Lord Mandelson Declares War!

Interesting piece on Channel 4 news tonight about Lord Mandelson's anti-piracy proposals.

And my first introduction to the Featured Artists Coalition - a lobbying group set up by musicians (such as Ed O'Brien from Radiohead - featured in the interview) who are campaigning for changes to copyright.

While most of their argument centres around the way royalties are controlled and split between labels and artists, O'Brien was on hand to face Jon Snow's questions regarding the government's proposed legislation, which involves threatening those that upload files for sharing. Three nasty letters, and you could be barred from the net.

O'Brien spoke with clarity when he admitted that new artists rely on the internet to get noticed, and "build their profile". I wonder how Lord Mandelson would classify bloggers who have become our new broadcasters - spreading the word through their recommendations, and helping to launch the careers of many artists? Are they criminals, or an essential element to a new industry?

The report is below. Thanks to the internet, I can share the film clip with you. If you enjoy it, you must just watch Channel 4 again. Or tell a friend about it.

That's the joy of new media.


The Artist - Customer Relationship

You - the listener - are being blamed for the death of the music industry.

Every time you download something for free, a big giant finger is pointed directly at you. You are stealing - taking the hard earned pennies straight from the hands of the artists who slaved away to create what you selfishly devalue. Your activity should be monitored and any infringement noted and penalised.

How about another perspective?

You are the customer, and the musicians are working for you. You are the saviour of music.

In days of yore, music was not a commodity. It had no physical form, so it could not be bought and sold in the same way. Composers had patrons - the wealthy lovers of the arts who sponsored the creation of new works. It was very much a B2C relationship - with the composer selling directly to a customer.

This worked for centuries, until we discovered that you could capture sound and package it up in plastic.

The music industry was born, and suddenly the relationship changed. Composers needed companies to make the plastic that would carry their works. And those companies wanted big returns on their investments. They saw that they could create a whole network of money making opportunities. They needed distribution to ship the plastic all around the world. And they needed shops to sell the plastic to customers.

The relationship changed from B2C - to B2B. Composers now had no business relationship with their listeners. The plastic was all that mattered - pressing it up, shipping it around, selling it in stores.

Fast forward again. A digital world realises it dosent need the plastic anymore. Suddenly the entire network is under threat. The business relationship that relied heavily on the physical manfiestation of the music no longer has context.

Its time we went back to the B2C relationship.

Artists are working for the listener. They make their art for a global patron - their community - which they must build, get to know and demonstrate a commitment to. In return they are supported for their efforts by their community. This is the key - like any business, the artist must find out what their customer wants to pay for. Some communities might still want a plastic souvenir to take home and own - which they will create demand for. As (thankfully) the joy of experiencing music has not changed over the centuries, the artist will always have something else to sell - the live experience of their music. And now that we have a global method of broadcasting - the internet - with a more reliable way of keeping track of what is being performed, the artist can continue to expect royalties for how their work enriches the experience of other businesses - the element of a healthy B2B relationship that still remains.

So in the end, it is the plastic that not only created the music industry, but lead to its downfall. And as you - the customer - now have the power back, you should be respected for the part you play in helping musicians to bring their art to life.


Deal With God - A Video

More proof of why the internet has revolutionised music.

Last year Buffetlibre DJs contacted us about doing a cover version for their REWIND2 project. They found us via MySpace (I think ... or maybe it was through our email newsletter via Gaymonkeyrecords.com). They are based in Spain - we've never met, but we're virtual mates.

We of course covered "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush. The Buffet boys then create a fantastic site with the rest of the cover versions - essentially a digital album.

It is offered free to anyone. They promote it, gaining the kudos of cool, and we get some promotion to a new audience. We are introduced to their community.

Months later, a guy named Martin in Peru (!) gets inspired and makes his own music video for the track. He posts it up on YouTube, and a new community of Kate lovers is introduced to us.

A decade ago this would have been impossible.


REM - Green Again

It's nice to see the penny dropping for other bloggers on the music industry's environmental impact.

Drowned in Sound ran some editorial on the campaign this weekend by REM, who have released their latest material as a giveaway with The Times. This isn't new - the weekend press is usually littered with freebies. Precisely the point - the free CDs and DVDs have a disposability that inevitably see them ending up in the bin.

Labels have been increasing this practice - recall that Prince launched his last album in a high profile deal with the Mail on Sunday two years ago. The idea was panned by many as contributing to the downfall of the industry. The question remains over it's effectiveness - does it attract new listeners to the artist, and in fact is anyone listening to the material at all? If we can't measure the intention of the consumer, do we assume they have purchased the paper for the music, or the news?

REMs campaign is different. Rather than offloading a CD, it involves a code for downloading the new material. It's not rocket science, but here's why it's smart:

Less Waste - and less production!
Lower costs for the label and newspaper - and the unwanted CDs won't be consigned to the landfill. Can you believe this campaign is the "first of its kind" in the UK?

Targeted Marketing
Putting CDs in the paper is the same as loading them into a shotgun - not targeted at all. By asking the listener to download, you are opting them into the campaign. It's permission marketing with the reciprocity of the free music.

REM - and presumably the newspaper - now have valuable info on the listener. What if instead of just new material, the listener was opting in to a whole new space with merchandise, exclusive info and ways to interact with other fans? Building in a way to continue to engage after the initial download is potential worth investing in.

Affiliate Revenue
Music revenue through album sales are in decline. So let the advertiser pay. Not disruptively (like the Spotify model) but through the paper and via the download portal. This is a win for all parties - the artist/label gets royalties, the paper gets ad sales, and the advertiser gets access to a target demograph.

This is the type of thinking we need to see more of across the media industry. The assets are there - the business just isn't using them wisely. And when a viable opportunity to benefit the industry and the environment are presented, we need to make it happen.

Image by zeusface on Flickr



A digital world of infinite choice has resulted in many of the things we've known and love breaking up. Some have even disappeared altogether.

The best example of this is the news. For generations now we have relied on a trusted voice to bring us stories of what is going on around us. Newspapers - then joined by television - became the authority on the news. But even this is changing in the digital world.

We don't need a single voice to bring us the news anymore. RSS feeds can filter in stories from multiple sources from around the globe. Even Twitter breaks news faster than a traditional paper, or waiting for the ten o'clock edition (look how the story of Michael Jackson's death spread ...)

What I find most exciting is that my news is personalised. I pick what feeds I want, who I follow on Twitter, and what volume of information I receive. The authoritative voice - which particularly in the UK is frequently clouded in bias - is gone. In fact my world feels lighter without the burden of the doom spun by mainstream media. We might question who the "trusted" voice is - where do we go to find the facts. Wikipedia has demonstrated that collectively we have the ability to piece the fragments together, to build the facts ourselves.

Whilst newspapers and tv stations struggle - and some close shop altogether - surely we benefit from fragmentation. What it gives us is the ability to personalise our media.

For the music industry, this has been perceived as a threat. Consumption has changed as people move away from buying whole albums in favour of downloading single tracks. Mainstream radio faces competiton from bespoke services like Last.fm.

The threat of fragmentation is an opportunity for any artist - who can realise that they too have a chance to have their work heard. And most of all for the audience - who now have unlimited choice to access what they want to hear.

Image by Rick Heath on Flickr.


"Tongue" by MaJiKer

The new video by MaJiKer - "Tongue" - is out today. And it is fantastic.

This is the type of thing that makes me very proud to be involved in music - to be able to work with very talented people to realise a creative goal. The video is a true achievement in storytelling and direction - by the fantastic Raphael Neal - and embodies the brilliance of MaJiKer's work.

Let us know what you think of it.