Some E-Mail

Michael Brandvold:

Bob,

I love your frank and honest commentary.

I met you at the Doors party at the Whiskey. I was there with Lonn Friend, I worked for KISS mananging their website. Anyway I just wanted to throw you my $.02.

This isn’t an attack on John Mellencamp, it’s an attack of the music industry. I have alot of respect for John. The music industry has gone to hell.

It used to be that when a new album came out by your favorite artist you went to the record store and bought a copy, any record store since they all had the same release. Then I am guessing sometime around the 80’s or early 90’s releases in Japan began to appear with the bonus tracks. This was an attempt by the Japanese music industry to get their local consumers to purchase the Japanese release since often the import from the US would be less expensive.

Then a few years ago things began to get out of control in the US. It started with Target and Walmart doing something to get you to purchase a new release from them. But this is what it has turned into. Just look at all of the different releases that are now available for John Mellencamp’s new release Freedom’s Road. This information came directly from his official website.

Freedom’s Road is to be released in a number of promotional configurations that will vary from the standard 10 track CD. Here is a breakdown of what various versions are available:

Best Buy
Package includes second bonus CD including acoustic versions of "Ghost Towns Along The Highway," "Someday," "Rural Route" and a rough mix of "The Americans."

Wal-Mart and Walmart.com
Special Two-Pack edition that features the CD and a DVD for one low price. DVD includes performances from MTV Unplugged of "Love and Happiness" and "Jackie Brown", performances from VH1 Storytellers of "Eden Is Burning" and "Pink Houses" along with the video for "Our Country."

Walmart.com
If purchased online, a free download of the country version of "The Americans" is included.

Circuit City
Inside the CD is a slip with a code for a free digital download of a rough mix of "Someday."

iTunes
Bundled with download purchase of the full record is the video for "Our Country" and rough mixes of "Ghost Towns Along The Highway" and "Forgiveness."

Target
Tour Edition: Inside the CD package is a digital code that will allow access for you to purchase up to four pre-sale tickets for John’s upcoming tour.

Independent Music Stores
Freedom’s Road bookmark given at time of purchase. Click HERE for a list of stores offering the bookmark.

Mellencamp.com
Special bundled discount on the purchase of the CD and "Our Country" T-Shirt.

That is eight different purchase opportunities, for the SAME damn release! What the hell is that all about?! Does the music industry think that fans are made of money and will purchase all the versions? One fan could end up with eight copies of the same album just so they can get the various bonus tracks. Puts more money into the pockets of the record label. You know what I think really happens, the fans buy one copy and then download illegally all of the other bonus tracks. You know what is funny about that, the labels are doing all of these special bonus’ to combat downloading. They feel you will buy the new releases if you get more than just the album, stuff you can’t find anywhere else. Oh, and the retailers think you will buy from them because they have something nobody else has. BS! It’s just another way for the music industry to rape their customers, while at the same time blaming those customers for the collapse of the music industry.

Stop raping our pocket books and start treating us like customers, listen to us. I have spent 10s of thousands of dollars on music in my life, and have the cds and vinyl to prove it. I also have no problem paying $.99 to download a song. This crap with eight different versions has got to stop! You’re not making more money, you’re making more pirates!

Tom Gray (Gomez):

Dear Bob,

we needn’t be clawing in the dark to find the reasons why major labels find it so difficult to sustain themselves in the midst of a musical boom. Yes, they were luddite buffoons in the face of technological advances, and yes, they’ve completely failed to deal with the fall out from their mistakes. However, it is clear that the whole management structure and ownership of these labels is to blame.

When I was making records for Virgin/EMI we finished one record only to discover that the ‘powers that be’ had decided to sack 20% of the workforce, on our next release they closed down our entire label a fortnight before release. It became increasingly clear that EMI were essentially not in the business of selling records. In their desperation to make an annual increase in share value they became obsessed with big name signings, mergers and down-sizing: the only indicators that market traders understand. This bore no relationship to the music market itself. The big name signing at the time was mentally unstable, the monopolies and mergers commission were saying no and the only people who could save them (by selling more records) were getting sacked in their thousands.

I don’t completely agree with your assessment of our lack of mainstream music, but, rather ironically, it’s been the total failure of the majors to invest in development that has caused this apparent dearth. If you’re spending $5 million on promoting a weak Janet Jackson album, when for the same money you could make a thousand albums by newer artists and cherry pick from the results, you’ve essentially lost the plot. Investment in the music industry means investing in talent, not mergers or management structures.

Selling music is easy: make lots of it. New stars will emerge. New sounds will emerge. There will still be huge runaway successes. There will be more to get from your P2P, more to get from itunes or even your local record store. If a band or artist make the company one dollar, that’ll be one dollar more than any of the million-dollar flops that get tossed off with such alarming regularity. Tidy profits…. imagine that.

all the best,
Tom Gray (Gomez)

Allan S:

I know that classical music is not of the greatest interest to your readers but that’s what I do now. A few weeks ago SONY/BMG had another "Black Friday" in which more than 30 people were dismissed from the classical division, including the President Gilbert Heatherwick and most of his key people, including the few that really knew anything about their past.
 
I was told that in the not too distant past, before the merger, when times were "good" each company employed more than 200 people worldwide. Now jointly they employ less than 60.
 
Yet small independent classical labels are flourishing. The recent MIDEM proved that. Stands were busy. People were buzzing around. People interested in classical music are still buying music. Not downloading but buying. Why?
 
The product that is being recorded by these companies are interesting. Interesting repertoire, interesting artists, many in SACD which the majors have dismissed as passe.
 
Until the majors enlist the help of people who know their markets, who understand the psyche of their customer they will continue to spiral down and the smaller labels will take over. Hey look at NAXOS.

Laughed at by the majors when they first appeared on the scene NAXOS is now the largest seller of classical product in the world. They provide excellent product, unusual repertoire and very decent recordings, recordings that sell for less than 7 bucks. Are they great recordings – not really, but they certainly provide decent performances and decent sound for those interested in classical music and at prices that most people can certainly afford.

Thomas Wironen:

Music is no longer a product.  Peer-to-peer file sharing has virtually made CDs for people of my generation pointless.  Now it is about the experience.  If my friend or a blog I read says that I should hear a song.  It is no longer about going to the record store to find the track it is about the fastest and easiest way to hear it.  I don’t care about what the CD case looks like I want to hear the song, the music.

The idea of music as product is inhibiting sales and curtailing the customer experience.  Record labels have been selling music as a product since the first records were stamped.  They were able to have their artists record music in order to fit it on a certain product such as a CD or record and sell it to the consumers not only selling a product but also turning their artists into products.  The labels were able to make a substantial profit on this easily manageable and controllable process.  The musician, the art, and the music were all product-centric.  Peer-to-peer file sharing has challenged this notion.

File sharing provides the opportunity to treat music as a service.  Instead of providing the music in neat little packages you can provide the tools for the experience.  No longer is the consumer paying for each individual track but they are paying for the experience of obtaining the music.  The solutions for monetizing file sharing are all based on music as a service.  You are paying for access to the music such as you pay for access to cable.  The provider with the best content will win customers.

Legalizing file sharing would benefit everyone.  There would be fair compensation for the artists and the labels, the public would not have to fear lawsuits and still have unbelievable access to music, and the creators of technological devices would still have the content needed to attract subscribers to the ISPs, the computers, MP3 players, and any other hardware.  Legalizing file sharing will provide a lucrative service and create a better fan to artist experience overall.  Like many other industries in the United States, the record industry is becoming a service industry.  Up-to-the-moment access to music will be the most important service provided deterring from product-centricity.  It is time for the major labels to embrace technology to secure a future.

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