On a new Web site, fans of Brit-pop band Blur or Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter KT Tunstall can learn how to play some of their favorite songs on guitar, bass or drums — from the artists themselves.
The site, NowPlayIt.com, lets users download video tutorials for songs from a handful of popular musicians. So far, there are about 400 videos available in different bundles. The top tier downloads, priced at about $8, feature the stars talking about the song and then demonstrating the chords or drum beats.
$8 is an interesting price. This price is a lot like the cost of sheet music. If you buy a book of sheet music with 200 songs for $25, you’ll pay about $.12 a song. If you buy a single song in a standalone package, you’ll pay about $5. This price is lot closer to the standalone case.
This price suggests that the licensing process was a total nightmare. Add in production costs and whatever a rock star charges to give a lesson on camera and $8 makes perfect sense.
Except that $8 for one song is so high that it’s guaranteed to create a thriving black market. This price is based on the strange and barely functional economics of the music publishing industry. Music publishing is descended from the sheet music industry of the pre-recording industry, and I have the impression that the practice of publishing sheet music for individual songs is mainly an archaic habit.
The format of the Now Play It lessons is worth checking out, just to compare it to the less sophisticated learning tools of the pre-digital era. Instead of guitar tablature or music notation they do an animation of the fretboard, based on static chord diagrams, synced to the music. (Here is a freebie preview).
Guitar tablature image:
Chord diagram image:
Screenshot of fretboard animation:
(Thanks to Tom Barger for the link).