Here's a question nobody ever asks


Here on New Music Strategies, I’ve been posting the sort of questions I often get asked at seminars, conferences, lectures, and public events, and putting forward the answers I usually give. And then you come in with your perspectives on both the questions and the answers.

It’s a good system, and it works. I hate to buck the trend.

But I have a question for you – and it’s one that nobody ever asks me:

Is it more important that music businesses make money, or is it more important that culture expands, innovates and grows?




Jamendo is a site on which artists can give their music away to audiences for free, under a Creative Commons licence (which can, of course, include prohibitions against people using that music in a commercial context elsewhere). Fans can make a donation if they wish, but there is no requirement to do so.

Fans get free music via mp3 download, or complete albums via BitTorrent or eMule — and artists get access to a whole community of people that might otherwise never have found them.

Do you need help giving your music away for free? Is Jamendo a solution looking for a problem? How is this useful to you? As usual, let’s have your review of this site in the comments.

Cliff Bolling is a hero

Cliff Bolling's studio

The Wired Blog points to the Herculean effort of one Cliff Bolling who has been digitising his collection of 78s and uploading them for the world to listen.

The thousands of files are at 128kbps (though Cliff has been saving the source WAV files to DVD) and the ID3 metadata tags are just begging to be reworked so that artist and title display properly in iTunes, etc. – but what a heroic and selfless act. The man deserves a medal.

Listening to the music itself is like a window into a time not so far gone in history, but it’s largely been buried because it’s simply not economically viable to release this stuff in large quantities on CD. This is, I’d argue, what the internet is best at – and why we need to change copyright.


Record Industry Innovation Prize

I just posted the seed of an idea in Music Think Tank, and I’d be really interested to hear what you think about it. Head on over and have a read.

Essentially, the idea is that the Record Industry should offer a cash prize to the most innovative and successful new online music business startup. Moreover, tech entrepreneurs who enter to compete for that prize should be exempt from royalties for two years while they grow their business and prove their concept.

Other than that – no real rules. I think it would probably be a mistake to impose upon the technologists criteria such as ‘it should be about streaming’ or ‘retail models only’. The idea is to cast the net wide in order to generate new ideas that will grow the industry. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

It’s a hypothetical, but I do like the idea. I’ve called it The Record Industry Innovation Prize. I’d love for you to jump in with your comments.

Scaring students conscious

The NYT reports on an unintended consequence of the filesharing lawsuits brought by the RIAA against students: political activism.

In this article from the New York Times (may require free registration), the group ‘Students for Free Culture’ is introduced as a political movement against what they describe as digital feudalism.

The group is named after the book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig — which, incidentally, I thoroughly recommend to you. It’s free to download online, or you can pick up a dead tree version in the New Music Strategies bookstore.

Their position is that copyright is entirely broken (where have I heard that before?) because the law has not kept pace with technology. I’m inclined to agree. Lessig says that too many copyright restrictions ‘dampen creativity’. Sounds like sense.


Music Tank do standup comedy

It’s often scary when an industry education-focused organisation starts to simply spout the corporate PR. But it can be funny too.

I receive emails from the Music Tank people, and I occasionally go to their seminars. So naturally, I also get their mailouts. They started life being all ‘What should we do about DRM?’ and ‘How do we make money from ringtones’, but they’ve moved on.

Now it’s ‘Let us celebrate the honourable major record labels and their mighty crusade against the evil pirates’. Believe it or not, the following is a direct quote from an organisation that works in, for and with the music industries:

This week saw the RIAA gain its first victory in what is proving to be an epic industry war against the global menace of illegal filesharing. In fining Jammie Thomas (will the irony of her name ever carry over the pond?) a whopping $220,000 for 24 of the tracks she made available on the Kazaa network, the industry has issued its most severe warning yet to the worldwide illegal filesharing community: “get you’re a** to iTunes… or you might be next”.

The first sentence had me in stitches, and the last line (spelling error and all) finished me off. Their cheap-shot joke in brackets in the middle suggest they may not be the comic geniuses the rest of the note suggested — but then perhaps they’re not trying to be ironic.

And, I’m sorry, is iTunes the only record industry cartel approved site for authorised music downloads? Aren’t there other people Music Tank’s constituents have contractual agreements with?

They started to lose me when they started agitating for copyright extension (despite the overwhelming objections by the music industry people in the room at that particular seminar) and higher prices for music downloads across the board (higher?! are you insane?!!!).

The scary bit, of course, is that these guys are owned and run by the University of Westminster. Remember what universities used to do? Critic and conscience of society. Not corporate mouthpiece.

Music Tank are never having any more of my money, and I’m appalled that Westminster are allowing this sort of thing to go unchecked.