intellectual property rights, music

So art can still be subversive…

This is probably the coolest copyright non-infringement performance anyone has come up with yet. Disabling bureaucracies by DOS-style, yet form-based requests is probably not entirely new as a concept, but putting together a 33 second-long piece of music using 70,200 samples, just to demonstrate some of the fundamental problems of today’s copyright and licensing schemes, as artist Johannes Kreidler is planning to do, is quite an achievement. There’s more if you click on the link, but it’s in German.

And here’s a video by the artist himself. Also in German.

hat tip: nerdcore

music, songs, songwriting

New Song: “Sometimes I can’t believe”

<!--enpts-->Love Keychain<!--enpte-->It’s been a while since I’ve uploaded a new song here.

This one is called “Sometimes I can’t believe”, and it’s about those moments when we feel that love is nothing but a strange illusion we cling to despite knowing it better, because we instictively feel that this denial is what makes our lives bearable. But in the end, it’s a realization that isn’t depressing as much as it is enlightening. As is the song – I hope. Enjoy.

As usual, it’s a VST based demo, 160kbit mp3, vocals by myself.

Economics, intellectual property rights, music industry

The Future Of The Music Industry. It’s so simple.

Sometimes it really does take ages for people to understand things have changed (and sometimes I have to include myself here). The Music Business will be a wonderful case study to illustrated the argument – in ten years. Right now, the industry is still struggling to come to terms with its new economics.

Yesterday Wired News informed about a policy conference held by the Future of Music Coalition in Washington, DC this week. The predominant idea was apparently that everybody involved in the business – musicians, independent and major labels, politicians, consumer electroncis and computer manufacturers as well as consumers should try to seek a compromise regarding the alleged problem of unpaid digital downloads. Jenny Toomey, exectuive director of the organising committee summerised the general approach as follows – “I think we’re looking for a kinder, gentler, more equitable model where more people can make a living off of this stuff.”

Sweet. Lovely. But I don’t get just why so many people in the industry can’t seem to see the wood for trees. There’s no real need to sit down and hold hands for all these groups with seriously conflicting interests. This is one of the instances where the market is actually going to solve the problem (in the longer run).

Sitting down and holding hands will only serve the interests of those who are trying to extend the cash flows of times past into the digital age while they are transforming their business to become less dependent on record sales – there’s a reason why vertically integrated media conglomerates are flooding our screens with instant-star shows. Teenagers (still one of the industry’s most important target group) may buy (~15%) less records these days than they did before Napster, but now they watch more advertisments.

Information goods are tricky when it comes to economic analysis. This even more true in the case of music. As opposed to most other products, economics have a hard time telling us about “the optimal level” of music production and consumption. What’s even more important – most models don’t take the intrinsic musical motivation into account. Given that most people create music without ever even intending to make money with it, those models are not exactly representing reality.

The new digital distribution model allows to target smaller audiences and make more money than before – if you do it correctly. However, while a lot of musicians who have not been able to live off of their art in the past will increasingly be able to do so in the future, it will be much more difficult to get into the average Madonna income range by performing music. The current winner-take-all market structure will likely disappear.

I find it startling that artists like John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants say that they would prefer the semiotic control of a major label’s product manager to the control exercised by an audience/market. Wired cites Flansburgh saying that “it’s ironic that we’ll miss the majors when they are gone.” Madonna might. You probably won’t.

While electronic markets for music are still in their infancy, things are already changing with the advent of useful machine listening software. Just think about a catalogue of all the music that matches your style preferences, whoever wrote it, whoever performed it.

According to the article, The Hooter’s Eric Bazilian stipulated that “[t]here’s an incredible amount of mediocrity,” due to the reduced costs to produce songs and put them on the web. That is very true. But there are also so many gifted, struggling musicians who never had a chance to create a market for their music because of the Major label’s gate keeper function. Now they are able to reach an audience and transform their cultural achievements into a product. I don’t understand why a musician would believe that it is a good thing to keep music from being published?

There will be new sources of information, like trustworthy journalists reviewing new songs, online fora. People providing valuable services, possibly for money. Or, as I believe, there will be quality settings in the machine listening software allowing the customer to get exactly the recording quality she wants.

Don’t tell me people would not want to pay for such a search engine which, in turn, would be able to pay for the creativity. Not the amount BMG pays Withney Houston, obviously.

But there will be a whole new middle class of artists. And they don’t need to sit down with anyone. They just let the technological development work in their favour. And in ten years, they will teach the music industry case study. If the latter should not be able to use its political clout to perpetuate its current powerful structure into the digital age.

intellectual property rights, music industry

The widening perception-realtiy gap.

I was just about to tell you about the following press statement by Forrester Research – eloquently titled “Downloads Did Not Cause The Music Slump, But They Can Cure It” – concerning their understanding of the whining record industry’s situation when I went to the kitchen to get some coffee. While waiting for the coffee getting ready, I switched on the tv and witnessed something I was not prepared to see tonight: The real reason for the record industry slump. Bad artists, lack of creative impulses. Short term product/cash flow orientation. Here’s what I am talking about. A semi-rap song which features the chorus of Glenn Madeiros’s 1987 one-hit-wonder “Nothing’s gonna kill my love for you” – sung by a female singer who is not the artist being marketed.

The guy is a former semi-popular soap opera actor. And he has had a hit in 1998 with yet another cover version. All that sounds favourably to the account managers of the banking industry labels havbe become today.

Now I don’t think that starring in a soap opera automatically disqualifies people to call themselves musical artists, as the Kylie experiment clearly demonstrates. But it doesn’t reduce the burden of proof. For Oli P that burden is clearly too much to bear.

But back to the press statement referred to above. It’s announcing yet another study regarding the once famed and now bashed market for digital music. Forrester is basically agreeing with me and the record industry manager Argumention below that things will get better once the industry finally comes to terms with reduced excludability and concentrates on improving the customer value of its product. This is the core of the statement (note: The music bill of rights is a set of features designed to enhance the musical expericence defined by Forrester):

In the next two years, labels will struggle to deliver on the promise of digital music, but their services will fall short because they fail to match the Music Bill of Rights. But by 2005, labels will endorse a standard download contract that supports burning and a greater range of devices. Downloading will start to soar in 2005 as finding content becomes effortless and impulse buys easy. Labels will make content available on equal terms to all distributors, while online retailers become hubs for downloading. By 2007, the new business model will generate $2.1 billion, or 17 percent of the music business. Big hits will spark traffic, as people download music directly to their cell phones, portable players, or PCs.

We’ll see if they will still need semi-singing semi-popular soap opera semi-heros by then.