Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Music 2.0: Why don't you pay for music? Read this!

Apparently independent music platform Indaba was on the Colbert Report this week. It can be viewed here. Stephen chats with Dan Zaccagnino, head of an online community of musicians known as Indaba Music. In his (NOTE: Update - these are Stephen's words, not Dan's from Indaba) own words - you should be able to legally remix anybody else's tracks on the Internet. Several sites such as MixMatchMusic.com are doing this today.

Does anyone think this is a good idea or should it be up to the artist? As a musician, I prefer to retain control over certain uses of my works (such as via Creative Commons licensing). Not that people in bulk are respecting licenses today, but in a perfect world.

Here is my argument. To get to where I am today, I took 8 years of piano lessons (cost: unknown), currently own about $25,000 worth of music equipment, have paid out well over $100,00 in my lifetime for various music related activities, pay out $135 per month towards rehearsal space, and my time goes on top of that. My band, 22nd Century's CD "The Twenty Second Century" cost about $17,000 for the first 1,000 CDs. To date, we have had no sales (primarily because we have not yet set up online sales) however we are now using CD Baby. Yes - as of this week, you can buy and even listen to my latest music at http://cdbaby.com/cd/22ndcentury. This works out to an artist cost of about $2.80 per track. Even if we sell this via iTunes and net $0.60 per track, we will have to sell close to 100,000 copies to break even on the recording costs (the scale slides the more CDs you make). As a musician, this sort of despair and helplessness is our everyday life. This really sucks people!!!!

Some of my music is free though. I do this to be a good musician and offer my stuff that I am not planning to record (and put on CD or iTunes) on MixMatchMusic.com or Mixr.com (subsidiary). I do this in hopes people might use it for something, so I am torn.

So here is the 22nd Century $1,000,000 question - who will be the first person to actually pay for a copy of our CD? What can I do as an artist to convince you, the listener, that my multi $100,000 investment into music is worth $0.99 a track for my songs? For those of you who do not like our songs, we're cool with that. Our style reflects who we are, not commercial interests. Obviously if it did, you would have to conclude we were dumb to enter into the music business as entrepreneurs.

What business model can work or MixMatchMusic? Would you pay a fee to download fresh "members only" mixes every day? Would you pay a small fee to buy CDs or get free trials of every new mix pushed to your desktop? Would you be willing to accept advertising on the site? The reason I ask is that sites such as CD Baby, Indaba, and MixMatchMusic cannot survive without business models that drive strong sales and if they dry up, your music choices dry up.

As a civilization, we have to support the arts or pay for fair use when the artist demands it. In return, artists may grant us more leverage to remix some of their content. For now, nobody is making money.

Think about this one hard please.

(Disclosures - I may have commercial interest in MixMatchMusic)


  1. Duane, I couldn't agree more. The biggest problem for artists and music-tech services today is how to monetize the music, which includes the full songs, the collaborations, and the remixes.

    While the notion of selling songs is still valid, artists must look to other sources of revenue, which include licensing their music (as background music, for tv, movies, video games, etc), selling merch, ringtones, etc. One idea is that they monetize their stems (the various parts of a song like the vocals, drums, bass, etc), this way instead of getting 1x return on the song, they get 5x return (assuming 5 stems). MMM allows for this (DISCLOSURE: I am a founder of MMM), by allowing artists to contribute their stems to a transparent social sample library where they are paid royalties if their stems are used in a purchased song.

    But, I think the main thing artists need to understand is that your music is only a part of your "brand". It keeps fans interested in what you're doing and gives them something to enjoy, but the goal of this should be to get fans to your shows! This is where the most money is being made, as you can also sell merch there.

    So, the trick is not worry about 1 source of income, and instead to aggregate as many revenue streams as possible. AND, to play as many live shows as possible in order to convert casual fans into loyal fans. Then, they'll spend money:)

    For music-tech companies, advertising seems very powerful, as does premium/exclusive content. More on this later...

  2. Hi! Dan Zaccagnino here... I just want to clarify the following statement:

    "In his own words - you should be able to legally remix anybody else's tracks on the Internet."

    I absolutely do not agree with this (nor have I ever said anything like that). Indaba Music is all about giving artists control over there music. On the site you can protect any tracks you want with All Right Reserved or you can open them up for others to use through Creative Commons licenses, but we NEVER dictate the way that people choose to use there music and we don't take any ownership rights or require that people give up ownership rights to anyone else. I'd be happy to talk about this further but wanted to set the record straight because control over one's music is both incredibly important to me as a musician and incredibly important to our company and our community.

    However, I still think this is a GREAT conversation and hope it continues - there are many people that are supporters of a content free for all on the internet and I think that musicians bringing there perspective to the conversation is important and long overdue.

    - Dan

  3. Dan:

    Appreciate you writing in. The article was not clear as I was actually reflecting what Stephen said, not you.

    I'll change it now.

    BTW - I love indaba. Sorry about the bad grammar.


    PS - why won't anyone buy one copy of a CD?


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