Celebrating with Sound

April 7, 2011

On April 5th three musicians celebrated the 100th anniversary of Seattle’s Union Station with a free performance using instruments they made and by utilizing the building’s cavernous interior. This lovely short video was made by The Seattle Times’s Ken Lambert.

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Your Quote of the Day

November 13, 2009

This gem from this week’s The Economist:

“In the eyes of media executives, the internet is a malevolent vacuum-cleaner, sucking in one business after another.”

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The Laws of the Future of Publishing

January 1, 2009

I’ve chosen the first day of the new year to inaugurate a series of blogs and essays that I refer to as “The Laws of the Future of Publishing.”

The idea came to me last summer in Toronto, in conversation with my wonderful webmaster and web designer, Elia Kanaki. I wanted to try to distill my haphazard observations about the changing world of the future of publishing into some tight rules that organizations could observe on a regular basis, despite the changing tides.

Today is an auspicious day for its debut, as I am able to quote from an article in today’s Wall Street Journal about the music industry. The article, which will no doubt bring tears to your eyes, is titled, “Music Sales Decline for Seventh Time in Eight Years.” It offers the usual unenlightened blah-blah: “Increases in digitally downloaded albums and songs were not enough to offset a nearly 20% plunge in CD sales in the U.S., according to year-end figures published Wednesday by the Nielsen Co.’s SoundScan service.”

It leads very well into Thad’s first law of the future of publishing:

1. Digital versions of analog forms of content will not draw the same revenue as their predecessors. Costs, however, can be greatly reduced. The challenge for all content producers is to find a new business model that allows profits to be maintained, or ideally, increased, in the digital world we occupy.

The music industry has been the biggest crybaby through these years of digital change. The same issue of the Wall Street Journal notes that “Microsoft Corp. said a court in China convicted 11 people for manufacturing and distributing counterfeit Microsoft software that the company valued at $2 billion.” Microsoft has been pursuing these folks since 2001!

I will note in its favor that the music industry seems to be slowly getting with the program: they stopped suing teenagers. Look to Thad’s law: there’s more money to be made in digital than there was in analog, it’s just that the business model is entirely different.

Check out the current issue of the Oxford American magazine and then tell me that the music scene has become morbid in this digital world!

I’m going to be reporting on my “laws” mainly through blog entries in the months ahead. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s the short version:

Happy New Year.

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The Future of Publishing: Doom

December 12, 2008

Well, I must give kudos to Steve Rubel, “a marketing strategist and blogger …and senior VP in Edelmean’s Me2Revolution practice.” (What would a junior VP do there?) Mr. Rubel, has by my estimate, broken the 100,000 barrier on the number of essentially self-proclaimed experts who have grabbed at some superficial data points and decided that the sky is falling for all media.

He wants to make a bet with each of us (he doesn’t specify the amount or where we can send our bucks). The bet: “By January 2014 almost all forms of tangible media will be either in sharp decline or extinct in the U.S.” I guess he may not have offered his bookie’s address because this is what you might call a hedged bet. First we’ve got “almost all forms of tangible media.” Very difficult to parse definitionally. “Almost all” we could note leaves a pretty broad margin of error. Clearly it means “more than 50%,” but does it mean 70%, 80% or 99.9%? I can’t tell you. Perhaps Mr. Rubel can. But he’s got further squirm space with the statement: “in sharp decline or extinct.” The word “extinct” has an unequivocal meaning. “In sharp decline” is significantly more vague. I’m not certain that it even means “more than 50%,” and definitely unsure if it means 70%, 80% or 99.9%?

Mr. Rubel then trots out the usual selective data to try to bolster his argument. I won’t repeat them all (check the link), as they’ve been repeated too often and really weren’t mentioning the first time.

Rubel does note that he hasn’t bought a CD since 2003. He doesn’t note whether he has been pirating music since that time. Apple announced the iPod in October 2001. Perhaps that’s where he makes his purchases. I bought two CDs yesterday from Amazon. Call me old-fashioned. While the dollar value in retail shipments of recorded music has declined by 35% in the last decade, it still represents an $8 billion market in the U.S. This trend line will certainly shrink the market further in 5 years, but won’t make it disappear.

I’ll take your bet, Mr. Rubel. Do you take PayPal?

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How is the Music Business Really Doing?

April 12, 2007

The Financial Times ran an interesting article on the music business yesterday (April 11, 2007), with a lot of coverage of one Jeff Kwatinetz. The article is still online, but unfortunately requires an FT subscription (a publication useful mostly to insomniacs).

Jeff Kwatinetz is profiled frequently, including here. He’s a talent agent, but wants to hearken back to the good old days where talent agents actually respected their talent.

At any rate, the most interesting part of the FT article is a quotation from Kwatinetz, as follows: “Music is selling. It’s just that the people developing it haven’t got a proper model. It’s important for people to realize that the music business is healthy. It’s just the record business that is struggling.”

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