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iTunes is now my music store, where I can just buy the best and leave the rest. Mainly because there is no other music retailer anywhere near my house.
LENNYBEERBLOG: HOW DID THIS NIGHTMARE HAPPEN? PT. 1
How the Hell Did It Come to This? A Lifelong Music Fan Ponders What Went Wrong
I've always been a music fan. 

When I was young, I bought 45 singles (remember those round discs with the large holes in the middle?).  I would listen to them in my basement instead of practicing a musical instrument. Even then, I knew I had no musical talent (and many would say still don’t), but it allowed me to tell my parents that I was playing along. 

I loved hearing great songs. But what I really loved was the radio. The radio was my friend. Rick Sklar's WABC played the hits. B. Mitchell Reed made them sound better. And on WINS at night, Murray the K (the 5th Beatle) told me what was cool, while I did (or faked doing) my homework. 

I made the natural progression to buying albums. I loved albums. In college, I would treat myself to an album after taking a test. It was my reward when I knew I'd done well, and my solace if I hadn't.  Everyone loved to hang out in the record stores and touch the product. Buying singles was now in my past. Albums were king. I had my collection and, of course, I showed them to my dates (when I had dates, that is).

The CD was the natural next progression.  CDs were cool. I had to get my faves on CD and all the best current stuff as well.  I bought CDs of my faves, just as my friends bought CDs of theirs.  It was fun to buy CDs even when I received promo copies for free.  Hanging out in record stores was always a great escape. 

Now I shop at iTunes at night, and sometimes walk down the block from the office to Amoeba. Last night, I entertained myself by sampling some new and recent music.  I checked out the new Rilo Kiley after seeing an article about the band in the L.A. Times. I tried three songs, liked one, bought one song. Repeat, I bought one song!  "Silver Linings” is now mine, though I wish I could say the title referred to the music business’ future. Same with Snow Patrol. I've been meaning to get their album, but I already know I like "Chasing Cars," so I clicked and bought the track. I would have bought the album, but now I have the song I really like, so I don't really need the album. I purchased what I wanted—two tracks, total. 

Now, this is a fucked up business model. How did it happen? Who let it go down this way? Who let me cherry-pick the best song, pay 99 fucking cents and be done with it? Of course people steal songs. They are the stealers. I’m not a thief. I’m a consumer. Someday, the wild west of the Internet will be tamed, and the stealers won't be able to steal so easily. Shouldn’t I be buying the full CD, though? I would buy the full CD. I'm used to buying the full CD. Yet iTunes is now my music store, and there I can just buy the best and leave the rest. Mainly because there is no other music retailer anywhere near my house.   

So, who is responsible for this?  Did Steve Jobs job the music industry powers-that-be, or was this development somehow inevitable?  Next week, I will try to explain where it all went wrong and got us to the place we are today. 

For now, let's leave the question as broad as possible.  Hit us up at [email protected] and tell us where you believe the industry took a wrong turn and why there are fewer people involved in what we do, with more dropping out every week. Tell us who you believe  is to blame.  Is it a function of technology, evolution, faulty decision-making?  We're all living the nightmare of an industry in apocalypse. 

WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?
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Once major labels became part of corporations that was the beginning of the end.  The objective became how can we make the most money? Well... we know people like hits songs, so when we have a hit song let's put the song on an album and sell it for $15-$20 and if the rest of the songs suck who cares!!? We made the money, and I keep my job. Consumers were tired of getting ripped off, so when Napster came along, it seemed no
different than borrowing a CD from a buddy.

Joe Schrickman
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What happened?
 
Technology caught up with the music business. 
 
Plain and simple.
 
Technology made it easy to copy (ahem, steal) songs easily over the computer.  End of story.
 
However, the labels definitely screwed up along the way.
 
Had the labels embraced digital music earlier, they could have taken over Napster when literally everyone and their mother was a member...and gotten people to pay $ .99, no, maybe even $2-4 a song, eh?
 
But instead they shut Napster down and all the downloading went deeper underground. 
 
Until iTunes came along and "saved the day." 
 
LOL. 
 
"Saved" if you mean Apple sells 100 million iPods.
 
Whether music is free or .99, does it matter?  Apple stock is through the roof and everyone loves Apple.
 
Meanwhile the labels and ultimately the artists are the ones suffering.
 
When I was a kid, I would spend hours in Tower Records in NYC's Greenwich Village.  I'd buy stacks of CD singles and maxi singles, all at $2.99-$9.99+ (imports baby).  Now we can just buy huge hit songs for only .99.  Music's value has gone way down.  Hell, a mixed drink at almost any bar in LA costs $10!  But a hit song?  Only $ .99!
 
At least fans can't steal a T-shirt or concert ticket.  (Well, they could, but it's far more difficult to sneak into a show or swipe a T-shirt from the merch stand than to steal an mp3 online).
 
Artists and labels need to adjust to the fact that music is just simply too easy to steal. 
 
The only solution is to make cheaper albums and develop real artists.
 
It seems like all doom and gloom, but there is a silver lining.
 
I've never seen so many artists intent on making it.
 
I've never seen so many people quitting well-paying jobs in the music business (running major venues, working at major entertainment powerhouses like Clear Channel) to go into music supervision or artist management.
 
The artists, the A&R guys, the music executives, the managers, the music supervisors that were in it for the money.  The fame.  The "easy" life.  They are all getting out of the business.  Because the money is being pulled out.
 
And who is left?  True artists, industry folks who cannot live without music.  Who is left? Those artists who have no choice but to make music because it's in their blood. It's in their soul. These artists are touring even though gas is $2.50-3.50 a gallon. 
 
There is hope.  Real music, real artists will survive this. They'll figure out a way, they'll think "outside the box" and when that happens, people will support those artists by buying their music, or, at the very least, going to see them in concert.
 
Perhaps the music business should buy a thousand copies of Who Moved My Cheese? but I fear it's too late for many of them!
 
Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management

Beverly Hills, CA  90210
 
"Motivation and determination are 1000 times more potent than talent alone" -Some guy online
 
"Be nice to everyone.  You never know if the intern will be the next president of your record company." Michael Buble
 
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“People have to learn they have to juggle everything until they get lucky. They need to work a steady job, make a living and make time for the band. They need to take all the money they make from the band and throw it back into the band” David Draiman, vocalist for Disturbed, interviewed in Music Connection
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I am so happy someone sees this musical homicide the way I do. Just this morning I laid in bed wondering how the one thing that I love more than listening to my daughter's enthusiasm about becoming a teenager disappear with her innocence.  Am I crazy or should we decline music that isn't really created by musicians (a person who plays a musical instrument). It all started with the drum machine and in came Pro Tools, and then voice alterations and there went a necessity to work hard and perfect a craft that stimulated thoughts throughout this universe. 
 
Who cares what an artist (flat stomach and six packs by today's standard) sounds like as long as he/she looks right? Should we prove to the Supreme Court that iTunes is not necessarily good technology because it is robbing us of social interaction (sitting behind a computer and clicking buy is not socializing), thereby allowing technology to rob us of human interactive communications, contributing to the decline of our economy. 
 
There has been a closure of at least 90% of record stores. Like you said, a music store was the coolest place to be. I have so many CD's (old school vs. new school) that I dare not tell my daughter about because her opinion is why buy all when you can have just one. Isn't that robbing artists of their creative rights to expression? I agree that we won't like all 16 songs, but when we have children, do we give back the ones we don't like and keep the ones we do?
 
I want iTunes to go away, I want Pro Tools to go away, I want voice alterations to go far, far away. I want home studios to be used for demos only and keyboard players, drummers, violinists, guitarists, etc. to make a clean comeback. I don't want to hear anyone tell me that we can't because my daughter thinks Slick Rick is the coolest.  

I  couldn't understand why an entertainer's salary was so high until I realized that I needed them to remain sane.  Music holds on to memory; 20 years from now what will this generation have to remember? Oh shit...nothing! Music will by then be like dinosaurs. Thanks technology. 

chynadall1969
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As soon as easy accessibility of "your" music selection became the norm, the respect for the purchase began to fade. When you could listen in the car, and accidentally drop the cassette and later the CD on the floor and lose the packaging...timed with a generation who have no attention span, who look to music as backdrop and not an identity.  
 
Jeff Amato
VISABILITY
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Hi Lenny,
 
As a person who has been on both sides of the desk as an A&R executive and producer, and also as someone who had a front row seat on the .com roller coaster at MP3.com,  unfortunately the mantra in our business has become, "Innovation with Implementation = Litigation."
 
We all need to collectively come together, whether it's musicians, execs, producers, songwriters and  new media technophiles, we have to make sense of all of these issues in short order. The writing is on the wall, and someone must take the lead. Unfortunately, musicians and artists are not empowered to do so, and we cannot expect the powers-that-be to act in their best interest.
 
For now, the consumer has decided it's a singles-driven market, and the creative community must figure out a way to best capitalize on that, and somehow develop careers in the process. I don't have the answer to that problem, but I would imagine that if artists and the community of music industry professionals could speak with one voice, we may possibly find a way out of this turbulent time, and really begin to take advantage of all of this great technology at our collective disposal.
 
Kind regards,
Guy Eckstine
MIAATV.com
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The industry took a wrong turn when the elite radio stations decided that playing five bands 40 times a day would result in greater record sales. Of course it did!  Who doesn’t love co-op? As long as I can remember, a great song is a great song, but what I also remember is a great song was part of a greater album.

The extra large focus with the major labels and radio stations over-saturating songs to induce record sales worked amazingly, but it was a double-edged sword. Chumbawamba had a very popular hit song, but was there a second single? Did they have a great album? I don’t think so!  

Losing focus on making great albums, developing young bands and letting the art breathe is what has been diluted. Leave one of the major radio markets and drive through the Midwest and listen to the radio. Instead of hearing five bands 40 times, you’ll hear 20 bands 10 times a day. Radio is much better when the music is allowed to breathe and when the listeners are able to have a wider selection of artists to become loyal to.

We know that one hugely successful album will pay for many of the record companies' not-so-successful albums and in return allow artists to be developed so they may be the next hugely successful act.

So why has the focus not been on making great albums?  A great album will result in second and third singles. A great album will sell HUGE numbers. A great album will keep the integrity of the art intact! It will not take away from the beautiful fact that when we buy music, we are taking part in making a decision of taste that makes us who we are, the true fan of the artist!  

How do you think Radiohead has been able to offer their fan base the opportunity to decide what to pay for its newest release? A fan will rip off the record company, but the true fan will not rip off the artist. The true fan of the art may even pay double. The record industry has only been taking away from the fan by shoving the “singles” down consumers' throats and showing no emphasis on the fact that there may be a great album there, which is what builds that loyal fan base….the real music buyer, a consumer who will buy the artist's catalog and continue to buy that artist's music in the future, THE ENTIRE ALBUM!

toml
afc choice
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Whenever anyone who looks at the entertainment industry from outside looks in, the first thing they see is music.

Advertisers, marketers, anyone who wants to reach young people who are still forming brand associations... They look to music.

They don't understand the names of the artists, but they appreciate the general effect is has on "the young people."

As soon as the corporations took over the record labels, they monetized the product they had acquired by putting it at the beck and call of the sponsors: Whoring it out, if you like.

As soon as the corporations took over the music media (MTV, radio stations, etc., etc), they did the same thing: singles over albums, cos the hit track is what gets the audience to the next ad...break the best.

Nothing too new, nothing too challenging = stagnation of the mainstream music scene.

Then MTV worked out that reality TV and gameshows got the audience to the ad break even better than any music at all.

That created a generation that pushed music in the minds of the non-rabid music fans to be something tied into another product (a movie, video game, soft drink, sports event, radio station, etc.) as opposed to a stand-alone, meaningful product.

And the remaining music fans (of which there always will be some, just as a counter-culture if nothing else) stopped being able to watch MTV or listen to mainstream music radio.

Those same music fans also had to suffer through the music industry trying to wring as much cash out of their shrinking market by moving away from a singles culture (and charging $2-4 for the one song you wanted) and towards an album culture predicated on most albums only having one good track on a $15 CD.

That gives you an increasing portion of customers that don't buy music, and an increasing portion of music fans who are annoyed about the way they have to buy the thing they love.

Then came the Internet and file-sharing. Sprinkle in some free-market capitalism where you get a product for free and...

  1. The uber-casual fans went from buying a CD or three a year to just grabbing stuff for free (and feeling a little guilty at times).
  2. The rabid fan still bought music, but also downloaded a little (and felt a little guilty at times).
  3. Everyone else (esp. high school and college students, that staple group of the music industry) used their new-found online connection to grab everything for free, including music (and felt a little guilty at times).

Then came iTunes and everyone could now grab the little bit of music they felt they had to have for a little bit of money (and purchase a very cool piece of designer hardware) guilt free, and everyone was happy. 

Especially Steve Jobs, who became the first marketer who worked out the ultimate way to use the ENTIRE music industry to sell his product, instead of just settling for a single song, artist or even genre.

Ooops.

Stefan Goldby
The maniaTV Network
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I think for the sake of brevity and simplicity, there are three causes and you can rope in whomever you choose as the guilty parties, but they all shared these key characteristics:

a) Greed

b) Hubris

c) Xenophobia

I had spent the better part of 30 years of my life in the music industry. First, as a young and dumb underground press journalist, then as a DJ on FM radio in the early '70s and a programmer in the mid-'80s with a bunch of stints in between as a record store jerk and then 10 years in A&R.

I believe I have seen it all and I can’t get away from the immutable fact that the three causes listed above ultimately destroyed “this thing we had.” Labels, people who worked for the labels, artists, managers, lawyers, et. al...all at one point or another were to various degrees greedy, arrogant and ultimately fearful of that which they could not understand or control and here we are today.

Now, maybe a better question would be, how do we get out of this hellish dilemma? Here’s a news flash. Sell catalog CDs for $5 (Christ knows the labels and artists have gotten their $$ out), new releases for $10...and don’t tell me you can’t!

Tell the truth and say you won’t and the reason why would include the first two characteristics listed above. And how about this for pushing the digital envelope? $5 for digital LP downloads…

This would, I believe energize sales—and, to the argument and crocodile tears being shed for record stores closing...Shit! Most of the ones I went into deserved to close as badly run operations that lost sight of their primary purpose—serving their customers!

That’s it. I’m done and dollars to doughnuts say this doesn’t get posted

John Mrvos
Barst & Mukamal LLP
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Wow, what a blog entry! I will tell you exactly what happened. I can go on for days, but here are a few factors:

  Cherry-Picking Songs: This started with the original [Shawn Fanning’s] Napster back in the late '90s. Naturally, the industry took legal action to stop 50 million users from swapping, but the action should have been to buy Napster and develop their own digital music player. Apple did to Shawn Fanning what Microsoft did to them, simply emulate and refine a product and business model. Singles sell and promote albums. Why the industry agreed to the damaging model of allowing people to purchase fragments of an album’s experience as singles leads me to the next point. 

2)     Only the Industry Use Macs: How was Apple able to woo the music industry so easily? After many years of dealing with music industry-targeted technology, I have seen the solutions go in as a great idea and leave the industry doors with bullet holes. But what made Apple’s 2001 iPod/iTunes proposal any different? The fact is that the music industry has always held the Mac computing platform as a “status symbol” display of chic computing. When Jobs came around with the iPod/iTunes product, the industry automatically accepted the plan because of the heavy use of Macs internally. The industry’s infatuation with the Mac made them sign blindly on the dotted line of death. I shake my head with disgust every time I see that sticker on a new iPod that says: “Don’t download music illegally” (must be an inside joke). Hey, here is a suggestion, why not make the iPod not work with illegal music? Oh wait, that doesn’t help Apple’s bottom line, now does it? I am sure there is a “Don’t sue us like Diamond Rio” clause in the initial 2001 agreements with the labels that carry a term of 100 years. The white whale ate the sharks! 

3)     MTV and VH1: Who angered these guys where they don’t play music videos anymore? I can remember seeing the NIN “Perfect Drug” music video on MTV for the first time and being blown away. I immediately went to my local Tower Records and purchased the Lost Highway soundtrack. MTV defined what was popular in the music industry and did it better than anything. So what if they crammed NSYNC down our throats, if their music wasn’t any good it was no way they could still sell 10 million records. I sometimes listen to Milli Vanilli nowadays because yesterday’s lies sound better than today’s music reality. Remember the “world premiere” videos for Michael Jackson’s "Black or White" and Madonna’s "Justify My Love"? This is what drove people to the record stores, not sitting on the internet waiting for a website to magically make something popular. 

4)     Big Box Retail: They swallowed Tower Records, Sam Goody and every destitute good old-fashioned record store. Why did the distribution arms of major labels allow a quick check to destroy the stores that specialized in music? You now want me to go into a place to buy a CD where I have the option of buying a DVD or a plasma TV instead? Big box retailers could care less about music because they lose $0.01 on every sale. Their logic is “we keep CDs as a courtesy to our customers, hopefully they will buy something else.” WHAT? My memories of going to Tower Records at 10 p.m. on West 4th in NYC on a cold winter night to blow my measly minimum wage Bed Bath & Beyond paycheck on a few perfectly annotated sonic discs which helped me cope with the reality of what was my daily life are now destroyed. The major labels did not show any loyalty to the stores that showed loyalty to them, period. Those bridges are burnt and now enjoy your ride in the digital waterfall.

5)     Digital Water: OK, even with the conversion to digital distribution, why the hell is everyone trying to sell a product that people can get free? I always tell people the greatest hustle ever is bottled water. Water is free anywhere, but for $1, the convenience is worth it when you’re on the go. Bottled water does not sell as much as soda or beer because people are not generally interested in paying for something they can get free at home. Why is the industry trying to sell digital music at 128kbs through iTunes when people can get a 320kbs or FLAC lossless version illegally? Maybe Starbucks need to start selling industry execs Swiss Miss at latte prices for them to get this point. Technology exists to digitally deliver full-quality audio with videos and extras to buyers. Only when the industry decides to stop being Apple’s whore is when they will see the other technologies that have been developed waiting to give them their biggest success.

6)     Let music producers and A&Rs do their jobs: Why do today’s superstar artists decide what tracks go on their album and what he/she wants to record? Why do they record vocals in a studio without the producer or A&R present to guide them? Why are A&R people now nothing but artist babysitters? This is all wrong. Artists are people who look at everything from a different eccentric perspective, so why are they given the power to make creative and business decisions when they should be concentrating on art. Michael Jackson did not tell Quincy Jones what to do in the studio. If Quincy didn’t like something, I didn’t go, no matter how much Mike complained. Tina Turner till this day does not like her song “What’s Love Got To Do With It?" but as an artist, she did her job and found great rewards. I remember watching a documentary of Aerosmith in the studio making the Pump album and the worried vibe they had when John Kalodner was expected to come by. When John arrived, he sat at the mixing console and spoke about what needed work and this pissed Steven off. Pump is one of the best records I’ve heard and it should be because it was made properly.

Music will never die. People will keep making it and people will keep listening. These days, it doesn’t cost close to anything to record, mix and master a great album. People will pay when you deliver them a product of value that entertains them through their daily lives and get it where most convenient. 

Regards,
William G. Blanchard
LAMbCast Ltd.
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Ahh this one is too easy...

It is a perfect storm of sorts really, a convergence of several storms colliding at once with deadly consequences.  The deaths of many artists, so-called artists, and personnel.

The first storm. The development of the mp3. A brilliant codec for anyone who loves music. The problem with this storm is that the decision-makers at the majors had no idea what an mp3 was and what it meant to the user. They have never ripped, encoded or burned (remember when it was multiple steps?). They did not know what it meant to the consumer. They thought that quality was more important then convenience. They underestimated the power of the mix-CD. They did not understand how their consumers used the music. THEY DID NOT KNOW WHO THE CONSUMER WAS.

The second storm.  Major labels drift away from signing artists and concentrate more on good-looking people who could dance. Yes, there has always been that element in contemporary music, the difference being that there were always credible ARTISTS to counteract that mind-numbing drivel.  This is the case of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  They paraded out a long list of marginal talent who worked with uber-producers and songwriters who created music that was immediate but whose flavor lasted as long as a piece of Double Bubble. They created albums that had no continuity to them because they were written by several different people. They brought in stylists and choreographers. Even in the traditionally artist-driven genres like Rock, Alternative, etc. we saw the charts dominated by songs whose artistic value could only be equated with the nutritional value of a Twinkie.  Don’t get me wrong, during this period there were MANY great records made by great artists, however, they were marginalized by the shear power of the majors to carpet the country with crap.

The third storm.  Homogenous radio controlled by the wallets of the major labels and deregulated by the government.  Say goodbye to regional hits, local support and personality.  Say hello to McDonalds radio, where it tastes the same in every city.  The cost to get a song on the radio explodes. Payola has always existed, perhaps just circuitous enough to evade the law, and will continue to exist as long as humans like money. The cost goes up so dramatically such that on any given week there are only a small number of records who are being considered because they are the “priority”  and come with some sweet marketing dollars and/or leverage. Radio’s slow death and decreased ad revenue is saved only by the fact that the ratings system uses outdated algorithms and thoroughly ridiculous sampling pools that keep its perceived influence well above its actual impact.  At one time the dominant force for introducing music to the public, radio becomes so generic and repetitive (a truly deadly combo) that it actually encourages consumers to get their music fixes somewhere else, to search on their own.

The fourth storm.  Everyone knows the cost to manufacture CDs has gone down dramatically, but the industry sees fit to raise “top tier” records to $18.98, $19.98 and even more in some instances. This might have been OK with the consumer taking into account inflation, cost of competitive products, quality of music, quality of package, etc. but contrast it with the seemingly endless stories about artists getting screwed by their labels and never earning a penny and suddenly the consumers feel like they are lining the pockets of fat balding guys who are trying to grow ponytails while smoking their cigars on the golf course instead of putting a meal in the belly of the artist who is the soundtrack to their life.  

Don’t blame the technology. Blame our greed. 20 years ago when I started my first job in the music industrym I felt like people where here because they loved music as an art form and believed in its commercial viability. Somehow we moved from an art form to a packaged good. There is a lot of hope out there. There is a lot of great new and old talent who do not play by the same rules. I applaud Radiohead for what they did (perhaps the execution could have been better), but they are not the first ones to do this. This is happening everyday by self-sufficient artists. This revolution is being led by the people, not the corporations.  Thankfully.  Of course, that is just my opinion.  I could be wrong.

Novus Ordo Seclorum
Rich Holtzman
Method Entertainment
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I think the industry took a wrong turn first by not dropping the price of CDs when they had the chance to. 2) Not keeping up with technology, and 3) Radio turning into coporate brands. At one time, you had a playlist of over 30 to 40 songs. Now it's what? 12-15 records? When I was in radio, we could play album cuts, to pump up the album...not anymore. Also, if you ask a DJ their purpose or their job, they will tell you it's not to break records, it's to play commercials (wow). Also there used to be a relationship with radio and retail... not anymore. Also I would say with the shrinking labels today, there is not any A&R development. Everything is built around Super Tuesday and let's get everything out by Christmas, but leave the rest of the year to suffer. It seems to me that the record industry has, in some form, gone back to in terms of purchase. When I was a little kid in the late '60s, we bought 45s. In 2007, we are buying 45's. Instead they are called downloads and ringtones.

Tony Baraka
The Baraka Group
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Lenny:

How did it come to this? Did labels suddenly wake up one day and realize that 60 to 100 million people were downloading music for free from a myriad of websites globally and that the music industry was headed for dire straits? Sure, file-sharing and downloading can be blamed for some of the problems inherent in the industry today, but to point a finger at the Internet, Steve Jobs, iTunes and iPods, and say these are the prime reason for the music industry's ills, is just plain irresponsible and without merit.

Let's first start with the fact that at some point in the explosion of CD sales back in the mid-'80s, music became "product" to fill the distribution pipelines at all the major companies. In other words, it became the music BUSINESS, not the business of MUSIC. While there's nothing wrong with any company focusing on best business practices, it's hard to hold creative endeavors to the spreadsheet type of business operations practiced by those MBA grads.

Once upon a time there was an integral part of every label called ARTIST DEVELOPMENT. When MTV hit the air in 1981, tour support money and artist development money was transferred to video production budgets, which became more and more bloated over time. Of course, if the video and song were a hit, labels got the money back. But during this time, the focus of building an artist through stage one, stage two and stage three development dissipated. Eventually, there were no artist development departments. Touring is a critical part of artist development, and in this day of instant gratification and largely disposable music, it's an element that has sometimes been overlooked in extending the life of a band or an artist. No matter how big a video is and how many CDs artists can sell from that exposure, it means little if the audience doesn't connect with the artists in concert or if the artists can't deliver live.

Billy Joel said: "Before MTV, music said LISTEN to me. Now, it says LOOK at me."  And that's what MTV evolved into...a channel that played less music, more fashion/lifestyle-looking videos from a slew of disposable artists that never survived the decade. Now, of course, the amount of actual MUSIC played on MTV is secondary to the reality shows and other programming that attracts an audience, but has nothing to do with exposing new music. The active music audience doesn't watch MTV anymore to find/hear new music.

Rumors are rampant that MTV might launch a social networking site. Gee, what a bold move. Now that MySpace.com, facebook.com and others have millions of users, the Viacom outlet thinks it might be a good way to extend the brand and generate business. How profound. They do it online. MTV jumped the shark some time ago as a trendsetter.

Artist development and great A&R people used to be the foundations to create great success stories. The most successful music people out there know that and their leadership reflects emphasis in those areas. (Clive, Doug, Iovine, Lundvall, etc.)

But clearly, one of the industry's biggest problems was hanging on to a model that produced BIG profits from CD sales as more and more people went online to steal and hear new music. The industry's answer and great hopes at the time were that the RIAA would be the knight in shining legal armor, they would sue people who downloaded illegally, and people would eventually stop or decrease their illegal downloading, and they would once again become CD buyers.

I think it's safe to say that anybody who bought into that theory didn't have a clue about where it was all headed. I think it also safe to say (and I've been saying this for five years now in print) that the RIAA has not done a single thing to assist the industry it allegedly serves, in creating models for a secure future. On the other hand, since they spent $600,000 in the first half of this year in lobbying expenses, they must be doing something, right? Ask them. You can probably find the RIAA execs and their lawyers at the Palm in D.C. or other fine restaurants in the area chatting with lobbyists and the best politicians money can buy.

This past week, Doug Morris came up with an idea for the labels to battle iTunes. As an ex-label executive, I always have had the utmost respect for Doug as a music man. When Irving Azoff (my boss at the time) first wanted to leave MCA Records, he recommended Doug as his replacement. For some reason, the existing upper-level MCA corporate management didn't agree at the time. Irving left and MCA Records was never the same. Of course years later, Universal did make the right move, Doug Morris became the head honcho over the whole Universal Music Group, and he played a big part in making UMG the number one company in marketshare. (I'm sure Doug would credit others in his
group as well, like Jimmy Iovine, for assisting him in taking UMG to the top.)

Doug's done a great job at UMG. I wish him nothing but continued success in these troubling times for the music industry. He's the first music industry leader to come up with any ideas about possibilities for future business models for the labels. Others have tossed ideas around, but Doug is rounding up the posse.

Everybody wants to take on Steve Jobs'  iTunes and in the brick and mortar world, everybody wants to take on Wal-Mart. Of course, there would be only one way to beat Wal-Mart. Build a chain of big-box stores and then offer lower prices than Wal-Mart. Lower prices attract customers in droves. Just ask Hyundai.

If the major labels do unite and can sell music cheaper than iTunes because they don't have to pay Apple that 29 cents they currently pay, think of the possibilities. But don't blame Jobs and iTunes for the loss of revenues from the sale of 99-cent songs. Nobody has done more to decrease the online theft of music than Steve Jobs. iTunes has sold over 3 billion songs. 3 billion sold=3 billion less stolen. While the labels might want a bigger piece of the online pie, I'm sure all those artists that are receiving checks from iTunes are quite happy. In fact, there's a whole bunch of smaller independent labels quite happy as well. They write me weekly and tell me so.

Recently, IDJ chief L.A. Reid said:  "Market conditions certainly have changed in the last few years, but the decay we are seeing has more to do with the lack of quality in music." Amen.

Now the labels need to do what amazon.com, Apple and so many others are doing and have done. Embrace the Internet and existing technology and move forward with some clear-set plans. And don't bother waiting for the RIAA to be pro-active... They are asleep at the wheel of a rudderless ship.

Steve Meyer
Smart Marketing Consulting Services

Las Vegas, NV
________________________
 
I hate to say it, but all you industry experts have lost touch. The business has segmented into many directions, but all you want to do is blame someone or something.  The truth of the matter is you and all the major labels are a bunch of fucking bean counters.  The artists are tired of being stolen from.  Not owning their own masters, not getting correct accounting statements and in reality paying so all you fuck heads can have a job.

It's over. The major labels will be gone in five years. Artists do not need them. Today's artist does not need to sell gold to make a living. In fact, they have found out they can make more money  releasing their own records with numbers less than 10k units. What is the new business model is DIY big-time again and last time it happened in the punk era the major labels shut it down by buying all the independent labels. 
 
It's not going to happen this time. 
 
Quit worrying about mainstream numbers. There is so much music being sold in niche markets not accounted for and if you don't see that, I do not feel sorry for all of you as you stand in the bread line. Software always follows hardware and the major hardware of today's music lover is the iPod!!!
 
And Lenny, fucking buy the whole album. That is really what the artist is all about!!
 
Dane Spencer
VP Aeria Entertainment LLC
________________________
 
Hey Lenny: 

I'm a first timer but I love this topic.

Honestly, what is with all the pessimism? I can understand the regrettable nostalgia when anyone over 30 years old thinks of how they USED to buy music and I do not condone the butchering of an album as I believe it is like cropping a Van Gogh masterpiece, but plain and simply: even though record sales are at an all-time low, the overall DEMAND for music is through the roof.

More downloads (legal and illegal), more portable listening devices, better stereo technology, more concert goers then ever before, more use of music in movies and TV...There is no official way of telling but it is obvious, more people are listening and taking an interest to more music then ever before.

Is this not the point of EVERYTHING? An artist's music is getting in the hands of more people and the artists might not be making money off music sales, but if they have the right management team, they should be making a fortune off of digital music, merchandising, touring, marketing, endorsing, sponsoring, investing...etc. It is an evolution of the music industry that only appeared to be a revolution to the, excuse me, older music market. It is simply the new way of doing things, so either the music industry dinosaurs need to stop complaining and adapt to the times, or, get out of the way...because someone younger and more open-minded is going to come along and rock your world. Pun very intended.

db shockl
Indiana University

________________________

Lenny,

I've been preaching for over a year now that the first change the music industry MUST make is to put the cat back in the bag, even if we have to anesthetize it first!
 
Why should iTunes be allowed to act any different than Tower Records did??

As owners of the catalogs, can the record industry not mandate the way its merchandise is at LEAST bought and sold?
 
Go to iTunes, search for a single, there it is.  99¢ (tho the price is foolish). Now, if you want track 6 and 7... SORRY... ya gotta buy the album for that!

Before iTunes, we never let Wal-Mart or Tower dissect the record and sell the parts that were in demand!

Can you imagine going to a magazine rack and saying "all i want from the new Rolling Stone is the reviews, please. I'll just rip them out and leave the rest... here's your buck, thanks!"
Playboy, all I want is the interview please (uh huh) here's three quarters two dimes and a nickel.

What morons let this happen?

I love hearing people say CD's cost too much with too many songs they don't like.  Let's compare this justification...

Dinner at yer local PF Changs & cocktails for two = $75 minimum. (did you finish your plate or get reimbursed for what you didn't eat?)
 
Piece of crap Rob Schneider movie, popcorn & soda for 2 = $50 minimum. (did you get % of money back when you walked out?)
 
Laker game at Staples Center with hot dogs and soda for 2 = $120 minimum. (parking and fuel not included)
 
Harry Potter hardcover book = $35.00 (this manuscript could be easily read over the Internet... why are these books selling?)
 
In N Out burger, fries and a vanilla milkshake = $11.99 (15 minutes of pleasure)

CD's that took eight months to create and can be owned and enjoyed for the next 20-50 years... $9.99!
 
Unless, of course, you want just two songs...  then it's 1.98.  AND if you're a little short on cash this week, just go to Limewire and download it for free.

Comeone needs to get a clue... The record business has enough producers and A&R men playing execs.
 
What we are in desperate need of is a few good "business" men.

Jude Cole
Ironworks Music
________________________

An Open Letter to the Music Industry
 
I am tired of reading about the demise of the music industry.  If the music industry is so worried about album sales, then do something about it; their current approach is certainly not working.  One of their biggest problems is that they are upsetting their core market, the consumers that go into the stores every few weeks to buy new albums. The record industry should do everything they can to make their core audience happy, not continually screw us over and upset us.  The following are a few of the main actions the music industry needs to take to improve its reputation with its core market and to increase sales. 
 
First, consumers should always have the option of buying unedited albums. I have at least four albums that are edited that I didn’t know were going to be edited and my only option was to buy them edited. The Summer Obsession, Hedley, Crossfade, Gratitude and Seven and the Sun are edited no matter where you buy them. If labels don’t want parental advisory stickers, then have the artist change their lyrics, don’t bleep out the words on the album.  I am not a child and I would hope that Crossfade and Gratitude weren’t supposed to be bought primarily by fifth graders.  If I would have known that the albums would be edited, then they would have stayed on the shelf. An even worse case is the Good Charlotte DVD that recently came out. There are a ton of swears bleeped out of it. I am not a child and don’t appreciate being treated like one. 
 
Second, I should be able to go to my favorite music retailer, buy the album that I want and not have to worry if there is a better, exclusive version five stores down.  Bloc Party, Daughtry and Rascal Flatts have at least three different versions of their latest albums in various stores, some with two extra tracks the other versions don’t have.  After a friend of mine bought the latest Jewel and Snow Patrol albums, he found out that Target had bonus DVDs with both of them for the same price. He wasn’t too happy. 

When an album that I am highly anticipating comes out, I want it as soon as I can get it. I live two hours away from Best Buy and Target, I should be able to go to my independent retailer and pick up the same version that I would get in Best Buy, Target or Wal-Mart. This is the worst example of record companies trying to make sales. I am so fed up with this trend that if I am not able to get the best version because I can’t get to a store when I want the album or if when I get there the exclusive version is all sold out, I will not buy the album. What ever happened to supporting independent record stores?  I should not have to play a game every time I want to buy an album. The following are a few of the many albums that I will not be buying because I missed the exclusive version:

Saliva, Blood Stained Love Story (Best Buy Bonus Disc)
Akon, Konvicted (Target and Circuit City Bonus)
Nelly Furtado, Loose (Target Bonus DVD)
Three Days Grace, One X (Target Bonus Track)
Staind, The Singles 1996-2006 (Best Buy Bonus Tracks)

Third, what is with charging $10-25 extra for a special edition of an album (My Chemical Romance, Muse).  When DVDs originally were packaged with albums, they were free. 50 Cent’s first album was helped with an inclusion of a free DVD with it and even recently Ciara’s second album had a free DVD with it and it debuted at #1.  Charging $10-15 extra for a short DVD is ridiculous. Who is supposed to buy Panic at the Disco’s special edition of their album that came out over a year after the album was originally released and cost about $40.  Taking Back Sunday, 30 Seconds to Mars and the Dixie Chicks all had advance versions of their albums come out almost a year after the album was originally released. 

What about the fans who bought the album when it first came out?  What are they supposed to do?  Buy the album again?  Talk about disrespecting the consumers that originally bought the album. Placing Jessica Simpson’s new song on new versions of her album a mere one to two weeks after it was released was a terrible thing to do. I guess record labels don’t care about her supporters. I am glad the album bombed, it deserved to after how poorly it was mishandled.  Beyonce’s B’Day album’s last track said that it was “for the fans." Is the reissue of the album also for the fans? Why, so they can pay another $12 for the six new tracks?

If labels are are worried about album sales, there are still many ways to rectify the situation. The biggest solution would be if Wal-Mart sold Parental Advisory CDs.  There are so many consumers that download music illegally because they only have Wal-Mart to shop at or their parents only let them buy CDs from Wal-Mart. There are a lot of consumers that won’t buy any albums at Wal-Mart because they think that every album sold there is edited. You can’t buy edited movies and video games at Wal-Mart, so why CDs?  Have consumers show ID for parental advisory albums if they are worried about kids and music. 

Advertising is another area the record industry needs to improve at. I keep hearing how TV sells albums, yet I don’t see any commercials for albums during shows like American Idol and music award shows. If American Idol sells albums, you would think that they would want advertisements for albums during the show. You don’t even see ads for past American Idol contestants' albums.  Another thing is why when bands go on tour you usually can’t buy the main act’s albums at the show? 

Also, if albums have not been selling, then why are there a lot of shortages lately?  I went to three different stores last week to find Blue October’s Foiled.  A lady at work said that Amazon didn’t have two of the three albums that she was looking for (Hinder and Three Days Grace), so she bought them from Secondspin.com, a used CD site. A lot of times all that are left in stores is the special overpriced edition of albums. That’s a great way to make a sale off of a consumer looking to buy an album for a specific song. Consumers questioned CD prices long ago, so why release five different versions of an album, all but one of them overpriced to take up extra shelf space? Store shelves are littered with the special editions that cost $20 each for 30 Seconds to Mars and The Fray and most of the time there aren’t any copies of the original $10-14 versions.  Since consumers will download an album that they can’t find in the stores, it would make sense to make sure that they are well-stocked.

In closing, record labels need to stop ignoring and abusing their core market. Upsetting the core market is not a way to sell albums. If there continue to be store exclusives, edited everywhere CDs, and special editions (especially overpriced ones), then I too will start downloading my albums from illegal networks. At least if I download the albums illegally, I will get unedited versions of them and also be able to find all of the store exclusives.

Sincerely,
Robert J. Akesson          
________________________

Lenny,

It's the artists' fault. If someone puts out a quality album like Justin Timberlake (what are we at, six singles now??), then they will sell 3.7 mil (closing in on 4 million albums). OK, so maybe today's 3 or 4 million is yesterday's 5 or 6 (or maybe 7 or 8).

There are no coincidences... anything that should go multi-platinum. DOES, and anything that shouldn't... is unapologetically weeded out of existence. The thing is, the new business model is forcing artists to get their shit together and stop throwing together albums.Yet, no one DOES get their shit together because they don't have the ability, balls, and/or smarts to realize they are fucking themselves over. Franchise mother-fuckers! (or think about songwriting, maybe... it's a thought).

This day and age, artists are worth more than ever. Look at 50 Cent... In five years, he managed to become worth close to a half a billion dollars. Are you fucking kidding me, Oh, wait. CD sales are declining. Who gives a fuck.....franchise bitches!

The sales of CDs may not be a good litmus test/gauge as to the interest generated by a certain artist. But you can generally tell how many listeners you have (web hits, radio play, physical sales, digital sales, etc.).  If you generate a half a million album sales, start whoring yourself out. Clothes, ads, merchandise, merchandise!!!

OK, so maybe it isn't that easy to make some cash from merchandise, so I guess what I'm gettin at is... if you can only sell a half a million albums, DO NOT GO TO A MAJOR LABEL. Yet, the artists that only sell half a million albums are fucking stupid and would rather have some cracked-out staff do the work for them. Basically, people are stupid.

Someone will eventually come along on an independent level and smash the current music paradigm. Like freaks from outerspace, there will be a superstar group who will embrace all of today's technologies and build a community around themselves on an independent level that will generate more money/interest then mother fuckers thought was possible. They will embody what is means to be a BRAND, what it means to be INDEPENDENT. The Internet community will go ape-shit, and record execs will have orgasms.

This "band of the future" will shatter the belief system that currently exists by making records full of HITS, turning themselves inside-out for the enjoyment of the consumer, and using the global marketplace as a sperm lab to spread their seeds. Songwriting, consistency, personality, looks, live show and marketing prowess is what is needed by an artist these days.

I believe a band has to come that bridges the gap between rock and rap. NO!... Not Gym Class Heroes. Gym Class Heroes are like freshman bench sitters in the world of both rock and rap. A band has to come that will succesfully kill it on both levels, ROCK & RAP. No one has yet to do it (please do not reference Run-DMC, Kid Rock or P.O.D.)

I'm talking insane lyricism, melodically driven hooks, viral riffs, kick-ass drums and bumping bass lines. Think of an organic version of the Linkin Park/Jay-Z collabo. Think Red Hot Chili Peppers meet Eminem meet Jack Johnson meet Sublime meets Tupac.

I don't know who it is, where they are, or when....but I know that this is what the music industry needs. Give me a group like that (which will span gigantic demographics, 12-46... ha ha) and we will see record sales like we didn't believe was possible. Until then.... Smoke and mirrors baby.

Johnny
________________________


It happened when A&R people decided to step aside and let 18-year-old interns (sorry, A&R Research, ha) decide what was cool and them being so out of touch with the market, they trusted them.

People were deciding on which bands to sign by how many MySpace hits and plays they had instead of how good the songs were.

In my opinion, that made people uninterested in music.  You feed someone sour grapes long enough, pretty soon they are going to find something else to eat.

There is no development of artists anymore. They treat bands like a microwave in and out in five minutes. If I hear "Love everything about the band, but the songs are 80%... Let me know when you write more," I am going to explode. You give an A&R guy back in the day a song at 80%, he would love you forever.

Obviously downloading and such is a problem, but labels have to quit overspending and put that money into artist development. Someone needs to tell NY and LA it doesn't take $300k to make a record anymore.

Jason Fowler
UEG
________________________

Why Did This Happen? Uhm, albums suck. Even if I claim I like a recent album, I only like 70-80% of it.  I can't think of a full album I've loved from beginning to end since Annie Lennox's Diva and Janet Jackson's Janet. Those were in '92 and '93, respectively. I find I like more country albums fully lately, like Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, perhaps because they have melody and song structure. 

A&R is a lost art.  Those executives thought it was smart to chase a "sound,"  as opposed to building careers and creating solid, lasting work. Look at today's Top 40 radio chart. If you think there are 10 acts among the 40 that we'll be hearing 10 years from now, you are SO wrong. 

We need brighter A&R... Stop signing these non-singing, attractive, thin-voiced girls. And we need to take a little power away from recording artists and teach them to "collaborate," not only with their producers, but with the executives at their labels. If artists get too much control, you get Mariah Carey turning in Glitter and Charmbracelet, before humbling herself with a reality check to listen to her executives and give us The Emancipation of Mimi.

Jerry J. Sharell
SHARELLManagement
________________________

It “all started going wrong” in 1982, with the introduction of the CD. Labels became more concerned with format than with content: music consumers were re-buying great old music in a great new format at a great higher price, so finding quality new artists was no longer perceived to be essential to the labels’ future. And without the digitalization of music, mp3 file-sharing/ swapping/stealing could not have eventually happened. So a big shout-out to the mid-'70s R&D departments of Phillips and Sony! <wink>

Axl Nemetz
Dir. of Radio Client Services
RateTheMusic.com
Premiere Radio Networks
________________________

 In 1998, MP3.com hosted an inaugural event called the “MP3 Summit” on the campus of the University of California at San Diego. An estimated 300 hundred young men and women attended. One of the attendees was Ram Samudrala, a professor at the University of Washington and author of the Free Music Philosophy. He described his philosophy and purpose as: “It is an anarchisti

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