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"Given where I work, I've got a professional bias about the music subscription model. But I also strongly believe on a personal level that subscriptions will eventually be the way that a significant portion of the public gets their music."
—-Matt Graves, RealNetworks/Rhapsody

LENNYBEERBLOG:
THE PEOPLE SPEAK

More Responses From Cyberspace to Our Editor In Chief’s Online Ramblings

Hey Lenny (and HITS folks),

 

I was just reading last week’s Lennybeerblog post and wanted to follow up.

 

As you know, I work for Rhapsody. I run PR for the service and am a part of the team that originally launched the service way back in 2001.

Given where I work, I've got a professional bias about the music subscription model. But I also strongly believe on a personal level that subscriptions will eventually be the way that a significant portion of the public gets their music.

 

I agree with Rick Rubin's vision (as outlined in the NYT) of a world where there's a "virtual library" of music that's accessible "from your car, from your cellphone, from your computer, from your television." And I agree with you that we’re entering an era “where instant entertainment gratification…will be just a click away and an everyday part of everyone's life.”

 

That said, I think that the existing subscription model (which Rubin and the NYT writer appear not to have known about) is a lot closer to making this vision a reality than people realize.

When we launched Rhapsody, our service was only accessible via the PC. Today, six years later, Rhapsody subscribers can access their music on the PC (including streaming on Macs and Linux), on portable MP3 players, on WiFi-connected portable devices, and through in-home audio systems like the Sonos digital music system.

 

Later this year, Rhapsody will also be accessible via TiVo and through new high-end receivers from Denon, and just last month we announced that Verizon will soon offer a mobile version of the service.

 

Our long-term vision is to make Rhapsody available virtually anywhere people want to hear music. It will be like water—on tap whenever and wherever you want it.

 

I don’t know that subscriptions alone will save the business. But they’re going to become an increasingly important part of the way people discover and enjoy music. After six years, I’m hope we’re an overnight success. ;)

 

Anyway, just wanted to drop a note your way. Keep up the Beerblogging.

 

Matt Graves
GM, Music PR
RealNetworks/Rhapsody
(415) 934-2159
[email protected]

 

 

Great conversation so far! How should the revenue be divvied out?

The fans need to know that a large and fair portion is going to the artists who are being listened to and that the system is fair and transparent. The ideal situation would be a nonprofit organization that takes no more than operating costs and pays the rest to the artists. There needs to be one flat rate paid (or possibly % of the whole system) to every act for every song and not any sort of variable rate based on what label it is on, if it is a "single" or a b-side or how old or current it is.

The major labels and large managers will argue that people "want" the major acts more so they should get paid more just because they have "hits" but that is completely backwards. If people wanted those "hits" so bad they would be selling records and there wouldn't be a problem. Just because 500,000 people download one song does not mean that they care more about that one song than the 5,000 people who download another (Read The Long Tail).

There needs to be a way for artists to tap into the system directly. In this day and age it should be no harder for an artist to get into the system than it is to set up a MySpace page and Paypal account. No negotiations with labels and no lawyers needed. If the labels or management companies want to be in the middle they need to be providing more than simply access to the system.

If there is any perceived unfairness in the system it will fail. If the labels do not get the hardcore music fans on board with this the first time it will fail. If fans know that the acts they care about are being paid less than the acts that they don't they will not support the system. And the labels cannot expect that they will not find out.

Thanks!
Stephen Chilton
Manager for The Stiletto Formal
[email protected]

 

As someone now working for a catalog label, I'm wondering if Mr. Elliot knows about any of the tedious and painful administrative process of actually getting music up online.  The whole point is to get the catalog up and running—everyone is aware of this.  It's not as easy as giving some MP3s to a bunch of kids and letting them go at it.

Zak Profera
Sony BMG
Legacy Recordings

(212) 833-7901
[email protected]

___________________________________

The Independents are the top growth sector of the industry. If the Grammys are the "industry validator," maybe NARAS should pay attention to the sector that is growing. Actually, leave us alone, we are doing fine without you. The pomp and circumstance does not seem to be working but the Independents are (actually working that is—going to an office, sitting at a desk, answering the phone, wearing shoes etc...)

Tony Brummel
Victory Records
[email protected]

__________________________________

I do agree with most of your Album of the Year nominees, and when you say that this year has been completely female-dominated.

I like how your picks aren't necessarily the biggest sellers of the year. Often times I feel like the Grammys only nominate Top 40 pop artists. This year will be different.

Nelly Furtado won't fetch an Album of the Year nomination because it wasn't released in this year's eligibility period. But “Say It Right” might get nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. It's her most accomplished hit to date, and "Promiscuous" should've won last year for Best Pop Collaboration.

I expect Rihanna to get some nominations this year, perhaps Record of the Year (if "Hollaback Girl" can do it, "Umbrella" can do it). Also Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Umbrella" (which will probably win); Best Contemporary R&B Album for "Good Girl Gone Bad"; maybe even R&B Vocal by Duo/Group for "Hate That I Love You (with Ne-Yo)" and Best Music Video Short Form for "Umbrella".

I also expect T-Pain to be nominated for a lot, especially in the R&B and Rap categories. Best R&B Song, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Buy U A Drank"), Best Contemporary R&B Album ("Epiphany"), maybe Rap/Sung Collaboration for "I'm A Flirt" (R. Kelly, T.I., and T-Pain) and "Outta My System" (Bow Wow featuring T-Pain).

Carrie Underwood, being who she is, will be nominated for Best Country Song and Best Country Female Vocal Performance for "Before He Cheats", perhaps Record of the Year.

I would normally pick Beyonce to take Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Irreplaceable" but she's not eligible after "B'Day" won Best Contemporary R&B Album at last year's Grammys. It's up in the air; I'm thinking "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" by Jennifer Hudson, "When I See U" by Fantasia Barrino, or "Promise" or "Like a Boy" by Ciara.

I know I sound like a nerd, but I compile my picks all year long in one giant Word document file. I've narrowed my picks down to these. One year, I correctly predicted all five Album of the Year nominees (Ray Charles' year). I have since not had that luck.

I hope the Grammys pull something really random this year, like Norah Jones sweeping the categories or O Brother Where Art Thou winning Album of the Year. It'll give the Grammys more credibility for honoring real artistry.

Album of the Year
--- Back to Black, Amy Winehouse (will win)
--- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Miranda Lambert (in lieu of Taylor Swift's eponymous debut; Lambert is a critical darling, Swift just has higher sales)
--- Good Girl Gone Bad, Rihanna (the pop album that was actually good)
--- Graduation, Kanye West
--- ???

Record of the Year
--- "Into the Ocean," Blue October (huge hit on VH1 which translated to the Dixie Chicks' success last year)
--- "Lost Without You," Robin Thicke (I think this white boy might win)
--- "Rehab," Amy Winehouse
--- "Umbrella," Rihanna featuring Jay-Z
--- The fifth is between "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood or "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce

Best New Artist
--- Feist
--- Taylor Swift?
--- T-Pain (maybe?)
--- Robin Thicke
--- Amy Winehouse (has to win)

I'd like to hear your picks on Record of the Year. I'm pulling for Winehouse to take Album of the Year and Best New Artist, but not Record of the Year. No one song stands out from Back to Black; it just so happened that the first single got the most attention.

Thanks,
Matt Aycock

 

Ah, I can remember the good old days when Digable Planets beat out Dr. Dre for the best rap album award, and when Lauryn Hill beat out Madonna in the 1998 Grammys. I think the Grammys will return this year in traditional fashion where no one can really predict who will win. Due to the changes of exposure on MTV and VH1 for music artists, I think this will be a big year that many of the talented artists named in your blog are discovered by a new audience.

 

Now, how about some perspective from a technology company?

 

For many years we have engineered technology to help aid the music industry. One example was our Super Enhanced CD technology (SECD) from 2001. The SECD delivered DVD playable video as a “bonus track” on a standard audio CD. Place it in a DVD player, it plays video; place it in a CD player, it plays audio. The SECD was panned for the DualDisc (DD) because the DD could get $2.00 extra at retail and the SECD delivered the same product on a non inflatable CD. DD disappeared and the SECD patent sits on my wall retired as retail is again looking for something to raise CD value, go figure.

 

In 2007, we started a new company and launched our LAMbCase system, again, pound for pound the most powerful digital technology available today. Why are technology companies investing time, innovation and energy into an industry that won’t give new technology a shot?

 

Many Regards,

William G. Blanchard
LAMbCase.com
[email protected]

_________________________________

 

Reply to Alan Elliott:

 

It truly should be reduced to the ridiculous. A great “song” will always be a great song and induce the passion and purchase in a consumer. Why has everyone lost the fact that at the end of the day that “the product is the power”? I loved your comment about The Offspring’s “Keep em Separated” being a time that music seemed a lot more meaningful to most. The soul of the music lover has seemed to be diluted by the BIZ trying to find a formula instead of getting back to the basics and find the albums full of great songs (plural). Remember the '70s and early '90s?! Thank you again for publicly emphasizing the passion and soul of being a music listener (the real buyer!). It blows me away how some of these A&R guys ever got their jobs… 

 

Tom Londo

[email protected]

_________________________________ 

I'm really enjoying your blog!
 
Besides the people you mentioned for best album Grammy nods, I think there might be a surprise nomination in there for an album that has been unduly maligned. 
  
I believe Kelly Clarkson's My December is a legitimate contender for best album. My December, if taken on its own, without comparison to Clarkson’s early projects, is actually remarkably good.

The mix of radio-worthy hits and artsy tracks makes this one of the more unique albums I’ve heard in a very long time.  I was not a fan of Clarkson, believing she’d been manufactured, but I’ve gained a new respect for her as a singer/songwriter with this album.
 
Take care,
Nick Gore
[email protected]
Bloomfield, CT

_______________________________________

Well, you have one thing right: this year has been "dominated by incredibly talented women."
 
Way back when, when Amy Winehouse was featured as the "free download of the week" on iTunes, I fell in love with her tone.  I love how when she makes her way through emotional lyrics or interesting melodies, she sounds so effortless.  No doubt that she's one to beat this year—that's if the powers-that-be don't look down upon "exhaustion."
 
And Brandi Carlile.  No words other than agh—I love her album. She is a great songwriter and the Joplin-esque rasp sets her apart.
 
Just for the sake of mentions, I also dig Miranda Lambert, A Fine Frenzy and Flyleaf.
 
When they award Best New Artist, I'll be sweating like Shaq at the foul line.  With Colbie Caillat as another contender, I'd almost rather have, like, Taylor Swift win and piss everybody off instead of seeing a couple great artists go down because of another great artist.  Let's just do away with it and witness a ridiculous upset.
 
Though, sometimes I do root for the underdogs.  And, in this case, I'm only calling her an underdog because of her failure to be mentioned in your blog.  Kelly Clarkson.  I don't think she deserves to miss out on at least a nom because the media decided to take a bit of news and run with it; I honestly and truly believe that, without all of the bad press, her album My December would have taken off.  (How can she score a Grammy for Breakaway and not My December?   Because Breakaway had a bunch of hits?  Because it was "her time?"  If either of those are the case, I question what the Grammys are really about).

Okay, back to the reasons.  One, there's the voice—effortlessly and flawlessly jumping from one genre to the next.  Two, she wrote on the entire album; not only did she write all of the songs, she wrote good songs. Three, I don't care who you are, if you come out with songs like "Maybe," "Irvine," "Sober" or "Yeah," and don't get a Grammy nod, there is something not right with this world.  But, I guess we knew that from the moment her record label told her she couldn't write b/c she was 25 and female.
 
Thanks—you rock
Lindsay Carter
(513) 515-9130
[email protected]

HITS LIST: AMPERSANDS
Dynamic duos (12/3a)
TAYLOR'S TREMENDOUS YEAR
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
THEY CALL THE WINDFALL MARIAH (HOLIDAY EDITION)
Ch-chingle bells (12/3a)
SONG REVENUE:
BOWS OF HOLLY
Adele is money. (12/3a)
UTA MUSIC EXPANDS IN NASHVILLE
Reshuffling the deck (12/3a)
CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
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