Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Absolutely Free - Part 1


Why do I believe music will be free?

A can of coke costs about 60p. Of that 60p a few pence goes to whoever I bought it from, a few pence goes to whoever transported it, a few pence goes to the raw materials and a few pence goes to packaging. In the end, coca-cola will make very little profit (there was a period in the 40s where they actually made a loss on every sale).

In a competitive market, the price of a product falls to around the marginal cost (that is the cost of creating one additional unit). The fixed costs - setting up the factory, promoting the brand etc are not reflected in the unit price.

Apply this to music.

The marginal cost of one digital copy of an album is zero. OK, not exactly zero. There is some time involved and some bandwidth, but pretty much zero. Kinda like my chances of fucking Megan Fox.

Sooner or later the price of digital music will fall to meet the marginal cost. Zero.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Capital G

Trent Reznor. The very mention of his name is enouGh to Get my dick hard.

He Gets it. He knows where the music industry is headinG… and he knows because he has already been there. Years aGo.

These days he is just showinG off.

Check out his latest.

FuckinG Genius. Yet another perfect example of an artist makinG money by sellinG somethinG actually worth payinG for.

I want this one.

If you don't already know why Trent Reznor is Lord HiGh MiGhty God of All That Is Awesome (and seriously, if you don't, why are you readinG this bloG?) then this video is a Great summary.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Takin' Care of Business

I reckon that if I snuck up behind a record exec, drugged him, dragged him to an abandoned warehouse, shone a light in his face and asked him about the music industry… he would probably agree with pretty much everything that is said here and here and here and here.

These guys aren't stupid, they know the score. (Well, maybe)

So what's the problem? Why do they insist on suing customers, locking up the internet and screwing artists if they know there's a better way?

At the end of the day, these guys run companies. It is their duty to act in the best interests of their shareholders. Can you imagine standing up at an AGM and saying, 'hey guys, new plan, we're going to fire the vast majority of our staff, downsize the company and start taking a smaller profit margin on all business'. Um, fuck off.

It's classic innovator's dilemma. If they change to keep with the times they will end up undercutting their current business and losing a hell of a lot of money in the process. If they try to keep things as they are, they will end up losing out to upstarts.

So they've chosen option 3 - litigate the hell out of competitors, bribe the government into protecting obsolete business models and threaten to ruin the lives of anyone who dares live in the 21st century. Classy.

But at the end of the day I don't blame them. That's their job so no hard feelings.

(I am not quite so forgiving of the politicians).

So here's what I'd do (Mr Big Record Exec please feel free to 'pirate' this - but in return I want a job - or Pixie Lott's phone number). Start a small indie label subsidiary. Hand it over to some tech savvy youngsters and let them get on with it. Hell, set up half a dozen to see what works best. Then, as the indie label grows, gradually integrate the main label into it. Start with fringe artists and then move more mainstream.

Easy. Solved. Now I'm off to work on global warming.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

When Will I Be Famous?

'That's all well and good, but what about my brother's band who can't make any money because of piracy?'

Piracy isn't the problem. The problem is your brother's band is shit.

Tell your brother to stop being a little bitch, write some decent tunes and generate some buzz. Then we'll talk about piracy.


And that's why LawPUNK doesn't get invited to parties anymore.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

What Do You Do For Your Money Honey?

The graph below comes for The Times Online (via Hypebot and my flatmate).

Let's be straight, this is probably bullshit. I've heard so many nonsense numbers about the music industry that I refuse to believe them or rely on them… even if they support my position. No wait, especially if they support my position. I don't use made-up shit to disprove other made-up shit. That's like arguing who would win a fight between Santa Claus and Jesus.

But there are still 2 points we can take from this graph.

The first is that the recording industry and the music industry are two very different things. The record labels only represent one small (and increasingly obsolete) part of a much larger industry. Remember that the next time a record exec is bitching about piracy killing music.

The second is that recorded music is only one of the ways an artist can make cash. There are a whole host of other revenue streams a savvy artist can tap into, including live music (and from the graph it appears that they can make a ton), merchandise, sponsorships and endorsements. Even in LawPUNK's free music utopia, artists will fill their hot-tubs with champagne and supermodels.

We're going to be returning to these 2 points again and again, so get used to them.

And for the record, Santa would tear him apart.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Changing the Past

'much of the problem with illegal sharing of copyrighted material has been caused by the rightsholders, and the music industry in particular, being far too slow in getting their act together and making popular legal alternatives available.'
- All Party Parliamentary Communications Group

apComms seem like a bunch of decent guys. They're on our side. I appreciate that, I really do… but I still think they're wrong.

It is an argument I hear a lot, and I don't think it does us any favours.

It is correct, of course, that the record industry has been too slow to respond to changing technology, but let us imagine that they had not been. Imagine if things had been different.

It is December 1999, Napster is just beginning to take off and Metallica have not yet sent a threatening legal letter to LawPUNK's future girlfriend. The RIAA, guided by the artists it represents, decide not to sue Napster, but instead to welcome it with open arms. With flowers in their hair they collaborate with Napster founder Shawn Fanning. Now the music on Napster will come directly from the record labels and be available for download at the very reasonable price of $5 an album with a free blow job for every 100th customer.

Would that have made a difference?

Yes and no. I'm certain it would have been a huge success, a far greater success even than iTunes is today. It may even have kept record executives in sunglasses and Cuban heels for another couple of decades...

But that's all. Delaying the inevitable.

The end result was always going to be the same. I won't go into the reasons for it here (I'm saving it for a future post), but music was always going to be free eventually.

I don't often side with the record industry, but telling them that it's their fault is unfair. Yes they handled it badly, and yes they have done a great job at being royal assholes, but they were always heading in the same direction.

It's like the Terminator trilogy. Even though they blow up Skynet they still get f*cked by robots in the end.

And yes, I used 'trilogy' on purpose.

Monday, 30 November 2009

I am not a Lawyer and I am not a Punk

We are approaching a golden age of music.

Soon all recorded music will be free to everyone. Artists will draw from an incredible range of sources to create new art with more depth and variety than ever before. The cream of those artists will make more than enough money to keep them in cocaine and midgets, while many more will earn a healthy income from their music. More, better music for everyone. And fewer bass solos.

I truly believe that. It is inevitable.

But getting there won't be easy. A lot will have to change, and a lot of people will lose a lot of money from those changes. Those people will do everything in their power to stop it. They already are. It's already happening.

Don't worry though, we'll get there eventually.

I am not industry insider, nor am I an expert in media or IP law (or anything else) but I love music and want to speak up. If you want a more in-depth analysis of media and technology I suggest you head over to Techdirt or check out the links on the right.

This blog is just my thoughts and opinions on the direction the music industry is heading and the mishaps on the way there.

Welcome to LawPUNK.