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Friday, February 6, 2009

The End Of The Major Labels?

As we said in a previous post, Warner Music health looks dubious at best, but EMI and Sony too?

EMI just posted a $221 million loss for the last 6 months, which is a lower loss than the 6 months previous (that was a loss of $462 million), but it's still enormous by any standard. And things aren't looking any better for the future, which might lead Citibank (who financed the purchase for holding company Terra Firma) to pull the plug. Their digital revenues did move up 38% to $145 million, but that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the big picture.

Sony Music also has it's own troubles, with music profits down 41% thanks to a 22% overall sales drop. It's true that they received some relief in the de-merger with BMG, but you can't say that the future looks bright here either.

Hopefully we're about to enter into a new era of music distribution where conglomerates no longer have a seat at the table. The business is too small and too specialized for them, and no one, from the distributors to radio to the artists to the consumer, has benefited.

Maybe we can finally get back to the way it used to be, where people who really cared about music were the ones that actually ran the business. Until that happens, we'll just have a stale, dying industry to be part of.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell On The Beatles

Here's a brief excerpt from an interview with best selling author Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers: The Story of Success, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) regarding The Beatles developing into so-called overnight sensations.

This is another example of Gladwell's "Theory of 10,000 Hours," or the time required to become a "genius," as posted here on December 29.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Top 10 Websites

It's interesting to note which are the most visited sites on the web.  From this you can gain a lot of insight into user habits, such as what activities people are doing on the net, or new internet players, if any. Here they are as of this week Jan 09 week 4:

10. (Yahoo Japan)
Note that most of these are news/info and search sites. Myspace and Youtube could probably be classified as entertainment. 

No real surprises here, but we do get a glimpse of general Internet viewing habits. The biggest desire of Internet users seems to be information, so Yahoo, Google, Live, Yahoo Japan, MSN, and Wikipedia fit the bill. They also want to provide some of their own views and info so Myspace, Facebook, Blogger, and to a lesser degree, Youtube give people what they want. 

Those are the two major items - looking for info or providing some of your own. Can we say that's what the Internet boils down to these days?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Country Fans Slow On Digital But CD Sales Increase

Some interesting info from Nashville's Music Row. It seems that country sales actually increased  8% from the previous week. This is probably a temporary bounce since the overall sales are down 17% from last year. 

Just to show how anemic CD sales are these days, Taylor Swift was #1 with her Fearless release at approximately 63k and her Taylor Swift CD in 2nd place at a mere 14.7k, Sugarland at 14.1k, Zac Brown Band at 13.2k, and Darius Rucker at 11.7k. These were the only CD's to crack the 10k mark last week!!  As stated in other posts, 10 years ago sales like these would get you dropped by the label.

But the most interesting part of the post is regarding paid digital downloads by Country fans. While the rest of the music world has a ratio of digital to CD of 17%, Country fans are at only 7.5%.  Regardless of how the sales are made, they're way, way down.  

Lack of shelf space, no star releases, unpopular music or ??? It doesn't matter what musical genre you're in, it's all about the same. Sales are at an all-time low.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bob Ezrin's Sage Advice

Producer Bob Ezrin, who's worked with such musical giants as Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, KISS, Peter Gabriel, Rod Stewart, and Nine Inch Nails, recently sent an email to industry thorn-in-the-side Bob Leftsetz (who is a must-read for anyone in the music business).  The email was about quality and deserves some attention.
"This business of exploiting art and entertainment is built from it’s very inception on creativity and quality, on special things made by special people that touch, inform, elevate, divert, soothe, numb, challenge or sometimes even drive other people enough so that they are drawn to it and want it to be a part of their lives - either for the moment or for a very long time. When they want it, they sometimes pay for it in one way or another and this special stuff sometimes accrues a value beyond the ephemeral and actual makes money for its creator and for the folks who help to support and market it. Sometimes it becomes more valuable than gold and stars are born.

But unless it is especially touching in some way (even if it’s in a juvenile or prurient way), nobody will care and it will end up having no value at all. Which then goes to your title "Quality." If a thing lacks quality of some sort, it will not touch anyone. It will simply be a not so special thing in a world of not so special things. It will blend in and disappear. But if a work or performance is of high quality and special, then it has at least a shot at becoming valuable to someone - and the person who creates it has a shot at being appreciated and rewarded for it."
Part of Bob's commentary contained advice to struggling artists. He finished with this:
"Dedicate yourself to quality, to being the very best at what you do and then use that quality to createor be something truly great. Then you may have a shot at "making it." But whether you become a star or not, you will have become and will forever be someone very special. And others will know you for that."
Bob's commentary is an excellent analysis of the core of the problem of today's music - too many musicians chasing the market instead of doing it because their driven to do so.  All I can add is a creative motto that I've personally lived by ever since it dawned on me after a little while in the business.

"Art is something you do for yourself. 
A craft is something you do for everyone else."


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