Trying To Get To You

Friday, February 02, 2007

Step #1: Admit And Recommit

Yesterday I wrote that the crisis the record industry faces is akin to the “chickens coming home to roost;” The record industry had it’s way with the consumer for decades – now that power has been shifted in the opposite direction. My main criticism of the record industry is that it’s been resisting the challenges it faces when there’s absolutely no point any longer in doing so – their control of both production and distribution has been shattered. So if the old model is broken, then what is to be done?

The first step in my strategy is what I call, “Admit, Re-Commit and Serve.”

If I was running the R.I.A.A., I’d take full page advertisements out in every major newspaper, magazine (news, music and general interest) and music website saying the following:


During the last decade our industry has been challenged like never before. The control that we once could exert on how music is purchased has vanished due to a revolution in technology (especially the Internet). Instead of embracing these new technologies to provide you, the music consumer, with more choice, we have tried to bend them to hold on to control of how our product is puchased and experienced. The results have been plummeting CD sales, and digital sales that while growing, are nowhere near the numbers we believe they can be. We admit the failure of our strategy up until now.

But today, we, the major labels, declare that we are recommitting to you as our customers. We are committing to providing you with choice as consumers to purchase music in whatever form we can make available to you, with variable pricing to reflect such things as sound quality, artwork, video, bonus material and more.

To prove to you the authenticity of our re-commitment to you, we are announcing that today we are dropping every single R.I.A.A. sponsored lawsuit against individual file sharers and downloaders. This is not to condone the practice of illegal downloading; we believe that it’s stealing and that it’s harmful to both artists and the people that work in the record industry. And we will continue to pursue through any legal recourse the sites that illegally host copyrighted materials. But it is an acknowledgement that we have alienated many of our consumers and that we have not provided them with as much choice in the legal purchase of music as there is in the illegal purchase of music.

In the next few months, look for exciting announcements from us regarding new digital services that will provide you with a breathtaking array of choice.

Music is more important to more people than ever before. We are looking forward to providing you with your music how you want it when you want it, and we ask you to put your past opinions about our industry away as we begin a new era of service to you.

That's the first step to take. Admit the error of the industry's ways up until this moment. It would garner the first positive press the industry has gotten in years, and it will begin to improve the perception of a very scarred business. It has the undeniable ring of truth, and it will stop the industry from wasting even more energy trying to protect something that can no longer be adequately protected.

On Monday, digital music service possibilities.


Anonymous said...

IMO - the entire model of the industry changed when (and by no means am i being nostalgic) the lawyers and accountants took over the industry in the late 70's/early 80's and trained an entire generation of music execs to think they way they do. There were also other contributing factors as well, consolidation of radio, rise of MTV, consolidation of distribution channels, the cost of "breaking" a new act. But when the bottom line became MORE about the bottom dollar, the industry became doomed. (and i'm not being nostalgic either about the good old days when it was about art - they didn't call it the music business for nothing)

glad to see you back in action.

Ben Lazar said...

In my opinion, it wasn't the lawyers and accountants that took over - it was the radio promotion people that took over. I've worked at three different major labels - I can't remember any accountant training anyone to think about anything music business related outside of accounting.

Anonymous said...

well accountants certainly weren't training anyone directly about music, but they were affecting where money was allocated to.

By making bets on "safer" artists and also putting almost no money into artist development (at least these days) it has led us now into a situation of exorbitant costs in rolling out even established acts.

It's become more and more (at least with rock) an anointing of a star by a label as opposed to developing longterm artists.

But you proved my point about consolidation of radio hurting the business. When corporations bought more and more radio stations, it became less about regional markets and more about standardized marketing. Playing to the middle.

Ben Lazar said...

Let's separate the two issues. The first issue is the sales decline. The second is the "music decline."

The consolidation of radio started in 1996 when Clinton signed the bill releasing the restrictions on how many stations someone could own. Yet, in 2000, sales were the highest they've ever been. Is it POSSIBLE that the sales decline had nothing to do with the consolidation of radio?

In terms of the decline of music and artist development - and let's admit that we're talking about rock and rock alone (pop and hip hop are about going right to radio), I'd argue that the myth of artist development is just that - a myth. The only real difference between then and now is that a band got a couple of more shots to happen. If you ask Bob Dylan, Springsteen OR Billy Joel about how Columbia treated them before they broke, they wouldn't say, "Oh, they were wonderful and kept telling me how they were going to stick by me through thick and through thin." All of those acts came close to being dropped.

Or maybe the simple truth is that rock, as a progressive, forward thinking entity is no longer really palatable to the masses. It had a great fifty year run as a mass music - perhaps it's time for another replacement.

Anonymous said...

Ok two issues - consolidation of radio happened in 1996 correct, but the big business model of radio and the homogenization of the airwaves with restrictive play lists happened much earlier. Hence the rise of your influential radio promo guys.

Now my point is that when the music industry streamlined itself in the late 70's/80's and became big business, they brought in people who knew how to run a business properly. (kind of like DeNiro in Casino - the last of the street guys to run a casino - now all corporate)

Fine. I'm not lamenting that, but those were the same people that taught the current generation in the biz. So there is a certain mindset that is pervasive of those times when the majors ruled everything. (they still do btw) Now a new technology comes along and the majors are still kicking and screaming over how they're going deal with it and instead of trying it out, all they do is fight it. And the decline in physical started with the rise of legal download stores, a coincidence?? I doubt it. But the majors are still loathe to embrace the technology fully. IMO

the 2nd part, yeah you got more chances to try because the majors took more chances then. that to me is part of the definition of artist development. very few people hit it out of the park on their first try.
And look at what's happening with country right now. a lot of major stars that aren't on radio anymore are going to indies. The talent on the country indies these days is amazing.

and as far as rock being dead, people have been saying that forever, who knows and who cares really.