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Of course I want gimmicks, I'm a record producer!
June 15, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

DVDs to save the music industry (video interview) Record Producers discuss illegal downloads, home studios and why 5.1 DVD sound just might be the future.

And more - a further 180 interviews on the same site, Producers and Studios.
These vary in size and quality, from large video files, to small audio streams for anyone still on a dial-up connection.
posted by Lanark (62 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Good music will save the music industry.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:46 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good music will save the music industry.

You're conflating music and the music industry. Music doesn't need saving and the industry shouldn't be saved.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:58 PM on June 15, 2009 [21 favorites]


I wish I could've been around 100 years ago to hear the serious debate that went on in the buggy-whip industry as it faded from relevance.
posted by mullingitover at 1:59 PM on June 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


So this 5.1 surround sound... This is a new invention? The 5.1 Music DVDs reissues of major selling albums I bought back in '99-'00 was a figment of my imagination? Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots 5.1 DVD isn't sitting on my shelf over there?

I'm starting to think the problem has less to do with lack of innovation, and more to do with the fossilized capitalists who perpetuate the "too many chefs spoil the broth" scenario.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:59 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thankfully, music doesn't need saving. I'm drowning in great new music. I'll never be able to listen to it all.

The predatory industry that attempts to sell certain brands of music at ludicrous prices through monopolistic contracts and distribution schemes doesn't need saving, either. It needs to be dragged out behind the barn and shot in the head and put out of our misery.

I have no sympathy for the record industry. Well, I have one Experimental Audio Research album from the label Sympathy for the Record Industry, but that doesn't count.
posted by loquacious at 1:59 PM on June 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Good music will save the music industry.

No, less obsession with rent-seeking will save the music industry. Honest people make money by producing something tangible or providing a valuable service, not by incessantly manipulating the legal environment to force people to give them money for nothing.

I mean, er, lol corporate honesty.
posted by Maximian at 1:59 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Music industry to collapse under its massive arrogance. Music to thrive.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:00 PM on June 15, 2009


Why should we even think of "the music industry" as an industry at all?

After all, it's only been about the past 80 years that recorded music has been available. Before that people made do with playing their own instruments and the only comparable "industry" was the control by those who owned and produced sheet music.
posted by tapeguy at 2:03 PM on June 15, 2009


My theory: The music industry had the opportunity to make a value-added product with the DVD-A format back in the early 00s, something better that people might begin to pay for as CD sales dwindled. But the industry wrapped the format in so much DRM garbage that it wasn't cost effective for basement musicians to distribute DVD-As, let alone large labels, so people flocked to digital. MP3 and AAC have multitrack capability, and with bandwidth where it is, optical seems pretty much dead for the future of music delivery.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:05 PM on June 15, 2009


This will sound great on my tiny little earbuds!
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on June 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why should we even think of "the music industry" as an industry at all?

It sounds more evil and corporate!
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on June 15, 2009


Quadrophenia! I mean, quadrophonic!
posted by GuyZero at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do not think the music industry will be "saved."

I envision it as a two-box version of Matheson's "Button, Button," with various groups elevating their desires into "needs" and denigrating the priorities of the other. The Industry busily adds features, DRM, legal penalties while other technology races to make the obtaining of music nearly free to the consumer.

When you play "Button, Button," eventually everyone loses.
posted by adipocere at 2:16 PM on June 15, 2009


GuyZero: "I mean, quadrophonic!"

Yeah, beat me to the punch on that one.

Note to music industry: I re-purchased my LPs as CDs. I'm not interested in re-purchasing my CDs as DVDs. If this is your plan, get a new plan.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:17 PM on June 15, 2009


After all, it's only been about the past 80 years that recorded music has been available. Before that people made do with playing their own instruments and the only comparable "industry" was the control by those who owned and produced sheet music.

Okay, fine. I'll cede your argument. Music for pay is dead. Long live the new king: free mediocre bubble gum music designed to sell cellphones to people with minuscule attention spans for all.

But since your logic has now killed any hope I might have once had of making a decent living from my preferred trade as a musician, recording artist and self-publishing songwriter (never mind any hope of being able to give that trade full attention without having to inordinately sacrifice my family's well being and my own sanity), please, please, please promise you'll at least keep this infernal piece of air-tight critical thinking away from my compromise, sell-out job as a computer programmer/analyst.

After all, the so-called "computer industry" is even newer and hasn't even been around 80 years on any meaningful scale. Before that, the only comparable industry was the control by those who owned and produced abacuses and slide rules. (The bastards!)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:21 PM on June 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


5.1 surround sound DVDs to save music industry, Bugatti Veyron to save auto industry
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:25 PM on June 15, 2009


GuyZero: "I mean, quadrophonic!"

Quadrophonic might have been successful if there had been one standard -- there were at least 4 discrete and five matrixed version of playing back 4.0 sound. Never mind that there wasn't a base of installed systems capable of playing the product, if they'd picked one, they might have been able to develop the base. See the number of people who owned two speakers when stereo Hi-Fi came out, etc.

5.1 Audio, however, has an installed base, thanks to the home theatre. Thus, if you want to try multichannel audio, there is already a base of people with the players and systems to play it back -- since almost everyone who has a 5.1 audio system has a DVD player to drive it.

Having listened to Dark Side Of The Moon in 5.1 SACD and a couple of Porcupine Tree releases in 5.1 DVD, I am *all* for more multichannel. SACD pretty much failed in the face of DVD, despite the ability to be backwards compatible with CD. Well, that, and Sony being dicks about it.
posted by eriko at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2009


MyUtopia was a big supporter of 5.1 sound, but the label is dead, with a website stuck in 2004. They have a grand About page, with talk of fantastic demands and waging urban guerilla warfare. Their last words:

"We are full of optimism. We are the future."

Somewhere, I imagine boxes of their music DVDs, sitting and waiting for someone to remember the revolution. I loved their music, but it seems no one was ready for a 5.1 car stereo system or an iPod with a few extra speakers lodged in their headphones (and maybe a subwoofer in their backpack).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:33 PM on June 15, 2009


I can already turn 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio into FLAC and do whatever the hell I want with it from there. Wake me up when the music industry does something interesting.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:34 PM on June 15, 2009


Quadrophonic sound also failed because there's an ever-decreasing segment of the market willing to pay for these incremental "improvements". Mono broadcasts interest pretty much everyone. Stereo interest anyone interested in music, but you'll note that the stereo telephone never went anywhere. Once you have more channels than ears interest drops off even further. Is the expense of building up an ecosystem of 5.1 production a worthwhile investment to address the small segment of the market that's really interested in paying for it?

Given the choice between convenience and greater fidelity, the consumer audio market has chosen convenience pretty much every time. 5.1 audio DVDs aren't any more convenient.
posted by GuyZero at 2:35 PM on June 15, 2009


I am a firm believer in two channels for music. Too many tricks to make it mult-channel spoil a lot of recordings, although it might be something that can be gotten right with some practice. As for that SACD Dark Side of the Moon disc, aggghhh. They destroyed in it the remix. My Mobile Fidelity version on CD sounds even better than the SACD. That is just not right. The multi-channel effects worked out well here though as it was not like trying to reproduce live music or anything.
posted by caddis at 2:36 PM on June 15, 2009


I think 2002 wants it's headline back.

Having said that, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots sounds AWESOME in 5.1
posted by threeturtles at 2:38 PM on June 15, 2009


I want someone to out-Esquivel Esquivel: Make a new 5.1 Latin-Esque with 5 orchestras, and a separate bass section in a 6th studio.

I would buy that. And I imagine I would get rather spatially disoriented, but enjoy every moment of it.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:52 PM on June 15, 2009


The market has already decided this, and most consumers of music seem to prefer portability to audio quality. The vast majority of people seem to be happy with 128 kbit. If people don't care about encoding in lossless, why on earth would they care about files that are something like 7.5 times bigger than lossless.
posted by willnot at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


2 channels -> 6 channels == 3x more expensive?? Where does 7.5x come from?
posted by GuyZero at 3:04 PM on June 15, 2009


I'm holding out for Googlephonics.
posted by tommasz at 3:19 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having listened to Dark Side Of The Moon in 5.1 SACD and a couple of Porcupine Tree releases in 5.1 DVD, I am *all* for more multichannel.

eriko: Get yourself a DTS decoding amp and a bittorrent client and go look for the original Alan Parson's Quad mix of DSOTM. It pretty much kills the 30th Anniversary 5.1 mix, all over the place.

In fact, I've been reluctant to post the FPP I've wanted to compose about all the Quad mixes which are available these days. Audio lovers are liberating abandonware Quad recordings (many of them Q8, meaning they are discrete channels and not matrixed sound) and converting them to DVD or DTS-Audio format and releasing them into the wild in the form of torrents. I've been enjoying the fuck out of 4.0 (or 4.1) recordings by Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Marvin Gaye, Cat Stevens, Jefferson Airplane, Jethro Tull... just to name a few. And these aren't new mixes of old albums; many of them were produced and developed at the time with input from the band and original engineers / producers.

MeFi Mail me if you want particulars... They create a sound picture like no other, and for many of these albums, I will NOT look back at the stereo mix once I've heard the Quad.

That said, I also actively pursue modern albums mixed into surround sound. The Beatles' Love is outstanding in 5.1, as are many others I've gathered. Separating the instruments into more channels only allows my ears to parse more and thus enjoy details more. It's like being the conductor of an orchestra. You can play in the string bass section for years, but until you stand at the podium and have all of that spread before you, you've never really heard what is going on.
posted by hippybear at 3:31 PM on June 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Where does 7.5x come from? posted by GuyZero
DVD tracks are slightly larger/higher resolution than standard audio, and most DVD discs also include a separate stereo mix so 5.1 + 2 +extra bits ~= 7.5
posted by Lanark at 3:33 PM on June 15, 2009


From wikipedia: DVD discs hold up to 8 GB compared to 700 Mb on a standard CD
posted by Lanark at 3:39 PM on June 15, 2009


The market has already decided this, and most consumers of music seem to prefer portability to audio quality.

Virgin Media and Universal Music are teaming up in the UK, to allow any Virgin Media broadband customer to pay an additional fee to allow both streaming and downloading of as many music tracks and albums as they want from Universal Music's entire catalog (via /.) No price point set yet, but this is an interesting counter to P2P, and eMusic netting Sony (with increased rates). Just a reminder to Virgin Media and Universal Music (and anyone else who thinks great things last forever): eMusic used to offer unlimited downloads, back in 2003.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:43 PM on June 15, 2009


I re-purchased my LPs as CDs

That was your first mistake.
posted by anazgnos at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2009


So the music industry is banking on the idea that people don't download DVDs?

Because, um…well, they do.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:56 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're conflating music and the music industry. Music doesn't need saving and the industry shouldn't be saved.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. The music industry, in wanting to save itself, seems clueless.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2009


I re-purchased my LPs as CDs

I re-purchased my CDs as LPs. ;)
posted by caddis at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I doubt better audio quality will have any effect at all. There's a recent study (can't find the URL) that seemed to show that "the kids these days" actually prefer the sound of a highly compressed MP3...

Besides, how bizarre to be looking to yet another physical medium for the salvation of the music industry. One that's already outdated, no less.

/at work, so unable to watch videos, thus not sure if I'm misunderstanding the premise
posted by brundlefly at 5:53 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Besides, how bizarre to be looking to yet another physical medium for the salvation of the music industry.

too true
posted by caddis at 6:04 PM on June 15, 2009


please promise you'll at least keep this infernal piece of air-tight critical thinking away from my compromise, sell-out job as a computer programmer/analyst

As long as you are the kind of programmer who sells their labor, and not the kind who attempts to sell the same information to multiple people while abusing the legal system to create an environment of artificial scarcity where this sort of thing is profitable, you'll be fine.

Luckily, most programmers are actually of the former variety — skilled laborers or tradesmen, essentially — and the vast bulk of software written each day is bespoke stuff, of very little value to anyone but the person it's created for. (Similarly, I suspect that the vast bulk of musicians in the world sell their labor, and only a relatively small elite sell recording rights.)

If you depend on artificial restrictions on copying to keep you in electricity and heat, I do not envy you. But if you are selling your skills in straightforward transactions to people who need your services, you have very little to worry about.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:31 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The music industry should concentrate on the switch from concert T-shirts to concert track suits.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:36 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, they are taking a step in the right direction. Instead of data security measures (which won't work) and draconian punishments, they are trying to reward people who actually buy legally. Here's another suggestion, try the carrot. Include in legitimate CD packages a redeemable coupon for something worthwhile. (A collectible or something additional by way of music) It is easy to number the coupons to make sure they are legitimate and if you do get phonies coming in from a particular venue, you are tracking illegal copies.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:47 PM on June 15, 2009


You're conflating music and the music industry. Music doesn't need saving and the industry shouldn't be saved.

I think the mistake goes even further. You're both conflating the music industry in the abstract with its current business models. The music industry has existed for thousands of years--from the rhapsodists of Ancient Greece (who performed either for salary or hire and even prohibited written copies of their works from unauthorized circulation just like modern songwriters) to the wandering Troubadours (who were retained for their services on a contractual basis by wealthy patrons) and Court Minstrels (whose ranks were drawn from a trade guild) of medieval Europe.

People in Western society have very seldom devoted themselves to the creation of significant musical compositions without some expectation of financial or other material compensation (even if that just meant a roof over their heads and a hot meal). The idea that music as a commercial pursuit represents some crass 20th century aberration is a quaint myth, spawned by the worst kind of golden-ageism, on the order of the belief that before GE, inventors like Thomas Edison invented selflessly for no end other than the improvement of mankind.

It's the industry's business model that shouldn't be saved. If there's no music industry (meaning, there's no way for artists to make a living off of their music), there won't be much music worth saving for long. Our culture and its economic realities just don't leave enough slack for people to go around wanking off, devoting years of their lives to acquiring esoteric skills no one's willing to pay for. I'm sure we'll still have midi music, though, so at least there's that.

/more axe grinding
posted by saulgoodman at 7:05 PM on June 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dolby Pro-Logic II is what killed discrete 5.1 music. "Almost as good, works with everything" will win every time.
posted by esoterica at 7:11 PM on June 15, 2009


As long as you are the kind of programmer who sells their labor,

Yeah, the company I work for only produces code-for-hire (meaning, any code I write belongs 100% to the client). But IMO, that practice is actually a pretty significant source of waste and inefficiency. If we owned the code, we could build a large base of customizable and reusable functional components (a lot of our clients just need different variations on the same basic functionality anyway), and save our clients a hell of a lot of time and money through extensive code reuse. Plus, we could unit test and polish the hell out of every piece of code we write, and make the process of estimating development timelines and budgets into a much more rigorous science (whereas now, superstition tends to dominate). Instead, because there's such a high rate of developer turnover and because we don't reuse code as much as we could due to our work-for-hire approach, we have to re-reinvent the wheel with every new development effort and, though we generally do a good job of quality assurance anyway, it could all be a lot easier and more predictable if we just owned our own code.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:34 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just flagged myself for derail. Sorry.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:05 PM on June 15, 2009


saulgoodman: "Yeah, the company I work for only produces code-for-hire (meaning, any code I write belongs 100% to the client). But IMO, that practice is actually a pretty significant source of waste and inefficiency. …"

I've been in similar situations and can relate. However it's not really a deal-breaking flaw in the "labor model" of professional services. The solution is typically to negotiate a lower rate or faster timeline with your clients in return for taking some sort of non-exclusive license in lieu of complete ownership, or for granting you the same thing in reverse. A lot of companies just want to own everything by default, but are very amenable to code reuse when it nets them a significant cost savings. This may not work in every industry (some people are honestly willing to pay extra to own everything, have stupid things reimplemented just for them, etc.), but I have seen it work a few times.

Coming back to the music industry, you can be a composer, a performer, or both under the labor model. A "composer" sells (rents out, really) their ability to create unique works, and could be paid either based on actual time and materials or a fixed amount for the piece. Even in the absence of any copyright or other law restricting mechanical reproduction, a composer's employer benefits not from exclusive access to the produced work, but from the existence of something meeting their requirements where none existed in the world before. A "performer" plays music for a fee, which they might or might not have composed; their employer gets the benefit of the performance. Both jobs still exist and would be profitable, although I don't know what the demand would be like for each.

In either case I think the main difference from the current way of thinking is looking at the transaction in terms of services rendered and some (perhaps ephemeral) benefit obtained, rather than a "product" that is created and sold.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:18 PM on June 15, 2009


The solution is typically to negotiate a lower rate or faster timeline with your clients in return for taking some sort of non-exclusive license in lieu of complete ownership,

Our company has actually done this in one more recent case that I know about (I suspect at least partly due to my constant bellyaching about the need to do it). Still, it's frustrating to see how much crap code ends up in production due at least in part to the way these contracts are set up. And especially in a small market like my own, during economic downturns like this, when custom development services can seem like a much sketchier proposition to potential clients than customized off-the-shelf products whose feature sets are well-known and stable (if potentially limited by previous design choices), it just seems like any mid-sized software development company should have a few off-the-shelf products among its offerings.

But back to music: As I noted up-thread, I think it's important to understand that the concept of composition as intellectual property is not a modern development. The extended duration of modern copyright protections beyond the life of the creators may be an aberration, but even in classical culture, there was some expectation that an original composition remained an exclusive property of its creator. So it's not just some modern music industry legal perversion.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:54 PM on June 15, 2009


Also, I can't help noticing you don't mention recording artists. To me, a recording artist represents a different category of performer than a musician or even a songwriter. In fact, I'd argue that recording artistry as an art in its own right has only recently begun to come into its own, and involves an entirely new skill set of its own.

A gifted recording artist might be only an average musician--or even wholly unconcerned with music-making and songwriting (favoring more abstract or experimental sound collages, for example). Still other gifted recording artists might be too retiring, anxiety-prone or emotionally unstable to successfully manage the rigors of regular live performance (Eliot Smith, Andy Partridge, and Michael Stipe are just a few big names off the top of my head who've suffered debilitating stage fright and similar anxiety complexes).

But artists like these might nevertheless produce culturally valuable works of art that we'd all be worse off without. So where do pure recording artists--practitioners of one of the only truly modern art forms--fit into the mechanical royalty free world of the future? Maybe they'll just have to make do with recording music for macaroni and cheese commercials.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:21 PM on June 15, 2009


I re-purchased my LPs as CDs

That was your first mistake.


And judging from the rest of his comment about not going to buy DVD's, I'd say it's also his last mistake.

Fool me once, shame on, ehm...

dammit, bush, you ruined a perfectly fine saying!
posted by DreamerFi at 11:18 PM on June 15, 2009


People will continue pay for recordings. But they're paying for the convenience of having it pop right onto their smart phone, or to help out the band they just saw in the club, not to fetishistically fill up a shelf with jewel boxes. Vinyl has returned to satisfy the fetishists, 'cause the big artwork and easy-to-grasp mechanics of the turntable suit that state of mind.

I think you could argue that actually easier for the "pure recording artist" to exist- the barriers of studio time, and manufacture, and distribution have dissolved. Smith, Partridge and Stipe are just a few of the big names that include only a few more. And they did their time on the road just like everyone else. It's always been a minority of a minority that's be able to be successful in that sphere- like playing center in the NBA.

A few years ago, I was shocked to realize that two of my favorite albums of the decade were home recordings. Glass Candy's indie disco broke though hawking CD-Rs. B/E/A/T/B/O/X was being celebrated as an album before it was ever manufactured as a compact disc. Sufjan Stevens recorded Illinoise with a few sub-$100 microphones.

The business model for artists that will work into the future is probably the one that folk/grass/house-concert musicians have been following for 30 years: recording for small labels with a well defined identity for promotion, playing intimate shows grow a following, making some good cash from grant subsidized festivals in museums and city parks, and living in an area where you can get by on $30K.
posted by bendybendy at 4:57 AM on June 16, 2009


Artw: "This will sound great on my tiny little earbuds!"

That's the thing isn't it? Music is heard through earphones more than speakers these days so more than 2 audio tracks don't really make much sense.
posted by octothorpe at 5:20 AM on June 16, 2009


People will continue pay for recordings. But they're paying for the convenience of having it pop right onto their smart phone, or to help out the band they just saw in the club, not to fetishistically fill up a shelf with jewel boxes

I think (and also really hope) you're right. Downloads are the future, no doubt about it. My own little label practically only sells downloads anymore (which was kind of the idea originally anyway).

Smith, Partridge and Stipe are just a few of the big names that include only a few more. And they did their time on the road just like everyone else.

And Chan Marshall of Cat Power and Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson and on and on... I think you underestimate how many truly gifted recording artists there are whose best work we're potentially missing out on because we force them to be something they're not. For my own part, I've been performing my ass off on and off since I was 15 (and have been fortunate enough to share local bills with great bands like Iron & Wine, Enon, Mountain Goats, Mates of State, Luna, Crooked Fingers, Explosions in the Sky, The Walkmen, TV on the Radio, and a lot of other amazing bands), so I can say from experience, as great as performance is, it can all feel like a big waste of time when your real passion is recording and you just want to get back in the studio and make something.

A few years ago, I was shocked to realize that two of my favorite albums of the decade were home recordings. Glass Candy's indie disco broke though hawking CD-Rs. B/E/A/T/B/O/X was being celebrated as an album before it was ever manufactured as a compact disc. Sufjan Stevens recorded Illinoise with a few sub-$100 microphones.

That's actually my point. There are amazing artists out there right now producing their own recordings, using techniques that have never been used before. Whatever it takes to cultivate those activities as a sustainable art form in its own right, that's what I'm for.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:52 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hook my iPhone up to my kitchen stereo while cooking and eating. I put it in its cradle in the car while I'm driving. At work, I plug in my phones and groove all day long (Dr. Dre's Beats rule!!). It is also my phone, surf-while-waiting-for-anything device, movie guide.

WTF would I want to lug around a DVD for???? Sure I would like better quality in downloaded songs, but I'll never buy music on a physical media in my life again. Period. *having* music where I can listen to it is infinitely more valuable then owning "higher quality" recordings where I can't listen to it.

The *only* future in music formats is better quality codecs for downloaded music.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:31 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Health insurance reform will save the music business. As it is now the vast majority of musicians can't live without a day job if they want to have health coverage. Sure, a tiny fraction of musicians actually make a living playing music as part of the current industry, but they are outliers. If I could piece together a living doing gigs, self released recordings and some production work for others, without having to carry the heavy burden of carrying an individual health insurance policy (assuming I could get coverage and afford it), I'd quit my day job in a second.

None of which would do a thing to save the parts of the music business wedded to making money selling physical recordings. But it would sure free up a lot of musicians (not to mention other artists and craftsmen) to make a living at their art, so the re-tooled industry could be made up of musicians and not corporations out to make a buck.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:50 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Health insurance reform will save the music business.

Does this explain all the hot Montreal bands? I mean, sure , maybe, but I don't see the Canadian arts scene being so much more blazing hot than the US scene in spite of this basic difference. It's not like every other 20-something in Toronto is a jeweler or something - you still gotta pay the rent, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 2:15 PM on June 16, 2009


You're right, GuyZero. Health care's only a part of the solution.

What we really need is a National Pop Music Institute.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:22 PM on June 16, 2009


Maybe if there was a 50-state version of Eurovision... then the invisible hand of the pop music market could work its magic.
posted by GuyZero at 2:34 PM on June 16, 2009


saulgoodman: "Also, I can't help noticing you don't mention recording artists. … But artists like these might nevertheless produce culturally valuable works of art that we'd all be worse off without. So where do pure recording artists--practitioners of one of the only truly modern art forms--fit into the mechanical royalty free world of the future? Maybe they'll just have to make do with recording music for macaroni and cheese commercials."

Long run? They're dead. Insofar as their business model depends on monopolizing reproduction and selling copies of creative works rather than labor, it's not sustainable as the marginal cost of making and distributing copies approaches zero and becomes widely available. They're as dead as the labels.

I don't say that with any sort of satisfaction, I just don't see any other outcome. (Well, that's totally not true; I see lots of possible outcomes, including really horrifying ones like nuclear war and building DRM chips into every electronic device, but I don't think they're likely.) The lossless-copies genie is not going back in the bottle; it's just a fact of life moving forward.

That's not to say that I think that copyright is really going to disappear; it will stick around as a legal concept, probably for generations, and it will be a factor in lawsuits and get gnawed on by the legislature every once in a while. But it will not be particularly relevant to day-to-day life. People are going to copy and share stuff like crazy, and I don't think there's a guilt-inducing MPAA sponsored PSA in the world that'll do a thing about it.

Maybe there's some alternative business model for recording artists, who are neither composers nor performers, but I think it's going to be difficult for them. Perhaps because the whole idea of a "recording artist" is such a modern one, which has only existed in a time when the idea of copyright was enforced (or made enforceable) by the limitations of contemporary technology, they're going to have to change more radically than performance musicians or composers.

If the 20th century turned a lot of services (like composing or performing music) into products, maybe the 21st will force us to find ways to turn products (like a musical recording) back into a service. People might not be willing to pay much for a copy of any one recording in particular, but some might shell out for a service that provides them with a constant stream of new music selected or filtered by experts; that might provide a revenue stream via which recording artists might be compensated, since the services would depend on them to provide new content. Maybe some fans would compensate recording artists directly in order to ensure the same flow of new material. It's hard to say what will work; I think the only thing that's clear is that the current model — "productizing" labor and selling it over and over to a lot of different people and expecting them to not copy it — isn't going to.

I'm really not trying to make a value judgment one way or another. It's not that recording artists don't deserve to make a living, or anything else like that; I just don't see how they're going to, unless they make some serious changes.

Although I don't want to derail the thread again, I think that novelists and the publishing industry are in much the same boat. The public's less-than-warm initial reception of ebooks may have bought them a few more years, but eventually the day is going to come when books are as easily copyable and widely copied as MP3s. When that happens, the industry will either figure out how to transform itself from being product-oriented to service-oriented, or we'll see a spectacular collapse that will make the music labels look like a drop in a bucket.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:10 PM on June 16, 2009


Interesting posts, especially about recording artists. I think there is value in preserving recording artists, and copyright may be the only way of ensuring that happens. I think the key is for record companies to make the cost of legal acquisition of music less than that of illegal acquisition and sell convenience of access.

Although it's probably not possible and a waste of resources to enforce copyright completely and bust everyone who shares music, the mere fact that it's illegal and someone gets busted means that illegal music sharing will probably always be, to some degree, underground.

Legal music downloading should be able to trump illegal music downloading in terms of convenience, but that hasn't happened because the music industry is pricing themselves out of the market, offering a worse version of the product than illegal sources with stuff like DRM and low bitrates, and unable to collectively coordinate a central site to get everything to provide value-add through convenience. (itunes/amazon might be the closest thing to centralization, but they still don't have everything and still have the low bitrate problem)

The recording artist industry can still survive, but profit margins and expectations will need to be lower. If you're not a service-oriented performance artist, you'll probably have to settle for making significantly less money since the price of your work will suffer the downwards pricing effect of illegal downloading, but you should be able to still make SOME money.
posted by I like to eat meat at 4:45 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the future, there could be a single centralized clearing house data store that actually stores all the media content, regardless of which label and/or retailer are involved. Buying media then wouldn't mean physically downloading the content, but only buying access to an encrypted key that lets you download the music through a portable iPod-like device (which could interface with your computer and other devices just as the iPod and similar devices do). This device won't store the actual media content, just encrypted data about what content you're allowed to access from the central data store (i.e. product keys). Then the source media content wouldn't even be available for copying in most cases. Once legacy physical products are phased out, piracy wouldn't be an issue anymore.

Not saying I advocate this approach, but it's one that would work.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:35 AM on June 18, 2009


saulgoodman: "Buying media then wouldn't mean physically downloading the content, but only buying access to an encrypted key that lets you download the music through a portable iPod-like device (which could interface with your computer and other devices just as the iPod and similar devices do). This device won't store the actual media content, just encrypted data about what content you're allowed to access from the central data store (i.e. product keys). Then the source media content wouldn't even be available for copying in most cases."

Except that in order to play the material, the portable device must download it. Even if you call it "streaming," it's really just downloading at the rate it's being played, instead of at the highest speed the connection can support.

You could try to program the devices to not keep copies beyond some small buffer or cache, and if you made the devices iPod-like sealed boxes this might be tamper resistant for a while, but you're really just building a DRM scheme. All you'd need to do would be to reverse-engineer the keystore on the portable device (not trivial if it's done right but not impossible either), and then you'd be able to intercept its communications with the central repository and decrypt the content offline later.

Keeping all the content on a remote server doesn't buy you that much; the weakness is the same one inherent in all DRM systems — you can't give a user permission to play digital content, without also giving them permission to copy it. That's the real rub for copyright in the 21st century: we're used to being able to split up rights, and allow some people to do x but not y, but digitization doesn't allow for that. It's pretty much all or nothing.

Personally I think watermarking is a better route if you're interested in trying to sell copies; at least with watermarking you don't also inconvenience legitimate users, like the guy who just wants to play the content on a different operating system, or make a backup copy, or a dozen other things. By not pissing off legitimate users, you ensure the only people working to remove the watermarks are doing it either for nefarious purposes, or simply for the technical challenge. If you're not adversarial about the system and don't turn it into a high-profile target, you can minimize the second group. Then, you just try to price the content low enough and make it convenient enough to buy, so that there aren't too many people interested in removing the watermark in order to share it widely.

I still think that selling copies of digital "stuff" is a losing game in the long run compared to selling services/labor, but there are ways to eke out a small profit if you're willing to walk a very fine line.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:39 AM on June 18, 2009


Except that in order to play the material, the portable device must download it. Even if you call it "streaming," it's really just downloading at the rate it's being played, instead of at the highest speed the connection can support.

But the data stream could be encrypted with a proprietary key on the device itself (yes, there'd have to be a buffer on the device, and some fixed storage memory and software to make retrieval of recent and commonly accessed content faster to compensate for the processing overhead on the device created by encryption, but those issues could be solved). If all the major labels and large independents uniformly adopted such a platform, or something similar, and only released material in this format, it would make piracy exceedingly difficult.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:00 AM on June 18, 2009


It has to be unencrypted to hear it.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2009


Or, slightly more clearly, it has to be decrypted to hear it.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2009


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