Friday, April 11, 2008

Myspace in the music business and what it means for indie artists.

I received this interesting take on moves by MySpace to get into the music business.
Thanks to Brian Austin Whitney from Just Plain Folks for allowing me to publish this article.

Written by Brian Austin Whitney
Visit the Website:
Mail CD's @ 5327 Kit Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46237
Copyright 2008 Just Plain Folks Productions.
Just Plain Folks Member Population: 46,519
Just Plain Quotes:

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which
ones to keep." -Scott Adams

"There's no business like show business, but there are several
businesses like accounting." -David Letterman

"We believe that an artist, in order to be true to himself and his
work, must be a free man." -John F. Kennedy

"Freedom is a relative thing. It's often determined more by what you
allow yourself to do than what others allow." -Brian Austin Whitney

My Take:

As I was putting this newsletter together, a big announcement was made
about MySpace Music signing a deal with 3 of the 4 major labels (with
indications the 4th, EMI may follow suit soon). Ive heard all sorts
of excitement about this deal from our members. But I suggest using a
great deal of caution and some healthy skepticism as to whether this is
really a good turn of events or not.

The jist of the deal is that MySpace can't afford to pay the
licensing on major label content so they're going around that problem by
giving part ownership to each of the labels of a spin off from MySpace.
This new stand alone MySpace Music will offer free streaming music of
the entire major label catalogs in exchange for sharing the income from
advertising and subscription fees from a download program (which
hasnt yet been defined). In addition, it is offering the labels
participation in merchandise sales and ticket sales and any other commercial
exploitation of their catalog. This is very attractive to the labels of
course because right now they only make money from the recorded music.
But I don’t view this as a good thing for artists, especially those
who make up 99.9% of the artists already on MySpace Music.

MySpace Music claims they have 5 million major label, independent and
unsigned artist pages on their site. (By the way, I am strongly
suspicious of that number, but I'll roll with it for now). I visited all 4
major label sites and counted up the rosters listed for each. The
number was under 1000 total. If their numbers are correct, that means that
the label artists make up less than 1/50th of 1% of the pages. The
other 4,999,000 are from the indie and grassroots music communities. So
while these negotiations are happening, I have to ask the obvious
question: Who is watching out for and representing all of us (our
grassroots/indie community), the 99.995% who collectively make MySpace Music what
it is? As far as I am aware, the answer is no one. That should be a
concern to any non-label artist on that site.

If the majors are going to be co-owners of the new site, what would
make any of us believe that they would treat the artists/writers not on
their labels fairly? After all, these are the same people who have thumbed
their nose at fair competition with schemes such as radio payola for
many years. The major label system has regularly shut indies/grassroots
artists out of significant radio play, off most shelves at record
stores, out of corporate controlled music venues and relegated to the
commercial music equivalent of the "back of the bus." These are going
to be the new owners/gatekeepers for MySpace Music? Really?

Now, perhaps utopia will prevail and the new company will find a fair
and transparent way to compensate all 5 million artists for the traffic
they bring to the site to increase ad revenue. Perhaps they'll pay
our folks the same rate per play that they'll pay the majors.
Miracles sometimes do happen. But without any representation behind the
scenes, thats a pretty big leap of faith to make. It's been stated that
the major labels will have representatives on the board of the new
company. Maybe we can hope for some board representation for the
indie/grassroots community as well. But none has been offered so far. In the
meantime, a site that was populated and made popular by the folks from
the grassroots/indie community first is now being assimilated by the
“Borg-Like” corporate major label system. Once again, the little guy
helps blaze the trail and the big guy swoops in and gets the money and

This deal isn't happening in a vacuum. For the last 10 years the
indie and grassroots music community has found a way to survive and thrive
outside the label system. Expect those stodgy old labels to swoop in
on every other good idea and approach used by all of us. Weve
collectively led the way and now the modern day carpet baggers are coming.
This week I heard about a major label head who thought he'd come up
with an original, earth shaking idea that was going to change the entire
music industry as we know it. His idea? He wants to launch an all
digital label that will release music directly to the web for
download only. Somebody hasnt apparently told him that the idea was more
than 10 years old and has been happening all over the web in the indie
community and by countless start up companies for years.

Heres a link to our message board where we're discussing this and
where you can find multiple links with more information about this new

No comments: