…where Peter Jenner, emeritus president of the UK’s International Music Managers’ Forum (IMMF), shares his thoughts further to the publication of the UK government’s Digital Britain report…
I was thinking I really should stop going on like a scratched record about my few oft- repeated thoughts, but like acne it resists any attempt at cure. This one is about P2P.Why is that considered the cause of all the ills of the recorded music industry? Just because business is declining why do we look outside for the causes? Maybe business is down because the music is not as clearly socially defining to the customers as it used to be? Maybe the competition for the disposable wallet is more intense, with cable TV, games, holidays, cheap fashion goods, mobile phones, getting drunk, going out to dinner etc, all competing for the available wallet share? Maybe it is because at the height of the industry’s boom we managed to get people to replace their favourite records with CDs as well as buying the new stuff, and now they have replaced their old favourites?Maybe it is not our fault and it all the fault of those irritating people we have to deal with – our customers.
Maybe they realised that buying the two tracks from iTunes that they heard on the radio was better than buying either ‘Now…Vol ??’ with all the tracks they don’t like as well as the ones they do, or buying the album with all the filler written by the ‘star’ who sensibly relies on the hit makers to provide them with the hit-songs, whilst boosting their earnings by ‘writing’ filler for the album. Maybe the majors dominate the media so thoroughly that they can just keep recycling the same old songs with slightly different faces.
As always I remain an optimist home taping did not kill music, nor did the video recorder kill TV and films. New technology requires new thinking and adapting of business models. People will still make music and people will still listen, and money can be made for all concerned, as long as music remains relevant to the public, and we use our imagination to work out how, in the context of how people actually behave, we can all make a living.In some strange and evasive way Digital Britain seemed to me be pointing this out. It provided no short term help for the record industry, no ‘deus ex machina’ to solve their problems, nor are the distributors being allowed to say they don’t know what is going on (‘its nothing to do with us, guv’).
The report seems to be saying you have to sort it out, or else it is going to cost the record companies a lot of money, and the ISPs a load of aggravation and, in the end, forcing them into policy that will increase churn by harassing and spying on their customers. The report has set up lose/lose solution, which is maybe what they both deserve.We have to find ways of finding money for content from the public that generates enough money for the music industry as well as providing business opportunities for the ISPs and MSPs. At the same time we should be looking at how these solutions (?) can be shaped to provide opportunities for all music to be accessible to the public, and for all creators to share in any revenues, and for new music services to come in, and to treat all content providers equitably.
It is not a zero sum game in a declining market, but a challenge to make the ever increasing presence of music in our lives realise ever increasing revenues for the creators and their enablers. At the same time we have to help the digital distributors to develop new ways of earning revenue from providing services that people value. It is not about the value of music, but about the value of music services in a rapidly changing digital environment, where habits are changing almost as fast as the technology.But enough of my typical rant, and before I go off on Sarkozy, let me get more practical. I think that there is every indication that no government wants to cope with the problem of digital copying in all its complexity.
It is all too easy to just leave it to the ISPs and the record industry to sort it out. No government is going to cut people off from the internet because they didn’t pay for a couple of downloads. But also no government is going to allow all the creative industries to be destroyed by digital distribution.But maybe it is none of the above, maybe the real problem is people burning CDs for each other, or swapping hard drives or memory sticks, or side-loading their phones from their computers.
Maybe the whole issue is just rather more complicated than stopping the P2P services and banning Pirate Bay and all the other ‘pirate services’. Maybe it is the very fact of calling them ‘pirate services’ is what makes them attractive to young people (Johnny Depp rules!).