The New Boss

I finally got around to reading “Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss?”. The one response I did read concluded with a prime example of the tech industry mindset the author feels is foul. Seeing as I have a lot of respect for the author, it was frustrating to see such a lack of empathy.

I don’t believe that vocal artists who are frustrated with the music industry are whining. Most articles or presentations are done by respected members of the music industry. These are people who have found some success by creating something people actually wanted to listen to. Because they have found some success, it seems reasonable that they recognize the risk in the music industry as well as the difficulty in making good music.

When someone is frustrated by the music industry it is important see if they really are a part of the industry or just play in a band that no one really listens to. Of course, by this logic you could probably disqualify myself. Seeing as we have managed to find some success, I hope you read on, but if not, I more than understand.

The New Boss article aims its sights directly at the tech industry. In my opinion it is accurate in its portrayal. As a programmer who made an effort to make a music start up work, I can say with out a shadow of a doubt that the tech start up community feels that innovation is more important than copyright. Musicians and labels should feel privileged that iTunes is willing to host an album’s worth of material and be provided a paragraph for a short description.

It might be rude of me to say this, but actions speak louder than words. I can get a web host for $10 / month that has enough space to store every album I ever make as mp3s. I can add a Wordpress blog and a link to download the track after paying along with Disqus comments and get effectively what I get with iTunes. The difference of course is that if I sell 10k songs, I still pay $10 for hosting (maybe more for bandwidth... maybe) where as on iTunes you pay $3k. That sort of pricing is pretty foul if you ask me when you have a band touring, creating content on social networks and paying for press.

There is still hope though. The key is to be smart.

At some point my hope is that the market corrects itself. Artists are getting smarter about their contracts and demanding they own their copyrights. Tools like Kickstarter do offer some options for skipping middlemen. Labels are finding better tools to protect casual pirates. Record labels can consider their successful artists as huge bargaining chips in order to bring in more revenue. Technology like Cash Music could be used to implement a distributed store where artists can sell music directly through a centralized user interface. We need to work together.

I’m not going to argue that bands should be paid huge advances and the major label system was better. But, I do think the tech industry has convinced the world that music should be free. Changing this is going to involve adjusting the market.

There is a reason it took a long time before The Beatles and Pink Floyd showed up on iTunes with higher prices than other records. The copyright holders felt the music had more value and negotiated a better deal as seen by a higher price on the store. This theme is a good thing. Hopefully indie labels will join a coalition to act collectively in order to secure higher revenue. Majors can also demand that they function on an artist by artist basis. If it becomes prohibitively expensive for tech companies to maintain the gateway to online music, they will stop and others will come in their place with tools that can empower those making music.