[Editor's Note: Reposted with permission from The Lefsetz Letter, subscribe via Lefsetz.com.]
The film business is fighting Sean Parker's Screening Room. The book business is fighting Amazon's Kindle. And the music business is sitting in the present, the most up-to-date media vertical extent.
And yet people still complain. Do you want to pay $150 for a device that would allow you to stream first run films for $50, day and date?
That's what Sean Parker is advocating, that's what most of the film business is fighting. Because they hate the future, they believe they can stick their finger in the dike and hold back what's to come, screwing the public in the process. Day and date is inevitable, it's just a matter of when. And until it arrives, piracy will reign.
The book business was so worried about the Kindle stealing its profits that Amazon was neutered. Once upon a time, all digital books were $9.99. Now they're more like fifteen bucks and sales have stalled. Because price matters, and so does volume.
Meanwhile, you can get all you want in the music business, an unlimited amount of EVERYTHING, for ten bucks a month. Sound like a good deal? It is!
Sure, the old paradigm has been plowed under the process. But that's got nothing to do with Spotify and everything to do with the internet and new digital tools. Today everybody can make a record, and distribute it. And those inured to the old ways don't like this. As for YouTube and free... Well, the rights holders do get paid and Prince was seemingly the only person who kept his music off Google's video service. Everybody else wants the exposure. Oh, what a world, where people can sample your wares for free and decide whether to double down, to become a fan, to go to the show, to buy merchandise.
You can't even get all the films in one place online. And flicks and TV shows come and go on Netflix. As for the vaunted victories at Amazon, "Transparent" and "Mozart In The Jungle," they may have accolades, but few people have seen them, because they're behind a paywall most are not paying to get through and with so much noise in the channel, people who are paying don't know they have this access. Whereas in music you can just go on Spotify, see the chart and find out what's happening, everything can be clicked on. Well, not absolutely everything, but windowing will never take hold in music, it's anti-fan, and everything anti-fan ultimately bites the artist in the ass. Beyoncé spread "Lemonade" from TIDAL. As for Drake and Apple... That service is peopled with alta kachers, that's right, Apple Music is for old people and Spotify skews young... Guess where Drake's audience is?
The book business ensured that it would have a greater percentage of less. Raise the price and books are no longer an impulse item. And sure, a lot of hardcore oldsters and insiders like physical books, there's nothing wrong with that, but to grow a business you need youngsters and looky-loos, and when they see the digital version costs as much as the physical version, with no printing, no shipping, no nothing, they pass.
Not to mention you read the review and can't buy the book.
That's another thing the music business has eviscerated, advance publicity. It just doesn't make sense in the modern era, you leave too much money on the table. It's all about the sneak attack, turns out that generates tons more publicity and people can access instantly. Meanwhile, we've got to hear about films years in advance, and I can't tell you how many times I read about a book and find out it's not available for weeks. Do I then remember to buy it? Usually not. As that old record business axiom says, if it's not in the store when the customer wants it, they're never going to buy it.
But today in music everything is available all the time. Someone dies and we don't have to produce more inventory, never mind ship it. It's just constant ka-ching!
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The film and book businesses are so worried about losing today's profits, they're forgoing tomorrows. Did you notice that recorded music revenues went up? Streaming is growing. It's been a wrenching transition, but the heavy lifting has been done, the music business is in the twenty-first century, now it's all about the art.
Sure, the rules are different. The game is different. But art is about innovation, and business is about disruption, throwing out the old and replacing it with the new. And do you know who likes this best? THE AUDIENCE! And when the audience is leading the enterprise you're in trouble, the enterprise needs to get out ahead, the public is still learning about Spotify and other streaming music services, the future's so bright you gotta wear shades!
But there's all this doom and gloom...
There are winners and losers in every revolution. Artists who were lucky enough to have major label deals last century, have companies invest in their careers, are now angry that they've got zillions of competitors, not only nipping at their heels but stealing their money.
But all the newcomers like being able to play. Just tell today's generation that they have to record in studios for a grand a day, depend upon a major label for distribution and have the audience unable to check them out for free and there would truly be a revolution, and the irony is the biggest acts would be on the front lines. That's right, Drake and Beyoncé and the rest of the superstars utilize the new tools like crazy. Drake keeps putting out new music, they all utilize social media, and most of it's FREE!
So music is in the best place. It's a hotbed of creativity and its artists are revered more than actors or authors. Music is seen as authentic. And if you lament today's scene that just means you're stuck in the past. Sure, there might be ten writers on a track, sure there might be inane lyrics and boring beats, but the truth is you only get to the future by marching through the present. Rock replaced jazz and hip-hop replaced rock. We have no idea what's next. But we do know the tools are at the fingertips of the creators and if you create something listen-worthy millions of people can check you out instantly.
That's a good thing.
The techies pushed the arts into the future.
But it's the artists who hold sway now.
Music's on the launch pad.
By Bob Lefsetz. Reprinted with permission from The Lefsetz Letter, subscribe via Lefsetz.com.
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