March 31, 2007

The New Music Industry Cotinued...

Following up on Doughnutman's insightful post below, here are some more developments in the rapidly changing music business as reported by British mag The Guardian. First up is how Who guitarist Pete Townshend is trying to create people's musical imprint in the digital space:

According to Townshend, it "takes data you input and turns that into music. I began thinking it might be possible to use software to do this about 20 years ago when I first got a Mac and software like M, Jam Factory and Music Mouse. These were programs that produced random music from limited data you put in."
Much more on this exciting new venture a bit later. First back to the industry, as Peter Gabriel leads us through the new frontier of dynamic playlist generation:
"The filtering process is not dictated by marketing dollars. Paid-for content has been the rock on which both the music and the film industries have been built. This rock is rapidly turning into quicksand and it seems to me that the future income streams are probably going to come as much from filtering and advertising, as from direct sale of content. I am hoping in our internet projects to make sure that musicians are not at the bottom of the pecking order."
And then there's Trent. We already know about his forays into alternate reality entertainment and marketing initiatives, but what about his use of technology:
"The USB drive was simply a mechanism of leaking the music and data we wanted out there," he explained. "The medium of the CD is outdated and irrelevant. It's really painfully obvious what people want - DRM-free music they can do what they want with. If the greedy record industry would embrace that concept I truly think people would pay for music and consume more of it."
And low and behold it's already happening right now and right before our eyes. The Fratellis, for example, released their latest U.K. single on a USB drive. And it seems some of the bigwigs might be getting it:
USB drives were piloted last October with Keane single 'Nothing's In My Way' which sold out in a day.

In a statement Lee Jenson head of marketing at Island Records said: "The success of the Keane single last year convinced us that music fans would welcome more audio release on this format."
Will USB replace CDs? Not anytime soon, I am sure, but is there a genuine interest and excitement in embracing new digital formats, free of restrictions and limitations, and is this a viable business model for the recording industry? The answer is unequivocally yes (at least from this one music journalist's point of view). But when will the powers that be get it?

For more on Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Method (to be covered further on this site) check out:

For more on Peter Gabriel's The Filter check out:


Doughnutman said...

I would not call Towshend's idea of creating music from data new. There have been computer programs doing that for like twenty years.

I couldn't disagree with you more that the USB will replace the CD. In order for you to play a cd you need a cd player that range in price from $50 to $500 while in order to play music off a usb drive you need a computer which costs between $700 and $2000. As long as that is the case I don't think any company would or should switch to an all mp3 format. And the idea tha I would have to get rid of my stereo and replace it with a computer is sad and depressing.

I also wouldn't charcterize these recent developments and forays into technology as embracement or interest by record labels. I would call it reluctant acceptance of changing technology. These companies don't want to do this, they are changing slowly and worrying about how to keep profits up.

Coz said...

Towshend never said that his idea was wholly original or unique, but it is only now that the technology exists for him to realize the vision he first started over 20 years ago. Well computer constructed music has existed, there is no one doing what Pete is trying to do now which is to create a digital musical portrait of a person:

"You enter data about yourself, you share some stuff about how you feel, and you get back a piece of music," he said. "There was no computer in 1971 big enough or powerful enough to do what I wanted it to do, and of course, there was no Internet."

Townshend said the subject will then own a third of the copyright of the piece of music, and he hopes one day to hold a concert where various "Method" compositions can be shared. "It might sound like a seal or a plane going by," he said. "It may sound terrible or it may sound beautiful. This is an authentic portrait."


How is that not new?

As for USB drives, I specifically said I did not see them replacing CD's either, the point of the blurb was to talk about how Trent Reznor sees the business and technology side evolving. You can't say that this format won't be embraced because it already has and I provided the article and quote from a record executive. USB and other digital media offers more than current CD technology and that's from the mouth of Trent Reznor. There are many issues, capital of which is that people demand unrestricted access to music (which they are not currently getting). So yes the CD will stick around (at least for awhile) but I don't think there's any question that we are going to see new ways of marketing, releasing, distributing, and sharing music over the next several years. Look at what happened to tapes after the early 80's. Clearly CD's will not remain the dominant audio format forever, so something has to eventually give. That's my point.

On your last point I completely agree. A huge pet peeve and issue area for me is that labels continue to shrug and resent technological advances and opportunities in favor of trying to cling on to a dying and outdated business model. They are reluctant and unwilling, and I think that is tragic and at their own peril. Hopefully that will change.

I appreciate your thoughts. You raise good points that help really flesh these issues out. But I would qualify your arguments more. What other computer programs exist for bottom-up music composition? What do you feel will be the fate of CD's in the next 10 years? Do you think nothing will change?

I welcome all the discussion, I just think it would be better for the site to really explore the topic as fully and thoroughly as possible (rather than trying to just negate viewpoints). If you've got another angle on these things, go for it. That's what the forum is all about.