That’s why Lucian Grainge wants EMI. If you think he’s going to operate what’s left of the legendary label, after stripping off parts to satisfy the EU, you’ve got no sense of music history. Mergers are about contraction. Remember PolyGram? With its Polydor, A&M and Island labels? See them as standalone entities in Universal today?
And what about BMG/Sony? All I see now are two labels, where there used to be a plethora. This merger is not about new music, it’s about old music. It’s about catalog. It’s about leverage. And believe me, there’s a lot more leverage in the Beatles and the Beach Boys than there is in spending a ton of cash on evanescent new acts most of which won’t succeed anyway.
In other words, Lucian Grainge is lying. And the EU and the press are too stupid to know it. Hell, Capitol under Grainge will ultimately be like A&M or Geffen under Jimmy Iovine at Interscope, an imprint, with historical value at best.
As for putting music out today… The album is fading. Not because I said so, but because the consumer said so. The consumer wants to cherry-pick. He only wants what he wants and he wants it now. He doesn’t want to watch everything on AMC, only “Breaking Bad”. This is so different from the way it always was that most people can’t wrap their heads around it. Kids don’t have a short attention span, anybody who says that is completely ignorant. They’ve got an incredible shit detector. They’re only interested in what is great. They only want the hit, because they know the rest is shite and they don’t have the time to waste, they’re dedicated to video games and texting and apps and the old days of being shy of stimulation and playing a mediocre album until you memorized it are done.
Yes, there’s more good music today than ever before. Emphasis on “good”. Used to be the labels acted as a filter. If they signed it, you paid attention, it had the imprimatur of quality. Now the majors have lost said imprimatur and are competing with the rest of the stuff in the marketplace and the consumer is only interested in what bubbles to the surface. As for those of you reading this newsletter and going to see Frank Ocean and Azealia Banks, you don’t count. It’s the mainstream that counts.
And Lucian Grainge knows this. As do his competitors. Which is why they don’t spend years developing that which is left field, that which is not radio-friendly. They call it music “business”, and first and foremost they know this.
And when it comes to any business, distribution is king. The same idiots who say kids have short attention spans spew the fallacious construct that content is king. Nothing could be further from the truth. If something is great, and you can’t buy it, it’s irrelevant.
The majors controlled the music business via distribution. Even if you could get your indie record in the store, a very difficult thing to do, you couldn’t get paid. You had to be aligned with a major to get paid. Lucian Grainge is smart. He wants to bring distribution back under the control of the majors. That’s why you can’t find out what you make at Spotify. Spotify is controlled by its major label investors. And if the Universal/EMI merger goes down, Universal will have even more power. To extract concessions on its terms.
It’s like a bad Mafia movie. Spotify is all digits. But you can’t figure out what you get paid. And nobody at Spotify can talk. For if they do, they might not get killed, but the majors are going to make them pay, teach them a lesson.
The promise of digital was transparency. Something the major labels abhor. They’re doing their best to obscure it again, even though Google provides analytics for free and Apple cuts straight 70/30 deals.
No, but not in the music business.
Be very afraid.
They’re not making more radio stations, which is why the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was so heinous. It concentrated control in the hands of the very few. Sure, the Internet may eventually supersede terrestrial radio, but if that ever happens, it’s going to take decades!
The copyrights that control the music business, and they’re not the new ones, but the old, are not going to expire until most of us are dead. The digital distribution infrastructure put into place today is going to hamstring development in the sphere for decades hence.
Don’t you get it?