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Follow Up: The Way the Music Died

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On May 28, 2004 @ 12:32 am In Finance,Music | Comments Disabled


Tonite, I watched the Frontline show, “The Way the Music Died [1].”

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 . . .

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URLs in this post:

[1] The Way the Music Died: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/music/

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