February 15, 2006

Food For Thought...

by Chris Randall

We're taking our label (and the parent of this site) Positron in to the digital delivery realm here in a few weeks, so I've been paying more than normal attention to marketing and moving music as downloads as opposed to CDs. All the Posi artists do pretty good on iTunes and their ilk, but it has always annoyed Lisa (my wife, who runs the label) and I that Apple treats indies like second-class citizens. Our artists, myself included, can't be browsed to from any point in the site, even though there are 8.4 million albums in the world with my name on them.

Because I'm not signed to Joe Shit's Ragman Records, a subsidiary of Universal, I don't get the same features at iTunes that artists that will maybe move 20 full-album downloads as part of the thousand copies they'll sell. (If you weren't aware of the statistic, 95% of major label releases sell 1000 copies or less.)

So, while I wouldn't say that Positron! has any hope of competing with iTunes on the grand scale in the digital realm, it certainly is smart to stop sending people to iTunes if they want a download, and give it to them right then.

But that's kind of beside the point. The reason I bring this up at all is that in my research on the subject, I came across this article in the WaPo, which puts some things in to perspective. The easy availability of single songs for purchase again has made novelty tracks and one-hit wonders the movers of the music world once more. This giant freight train we call the music industry has finally turned full circle.



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Feb.16.2006 @ 6:07 PM
Here's the REALLY interesting quote "Downloadable albums, which generally sell for about $10, haven't caught on yet.", yeah and they wont. Why? Well two reasons, one to do with packaging and the other(suprisingly) to do with packaging...

1. The Album is an artificial packaging device developed to lower distribution costs, and at the same time allow content owners(labels and less moral artists) to ship poor quality product( you know track 9 on any album you bought in the 70's -- also known as: "filler" tracks) along with the product you want(like say huh, the single) and thus jack up the price. Umair Haque has a great piece about this issue in commercial and economic terms at: link [www.bubblegeneron.co...]">link [www.bubblegeneron.co...]
I recommend everyone who's got anything to do with the music industry to read both it and its follow up.

2. The Album is an artificial packaging device, and consumers historically ALWAYS ALWAYS adopt packaging devices that better suit them(see point 1 above for reasons why current packaging doesnt work). So consumers dont want, and have no need for, "albums" (we need to get over this as artists). A collection of material is viable if it makes some contiguous sense from an artistic perspective, but otherwise its a false structure and record companies and artists havent worked this out, but the public has. The article Chris points to talks about singles but really we should substitute the word "song" for "single". The single song download is a more convienient package for users (get over it - I know I'm trying to).

Worse still for artists is the logical extension you get to when you ask "Well whats the definative package then?", and the answer is "the listen", yep each listen is the logical useful package for a consumer. They wont (I think) want to "own" a song, they'll want only to pay-to-play. Of course this approach has been tried and its meeting limited success, but all the infrastructure is in place(even at Apple) all we are waiting for is the social convention to move (like it did from CD's to downloads), and there an example in Video's and DVD's(which we mainly rent not own). Truth be told pay-to-pay WILL eventually win out, we as independent artists just need to be prepared for it.


Feb.16.2006 @ 6:23 PM
Chris Randall
Aside from the minor technicality that a consumer only ever owns a license to listen, not the actual music, I agree wholeheartedly. A pay-for-play model like Rhapsody and a download model like iTunes are intrinsically the same thing; in neither case does the consumer actually own anything other than a license to listen to the music. But in Rhapsody's case, you don't even get to hold on to the bits. So I tend to look a little wooly-eyed at that, but that aside, you're absolutely correct.



Feb.16.2006 @ 7:54 PM
...as an "independent artist"(read obscure and really really unknown - like my family dont even buy my stuff...) what I'm really interested in is how one gets noticed(hey hang on that's everyones issue isnt it?).

Which on-line services work best(sell most)? Does doing AdSense make any sense? Of course it's different for each artist/genre but what's everyone's experience? I hang on your responses...well actually right now I'm off to help someone buy a guitar....ooooh the guilty pleasure, all the fun of purchase without the personal and familial justification process...


Feb.18.2006 @ 6:01 PM
I just bought 'Influence' off iTunes... I guess I just skewed the stats. ;-)

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