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This caught my eye today and sums it all up:

“The UK’s Entertainment Retailers Association chairman Paul Quirk said the growth of ERA’s digital membership has been heartening, but warned that the
barriers to launching a successful digital store or service remain daunting. “We have to clear this licensing logjam,” he said. “Until it is as simple to open a digital store as it is to open a physical store, I do not believe digital entertainment will ever reach its full potential.” Source:Press Release, collected from Music Ally.

However I would go further and say not only do we need to make licensing simpler, easier and faster we also must expect it to be cheaper. After all, the marginal cost of a musical file is virtually zero, and price tends to move towards its marginal cost. The only way of holding price up is my exercising the monopoly powers granted to us of the exclusive reproduction right.

However this power needs to be exercised with restraint, otherwise that which is granted by political power can be taken away by the same power. Or if that power is not exercised with restraint and accepting the end user/the public’s understanding of the possibilities of the technology, it will be ignored, and in the end our ‘rights’ will not be enforced.

If the retailers find it harder to sell music , let us feel sympathy for the enduser/buyer who has no clear idea of what he is or is not allowed to do with the file he/she has paid money for (note he has not bought it, only paid for a license). He/she can buy a CD but not an iTunes file. He/she can stream from Spotify as many times as they like , but they cannot own it and put it on their hard drive. They can have a file from Spotify cached on their phone but they cannot download it. This whole thing makes as much sense as medieval theology, we are into the realm of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Time is not on our side the technology is spinning along , the economy is crashing, our industry is in (at least) double trouble from both sides. Government is getting impatient, business cannot grow, musicians and creators cannot earn a living and we are being held to ransom by those desperately hanging onto their deckchairs so that they can be comfortable when we finally hit that iceberg.

Solution? I don’t know, but I do know that a Global Data Base is a necessary, but not sufficient condition. A database for all the rights contained in all the content and of the owners and creators of that content. And I mean global, including Asia Africa and Latin America, as well as the usual suspects. This is the challenge for all of us, managers, labels, publishers, collectives, and above all the writers and performers. The key relationship has always , and will always be, between the creators and the end users.The rest of us had better make ourselves useful and facilitate thatrelationship , or else we will go the way of the stagecoach, or the steam train, or the typewriter, or all those industries that have been written off in the last 50 years, or transferred to places where it was faster easier and simpler to make things than back here. Think what containers did to the docks, and facilitating just in time delivery, and to the ease of importing and exporting. The music industry of today is unrecognisable from the music industry I first encountered in 1966, and I expect more change in the next 5 years than we went through in the last 45.

What is the essence of your business in the context of the new and coming technology? That is the question.


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About Author

James Martin

James Martin is Head of Social Media for Midem organisers Reed MIDEM. This includes defining and rolling out Midem's social media strategy, editing midemblog, influencer outreach, developing Midem's fanbase of 75,000+ music professionals and more.

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