To boldly go…into publishing and beyond.

Rants and insights on content creation, publishing and distribution

Maybe there IS money in digital music.

Posted by henryhutton on February 6, 2008

In an age of declining CD sales and rampant online piracy, can the major labels make money from digital music?

The answer just might be yes. The Music Industry News Network is reporting the latest quarterly results for Warner Music Group, and one thing that stands out to me is that their digital revenues are increasing in real numbers, and proportionally.

Specifically,

* Total revenue of $989 million increased 7% from $928 million in the prior-year quarter, and grew 1% on a constant-currency basis.

* Digital revenue was $141 million, or 14% of total revenue, up 9% sequentially from $130 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 and up 41% from $100 million in the prior-year quarter.

$141M in digital revenue… 14% of total revenue… 41% growth from the prior year. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and it goes a long way in answering the basic question that has kept many from taking the digital plunge, that being “Where’s the Money?”

Sure, we don’t know the costs associated with bringing in those revenues, but I’d argue that they’re proportionally less than their CD side of the business. No waste, no worry, and my bet is more money to the bottom line.

For some of us that proclaim the eventual death of the traditional music industry (yeah, I’m in that group), these figures also highlight the real facts that 1) consumers place real monetary value on premium content, and that 2) consumers are willing to pay for something that they could obtain for free.

That’s all good news. Although we need a radical restructuring of the music industry’s business model, we don’t want the labels to tank. Like any industry that is forced into change, from horseless carriages to cars, from trains to airplanes, from landlines to mobile phones, we need the major labels to survive by better serving their music acts and servicing their customers. They should have the opportunity to thrive through technological innovation and targeted marketing that only the Internet and mobile arenas provide. They should benefit from economies of scale and efficiencies that result from making their massive catalogs available, well, to the masses.

We want them to succeed, and some–those that are willing to weather the change–will succeed.

So here’s to you, WMG. You’ve made money from digital music sales, and the indications are positive. Congrats.

There isn’t any gold in them thar hills, because the golden days are over. But don’t knock copper mining, either–there’s still plenty of money to be made.

Posted in music, publishing, rant, technology, web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Will the Music Industry’s “Last Stand” be a music tax?

Posted by henryhutton on January 15, 2008

Techcrunch recently ran an article regarding the Music industry’s “last stand” as being a music tax. Coordinated via ISPs, NIN’s Trent Raznor puts it something like this:

“I think if there was an ISP tax of some sort, we can say to the consumer, ‘All music is now available and able to be downloaded and put in your car and put in your iPod and put up your a– if you want and it’s $5 on your cable bill.’”

Yeah, that pretty much sounds like a last stand to me. And it won’t be successful.

You could try that (and people have) for mobile phones and such, since access to free mobile content is offset by “convenient” access to for-pay premium content. But for the Internet as a whole that model won’t fly. Nor should it.

The business model for music has changed forever, and there’s no going back (although the industry will continue to try). Due to unlimited digital distribution of legal and pirated content, as Michael Arrington states in his article, the perceived value of recorded music will approach zero. File-sharing is not always convenient, so yeah–some people will pay retailers for quick access to their top acts. But that’s where the price is going–down, down, down. The market–i.e., the consumer–has spoken.

So where does that leave the performer, songwriter, recording engineer, agent, label executive, etc? Like so many industries before, they’re being affected by circumstances beyond their control. They can either stick their head in the sand and fight for their lost cause or look to the future (or look for a new career). It’s not a matter of being right or wrong anymore, it’s about looking for success within a new business model. Either way, it will be nearly impossible to sustain their previous lifestyle.

Unless, that is, they take advantage of these revolutionary changes and seize the moment. Unless they become innovators in an innovative time. You don’t have far to look–some acts, labels, and sites are doing just that. Successfully and legally.

Fortunately, the costs to record, distribute, and transact music have declined dramatically. These days it costs a couple hundred bucks for professional recording software, and anyone can put their music up and give it away or try to sell it. Furthermore, musicians and all content creators now have access to a global audience that was unimaginable just 10 years ago. Obviously, someone has to *want* your music (notice I didn’t say it had to be good), but the good news is that you don’t need a middle-man to be successful. You don’t need a middle-man to maintain your success. You need talent, along with business and marketing sense. You, the artist, can finally control your destiny. So stop complaining about piracy, copyright infringement and copy protection, and find a way to live and thrive by playing within a new set of rules. You may have an argument, but you don’t have a viable solution that won’t end up biting the hand that feeds you. It’s time to move on.

For aspiring musicians, a new world of opportunity lies ahead, and millions of them are taking advantage of it. For established musicians, they’ll have to work a little (harder)–those days of living high on the hog are over. I recently blogged about Paul McCartney and the Eagles finding new avenues for reaching their audience, which is the approach I’d take if I was an established artist trying to hold on to my listeners. They can still milk their (deserved) reputation for all its worth, even in this new paradigm.

For the rest of us, we can enjoy the advantages of this new marketplace, where more music is available than ever before, and for a price of next to nothing.

As we all know, listening to recorded music is only half the experience. Music is not a product, it’s a message. And the musician is the messenger. If I like the message I’ll engage the messenger–I’ll read his blog, I’ll buy his shirts, I’ll pay to see him/her in concert. I’ll pay extra to subscribe to his site and get behind the scenes access to videos, demo takes, or back-stage access. If he reaches and attracts enough people like me, he might just be able to squeak out a living doing what he loves. If not, he’ll have to pick up a day job to sustain his passion (it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened).

As you know, I’m with an online publisher, and yes–the same is happening with books and video. Just look at the plummeting price of video downloads and the shortened life cycle of movies. All publishers that depended on assessing value based on restricted distribution means or non-market-based pricing of digital content are in for a surprise. The growing pains we’re in now with music recordings, due to radical industry-to-market non-equilibrium, are already touching these other content industries.

Either way, it’ll be an exciting ride.

Posted in music, online business, publishing, rant, social networking, technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flux vs. Ning–Is there a clear winner? Not yet.

Posted by henryhutton on January 14, 2008

In my never-ending quest for a “community in a box,” I was originally quite enamored by Flux. Their site offers several layers of services- 1) fShare, a social networking tool for sharing content; 2) Flux Lite, for sharable customized profiles, and 3) Flux Custom, their “full community” offering. Flux Custom is structured as the competitor to Ning (which I’d posted about earlier) , so I thought I’d give it a shot.

First of all, let’s be fair and say that all of these applications are still in beta. Flux is upfront with that, and recognizes that some bugs exist.

Registration for Flux Custom was easy. You then get an email where you’re able to set up the basic site preferences for your community site–name, logo, etc. You also get a follow-up email from a real Flux representative, which goes a long way in my book.

You can edit the themes and layout of the main community page, and customize the individual community widgets.


I haven’t populated the widget blocks yet–that’s what a community does–but so far I’m encouraged. I did run into some glitches and error messages, but many seem to have been resolved. I’ll bang on it a little more.

Bottom line–these guys are worth looking at, and Ning’s no longer the only game in town. Now everyone can have their own community!

Posted in apps, community, development, publishing, social networking, technology, web 2.0, widgets | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ning–A Community Site In A Box?

Posted by henryhutton on December 13, 2007

As I mentioned a couple days ago, there are several paths to take regarding community implementation and management for your online business. If you don’t want to subcontract out the work (we know building it yourself isn’t the way to go), then you might want to consider a hosted solution. One of the dominant players in this space is Ning. From their site:

Ning offers the latest social networking features, all infinitely customizable to meet your unique needs. The Ning Platform makes this possible. As a platform, you don’t have to appeal to Ning for the features you want. If you have the time and the inclination, you can build them yourself. It’s the software equivalent of Home Depot.

I tried it out, and I must admit it was fairly easy to set up and it seems pretty feature-rich. As an administrator, you have the ability to customize the look and feel, the layout of features, member management, registration questions, and a host of other community-centric items.

So what do you have? You’ve got blogs, forums, groups, photo uploading and sharing, video uploading and sharing, music uploading and sharing, online/offline member status, activity tracking, multiple language management, Flickr importing, site and member usage stats, CSS management and other cool “widgets” and services.

It really is a decent approach to building a basic community around your core online business.

Oh, and did I mention it’s FREE? They do have upgrades that will give you more storage space and bandwidth. When you create a free social network on Ning, you automatically get 5GB of storage for Public Content, 500MB for Private Content, and 100GB for bandwidth. You can also pay to run your own ads, or pay for your own URL or domain. The prices look reasonable if you’re serious about using community to drive traffic and stickiness to your site.

It’s better than relying on Google Adwords to do the same thing.

Furthermore, you have little, if anything, to lose. So yeah, start a community around your online business. Just remember that obtaining and implementing the features and functionality are the easiest part of building a community. Growing, managing, and sustaining a community is where the work is–which is a topic for another day.

Next up–Flux. As powerful as Ning? We’ll see.

Posted in community, development, Lulu, marketing, online business, technology, web 2.0, widgets | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mobile books, collaborative fiction, and Twittories

Posted by henryhutton on December 12, 2007

I’d previously posted elsewhere about what I consider to be the next wave–mobile publishing. More people have cell phones than have laptops, and content generation–videos, photos, messaging, blogging–is becoming the primary reason to have a cell phone as opposed to, well–talking. It was only a matter of time before people took to authoring books via these portable devices.

My bet is that it’s not going to take long for this Japanese phenomenon to run its course through the rest of Asia and Europe, and possibly even here in the Americas. As a matter of fact, Podcast Network CEO Cameron Reilly has launched a collaborative writing initiative he’s calling Twittories–fiction written via the Twitter mobile application.

I can see that. Fiction–especially short stories and poetry, can lend itself to this model. Who knows, this just may be what it takes to get this thing off the ground here in the US.

Back in the day, us Lulu stalwarts used to evangelize the “4C’s”–Content, Collaboration, Community, and Commerce. It’s still difficult to find the commerce needle in the collaboration haystack, but eventually someone will–especially in the realm of user-generated content.

Posted in apps, books, community, Lulu.com, publishing, reading, science fiction, social networking, technology | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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