ISP Music Fee


Sound Exchange and some other backers of the notion of a ISP license fee to solve the music industry’s problems have put up a site called A Price For Music that let’s you play with various scenarios. I know the Copyleft is going to say it’s slanted, but it’s still a good start towards a conversation about what I think is the only sustainable solution for the long term health of poular culture.

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258 Responses to ISP Music Fee

  1. Morgan Warstler says:

    Step right up folks, and start paying a tax for that band screaming about fucking your daughters butt!

    Jon, a couple cents a song turns music collection into a VIABLE lifestyle for all parties concerned.

    If I can prove it will you shut up about a music tax.

  2. T Bone Burnett says:

    Streaming is the internet as a broadcast medium- the most productive way to look at the internet from my point of view.

  3. Chris L says:

    I suppose we’ll also need an internet tax to bail out the newspaper and book publishing industry to? I’m sure it won’t be long before the MPAA wants to get some free cash off my internet bill as well. Are there any other industries with antiquated and inflexible business models whose troubles we can blame on the internet so they can get a share of this pie? If the RIAA can’t give up the idea that they have the right to make music artificially scarce and difficult to distribute and figure out a way to make money in the Internet age, then it’s time for them to go quietly into that good night and make way for a generation of artists and producers who can. If they’re so vital to our culture that they cannot be allowed to fail, then they can convince the feds to feed them from the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Personally, my culture will survive the death of the RIAA just fine, because it’s based around artists local and international who distribute their own work and have figured out how to get paid for it.

  4. Morgan Warstler says:

    Plus downloads for a couple cents a piece.

    Right now we’re working on 5 cents. At 20 songs an album, thats $1 a CD (the same as the artist normally makes).

    How’s that sound T?

  5. T Bone Burnett says:


  6. Rick Turner says:

    Morgan, you’re already paying that tax every time you go into a restaurant or club that features live music or even has background music on. Well, you may not go to places that feature anal sex music, but probably somebody does. All those establishments pay a bit to ASCAP or BMI every year and the royalties are distributed to the songwriters whether you like their music or not. It’s all about sampling the download or broadcast play numbers.

    You don’t even realize that such a tax has been collected from all of us indirectly and via private enterprise for decades. That’s how buried in the background it is.

    There is nothing new about collecting and distributing royalties other than that the fees just haven’t yet been properly applied to the newest medium…the Internet.

    What’s the big deal with all this?

  7. Morgan Warstler says:

    Light? Light, but doable?

    Most signed artists made approximately a buck a CD, no? You aren’t asking for MORE right?

    I’m seriously asking and grateful for your feedback… we’re working on a model that allows “music collecting” to compete with TV for real brand ad dollars…. it is based off the streaming royalty deal.



    Because those are businesses choosing to play music and me choosing to go in there.

    Taxes is not the answer.

  8. T Bone Burnett says:

    In 2009 YouTube will serve 75 billion video streams to 375 million unique visitors. There are some reports that say it costs Google 1.65 million dollars per day to keep YouTube on line.

    Advertisers don’t want to put their brand next to user generated content. For some reason, they consider it schlock.

    LAST FM claims to have 40,000,000 unique users a month. They say they pay a ½ penny a stream, but they actually pay about ¼ penny.

    Universal Music which has 50% of market share grosses about $12,000,000 a year from streaming.

    Giving content away is not a revenue driver.

    (An artist nets about $3.50 an album, if it’s successful.

    At twenty songs, the artist makes $1.82 from publishing alone. Mechanical royalties are 9.1 cents a song, depending on the length of the song.)

  9. T Bone Burnett says:

    I’ll help you with this if you will leave behind the acrid personality.

    Here is a down payment:

  10. Armand Asante says:

    I’m so glad we’ve reached this point in this year-long discussion. This point seemed so far off only a couple of months ago. It’s quite a step.

    This actually sounds like a somewhat workable idea. But it actually brings about some major questions. The really juicy questions.

    I’m assuming the record labels get dibs on the money the ISP’s collect.
    And some of the newer culture gatekeepers like mySpace and youtube get a piece of the pie too.

    What happens when independent uploaders/art-bloggers start asking for their share from the ISP’s.
    They’re part of our popular culture ( being presented here as “the only sustainable solution for the long term health of poular culture” – not just the health of the record/movie industry) – how much of the pie would these independents get? If any?
    How about the next youtube-ian upstart that comes along?
    Do they get a seat at the table automatically too?

    How about Jon Taplin’s blog?
    It’s become part of our popular culture. Its contents are copyrighted and enjoyed by the likes of me.
    This blog should get a little piece of the ISP-tax-pie too, no?
    One could very well argue its a creative endeavor.
    And a good lawyer could definitely make it stick.

    Pretty soon every person on the internet wants a piece of the creative pie for his creative contribution.
    (I’m assuming the floodgates will open since this is a supposed solution to our “popular culture” problem – not the recording industry’s problem – though the two have been conflated in this post).

    Ok, disregard that last paragraph…
    It was a bit over the top.
    So let’s assume instead that the floodgates don’t open. Let’s assume there’s an appointed body that regulates the distribution of this ISP tax.

    There’s an independent body that decides who deserves this money and who doesn’t. Not the ISP’s obviously – they don’t want the responsibility but will collect the tax if told to.

    Who would get to appoint this body?
    Who would regulate it?
    RIAA and mySpace hold over 50% of the votes?
    Maybe Google? or elected politicians?
    From which nations?
    What about the next media-gateway that hasn’t even been invented yet – who lets them in? offers no clues.
    But I’d love to hear some thoughts from those who think this is a solution of sorts.

    Who would YOU like to see get a seat at the table?

  11. T Bone Burnett says:

    Here are Kitty Daisy and Lewis

    Ages 14 17 19. They have grown up with the internet and are not in its thrall.

    They are state of the art.

    They are no more enamored of the internet than we were of the telephone. There is a generation of middle age which is bedazzled by the internet. The internet is a slightly more complicated telegraph.

    I stand with the young people on this.

  12. Morgan Warstler says:

    I’m pulling these just to provide some backup….

    a. Manufacturing Cost:
    Artist Royalties – usually a dollar per cd – $1
    Composer Royalties – usually a dollar per cd as well- $1
    Physical Product Cost – $2 to $3
    Advertising Promotional cost – about $1 per CD

    b. Total Manufacturing cost – about $6 per CD

    c. Markup to Distributor – $2 (so the CD costs now are between $7 –

    e. Distributor then sells to stores with a markup of at least $3 per
    CD –
    Retail Store buys the CD at $10 to $12

    But, I’ve had a number conversations with signed artists and their managers (pros like yourself – Scott Weiland (STP), PJ Harvey, Billy Meyers, Tommy Lee, Ian Astbury, P Diddy, Guy Oseary, Chuck D, Busta Rhymes, Russell Simmons) and I’ve never heard $3.50 per album.

    I have no idea how to square $3.50 of a $10 CD sale going to the artist.

    Our goal is simply to present simple a per song payment that:

    1. compares favorably to their keep from a itunes 99 cents payment.

    2. compares favorably to a $10 CD sale.

    This should be cash on the barrelhead, deposited weekly into the artist account. Not “cost of promotion” etc.

  13. Dan says:

    “If I can prove it will you shut up about a music tax.”

    If we all tell you that we believe you’ve proved it, will you shut up?

  14. Rick Turner says:

    Morgan, would it help if I put quotation marks around “tax”… It’s a fee, it’s a royalty, it’s a surcharge. The dreaded government doesn’t collect it, some private assholes do. Yet it would be stuck on every ISP bill; it would be unavoidable; and so I think it’s just a matter of semantics as to whether it’s a universally applied fee or a tax. I don’t care what you call it, and sorry if I made you see all red by calling it a tax…I do know that that gets your knickers in a dreadful twist. I also don’t care who collects it as long as they’re honest and ethical and distribute the fee/surcharge/tax revenues fairly to artists, composers, and writers.

    And for anyone who has been following my own mini-rants here on our host’s blog, I’ve been saying ever since I started posting here that this is how the money should flow. This isn’t rocket science; it’s merely a battle between a bunch of mostly young rip-off artists who don’t want to work and pay for stuff and the real artists who create content.

  15. Hugo says:

    It may be, as T Bone says, that the internet is best employed as a broadcast medium via streaming, but I’ve got to hand it to these folks at A Price for Music for their having harnessed the [multi-] medium so well and so transparently in pursuit of policy formation–er, stuff like justice and democracy, etc. The thing about broadcasting is that it’s merely that, a projection. Better still is what these cats at APFM are doing: a conversation.

    The term “communications” really does not mean broadcasting. (Consult an OED, for example.) Rather, it refers to converse and communion. I would argue that these are the highest uses of the internet.

  16. cmackg says:

    Personally, I believe it’s time for industry dispruption on the record companies, and an ISP fee is not going to help. It’s just another lifeline like we just fed GM. They’ve managed themselves in to this hole, and attacked their customers, and continued on a pricing strategy that defies free trade trends. In a world were every 4 years gives more features and lower prices on everything except CDs, is it any surprise that people stopped buying them? Sure, they’re stealing them, but I’ll bet the real market of consumed music/per capita is essentially going down, not up. You have a few hacker types that collect music with P2P, and you have a million regular folks who don’t steal, and aren’t interested in what the industry is selling. So all those people who don’t steal get lumped in with the hackers? Their cable bill goes up, and it now costs a lot more to watch YouTube shows of “Cat kicks man in Balls?” Give me a break. Industries rise, and industries die, and the business model that kept 90% of the income that their artists generated has passed it’s prime. Think about it — Michael Jackson may have made $300MM in lifetime royalties , but what did Berry Gordy, CBS, + Sony take in?

    • Alex Bowles says:

      @cmackg – I suggest you recheck your definition of ‘everything’. Perhaps you really mean “everything made by Double Es” (electrical engineers, for all you non-nerds).

      Consider HD cameras. The electronic components have indeed been plummeting in price at the same time that their efficiency, performance, and size all see remarkable improvements. Moreover, these trends have been the norm for years, which is pretty amazing.

      But shift your attention away from the miraculous realm of digital to the analog side of the sensor, where you find the lens.

      You probably had no idea that this is where things get really expensive. Precision optics, as opposed to circuits, are staggeringly costly things to create and keep in good working order. And price changes tend to play out over the course of decades, not quarters.

      For example, I recently rented a box of six Cooke primes (lenses with fixed focal lengths as opposed to zooms). They were manufactured in the 70’s, so they’re relatively cheap–each goes for about $70 per day, which is a fraction of the roughly $400 per day that you could expect to pay for the latest Ziess Digiprime lenses. Even so, you still need to insure the set for $40,000 before the camera house will allow them out the door. I’m guessing the equivalent set of Digiprimes would demand $250k of dedicated coverage to properly insure.

      So why pay these prices at all? Simple – nothing will have a greater effect on image quality than the quality of the optics you employ. Even a cheap camera outfitted with really good optics can produce a decent picture. But if you attach the best sensors in the world to crap glass, all you’ll see is how crap your glass really is.

      Given your general outlook, you probably get pretty upset with propaganda coming out of the MPAA about intellectual and tangible property being – essentially – one and the same. You probably point out, quite rightly, that stealing a car is not the same thing as duplicating a car.

      You should recognize that there’s a similar gulf between the digital and analog realms.

      Can you imagine your boss cutting your salary in half because computers now cost half what they did last year, and by that ‘logic’ so should food, housing, transportation, and everything else that comprises your fixed costs?

      Right, that’s what I thought.

      As a general rule, digital is cheap and ubiquitous. analog is expensive and local. Their roles in culture and communication are largely complementary. What’s important is that people understand this, and not thoughtlessly apply rules and expectations that govern one sphere to the other.

  17. Hugo says:

    Yet, as Mr. Burnett has pointed out, the producers and publishers do provide a service necessary to the dissemination of the artist’s output. So is it too late in history to ask whether a better regulated market, as distinguished from an overtly interfering government, might find a fair balance as to what is owed to whom?

  18. Hugo says:

    T Bone,

    RE your observation that the internet is the telegraph with an education: the modern term “communications” first appeared in dictionaries as recently as the 1930s, to describe the functions of telegraphers.

  19. T Bone Burnett says:

    The cost of manufacturing a standard jewel box with 1 CD is about $.50. A more deluxe package with two discs might cost as much as $1.25. All manufacturing costs come down the more records you sell. At over a million sales the cost could be $.35.

    We have the real numbers from every position.

  20. Alper Çugun says:

    Armand’s points are incredibly valid. This system is impossible to implement well and gives rise to the same bureaucracies and abuse we are just trying to get rid of. I’d rather get a say where I get my music and who gets my money for it.

    What is this notion that monopolies and enforcement are required for music to happen. I may not think the music ‘industry’ is worth saving, music itself isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    Everybody is talking about how poorly the music industry is doing, but if I look around me right now I have both more and better music to choose from than ever before. Where’s the crisis (save for in the pockets of the execs)?

    But last time around, how well did these institutions balance their interests against those of the artists and the public? Oh yeah, they did everything in their might to maintain their cash cows and bought repressive legislature to encroach upon our civil liberties?

    Excuse me then if I’m loathe to hand over that kind of power to them again. If the music industry dies, good riddance to it.

  21. Morgan Warstler says:

    That’s just it Hugo, the producers and publishers are no longer seriously important to the equation. The process of discovering music is a now social thing, as easy as bouncing around MySpace, hearing it in the background of your friends YouTube video, embedded in every damn blog. Forget the labels. Like network TV, they are cooked. Their share is getting cut. But the artists earning their same piece, and putting the rest back into the consumers pocket is doable.

    Towards this end, sooner than later, you’ll see Apple let artists sell singles direct, and keep a bigger chunk of change… and use iTunes Genius to push those artists.

    I just personally think the biggest artist payoff occurs in lower margin higher volume distribution.

  22. Hugo says:


    I’m just trying to understand this, as seems to me very important. I’m not really trying to be assertive, only inquisitive. This papa’s got a whole other bag. I do believe, however, that the problem of music theft, if I may reduce it to that, bears on the larger question of how the U.S. might better the arts in general.

    For some reason T Bone is not letting on that he himself is not only a creative artist but also our premier producer, serving in both capacities as a kind of curator and booster of American musical art. In the latter capacity he and others like him have added great value to our music, so I think he gives short shrift to his colleagues on the mixing boards when he reduces their contributions to something as mundane as the cost of manufacture of a CD.

    I do find it interesting that you and he seem to agree on the artistic benefit of bumping distribution volume hrough the lowering of cost, but isn’t that the predicament that Jon diagnosed in the first place? As cmackg asks, in that scenario what’s to keep the leeches from bloodsucking?

  23. T Bone Burnett says:

    There is, of course, a great deal of confusion in this discussion. Hugo, I was only speaking of the cost of manufacturing a physical CD, which is, as we know, an outdated technology- by at least fifteen years. The cost of producing or recording the music for an album is anywhere from zero to millions. Polly Harvey might do a record for $50,000. She’s very good, and she doesn’t work with large groups of musicians. For Bjork to do what she does costs a lot more.

    Everything has, of course, come unbundled, so talking about albums is an exercise in nostalgia- except when an artist can create a frame. Very few have that capacity.

    I agree with much of what Morgan has to say about this state of affairs. The conditions are at this point obvious. I would be interested to see if he comes up with something that hasn’t already failed. Like YouTube. All media have run into the same problem. No media concern has found a way to monetize the internet. If someone figures it out, it will be a good thing. It seems like it should work efficiently in real time. Click and split in one action. The hard part for artists remains finding access to capital.

  24. cmackg says:

    T Bone — excellent point about monetization. It’s the same crisis that’s killing the newspapers and magazines (Did anyone else see the FT article valuing BusinessWeek at $1).

    I do believe we are either very close, or already at, the point where micropayments are viable. So you can pay 50 cents for a song, with no hassle, and the artist gets paid directly through iTunes. I’d pay the NYT $10/yr to read the online news w/o ads, and no sign-up wall.

    And face it, the file-sharing gig may be over soon — UK kids are now streaming instead of stealing — as bandwidth goes up, streaming starts to work again. So, the ISP tax will be one more great idea that came out too late.

  25. T Bone Burnett says:

    I want to add that CDs were an outdated technology when they were first released. And, upon their release, it was immediately apparent, at least to Taplin, that the record companies had let the cat out of the bag. Anyway, CDs have always been a horrible medium.

  26. T Bone Burnett says:

    The WSJ is the only outfit that has worked this deal so far. What do they charge a month?

  27. Hugo says:

    I know, man. I know it’s confusing because I keep getting more and more confused myself. The pulse of this discussion, here and on the MJ string, is important to me, but I’m getting flummoxed. The constituent issues keep shifting on the sands of changing technology and commerce, and this lay consumer can’t get a purchase. As Jon is an expert forecaster steeped in this stuff I wish he’d weigh in more directly.

    I believe that I appreciate your continued emphasis on artists’ access to capital. Let the good times roll, as it were. I like both Bjork and Polly, and I just want more.

  28. Rick Turner says:

    CDs were an exercise in selling new hardware…the players. Then Sony bought Columbia for the back catalog to sell all over again in the new format (ditto for the movie back catalog). Everyone went along with it, and CDs should have gotten cheaper as the real costs of pressing them dropped below the cost of stamping vinyl LPs. But it didn’t and the artists didn’t make any more either, though many had been asked to take a reduction in royalty to help get the new CD format off the ground. And a lot of the cash flying around at the record companies went up the noses of all too many folks… Welcome to the 1980s folks!

    Much of what I now listen to are self-produced CDs by friends and acquaintances on the folkie scene, but I’m not looking for a world in which nobody like the next Bjork, a Kate Bush, a Joni Mitchell, a T-Bone, or a Peter Gabriel cannot find a budget for a high dollar production. There’s a lot of great music that simply costs a lot to produce, and I want to see a financial system that allows for that.

  29. T Bone Burnett says:

    In the 1980s, Sony Music had 15 private aircraft.

  30. len says:

    “the producers and publishers are no longer seriously important to the equation. The process of discovering music is a now social thing”

    That’s a design error, Morgan. Producing music is not the same process as discovering music. Discovery has been enhanced but is not a new service. It has changed in kind not type.

    If you don’t understand the music production team concept, that’s fine. A producer is a very important role to that team. See George Martin.

    Access to the best producers is access to the highest value products in some cases and the
    safest bet in others. The case is producers are on the same side of the equation as artists. They are a licensed commodity, a service purchased once. The value of copyright is about the value of the fixed work, the right to revenue based on originality of creation.

    Destroy copyright and you’ve destroyed the extrinsic value of composition.

    It you send all of the value of the digital copy to zero, the value of the production has to increase. The artist, the producers, in reality the team that writes, produces and packages the act are production side services.

    “…albums is an exercise in nostalgia- except when an artist can create a frame. Very few have that capacity.”

    A frame for an album of songs is interesting structurally for the piece. The value of that goes up because streaming series are already an established idiom. It is rare in album production but not other online media such as web series. It’s a matter of form and cost of production. I’ve used animation to do it in team and solo. A matter of $$$ or love or ‘what the hell’, in a single word, willing hands and at least one with a big dream.

    Again, as in games, the power of the media is hypermedia. Beware the myth of broadcast. It keeps you in the same artistic boxes of film, TV and audio.

    Complexity protects investments. Games are hard to steal. They are easy to build new levels inside of. If you dis the user-created content, you will automatically obsolete the power of your art. Some media rely on it.

    New times. New axes. New chops.

    “No media concern has found a way to monetize the internet. If someone figures it out, it will be a good thing. It seems like it should work efficiently in real time. Click and split in one action. ”

    Different media will monetize differently.

    “The hard part for artists remains finding access to capital.”

    Some things never change. Some things do. Artists do not need as much capital to create richer art regardless of tier.

    What we have is better access to richer conversations. My genunine thanks to all of you for finally putting real numbers on the table.

  31. Morgan Warstler says:

    I understand that CDs cost very little, I’ve sourced them for years. In my experience the label is handing off a $5 product to the distributor who is making a markup before finally it hits the store. And in that $5, you’ve got some small hard costs for plastic, and the label/producers and the artists.

    What I do also hear though is artists admitting is that the cost of production is going down. While there is always the newest “high end” equipment… what you get for $10000 is lot better today than it was 10 years ago.

    And again, at least the way I’ve heard it, the music producer isn’t as important as years ago… take rap, most producers have a certain sound, so rappers use a couple different producers per album. But as has been pointed out, the album itself as a concept is falling by the way side. The way I’ve heard it described, the producer is more like a sound engineer (or a book editor) and should be working on a per gig rate. If this is not the case, isn’t becoming the case, I’d be surprised.

  32. Hugo says:

    “Destroy copyright and you’ve destroyed the extrinsic value of composition.”

    Thanks for that, len.

  33. T Bone Burnett says:

    “Artists do not need as much capital to create richer art regardless of tier.”

    I haven’t found that to be true. But either way, artists have little access to capital.

    Meanwhile, Obama just finished addressing the NAACP.

  34. len says:

    The Depression destroyed the rendering of vaudeville on stage. In film, it would become immortal. See The Three Stooges. Note: the Stooges were a B-list act when making the films and paid accordingly.

    How would such an ISP fee be administered?

    How is membership in the class of those on who’s behalf it is administered established authoritatively?

    How is membership in the class of administrators established authoritatively?

    Are formally referenced schemas with business rules for these transactions publicly inspectable?

    XML geeks see last question.

    BTW, everyone here is familiar with the idea that public funds administered by federal authorities are audited, yes? Call it a tax, a fee, vig on the bits, but they audit it.

  35. T Bone Burnett says:

    Distribution fee is 15% for digital, 17- 21% for physical. As revenues go up the percentage goes down.

    A distribution fee for digital is absurd, but iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic do not want to be bombarded by thousands of labels, so they have set up a sort of monopoly so that they only have to receive material from a few sources.

    In many cases, a producer is an engineer, another victim of the liberalization of language.

    But actually producing a record is not like editing a book. The closest analogue is directing a movie. The editing a book analogue is about 5% of a producer’s job.

    There is an awful lot of non-information out there.

  36. Hugo says:

    The comments on the Great Depression interest me. When we were taught about American culture it was canonical to observe that in those years Americans indulged in ultra-affordable escapism, while scrimping on information, e.g. cutting off their newspaper subscriptions. A classic example is Joe Kennedy’s shift from rumrunning, post-repeal, to Hollywood. The Depression ground on until circa 1942, but the escapist market continued in other forms. Also, America’s entry into the War was a shot in the arm for the media market.

  37. len says:

    I have. It is a matter of quality yes, but there is no denying the cost of audio and video production regards tool costs have fallen. As we both know, hands on the knobs are the difference and those that create a reputation for doing the well get the highest fees but the cost of say an Antares vs the cost of the Melodyne plugin is dramatic.

    I’m not saying production costs overall have fallen. I’m saying the startup costs and the accepted rendering quality per media type have fallen dramatically. That in no way causes the costs of the production itself to fall where ranked by specific service costs of specific teams and services.

    What happens is low-tier starts filling niches too inexpensive for high tier to work in. The Depression analogy again: the good vaudeville acts filled the empty slots of radio airtime thus both morphing old content in to new media structures and winnowing the acts. The film mogul’s lakshman rekkha was TV. It took about 25 years but the film model collapsed into the form we see today. Throughout all of that was a steady march upward from the low-tiers to domination of the productions.

    It is the effect of art dynasties: teams that form young, are successful and are able to get and replace members from among the best of the community of offerings. I note at the end of this season’s Guild production run, Felicia Day offered up her recommendations for any of the team that needed work.

    Regardless of how the industry evolves, at its core, it’s still lists of reliable names.

    On my Facebook page, there are some number of artists but an even greater number of the people who engineered this revolution at its core, the languages. When my friends wrote on the water, they wrote in the flesh and the flow of the waters worldwide changed.

  38. T Bone Burnett says:

    Something else- the cost of production is going up, not down. One has always been able to record a song for nothing, or next to it. Elvis Presley paid $3.98 to record the first of two double-sided demo acetates, My Happiness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.

    High end equipment today is at best as good as high end equipment fifty years ago. Very little of it is as good. Digital equipment has only come up to a reasonable standard in the last five years, or so.

  39. len says:

    “But actually producing a record is not like editing a book. The closest analogue is directing a movie. The editing a book analogue is about 5% of a producer’s job.”

    The problem is differentiating a project where the board man is the engineer is the producer from one where the producer as in film organizes all aspects of the production from songs chosen, orchestration, players, down to parts played, and most critical, the mixing as the final edit and in cooperation with other producers in the room as for example film production or even TV specials where there is a producer per media type for the parent production. (whew!!)

    Labels or projects exist to hide that level of detail but that hides the service bookkeeping. This is a good example of where the rot can start as regards the bad reputation of the business for making everyone wealthy but the artist but these are essentially label decisions or limited partnership projects.

  40. len says:

    Yes, at the top, the costs are still high. Still, if the low-tier has adequate quality, it becomes a filler for in tiers where high quality is abstract or services are not required.

    Rick is right that the buys for indies are increasing because the consumer isn’t as interested in audio clarity as content type. After decades of tightly controlled playlists and airplay formats, they are wallowing in an orgy of diversity. Kallisti!

    Think Opry radio programs vs the RCA New York orchestra broadcasts. There are times when it isn’t about the gear. It is about the expression. Zeitgeist: SPIRIT of a time.

  41. T Bone Burnett says:

    Class A discreet audio equipment has significantly appreciated in value over the last fifty years. A Fairchild 670 limiter which cost about $500 in the 1950s, costs about $30,000 today. But I get your drift, Len.

  42. T Bone Burnett says:

    I don’t think it is ever about the gear. (I got to say, this is a freezing cold medium.)

    There is a great deal of evidence that the audience today, and particularly the audience under 25, is seeking a higher quality listening experience.

    The audience deserves high quality, flexibility, and value. I believe a significant number of people are seeking that sort of experience.

    On the other hand, not everyone likes music. Some people find it annoying.

    Anyway, I go for the groove.

  43. len says:

    Yes, T=Bone and I am forgetting what it costs to replace my pre-CBS Strat.

    Fortunately, also if I sell it. That is why Rick Turner is Vulcan to guitar players. He makes parts that increase in value AFTER sale. :-)

    @morgan: don’t compare rap production costs to real music. I mean that literally not aesthetically. What is required to produce humans playing vs loop grinding digi poop is orders of magnitude different in costs. That’s why the only time we usually see the 14 to seventeen piece soul sound acts is in caravan or highly patronized gigs.

    Quality costs. That never changes. The cost of the cost of choice of quality may.

  44. T Bone Burnett says:

    Oh, and Opry radio programs- better. (Same equipment, more artless, therefore more profound, musicians.)

  45. len says:

    “Anyway, I go for the groove.”

    It really shows too. I was watching O Brother last weekend and comparing it to your solo videos. You have a solid foot as my keyboard player said about drummers. Even in acoustic or just solo or choral voice arrangements, you never let go of the pocket. It’s a gift.

  46. Armand Asante says:

    So this discussion is NOT going to be about who gets (and who distributes) this money collected through an ISP tax?

    How can you tout this as a good idea if you won’t even address that issue?
    The last best hope for music, no less…

    When are we getting to THAT discussion?
    Cause that one’s the real clincher.
    In another six months? When you’ve adopted more of the points the ‘Copyleft crowd’ has been pushing all this while?

  47. T Bone Burnett says:

    You are very kind, Len. I don’t want to be all humble or noble or make any acceptance speeches or any of that, but I am very grateful to still be doing this.

  48. T Bone Burnett says:

    AA You have the floor.

  49. len says:

    Patience, Armand, please. For better or worse, the who are self-selecting. Their relationship with the disbursers of the what is easier to discuss.

    As to who’s ideas are pushed, just from experience in the time when the markup languages came to dominate web design, you will win bigger and faster if you don’t mind who gete the credit. Many a good notion wastes on the sidelines because it has no champions in the economic competition. Harsh but true.

    • Armand Asante says:

      T Bone, I have the floor?
      What for?
      I already mentioned this ISP-level tax as a possible solution a year ago – on this very blog.
      I’ve already written what I think are its inherent drawbacks.
      I’ve thought it through as far as I could and come up short.

      This time around I’d just love to get answers from you guys. Just to read you working through the implications.
      Starting with these basic questions:
      1. Who deserves the money and who doesn’t?
      2. Who gets to administer the money?
      3. Who gets to appoint these administrators?

      I’m pretty sure whatever rope you pick, will tie you up in knots – but I’m open to the possibility that you’ll surprise me and offer a solution I hadn’t thought of. One that addresses the legal, moral and technical issues that arise in a reasonable manner.
      I have not been able to come up with such myself.

  50. Jon Taplin says:

    Here’s my math-If you could implement this worldwide, there will be 1 Billion broadband subscribers by 2015 @ $3/month=$3 billion a month flowing to the content industry. You have a single global collection society under UN auspices, doling out the money based on global sampling , to music, film or other copyright holders.

    Today artists get nothing out of Asia, Africa and most of South America. Everything is pirated. There will never be a technological fix to this (DRM, etc) because the hackers are just smarter than Apple or Microsoft.

  51. len says:

    “You are very kind, Len.”

    Picker to picker, not a Grammy nom. I’m the voice in the balcony. You got the gift on the axe where it counts. A lot of producers are just service managers. They have an ear and eye and a talent for combinatorics. You bring your hands and voice to the sound. Incalculable.

    The hand on the axe is the soul of the sound. Someone who has the gift has the fire, and every member of vulcanology guild knows, the fire is the magic of making a gift good enough for the gods.

    Thanks for letting me say that.

  52. Rick Turner says:

    Armand just doesn’t get it because he doesn’t want to. He’s absolutely offended by the idea that money is going to be collected from him in the form of a fee, tax, surcharge or whatever the hell you call it, and then that money will be (hopefully) fairly distributed among the writers, composers, performers, etc. who create content. He and Morgan are suffering from a major dis-connect in that they don’t understand how ASCAP and BMI work, that model being the basis for what a number of us here are proposing. Until they “get it”, this discussion will stay circular. There are those of us here who are or have been deeply embedded in the music industry on the content production side. Then there are those here who are consumers and simply don’t understand what it takes to engineer, produce, write, and perform music, and they also don’t understand the process of “making records”. It’s really hard to engage people who steadfastly refuse to educate themselves about the processes they’d so like to devalue… It may look like they’re writing in English here, but they’re reading in some very different language…

  53. Rick Turner says:

    I guess it’s like saying that there’s no need for a symphony orchestra anymore now that one synthesizer player, some samples, and some pre-recorded tracks could deliver the same experience in a concert hall. So drop the ticket price for the Symphony down to a buck. Or make it free…

  54. T Bone Burnett says:

    Len, well then maybe you’ll take me up on my invitation. How is your health? Are you good to go?

  55. Armand Asante says:

    @Rick Turner

    I’m not offended by the idea of being taxed. I live in one of the highest-taxed countries in the world. I’m no stranger to paying a lot for very little.

    Hell, I might even benefit from such a tax. All I need to do is set up some bots to download art from my site day and night – and I’ve got some shekels coming my way.

    But there is a “dis-connect”, as you’ve mentioned. It’s just not what you think.
    We differ in that I believe the internet has blurred the lines between consumer and producer irrevocably. This distinction, that is so clear in your mind (and that you rely on to assume I’m a consumer), just doesn’t exist in my world anymore.

    For example, I hold a copyright stake in all my comments here on this blog. Would I get some of that money too?

    Probably not.
    We inherently know that’s not what we mean by this copyright tax. Yet legally the distinction is not so clear. Copyright governs both my comments and T Bone’s music.

    My insistence on getting paid for my “creative” comments on the internet may seem frivolous to you (Len even insisting I be patient and not pursue credit for my “creations”) but a court could well decide otherwise.
    Making a mockery of this creative tax system.

    So obviously the right checks and balances need to be set up beforehand. I was simply asking where these lines would/should be drawn.
    I was raising up points that you shouldn’t be loathe to consider.

  56. Kevin says:

    i dislike distribution of monies based on sampling, it seems totally biased towards popular musicians whom I don’t generally listen to and away from the artists I do like.

    For certain mediums, like streaming, actual listens/artist/stream could be tracked and direct payments made on the basis of those.

    This of course ignores non-streamed music such as P2P downloads which is what the fee is actually trying to cover, you could do some deep packet analysis to base the analysis on but it would still amount to sampling (just more realistic than current methods.)

    By the way, Zoe Keating (the cellist) has talked about this a couple of times on her twitter feed. Last time, i believe, was when Google wanted art for free for the chrome browser so you might have to search a bit.

  57. Kevin says:

    I also think it’s disingenuous to say “nobody” has learned how to monetize the internet. Some people clearly have. Biggest of all is Google of course, pretty much a 100% internet advertising company.

    But there are even artists who have done it. The Penny Arcade web comic guys have a company of 10 that they pay with stuff they sell around their free webcomic (and huge gaming expo which also came out of their webcomic). Many other webcomic artists, Scott Kurtz at PvPOnline, and Dave Kellet with Sheldon for example, have monetized the web to support them.

    And no, I don’t want advertising supported music.

  58. len says:

    @t-bone: The numbers are good. I’m at the end of the main treatment cycle, so dead tired all the time but that will be better soon. I’m good to go anywhere I can drive.


  59. Another Jon says:

    “He and Morgan are suffering from a major dis-connect in that they don’t understand how ASCAP and BMI work, that model being the basis for what a number of us here are proposing. Until they “get it”, this discussion will stay circular.”

    No Rick. We do not even give a shit how it works. And if the solution to their model is that everyone in the world anties up to support it, then it should be “creatively destructed” so we can enjoy your folksie independantly produced tracks from your friends and smile all the way to bed.

    People have been making and enjoying music since the first fish was walking upright, and will continue to do so. And people will figure out how to make money off of it.

    This internet thing is a bitch huh?

    Anyway, this does not sound like a New Federalist position to me at all. So I will bow out of this hypocrisy.

  60. Fentex says:

    It amazes me that people think YouTube isn’t making money, that it’s some sort of example of unsustainable business. It’s making Google a fortune.

    The reason Google provides free services online is because they are actively encouraging people to use online resources and entertainment, so that peoples attention is online, so that advertisers looking to market have to be seen online, where the markets attention is.

    And that means paying Google as the best provider of online advertising, especially among the resources people are using.

    It’s the value of attention, which many people see free distribution as providing for their products. For most people the greatest threat to their business is increasingly anonymnity.

    I remain sceptical of the idea of an ISP tax funded collection society because I believe that’s just capturing funds for disbursement to a priviledged few who’s presence will be controlled and measured by conglomerates at the expense of everyone else working quietly on their own out of the lime light, out of the metrics measured.

    It feels like an attempt to capture wealth by special interests unable to compete.

    If at the end of the day I’m left to choose between the existence of the music industry and an unfettered Internet I choose the Internet.

    It’s more valuable to me.

    • T Bone Burnett says:

      Fentex I don’t think anyone has said YouTube is an unsustainable business model. If Google is paying 1.65 million dollars a day to keep it running, there is some benefit to Google. I think the issue is that none of the publishers, or users, has been able to make any money from the works that they publish there. Google isn’t sharing the wealth being generated by all these millions of people. Many people are publishing other people’s work. I use YouTube frequently. And I’m with you on this- “If at the end of the day I’m left to choose between the existence of the music industry and an unfettered Internet I choose the Internet.” Music is the thing some of us like. I don’t know anyone who has or had a great love of the music industry.

    • Jon Taplin says:

      Fentex- Here is Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research who recently commented on Google’s You Tube: “In contrast to the latest wave of business articles about “free” as the new business model, we would argue there is no such thing as free – someone always pays. YouTube is an interesting case in point. Revenue estimates for 2009 are in the $200 to $250 million range, but costs are estimated to be somewhere in the $400 to $700 million range. Who makes up the difference? Google shareholders, of course. For those of us who lived through the “new economics of the Internet” in the late 1990s, seeing it happen all over again with Google brings a wry smile. In fact, what seems to be emerging is an Internet variant on an old GM adage: ‘we lose money on every car – but we make it up on volume.’ Substitute video for car and you have a pretty accurate description of YouTube’s current business model.”

    • Morgan Warstler says:

      Guys, GOOG doesn’t spend that kind of money on YouTube.

      It is so big, since 2006, they have peering with the Internet’s backbone:

      “The first peering candidates are second and third tier ISPs who have to pay Tier 1 ISPs for “IP Transit”, i.e. for access to Internet addresses they can’t reach directly or by peering with other ISPs. As of June, YouTube was connected to the largest US public peering network, Equinix, in San Jose and Los Angeles and to the second largest, PAIX, in Palo Alto(?). Any 2nd or 3rd Tier ISP with access to Equinix or PAIX would be investigating peering with YouTube in order to avoid paying a Tier 1 ISP for access to YouTube content.”

  61. Morgan Warstler says:

    Jon, are you serious?

    I’m talking to somebody right now about doing 3G in Thailand where unlimited monthly service is $6. It is less in China.

    And you really think that in this country, let alone the rest of the world, we’re going to figure out how to pony up our share of ANOTHER $36B for music, where its good for like what $12B normally?

    Is that crack good? Talking like that, its impossible to have a real discussion, and I’m 150% about figuring out how to make more money for artists.

    Perhaps you should consider getting them all to go on strike? Like the the actors or writers do? What we NEED is a musicians union!

    Jon, seriously answer this really IF the artists have historically made $1 per CD sale, and a new model can be created that gets them that same $1 in the private market – isn’t that worth serious discussion, before you start having the government intefere in the arts… imagine what the next Republican administration will do when they are in total control and the next Ice T raises his fist. Why create monsters?

    Lets explore a new path. Afterall, you can run it.

    • T Bone Burnett says:

      Jon, you should definitely run this thing if Morgan gets it together.

      Morgan, the dollar a CD figure is not right. A figure could be arrived at, but it would have to be an average. Established artists with good selling records get more than that. I have given you that figure. If you are serious, you should get serious numbers. There is no show business law, there is only leverage.

    • Jon Taplin says:

      Morgan- I’m talking about $3 per month for music, films and every other kind of copyrighted streaming media.

  62. Tacticus says:

    Kevin Don’t forget muscians such as Jonathan Coulton ( ) who release there music under CC licenses for the most part and then you have someone like Amanda Palmer whose understanding of the internet is quite well known

    “total made on twitter in two hours = $11,000.
    total made from my huge-ass ben-folds produced-major-label solo album this year = $0”

    a licensing system similar to the current crap will never fund these artists especially not one brought up by those masters of extortion Sound exchange

  63. len says:

    It will be illuminating to see where those flavasufdamonth will be getting their money when they are twittered out at the burn rate of internet acts. I sure hope they are buying t-bills or some real estate.

  64. T Bone Burnett says:

    Len Here’s one for you:

  65. len says:

    A two finger claw. Excellent. Thanks! I wonder who showed her this style so young.

    I sat with the last Delmore Brother (Sam, as I recall) playing this at the local fiddler’s convention at Athens State once long ago.

    I’m lousy at the blues. Hippie lightness of being and classical guitar ruined me.

  66. len says:

    “Len even insisting I be patient and not pursue credit for my “creations”) ”

    Nope. Len is saying that if you are taking credit for the ideas such as ‘copyleft’, you may want to get in line. We’ve been having those discussions since the early 90s and like the discussions and like published papers on very large distributed hypermedia systems that predate Tim Berners-Lee by some years, the real pioneers do tend to be found face down in the mud with arrows in their backs as I was told they would be a decade ago.

    I’m advising patience. It took time for the Internet to f*** up the game. It will take time and serious effort to sort it out. Meanwhile, lots of good music is making its way to the web from multiple tiers. I think an ISP fee has a hard road to acceptance but it won’t be improved by people clawing at the eyes of those trying to see what lies down that path.

  67. len says:

    @T-bone: Here is yet another way to sell from the studio.

    Not about the best sound, of course, but if someone is managing an old style cubicle song factory, that’s a distribution channel for yet another rendering of the work. Put it next to t-shirts but it is an onramp to the games and an expanding set of rendering markets (ie, what Muzak became to pop).

  68. Hugo says:


    As I’ve said, I’m trying to understand this as a layperson with only a superficial understanding of the difficulties of taking music to the streets. But please help me see whether I get this straight.

    Are you guys discussing the prospect of a subscription service that might offer unlimited access to a vast playlist, rendered in the currently most popular formats, to the tune of about $3/month? Because if that’s what’s on the table, then I’d like to offer a few observations about e.g. library law (and history), and about the promise of such an arrangement to prosper arts other than music.

    Also I’d like to see a deeper discussion, anon, of the moral issues forced by the musical marketplace. These issues have been raised by most of us, including Armand, and Jon would have only to bring us to bear upon that particular aspect of the discussion.

    Finally, there’s a comment waiting for you on the “Global Village Realized” string, to which you’d attached a link to a disturbing description of Internet censorship in Iran.

    My very best wishes for the continued improvement of your health!


  69. Hugo says:

    Also, Len,

    A late friend once remarked that as Muzak was to pop, “Newzak” (as he called it) was to journalism.

    Thought you’d get a kick out of that.

  70. Morgan Warstler says:

    Jon, I believe the streaming thing here has been worked out. For music, it’s pandora et al. For video its hulu, netflix, etc.

    I thought you were discussing basically unlimited napster/pirate bay style downloading for a fee levied on all broadband users. And I was even against that – taxes are bad.

    So, let’s assume streaming has been figured out… atleast they are MUCH closer since last two weeks. What I think I’ve got figured is downloads where the artist gets 5+ cents and users get enough free (and it is cheap and easy enough to pay) that they don’t ever even think about stealing.

    I think 5 cents a song is enough to topple the labels for good. That plus CRM for the artists, so they can REALLY promote everything else they do and drive their own crowds, commerce, endorsements. When a band can say, we’ve got 3M followers and we bring that to the table, it changes their relationship with brands forever.

  71. len says:

    @hugo: I’m not sure what the discussion is about for others; for me, it’s a long topic on how to use the Internet to make money, l0w balling all the way. :-)

    An ISP fee benefits all digital arts by making copies free. It’s like having it be the fax or copy machine at the 7-11. My reason for wanting it is different. With it I get to jam with the video of the girl T-Bone posted. A friend sends me something they like. I groove with it. It gives me expression. It lets me learn new ways to make fire.

    I send back this. Why? If the topic is hand on the axe, this piece is all free hand. Keyboards and guitar which is noodling made useful. Otherwise, the images are the real trick. This is Google art. Type topics into a search engine of images and look at the hits. Let human memory as found in the data tell the story. Evoke it.

    A good set of search criteria and a good spell have a lot in common. :-)

    The Internet is an instrument just like the keyboards. That’s a good enough reason for me to want to use it freely.


  72. Hugo says:

    That’s some very sweet pickin’, len, and a glorious panoply of the papoose and the Pieta.

    I get it. You’re already moving between art forms. (So yes, I was curious about he possibility of doing so if a fair deal for artists could be worked out in such a way that it might translate from from form to another as seamlessly as possible.)

    Incidentally, this video is preceded by a still of a beautiful family.

    • len says:

      Thank you, Hugo. Yep. A Madonna. Epiphany, of course. The promise and the pain. The birth with the foreshadowing of the wine and the cross. Hmm… brrr.

      T-Bone said it: just to be able to do it.

      People can say what they will about the music industry. It is sweet work if you can get it. It isn’t always a fair business, but it doesn’t have to be. It just has to be.

      Point is, cheap means and passable results get a commission work that afforded me software upgrades and then able to give it to churches for contemporary services where they have all that AV laying about. Sweet work. Web work.

      It doesn’t all have to be heavy expensive productions. Even if synth digi poo, it is still played live, human hands and all that. It is real. The web enables us to make it that lightly and still serve a purpose, in this case, custom art for a virtual world in which they pay me to compose the piece (patronage) and I retain all rights to it for reapplication. They get a soundtrack; YouTube gets a video. And so on.

      If it makes a difference, it defends itself. It might be kidnapped, but it can’t be stolen.

      As to blending media, oh yeah. That’s the point of hypermedia. That’s the power of it. Stories inside stories.

  73. Tacticus says:

    T Bone that’s a quote from Amanda Palmer formerly of the Dresden Dolls

  74. Hugo says:

    @ len,

    as you say, “evoke”. In the context of interactive media, that’s an interesting verb, “evoke”, viz its linguistic relatives. I don’t really mean to play upon the locution, to “e-voke”, but then again I do mean so to play.

    Between the various dark twists, “invoke” and “revoke” &tc, we have many mansion rooms from which to find a way out for aspirants who bespeak a better vocation.

    Lift us.

    • len says:

      Shh. A secret, Hugo: interactive media are event driven from the first onClick. That is the key to writing generative or non-linear pieces. Events drive clocks. Simply synthesis.

      Search and evocation are selecting by where clause from some set of sets a result set that has a power law effect on the states of the domain sets. You could say it calls a world into being or a being into a world. It depends on if you’re creating or summoning. 😉

  75. Rick Turner says:

    Taxes are bad, costs are good?

    What if the taxing body provided the best goods and services? For instance, I’ll take a National Park over Disneyland any day of the week…

    The knee jerk reactions are really boring, Morgan.

    There are some “commons” that should belong to all of us, and taxes are how the commons gets funded.

  76. Fentex says:

    > There are some “commons” that should belong
    > to all of us, and taxes are how the commons gets
    > funded.

    This seems to confuse what commons are – commons are those things we already own together. They don’t need funding, they simply exist.

    A plan to exploit some common property might need taxation to be realised, but taxation isn’t in the nature of a commons.

    With regards to art, stories, music and other things now dubbed media it is those which have dispersed throughout culture and been absorbed into the public body.

    Music, and other media, becomes absorbed into the common cultural heritage of everyone eventually.

    Copyright was invented as a method of rewarding its producers for it’s provision, for a limited time, before it became intertwined with the common culture and property of all, in the hope it would provide incentive to produce high quality art.

    Today things happen at breakneck speed and ideas that worked in the past when music, ideas and other media were hard and slow to duplicate and disperse don’t work.

    Thus the idea of direct tax on access to media, by taxing access to the net – which has the virtue of being broard so it can be a slight imposition on anyone person.

    But I remain sceptical on how the recipients of the disbursement of such tax will be selected.

    I do not believe consumption of media across the net can be accurately measured. I believe attempts to do so will be resisted by increased use of encryption to protect privacy.

    I believe organisations created to monitor and disburse such funds will be captured by mechanisms favouring business models or promotion avenues that conflict with and hamper independent efforts to promote and profit using online resources.

    I also think accepting the concept would be construed as accepting the concept of intellectual property (as oppossed to protection of intellectual rights) – which is a phantom that stalks honest labour strangling its fruits in the cradle.

  77. len says:

    “I believe organisations created to monitor and disburse such funds will be captured by mechanisms favouring business models or promotion avenues that conflict with and hamper independent efforts to promote and profit using online resources.”

    You are probably right but that doesn’t have to happen. See XML geeks. You can do this with transparent contracting rules that are simple, fair, and auditable.

    If by capture you mean come to be dominated by self-selecting elites of talent, management, promoters, yadda yadda, …. that is the business. It is very very very competitive.

    As to eliminating indies, even the worst of the old business hasn’t been able to do that. Dinos have a terrible time finding furries in the daylight and furries eat their eggs at night.

    No, that’s not going to happen. The start up costs and access to multiple channels at low maintenance are too attractive on the low end. Once computers became axes, more expressive power at lower costs became the way of it.

    It really isn’t about the single media type anymore. The competition at the bottom is among the houses that can produce evermore integrated works.

  78. JTMcPhee says:

    What a fun thread! We have glimpsed the future, and don’t have a clue how it might work. Or how we might best twist the flow to our individual advantage and gain.

    For maybe a century now, the dogma of marketing and consuming is that the price of anything gets set just a little bit beyond what the people who Make Stuff and other contributors to Real Wealth can afford. Advertising and marketing stratagems are designed to impel people to spend just that little bit more than they can really spare, for whatever reason – the Jones, self-esteem, yielding to shopaholic impulse – whether for rent or food or transportation or even entertainment. Lots of effort is spent on figuring out how to push the price curve up into that undefined headspace where demand may actually increase before shrinking (“luxury,” “SX” and that line of poop.) Grand careers that benefit some individuals grow off this set of behaviors. Ask producers and record companies and film studios and such how that’s worked.

    So it’s a surprise, then, that people trained up in the world of that kind of predatory pricing meme would want to make everything free, except for what they “produce?” Or that huge amounts of brainpower are spent on “freeing” stuff, or defending the walls of Commerce against new models of behavior, and culture changes happening at a pace that humans really can’t integrate? You have to wonder if there’s a “speed of light” kind of limit for that rate of change, where infinite energy is required and time stops.

    Tell me if I’m wrong, but one doesn’t see much of THIS kind of behavior any more: I’m driving my MGB in rural Indiana on a Sunday in the early ‘70s, hit a railroad crossing with a surprise crest of concrete that peels the low-slung exhaust system off and twists it into a nice pretzel. Right nearby there just happens to be a crusty old welding shop, complete with an old gravity-fed gas pump. The proprietor lives in the back half, hears me coming with my new “open exhaust,” and actually walks out wearing mechanic-clean bib overalls. I would probably have paid pretty much anything to have the pipes and muffler and resonator put back in place, but the guy says to just drive it up over the grease pit and he’d have a look. Half an hour later, everything straightened and welded back into place, I ask him what I owe. He scratches his head and says “How about ten bucks?” I gave him a twenty and he started digging for change and was a little nonplussed when I told him to keep it all.

    Simple needs, simpler “wants.” No place for a person like that in the Brave New World, hey? But while the conversation swirls around ISP taxes and micropayments, who’s gonna fix your exhaust?

  79. T Bone Burnett says:

    Maybe we are moving into a post celebrity world. Celebrity is a disorder- a type of Attention Deficit Disorder. Celebrity is a sacrifice.

    Maybe musicians- rock stars, or whatever- will become data base managers, gathering friends rather than an audience, buddy list managers keeping their heads down and staying in touch. Maybe we are shedding the human need to worship and moving past the age of public relations, the age of hype, into a time when all the cards are on the table.

    Maybe that’s what this Michael Jackson bacchanal has been about. The King of Pop, windblown, arms outstretched, sacrificed himself, and was sacrificed, to end a life of sacrifice. The sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

    (In the meantime, at a nickel, we might have something to talk about. Just don’t tell someone they are going to get what they have been getting and then show up with half. The Mafia doesn’t like that kind of thing.)

  80. Hugo says:

    As JTM says, what a fun thread! An education in itself, a glimpse into a more hopeful future.

    On the MJ doings: that guy always set himself up as a messianic figure, so casting the audience response in quasi-religious terms is not over the top.

    And yes, cultic celebrity is a degenerative disease all ’round. I pity the people at both ends of it.

  81. Morgan Warstler says:

    There ya go T, database managers…

    Think of artists as magazines. With an audience size, and you might hate this part… an avg yearly income, age, sex, and tons of other demographics.

    Now think of the brands that have traditionally written checks to fill magazines, and then imagine what all you could compile in multimediaspace (including social interaction) wrapped around just one song… lyrics, interviews with songwriter, behind the scenes footage from studio, arguments between band memebers, goofball shit…. the complete historical record… something that could could holds a fans attention for half an hour – all for one song.

    Now then, who has rights to that data, and the customer data? Does each band memeber desrve to be able to reach out to the fans long after the band breaks up?

    Beyond that is the tour… and it raises another interesting question: if the tour becomes more important to the livlihood of the band – does this cause them to stay together longer?

  82. T Bone Burnett says:

    (We’ve been thinking of it like that for about thirty years. Why not just share the data with everyone? And don’t be pretentious. It doesn’t look like it has worked that well for you so far. I’m happy to talk about this- not happy to be talked to.)

  83. T Bone Burnett says:

    PS I’d like to think you mean business.

  84. Hugo says:


    An observation. It’s very hard to ruffle a certain kind of Texan, but when you have done you wish you hadn’t.

    And here’s a kind of flower-child thought. While it’s understandable that showbiz folk, given their fondness for buzzwords (or at least for buzz) and their self-important yearning for at least a pidgin nomenclature, would take to describing artists as “brands”, but do we really want to cast the most talented persons among us as “brands”? It’s such a dispiriting reification, and for me it stands for the collision of commerce and art.

  85. T Bone Burnett says:

    There are several obstacles to the plan you outlined above, the most significant of which is that artists make art. It takes a lot of time. It is what they want to do. Database management is a back room function. It requires a very different type of person, a different type of mind. And it is a full time job- moreso than ever now- keeping up with all the advances, I will call them. So one has to get to the point that he can afford a back room. Not impossible, but U2 still can’t afford one. I don’t want to discourage you. I appreciate your thinking about the future of music artists. We need all the help we can get. I know a lot of young kids struggling with just the model you are talking about. It is a tough road. Jonathan Coulton seems perfectly suited for it. Perhaps he is an avatar. That would be funny, wouldn’t it?

  86. Hugo says:

    Sorry that my syntax today is a train of thought sinking into my stream of consciousness. I’ve called for the wrecking crew. By dawn we’ll keep the rolling stock running on time once again…

  87. Hugo says:

    Can’t there be a third-party authority that apportions music proceeds with respect to musical and distributional input (be those, respectively, simple or complex), an authority respected by all parties and one conservatively regulated by government (as baseball long has been)?

  88. len says:

    “Maybe we are moving into a post celebrity world. Celebrity is a disorder- a type of Attention Deficit Disorder. Celebrity is a sacrifice”

    Oh I hope so. I’m tired of tragic wakes. Let’s live long, leave a beautiful body of work and pour the ashes in the ocean.

    I was laughing with my niece last night and said, “ya know if someone said they were recording one of my songs and it would be perfect but make me no money, I’d say ok. If someone said here you can be a published songwriter and stay home while we tour, I’d say, where do I sign. If someone said, we’ll make you a star, I’d say, no frikkin’ way you’re messin up my sweet life with THAT!

    Once we have a wonderful life, it’s only about living it, doing it, making it happen every day and not fretting where we fit into the Game. Play.

    I think we are coming to an age where we have choices, and where those choices don’t insulate us from others who made different choices. If anything about this tech is interesting, it is the way it opens up the levels to each other, the artists to other artists, and the arts among themselves.

    We are on the eve of renaissance. Itchycoo Park.

  89. T Bone Burnett says:

    (I understand when Len goes all hippy, but Hugo… you! You keep that up, and I will lose all hope.)

  90. T Bone Burnett says:

    I was wondering what information anyone gets from this.

  91. T Bone Burnett says:

    “Can’t there be a third-party authority that apportions music proceeds with respect to musical and distributional input (be those, respectively, simple or complex), an authority respected by all parties and one conservatively regulated by government (as baseball long has been)?”

    There can.

  92. Hugo says:

    Well good. Then let’s do.

    All we need now is another Bart Giamatti.

  93. len says:

    It’s all too BYEWTIFULL…

    In the middle of July, it is 86 degrees outside. Heaven in the southland…. time to take my favorite gals to see Harry Potter.

    If anyone finds out what IT is, leave a note with the virtual concierge.

  94. T Bone Burnett says:

    “Currently, more than 90 percent of the e-mail messages traversing the Internet appear to be spam, according to the information released in June by the e-mail security firm MessageLabs.”

  95. Rick Turner says:

    I wonder how Morgan would feel if his livelihood were thrown in the dumpster and then some wise-ass came along to lecture him on what he ought to do to make a living…like telling him to go on the road, sleep on people’s couches, drive hundreds of miles a day, and then have to glad hand his fans with a big shit eating grin on his face at the end of a performance interrupted with bouts of howling feedback and Margarita blenders going off when he’s doing his most sensitive numbers…

  96. Rick Turner says:

    That’s the trouble with someone who’s never walked in those moccasins lecturing people who have…

  97. JTMcPhee says:

    len, I thought “IT” was the mystical “Segway”…

  98. Morgan Warstler says:

    Rick, first of all, no one’s industry has been thrown in a dumpster…. in many regards music is thriving. I don’t know about you, but I hear about more new musicians than ever before. This years SXSW was off the hook. And concert ticket prices since 10 years ago are through the frigging roof. And I’m not telling anyone how to live their life. The cards have been dealt, and certain strategies – using logic – will obviously achieve better results than others.

    T Bone, I’m not trying to lecture. I’m a start up guy, who’s been wrong before, and will be wrong in the future… but I don’t start working on something, until I believe I’m right. Its part of the DNA.

    I do think “brand name” artists will probably need another kind of manager / management company…. new skills for databases. And Hugo, I can’t help the brand thing… its the cards dealt. But the brand thing is a very egalitarian concept – it says that in fact, an artist (god this may start a fight) is not consumed based on who they are, but instead how they are received/consumed by the audience.

    Which is to say, if today we snapped our fingers and killed all the artists… tomorrow in their place the new artists that rose to the top, would approximate closely the brands of the current artists – we’d have another Kid Rock, we’d have another Lisa Loeb, we’d have another Tom Cruise for that matter… because the artist is in many regards a manifestation of unique collection of ideas embodied for consumption.

    Wading in even deeper into the lion’s den – The Sex Pistols created the market for The Clash… or the The Clash rightly filled a gap in the market carved by the Pistols. The Pistols were young and angry… but also violent and fun. There were plenty of young and angry fans at Pistol shows, but they weren’t fun and violent – they were political and intelligent… and they weren’t being properly served. They looked around at the audience they were gathered with at the Pistols show, and felt the need almost willed into existence the success of the The Clash…. so they could hang out with a tighter better subset of their own kind. The Beatles begat the Stones… Run DMC begat PE.

    I say all this, because it is crucial for an artist to KNOW their audience…. and that may be blasphemy for some, though I doubt it. Ya gotta be in it for the fans… and if you are I’m sure there’s living to be made for the talented. I’m not sure there’s one to be had for the talented, who care not a whit for the fans.

    Finally, what is valuable is OUTREACH – in the current model, the band gets paid by the brand, and then the brand has to go promote the alliance. What I think is coming is that the artist owns the fanbase and actually controls the OUTREACH themselves, and keeps that part of the coin as well.

    • T Bone Burnett says:

      That’s right. Most of it. I have high hopes for you figuring a piece of this out.

      I don’t think it is crucial for an artist to know his audience. Art that is art survives whatever audience it has in the artist’s lifetime by many lifetimes. In this environment, however, it is crucial for a rock and roll brand .

      The reality now is that there is no media company with a brand that means anything unless you include Apple and Google as media companies (which they are going to be if they aren’t now.) But any of those companies would and do pay many tens of millions of dollars to have their brand next to U2’s brand. U2’s brand is more valuable than any present company’s brand and will outlast any company’s brand by generations. Every present company will be soon be gone- Blackberry, Apple, Google, all of them, disappeared off the face of the Earth.

  99. Hugo says:

    @ T Bone,

    While the Pollock piece you reference was, for him, presumably an exercise in non-objective painting, still for me it precisely depicts the kudzu conditions of Georgia at this very moment. (His touches of bright color in the lower quadrant especially suggest this literalist interpretation.)

    Yet I do take from your post that we might consider, at least, the Internet’s potential to share–or even sell–graphical arts, as well as Pollock’s insistence that we ask ourselves what those arts might be.

  100. Rachel says:

    Meanwhile, here’s one more boneheaded act by a copyright owner, which is more likely to encourage people to get content from places it can’t be reclaimed.

  101. Fentex says:

    Artists as database managers? That’s silly. Artists make art.

    When they’re young their passions tend to outweigh thought about the future and the pensions they’ll need one day – that’s suppossed to be the responsibility of the people who provide management for them.

    That used to be, if they were lucky enough to garner the attention, a labels job.

    In an earlier thread Jon expressed concern for the fortunes of B.B King – I assumme he meant B.B King is not enjoiying the fruits of his labour that he deserves and Jon worries that changes in the world will ony serve to keep further reward from B.B King.

    I don’t know the details of B. B Kings career – who managed his career and what contracts he signed, but if an artist as widely heard, influential and respected as he was not left with sufficient funds after a long career I think there was probably a flaw in the management of his income.

    I suspect if he’s lost out, that the labels exploited him and kept an unearned proportion of the wealth he generated for themselves.

    And todays worries about how people suffered in the past at the hands of the then gatekeepers ought not be translated into policies that will undermine an evolving future that wrests the keys from those gatekeepers.

    It may be that in the future only live performance and merchandise will be profitable, but it will also be true that the artists will get to keep those profits, and managers competing for responsibility ought prove more considerate of their clients.

    Labels will no longer be gatekeepers, if they survive it will be as promoters working for the artists, instead of the artists working for them.

    I think that’s a brighter future for artists, I think there’s a mammoth market for people to provide all the services to artists of promotion and presence management so they can concentrate on their art.

    And I think that’s better than the past when a few media manipulators would live off the sweat of essentially indentured servants.

    There will still be room for savvy producers to invest in talent for a share of their income, but with a different power balance than went before.

    If the money taken by the media industries falls a lot, but artists get more control and a greater share of what’s left I think the nett result is better for us all.

    I don’t think taxing everyone and giving the money to established interests solves any problems.

    This does mean however people who have been ripped off in the past who do not have a careers time left to exploit the future are caught in a historic vise.

  102. Rick Turner says:

    The Beatles begat the Stones? No wonder I don’t credit you much, Morgan!

    Muddy Waters begat the Stones…

  103. Morgan Warstler says:

    Fentex, what I think is coming is simply to easy file expression.

    Its like this blog. Jon does this blog like this because it is easy… there’s more that he could do with it, but those services haven’t been built into wordpress yet, but they will be.

    Right now the “easy” form of file expression for artists is MySpace. T Bone has a MySpace site:

    But sooner than later, much much more will be put into the hands of the artist, making it easier for them to manage databases, and control how these express themselves online.

    You are right to insist any solution has to be easy for artists, but everyday more and more gets easy.

    Artist friend:

  104. Hugo says:

    Amidst all this gloriously democratic outbreak of musicality, still I wonder about T Bone’s point concerning the limiting factor of production costs in certain kinds of music. We all recall the resurgence of Swing, about 12 years ago. That’s Big Band stuff, and big bands presumably cost big bucks. I wonder whether that’s why the trend fizzled. And who’s to say that the next stylistic trend won’t actually invent a new form requiring elaborate arrangement, expensive rehearsal, formal production, etc.?

    I wonder.

  105. Hugo says:

    Consider Ellington, or the Gershwins.

  106. Rick Turner says:

    I had a talk with Joni Mitchell about album costs, and with a studio in her basement, she still could not see making an album for less than $300,000.00 in production costs. Who is going to fund the next Joni Mitchell?

  107. Hugo says:

    I treasure the work she did with producer Larry Klein, and wonder whether their personal relationship might have saved a bit on production costs. He brought a lot to the table and sometimes the sound was pretty dense, so maybe in the end he increased the cost of producing her.

    Aren’t production underwriters, the money people at the studios, essentially gamblers? Will there ever be a shortage of such speculators?

  108. len says:

    @hugo: Remember the big band revival coincided with the stock bubble. Optimism, free flowing cash, big parties and therefore, big gigs.

    There is never a shortage of artists that can perform the charts. Secondary and colleges pour thousands of them out there every year, prepped for tone, able to read, axe in hand. It is a matter of costs of the ensembles required for live. But regardless, the big band sound is a museum piece even if performed by a fresh set of scrubbed faces. It is mostly simply a matter of costs to revive that sound because of good charts. I’m not commenting in that on the fire that will buy you but it is moreorless union scale. It can be performed.

    On the web, it can be streamed, but more importantly, it can be embedded. Consider that for a major artist, a single portal gets enough hits. For an indie, the more embeds, the higher the rate of play. Is the sampling going to show both kinds of frequency and will it accord them the same value? Sample where and what?

    Accounting is the same or different? IOW, whatever is being discussed here, types are understood but names are behind masks.

    Now compare that to ZombieLand at It is unique if blues, it may or may not be written down and it depends absolutely for its sound on the set of hands that performed it originally, the original voices, etc.

    For an original, sites you can’t embed are sites you can’t show. No embed: no performance.

    In one, an artist has the rep, the pull, the seats to sustain one site with enough hits to measure. In another, the artist has to have enough embeds to measure. If the sampling relies on only one resource, it uses label numbers. If it relies on a third party accounting system with feeds from all embeds (plus version maintenance so that if a file is upgraded it still counts as the same original, therefore, hit counts persist), it collects web feed stats.

    Promotion is a single engine to orbit shot. Embeds are lots of little engines chugging up a hill. One is faster to attain. One is cheaper to maintain. The goal is to spend less on promotion to enable the embeds, then relax that promotion push while the web works. The act is a siphon for clicks.

    Complexity, costs, rarity, these vary by the expense of the real-time rendering. One problem of this thread is saying ‘Music’ as if it were one quantified value when in fact it is variable across costs of types and instances.

    Rick says Joni says an album produced in her basement costs 300,000.00. That means a “Joni Mitchell” album costs 300k.

    The recording by the girl T-Bone showed on the video cost maybe $300, which probably is what this cost.


    • Rachel says:

      Uh. Len.

      You do realise that your post of this video on this blog is a breach of copyright. Yes?

      • len says:

        It is an embedded reference. Google holding a copy of it may be a breach of copyright.

        Sort that out first.

        • Alex Bowles says:

          The iPhone has a neat ‘minimize’ feature that minimizes whatever webpage you’re looking at when a call comes in. To make this work, the phone has to take a screenshot of the page in the instant before the ring + caller ID info is delivered to the screen.

          So there’s a copyright violation right there. And that’s the point. Mechanical copyright is completely, totally, and entirely unsuited to a world in which copies are made not for consumption, but as background operations essential to the basic functioning of the systems we’ve come to depend on.

          It’s like a law that taxed transit based on the number of footsteps typically taken between points A and B. Suddenly, the wheel is introduced and the law if confronted with something that involves no steps at all or an infinite number, depending on your outlook. As a practical matter, both perspectives are entirely useless.

          The insane thing is to respond to such a limit in the law by outlawing the wheel.

        • T Bone Burnett says:

          “The insane thing is to respond to such a limit in the law by outlawing the wheel.”

          Or, of course, by outlawing walking. People still write and manufacture books six centuries on down the road. Where would we be without the both of them- feet and wheels.

      • len says:

        Yes. Wheels reduced walking and we found the will to tax tire sales as a means to build and maintain highways, not walking as a means to build and maintain shoes.

        It gets ugly when we build toll booths as a means to finance a highway and then leave them there to finance the next one.

        • Alex Bowles says:

          The commuters now paying $5 a day to cross the Golden Gate Bridge know exactly what you’re talking about.

          ‘Temporary’ tolls intended to fund construction have long since become permanent (and escalating) tariffs used to fund tangential operations throughout the state.

  109. len says:

    “Who is going to fund the next Joni Mitchell?”

    If Joni Mitchell put a Paypal button on a production portal saying, “Fund This Album, Please!”, how quickly do you think she could raise 300k? It would be an interesting test.

    The goal is a system where the short tail costs of funding the top tier acts doesn’t take all of the juice out of the system before the long tail acts can make even something as simple as that video Joni Mitchell playing Urge for Going.

    In the ASCAP/BMI/SESAC systems, the sampling system only samples membership events. The song played was the local indie. The song listed was Michael Jackson. It’s a rigged system to pay out to the top earners whatever they have negotiated in advance, thus it robs the long tail to pay the short tail. All the money evaporates before the toes knows, so by analog, the current system is diabetic.

    IOW, we have to account for broadcast costs of a universal access broadcast system.

    • T Bone Burnett says:

      I’m not certain that Joni could raise 300k that way. She could get it in a phone call to several people- Steve Bing being a good candidate. Arcade Fire could probably do that.

      But is that a great thing for an artist to do? Put down the hat without playing a song?

      • len says:

        I think she could do it once. It would be a cause celebre and there are plenty of people willing to contribute for the egoboo once. Should she? Only if the experiment interests her because I don’t believe she needs that kind of support. She is established and well-loved. Of course, anytime she wants to make a YouTube video, she only needs to turn on a camera.

        Rick clarified that he was talking about “the next Joni”. This is a good topic. A&R can reform and rebuild labels smartly if they take the time to relearn or unlearn their Belmont classes.

        Those recording costs only look high to someone who hasn’t produced an album and doesn’t know how long it takes to produce it, talent required to be on the schedule, extra facilities, and so on and on. Even when one owns the facilities, just keeping a few people available full time for a year will chew through 300k fast in ANY business depending on the relationships (anyone here paid Blue Cross Blue Shield for their staff?).

        Building an act based on a less expensive rendering is one way. Do they NEED an album immediately? Some do; some don’t. Do they need top-tier facilities? Garth Brooks was making megasellers in a studio that by Nashville standards was a demo studio.

        But this comes down to projects and the specifics of projects. Felicia Day used a PayPal begging bowl to cover costs for The Guild (streamys, really, these are serial shorts) until she could make a deal with MSM. Even now, her booth at ComicCon will charge for autographs to cover costs. Of course, they put up episodes first. No song; no dollar. What they did was defray salaries and other payouts untile the siphon hose was spilling.

        Another cleverness comes in the packaging and repackaging. When Laurel and Hardy made shorts, they were presented as part of larger packages. Tour caravans are coming back round to defray tour costs. Many recording projects are now multi-act works to promote the songs. All of the variations of that will become part of web-based projects.

        IMO, this is about maximizing our creativity in the way acts are developed, projects are hosted and funded, and then and only then about the back rooms. All of that has to be there. Labels, project consortia (eg, limited partnership) are adapting. But it is so that the traditional players in the capital side of this have to step back and rethink how they will recoup. It seems to me that artist development (A&R) has a realm of possibilities.

        I think it’s always possible to make one song/video, put it up, put the button there with the “contribute if you want the album made” and it will work within limits. For others, a production underwriter or a deep-pocketed patron are the way. The team needs to decide what risks it will assume and what risks it needs to be underwritten. It doesn’t need taxes to cover those risks. Does it need them to keep the other options open when and if these ‘free’ services suddenly dry up like the tank of gasoline from which we siphon but into which we do not pour?

        The music industry looks like the waste management industry from the perspective that it has a new awareness of the need to visualize and realize its obligations to the environment, and its traditional managers and patrons don’t jave that perspective in focus quite yet.

  110. Rick Turner says:

    Len, note that I said, “Fund the NEXT Joni Mitchell”…as in fund an unknown artist with talent.

    And Hugo, bingo! Yes, the underwriters are gamblers, but they used to have control over the distribution, so if they bet right, they won big. Now they could bet right and lose their asses even if an act were quite popular.

    BTW, among my fave record company gamblers were the Warner Brothers guys in the early and mid 1970s. Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Grateful Dead, Youngbloods, etc., etc., etc. Ditto Atlantic, ditto Chess. Now????

  111. Hugo says:

    len and Rick,

    I’m really appreciative of the information, which modernizes me a bit, andgrateful also for the taste of young Joni. She was so pretty, physically and musically. I do hope she’s not too beset now by her post-Polio Syndrome, and is still recording in her basement, be the cost $300,000 or $3M. She’s priceless either way.

  112. Morgan Warstler says:

    Who’s going to fund the next Joni Mitchell?

    Advertisers and Joni Mitchell’s fans.

    In China, where there is no music sales at all, and all radio airplay costs money… brands ante up the money to fund pay-for-play radio campaigns, the artist has her promotion paid for and goes on tour, and her label/managment keep a piece of the gate… the advertiser is prominently displayed at the concert – and why not they paid to tell the country about her – they get the credit for supporting her art.

    In China there is no lack of artists who are willing to take that deal. Music gets made. We’re headed that way… the music industry is pushing HARD to make radio start paying to play the music.

  113. Morgan Warstler says:

    “But you can do anything in China. It’s the freest place. Try another business model.”

    What a GREAT quote.

  114. len says:

    Again, fund a “Joni Mitchell ” album as lots of layers, all cost lots of money. Joni established herself with live performances in a media identical to the one we have now with good old YouTube streaming and live gigs.

    T-Bone is right about access to capital is the problem to make an album the way Joni made or makes one. A talented artist as T-Bone shows with that video of that girl doesn’t need that production unless she is going to make a “Joni Mitchell” album.

    Many a good act IS starting with a Paypal button. It won’t work for the level of brand as Joni Mitchell. It will work for acts that are young, can tour and can run their own databases. They are already doing it. What they can’t do is access capital as T points out.

    The prime paranoia for the young acts is to look at the ISP tax and think it becomes the way to use capital to block that access to broadcast as well. An ASCAP/BMI/SESAC style membership in agencies for collection services can result in exactly that happening. They have the money to buy the ads to dominate the search engines and reserve access to major distributing portals to themselves.

    We’re hungry. Not blind.

  115. len says:

    So, if the talent is there, the bet is proportional to the confidence of the bettor, not the cost of the bet. With today’s technology, the cost of the bet is minimal for the talent just as it was when Joni made those TV appearances. IOW, access to broadcast is the goal of the tax, not access to content. What the fee protects is not intellectual property but intellectual propagation.

    If an ISP tax is used to cover the costs of the big bets, it is the same as bailing out Morgan Stanley.

    If a fair use fee is levied that is there to enable broader access to content and broadcast of same, that is, copying, then it is not a bet on content itself. The question is who gets those fees? The administrators or the services? The government or Google?

    So T-Bone is right. Google, MSM, etc., ARE the new broadcasters.

  116. Rick Turner says:

    Morgan, once again you’re spinning things with such colored glasses as to be blind to reality. Do anything in China? How about practice Falun Gong? How about breathe clean air in Beijing? How about be a member of a minority group like the Uighars? How about being a student protester in Tiananmen Square?

  117. T Bone Burnett says:

    “Why not send robots?” is a common refrain. And once more it is the late Wernher von Braun who comes up with the rejoinder. One of the things he most enjoyed saying was that there is no computerized explorer in the world with more than a tiny fraction of the power of a chemical analog computer known as the human brain, which is easily reproduced by unskilled labor.”

  118. Alex Bowles says:

    I’ve been thinking about the very good Mark Federman piece that TBB posted on the Chris Anderson thread. It occurred to me that there’s another (correct) way to consider medium as message.

    Start by rethinking the idea that copyright is broken. As a system, it’s obviously maladapted to the reality of global peer-to-peer exchanges. And its good to see that most people here, given a choice between propping up publishers and preserving the internet as we know it would prefer the latter. So clearly we need something new. But that doesn’t mean that the old is therefore obsolete. Instead, it means we’ve reached the natural limits of this type of law.

    And within those limits, it’s still effective and desirable. For instance, Warner Brothers doesn’t have to worry about Universal surreptitiously acquiring a release print of the latest Harry Potter then cutting its own low-margin deals with theater owners. Nor does Scholastic need to worry about Knopf printing its own collection of Potter paperbacks. I can’t remember where I heard the analogy, but copyright evolved over 300 years to function like a tank mine. Civilians could tread on it safely, since the thing was only designed to go off when a major threat rolled by.

    The message being delivered by peer-to-peer networks is that they extends our capacities to such an extraordinary degree that 300 years of settled law is at risk. As any good artists knows, limits are necessary. In fact, it is mastery of the limits that leads to real greatness, so obviously the loss of limitations is not all good. And yet what’s truly bad is the harm that comes from sticking to limits that are not actually necessary – that are purely artificial in some concrete sense.

    The danger extends well beyond the publishing worlds. Here’s an interesting op-ed piece from yesterday’s Globe by Andrew Lippman, a founding member and associate director of the MIT Media Lab. In it, he observes that:

    Out institutions are cracking at the edges. Each day, we hear about another failure that causes us to question the role and efficacy of government, industry, and social structures. But all too often the debate focuses on the specific problems of a particular sector: Have newspapers lost their way? Is the auto industry obsolete? Can finance be managed without bankrupting us? The overwhelming details of each problem mask systemic problems of all the failing organizations. On closer examination, we can identify a consistent set of causes that apply across the board.

    He notes four causes that form a common profile, whereby institutions (1) ‘achieve’ inordinate scale, only to become (2) monocultures, all subject to the same infections which become even more unmanageable because (3) the organizations themselves have become entirely opaque to internal managers and outside regulators alike while (4) breaking all bounds with the communities they depend on, and which gave them a reason for being in the first place.

    The interesting thing pointed out by Lippman is that the media trades are perfectly defined by this fatal profile. Going back to TBB’s link on McLuhan, where Federman observes that

    (W)e largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time…Many of the unanticipated consequences stem from the fact that there are conditions in our society and culture that we just don’t take into consideration in our planning…All of these dynamic processes that are entirely non-obvious comprise our ground or context. They all work silently to influence the way in which we interact with one another, and with our society at large. In a word (or four), ground comprises everything we don’t notice…McLuhan tells us that a “message” is, “the change of scale or pace or pattern” that a new invention or innovation “introduces into human affairs.” (McLuhan 8) Note that it is not the content or use of the innovation, but the change in inter-personal dynamics that the innovation brings with it.

    Feldman concludes his essay by pointing out that

    (I)f we discover that the new medium brings along effects that might be detrimental to our society or culture, we have the opportunity to influence the development and evolution of the new innovation before the effects becomes pervasive. As McLuhan reminds us, “Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force.”

    But what if the culture itself has become defined by overbearing monocultures that lack any real governance or accountability, and which have lost sight of their life-giving purposes?

    In this case (as I believe the case is now) it’s not enough to simply warn of possible ill effects in an attempt to steer development in a more positive direction. Instead, a positive contribution needs to be made in the form of something entirely new that simultaneously disengages from the failed culture while providing a clear indication of our new-found capacities. In other words, the medium needs to be used in a way that directs attention to figure and ground alike. Moreover, it needs to present itself as a model for the type of solution that works, even as it resists attempts to create direct copies.

    This last bit is especially important in light of another observation made by TBB when he noted that, in entertainment, there is no law–only leverage.

    Elsewhere in this thread there’s been discussion about how much Google ‘looses’ on YouTube. But this assessment assumes that the person making it has an intimate understanding of the value that Google sees in YouTube. So sure, as a standalone unit YouTube is a cash drain. But YouTube isn’t a stand-alone unit. And frankly, no one below Google’s senior management level has an accurate understanding of the value that YouTube represents within the very complex ecosystem that is Google. It’s not that it isn’t a net loser. It’s just that we have no real idea about its value to the people who actually determine its fate.

    Assuming YouTube does have a clear and positive value, we can assume that value is a function of the leverage it supplies, and which Google profits from elsewhere. In this regard, it offers an indication of the value offered by complexity to operations that (a) succeed the failed and bloated monocultures that are now crashing and (b) demonstrate a basis for a truly humane culture that’s worth protecting and enriching.

    I’m biased, of course, but I think this comes down to producers who can imagine and establish the complex sets of exchanges that benefit all involved while providing leverage in hard to duplicate ways so that these benefits can be sustained.

    The important thing to realize is that the most successful ones will be those who don’t feel beholden to established forms – be they albums, movies, syndicated television programs, newspaper articles, or radio broadcasts. Rather, look for the producers who start with the medium itself, understand that it is the message, and that any creative endeavor that presents an attractive figure against a timely bit of ground won’t mesh with with formal norms that emerged from 300 years of copyright protection. In other words, look for people who are developing both figure and ground as a part of the same project.

    This is probably the best evidence available that someone is moving ahead of change, and not just with it.

    A final thought here, on the basic source of power for these endeavors. Throughout the interregnum, my suspicion is that the most successful projects will be grounded in “the change in inter-personal dynamics that the innovation brings with it” that Feldman cites. That is to say, producers working with both figure and ground will need their thought to encompass the tangible effect their audiences can produce in the world as a result of their engagement with the piece.

  119. JTMcPhee says:

    How about being that smiling, bouncy, competent, enthusiastic young woman on the “20-20” segment a year or so ago, pitching container-loads of completely fraudulent high-cost “medications” to several people she thought were buyers for large Canadian and US wholesalers and distributors? Assuring them the fakes were “perfectly safe” as placebos, though the packaging and labeling and printed material, including “counterfeit-proof” holograms, were “perfectly done, cannot be told from actual medications. so, how many container loads do you want?”

    That’s right, all you Morgans out there — in a world of profit-only, with “interests” and “business models” without even a negligee’s worth of moral sense and ethical content, without even tribal-level loyalty and no notion of any kind of social contract or rule of law — yep, “You can do anything in China.” How about “harvesting organs” from your fellow humans that the State declares to be “criminals,” or just grabs off the street because some kleptocrat decides he can? Any real idea of the provenance of the bodies in the immensely popular “Bodies” exhibits? But we are too fucking stupid to care about any of that, more than a microsecond if at all.

    Have your thumbs text my thumbs — sounds like a Newco opportunity, Dude!

  120. len says:

    “…this comes down to producers who can imagine and establish the complex sets of exchanges that benefit all involved while providing leverage”

    Precisely. What change will the interregnum bring? None. We will pick up the pieces and opportunistically glue them back together into a new thing… ummm…. Our Thing.

    The majors have always had to fight to protect the investments. They are ready for that. They are having to rethink all of the front end processes in terms of new renderings and different kinds of partnerships. That’s the Big Thing.

  121. Alex Bowles says:

    That emoticon does not belong there. WordPress thought otherwise.

  122. Rick Turner says:

    We just have to regard Morgan as our resident amoral force. There’s always one…or more…to deal with in any organization. Entitled, deaf to the words of others, greedy, and just intelligent enough to make one stop and have to realize that amorality is just an aspect of psychopathology.

  123. JTMcPhee says:

    And hey, “you can do anything in China,” and other places too!

    And I guess one good thing about skill-created artistic content is that at least the original can’t be faked too easy. By definition. Somebody has to actually, like, CREATE, no?

    And want to catch a glimpse of what those quick, vampire-toothed little Furries are doing? You know, get in the seing of things? I especially like the part about turning around and selling the fake Callaways via Craigslist, as originals and only half the price of the Real Thing. But hey, it’s all Every Man or Boy or Girl For Themselves, since there’s no such thing as gravity any more, and like, dude, it’s like, y’know, recreational drugs, it’s the BUYERS whose fault it is that I have to import cocaine and bribe cops and kill people and like that kinda stuff.

    Of course, like.

  124. Morgan Warstler says:

    You really don’t like China huh? I just cant wrap my head around that. It is such an impressive place. And yes a little rough around the edges… I’m fully aware that patents and trademarks are also being violated. Both are wrong, but we’ll be able to protect patents and trademarks long before we can protect copyright.

    I just mean to say that in countries where it costs money to broadcast songs (not to pay the artist, but to pay the radio station), and where no one pays for music – they still have found a way to have artists. They still have stars.

    I’m not ADVOCATING the system, I’m saying that confronting this crisis, we should look towards what has worked in other markets, and steal their best ideas, before we put all our chips on some global broadband music tax.

  125. Hugo says:


    Which China? Do you mean China, the world’s most perennial cultural powerhouse, or the modern China of greedy governmental muscle, including communications strong-arming?

    Do you really perceive the posture there as wide-open and therefore more congruent with your thinking? If so, I’d recommend that you tout a more promising candidate.

  126. Hugo says:

    Incentally, T Bone,

    Do emoticons remind you, as they do me, of Borgia’s beloved “phonetic punctuation”?

    I’d have thought that we got it right the first time. Still, every now and then I could do with a “wink-wink” or a “nudge-nudge” or a “say no more” from the likes of Eric Idle. A good goosing, or gassing, goes a long way.

  127. T Bone Burnett says:

    Incentally! Hugo, I see you’ve been hitting the port again.

    One would think a device maker would make the case that iTunes has a monopoly on retailing music downloads…some 85% of the market…and therefore cannot limit interactivity of devices to the iPod. Same reason Paramount Pictures or Sony or Fox can’t own 85% of America’s movie theatres. I wonder if they have thought of that.

  128. Hugo says:

    No, I haven’t been hitting the port, Old Sport, but it’s a thought. Perhaps I’ll do it preliminary to hitting your hits, and pondering your insider’s insights.

    For now I’ll say that the market competititiveness–or lack of it–that you describe strikes me as promising a shift from consolidation-of-content, in the interest of market control, to consolidation-of-delivery-system, in the interest of same. While I realize that you’re endorsing neither, I’d say more explictly that they’re probably equally undesirable.

    Er, what, what. Harumph. I haven’t a fig to give…

    • len says:

      On the money, Hugo.

      That’s why we fight for open formats. When renderings are locked to device types or server urls, they are effectively works hostage to canvas or patron.

      The plugin is the golden apple on which is written “ΚΑΛΛΊΣΤῌ”

  129. Hugo says:

    …and it wasn’t Port. Was Pinot…

  130. Hugo says:

    Well Rachel, ash I recoll, wush with me four, uh, square, on the matter of Pinot…

  131. T Bone Burnett says:

    Ever since its founding 11 years ago, Google has seen itself as one of the Good Guys. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin conceived their company as a kind of public trust. “We believe a well-functioning society should have abundant, free, and unbiased access to high-quality information,” they wrote in the run-up to Google’s IPO five years ago, a goal that requires “a company that is trustworthy and interested in the public good.”

    But recently, Google’s size and ambitions have begun to obscure its halo. Advertisers have watched nervously as the company’s share of the search-advertising market has jumped to 75 percent from 50 percent over the past three years. In 2007, Google attracted a yearlong antitrust review from US and European regulators after it announced plans to acquire online ad firm DoubleClick. In 2008, the DOJ swatted down a search-ad deal Google had made with Yahoo, arguing that it “would have furthered [Google’s] monopoly.” The company is currently under investigation by the DOJ for its ambitious book-scanning project, which aims to make every book ever published searchable on Google. And the Federal Trade Commission is looking into whether the Apple board seats held by Google CEO Eric Schmidt and board member Arthur Levinson violate federal antitrust law.

    • len says:

      Here’s the weirdness of Google. In an embed of my song “My Son’s Time to Go”, the YouTube auto selection software decided it should be in the same group as “Earlier Bagdhad” by some guy named “T-Bone Burnett” one slot over from Jeff Sessions.

      See what happens if you hang out with the wrong code.

  132. Alex Bowles says:

    See ‘The Road to Hell’ and read the subsection on pavement.

  133. len says:

    That’s often the case when the ‘best and brightest’ tackle ‘the worst and perrenial’.

    For the broader example, this is why cloud technology concerns some of us who don’t sell the technology but may be asked to apply it.

  134. T Bone Burnett says:

    I wonder what is up with these cold, self-righteous, egotistical people like Mike Murphy, who come on here and make these grand pronouncements assuring the end of the modern recording artists, comparing musicians to blacksmiths (then running away). Whence this glee? Must be a music lover. But I’d rather be a blacksmith than a pompous narcissist becoming emboldened and aroused by his own narrow perception of other’s demise.

    “(Of course, I suspect that somebody will argue that all historical record of music prior to the invention of the phonograph are merely fossils put in place by God to test us, and that in reality music has always been recorded, or something along those lines.)”

    What a jerk! With prophets like these, we need no future. I wonder if he shows the same disdain to authors. He seems to love himself completely.

    • Alex Bowles says:

      MM sounds a lot like Daniel in Denton from the Anderson thread, who led me to conclude that

      (G)uys like this are a dime a dozen, and that far from representing some unpleasant minority, they’re actually so well-embedded in the mainstream that they’ve assumed a defining role. This suggests to me that the best work needs to be cultivated in environments which offer some semblance of the respect that property, law, and language all enjoyed before the internet disrupted these things to such a degree.

      In other words, producers need to focus on both the figure and the ground. It’s not enough to simply stage a compelling performance. Audience cultivation and venue development become critical components of success.

      If the purely self-serving and socially awkward want to hang around the door, listening to whatever escapes while offering nothing of themselves, it’s fine. But if they want the recognition that comes from being an actual supporter of the arts, then they’ll need to make real contributions. In other words, they’ll need to pay a price of admission to gain a sense of participation.

      I recognize that the democratization of tools used to duplicate and distribute media has cratered the box-office as it was once known. It’s a major problem.

      It’s also the reason why new productions can’t rely on the old ground to support new figures. Instead, they must begin with a point of leverage that operates like the old gate, then scale their productions accordingly.

      The flip side of the problem is that media is becoming fantastically fluid – not only in terms of its creation, but also in terms of the options for delivery and audience engagement.

      One of my takeaways from working in the old order was recognizing the depth of the production / distribution divide. Unlearning the associated habits (for folks on both sides) may be the first step in seeing where opportunities exist for the construction of new and viable box offices.

      As you note, there’s no law – only leverage.

  135. Hugo says:


    The “wrong code”, or the right coda?

    • len says:

      I don’t know. I find it delightfully ironic that in the middle of all our talk, the computer has it’s opinions and expresses them quietly. Who knew the quiet voice would be the machine?

      We talk about levels but the machine is an equalizer. Wonderfully absurd.

  136. Hugo says:

    This really sums it up, for me at least. What y’all have been saying on these three gloriously long and luminous threads about hope for the future of a fairer way to express and enjoy art.

    This hits home. It’s interesting that the story depicts the big boys as beginning to buckle, but it sounds like the boilers letting off belches of steam through the sinking smokestacks. Perhaps someone could take over one of these dinosaur companies and really modernize it, but they already do indeed seem anachronistic.

    An itch, back o’ my neck, gettin’ dirty ‘n’ gritty at this hot time, though: When the old Hollywood film studios failed, whence would come the next Edith Head and Western Costume? I’ll use them as examples of the artisanship that attended the arts in those days. Splendor takes money.

    But spendlor’s not everything. Besides, nowadays we’d just digitize it in. Texture, schmexture…

  137. Hugo says:

    It occurs to me that I owe my postscript, using the erstwhile Hollywood costumers as an example, to Jon’s mention this morning of the now practical impossiblity of mounting another “Lawrence of Arabia”, even were such a talented, tasteful and seasoned auteur as David Lean to emerge in our midst.

    P.S. I fully recognize that Head was an artist in her own right and a leading figure in couture and textile design. Contemplating Jon’s observation, my point was–oy vey!–can we expect ever to see magnificent productions of the popular arts again?

  138. len says:

    “With help from a grant from the Canadian government, the band cut its own album in April…”

    Well, there you go. Music on the dole.

    Someone send me 250k in stimulus so I can live my dream. Where’s my mule?


  139. Hugo says:

    It’s not yet a medium capable of splendor, is it, len? In contrast to days of old, it can’t even keep its knickers up in Costume.

    As for Canadian subsidies, those would be part of what I wish we all might address sometime, as an alternative to USA’s fitfull and often weird ways of supporting the arts. I’d think that such a discussion might interest Jon.

  140. len says:

    I’m not so sure about that, Hugo. As a medium, it’s just transmission on demand for one set of hands. For another, it is becoming an artistic tool in its own right.

    But in that first selection, it acts as the chooser of choices. Those Google selections at the bottom of the YouTube panel are generated by the software, by the algorithms saying “this goes with this” and that is distinctly different from the playlists of radio stations made up by people two thousand miles from the radio tower, delivered in digital format to a computer that then plays songs selected by the artificially justified criteria of an industry that has to pay that $50 million to one artist who may make a hit or may hit up with the drugs that playlist jiggering afforded him.

    I celebrate a system that puts one of my songs next to one from one of the top producers and artists in the world. No system from the industry ever gave me that honor and none ever will as long as it is designed to ensure the top of the long tail is permanently ensconced.

    Will that spawn new abuses? Sure. A whole raft of consultants paid to game keywords will replace the song pluggers who bribed station managers. Money will flow into different pockets. Business is business.

    But for one bright shining day in July 2009, my work stands next to the A-listers. It gets a chance to be heard. It won’t be downloaded in huge numbers, but it got a fair chance.

    That is something that the old systems cannot do, will not do, and so one moment of splendor generated by a search engine algorithm outshines all that came before it from human hands to me. It may embarass some but here in the long tail’s entrails, it is a splendid moment.

  141. Hugo says:

    len, that is really brilliant–shining and clear–what you just wrote.

  142. len says:

    Thanks Hugo, but the next thought then is whoever controls the search algorithms that creates your selection context must “do no evil” or you have to hope laws are applied and we don’t have a clue how such laws would be written or enforced.

    The search engine as the quiet voice of the ghost in the machine is an entertaining character in the play unfolding before us. Like Delphi, it can only respond to the questions we bring it but we have only superstitious assumptions about the nature of the chooser of the choice of choices of the answer.

    Nicely third order. Of course, that system can also be made to only display A-lists first (incorporate a rank into returns and filter for chart positions) and that is how an open system closes around the profits made possible by an ISP tax or a production underwriter. If only money matters, money chooses.

  143. T Bone Burnett says:

    Len So that makes at least two same groups we are in. But Jeff Sessions! We must have done something very wrong. (The long tail is not working economically for the people on it as theorized.) I’m sure you’ve seen the Playing for Change version of Stand By Me. Tap may have posted it. It is the best example I have seen of the democratization of music. (What makes it great has nothing to do with the Web, not that there’s anything wrong with the Web.)

  144. Hugo says:

    Yeah. That’s it. And not because we were told what to like, but because we actually dictated what we liked. We voted in vinyl.

  145. len says:

    Exactly. The web didn’t make that video. People did.

    The mystery of Sessions being there is it is the video, “Sen Jeff Sessions announced his intentions to do crack cocaine”. I’ve no clue what the machine was thinking on that one.

    I do enjoy these discussions. What the fellow said in Ocean’s Eleven, “It’s good to work with proper villains.” :-)

    Yes, it is a cold medium and but the way I look at it is the skill of the artist is to shine through a medium, and assuredly, your warmth does.

  146. len says:

    Liked the same stuff? In some burgs, yes. I remember my Uncles and others discussing Ray Charles’ “Modern Sounds in Country and Western”. It cut all the way through their overt racism and hit them where they were most vulnerable to evolve: their passion for the blues and country western swing. Fifty years later, Mrs. Obama invites Allison Krause to play at the White House.

    Diversity again. I liked Top 40 way better than Top 10 programming.

  147. Morgan Warstler says:

    Ok guys what do you think of this:

    • T Bone Burnett says:

      Tom Cruise, American Psycho, The Big Lebowski shot at the end. Post Modern. Stitched together remnants. Miles Fisher is an exhibitionist- a male Madonna. Not sure that works. Don’t remember one thing about the song other than it had some cuts in the beginning. Nobody got hurt.

      Is this someone you are working with?

    • len says:

      The same way I think about peanut butter fudge cookies: tasty but not nutritious.

      Still, in the sense of consumer product making, this probably scored well in the label review session for a summer release. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to cover it in another band.

      The difference in Dylan and Charlie Parker is who covered their material. The commonality is that was never an empty list for either. If you want to make money the old fashioned way, publishing, you want other artists to cover your catalog.

      So I ask, do catalogs still make sense as investments?

  148. Morgan Warstler says:

    T Bone, I’m afraid the long tail is a bit of a scam. Yes, it make sense for at least one company to offer the full long tail, but that certainly doesn’t mean most of the tail will make a living… or even beer money.

    I have an theory that there is a knowable number of bands we “need” defined in part by:

    – the number of minutes we can spend time listening to music.
    – the number of times we need to listen to a song on average to “be a fan” of it.
    – the number of people we’d like there to be who are also fans of it, so we can group together around them.
    – the market void created when we don’t find enough new interesting stuff based on the constraints of the above.

    It isn’t an easy math problem, and I might not have all the factors right, but there should be a way quantify it.

    • len says:

      You’re a short player and you focus on the bands as commodities instead of the works. That explains a lot about the positions you take, Morgan.

      At one time, movie studios and labels invested in acts and developed them by combining great songwriters, orchestrators, producers and even the best blow. They ensured the act was ready. For that, they received the lion’s share of the money and they owned the song catalog. When you own the catalog, there is a lot of incentive to keep the band up front and to keep the songwriter’s busy or have the A&R head scouring for songs instead of stiff arming songwriters unless of course, the band is capable of grinding out lots of hits (in a post-album world, filler cuts have little or no value).

      In the short term, the Beatles made a lot of money from performance but then they had to make it from the catalog, the toy sales etc. Brian screwed them up big time, left them to the mercy of Alan Klein, and eventually they had to negotiate separate publishing to get any of the money. So the biggest act of all time got in serious trouble by not negotiating a long term deal. Caveat emptor.

      Again, A&R is one area of creativity in the models. What has to change is that notion of a ‘standard contract’ for new acts that ‘everyone has to accept’. That leverage is going away because if the act accepts less in front end development, they should recoup quite a bit more on the back end. The young smart ones are holding on to their catalogs.

  149. Rick Turner says:

    Well, while all these words swirl and blur, what I can tell you about music and the Internet today is that I just got my set list via email for the rehearsal tonight for the gig tomorrow night. Two rehearsals, a bunch of Jan and Dean and Beach Boys and other surf/summer tunes, we open at the uke club for Bob Brozman, and we’re just going to have a swell time.

    I vote for set lists via email…

  150. len says:

    And drop boxes. When there are songs to be learned, a drop box saves cassette and CD costs, is faster and easier to organize, and they don’t get left at the gig, in the car, or on the subway.

  151. len says:

    Jan and Dean on uke? The Emerald City Cavalcade of Stars? I’ll give you a tenner to play Ukelele Lady for my green skinned girl.

    Unless of course those are Electric Ukes and then, nevermind.

  152. Hugo says:

    Aw come on. The uke is the uke. I’ll defend unto death the innocence of my humble, happy uke. It’s incorruptible. You can’t even synthesize it. The worst you can do is to make actual art out of it, in which case you might win a Grammy, but more often you’ll just coax simple good times.

    • len says:

      Here is a good uke song and yet another example of creative copyright protection: record songs no will cover much less steal.

      Obscurity through perversity and wicked wit:


  153. len says:

    It ain’t the instrument, Hugo; it’s the playlist on that instrument.

    Do you really want to hear the Marseilleise on tuned garbage can lids? Ok, bad example, but Thus Sprach Zarathustra? Ok, another bad example. Oh wait, The Star Spangled Banner???

    You would?????

    Ok, I withdraw my objections. Dead Man’s Curve on ukes is high art. The higher, the better.

  154. Hugo says:

    All right, all right. I admit that I was teasing you that time, len, but even Lyndon Johnson found out that you can’t lift a Beagle by its ears and expect to get away with it…

    And hell yes, the uke stuff done in the last ten years or so blows me away with flighty happiness. (A counter note: that effect is owing partly to the fact that nobody had bothered much to record people’s doings with that instrument until recently. This immediately current prospect of instant, amateur publishing has therefore so much to offer that it makes me want to throw a Luau.)

    • len says:

      YES!!! The access goes both ways. The amateurs CAN publish and the CAPITAL can see without investments beyond posting services.

      It means new acts should expect fewer and less expensive services from labels until the act takes off. Measures vary. Details unnecessary.

      It means an A&RHead spends many many hours scouring MySpace rather than even more hours driving to clubs. An act is responsible for it’s own initial numbers. Always have been really. In most labels, that change has already happened.

      One difference is this: before all of those numbers were local or regional.

      Now they are global.

      To wit: Even Google YouTube downloads show countries where downloads occur. An acts total downloads may not be large in comparison to a heavily promoted act, but if the downloads are consistently global, they are like gardenias in a thousand patches, their ecological fit is multi-locale. Figure out why and you have the demographic target that enables you to spend marketing dollars in a consistently successful way.

      Measures work. They don’t tell artists what to record. They tell labels where to point the artists as to reciprocity. Who do you love. Who loves you. It’s not just a database of fans. It is a database of friends of the act. If the act doesn’t understand the implications of that, they aren’t ready to be invested. Risks say they will blow it after one success and then the money invested has to be invested again.

      Global acts have global manners. They understand the value of the conversation.

      Acts that hide out in their buses suck.

      Two models:

      1. Establish acts that are the top of their class in a genre and keep them on top for long enough to build up a catalog of priceless works. Own a piece thereof.

      2. Demographically target a genre and then cycle as many acts through it over time as possible to get as many hits as possible to ensure IP collections in the song catalog through airplay.

      The first model gets you Raising Sand. The second model gets you Hat Acts.

    • len says:

      An example of global thinking in social networks:

      If you disable embedding, you lost your connection to the social networks. They can still link but an embed plays in situ and that is the easiest way to drive higher numbers of uploads.

      Embeds are your friends.

  155. Hugo says:

    And len,

    As to your your jest concerning our incomparably melodious national anthem, I recommend, as a soothing specific:

    * Branford Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby, “The Star-Spangled Banner”; and

    * Bill Tapia (on pizzicato ukelele), “Stars and Stripes Forever”

  156. len says:

    I’m learning the Guthrie catalog on my grandfather’s five string banjo, Hugo. We all need some strange in our lives. This Land is ok (worked for Woody and Pete) but Darkest Hour is tres light for the song.

    I’m trying to imagine the king of luthiers and his merry henchmen walking in carrying a ton of PA gear and five tiny axe cases, then playing “I Get Around”. It’s like George S. Patton showing up on a Vespa pulling a semi and unloading a box of cigars. It works, but the waste, oh my, the waste!

  157. len says:

    The first undoubtedly works marvelously and Souza is pizzicato on ANY instrument.

    So I will occasionally step outside my comfort zone. Buble may be a step too far. In defense of Morgan, ballads at 2AM means an act is emptying the nightclub before the fights start in the parking lot. We don’t want them fighting there while we’re loading gear. They should go home and do that like any good couple.

  158. Hugo says:

    Huh, huh, huh! I love it, man!

  159. Hugo says:

    Hey len, I see that Pete won a Grammy, along with T Bone’s, this last go-’round. What a damn trip! Coming off a Peace Corps course in how to teach English, I once taught ESL to adult Korean immigrants in L.A., and it came up that while they were diligent students who quickly learned their grammar, syntax and vocabulary, still they couldn’t make themselves understood in so simple a transaction as that of boarding a bus and asking when to be let off. The trouble, as it turned out, lay in what linguists call prosody, the music and rhythm of utterances. So I scratched and scratched about this problem of theirs, and in desperation (but also with guidance from the Peace Corps people) I tried to teach them the beat of American English by drilling them on a few poems and songs. The poems were Jazz-infused ones, from Vachel Lindsay and especially Langston Hughes. Stuff with the big-barrel beat, as Lindsay called it.

    But what got them the most was Pete Seeger. They really dug Seeger. I’d play a song twice on an old portable record player, and then recite it with them and send them home with the lyrics, and bigod they’d come back next time speaking English without the em-PHA-sis on the odd syl-LAB-le, and it was a thing to see.

    Koreans hold teachers dear, as you probably know, so when my first class graduated they sent me off with little imported gifts and a great gust of Seeger’s “Incha by inch, wrow by wrow, gonna make-a dis gahden gwow, gonna muwlch it deep bewow ’til da wrains come-a tumbwin’ down”

    Goodbye, Mr. Cheapskate. It was all Seeger’s doing, and Hughes’s and Lindsay’s.

  160. len says:

    I get that. My hobby right now when not working or on my own music (Sibelius The Software is digital crack for composers), is jamming to videos with my headsets on. I spent last night ensconced in old Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins videos. Wow, I do miss those guys. Anyway, the more sophisticated I get with music, the further I get from the audience that seems to like my voice. IOW, K.I.S.S. is not just a band.

    Pete is my friend for lots of reasons including his stands on the wars, but also because he came South and lived among the heathens and then took the music, did good with it and would not condemm the culture it springs from even if he hated the overt racism. He realized, it seems, a stick in the eye is no way to start a conversation.

    Pete is recognized and accorded much reverence for his social work as much as his music. T-Bone is on an interesting industry path if I understand the basis for DMZ Records. He is defying all of the trends we are talking about as screwing over the music industry and is having what seem to be his greatest successes doing that. And DMZ is using the heck out of the web.

    Some of the people contending the thread don’t seem to understand where he is coming from in terms of his own history and work. That includes me. OTOH, I’ll do the digging. T-Bone is more of a forward thinker about these models than we know. He is a label partner yet he has been trying to reform the system for most of this decade. I’m awed.

  161. Hugo says:

    Convincing, len, and well put.

  162. Rick Turner says:

    Note that T-Bone has the advantage that others like Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, John Barlow, and Chris Anderson have…they got started and were well established in the old media. I have yet to see a totall new-media star artist who is doing well just from the Internet. The folks who got that head start are all touting the new media, but their bank accounts are filled with old media money, and money whose foundation was laid years ago. It’s really easy to suggest giving it all away when you got yours selling it. It’s the next generation of artists who are having the hard time right now. They may have their 15 minutes of fame right now, but they’re still crashing on couches or in the equipment van at night when they’re on the road.

    • Morgan Warstler says:

      Drudge & Breitbart. Ana Marie Cox. Cuban. Arrington. Godin. Om. Dooce.

      I’m sure I could go on on and on. I can’t do it with music because I don’t know it like the back of my hand.

      But you’ll take the point right? These are all pure-internet guys who can push memes farther than any of those guys just by pressing publish.

  163. T Bone Burnett says:

    Sometime next week, everybody will be world famous for fifteen nanoseconds.

  164. len says:

    Can I get the schedule so I can strike while my nanos are hot? :-)

    I realize there is old media and new media money. There is old South money and new South money. There is IBM money and Google money. That is only as relevant as pretensions are deep. Fact is, all that money in media is affected. People who got in when market conditions were different are just that much luckier in terms of period. I think those of you who do this have more options to find projects and acts, but you have more risks.

    At least some new media artists are doing ok. Is anyone breaking out the way the label artists can? A few indies are. On the other hand, how many new big label artists are breaking at the same time? The web is just one of multiple media out there one would have to break to be very big very fast.

    Even I have to admit that access to capital determines the size of a project from clean sheets of paper to the acceptance speeches. One of the useful or informative parts of this thread to me have been discussions of just what investments still have to be made to put a project into a profitable stance and how that varies between a band project versus an album project (eg, the soundtrack).

    Comparing what is successful in the market to what is marginal and what has no chance of success because of capital is a reasonable discussion. Not realizing that the balance of leverage is changing with regards to aspects of the deals made is a dead end.

    I’m one of those convinced that this interregnum in this industry is a chance to remake it into something sustainable and perhaps more equitable if not egalitarian. I don’t think laws can do that. I think smart industry people who rethink their business in terms of what they want to happen will.

    It isn’t that Hat Acts aren’t profitable. They certainly are. Nashville is grinding out the young nubile blonde clones and aw golly shucks bad boys the same way Hollywood grinds out their stars. There is no mystery to how the machine works and it is an industry with jobs if one wants to knock on enough doors persistently.

    I’m not sure that is what we are talking about here except insofar as their production underwriters are making bets based on copy sales and copyright revenues. The web will hurt that bet for those who don’t compensate. Is an ISP tax that compensation? I’m not convinced it is.

    The problem is for those business models based on owning catalogs of great works, it’s tough to see what the compensation can be other than patronage and patronage is not that different than what we have now except where the artist can bargain for more ownership of the end products. It seems to me this end of the model spectrum has more to gain from the web than the Hat Act model.

  165. len says:

    Yet the excitement more palpable is evolution of form itself. 3D sound engines enable discrete sound sources in navigable space. Blending locale semantics seamlessly in sound is a great and joyous challenge.

    When new forms arise, species evolution is at hand. We only glimpse dimly what our children will attain.

  166. Rick Turner says:

    Morgan, you just spewed off a list of names of which I only recognize one…Drudge…and I wouldn’t spit on the sidewalk for that asshole.

    Len, high quality audio has devolved mostly into iPod convenience. Only with home theaters screening Transformers does anybody give a hoot about 3D sound. Too bad…

    • Morgan Warstler says:

      Rick, whats it say that I knew all the names you mentioned (from back in the day at The Well), even have chatted with them, and you blanked on all the new guys?

      It says you’re old. All those “internet” only guys I mentioned earn more today, and carry more weight day-to-day with their ideas and opinions… and I like the old Wired crew…. but many there’s a lot more going on and even more coming out – the arts/symbols market is GROWING, the new guys are faster. Sorry old-timer.

      • len says:

        That’s arrogance, Morgan. That is why youth fails to prevail no matter how fast or how new. There is right and then there is success. Those acts may succeed on their own. You will fail and if you represent them, they will go down with you.

        See Allen Klein.

        Alex Bowles has a good bead on this. The theft started, the industry overreacted, the results were a promotion of the idea of theft as a means to achieve social equity where in fact they are the origin of the harm. They are spouses cheating on their spouses and blaming their spouses with claims of neglect and abuse. It may be the case but it doesn’t justify the means.

        Members of the music industry have handled this badly. Some still are. They will lose much value by such acts. The real worry here is the damage to the culture by those who persist in arrogantly promoting theft as a means to ensure their own business. That is a crime against society.

        The fight against that will be slow but where the wheels grinds slow it grinds finely.

  167. len says:

    @rick: I won’t dispute the hardware as driver of mass markets, or that as Morgan points out, they make piracy easy to drive hardware sales. Both are valid.

    On the other hand, to evolve a game or a market, you have to change the rules. Some call that ‘disrupting’ but it need not be so dramatic. For over a hundred years music hardware and software for audio has evolved to the driver of song requirements. I’m not overlooking the other forms, but essentially, they are all linear and synchronous.

    New forms have new hardware requirements. The gaming industry ran to 3D audio as fast as they could go and composers for it understand it is a different form. They have been driven along the lines of game play genre requirements.

    What has only been shallowly explored in the now nearly ubiquitous game rendering audio platforms (almost any PC sold has a medium end 3D and 5.1 capable engine) is recasting what we think of as songs into 3D spatial formats. I think we will be borrowing from theatre and other forms. As Hugo observed about the slideshow videos, blending of the arts is important. The strongest drivers will be the ones the artists start from, so song writers are challenged to take their heretofore linear and synchronous patterns and adapt them into a sound environment that can be non-linear and asynchronous but retain the drama of the pop formats or other genre.

    The fact that we don’t know how to do this except in shallow forms is why this is exciting to the artist. The fact that this requires a very different hardware setup from the iPod means Apple cannot control works of the new media.

    And that is why putting the Beatles work into a Beatles game world was the right thing to do.

    Don’t be put off or too attracted to ‘games’. That is just a genre format too. Blend in.

  168. len says:


    If you follow the links to David Archuleta’s performance, you see the Cazmo events are linked to iTunes. Note that Rascal Flatts had an inworld party in the Facebook embedded world created for the occasion. The walkthrough numbers were quite good. Minimally, these free Facebook embedded worlds enable indies to post their videos and songs in a free world. It simply wraps content one can get off a list but an album cover that simply wrapped vinyl became and art form in its own right.

    Same models; different means.

  169. Morgan Warstler says:

    Brother Ali!

    I wish there was a bigger market for heavy political rap. Years ago Chuck D’s manager asked me what kind for rap I was listening to, and when I said, “kid rock” he tut-tutted. (I still like kid rock)

    But his comment was funny, he said “man when we did it was fight the power and fuck the police, and then it was some skinny kid drinking gin and juice, and now it is a white boy in a pimp coat on hollywood blvd wanting to be a cowboy.”

    If you like Brother Ali, then definitely Screwball:

  170. Hugo says:

    Yeah, len, I was hoping that that was one of you adepts would espouse, hoping that that was what the sometimes eliptical T Bone meant, that “out of these forays” there might emerge “a walking path and then a road.”

    I’ve put a lot of time into trying to understand what y’all are bandying on these strings because of my sense that your discussions presage a course for our collective cultural future, but the underdog in me–the common pulse–pines for a happier ending than the sinking of artistry by greed. I’ve a little better sense of the weapons with which that showdown will occur, and, more importantly, I have much greater confidence in a winning outcome.

    I deeply appreciate the care you all have taken in these comments.

  171. len says:

    Here is disruption, Hugo.

    Suddenly, everyone is a server master. Kaboom.

    Languages layer like genes. A good linguist and anthropologist can stare through the written word with the same perspective as a Disney camera over a sliding box of animation stils.

    • Morgan Warstler says:

      This is a really interesting issue… I think the standard that the Gawkers / Huffington Posts of the world should be held to is… does your post encourage the reader to leave and go read it? Or does it make the reader less likely to read it?

      “allegedly-infringing use affects the market for the original work”

      This is the part of many blogs I wonder about… you get the sense they don’t want to lose the reader, they don’t wan the reader to click the link and go… but to be fair, they should… after all they found the main article worthy enough to write about.

      • T Bone Burnett says:

        Good thought, Morgan. Wanting readers is, of course, feebleminded. We are an Attention Deficit Disorder Nation. Everyone wants attention- for what is anybody’s guess. Why bother with a blog? Blogging is not the cure for this form of Attention Deficit Disorder. There aren’t enough bloggers in the whole entire blogosphere to fill the hole created by the stunning lack of creativity we summon in our
        sad, destructive, teeming isolation.

        But to the point, we are hollow in our limnings.

        It surprises me that Steal This Book, and its call for high luxurious anarchy, became the instruction manual for the BraveNewWorldWideWeb.

        At any rate, any artist worth his salt runs like a scalded dog from the disrepute of the on again off again Information Realm.

        I have to stop now before I kill again.

  172. Hugo says:

    This kind of story nauseates me a bit. Really makes my legs a bit rubbery. The subject is plain plagiarism, but the commentators skirt the subject in creative ways, just as the professoriat for whom some of us worked used to cover each other for stealing the shit we grunts dug up and wrote for them. In the words of “The Witching Hour”, by Tears for Fears, “We are paid by those who learn by our mistakes”. I expect it’s ever been thus in, say, the Navy or in IBM, but still I get sick in the gut when some smart aleck in NYC says that it’s the better part of valor to be immitated by ones betters. How totally gross.

  173. Hugo says:

    Pardon my traumatic aphasia. I’d meant to reference T4F’s “The WORKING Hour”.

    (Got it in the war.)

  174. T Bone Burnett says:

    Free Enterprise.

    I agree, Hugo. I wouldn’t want to be in a room with any of those people.

    The blind faith in the dream of the Megalopoli of Gold in the new (non atomic) Free Enterprise System is Every Man A King of a land without fences, and without land. I hope they’re right. They certainly seem sure of themselves.

    And the other side, licking approval off the Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor, well they’re just pathetic.

  175. Hugo says:

    Absolutely, but enterprise, please, that’s free without being licentious. The Constitution at least still does a pretty good job of limning that distinction. If talent wants a toady, then let the talent have a toady, but let us not mistake the toady for the talent (nor the talent for the toady).

    Let’s have a grand game in which all young people, even the unlikeliest ones, can seek to discover and nurture their talents. For that matter, let’s include the elders. But let’s not tolerate pilot fish; rather, let the pilot fish discover and flaunt for themselves.

    Jefferson famously mused about the prospect of an “aristocracy of talent”. Better a Democracy of Talent. There’s plenty to go around, provided one is gifted with a certain talent for broadness of mind…

    • len says:

      “Better a Democracy of Talent.”

      A shining city on the hill? The sad dry facts blowing up off that “Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor” is it is never One Person = One Vote. Keiretsu of talent and capital form to dominate not The Conversation but The Show.

      The Show is not like The Conversation. While it flows in both directions, it is asymetrical and the powers afforded by The Show over The Conversation enable those that will to increase that asymetry.

      One Person = One Vote is how we run our lives, not our industries.

  176. Morgan Warstler says:

    Democracy of talent = reality television.

  177. Hugo says:

    Funny you should say that, Morgan, as I once heard the late Pauline Kael presage much the same thing. She was biting, at the time, in her native San Francisco, and it took. The context was indeed the fabled Jeffersonian “aristocracy” vs. the reality of junk TV. She sounded like Twain.

    I think that T Bone is discussing cognition, and that’s why I take him so seriously. Cognition is both our inheritance and our debt: we gather it from our teachers and are obliged to pass it on. That’s what I meant by the references to democracy. In a sense it’s everything. It encompasses both the scientific and the artistic realms. It’s our way out.

    • T Bone Burnett says:

      We got a bad case of a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged. Information only wants to be free coming at you. Going the other direction, it wants your bone marrow. Your stem cells. It wants your very Deoxyribonucleic acid.

      Give your stuff away. Maybe someone will notice. Maybe they’ll give you something back for it. Something of equal value.

      If we ever figure out what value is in the Free Society.

      Maybe they will be overcome with gratitude and remember where they got the thing that came so effortlessly, so freely.

      But we don’t care. We offer our salvation without tariff, for we are Christlike.

      The Invisible Hand will drop Invisible Bread into our Invisible Mouths.

      Consider the lillies of the goddamned field!

  178. len says:

    Or everyone gets day gigs and admits that weekend warriors are all the EIC we’re ever gonna need.

    I’ve a friend who is an outstanding jazz musician. He said to me recently, “The truth is, this is the only thing I know how to do.” and unfortunately for him that is true. A whole lot of Notice with Natch is a poor retirement plan.

  179. len says:

    That is ‘without natch’. No money; no thrills.

    Young entertainers can survive an amazingly long time on pizza and press.

  180. Alex Bowles says:

    I just keep wondering if this problem would even exist for the WaPo if their organization was defined by guidelines like the ones that define Netflix.

    • Morgan Warstler says:

      Netflix is great, but I think the unions would have a real problem with firing all the non-stars, generally they don’t like the bar to be so high they can’t easily roll over it.

  181. len says:

    That is a great cultural plan, Alex. Having come from a company that did it the right way then within a year of hiring bad managers who hired even worse minions, I watched it turn into the Dilbertian Dominion, so I know that most of what the slide present is right.

    Trying to apply that to the EIC (Entertainment Industrial Complex) is an interesting thought experiment. If you watch the trades, you quickly realize that churn in the big movie production and major record labels is constant at the top. With a fatter middle now (eg, boutique or small labels with maximized ownership among the active partners), one wonders if Founder Effect sets in or they become irrelevant faster in the face of changing tastes.

  182. JTMcPhee says:

    Alex, I worked for a company that once lined up with all that Netflix stuff, the dream of some HR wonk. That company like all the others succumbed to greed and mediocrity and management by intimidation and the myth of “control.” I like one of the comments to that publication by Netflix, possibly from one of the agile young fuzzies that are supposed to meld into a Fighting Tiger, rather than an Inevitable Thunder Lizard:

    “wow, that is one arrogant company.

    “they might as well have summed up all their ‘values’ with one phrase: ‘enslave yourself'”

  183. Alex Bowles says:

    I’m with you, Len – it’s not what’s on the table, it’s what’s in the chairs.

  184. len says:

    Yes, so their problem is how to hire and retain the best talent. Where have we heard that lately?

    True: we were just tossing a rat we caught in an office out the front door asking ourselves if this was a Human Resources or a Security problem. We think the latter because an HR problem would have had a badge to open the door to get out.

  185. Hugo says:

    This is the most fascinating string I’ve ever seen.

    I dream of a nation of hundreds and hundreds of art colonies with economic exchange based largely on barter. Of a nation that funds the arts mainly through aesthetic education, at both the productive and the consumer ends, rather than through corrupting purchasing. Of artists trading art for art, one medium for another. Of art traded for cash and cash traded for tuition, pigment, canvas, reeds, strings, clay, stone and acetylene.

    I dream of virtual colonies…

  186. len says:

    “…virtual colonies”

    Technologists used to have those. Some may still. Marriage, kids, life have a way of getting in the way.

    Many of those people only met online to write specifications and standards. You have to share a dream that seems impossible and distant. Then you get it and share Facebook tweets.

    Now back that up with lightly coupled servers…..

  187. Hugo says:


    On the matter of an economy of talent, I guess what I’m saying is that I want it not to be too economical. In my mind’s purblind eye, I picture the thing similarly to Simone Weil’s construction of the cross; that is, with both vertical and horizontal dimenstions. I would cast Jefferson’s notion of an “aristocracy of talent” as the vertical beam set firmly into a horizontal, democratic base of talent–a talent pool. So I acknowledge that talent rises, or should rise, or at least, as T Bone says, stay.

    But I think that democracy has another play, in adding a horizontal beam of talent, and that beam, I would say, consists of the discovery of talents within each citizen regardless of whether she is destined for a lifelong talent show. So I don’t mean to confuse art-making with talent, or vice versa, much less do I wish to count all aptitudes alike. I just feel rather deeply that every person is born with a gift of some sort–in the case of some of you, multiple and manifest gifts–and that in our collective projects we should bring those gifts to bear in the interest of the flowering of democracy, in service of the commonweal.

    I once knew a young man rather profoundly afflicted–these days we would have to say “gifted”–with Downs Syndrome, such that he did not live very long into adulthood. In the years before he died he demonstrated an astonishing talent for remembering and singing spirituals. He didn’t construe his singing as a performance, but when he sang his performance was tranporting–of him and of all within earshot.

  188. Hugo says:

    Which is to say that in those moments, when Jerry would break out in song, the vertical and horizontal axes met in the crux of the matter of talent.

  189. len says:

    There is no doubt about the moment that moves me onstage moves the audience and the highest moments onstage are those. Nothing and I mean nothing is better… that can be described on a family blog.

    As hard as we may wish it otherwise, our magnet schools are nothing more than thinly disguised support of the arts in the name of racial integration. It is a weird combination because anyone in the system knows private tutors make the difference for most and raw expressive gifts for some smaller number who succeed.

    A-list art is and always has been the art of privilege. That is why the magic of folk music that begat the magic of garage bands was the voice of the 60s. It was the voice of our generation.

    It is not the voice of this generation.

    That would be rap, rock, metal, christian rock, country and so on.

    Given there is no common voice, A-list art, highly refined and structured, well-figured, polished to a high chrome gloss music is what we get. And that fills the space between the moments of heart that give a generation a need to sing and say something changeful.

    Polish makes wood bright. Patina makes it beautiful.

  190. len says:

    Or as Alex said, it’s what’s in the chairs. It is organic.

    Hugo, why is the drop out rate among minorities in our system so dammed high?

  191. Hugo says:

    That’s an especially beautiful coda, len. Thank you.

    What about talent more generally conceived? Can one find, say, a fiduciary talent in a future gang-banger who can neither dance nor sing nor paint nor sculpt? I’m not kidding. Moreover, how about a killer who can preach, or a banger who can blow, or a poet punk? How about a little more preemption?

    Point well taken, yours concerning magnet schools. Presumably you’re aware that some magnets also encompass technical training while dismissing the arts. My problem with magnets, from California’s SB 813 (1983) on, has been that what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander; that is, that if the way out of overregulation is to exempt some schools from it, then ipso facto overregulation should end, for all schools, across the board. To do otherwise–to ration and apportion charters–is, as you subtly suggest, a subterfuge. (It’s actually a brutal and almost ineffably cowardly one.)

    I guess I see what you’re saying about the conditions that once obtained, but do not now, prerequisite to a flowering of young people’s artistic expression. So, that begs the question: What needs to change?

    • len says:

      “What about talent more generally conceived?”

      The talent of the teacher makes the difference. Are dedicated magnet schools an answer to the need to group similar talent types to ensure the area of concentration is credibly taught? That I accept. IOW, the premise that the school concentrates in one or another major talent domain is not wrong. It is the premise this somehow changes the racial mix to the advantage of anyone.

      School student populations are fish. They school themselves. Rich kids still hang out with rich kids, geeks with geeks, cool with cool and so on. Nothing changes there.

      Teachers? What I remember about my teachers in the 60s is they were on fire with the opportunity to teach. They were classic Sister Act, bringing sounds from the streets, lyrics, topics and proving them worthy of study.

      I’m an artist so I use examples from art. I think every guy who graduated shop has a favorite shop teacher. Did he teach them basics? Fire air fuel? Or did he teach them physics?

      The best college composition and theory instructor I had was Frank Contreras. He looked at the shaggy dogs he had and began to draw chord progressions on the keyboard instead of the staff. Once we could connect basic progressions, we could start thinking about counterpoint, not the other way around.

      Basics matter. Basics are found in every discipline. Basics are always basics and if always presented as basics, fuse into complexity through application. It is in the way you use it.

  192. Hugo says:

    Sorry, I posted between remarks. Why is the dropout rate so high, “among [the erstwhile] minorities?” First, let’s postpone the troublesome matter of who constitutes a minority; I quite understand your question. Next, how high do you suppose the dropout rate to be amongst the populations of concern? Seriously, I ask this because I suspect it’s quite a bit higher than you think.

    Then, let’s talk about why.

  193. Hugo says:

    That’s a little high, len, but yeah, we’re in the same ballpark.

    Let me dismiss magnets. They’re not an answer to anything but constituent mail.

    Now onto to your crucial question of why the dropout rates are so high. Not to be at all flippant, but why shouldn’t they be so? What I mean is, what’s to commend a school system? Why should it be taken seriously? What’s in it for a constituent who’s not even perceived as a constituent, for a client (pupil) never perceived as a client? Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em.

    And whether you think I’m referring to the delivery end or the receiving end, is your guess…

  194. T Bone Burnett says:

    From Rupert Murdoch

    “We intend to charge for all our news Web sites,” Murdoch announced yesterday.

    “Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting,” Mr Murdoch said.

    “The increase we have seen in our Wall Street Journal subscription proves to me that the market is willing to pay for that quality.”

    • Alex Bowles says:

      Viability comes down to the difference between news as essential information, and news as entertainment.

      What publishers are discovering now is that you can cater to a small group willing to pay premium prices for high-quality news as a service, or you can cater to a very large group by giving away generic news for free and selling eyeballs to advertisers.

      Needless to say, the latter model (which was obviously the more lucrative) is the one now coming unstuck, while the former is actually doing okay.

      Just consider the annual cost of a Bloomberg terminal (about $20k). On a more modest scale, consider the several hundred dollars you need to pay for access to Advertising Age’s very good databases. Then there’s the Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which straddles the divide between open data collection and analysis, and private reports tailored to very specific needs. Again – it’s probably a very comfortable business.

      Of course, they’ve probably all seen revenue slide in the recession, but there’s a big difference between that and ‘the oh my god we’re all going to die’ hysteria that’s gripped the news-as-entertainment crowd.

      The real issue is that, for the maximizing-profit-trumps-all crowd, the cover price has always been a much smaller piece of the pie that the money made from the advertising rate card. Though it’s easy to blame those damn internets, and the Google in particular, the reality is that advertisers simply aren’t spending the money they once did now that the giant pool of fake money that was the consumer credit bubble has vanished.

      More importantly, they’re unlikley to ever spend the same amounts on such unresponsive one-way channels when the same disruptive force that’s demolished printed news has given advertising clients a massive stick with which to negotiate for better performance from their agencies.

      Agencies are responding by using the internet to provide much more targeted results at a fraction of the cost (leading, nicely enough, to lower prices for things like soap, which Walmart can then advertise on its in-store network to Super-Bowl size audiences at infomercial prices). So yes, this means that advertising is becoming far less profitable too.

      Unfortunately for them, major advertisers don’t see themselves as responsible for underwriting agency bloat. Nor do they see themselves as being indebted to the increasingly antiquated news and entertainment conglomerates that ad agencies relied on to engage audiences in the first place.

      So that giant sucking sound coming out of Madison Ave, combined with the sudden reverence for savings and thrift, has left the ad trade – and all its dependents – totally reeling.

      But here’s the nasty thing for news in particular: advertising has always been a cyclical business. Granted, few people alive today have seen a cycle this severe, but still – ebbs and flows come with the territory. If you’re a broadcaster, this is managable. You cut scripted shows with expensive stars in favor of dirt-cheap reality TV, and carry on with your model basically intact (for the moment, at least). Sure, quality has gone down, but like Jay-Z says, ‘it’s only entertainment.’

      However, if you’re actually responsible for something as vital as the Fourth Estate, you’d have to be a colossally negligent manager to trust your whole enterprise (which needs to work rain or shine) to the fate of a sector that’s totally dependent on shine.

      But of course, gross negligence of this type has become the hallmark of modern news owners. I mean, when Murdoch’s Fox News thinks responsibility consists of telling its audience to please refrain from actual violence in response to the totally fake ‘news’ they’re airing, then it’s clear that we’ve got the wrong people in change of the show.

      In all seriousness, I welcome Murdoch’s very late realization that the good stuff is worth paying for, that payment should be insisted upon, and that he’ll only sell to people who pay.

      But I also suspect that this isn’t going to fly with the 90% of his business that isn’t the WSJ. After all, that’s not quality reporting. It’s anger, sensation, mush and fluff delivered to people with remarkably limited educations, but who could be counted to buy whatever products were presented into their media streams (provided they were cheap and disposable or easily financed on bad credit). It was never about the news, and pretending the O’Riley and Beck ‘deserve’ (and can get) the same thing as Tim Russert or Jim Leher is laughable.

      In reality, you don’t need to convince smart and conscientious people to pay – they already do. And they do so because you provide not just basic information, but packaging and delivery that serves a broader range of needs surrounding the time and place of consumption.

      In other words, you can build a small but good business around the smarter set, or you can go in for bread and circuses. If you’re really clever, you can, like Netflix, go for quality and scale (fingers crossed that they maintain their trajectory). But what you can’t so put yourself in the business of gladiator fights and lions, then complain when the people you attract behave like slobs.

      As so many people have pointed out, if news guys really didn’t want their stuff in Google news, or other automated aggregators, then they could stay out with a very simple line of code.

      But what they want to to have these services pick up their stuff, then take share the money they make. Only they want to dictate terms – as though they were the ones who invented the internet, and built this entirely new distribution platform from scratch on their own dime. In other words, they not only want to get paid for the risks taken, and the services provided by others, they want to name their own price under threat of outdated and increasingly counterproductive law.

      The real rub of this story is that the mainstream media has become a hugely damaging thing. You could see this as early as the 1980’s, and the sensationalistic response to crack that led to profoundly draconian laws that have done terrible things to millions – effects far worse than the supposed threat. Things have only gone downhill form there (I’m just sorry that Cronkite lived to see such an sickening decline).

      Revulsion at place we’re arrived is the very essence of Jon Stewart’s schtick. His exposure when through the roof following his takedown of Tucker Carlson, and the ‘please stop because you’re hurting America’ line on Crossfire.

      He made the same point when calling Cramer onto the carpet – treating him as a surrogate when telling MSNBC that a news organization should be reporting on danger in the market – not amplifying it while saying everything is fine and pocketing a bit of cash on the uptick.

      And then there’s the whole Iraq fiasco – that multi-trillion dollar waste of credibility, power, focus, and goodwill that would probably have never happened were it not for the total collapse of journalistic responsibility with regard to Pentagon propaganda. So much for the Fourth Estate. I mean, I agree that it’s vitally important. I only wish we had one that actually worked.

      So to me, this is a classic case of the old having outlived its usefulness, while still possessing enough strength to keep the new from emerging – interregnum epitomized.

      I don’t see Gawker, HuffPo, and the rest as ‘the future’, since they display such an obvious disregard for (and disconnect from) the costs of real journalism. But I don’t see established news organizations as having much future either, as they’ve displayed such an amazing disconnect form the importance of real journalism, and the vital need to adapt the practice and product to a rapidly shifting environment.

      Today, I tend to see the potential of massive real-time data combined with honest visualization as the cornerstone for an informed citizenry. It’s really a completely different medium, and not one that needs to depend on something as problematic as mechanical copyright law, the distribution limitations of dead-tree media, the anecdotal evidence supplied by a handful of individual reporters, or the vagaries of entertainment and advertising markets.

      It’s also worth noting that the patron saint of modern information design, Edward Tufte, is increadibly forceful about the ethics of information design. He knows as well as anyone that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. And that’s why he’s gone out of his way to define aesthetics as ethics, and vice versa. This is something that mathematicians have always known (musicians too) – that there’s beauty in truth rendered with perfect clarity.

      Given the nature of what’s (hopefully) to come, there’s a remarkable need for individuals and organizations that combine a broad measure of historical and cultural awareness, skill in the hard math and science of of observation and statistical analysis, training in the nature and logic of ethics, and the aesthetic skills to properly engage creatures (humans) who receive the majority of the information they absorb from their visual cortex.

      When you consider the stereotype of the hard-bitten, hard-drinking reporter of yore, and the first-person-narrative-based and deadline driven nature of the organizations he’s traditionally worked for, it’s clear that this entire arrangement is diametrically opposed to the environment from which real news (i.e. stable, profitable, independent, comprehensive, prescient, accurate, and respected) is likley to emerge in the 21st Century.

      So like so much else in the realm of old media, I just don’t care – except to the extent that whatever lingers may be blocking real progress.

      In the meantime, onward with projects that fit this profile, and good luck to those still invested in the rest.

  195. Hugo says:

    That right there is some seriously scary straight talk from Mr. Murdoch. Scary, in the sense of the First Amendment, which happens to mention a thing once called the Press. Straight, in that he’s looking at the production cost of vestigial journalism, and he wants to see the bottom line in continuing the exercise at all. A couple of the reasons for the decline of the LAT are that that they persisted in funding investigative journalism and bureaus overseas. From the perspective of a Murdoch those were dumb moves, far out of fashion.

    We have got to breathe new life into our First Amendment. I don’t know how to make it work financially, but maybe Murdoch knows and won’t tell. More importantly, maybe Jon knows and will tell. One prescription, to which JTM recently referred, is to trump up a story to sell newsprint. That was Hearst’s (and also Pulitzer’s) solution. But it’s a shitty solution.

    The better thing is to report as honestly as possible, and to let the chips–or, in the case of Murdoch, the chits–fall as they may.

    Either way, it’s a brutal business–as the Framers knew, God bless them.

  196. Jaysen says:

    Getting ISPs to do the dirty work for the failing music industry may well be wrong, but if an agreement could be reached it’d be very helpful for all parties. US ISPs may actually be about to cave in to the demands, as The Music Void has investigated –

  197. Zaida Panama says:

    I Will have to come back again when my course load lets up – nevertheless I am taking your RSS feed so I can read your site offline. Thanks.

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