OK, I've figured out how I can create and embed a playlist of the music I heard — and heard about — while attending the Americana Music Conference in Nashville last week. The list now appears to the right of this post, and visitors to this site should be able to listen to the tracks in their entirety "first time for free." I'll be adding to the list in the days ahead, so just update your browser and the revised list should appear. Lemme know if you run into any problems…
The Smashing Pumpkins will embrace the freemium business model favored by many tech startups to release their new album. Recording for the new 44 song album began last week with lead singer Bill Corgan announcing that starting around Halloween each song would be given away free. There will be no strings attached. “Free will mean free, which means you won’t have to sign up for anything, give an email address, or jump through a hoop.” said Corgan.
The model is instructive.
No sign ups? No e-mail exchange? That’s taking it to a new extreme. That’s really putting the onus on the music itself and pretty much assumes that “if they like it, they’ll come back – at some point” — and offload some dollars.
And the whole idea of releasing the epic album (44 songs? Did I read that right?) in 4-song sets underscores the shift from “product” to “process.” That, ultimately, appears to be the way the audience is engaged now – throughout the creative process, not just at the point when the product is delivered.
Engaging the audience in the process. Very “Music 3.0.”
I heard a reference to this at the Americana Music Conference this past week. Now I read in arstechnica some of the details about publishers — and hence by proxy songwriters — demanding performance royalties for the 30 second clips that iTunes and other download sites offer to entice us to buy whole songs:
We won’t argue that policy concerning licensing in general couldn’t use some updating for the realities of online distribution, but we have to agree with the basic distinction between downloads—which is like buying a CD or DVD for private use—and streaming—which is clearly akin to broadcasting. And songwriters and other industry professionals need to be aware that the marketplace is changing as well.
Boy, where to begin?
First, there’s the whole question of “30 second clips,” which I’ve maintained for years are actually an impediment to finding or buying music. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased anything because I’d heard 30 seconds of it (unless it was something I’d already heard and was looking for and the clip confirmed I’d found it). If 30-second clips worked, that’s all you’d ever hear on the radio.
What this article underscores is the infinite complexity of compensating all the stakeholders that are involved in digital music delivery. Everybody wants their piece of the pie, and they all think somebody else is benefiting at their expense.
But I have to take exception with the assertion highlighted above, that “streaming… is akin to broadcasting.” Maybe it is when you’re listening to a “push” service, like Pandora or Last.fm, when somebody (or something) else is determining what you will hear next.
But once the USER is deciding everything that plays, then the stream is substituting for the download, and, in fact, neither the “performance” nor the “mechanical” model of compensation applies. A stream-on-demand is neither a performance nor a download… and it is both.
So it will be interesting to see what the stakeholders demand when that form of delivery begins to push the downloads out of the marketplace. It’s a matter of when, not if.
The catch? Spotify’s paying customers are still just renting songs, for about $13-$16 per month, depending on the country in which the listener resides. Most discussion of Spotify has centered around a trend toward streaming music rather than owning it, when in fact the more critical question is whether it can persuade a significant percentage of consumers to rent songs rather than just listen for free. (Otherwise, it’d be just another free music site, doomed to face the same struggles as MySpace Music.) I doubt that many free users will convert to paying customers, for a few reasons:
- By and large, consumers aren’t all that interested in renting music. When each last revealed its numbers, neither of the two leading music rental services, RealNetworks’ Rhapsody and Napster, had more than a million paying subscribers.
I fundamentally disagree.
That’s what paradigm shifts are about: changes in behavior. Yeah, in the existing paradigm, people actually think they “own” music. In fact, all they own is a license to listen to the music, delivered on some kind of disk or wafer (or digital file). Behavior will change when the audience begins to understand that, for the cost of “owning” 10 tracks, they will have access to the entire universe of recorded music. And when the technology becomes both reliable and ubiquitous.
And, as I keep saying, the amazing thing about Spotify is not the model or the depth of the catalog, but all the buzz it generates about being the “iTunes killer” when it is not even generally available in the country that has the most iTunes users.
Nevertheless, the buzz around Spotify serves the useful purpose, of educating the public to the possibilities.
The paradigm has shifted and everything you knew about the music business has completely changed. Who are the new players in the music business? Why are traditional record labels, television, and radio no longer factors in an artist’s success? How do you market and
distribute your music in the new music world – and how do you make money? This book answers these questions and more in its comprehensive look at the new music business – Music 3.0. While Music 2.0 encompassed the era of file sharing and digital distribution, Music 3.0 employs new ways to start and sustain a career, to develop an audience and engage them with interactive marketing. Sales, distribution, and marketing have reconfigured so much that even artists located far away from a big media center can thrive without the help of a record label – if they know how. Music 3.0 explains what has changed, why it will change even more, and how musicians and artists (photographers, writers, animators) can take advantage of the changes.
OK, I didn’t think that “Music 3.0” was entirely original with me, but my interpretation of the points of demarcation is a bit different from what’s being described here.
In my litany, “the era of file sharing and digital distribution” is all part of Music 3.0, not 2.0. 2.0 is the era of physical products; once the content is separated product – cylinder, vinyl, CD — you’re into the new era.
Regardless, the essential premise is the same: “new ways to start and sustain a career….with interactive marketing.” It is all possible because of the technologies that accompany the separation of content from product.
And yes, the same principals apply to any form of art that can be distributed digitally. Why, I might just have to by myself a copy of this to see what I can apply to my photography.