A Reader Asks, ‘What Does Your Ideal, Post-Napster World Look Like?’

This really big question popped up in last week’s article, Happy [email protected] Birthday, iTunes…




(image: bluebirdsandteapots, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

11 Responses

  1. Visitor

    Artists need to think long term, and pick partners carefully while making sure to OWN the connection to fans. Id say there’s another bubble that goes “pop” and takes Spotify and Pandora with it, but even with iTunes you own nothing of the relationship

    • Visitor

      Even if artists owned 100% of Spotify, the payments wouldn’t change all that much. It isn’t bringing in enough money.

  2. Jason Spitz
    Jason Spitz

    My ideal version of the modern music industry is one where labels change their approach from “ruthlessly exploit artists for as much money as possible and treat consumers like dumb sheep” to “partner with artists to help maximize their potential, compensate them fairly, and make consumers feel valued and appreciated”.
    Labels became the great villains of the early 21st century because they were stuck in a sleazy money-grubbing mentality, which was built on decades of inflated growth and corporate takeovers. Meanwhile artists flocked to DIY solutions with dreams of indie success, but reality has shown that path is nearly impossible to scale. Labels still have value. They can help artists grow bigger than the artist can grow on their own. But artists also need to do the work — they can’t expect to just collect a big advance and kick back & relax. The relationship between artists & labels needs to be one of partnership, collaboration, shared effort and shared reward. 50/50 splits are becoming more common in indie deals these days. Short-term partnerships should replace exclusive five-album-long contracts. Both parties should work to build consumers’ trust and loyalty.
    The “pie” may be smaller than before. But artists & labels (and other industry players) must learn how to share it evenly, instead of trying to grab the biggest slices for themselves.

  3. wallow-T

    The future has been here for many years for classical, jazz, folk, and world music performers, especially in Canada and Europe:
    Grant funding and non-profit organizations.
    “High culture” has been running on a grant funding basis for a long time.

  4. Faza (TCM)
    Faza (TCM)

    Frankly, Paul, I think your vision is marred by a lack of perspective. If I may be flippant: you Western capitalists have been spoiled rotten.
    You think of a post-Napster world as something completely new, but I’ve seen this before. I can tell you: it has nothing to do with physical scarcity or pretty much anything you mention in the quoted reply.
    It so happens that a “post-Napster” type situation existed in Poland for about four years in the early-Nineties. Specifically: between the fall of Communism (1989 or 1990, depending on how you count) and 1994. What happened in 1994 – a new copyright act.
    Through a quirk of the wording in the copyright act we had previously (from the 1950’s), it turned out that as we entered a new age of free enterprise after decades of Communism, sound recordings (phonograms, to use that quirky term) and software weren’t protected. Enter the businessmen.
    For those four years you could buy cassettes anywhere and you could buy them cheap. We had a shedload of “labels” (that were really duplication houses) and everyone wanted to be a “music retailer”, ‘coz there was lots of money in it. Existing copyright meant you still had to pay mechanical royalties – and people did, typically, since it wasn’t that much compared to what you’d earn on sales (and you didn’t necessarily report all sales), but apart from that you had no obligations whatsoever.
    The product was less than optimal, of course. You’d get damaged tapes, the sides wouldn’t be labelled, the track listing on the inlay didn’t necessarily reflect what was on tape, not everyone could be bothered to scan or otherwise duplicate the artwork, so they’d slap any old thing on it and “album integrity” wasn’t something that was particularly highly valued. But we didn’t care, ‘coz we got a crapton of music for cheap. Plus, most of us (myself included) didn’t really know any better.
    At the same time we realised that our music market in general was crap. Touring foreign acts gave us wide berth (though they’d routinely visit the Czechs, just south of the border) and we didn’t really have much homegrown talent either. Sure, enthusiasts banged away in cellars and community centers (not many garages) all over the country – playing instruments that their Western counterparts would probably not even recognise as such – but there was pretty much no money to take those who had any talent and develop them.
    Then it changed almost overnight, when the new copyright act closed all the loopholes that were readily apparent. Suddenly, there was space for the development of a music and software industry. We suddenly got a new wave of young musical talent emerging – mostly fuelled by local divisions of the international majors. It was hard for the fan at first, since prices went up dramatically and it took time for the industry to develop up to the point where they could go down again, but it definitely took a turn for the better, overall.
    Of course, it couldn’t last, since half-a-decade later Napster emerged and as the internet gained mass uptake, did for us what it did for everyone else.
    What I’m getting at is if – when Napster emerged – they got a swift visit from the Police, who shut them down as the criminally infringing enterprise that they were, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We’re simply not going to have any kind of viable music industry as long as we don’t set and enforce some basic laws governing intellectual property, regardless of technology. It doesn’t really matter how you make your copies. If doing a Napster is likely to land you in jail, nobody’s going to be particularly interested in running such a business. That – and only that – is what’s needed for the industry to pick itself up.
    The technological changes we have seen can reshape the industry, compared to the “physical” age, but are irrelevant to its viability. The only thing important there is that competition from pirate businesses must be reduced considerably and all that requires is sufficient determination from lawmakers and law enfrocement.


    The biggest problem the music industry has is the fact that they do not want to sale any music.
    For 13 years they just observe, sporadicaly kill somone then argue for years with iTunes – for long time the loneley and overpriced music merchant.
    The problem is that top brass at Universal, Warner and Sony (just few folks demolishing at least 50 billions in goodwill) is overeducated and overpaid and never in their life had a need to sale anything.
    If they would be the farmers they would give away all of the harvest and all the seeds required for next year planting season for FREE and the mankind would vanish – yes, it would be the and of civilization.
    It is ignorant and not logical to allow Shazam, Soundhound, Gracenote, all the lirics ID guys to be free at the service of pirating public. If lables or artist lobby cannot do piecefull conversion of those entities to powerhouses of music sales RIAA should litigate those entitis untill they become mandatory purchase only service.


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