suddenly, artists could focus on creating larger units of work which stood on their own, representing a cohesive theme. Take classics like "Dark Side of the Moon", or "Sgt. Pepper's", or "OK Com
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vux984 ( 928602 )
          Personally, I listen to nothing but albums. I *hate* listening to songs in isolation.

          I like some albums too, but some good songs only exist in isolation. Stuffing them onto an album full of filler doesn't make the album worth listening to but rejecting the song because of the album is just silly.

          Anything more than that, and I skip the album.

          Which makes sense from an economic perspective, but raises two questions:

          1) You are missing out on a lot of decent songs, just because they were released on poor albums.
    • Seems to me TFA predicts the end of the album as we know it, not necessarily the music industry. Could we be entering the golden age of the one hit wonder?

      The album format only became relevant in the late 60's, thanks to the Beatles and other groups who'd make more than radio-ready bits.
      The bands back then had to fight the labels to get them to release albums, and now the pendulum has swung back.
      Some albums are worth it for the experience, some are just a good song or two with lots of filler.
      The trouble is, the excecs that insist on shoehorning their "product" into one category or the other, according to their belief of what is profitable.

      Kill them all, let

    • I believe we already have. This is my opinion, but how many popular albums have come out recently whose songs are a cohesive part of a whole? Nowadays it seems like every song on a popular artist's album is geared to be a potential single, rather than part of a whole collection. I'm talking major releases that are for the radio, not indies.
  • Death of the album (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThirdPrize ( 938147 )
    Frankly I won't mourn the deat of the album. There are very few out there that work as a whole. even the best artists pad them out with filler. Especially since the advent of the CD meant they had 80 mins to play with.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Just so you know, the CD holds less music then an album. There were several works that did not fit onto a CD in their entirety.
      • True, although an LP is different because it's naturally broken into two sides, meaning you need a transition point between them.

        In terms of continuous music that you can play without any breakpoint, a CD is obviously longer; I think that's what the GP was getting at. Although not having the ~90 minute overall length is annoying, personally I think having 74 minutes nonstop makes up for it -- although it obviously depends what kind of music that you listen to. In some ways, the LP was better for classical m
    • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:44PM (#21533847) Journal
      This is exactly why the single is the big deal now. If an album was 12, 15, or 18 great songs then people would buy all the songs.

      Some albums were a cohesive experience. "The Wall" by Pink Floyd isn't one song and 9 batches of bad rehearsal. Led Zeppelin's albums always fit pretty well together, too. Lots of rock bands did this at one time or another, and the easy listening people nearly always do.

      As for the album as just a compilation of unrelated songs, sure, some bands and soloists have always done B-sides. Some of them did good B-sides, though. 5 great songs and 5 or more good songs is, to me, worth $10. One hit and 9 or more songs the proverbial million Shakespearian monkeys could each write and perform individually is definitely not. This is one reason the movie industry hasn't been hit by copyright infringement quite as hard -- it's called production values.

      Another reason is that the movie industry has largely moved to market-based pricing instead of setting a minimum any disc should get (hey -- isn't that illegal anyway?). If a movie just came out and it's really hot on the market, it might be $30 on DVD and $45 on Blu-Ray. If it's a B monster flick from the 1960s, there's a good chance it's in the dollar bin. How many albums from the big four record companies are in a dollar bin, or even a $5.00 bin? Lots fewer than deserve that deep of a discount, I'll say.

  • of a recording of the world's smallest man playing on the world's smallest violin plays the world's saddest song...
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:31PM (#21533641)
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    What a clever way to show how propietary content and artificial constraints on access can spell doom! I bet more than half the comments in this thread will be about the idiocy of putting a registration-required article in the summary.

    As for the actual topic at hand, if the music industry goes away, who will provide music? Once the vacuum is created, it will be filled by someone else. Music isn't like buggy whips. Maybe it's like bottled water, though. You used to get it in those plastic gallon bottles, but nowadays you mostly get it either from large 5 gallon jugs or 500ml bottles. Content stays the same, packaging and marketing changes.

    What's the bottom line? The evolution of the music industry will lead to dumber and more expensive product of something that is essentially free otherwise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      if the music industry goes away, who will provide music?


      Chris Mattern
  • Oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:31PM (#21533647)
    Does that mean that if the record companies want to keep making money, they need to produce albums with a bunch of good songs instead of a $16 album with one good song? Oh, the humanity!
    • Re:Oh noes! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Corporate Drone ( 316880 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:21PM (#21534469)
      Does that mean that if the record companies want to keep making money, they need to produce albums with a bunch of good songs instead of a $16 album with one good song?

      I'm sure they're sitting in board rooms right now, wondering if they can get away with pricing the one hit at $12, and the remaining tracks at $0.99 each...

  • by DustyShadow ( 691635 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:32PM (#21533671) Homepage
    I really think this is BS. I have a friend who has worked at Atlantic for the past year or two and he currently has 5 gold records hanging on his wall and one platinum is on the way. If these bands are selling so well, why is the industry doing so poorly. Also, these bands are not totally mainstream. I bet 90% of /. hasn't even heard of them.
    • I see two angles. If they're lying, they're doing this as a set up for their anti-piracy campaigns ("Woe is me!"). Look at what's happening to the movie producers. They've been running around *bragging* on the record about how much money they're making, then try to turn around and play the pauper when it comes to negotiating with writers.

      If they're being truthful, it could be the same story you see in a lot of talent-based industries (and corporate culture IMO). A huge bureaucracy of "suits" wraps its

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      You should see how many copies had to be sold for a gold or platinum disc. The numbers are constantly decreasing. It seems "idiot baubles" are not just for fans of a certain fruit-based computing company, but record executives as well. The position of the record lable isn't viable at the moment. Of course they can keep devalued platinum discs flying through the post, but the bottom-line of the industry is getting whacked, because of their desire for platinum discs. "If we take these 5 decent tracks fro
  • Bah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JMZero ( 449047 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:36PM (#21533717) Homepage
    My understanding is that, for a $1 iTunes download, the breakdown looks something like this:

    $.75 - Label
    $.20 - Apple
    $.05 - Artist

    If the middleman (who provides neither the content nor the bandwidth, and takes 3/4 of the money) can't make a profit here then I think perhaps they're doing something wrong.
    • by jay2003 ( 668095 )

      "They can't stick with this model with the weighted costs that they have," said Mike McGuire, vice president of research at Gartner, an industry research group.

      Like most businesses, the music labels costs grew in proportion to their revenues. Revenues are declining and now labels have the difficult challenge of adapting. Though I think they have a bigger problem than the Gartner analyst does. I don't understand what purpose they serve. They used to be a critical part of the distribution chain since

    • Do you realize how expensive it is to hire an army of lawyers? They really need to increase the price of song downloads to $2.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      Those ratios also probably reflect the amount of investment and work that the parties put in. The label has to produce, market, distribute the music, and handle all the business stuff. Apple has to make enough to offset the cost of their fancy itunes infrastructure. The artists just smoke some pot, sleep with some women, and take all the credit for their commercial success.

      Just think - if an artist could be a commercial success simply by being good, they would do it. The skillsets for operating a succes
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gulik ( 179693 )
      Oh, they can make a profit. Just not a profit of the size they would prefer. Remember that, now, they're pulling in $1 for a good song. They liked it better when they were pulling in $15 for an album ... with one good song. Okay, that's unfair to a lot of artists who put out albums that were more good than bad -- but even if you're talking about an album with only good songs on it (and I don't think it's unfair to say that there aren't very many of those), it's still only $8 or $9 to buy all the songs i
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 )
      I think it is something like
      $.50 - Label
      $.20 - Apple
      $.30 - Artist
        less .05 for vinyl breakage
        less .10 for distribution costs
        less .06 for cd production costs
        less .03 for packaging costs
        which should be .07 left over but somehow .02 just vanishes somewhere in accounting.
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:37PM (#21533723) Homepage
    The bit that this "analysis" misses is what we are talking about is the shift away from a pre-bundled offer as the only way to transport the content (music) as the distribution cost for single elements were too low towards a user bundling approach. In other words its moving away from CostCo and the great big packets and towards those nicer supermarkets where you can actually choose what you want. This means moving towards more retailing offers like Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) and the like. This will tend to mean that albums won't be able to contain filler tracks that are just rubbish but you will be able to buy more dynamic combinations of elements from a single company, band or shop.

    Chirping away about "Used to be $10 for a CD now its $1 for a track" is just plain silly as saying its the end of the industry. What it means is that the distribution cost has now been practically eliminated so all that is pretty much left for the companies is the profitable bit, remember the creation and shipping of a CD (although cheap) is a business cost.

    The industry has big big issues, but that has nothing to do with albums v mixed basket and everything to do with actively preventing people buying music in a mixed basket approach.
  • What compelling option is there to the following current scenario: Some CD has 10 songs and costs 10 bucks. I have only heard 3 songs from that CD. I can "guess" that the other 7 are probably not as good since they weren't released as singles, and I can save $7 by buying just the 3 songs I have heard/want. If they want to sell a whole CD, make sure all the songs are preview'able and equally good!
  • by SlipperHat ( 1185737 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:42PM (#21533807)
    If the music industry of today goes the way of the dinosaur, it is inevitably their own fault. Rather than adapt and work with technology, they chose to fight it and eventually fought their own customers. Companies that had nothing to do with the music industry (Apple, Amazon, etc.) found an untapped and unexplored way to sell music to people at competitive price using the relative ease afforded by the Internet. The music industry now says that they don't make enough money because they find themselves to be the middleman instead of the people with the product.

    You built a wall around yourself and ignored the real problem. Your own costs are too high, you rely more on the popularity of an artist/band rather than the true talent he/she/they possess, and you chose to ignore new technology in how it could bring you new opportunities. Think fast or die slow.
  • Here is a series of terms. Do we add, subtract, multiply, or divide them?

    TFA is in a locked site so nobody can comment on it.
    MP3 made sense in the last generation of technology, no longer does it make sense to embrace it.
    Buying an album always is waiting for the other shoe to drop - which is the good song in it?

    An album of filler is to a lossy MP3 of a great performance,
    as a subscription-only website is to which of the following:
    a. TFA
    b. Record industry profits
    c. Slashverbowling
    c. CowboyNeal
    d. All of the ab
  • by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:42PM (#21533811) Homepage
    I just don't see how major music companies are relevant today, when for a small investment, any music group can record their own music at CD quality or better, burn CDs for small production runs, farm out CD production to a mastering company if they hit it big, set up a website for e-commerce and publicity, etc etc. Any genre of music, from classical to folk-rock to metal to New Age, can be recorded fairly easily these days. In many cases (orchestras), the performance is a much bigger headache logistically than the recording, with so many artists involved.

    With micropayments and the ease of putting content online, it's hard to see what value EMI, Columbia, and their ilk bring to the table. Most of the music that I enjoy can be found on sites like emusic.com -- and no matter what sort of music you prefer, the artists would be able to record and produce it without much more effort than it takes to perform it. Let's cut out the inefficient middleman and buy directly from the musicians!
    On the topic of albums, they may be declining, but there is definitely something to be said for a well-imagined and well-executed album. IMHO an excellent example is ELO's "Time" album; the songs flow into one another, creating a continuous artistic work, rather than a collection of haphazardly-assembled songs. "Down to the moon" by Andreas Vollenweider is another example.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Genjurosan ( 601032 )
      For me this is a very strange moment. In my entire life, I've never met anyone who has even heard of Andreas Vollenweider, and I'm sitting here with my IPOD listening to "Down to the Moon" when I read your comment.

      Off-topic, yes, but mod me up +5 for CREEPY.
  • by ObiWanStevobi ( 1030352 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:45PM (#21533855) Journal
    The overhead is. Artists themselves shouldn't worry, as long as touring isn't a problem. I know myself and 50,000 other people will pay upwards of $70 in less than an hour of opening to see Tool come to town. For all those that leech off the artists and don't do anything but make it harder to distribute and enjoy music, yeah, they're pretty F'd. Good riddance.
  • by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:46PM (#21533875)
    'Cause I don't. I've lamented the death of the LP since CDs appeared; the only benefit CDs ever gave me was that I didn't have to flip the disc over. What did we lose? Well, in a lot of cases, liner notes, the cool label on the media, etc.)

    What I miss is the *packaging* of the LP. They were big and afforded great album art, along with all kinds of neat extras (like the spinning wheel on Led Zeppelin III, or the zipper on Sticky Fingers, or the stickers and posters in Dark Side of the Moon). And even without the extras there are just so many album covers that are just great *art*. It was the cover that made me buy Joy Division's "Closer", even though at the time I'd never heard of them. Frankly, the album cover, AFAIC, is still the best part of the record. ;)

    So, hey, music industry...why don't you downplay the actual tracks and hit up on the packaging? In the Internet world everything is just a stream of bytes so your bytes aren't much more special (and certainly not worth more) than anyone else's stream of bytes. So give it up and make something tangible, keep-able, desirable. Put the disc in a wooden box with a wool interior, or wrap it in tinfoil, whatever...make the *experience* more meaningful. As much as I enjoy the convenience of buying a track in iTMS, I am missing an "experience" that I got with some of the better-packaged albums.

    And the crazy thing is that this is not new to the music industry; they've put out special collectors editions of stuff for years and years; I have CDs that came in pseudo-film cannisters, wooden boxes, even bubble-wrap. Sure I paid a premium but I didn't just want the music, I wanted the creative packaging as well.
  • The party's over (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @12:49PM (#21533911)
    Witness the power of the free market at work. When you've been fixing prices for decades to shore up your profits, you shouldn't be surprised when that system comes crashing down, once an innovation comes along that turns your industry on its head.

    This is how OPEC will feel, if ever we get off our asses and start making commercially viable electric cars.

  • Yes, this news makes me oh, so sad.
    All the bands I like never get signed by any big labels anyway. Such is the fate of industrial/ebm music.
  • Who's going to have the $$$ to spend on music when health insurance and energy costs consume your entire paycheck?
  • When people complain about CD's with 2 good songs and 10 yucky ones they are talking about popular music, IE: rock, punk, rap, etc. While this may be the largest segment of stuff in your local music store, there are other genres where the entire CD is wanted material. Classical music (you know Beethoven, Bach, Rachmaninoff, etc), Movie and Broadway sound tracks remain staple areas. As long as there is a demand for this kind of material CD's won't completely disappear.
  • ... = Death

    Let's face it, there are so many forms of entertainment out there and only so many hours in a day. Couple that with work, the internet, video games, etc. All forms of entertainment are competing with each other for time that's increasingly not there.
  • Head of digital media research company conveniently forgets the enormous costs of producing and distributing CD's.

    Let's say for argument's sake, 100,000 CD kits cost $5 to make. Before you sink a half-million on inventory, you pay the printer, graphic designer, shipping costs, editors/proof readers and logistics personnel to get everything to the final CD packager.

    You still haven't distributed a single CD. To distribute the CD you pay shipping and a variety of logistics personnel to make sure they are get
  • Let'em Burn (Score:2, Insightful)

    Music industry has been a dinosaur for years, and face it they where never interested in the consumer. For years people HAD to purchase a CD, Tape, Album for all of song, and 10 or 11 pieces of crap filler. Its the EVIL P2P people that our killing the industry they say. Cassette tape have been around for decades and decks biggest selling features being that of high speed dubbing, & synchro starting. Piracy has always been around and always will be. Music always has and always will be copied. Its nothin
  • CD prices (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Delusion_ ( 56114 )
    CDs started out pretty expensive. I think my first CD was about $30 or so. In the early 90s, new CD prices were going down on a regular basis, to the point where they were making it harder for the used CD shops to stay in business. A lot of large and medium sized labels were able to get their releases out for $9, which made buying a new release a lot easier to swallow than deciding to wait a few weeks for it to show up at the used shops for $6-8.

    After a lot of the better used markets started to dry up, w
  • Here we go again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:13PM (#21534311) Homepage
    "No more albums", "No more filler tracks"

    Not all bands write their singles and then pad the rest of the album out, some actually write about 20 songs, select the ones they like the most, and release an album. THEN they choose what songs to release from the album.

    It's only the American Idol and other reality show winners that choose the singles prior to releasing the album (most likely because they're covers) and then pad the rest with crap.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks that there are better songs on the album...
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:13PM (#21534329) Homepage Journal
    They have a lot of cash, and a lot of strings to pull in washington that will prolong any death to long after we are all dead and gone.
  • by Trindle ( 967054 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:26PM (#21534587)
    So let me get this straight, rock stars will now have to actually WORK for the money they make? They can no longer rely solely on record sales to provide their multi-million dollar mansions. Boo-fucking-hoo, I've always supported the music I like by going to seem them in concert. An album is a way to create interest and get new fans to come see you live. This is the new music market the "record industry" had better start slimming down.
  • by no_opinion ( 148098 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:36PM (#21534729)
    The industry isn't going anywhere, it's just changing. Most people don't understand that the labels are basically venture capital for musicians. A VC invests in a start-up and gets stock in return. A label invests in artists and gets (historically) CD sales in return. Large companies can throw their weight around because they had enough starting capital to create good products, make the right partnerships, and grow. Large artists like Radiohead can do a "name your price" promotion because they had enough marking, promotion, and distribution to gain a sizable following. VCs invest in a portfolio of companies because they know 1 in 12 will succeed, and that 1 has to pay for the 11 failures. Labels invest in a portfolio of artists for the same reason.

    Small start-ups can self fund, but the largest companies continue to have significant VC backing because it takes a lot of resources to make products and grow. Companies sign with VCs because they want that upfront investment. Unsigned artists can promote/distribute, but the biggest artists continue to have major label backing. Most serious artists continue to want label deals because they want the upfront payment and marketing/distribution muscle that allows them to focus on their artistry and not how they're going to feed themselves tomorrow. As proof, notice that even the big YouTube/MySpace artists are signing label deals.

    So what's changing is that the labels will have to provide more services for artists and get things other than CD sales in return. But the need for "venture capital for artists" isn't going anywhere, so long as there are people who want to make music for a living.
  • by edge_gid ( 682113 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:36PM (#21534731)
    Record labels' bigger issue is replacing CD sales
    By Troy Wolverton
    Mercury News
    San Jose Mercury News
    Article Launched:11/17/2007 01:37:25 AM PST

    In the end, the long battle by the record labels against unrestricted digital music may have been little more than sound and fury signifying nothing.

    At least, that's how it's starting to appear now that two of the major labels in recent months have embraced in some fashion the MP3 format, which has no copy protection. The early returns from those moves indicate they've had little impact on the industry's fortunes - for better or for worse.

    Instead, the moves highlight a bigger problem. And that is how the labels are going to replace sales of CD albums, which constituted the core of their business and have plummeted in recent years.

    "These are ailing businesses on their last legs," said Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne, a market research company focused on digital media. The question of copy protection on song downloads "matters a whole lot less to them than it once did."

    For years, the major record labels fought a pitched battle against the MP3 format. The format doesn't allow for any copy restrictions, which made it a popular choice for songs swapped on illicit file-trading sites such as the original Napster and Morpheus.

    To combat such piracy, the major labels insisted online stores that sold music had to wrap songs and albums in digital rights management (DRM) technology, which can restrict the number of copies users can make of a song or the number and types of devices it can be played on.

    But online music and electronics vendors complained that such restrictions were limiting sales, in part because not all formats worked on every type of player.

    In the past year, the music labels have become increasingly receptive to those arguments. In April, EMI announced it would make its entire catalog available for sale in DRM-free formats. In August, Universal Music Group, the world's largest recording company allowed the sale of a significant portion of its catalog in the MP3 format.

    The labels' moves have opened up competition in the digital music space. In September, Amazon.com launched a digital music store, featuring only MP3 tracks. Meanwhile other, older digital music vendors, including iTunes and Wal-Mart's Web store, added DRM-free tracks.

    Because those songs lack DRM, they can be played on just about any digital music device.

    Although it's still early, DRM-free music seems to have had, at best, a slight positive benefit to the music industry.

    Sales of DRM-free music to date have "outperformed" EMI's expectations, and Wal-Mart has seen its MP3 sales grow "considerably" since August, when its Web store made them available, representatives for the two companies said. However, neither they nor other labels or Web stores disclosed specific sales results.

    Overall, the number of digital songs sold each week seems to have been unaffected by the launch of the major DRM-free stores since May, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. Digital song sales - both of tracks with and without DRM - are in the same range after May as they were in the weeks before DRM-free sales started.

    But that's small consolation for an industry whose wholesale revenue in the United States was down 11 percent in the first half of this year, according to IFPI, the industry's global trade group. That's on top of declines in retail sales in six out of the past seven years, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

    Even if the effect has been questionable, some analysts think that eventually all the labels will sell DRM-free music.

    "The writing on the wall, for the most part, is here for DRM," said Michael Gartenberg, a vice president and research director for Jupiter Research.

    But not yet. Universal and Warner are still just experimenting with DRM-free music, and Sony BMG isn't even doing that much, analysts note.

    "The marketplace wil

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva