"The internet is like radio for us"

Wednesday, November 17, 2004 | 06:03 AM
in Music

"The internet is like radio for us."

Man, is that a money quote, or what? It comes from the Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy.

Conventional wisdom (i.e., within the music industry) says that file sharing hurts the odds for commercial success of any CD or single. Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy disagrees; He doesn't believe every download is a "lost sale." In fact, he realizes that with radio fading as a medium for introducing new music, P2P is the new promotional mechanism replacing FM (shocker!)

In fact, after Wilco was dropped from Reprise Records in 2001 (there was a battle over creative control of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), they decided to stream what would become their new CD online -- for free.

The album's subsequent release on their new label (Nonesuch) was their highest chart debut ever. Thus, P2P acted as a successful promotional mechanism for them, instead of the Label. Note that the labels have traditionally  had as one of their reasons for existence the job of Album promotion; Its how they justify (at least in part) the exhorbitant fees they charge for CDs. Not only has that model been challenged by P2P, but its pretty clear that artists (i.e., U2 and Enimen) have figured out that labels, as the preferred way to promote new releases (and the subsequent recoupable expenses the labels lay out on behalf of artists), are now superfluous.

Disintermediation in action! 

Here's an excerpt of Jeff Tweedy's interview in Wired:

"If they succeed, it will damage the culture and industry they say they're trying to save.

What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them.

Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can't be cheap, either.

A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.

Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.

People who look at music as commerce don't understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.

I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic."

This perspective is gaining traction; I suspect its only a matter of time before the industry adapts to the new reality . . .   

'Music Is Not a Loaf of Bread'
Xeni Jardin
Wired, 02:00 AM Nov. 15, 2004 PT

Wednesday, November 17, 2004 | 06:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
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We've been through this game before in the early nineties and one thing people don't understand is to what degree the elite of the technical industry is committed to net freedom and computational flexibility. These things are needed and IBM alone is manyy times the size of the entire recording industry.

I don't think that people understand the intensity of emotions in the coming battle. The "conservatives" have genrally aligned with those who want to patent everything they see even if invented elsewhere. While the big players are tighter in this game than they used to be (into the eighties the vast number of patents and copyrights even from monolithic monopolistic IBM) were to protect ideas from lawsuits not to restrict their use.

We now have nasty little companies lined up using the flaws in the US patent system (the Economist has recently fired a shot of warning
) to get everything not hammered down. The open source software people are looking for lawyers. And so is every other technical company. Can you imagine what will happen if someone claims they own key elements of Apache servers?

Admittedly a lot of Republicans belive this, but if these people win it will really, really hurt are already threatened technical advantages.

I feel that the media companies are relatively small players jumping into the middle of a very serious debate and not understanding the consequences or who they are playing against.

Posted by: David Bennett | Nov 17, 2004 1:34:12 AM

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