Friday, November 30, 2007

What the HECK is going on with the Music Industry‽‽‽

Yes, THREE interrobangs!

But seriously, what is going on? It seems every day over the last week I've been reading about incredible change, and yet I'm still seeing business as usual.

First off is the whole debacle over Trent Reznor's remix site After butting heads with Universal (apparently releasing NIN samples in this manner would impact Universal's lawsuit against Youtube/Google, lol), Reznor just threw the site up anyway. Universal's control is weakened, but not completely absent as Reznor did make some small concessions. From
The head-scratching apparently ended on Monday (11/26), when Reznor unveiled, where an FAQ explains how the site is dealing with the aforementioned concerns about fans using unauthorized materials in conjunction with their NIN remixes. The site describes unauthorized materials as "samples of songs by other artists, or samples from movies, TV shows, or video games," and says that any remixes containing such elements "will be rejected during the approval process."
"Please understand that it is not our wish to impose these restrictions on your creativity or the functionality of this site, but we have no choice in the matter," the FAQ continues.

So Universal's been hamstrung, and apparently so has Warner. Hot on the heels of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr's admission of mishandling music's digital conversion (add that to Doug Morris bumbling through his explanation of how these new intarwebs frighten his age-ed soul, via Wired), we're now witnessing an accelerating drop in CD sales. Warner specifically, is reporting a 58% drop in CD sales over this time last year, and a net profit of only five million dollars (as opposed to twelve last year, via Yahoo/Reuters).
Warner's plan is to get more involved in artist "packaging" including image rights, management, advertising, and touring revenue, but for a company that is, admittedly, reactionary and obstinate about change, one has to wonder if they can actually shift gears fast enough to stay relevant. Madonna has already left to pursue more non-traditional distribution, not to mention a whole slew of others like NIN and Radiohead. Will others follow their example, or stay with the current, failing business model?
[Cartoon from HijinksEnsue]

Lastly, EMI is considering pulling funding for the RIAA. One of the Big Four that support the fan-suing organization, it's looking to cut a significant portion of the $132 million it contributes to the RIAA each year. This would be a positive step in my opinion, and right in line with EMI's new radical stance (Idolator), but I can't let go of that number. One HUNDRED and THIRTY TWO MILLION dollars, every year! That's TEN times the profit Warner made LAST year on album sales. You really have to question an industry that will pay ten times what it makes to sue and harass the very customers it's trying to attract. [Story @ Ars Technica]

So, we've got all this news, newsnewsnews, and yet the RIAA is still blackmailing people, artists aren't getting paid any better for their work, and it still costs me $15+ for a new-ish album (unless I go "gray market", or locked DRM crappy low bitrate download). Great.


Enough bitching from me, back to work...

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