I agree that cdbaby and tunecore are not “labels”. CDbaby is a service which also offers a retail outlet. Tunecore is a service
I also agree that in the long run, arbiters must arise if one is to differentiate between community-based mass participation and the “endorsement” of a “label” which sorts through product.
I don’t see tunecore as a replacement for the label, nor did I read the post to suggest it served that purpose. I see it as one more aspect of the unbundling of label functions. In the past, a label provided a broad range of services, from providing capital for recording (at what amounted to unfortunate lending rates), providing some very gifted “ears” to sift the interesting things from the uninteresting things (and a large number of very non-gifted a & r ears who tried to do so, as one would expect in any field as tricky as creative endeavors), enhanced distribution on radio and in retail outlets (enhanced, sadly, by various forms of payola), and tour and marketing support.
Tunecore is the unbundling of one of the services–the ability to get distribution of mp3s for anyone. A Tunecore listing, though, becomes a vanity process unless either mass acceptance is gained through some form of arbiter of taste or mass acceptance is built by the band through self-marketing.
I agree that one is going to need an Ahmet Ertegum (though I’d have chosen a different arbiter of taste, the idea is the same). But the unbundling process will also extend to the arbiters. The ‘net culture has already begun to create them on its own, and will inevitably accelerate the process of creating new resources to choose good music from bad in the way that label a & r fellows used to do.
It’s fair to say that Tunecore is not the solution, but I see it instead as only one of many different unbundled solutions that will arise. If I understand Lucas’ point, it’s that record labels will arise which can give artists enhanced clout (e.g., through giving them the imprimatur of label approval) as their products are marketed. This purpose for labels, rather than the adhesion market dominance of old, is a good place for a leaner, meaner new label.
I agree with Victor that Tunecore will not *be* the new form of label, but I do believe that Tunecore-type services offer one element of unbundled services that a new kind of label can use to promote its products.
At the same time, the creation of these new arbiters of quality, whether they be labels or journalists, is the next wave–much more than a “next wave” of musicians.
To me, the revolution is in progress, but the ways it will be televised and who will hold the camera is in flux.
I think it’s really cool that a self-releasing artist can now easily click through to an album release among most of the “usual suspects”. I think this is a creative approach, and I hope it succeeds.
I think that what we have in CD Baby and Tunecore is a template for future record labels. These are more or less self-service agencies for musicians. The model is that musicians direct their own roadmap and pull services from agencies like CD Baby and Tunecore as needed.
The other path for record labels to take is to be something like the game industry, where small shops do the creative work under their own power and then cut deals with the behemoths to get their work distributed.
I picked up a parlor guitar dating from the 1890s. It is in completely playable condition, even though it’s on the order of 120 years old.
The price was $750, which is incredible given that an electric from the 1960s goes for a couple thousand.
The plan is to incorporate this into my live set, along with my electric guitar and my 1920s L3. The music for the set ranges from 1800-1900. All together these materials will tell a story about the early development of American music and the prehistory of blues, jazz, country and rock.
See the entire photoset for a detailed look.
Along with my solo stuff I’ll be backing up Tequila Mockingbird for a few classic jazz numbers. I’m really really not a jazz player, but Tequila’s such a strong singer that I shouldn’t have to do anything but get the chords right
I’m sure it’ll be a good time. The Hyperion is a tiny club which is barely big enough to justify amplifying an acoustic guitar. It’s in a nowhere spot not far from the eastern end of Sunset. Beer is a mere $4, and you don’t have to fight with a cranked-up PA to have a conversation.
Where: In Silverlake at 1941 Hyperion Ave., 90027
When: after 9 and before 12.
Update: here’s the listing on Upcoming. (I’m using the temporary stage name “Oddjob”, which leads to the interesting topic of special-purpose identities, which is related to why there are so many social networks. The issue in this case is that technical conversation is for a completely different audience than music, so I need to create an internet identity for the music people).
Once the album was completed late last year, Ms. Digby and her label began looking for ways to gain visibility. “I was coming out of nowhere,” Ms. Digby says. “I wanted to find a way to get some exposure.”
That’s when the idea of posting simple videos of cover songs came up. “No one’s going to be searching for Marié Digby, because no one knows who she is,” Mr. Bunt, the Hollywood Records senior vice president, reasoned. So she posted covers of hits by Nelly Furtado and Maroon 5, among others, so that users searching for those artists’ songs would stumble on hers instead.
What strikes me about this strategy is that it’s an evolutionary approach to culture. The idea was to sell a new singer by attaching her to existing and already popular songs.
It’s the same strategy that nature uses in creating new lineages — take an existing winner and swap out part of it for something new. If you succeed then your new thing hitches a ride on an established lineage, and the lineage is improved as a whole. Maybe the mother’s cancer gene is swapped out for the father’s good singing voice, for example.
The buzz around this record (as the WSJ story documents) is that it’s a fraud. Letsetz says:
LonelyGirl15 was about the story. Modern medium allows closeted religious prisoner to reveal her inner thoughts. Once revealed to be untrue, it lost all its heat. Once the uber-beautiful Marié Digby is revealed to be just another young music wannabe, no different from any other major label priority, suddenly, there’s nothing of interest left.
But to my mind this story is mainly positive.
If the major labels are being forced to make their stars less packaged and more intimate, this is all for the good. How is it a bad thing if they finally do what the elite has been asking for?
And the videos in question may have been a staged scenario, but the performances and recordings were 100% genuine. The aspect of them which resonated with the listeners was not fakeable. There is some stuff you can’t act.
I love this style for driving on the highway at night with the top down.
01 – Peripherique – Koralle
Musicartistry 006 (www.musicartistry.de)
02 – Mike Less – Loran
SMT 001 (www.smt-rec.de)
03 – Rene Hamel – Nonamed (M.Masuhr Remix)
Insectorama 004 (www.insectorama.de) 04 – SCSI-9 – Time’s Up
Fragment 005 (www.fragmentmusic.net)
05 – Max Marlow – Skorpion
Kreislauf 004 (www.kreislauf.org)
06 – Zofa – Aria Giovani
Yuki Yaki 003 (www.yukiyaki.org)
07 – Igor O.Vlasov – Metamorph
Thinner 091 (www.thinner.cc)
08 – Yatsuo Motoki – Deep Trip
Stadt 003 (www.stadtgruenlabel.net)
09 – Acidrain – Sunday
Gruen 004 (www.stadtgruenlabel.net)
10 – K.Fog – K3
Musicartistry 031 (www.musicartistry.de)
11 – Phil Baker – 3Way
Ear-Min 012 (www.ear-recordings.nl)
12 – Clara Bailar – Being Deep With My Beat
Wazzotic 002 (www.wazzotic-records.com)
13 – Christoph Schindling – Modulator
14 – Klartraum – Desoliert
Deep In Dub 001 (www.deepindub.org)
15 – Pellarin – Dependency 6 Where Your Food Is Made
Yuki Yaki 001 (www.yukiyaki.org)
16 – Pete Larson – City Highway
Thinner 025 (www.thinner.cc)
17 – Dominik Paß – Rotationssphere
Dreiton 007 (www.dreiton.net)
As I watched and listened to all those different versions of The Tennessee Waltz, I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen if that dynamic were applied to out-of-copyright tunes. Can more of the old tunes be reborn? If so, will our new ability to share, teach, and learn turbocharge the creative process surrounding them? If so, will that process in turn lead to the production of new tunes? If so, will some of those new tunes achieve cultural ubiquity? If so, will some of those conceivably remain outside the copyright regime?
This is indeed a long shot. But in another sense it’s just a matter of patience. Think of it as a disruptive technology:
Sometimes, a disruptive technology comes to dominate an existing market by either filling a role in a new market that the older technology could not fill (as more expensive, lower capacity but smaller-sized hard disks did for newly developed notebook computers in the 1980s) or by successively moving up-market through performance improvements until finally displacing the market incumbents (as digital photography has begun to replace film photography).
For readers not from the tech industry, the classic example of a disruptive technology is that weak little PCs ended up replacing ultrapowerful mainframe computers. Songs like Ella Waltz doesn’t have to be as obvious a source as songs like Proud Mary, they just have to outlast them.
Jon has the perfect example:
though I wouldn’t have thought Episcopal hymns would be toe-tappers, I love to hear — and play — John Fahey’s arrangements of tunes like In Christ There Is No East Or West.
It happens that this is a reasonably simple tune to play, the song has already lasted for an improbably long time, there is an easily accessible recording online, and not only is there guitar tablature available for Fahey’s version but the tab is published on Fahey’s own site.
It’s not an accident that we’re discussing this particular bit of music. For a song that isn’t a pop hit, it has an incredibly high chance of survival over the long term. And not just surviving but reproducing, in the form of lots of little baby covers which may themselves be covered and end up displacing our current generation of pop hits.
It’s true that next to current chart toppers this song doesn’t stand much of a chance of being covered right at this moment, but over time the odds will grow in its favor. The monster hits of 2007 will disappear from cultural memory, while coverable songs will hold onto their niche.
Try starting your view of history in 2006, as if you were born last year and had never lived in a time when music and physical media were tied together. The internet era has barely begun.
There are ways in which the overall output of YouTube could be fairly assessed to provide a royalty payment and give permission for all covers. A snapshot of the music content on a given date could be analysed (a hell of a task) and YouTube pay an agreed overall royalty, divided in the usual way according to the analysis. This is grossly unfair to unsigned, minority interest stuff as what always happens is that the big copyright holders get all the money.
It’s how PRS (Performing Rights Society) do it in the UK. On September 7th, one of their reps is due to visit our folk club. Our crew has been briefed – no Beatles, no Elvis, no Elton John etc! Not too much traditional either (it goes nowhere, they still charge the same fee). Phil Ochs, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Billy Bragg, Ewan MacColl, Dick Gaughan stuff – great! Make sure the PRS rep lists a set of deserving copyright holders instead of Sir Paul, Jacko, and corporate friends. Then until the next spy is sent to asses us, our playlist will make sure the £6 a week royalty fee provides a few pence to worthwhile songwriters…
And, of course, people can then play as much commercial cover stuff as they like thereafter. You can’t stop ‘em, it’s what the average pub audience wants. ‘Dae somethin’ we ken, can ye?’
I sense that that means “what can you do about it?”
So what *can* you do about it?
Pub players are jukeboxes for popular songs. That’s the gig and I don’t see any way around it. But I also don’t see that as a blocker, because there are other gigs, and new songs will become popular through them.
It’s not even necessarily a thing which you have you *do*, because this whole thread about cover songs is as descriptive as it is prescriptive. Songs which can’t be covered on the internet aren’t going to remain pub standards. That’s the way nature works. Do nothing, you will receive your new body of songs which are both popular and coverable anyway.
Yes, this is about creating culture which is amenable to participation, and for musicians this means playing songs which others can play too. But all you have to do is only play songs on the internet which you learned from others playing on the internet and things will work out that way no matter what.
The results won’t arrive instantly, they will arrive very slowly, over decades. It’s a drip-drip-drip kind of process. Before you know it, the songs which have been controlled too tightly will be just as forgotten as the waltzes that I have been covering here.
In any industry the low-cost producer of substitutable goods will always win (whether recorded music is substitutable is open to debate but I would argue that it is, sicne listeners have virtually unlimited choice in what to spend their time listening to). It seems like the recorded music business is just beginning to learn this fundamental principle of business.
What is substitutable about music is choice *before the fact.*
Once you have come to know and love a piece of music, only that one will do. That is why there are classics. There is only one Kind of Blue, and people who know and love it will never have a substitute.
But before you meet Kind of Blue, you have a universe of choices. Your listening journey doesn’t spiral inwards to an inevitable meeting with Kind of Blue. Drop into a path starting at Opsound, for example, and you will end up loving other musics.
Thousands of guitar students lost a valuable resource last week. The most popular guitar teacher on YouTube saw his more than 100 videos yanked from the site. The reason: a music company accused him of copyright infringement for an instructional video on how to play a Rolling Stones song.
Culture relies on shared references. Sharing requires copying. When a new guitarist copies the way that a skilled guitarist plays a well-known song, culture is being transmitted from one generation to the next.
When a music publisher prevents musicians from learning a song, they are destroying the value of the song. There’s no reason to learn the Smoke on the Water riff except that everybody else knows it, and cultural ubiquity isn’t possible unless learning is absolutely free and unencumbered. Notice that the song in the original quote is by the Rolling Stones, a band that couldn’t matter less if it weren’t part of pop culture canon.
One result of copyright extremism will be the disappearance of cultural icons like the Rolling Stones. They haven’t contributed anything fresh to the culture for close to forty years, and without third parties reusing their old work in ways that make it fresh they hardly exist. In terms of 2007 pop culture, all those covers of “Paint it black” *are* “Paint it black.”
This is why I am resurrecting 150-year old songs and posting them, along with sheet music, on my blog — it’s possible for those songs to be used as source material for new work.
But I suppose that this is needless worry. Waves of takedowns for items like free but unauthorized guitar lessons are usually part of licensing business deals. Nobody bothers to ask for the takedowns unless they have a competing commercial product for which they have paid to license the source materials. If unlicensed guitar lessons featuring Rolling Stones songs are being knocked down, it probably means that licensed ones are coming up behind them.