New Music Digest: Spring 2011

The seasons turn and spring has come to Canada once again. As is my custom, I have annotated a list of thought-provoking articles about the state of the music industry. If you would like to learn a little more about what the future might hold, read on.

Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization is a tremendously good read. A bit myopic, perhaps, but it captures the electronic music industry zeitgeist better than just about anything else I have seen.

The Art of Handling Criticism Gracefully should be required reading for any artist working in the public eye. Summary: never ever respond to criticism with anger. It solves nothing and makes you look unprofessional, among other things. When things go really wrong it can even trigger a public backlash against your work.

Is the slowdown of digital sales and the rise of free services a sign of the longer term impact of P2P? Piracy only came to the forefront because the music industry fumbled the transition from physical to digital media. They had no problem cashing in from the switches from vinyl to cassette and compact disc but were nowhere to be found when MP3s became popular. The kicker: “How to convince consumers, that have acquired music for free for several years, to now pay for it is a difficult proposition.” Well, no kidding. I don’t think it can be done, not without a genuinely innovative offering at least.

In case you need any more evidence that the mainstream music industry isn’t getting it, try these stories (which need no additional elaboration): BMI Says A Single Person Listening To His Own Music Via The Cloud Is A Public Performance, It’s Time for the Recording Industry to Stop Blaming “Piracy” and Start Finding A New Way, Record Industry: Limewire Could Owe $75 Trillion (broken link), and Has Piracy Ever Killed An Industry? There are signs of hope, however: Death to the Shiny Disc provides an insider’s perspective while advocating for the end of CDs.

The Ethics of Downloading Music You’ve Already Paid For provides no real answers but does raise a good question: under what circumstances is music “piracy” ethically defensible? Similarly, A Marketplace for Used Digital Music? and Re-ReDigi: More Details Emerge About the Used Digital Music Marketplace examines ReDigi, a used digital music marketplace that I would have assumed to be a hoax had I stumbled upon it myself.

Why lossless audio? Or why independent labels & artists shouldn’t carry on the tricks of the majors’ trade provides a good overview of the argument for insisting on CD quality. Never accept any less.

SoundCloud Raining on Its Own Parade is about the conflict between DJ culture and the majors. Apparently there has been a bit of a backlash against the popular social music service since it began removing mixes for containing content released under copyright.

On the electronic dance music tip, Beatport’s Matt Adell discusses user concerns and In the hot seat: Beatport CEO Jonas Tempel (from 2009) provides some insight into what sort of ideas are flowing behind the scenes of the world’s most successful electronic music download shop. The next (non-Flash!) version of Beatport is already in beta so some of this information is likely to be outdated.

Terrifying tower of electronic tones is a great little article about Simon Posford and the “Shpongletron”. Nothing deep, but you should be entertained. Follow that with Case Study: How Shpongle Went From Yelling At Fans To Embracing Fans, a somewhat surprising example of a mainstream music industry blog taking notice of an artist from our slice of the underground. The analysis is somewhat flawed (Simon Posford and his label are not exactly one and the same thing) but it is still interesting, as are the comments.

I usually post a lot of interesting content from Music Think Tank but the quality of their articles has gone downhill since the Hypebot takeover. Now it is little more than a wretched hive of social marketing fluff with formulaic titles like “X Ways To X” or “X Reasons Why You Need To X”. Some people may continue to find their content useful, if only as an introduction to the Music 2.0 dogma, but I am tired of writing about it. I did, however, gain some amusement reading an article that described music fans as “transparency-seeking, interactivity-craving, empowerment-hungry monsters”!

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