Music, Media and Design

Every new media is resisted by the established “old” media.  When old business models begin to fail, the law or precedent is used to manipulate and control new ones.  While underlying concepts of intellectual property, and the basic constitutional framework our laws are based upon are as relevant as ever, money and the unenlightened self-interests of oligarchies distort (recontextualize) the law.  The result: A broken system, founded on archaic models, that truly benefits no one.

Lets start from the beginning.  Record labels sprang from the sheet music and publishing world.  Live concerts and pop music are equally rooted in the traveling carnival game.  “Billboard” magazine was originally a carny-trade rag, that evolved from the larger touring industry to refocus on music!  The music business was built on intellectual property, first in the printed form, and later as recordings.  Publishers, later augmented (but not replaced by) recording companies dominated the trade.  When it was a print-based industry, the business model looked like what we might call “the long tail”: Publishers controlled broad catalogs, selling low volumes to many markets.  But with industrialization, and the appearance of a manufactured music product that required no specialized skill to enjoy, that model evolved to a “hit-driven” game, best fueled by “stars”.  Technologically driven companies like RCA were highly vertically integrated: they made everything from the tubes that went into radios and transmitters, but the stations and programming thereon.  Re-selling their assets as recorded music leveraged that investment tremendously.  Over time both recording and delivery media have become more capable, and less limited.  Virtually any idea or content fits on a DVD, if not a CD.  Tools of creation, and appliances for consumption are ubiquitous.  The gap between artist and audience has been under assault for a century.  From a technical standpoint, there is very little reason for any gap at all.  What remains is a product of business model, fear, and habit.

All of this is not to say that there is no longer a need for a record label.  Quite the opposite: Every artist needs a label more than ever, to provide support of the most conventional kind!  Artists no longer need a label to fund recordings, or shape their repertoire, but they need more help than ever breaking through the noise, organizing marketing and distribution.  There’s real money to be made in a label that focuses like a laser beam on aquiring long-tail catalogs and delivering highly customized products in all formats, manufactured on demand.  The problem is, that label doesn’t exist!

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