"If we can't learn to live together, we're gonna die alone"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Back in the Day: Why I Came to Really Want CHANGE in the Music Industry, and How I Remember the Rise of Napster

Hey Peeps, So this is a dialog me and my Uncle Jim have been having about IDYL MUSIC as a concept, whether we’re onto something good, barking up the wrong tree….over before we start, that kind of thing. Jim's opinion is really interesting to me because he lived through the Dot-Com bubble and road it like a Pacific wave. He is an extremely driven and successful individual when it come to internet business. Right now he isn’t convinced that we have anything that will draw people away from Spotify. And he is right about some things. The strength of Spotify is really compelling and can't be denied. We have to show a serious benefit or reward to get people to even listen to this idea, it’s a fact. But it got me to writing something that, when I was finished, reinforced why I began working on this in the first place. It got me thinking that maybe ultimately we need to push the dialog harder. The state of the music industry isn’t the first thing people think about when they wake up today, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be fixed! I don’t know exactly how to do this, but I really do believe that we are going down a path that the people will champion because I believe that at the end of the day if people are given the option to do something right that will help themselves but also help others, they will take that opportunity. So I’m doing what I can; writing about it and hoping that people will read what I have to say.

Jim Moriarty Said…

This is some momentum… wow.
Spotify Raises Nearly $250 Million in New Funding
Spotify has secured nearly $250 million in new financing in a funding round that values the streaming-music company somewhere “north” of $4 billion dollars, according to people familiar with the deal.
The latest round of funding, led by Silicon Valley-based Technology Crossover Ventures, comes as the Swedish company is looking to fuel its global growth strategy.
See More Coverage »

Bob Moriarty <bobbymobetta gmail.com="">
4:43 PM (8 hours ago)

to Jim

Yeah, its amazing that they've notched this "valuation" ...since as far as I can tell they are basically still insolvent. While users, and I don't disagree with this, find the service pretty handy; almost everything in one place, etc, more and more artists are coming out going "wait a sec, yer paying me what for this?"

My feeling (....ok, my hope)  is that a Napster-style backlash will eventually force them to have to alter the interface (read: business model) and that will essentially sap the momentum. Napster tried to not call it a comeback and that didn't go so smooth.

Jim Moriarty
5:46 PM (7 hours ago)

to me

Valuations are funny things but after all is said and done they are the best reflection of how much the market thinks something is worth.

By insolvent I'm guessing you're talking about profitability and I hear you… and yet look at the last twenty years, most started out that way… this goes back to my product &gt; strategy &gt; business model point. In reverse order they don't matter… you can easily be profitable and dead because no one is using your product… turns out is not that hard to get profitable if you've got a lot of users.

What's better than Spotify in your mind?

I do get that artists aren't thrilled. I'm not sure journalists (the few that remain) are thrilled with what's happened in news media… a lot of groups have been challenged. No, going backward… which is hard because that's what people want… the simplicity they used to have.

I'm not fully getting your Napster point. I think the record companies amplified and accelerated their own demise… people remember the transition to CDs (every disc a "perfect" duplicate) and prices going from $10 to $18ish for the same record… they were greedy and people found the work-around, ripping MP3s… etc. That train left the station. The Dead were among the only ones that saw the future early and gave their recordings away… and made bank on the road.

Good dialog.


From Bob Moriarty:
To answer the question "what's better than Spotify in my mind" well, there isn't anything. And so I'm hoping that IDYL may actually have a position here...and after I got all these thoughts down below I started remembering why this idea seemed important in the first place. I'm not gonna lie, our timing might be off. We don't have the iPod to hold all the files we've been stealing at a miraculous moment....but I feel like we are on to something....And if I can at least get you to consider this vantage point then I think it might be worth it to keep going down this road;)

So I started writing this:

True about valuation, and this is an area where your knowledge is really just so far beyond mine. I'm just starting to try and grasp the language, let alone the meaning of some of the terms here. But I'm gonna elaborate a little on what I was trying to say about Napster and this is long-winded, in fact coming back to this opening paragraph I think I'm gonna post this as a blog. But I was there as a kid and this is what it looked like for kids. I truly believe that a lot of people my age see things as having happened this way. Its different for kids 5-10 years younger than me and its different for you, but this is what I remember happening..

From my vantage point, and I mean this is how I remember it feeling, the advent of Napster between 98-2000 completely, I mean COMPLETELY like nothing I've ever seen happen to any kind of business, crippled the music industry.I was at Northeastern and that other kid, not Sean Parker but Shawn Fanning really did live down the street from me. Every kid who could use the internet halfway decently was using Napster and it probably encouraged kids who otherwise weren't using computers because it somehow brought every.possible.song. to your hard drive. It felt like unlocking a vault, I remember the first day someone showed me Napster and I couldn't believe it at first I thought they were tricking me somehow. And for a while the concept of the intellectual theft didn't even click because the music industry had been held up as positively ray-shielded. There was only 2 sides of the equation; in, with a record deal or out, you hadn't made it. Home recording was still building, NBFB had recorded a 3 disc demo in 98 and spent like our life savings to do it at the time...breaking into being a successful recording artist in any way still seemed like a 1%-er kind of distinction.
    So when my friends and I were downloading songs, I mean I was a musician with eyes on making a serious run at trying to make it as a rock star, and I just didn't perceive what I was doing as theft from anyone but people in suits at desks who could handle that type of hit.
    But Napster's disruption was so total that all those tiny hits eventually brought down the walls of Tower Records etc....isn't it crazy? Tower Records used to be a landmark in Boston, like a point of reference for directions. I bet Allie couldn't tell you where Tower Records was and she can probably see the building from her dorm room.
    So point taken, Napster was as thorough a dismantling as any of us have ever seen. But there was still a record industry in the rubble. I remember thinking Metallica etc were such sellouts at the time...but they were 100% right! Its crazy, but the actual transformation, not just obliteration, happened after Napster had to close their doors,  and this should really be what Steve Jobs and Apple is remembered for; bringing the piece of technology to market that people didn't even know they needed yet at somehow the EXACT right time... but they really NEEDED iPods. And miracle of miracles, not only did Steve convince you to buy the hardware, but because your friend from 2 dorms down, their cousin? Totally got sued by the RIAA...it happened man true story! The RIAA boogeyman'd people just enough... not away from using MP3's but they convinced people to buy them at least. Not everyone, and thats a big piece of what we're selling in IDYL, but a big chunk of people found that the iTunes store was now the record store. And somehow, the cultural zeitgeist was pretty well indoctrinated that downloading music was illegal and it became something you had to make a decision abot. When it started, you just did it..but people started making a choice-they made different choices, yes. But you either did it right or you did it illegal and lived with that little bit of creeping feeling that your ISP might knock on your door...
    7 years later, and iPODS are now iPhones and we've all gone totally Star Trek and mostly yawned through it. Different options start arriving because when something is good, other people will want a taste. Apple starts to lose a little bit of a grip on market share pretty much by their own hand: the diversification of the hardware into music device-phone and now total lifestyle device:status updates and tweets and everything, has opened the door to a million different niches...and if your phone is your ipod is your personal computing device, as is often the case for the lowest common denominator in society, eventually you have to make room for other stuff besides music on your phone.
    So Pandora which is fun but toooo diverse. So Spotify. And I like Spotify...maybe not quite as much as you because I actually sometimes want to zone out and go the pandora route, let someone pick for me. But whichever route,Pandora, Spotify, streaming service of next week, that seems like a pretty good route and its available and no problem, its so easy! Why WOULDN'T we do this? As users of COURSE this makes sense.... feels comfortable and amazing how all the sudden the doors have opened wide again...just like it was with Napster....

    And here is where the backlash, I think will come in. It won't be a -lash quite as much because there wasn't the same explosion into Spotify, it was a natural drift. It'll be more of a slight pressure at first but it will build. And as tastemakers who live and die by the words of Thom Yorke start to reconsider Spotify, not because it isn't easy, but because it causes some sort of *un*easiness... eventually someone like Drake or Jay Z will come out and say "No" to this and it won't be a snotty hipster thing to drop Spotify, it'll be hood. And there will be that long wide-gaited turn, you'll sort of hear the back-up sirens from the trucks; the cultural zeitgeist's stance will shift slightly because Now, 15 years after Napster was cool because the music industry was 1%, well in right NOW the music industry is in most people's den's or garage's or walk-in closets because people have ALL the gear and they are banging it out just as hard in their bedrooms as they were 15 years ago except its even less out of reach. The pool of intellectual property isn't being stocked from just 5 major labels, its runoff from tons of next-big-neighborhoods and possible up-and-comers. And if you are pouring your life's work into this, and then you get that big break and Spotify clears you for their search engines and Pandora runs you through their algorithms it's supposed to feel like you signed a record deal. But there is a piece missing....and then you realize what it is. It's that you can't.make.shit. going this route. I got a royalty statement last month from BMI because Audible Mainframe and NBFB actually are in those algorithms and you CAN hear them on Spotify. Audible Mainframe had a total of just under 10,000 plays via Pandora for the songs on which I'm a co-writer. Probably close to 1,000,000 total plays which is pretty awesome and makes me very proud of the Legacy we helped leave for Victor. My cut of the royalties for those 10,000 plays (I have at least 50% share of all the songs recorded on my statement) is $0.24 We had 1.8 million plays on Slacker Radio and I got $140. I'm not complaining about that check. I haven't been in that band for 5 years so the fact I see a return on that investment is pretty amazing. But in America You Have to Sell Something, not just let it get played...

When the people trying to get a piece of the American dream realize their slice is measured in microns, they're gonna look for another way.


Most of the Science Fiction Vehicles in the known multiverse TO RELATIVE SCALE

PANDORA's BOX - Some of what I'm Listening to..

Showing some of my most recent Pandora Station Selections. If you want a serious 90's hip-hop "fire-and-forget" party mix, I always recommend "Black Sheep Radio"