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ARSCLIST  August 2008

ARSCLIST August 2008

Subject:

Re: Sony, BMG and the health of the music biz

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 8 Aug 2008 07:01:40 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

The whole problem with these non-standard copyright limits is that the major music companies use the 
U.S. standard with their vaults. So, sure you might be able to buy some two-bit semi-pirate version 
of something elsewhere in the world but it's a POS made off a dub of a commercial release and it's 
not even worth owning due to the crap sound quality. For instance, compare the old Bix/Tram/Big Tea 
stuff on the Mosaic set, which is properly remastered from the best sources available, to the junk 
floating around cheap outside the US (most of it obtainable via Amazon). The other versions aren't 
worth owning if you care about sound quality.

My argument, posed any time I can get the ear of a music-company exec, is that in this age of 
"long-tail" economics, the vaults and digital downloads are the ultimate annuity business model. 
There should be NOTHING out of print, anywhere in the world -- anything that's not viable as a 
manufactured CD should be sold online. And, if the music companies would get a clue, they'd realize 
they are getting ripped off by iTunes and should sell directly to the public, and learn this 
business model because it is their future. I think, with quality downloads priced cheaply combined 
with smart buys of Google search "landings" and the like, the major companies would marginalize the 
semi-pirate crap around the world and thus protect their brands by having good sound associated with 
their copyright-owned material. Plus, this would provide a steady annuity stream of revenue. Sure, 
the Wall Street sharks want quarterly fireworks, but that's what the latest POS from Britney is for. 
Meanwhile, they'd have this fallback base of steady annuity income from the downloads of their 
massive back-catalogs. Furthermore, in some non-U.S. markets, the very fact that a legitimate, 
real-deal from-the-master version of something is readily available can be used to shut down the 
pirates and even renew copyrights in some countries. Some in the music companies are starting to see 
this light but turning the mentality of these companies is like turning around an aircraft carrier. 
If the music companies keep losing value and market cap, someone like Apple, Microsoft or Google 
will snap one of them up and open up the vaults for cheap downloads. It's the inevitable future, 
clear to anyone except the people running the music giants.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Steven C. Barr" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2008 12:20 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Sony, BMG and the health of the music biz


> see end...
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
>> As widely reported, Sony bought out BMG and now owns 100% of what used to be Columbia and RCA 
>> back in the days. The Wall Street Journal reported a few interesting things. The whole shebang 
>> was valued at $1.8 billion, which is a remarkably low market cap for a large chunk of the world's 
>> commercial recorded legacy. BMG got a relatively small payment and got to keep the joint 
>> venture's cash on the books, half of which they owned already anyway. WSJ reports Sony's strategy 
>> is to once again try to use software (ie music) to try and sell hardware (music playing gear or 
>> "synergies" with video gear or whatever. Given their terrible track record with this strategy, it 
>> will be interesting see where this goes. But, on the plus side, Sony has a record of tolerating 
>> low profits and losses in its movie unit in order to sell DVD players, large-screen TV's 
>> professional video gear, etc. It also was able to leverage its movie studio as a big muscle in 
>> the Blu-Ray victory. Also on the plus side, perhaps, I've read several reports that Sony is 
>> looking anew at SACD and may try the format once again. For classical fans, there may be a 
>> downside but I've heard nothing factual on this. The RCA Living Stereo SACD reissues were a pet 
>> project, reportedly, of the family that controls BMG. Indeed, owning the Living Stereo catalog 
>> was said to be a factor in BMG's decision to purchase RCA's music business. Another downside is 
>> that under the joint-venture, the reissue programs were stalled or gutted and indeed first RCA's 
>> studio complex and then Sony's shut down. I'm not clear if there is a unified library/archive for 
>> this company, or if part or all of that has been outsourced. One friend of mine described Sony as 
>> "the bizarro Apple, never able to hit the mark in recent years." Stockholders have been restless 
>> and it will be interesting to see how much pressure the company comes under to wring profits out 
>> of the music business. Sony, being a technology company, may be positioned well to transition 
>> away from manufactured CD's into a download-centric world, but bizarro has been their MO with 
>> everything from digital music players to an online store --  they don't seem to get any of this. 
>> There are also frequently rumors floating around about Sony and Apple, although nothing has ever 
>> come of any of that.
>>
>> One interesting trend is that if music-owning entities continue to shed value and market cap, the 
>> day will come where the content (ie the archives and the active contracts) will be attractive to 
>> a Microsoft, Google or Apple. Under such a scenario, I doubt the buyer company would stay in the 
>> manufactured-CD business for most titles and would probably be net-savvy enough to "get it" and 
>> succeed at online sales, if they bought the catalog at a low enough price. I would say 
>> value-bleeding would need to continue apace a few years before this becomes viable, although a 
>> cash-rich company like Google could overpay to take a gamble sooner. CD sales will soon be 50% of 
>> the peak years.
>>
> One significant problem this merger created is the fact that merging CBS with BMG left
> the resulting firm in control of ALL extant pre-1919 recordings...and virtually all
> pre-1935 recordings of any significance (Edison excepted in both cases)! Here in
> Canada, given the fact that the newly-revised copyright law DIDN'T (not what I
> expected...?!) extend the current 50-year term for sound recordings, all recordings
> cut in 1956 or before are now in the public domain; however, in the US of A, where
> NO recordings become p.d. until 1/1/2067...it is a different story...
>
> Steven C. Barr 

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