frontline

Tonite, I watched the Frontline show, “The Way the Music Died.”

It was kinda of interesting, but all told, rather disappointing. For a discussion on the economics of the music business, it was shockingly scarce on, well economics.

The show:

• never even mentioned high retail prices;
• made no mention of price fixing;
• hardly talked about technology;
• did not discuss consumer time pressures;
• made no mention of the RIAA;
• did not discuss the inherent genius of suing their clients;
• failed to discuss the industry’s anti-consumer protectionism;
• only vaguely mentioned file sharing;
• ignored competitive pressures from other entertainment (DVD, Vid Games, Internet);

To their credit, there were several spirited discussions on the negative effects of radio ownership consolidation to their business model, especially ClearChannel. As an example, KCRW 89.9, an independent station in Los Angelos, first “broke” Fiona Apple, Coldplay, and Norah Jones. The implication is that a broader, less consolidated radio industry would be more experimental, “break” more acts. The tiny Clearchannel determined play list as the root of all evil was hardly discussed.

There was alot said about the decreasing quality of music, as the industry focused (thanks to MTV) on what bands look like — Pretty! — rather than what they sound like. David Crosby singled out Britney Spears (not much of a reach there) as the prime example.

As a counter example, one of the producers mentioned that good creative music still sells: Outkast (8 million records sold), Eminem (8 million), 50 Cent (6 million sold) and Norah Jones (6 million). Despite downloading and everything else, these artists connected with fans and sold lots and lots of albums.

There was also a lot of hand wringing about the — horror! — corporatization of music, as public firms were forced to meet quarterly numbers — something this business is particularly ill suited for.

Lastly, I was quite surprised to hear that Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Target account for 50% of all sales. That seems way higher than the numbers I’ve been looking at (more like 30% and growing). If anyone can validate this data, I;d appreicate it . . .

Category: Finance, Music

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

6 Responses to “Follow Up: The Way the Music Died”

  1. Myke Myers says:

    It was very disappointing. It focused far too much on Hudson and his daughter, wasting precious time that could have been devoted to key issues.

  2. rob hone says:

    I agree the show was typically bad TV. Personality focused. re. KCRW. Check out KEXP radio on the web. This station, originally from the Univ of Washington campus is by far the best independent station in the country. They played Nirvava and Norah Jones a year before KCRW. The web site is an entry to a world of live and archived music. The weeknights are devoted to genre themes such as Roadhouse-Americana/Roots?R&B, Swinging Door_Classic and alternative Country, Wo POP-World music, and Expansions-Incredible D J based electronica. Its always the golden age of music if you know where to look.

  3. gse says:

    Good thoughts. Of course it’s interesting in itself that they’d spend so much time talking about bands “breaking” or “having a shot” or whatever.

    I posted a bunch of thoughts on my site today too: http://www.antisleep.com/archives/2004-05-28_0252.php

  4. Jeff Huffman says:

    “As a counter example, one of the producers mentioned that good creative music still sells: Outkast (8 million records sold), Eminem (8 million), 50 Cent (6 million sold) and Norah Jones (6 million). Despite downloading and everything else, these artists connected with fans and sold lots and lots of albums.”

    Interesting, except that between these four artists there’s really only 2-1/2 styles of music.

    Eminem and 50 Cent(s) share more-or-less the same audience. The last Outkast CD sold mostly on the strength of “Hey Yeah,” with probably 50% of the people who bought “Speakerbox/The Love Below” wishing that they’d just downloaded the single. The other 50% of the sales undoubtedly went to people who own CDs by Eminem and/or 50 Cent(s). Not much artistic breadth there.

    Nora Jones’ first CD, which is mostly dreck (her second is much better), appealed primarily to boomers who have lots of disposable income. These are the same people who made Eric Clapton’s somnolent “Unplugged” a hit.

    I won’t hazard a guess as to why all these artists sold actual CDs rather than having their work swapped ad infinitum. But I will say that it’s a real stretch to brand them all as creative.

    I’ll second the other poster singing the praises of KEXP. It has to be the best station in the country and, thanks to its web cast, maybe the best in the world. This is particularly true for morning “drive time” with “John (Richards) in the Morning.”

    The variety of KEXP’s programming is remarkable.

  5. Chris says:

    Frontline now has a streaming archive of their shows. Here’s the link for “the way the music died”.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/music/

    Now if only NOW with Bill Moyers would make a streaming archive!