April 30, 2009

CD prices start to drop?

Fat Wreck Chords announced that they would sell their CD's for less than $10 from now on. And sometimes even under $8. Just about time!

I wonder what should happen in this big mad world for all record labels to finally drop their CD prices. If they (CD's) would be a commodity, those prices would have fallen several years ago.

I also wonder when somebody would start selling music on CF cards, or in FLAC, or in any other innovative way... It's weird that almost nobody tries to break that conventional structure of CD-mp3-world with the sales dropping so bad. Read more...

April 29, 2009

To leak or not to leak?

Some friends noted to me that the new Florence and the Machine EP didn't leak, yet, and it's been more than one day since the release. At the same time, say... new IAMX album leaked several weeks ago, with an official release date being May 19th.

Florence and the Machine

The question is: where is the key difference between those who leak and those who don't. With all my respect and some bits of love to IAMX, I don't think that people (fans) are more interested in "Kingdom of Welcome Addiction" than in a first officially released EP from a widely-hyped-about band.

Remains a mystery to me if I still try to think of leaks as something "natural" and something forced by artists or their PR's. My answer to the question above would anyway be "to leak as hard as you can!".

April 27, 2009

"Casual pirates" vs. "hard-core pirates"

While I was making up my mind on writing this post, the news on BI Norwegian School of Management research on piracy and legal music purchases spread around the net so far, it’s even all over Cyrillic web. But I didn’t just waste that time. I google-scholared the subject, and found a) one relatively old article from two researchers of that school and b) the only paper that sites that paper from (a). The (b) is a doctoral thesis, it’s a very interesting (and long) reading and it’s available in pdf!

The idea of “piracy” in general being positively correlated with “willingness to pay” for the music seems ambiguous to me since the “pirates” are very different. There are people who’d download the latest Beyonce single, there are people who’d download “the best of… anybody”, and people who’d download “the full discography of… their favorite-one-and-only”, and finally there are people who’d download “almost everything available, just for the sake of new music”. These people are very different in their “piracy” patterns and in their willingness to pay. Hence, in an ideal world where their download behavior is perfectly observable and legal, they can be clasterized and price-discriminated.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll try to explain what I mean with only two types of “pirates”. I’ll call those who download the last a-la-mode single “casual pirates”, and those who download virtually everything they can reach and grab the “hard-core pirates”. And I know what I’m talking about since I know both types, and I used to be a “hard-core” myself in the wild days of Audiogalaxy. 

The “hard-core” pirates are spending much more time listening to the music and looking for something they like. They are investing their time into research of the product and it means that when they come to a store they are ready to invest some money in what they know they like. This is good for the music-publisher, resellers and generally anyone on the other side of the counter, because those people can be charged more. And this is good for side-business development because these people are willing to pay for any tools that would help them do the research (I’ve just bought a book on history of Soul for thrice the price of the casual book and I’m happy about it because it gives me a good new mapping of my now-favorite style, yet my mom is shocked). 

The “casual” pirates actually don’t care for the music at all; they care for, so to say, the social value of music. They are good for the industry if they don’t download, since they are persuadable and would buy everything new and glittery. 

Hence when those two types of pirates are combined, we can get the “more downloads – more legal buys” effect. My idea is that they should be treated differently. While for the “hard-core” pirates this can be true (the more dirt we search, the more gold we find and we’re ready to buy that gold), for the “casual” pirates that shouldn’t hold. 

Two notes:
I don’t think that “casual” people are wrong or not good for music in general. The industry exists because of the “casual” people. 

The industry seems to see the differences between at least two types. More and more independent labels and musicians without labels would offer free “testing” material for those who want to do the research. While the mainstream singles are easier to download legally from iTunes than to look for illegally on the web.

April 23, 2009

Today. Legally free goodies.

Two free and very interesting things online. If you follow the news on music festivals and\or e-books you might already know it. But if you don't, here are the links and comments for you.

The Londonist blog posted some free mp3's of Camden Crawl'09 participating bands and musicians today. I'm not sure what's inside those two archives (200+150 mb). But if you're planning on being somewhere near London this Friday and Saturday, this is an interesting thing to see, I'm sure, although they say only tickets for both days are available now. Don't forget to check out the Line Up.

Also, on e-book front, the original manuscript of Madame Bovary has been scaned and transformed into readable digital text. Now you can see the original pages along with the two versions of text (as I understand it one is "usual", i.e. the one that is published now, and another one is a digitalized version of the manuscript with some of the words crossed out etc.). It's really exiting to see all those old pages, and most likely none of us would be permited to see them without the scanning.

Next on my list: I would try and put up some thoughts I have on the news about "pirates" buying more legal music than "non-pirates" (found here or here) in a few hours.

April 21, 2009

Record store day. Russian edition.

As you might now, a "Record Store Day" was celebrated 3 days ago (18 April). And if you don't know, it's just a day to support your favorite local independent record stores, and for those record stores to pay you some love and respect back, with discounts and live performances aboard.

The stories about how the actual Record Store Day worked out may be found at the home site of the event, or in oh-so-famous, google-reader-promoted and actually very interesting to read blogs Idolator (there's something wrong with this tag, for there was more than one post on the topic) and Stereogum.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking that here (and that would be in Moscow, Russian Federation) we don't have enough independent record stores to support. And no surprise, nobody here knows anything about "the Day"... Also, I've been trying to find a proper picture, or just a concept of a picture that would represent a concept of "economics of music" somehow and googled my nose right into this one:

First thing I'd like to say about the picture - they should have lost India somewhere along the way! I mean... just look at it, every country with a relatively big population has it's own piece of a disc, and India somehow doesn't. I don't believe that poverty is washing out this population factor in amount of music illegally consumed. Maybe they just don't know how to count it there?

And now about the big share of that disc going to Russia and about 'our' record stores.

- If you live in a russian city that has, say less than a million people, you can be at least 90% sure your local record store sells illegall CDs. The other 10% would go to huge national music-related retailers and would usually have nothing interesting for a music-lover, hence no reason for support.

- Even if you live in a big city, say Moscow or St. Petersburg, most of the records available to you are "semi-illegal", since russian copyright law is far less seveir than US or even EU copyright law. (And I must say - thanks God or whoever responsible for it!).

- The official imported records you get are sold at double price (if you compare it to the US\EU before-export price) and it has absolutely nothing to do with international trade restrictions. Pure profit, or loss if you're a consumer.

- Those "semi-legal" records are sold at affordable prices, but they are so boooring...

So who I have to support? National giants like "Soyuz" (union) or "Nastroyeniye" (mood, and by the smiley face in their logo you should assume that the mood is good, but no), or all-in-one stores like MediaMarkt? Or those guys who travel to Europe, carefully chose some records there and then copy those records illegally for everybody's happiness? Or maybe just my computer?

April 20, 2009

Why am I here? Naïve foreword.

For me there are many reasons to think about the subject they call “music economy” or “economics of music”. The first two of them (the reasons) are very personal: I’ve always been in love with music of some kind and I do economics for living, so the blend of words “music” and “economics” seems very natural for me. But there are other, non-personal reasons for thinking about the subject.

First is – music is a rare kind of good you can’t escape unless you’re deaf. You might like it or not, but while you are shopping or passing an open window of somebody’s car and you hear a song, or sometimes even a symphony, you are consuming some of that precious music. Fortunately for you, and maybe unfortunately for the record-bosses, one has to catch you listening to that copyrighted material to make you pay, especially if you hate what you hear. Now unfortunately for you, and maybe fortunately for record-guys, they make you pay anyway by listening the ads. Yet it doesn’t change my point – there is only one other “good” that would catch you even if you don’t want it too, and it’s a smell, good or bad.

Second – music is one of good indicators of cultural life as a whole. If you listen to the “music-through-time” you can notice dramatic changes. The Dumas-Musketryan time French music is hard to enjoy and hard to understand for a modern ear, while Bach is already ok. And I really don’t think that Bach would understand what all the modern compositions are about even if we’d give him some “new classics”. The other side of this “cultural” approach is the pattern of social roles taken by average musician\composer: servant – intellectual – pop-star.

Third, and I’d like to stop here for now, is the fact that music is one of the industries undergoing a rapid change right now. It’s being shaped by new media and new philosophy at the same time. 

Why it came to the point of change and what’s going to happen next. That’s what I want to understand. I don’t know much on the subject (yet) and want to fix my steps in learning it here. And I hope to get some help through discussing the subject with anyone who’s interested.