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Dead men walking
January 7, 2009 8:18 AM   Subscribe

“You can’t roll a joint on an iPod” or how the iPod killed the music industry. First the music biz overlooked the computer CD rom when they put copy control on cd burners. Then they eliminated the single. Shortly after that "mp3" replaced "sex" as the most popular search term. Apple has become the largest music seller largely against the wishes of the music biz, but 99 cents beats free. Yesterday Apple announced they were eliminating DRM. The questions remains, who needs Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, and EMI, does Apple? When is Apple just going to replace them? There were rumors a year ago that they would launch a record label with Jay-Z but that does not appear to have come to fruition.
posted by caddis (105 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
See also.
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:21 AM on January 7, 2009


Previously on Metafilter!
posted by dunkadunc at 8:23 AM on January 7, 2009


Geez, Apple is no white knight. Their methods for monopolistic consumer gouging aren't much less scurrilous than the music labels. A solution is needed, but Apple solves nothing.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:23 AM on January 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


Come on, am I the only one that remembers Industry Rule #4080?
posted by nasreddin at 8:25 AM on January 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


Apple's core competency certainly isnt in producing music. The labels will always be here because they can find the talent, market the talent, manage the talent, etc. They also own the last hundred years or so of modern music. That catalog isnt going away. The last line of that article even admits that Apple cant even get anyone on the radio
In a followup article, the Boy Genius Report suggests that Jay-Z may not run the record label, but would instead reside as an "urban" artist. Such a move would allow Apple to make similar deals with other artists, using Jay-Z's ability to get artists on the radio.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:26 AM on January 7, 2009


And you can totally roll a joint on an iPod. Actually, if you know anything at all about joint rolling, you won't need a flat surface in the first place.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:26 AM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Industry Rule #4080?

Record company people are shady.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 8:29 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's Apple's total market share of music sales? Last I heard it was negligible.
posted by stbalbach at 8:33 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's see. We're talking about a music industry who consistently put out garbage, worked with falsely inflated profits because they behaved as though the flush of money that accompanied their switch to CD was going to be ongoing income, rather than last the amount of time it took people to switch over their LP collection, and had absolutely no business model in place when MP3s became popular except to sue filesharers. That music industry? A feather could have killed them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:33 AM on January 7, 2009 [7 favorites]



Record company people are shady.


I, for one, think they probably smoke crack. I don't doubt it, look at how they act.

Anyway, you can totally snort coke off an iPod, so I don't see what the problem is. I thought that was the whole reason they caught on early among the NYC/LA hip set.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:33 AM on January 7, 2009


If Apple gets into the rap business, this old fart is getting a PC!
posted by HuronBob at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2009


If there's one thing Apple's good at, it's explaining away the omission of a feature you thought you needed. So goodbye joint. Now we just wait for the unibody iBong.
posted by condour75 at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2009


The labels will always be here because they can find the talent, market the talent, manage the talent, etc.

The talent can find, market and manage itself now. If something is good it will get blogged.


They also own the last hundred years or so of modern music. That catalog isnt going away.

No, I own it. I can get anything I want in less than five minutes, free and in high quality. That catalog also isn't going away.


The last line of that article even admits that Apple cant even get anyone on the radio


On the what hahahahahahahahaha
posted by fleetmouse at 8:45 AM on January 7, 2009 [19 favorites]


Apple Records ... has a nice sound to it.
posted by king walnut at 8:47 AM on January 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


No, I own it. I can get anything I want in less than five minutes, free and in high quality. That catalog also isn't going away.

hear, hear.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:49 AM on January 7, 2009


If there's one thing Apple's good at, it's explaining away the omission of a feature you thought you needed.

Yeah, like (titter) a (snicker) built-in FM radio (BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA). But let's not do that again, it was dumb enough the first time.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:50 AM on January 7, 2009


Apple's core competency certainly isnt in producing music. The labels will always be here because they can find the talent, market the talent, manage the talent, etc.

I agree, but I think the landscape is going to be very different now that digital music and online distribution are becoming the norm. Today to be a successful record label you have to do all of that, and manufacture and distribute CDs across the country. A lot of the bigger "indie" labels pay for distribution from the majors behind the scenes. The distribution infrastructure is a big barrier to entry, and the result will probably be smaller, leaner labels that don't have to worry so much about logistics.

The last line of that article even admits that Apple cant even get anyone on the radio

This is less a problem with Apple and more a problem with the radio. Payola is a stupid system, and the result of its widespread use is that when you listen to a mainstream radio station the music you hear is basically a collection of ads paid for by record companies.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:51 AM on January 7, 2009


Is the DRM-free thing retroactive as well? Will the tracks I've already bought be unlocked, or would I have to buy them again (which I'm certainly not going to do)?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The last line of that article even admits that Apple cant even get anyone on the radio

The what? Are you talking about WiFi?
posted by mr_roboto at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


> There were rumors a year ago that they would launch a record label with Jay-Z

There are also rumors that Apple would launch an iPhone Nano, a tablet, a netbook computer, merge with Nintendo, release the Beatles music archives, and do all kinds of other things that are rumors because they are made up by people who are not involved in Apple in any way but are heavily emotionally invested in Apple's fulfillment of their fantasies.

That, sometimes, these fantasies come true has as much to do with the people predicting them having insider access as winning the Lotto has to do with insider access to the magical ping pong ball fairies.
posted by ardgedee at 8:54 AM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Apple Records ... has a nice sound to it.

The final (2007) outcome of the long-ongoing Apple Corps vs. Apple Computer/Apple Inc. court battles was that Apple Inc. now owns all trademarks related to the word "Apple" and is actually licensing it back to Apple Corps. So if they wanted to, they really could call it "Apple Records".
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:57 AM on January 7, 2009


You know, the fact that nobody listens to the radio anymore could be good for radio. Maybe the corporations will ignore the stations they own and the jocks will actually start playing what they want. Or maybe they'll abandon the stations entirely and random people will just walk in and start playing whatever.

It could happen.
posted by jonmc at 8:58 AM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


“You can’t roll a joint on an iPod”

Duh, that's what Garage Band is for.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:58 AM on January 7, 2009


release the Beatles music archives

This isn't so far fetched, given the arrangement I mention in my above post. All the individual Beatles' solo material is available on the iTunes store, and Paul McCartney mentioned early last year that he thought it would be happening soon. It's probably just a matter of time before this happens, and the holdup is probably with EMI rather than the living Beatles/John and George's estates/Apple Corps/etc.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:03 AM on January 7, 2009


Apple, and other digital distributors of music, is only competing with a certain part of what major and indie music companies do.

I think for a small percentage of artists, dealing directly with Apple and similiar distributors will be all they need. For a slightly bigger percentage of artists, Apple delivers ONE of the things they need.

For a rather large percentage of artists, a professional team that is focused on the career of the artist will be needed. This team could be a major label or large indie, and they again will be utilizing the services of amongst other, Apple.

I don't think the music biz will implode within the week, but changes, yeah they need to happen, they will, and they do.
posted by gmm at 9:04 AM on January 7, 2009


And you can totally roll a joint on an iPod. Actually, if you know anything at all about joint rolling, you won't need a flat surface in the first place.

True, but you can't clean out seeds on an IPod.

(Seeds? Did I just say seeds? God, I'm getting old.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:04 AM on January 7, 2009


I will continue to buy CDs until lossless, non-DRM music downloads are widely available. Also, I stopped using iTunes because it's slowly changed from a neutered media player (No folder monitoring? What?) to the Apple Shopping Channel. It's not the best solution for people who get their music elsewhere.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:07 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree, but I think the landscape is going to be very different now that digital music and online distribution are becoming the norm.

Thats assumed but I dont see the labels bowing out of the process. The end of the labels gets predicted every year, but we have yet to see it. They are slowly adopting to the new way of doing things. Amazon and itunes both selling non-drm music was unheard of three or four years ago, but here we are.

As far as the great blogger revolution? Where is it? Top 40 is still Beyonce and Rhianna. Its not your favorite indie pop band. This fluff pop stuff is still making money and is still on the radio, which a lot of people still listen to, especially teens who more or less dictate top 40.

The changes in the few years really havent been the doom and gloom the hiperati have been predicting. If anything digital distribution is here and its old news and the labels are still the ones calling the big shots and finding/funding/producing the big acts.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:10 AM on January 7, 2009


It's not the best solution for people who get their music elsewhere.

iTunes, especially on the Mac where you can extend it with Applescript (which is incredibly useful for managing ID3 tags), is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one. If your MP3 collection consists of 2-3GB of random, poorly tagged files with few or no complete albums like many people's does, then don't bother.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:14 AM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


2-3GB of random, poorly tagged files with few or no complete albums

even with 60 GB of random, poorly tagged files and lots of complete albums iTunes works pretty well. It is still slow as hell to scroll and the infuriating limitations in selecting more than a screen full of music to move or attend to in some way still irk me, but it seems pretty good otherwise. If you have something better though I would love to hear about it.
posted by caddis at 9:23 AM on January 7, 2009


few or no complete albums like many people's does

What-bums? Is that like how when you want to get a Charizard you have to go through a buncha booster packs of Squirtles? :-/
posted by breath at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


I know it was a huge waste of paper...but I miss those giant cardboard sleeves CDs came in. It was some sort of rite-of-passage to buy the CD, carefully open the packaging, then cut out the front of the sleeve to hang on your wall. You would have a wall chock-full of CD covers to show off your music collection. Almost like the iTunes "Cover Flow" for the 1980's...
posted by JibberJabber at 9:28 AM on January 7, 2009


Ugh. I hate iTunes with every fiber of my being. I don't use osX much so that's probably part of it, on windows it's massive bloatware and foobar 2000 does it all better. But basically I hate having a music player treat me like it knows my filesystem better than me.

Do not search my hard drive. Do not make me juggle playlists if I don't want to. Do not try to predict what I want or what I'm doing. Let me handle where my files are, when I can copy them, how I back them up. Make me feel like I own them and I'm not just renting them from apple.

As far as as apple dropping drm, that's great and all, but emusic has been drm free for like a decade now. And sure, it doesn't have the classic rock/modern pop collection that iTunes store does, but if that's your focus, drm probably isn't big on your horizon anyway. (until something changes and you can't get to your music anymore)

Also, I know everybody is used to it now, but making your player indistinguishable from your store? Sleazy.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:31 AM on January 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


my girlfriend, a former musician from a family of musicians from a community of musicians, laments the day when a band could make a living wage playing small venues, rather than competing for gigs with kids who'll work for beer.

i don't know how true that is, but i'm pretty attracted to the idea that musicians should get paid fairly for what they do - play music - rather than hope to live on album sales and play essentially for free.

if apple and all those other clowns want to fight over who gets to capitalize on the sweat of musicians, that's fine, but the real angst on the part of the consumer should be over the fact that most working, touring musicians get paid less than mexican tomato pickers.
posted by klanawa at 9:31 AM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


iTunes, especially on the Mac where you can extend it with Applescript (which is incredibly useful for managing ID3 tags), is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one. If your MP3 collection consists of 2-3GB of random, poorly tagged files with few or no complete albums like many people's does, then don't bother.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:14 PM on January 7 [+] [!] Other [5/5]: «


The thing that finally got me to switch was the iTunes database bombing when I tried to start the program. I nuked the database and reinstalled iTunes- same thing. Some forum searching led me to find it was the size of my music collection that was causing it (265 gig at the time). I switched to Mediamonkey and couldn't be happier.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:33 AM on January 7, 2009


iTunes does a lot more than just give you a store. You can download free(!) album artwork for any old album you have (purchased or not) with one click. Assuming iTunes recognizes the song or album name it works beautifully. This makes it really nice to browse through your music collection visually.

And despite the fact that I'm slightly nervous that Apple has a database with my musical tastes in it somewhere, the "Genius" playlist feature is eerily good.

To be fair, though, if you are computer savvy, and are very particular about the way you organize your files, iTunes will stomp all over that if you let it. I imagine that most people who have a hate-on for iTunes installed it, and accidentally clicked "yes" when it asked if it could organize all your music files (i.e. copy them all into one directory, and subdirectories by artist and album)

iTunes is kind of a beast, but it does a lot. It manages a lot of different kinds of media (audio, video, etc), manages podcast subscriptions, plays internet radio stations, audio books, etc.

My big gripe is that iTunes once upon a time synched with just about every mp3 player on the planet. Just plug in and go. That feature was silently killed (apparently)
posted by device55 at 9:36 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's Apple's total market share of music sales? Last I heard it was negligible.

Apple is the top music retailer in the US, surpassing Walmart in April of 2008.
posted by zsazsa at 9:41 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The talent can find, market and manage itself now. If something is good it will get blogged.

If labels serve no purpose then why do unsigned bands continue to sign (or create their own labels) even after achieving success without them?

Broken though it may be in many respects, the record business and the labels do serve a purpose, particularly for bands who interests and skills lie more in making music than in exploiting it. Their ability to allow bands to tap into existing structures of promotion and distribution is, in most cases, far superior to what the bands could achieve on their own.

The Arctic Monkeys, the darling of the band-without-label case, signed with Domino, despite getting a UK #1 single on their own.
posted by camcgee at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2009


my girlfriend, a former musician from a family of musicians from a community of musicians, laments the day when a band could make a living wage playing small venues, rather than competing for gigs with kids who'll work for beer.

i don't know how true that is, but i'm pretty attracted to the idea that musicians should get paid fairly for what they do - play music - rather than hope to live on album sales and play essentially for free.


Well hey, playing music is fun! If you're a teenager or in your early 20s, playing a small venue for beer beats playing the garage and buying your own beer.

Also, the indie ethic has reduced music to something like playing hacky sack. We'll watch a cute girl play either hacky sack or bass because it's fun to watch, and she's clearly having fun too. But people who work at their craft are sort of uncool and a little creepy. I mean, how can you be that obsessed with playing hacky sack? It's like watching someone alphabetize their canned goods.

So I guess musicians can either accept playing for beer or try to inculcate a love of quality songwriting and musicianship in their audience. Good luck with that.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:46 AM on January 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


iTunes once upon a time synched with just about every mp3 player on the planet.

Before the iPod came out it supported a few Rio Audio players and a Nike player. I guess at the time that could be argued as being "just about every mp3 player on the planet."
posted by zsazsa at 9:49 AM on January 7, 2009


If labels serve no purpose then why do unsigned bands continue to sign (or create their own labels) even after achieving success without them?

For the same reason that people hire accountants when they have a bit of money.

Their ability to allow bands to tap into existing structures of promotion and distribution is, in most cases, far superior to what the bands could achieve on their own.

Right - the "labels" are now the front ends of distribution channels. The bands who have found some degree of success hire out the talents of people at labels in exchange for a piece of the action. It's so different now from the old "let me make you a star and fuck you in the ass" scenario that Steve Albini complained about that it's not worth making the comparison.

The Arctic Monkeys, the darling of the band-without-label case, signed with Domino, despite getting a UK #1 single on their own.


They probably also hired housekeepers.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:51 AM on January 7, 2009


If labels serve no purpose then why do unsigned bands continue to sign (or create their own labels) even after achieving success without them?

This is a really interesting question because I'm struggling with the idea of starting a label myself. I don't really have a good answer for it, other than being a community style clearing house and aggregation of effort.

But that's not insignificant. I personally am sick to death of trying to promote my band and would love if someone could help out. That's the problem with apple, they just retail. So of course my band is on itunes, but so what? Nobody knows about us.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:51 AM on January 7, 2009


OverlappingElvis: Is the DRM-free thing retroactive as well? Will the tracks I've already bought be unlocked

One word: yes.

This was in the presentation at MacExpo, along with a lot of other stuff. (Like: they're abandoning the one-size-fits-all 99 cent price and going to a range from 59 to 139 cents; like they're adding an iTunes Pro store with much higher bit-rate/fidelity tracks: like iPhone users will be able to buy tracks over 3G ...)

It might be a good idea to go read the original announcement rather than to pose rhetorical questions iintended merely to burnish one's cynicism credentials in public.
posted by cstross at 9:52 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


competing for gigs with kids who'll work for beer

They get beer?!?!

Lucky jerks.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:52 AM on January 7, 2009


You need an iPod Touch for that joint.
posted by bink at 9:54 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the hell? I know I got that link right.
http://www.i-spliff.com/ISPLIFF.html
posted by bink at 9:55 AM on January 7, 2009


Is the DRM-free thing retroactive as well? Will the tracks I've already bought be unlocked, or would I have to buy them again (which I'm certainly not going to do)?

If you want DRM-less tracks for your already existing iTunes MP3 purchases, you'll have to pay thirty cents each to upgrade them, changing them to the 256-kbps bit rate AAC files per Apple's initial venture into DRM-free music. It's only a one-click purchase for everything in your library, so paying this extra tax will be easy for the majority of users who got hooked into iTunes in the first place.

I'll probably pony up for my few impulse-purchased iTunes tracks, which I got mostly through gift cards (thanks, Mum!), but I'm old fashioned enough to buy CDs of the music I really want to keep, having been scarred early on by an unlucky hard drive/back up drive failure.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:57 AM on January 7, 2009


What-bums? Is that like how when you want to get a Charizard you have to go through a buncha booster packs of Squirtles? :-/

I have no idea what that means and I'm pretty sure I don't want to, but parsing from context I can answer the question thus: musicians who are artists who produce art, as opposed to image salesmen who produce consumer products, arrange their songs into concise wholes, which are called "albums". This may be confusing to those who are used to the alternate approach, i.e. packaging the big single with 12 tracks of filler and skits, but this is the way it has been done since it was innovated by the Beatles (before that, the big single was packaged with filler, so I guess the more things change...).

A mostly foolproof way to spot someone who just thinks of music as background noise and doesn't venture very far outside the Top 40 kiddie pool is that they attribute the decline of the music industry to "CDs with just one 'good' song".
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:58 AM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


As far as the great blogger revolution? Where is it? Top 40 is still Beyonce and Rhianna. Its not your favorite indie pop band. This fluff pop stuff is still making money and is still on the radio, which a lot of people still listen to, especially teens who more or less dictate top 40.

As I mentioned above, the majors spend a large amount of money paying independent promoters to get stuff played on the radio, so charts that feature airplay as the only factor or even a big contributing factor are always going to lean toward the artists that the big record companies are promoting. And really, they spend a whole lot of money in general getting people to listen to and buy music from their artists, so it makes sense that their music would be the most popular.

But that's not really the point anyway. Aside from anomalies like OK Go and Soulja Boy going from obscurity to fame over night, blogging and Internet buzz is never going to give any one artist as much exposure as a huge major label throwing around tons of money can. But they can give a band enough exposure that people will come to their shows and buy a tshirt, or download a track from iTunes. If the market tightens up enough that profit margins and revenue streams collapse for the majors, they won't have all of that money to throw around to prop up their artists in the Top 40.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:01 AM on January 7, 2009


Well, in or out of the 'kiddie pool,' there's an awful lot of artists who have maybe one or two good songs in them (and there's nothing wrong with that, that's one or two more than I've got), and I think we've all had the experience of shelling out for an album full of filler to get that one great song we really want. and as somebody once said "nobody walks around humming albums."
posted by jonmc at 10:06 AM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


As far as the great blogger revolution? Where is it? Top 40 is still Beyonce and Rhianna.

I don't see a single goldurned horseless carriage in these here stables! The Kentucky Derby still pulls in tons of money!
posted by fleetmouse at 10:14 AM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have no idea what that means and I'm pretty sure I don't want to, but parsing from context I can answer the question thus: musicians who are artists who produce art, as opposed to image salesmen who produce consumer products, arrange their songs into concise wholes, which are called "albums".

Ha ha, I was just being snarkily dismissive of the idea of albums being a cohesive "work of art", in the vein of those who have dismissed radio. I'm sure some people still listen to albums, much like some people still attend classical music concerts wearing suits and ties. It's there, and more power to it for stayting, but it's niche and getting more so.
posted by breath at 10:17 AM on January 7, 2009


iTunes... is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one.

Any file browser or command line and a disciplined set of hierarchical directories.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:20 AM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ok, maybe a bit of an over statement, but it did work with quite a few: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2172
posted by device55 at 10:21 AM on January 7, 2009


Wha? Organize your music collection? You don't have folders strewn over 3 different hard drives?

I like Foobar 2000, but then I like to customize programs. For many people iTunes or Windows Media Player do what they want well - play music. They don't care where music resides, and may not really understand or care about files and folders.

As for record labels: there are success stories for indie bands rising in fame thanks to blogs and word-of-mouth. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were the first big ones I heard of this way (now signed to Wichita Recordings). Arctic Monkeys sold out the London Astoria without being on a label, but as camcgee pointed out, are also signed to a large-scale Indie label. Bands and artists can make a go on their own, but they need to have some existing form of information-spreading to support them. I don't think a new jazz artist could rise the same way as indie rock bands, but I could be wrong. (Then again, I think jazz labels are fewer and stronger - I was at a music label discussion where a Blue Note (?) rep talked about supporting more mainstream pop artists like Norah Jones to be able to release the more obscure and avant garde stuff that might be a financial loss on the whole.) Well known artists like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails can sell MP3s online from their own sites and do well, but others will flounder. Being available isn't enough.

And on the other side of things, Pop music will always sell, and major labels will always craft pop stars. Beyonce and Rhianna will be replaced, but their kind of stardom will never go away. It's catchy and instantly likable, but usually without substance. Those who care for the craft of music will probably enjoy it in passing, but will look for more meaningful music elsewhere. The only change is that record labels are not required to get sold, but they help for getting known.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2009


If I look at my favourite albums, well, the ones that actually had singles, most often the songs I like the most aren't the hits, and a lot of these songs took a number of listens before they became my favourites. I'm not so stuck on albums as works of art, but sometimes the best songs(to me, anyway) are the obscure ones that don't get marketed as hits.
posted by Bearman at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2009


iTunes... is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one.

Any file browser or command line and a disciplined set of hierarchical directories.


OK. What about my tags? What about album artwork? What if I want to search by genre or date? What if I want to make a playlist of all the songs I have with the word "Fuck" in the title? These are just simple examples, you can get a lot more complicated. I suppose I could write Python scripts or something to do this stuff (I could, my father, for example, couldn't), but why would I when I can just use iTunes and do it a lot quicker and more efficiently?
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:28 AM on January 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


I don't see a single goldurned horseless carriage in these here stables! The Kentucky Derby still pulls in tons of money!

Perhaps you missed the recent article about how the long-tail economies arent working and people are still buying the most popularly marketed items and the other 90% of the catalog is largely ignored.

The problem with the big internet/blog revolution thesis is that people arent all passionate and informed music lovers. They honestly dont care. They care as much about music as you care about vacuum cleaners. They wont read your 16 page exegesis on The Streets "Everything Is Borrowed." Its just business not a religion.

It turns out that marketing and quick impulse buying works in music just as well as anywhere, if not more so. That model isnt going away anytime soon and its ruled by the big labels, who by their nature can produce big acts.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:29 AM on January 7, 2009


BTW, all my music is in Artist/Album hierarchical directories anyway, a habit dating back to when I had a dedicated homebrew MP3 stereo component I made out of a small form factor computer, back when the Rio PMP300 was new. Now iTunes does the same thing better with tags.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:31 AM on January 7, 2009


"Ring tones have become serious business"

Dear God.

"Apple’s near monopoly on music sales"

And that's just flat-out wrong.
posted by aerotive at 10:39 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


iTunes... is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one.

Mediamonkey.
posted by mattholomew at 10:42 AM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


the other 90% of the catalog is largely ignored.

I recall the analysis of that article here at mefi was that the majority of that 90% was guys doing general midi bossanova covers of christmas carols, and otherwise taking a dump on the distribution channel because of the low marginal cost. Look at this. I just saw an ad for it. How many people are going to buy something like that? And yet there it is, and someone's even paying to advertise it.

Anyways the old industry can hang around as long as it pleases. And I will continue to ignore it. I have no vested interest in replacing it or destroying it. Smoke does not pour out my ears a la Yosemite Sam when Madonna sells a million copies of My Hard Candy Walker.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:49 AM on January 7, 2009


This may be confusing to those who are used to the alternate approach, i.e. packaging the big single with 12 tracks of filler and skits, but this is the way it has been done since it was innovated by the Beatles (before that, the big single was packaged with filler, so I guess the more things change...).

I assume you're talking about Rubber Soul, which begat Pet Sounds, which begat Sgt Pepper. I find this a bit ironic, because the Rubber Soul that Brian Wilson most likely heard 'I really wasn't quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs ... that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, "That's it. I really am challenged to do a great album."'
... was packaged by Capitol suits, who stripped off "What goes On", "Drive My Car", "Nowhere Man", and "If I Needed Someone" in order to create a cohesive folk-rock record for the American market. So the innovation in this case could be argued to be the work of suits, and not artists.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:50 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


ArsTechnica article on Itunes being the "#1 Music Retailer in the US"
posted by mattholomew at 11:04 AM on January 7, 2009


Apple announced they were eliminating DRM

No they didn't. They announced they would sell DRM-free music. There's a significant portion of revenue derived from things that will still have lots and lots of DRM (movies, tv, audio books, etc)
posted by blue_beetle at 11:15 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


So the innovation in this case could be argued to be the work of suits, and not artists.

This may be true, but Capitol's butchery of The Beatles' US releases notwithstanding, The Beatles were the first rock/pop group to produce albums that fit together as a whole (the UK/Parlophone versions anyway, which were released as they intended), rather than a slapdash collection of songs. You could argue someone in the jazz or folk genres did it before them, I don't know (I've got like 5 jazz records, and they're the ones everyone has: Sketches Of Spain, The Shape of Jazz to Come, etc.), but they certainly were the first to do it for popular music and were the ones that everyone else followed.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:23 AM on January 7, 2009


Hey, bink -- that iSpliff site is FPP material.

Apple Green.

(And you can, indeed, roll a spliff on an iPod Touch; but it's even better for doing lines.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:24 AM on January 7, 2009


Sorry, linked back to this thread -- I meant THAT iSPLIFF SITE.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:25 AM on January 7, 2009


What's Apple's total market share of music sales? Last I heard it was negligible.

I don't know about Apple in particular, but since Apple is far and away the leading retailer of digital track and full-length music downloads, I imagine they account for the largest share of digital sales, and digital sales apparently exceed physical sales now.

According to Nielsen's State of the Industry Report for 2007--2008 (pdf available here; see page 5), there were significantly more digital music sales than there were physical sales in 2008.

Of the total music, video and book sales for 2008 (as percentages of total YTD purchases made at the time the report was issued):

--Music in total accounted for 59% of media purchases
--Sales of full-length format music (digital or physical albums) accounted for 15% of total music purchases
--Digital track downloads accounted for 39% of total music purchases

Also:

--Physical CD albums accounted for 89% of total album sales in 2007; down from 94% in 2006. [And at the time the NAMM report was released, digital album sales represented a whopping 15% of all album sales in 2008.]

...Which means digital full length album sales accounted for more than 10% of all album sales in 2007 and as much as 15% in 2008. In fact, the report also notes that in the Rock and Alternative genres, digital album sales actually exceeded physical sales in 2008. So when you take this huge chunk of digital album sales into account, plus twice as many sales of individual digital tracks (an average of 20 million paid downloads a week in 2008), and suddenly, digital retail really does seem to be effectively on the way to replacing traditional physical retail.

With Apple remaining the biggest player in digital retail, their total market share is probably anything but negligible these days.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:29 AM on January 7, 2009


Or what mattholomew said.

"Ring tones have become serious business"

Dear God.


Tragically though, it's true.

More from the NAMM report:

--During 2007, 220 million ring tones were purchased which totaled $567 million
--The top selling ring tone during 2007 was T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank” which sold greater than 2.3 million ring tones.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:35 AM on January 7, 2009


If labels serve no purpose then why do unsigned bands continue to sign (or create their own labels) even after achieving success without them?

For the same reason that people hire accountants when they have a bit of money.


So, your contention is that because people are capable of buying Turbotax and calculators, personal accountants are a dying faction?

The original point stands: Labels provide a valuable set of services for a lot of artists. Just because it's possible to succeed without a label doesn't mean that it's the optimal way to go about it.

Yes, there is a vast market of self-made, self-distributed, self-promoted music, but the overwhelming majority of it will never reach the kind of audience or see the kind of return in popularity or financial success that is possible with label support.
posted by camcgee at 11:36 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


My big gripe is that iTunes once upon a time synched with just about every mp3 player on the planet. Just plug in and go. That feature was silently killed (apparently)

This applescript will sync a playlist with a usb-based mp3 player. I use it with my Sansa clip.
posted by mecran01 at 11:56 AM on January 7, 2009


You can't roll a joint on an ipod

You can cut some lines though...
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2009


The original point stands: Labels provide a valuable set of services for a lot of artists.

Precisely - the balance of power has shifted. Labels are no longer gatekeepers, godmakers and deal breakers. They're not bosses. They're employees. They're a service bureau.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:09 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


The original point stands: Labels provide a valuable set of services for a lot of artists. Just because it's possible to succeed without a label doesn't mean that it's the optimal way to go about it.

Amen to that. Optimally (in addition to doing more of the routine drudge-work so your favorite band can focus on--well, you know, not sucking as much), labels should function like a reliable retail brand name to help music fans sort more efficiently through the gazillions of new releases that come out every year to find music they really love.

Personally, I think one of the biggest problems in the music industry in recent years has been brand dilution: It used to be more common that record labels were strongly identified with a particular genre of music or a certain aesthetic outlook. These days, most labels' catalogs are so diverse and heterogeneous, you can't just shop for music by the brand anymore. When I was a freshman in high school, I basically found new music by buying whatever new releases Dischord Records, Revelation Records, Taang! Records and a handful of other labels put out. A little later it was 4AD and SubPop. These days, there seem to be fewer and fewer labels with strong brand identities whose catalogs offer any kind of consistency. That's one of the most important roles I think a good label can still play: helping to sort through all the music out there and to throw a spotlight on new music with the most potential to appeal to its core audience.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:17 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


iTunes... is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one.

My collection is 300+ GB, and Winamp with ml_ipod is handing it very nicely. I'm only using iTunes to update the firmware.
posted by muckster at 12:48 PM on January 7, 2009


You know, all you LOLRADIO people, that radio is still more popular than iPods, right?

Here , Here , etc.

And saying that the back catalogue doesn't matter just because you're willing to grab music without compensating artists doesn't really mean much, especially since you're overlooking commercial use of the music which brings a fair amount of revenue, and where getting sued is much more likely.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:52 PM on January 7, 2009


I didn't even read the links. What sort of crap post is that?

What-bums? Is that like how when you want to get a Charizard you have to go through a buncha booster packs of Squirtles? :-/

Ha. I remember the first time I heard a screaming kid in Target: "But I don't want a Squirtle! I want a CHARMANDER!!"

I still listen to (a lot) and buy (fewer and fewer) albums, LPs if they are available, CDs (rarely) if not. It seems like LPs have a longer shelf life. CDs can wear out, and then what's the point ...

There were a lot of great albums last year that really worked as albums: Wolf Parade (At Mt. Zoomer), Bonnie Prince Billy (Lie Down in the Light), Rural Alberta Advantage (Hometowns), No Age (Nouns), Fuck Buttons (Street Horsssing), Islands (Arm's Way), The Walkmen (You & Me) ... and many more.

The fact that I can name all those albums off the top of my head makes me think that lots of very successful artists are still interesting in creating cohesive collections of songs.

These days, there seem to be fewer and fewer labels with strong brand identities whose catalogs offer any kind of consistency.

Barsuk
Matador
K Records

are 3 that i enjoy, just off the top of my head again. I'm sure there are many, many more.

Also, seconding (thirding, fourthing?) MediaMonkey. It's much, much better if you like to create your own directory structure. I only wish the free version let me burn MP3 CDs...

Btw, didn't we have this same exact discussion yesterday? (not to mention the jillion times previously ...)

on preview: I also listen to the radio quite a bit, online and via stereo, particularly for classical music and college radio. it's not going anywhere, though I wish it would and the FCC would open up the spectrum to anyone who wanted to broadcast.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:56 PM on January 7, 2009


--During 2007, 220 million ring tones were purchased which totaled $567 million
--The top selling ring tone during 2007 was T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank” which sold greater than 2.3 million ring tones.


God damn them to hell, I do not understand the appeal of ringtones and hate them with a passion. Nothing ruins a song faster than hearing two seconds of the hook loop over and over again every time someone's phone rings. At first I thought it was a generational thing (old people hate them, young'uns can't get enough of them!), but plenty of adults seem to have them, too. If I liked a particular song, the last thing I'd subject it to would be the indignity of a zombie-fied existence as a ringtone.*

* If you wish, you may imagine me delivering this rant out in the country as I lean on a shovel and chew tobacco, with a piece of straw sticking out of the corner of my mouth.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:01 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have no use for iTunes or Apple in general, and QuickTime can die in a fire.

And the only thing I use the (once terrible, now mediocre) Zune software for is uploading stuff to my Zune. I would really prefer to just access the hardware like a portable hard drive.

There's already an operating system with folders and renaming and stuff for organizing music. That plus an old, less bloaty version of Winamp is enough for me.

eMusic and Magnatune provide me with more DRM-free music than I could possibly handle for a total of $30/month (100 downloads from eMusic, unlimited from Magnatune).
posted by Foosnark at 1:04 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Barsuk
Matador
K Records


mrgrimm: sure, those are all good ones. absolutely kosher and secretly canadian used to be pretty consistent, too. and merge and subpop are still among my favorites (though i'm not sure if they can be described as having strong identities these days). but i don't think those labels have the reach that labels like motown or sun records had in their day. and who can even tell the major labels with their hordes of forgettable imprints apart anymore? lava records, for example, which is an imprint of atlantic records (which is itself a subsidiary of warner group) counts both the "blue man group" and "kid rock" among the artists in its roster. now what exactly, apart from the ability to fill up rural civic centers, do those two artists have in common? nada. and if i'm a particularly partisan music fan, i might really resent seeing the music of an artist i otherwise like associated with the music of an artist i hate.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:24 PM on January 7, 2009


DecemberBoy writes "but why would I when I can just use iTunes and do it a lot quicker and more efficiently?"

I'd like iTunes a lot better if the database didn't constantly get corrupted (much like all the iLife products). Plus, if I didn't have to support some difficult clients who insist on using it for their collection of thousands of songs but can't be bothered to clear up the database themselves. Also, I mostly use FreeBSD for daily use. No support for the platform.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:31 PM on January 7, 2009


saulgoodman writes "Personally, I think one of the biggest problems in the music industry in recent years has been brand dilution: It used to be more common that record labels were strongly identified with a particular genre of music or a certain aesthetic outlook. These days, most labels' catalogs are so diverse and heterogeneous, you can't just shop for music by the brand anymore. When I was a freshman in high school, I basically found new music by buying whatever new releases Dischord Records, Revelation Records, Taang! Records and a handful of other labels put out. A little later it was 4AD and SubPop. These days, there seem to be fewer and fewer labels with strong brand identities whose catalogs offer any kind of consistency."

You're looking in the wrong places. Remember that SubPop started out small and scrappy. SubPop became diluted because it became popular. There are still independent labels which are distinctive, but I see more labels giving way to collectives and cooperatives. The label mostly provides an umbrella these days, unless it's a major, and they're mostly looking for new ways to monitize their dwindling stable of artists. What you're looking for is still out there, unless of course you're looking for the next SubPop, because the '90s are over.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:37 PM on January 7, 2009


> >release the Beatles music archives
>This isn't so far fetched...


Sure. Apple's releasing a minified, feature-reduced version of the iPhone isn't far fetched either. My guessing it has nothing to do with whether Apple plans to make one, either now or some time in the future. But I'm not predicting anything, and I'm not saying this with any insight into Apple. It's a guess.

There's a rich ecology in people making up crap about Apple, calling it insider info or informed predictions, and feeding the rumor mills. They range from asshats with blogs to asshats running high-powered consultancies. They're pulling in the readership, viewership, ad revenue and consultancy dollars because they're very, very assertive about what they're making up out of whole cloth. Just because crap they make up occasionally comes true in no way proves that they're not making crap up. I can't think of any other company that fosters such an intense frenzy of making crap up.
posted by ardgedee at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2009


mrgrimm wrote "The fact that I can name all those albums off the top of my head makes me think that lots of very successful artists are still interesting in creating cohesive collections of songs."

The fact that you can name all those albums off the top of your head makes me think that you have access to better radio stations and/or care about music more than most of the people in the US.

I can't help but think that if every town had access to a decent non-Clearchanneled radio station we'd all have better taste in music. But you can't get to like what you never hear, can you? That's the stranglehold the industry has on people. We only find new music if we go looking for it, and it's hard to look when you don't know what you're searching for.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:45 PM on January 7, 2009


You're looking in the wrong places. Remember that SubPop started out small and scrappy. SubPop became diluted because it became popular. There are still independent labels which are distinctive, but I see more labels giving way to collectives and cooperatives. The label mostly provides an umbrella these days, unless it's a major, and they're mostly looking for new ways to monitize their dwindling stable of artists.

The weird thing is that nearly every industry is filled with mergers and giant faceless corporations, but they still do a good job with branding. There are people who will only buy cars from Ford, or will only drink beer from Miller, but there's nobody who will only buy records from Universal or Sony.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:07 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


We only find new music if we go looking for it, and it's hard to look when you don't know what you're searching for.

I agree with the first part of that, I think, but not the second.

There is an absolutely colossal gravy boat of amateur music journalism on the Web, most usually with links to individual songs or even full albums. Just pick one at random; if you don't like it, try another, and another, and another ... even if you don't know much about music, I think you'll find something you like very quickly, then build from there. Just my 2c.

The fact that you can name all those albums off the top of your head makes me think that you have access to better radio stations and/or care about music more than most of the people in the US.

Also, I don't know about that. The 2nd part, OK, I'll give you that. The first part? That was definitely true in the 80s, but now, if you have Internet access, you have literally terjillions of radio stations to choose from. All it takes is the willingness to turn off MTV/VH1 or wherever mainstream schlock is played these days, and perhaps the willingness to be a little different than your peers. Growing up, *none* of my friends liked the same music as I did. I had to find it *all* on my own. But I did.

Heck, just go to Soma FM or Shoutcast and try a few radio stations, then write down the names of the songs/artists that you liked. Then search for that song/artist on Google/Myspace/Last.fm/imeem/finetune/pandora ... it really isn't rocket science.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:24 PM on January 7, 2009


You know, all you LOLRADIO people, that radio is still more popular than iPods, right?
And I'm sure that for a while horse and buggies outsold Mr. Ford's machines too. Radio is dying mostly from self-inflicted wounds. Too much right-wingery, neutering what shock jocks can say and station management that makes government workers seem like risk takers by comparison.
posted by owillis at 2:54 PM on January 7, 2009


I hope this FPP at least slows the every-Apple-thread complaints about "Apple's" DRM on iTunes, but I imagine we'll keep hearing it anyway, same as the "Macs don't support two-button mice" misunderstanding.

I've been buying DRM-free music from the Apple store for most of the last year (and you know, scrolling through via scrollwheel and right clicking for More Info along the way...) and I'm not exactly a newbie who doesn't know how to use BitTorrent.

I'm glad they've finally pried this away from the labels. The DRM has always felt kludgey, like Apple didn't want to do it anyway.
posted by rokusan at 4:10 PM on January 7, 2009


Mix. Rip. Burn.
posted by markkraft at 4:29 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Who rolls joints, anyway? I know, it's the "classy" way to partake, but what a waste of product. Glass pipes are where it's at.
posted by zardoz at 4:32 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Amen, brother. Who needs the paper smoke or, even worse, the *cigarette* tobacco some people mix in?

I'm partial to glass pipes myself (just as easy to pass around without the waste of a joint), but I have warmed to my friend's Volcano as well, which he claims is healthier (I argue it's not quite the same effect).

Although, when on vacation in Hawaii a friend leaving early left us a little less than a quarter bag left the night before we left and we rolled 3 of the fattest joints I've ever seen. We only smoked 2 and tried to give the 3rd away as a gas station, but no one would take it!

What's this about Apple now?
posted by mrgrimm at 5:20 PM on January 7, 2009


iTunes... is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one.

amaroK (20+ gig collection. But, of course, it's Linux only.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:43 PM on January 7, 2009


Amen, brother. Who needs the paper smoke or, even worse, the *cigarette* tobacco some people mix in?

Eh, inhaling butane with every hit isn't much nicer than paper smoke. Besides, there are *hemp* papers.

or so I am told.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:03 PM on January 7, 2009


and I'm not exactly a newbie who doesn't know how to use BitTorrent.

And yet you still buy music from Apple. Interesting.
posted by MikeMc at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2009


Beatles music archives

People, they weren't that good. Stop trying to remember your hippie years and try out some other bands. You won't be disappointed.
posted by Evilspork at 6:41 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Screw Sony, I get my music from Riot Folk.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:49 PM on January 7, 2009


iTunes... is the best software for managing a large music collection in existence. If you disagree, name a better one.

seconding PhoBWanKenobi. Amarok has all the features of iTunes and to my mind is better-organized, more intuitive. Add to that a mysql backend and you don't need to worry too much about a corrupted database.

Also, it's available (if unsupported) for windows and osx.
posted by grubby at 7:14 PM on January 7, 2009


nth Amarok. I'm trying to think of something iTunes does better than it (apart from integration with the iTMS).

Didn't know it ran on MacOS though... that's my new mission for the evening.
posted by pompomtom at 7:31 PM on January 7, 2009


Bah iTunes, I get 10 tracks for a pound instead, & they're organic & locally sourced. the artist still gets pretty much the same cut as iTunes.
posted by yoHighness at 7:47 PM on January 7, 2009


What you're looking for is still out there, unless of course you're looking for the next SubPop, because the '90s are over.

Hey--SubPop's catalog is the best it's ever been right now, IMO. I know the good stuff's out there now, too. I just don't think the majors do a good job of brand identity.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:48 PM on January 7, 2009


and I'm not exactly a newbie who doesn't know how to use BitTorrent.

And yet you still buy music from Apple. Interesting.


Sometimes, sure, when there's something I want in the next four minutes before I leave for work, or when it's click right there in front of me. It works well, is faster than finding a torrent for some stuff, and 99 cents usually feels about right for the impulse purchase.

I never did buy a single DRM-protected song though. Offensive.
posted by rokusan at 9:58 PM on January 7, 2009


You most certainly can.
posted by Netzapper at 10:42 PM on January 7, 2009


Radio is dying mostly from self-inflicted wounds. Too much right-wingery, neutering what shock jocks can say and station management that makes government workers seem like risk takers by comparison.

In the USA maybe. They can have the various BBC Radio stations back when they pry them out of my cold, dead hands.

Sure there's some inane dross on there (Radio 1 I'm looking mainly at you) but Radio 2 and the others can be a veritable goldmine of new and old music after about 8pm on a weeknight.

These days I tend to find I have to keep a pen, pad, and the iPhone Shazzam application within easy reach at all times.



FULL MUSIC TASTE DISCLOSURE: Be warned though - I have, shamefully, caught myself listening to "The Organist Entertains," several times now.

I tell myself it's because a like sniggering at the title, but in reality I suspect I'm just finally turning into my Dad.

posted by garius at 8:02 AM on January 8, 2009


Bah iTunes, I get 10 tracks for a pound instead, & they're organic & locally sourced. the artist still gets pretty much the same cut as iTunes.

Bah, Ten Tracks. They have some good artists, but they only make 1 song available for each (2 or 3 for a very few artists).

The entire catalog is less than 100 songs!
posted by mrgrimm at 9:05 AM on January 23, 2009


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