Bad news for the music business is bad news for everyone. Earlier today Charles Arthur identified three bits of bad news for the industry, and I'm going to talk about three more and what it all means for music listeners.
Charles points to Warner Music's poor results, Fred Wilson's weary resort to piracy in the face of the industry's refusal to sell him the album he wanted, and research from Forrester showing music's shift to digital is at best in its early stages.
On top of all that, we also have today's ruling against (now defunct) ACS:Law finding that "if all that is proven is a single download then all that has been lost is one sale...." (more in PC Pro, which has absolutely led on this story); we have the takeover of EMI itself by the bankers at Citigroup; and, in a story now a month old, we have HMV's inability to sell CDs even when the pre-Xmas snowpocalypse brought to a near standstill the postal system on which its online competitors rely. Online, offline, everywhere, changing habits and the shift to digital is hammering the commercial prospects for music.
In the broader historical and technological context the collapse of the music industry's commercial model isn't really a big surprise.
The expiry of the recorded-performances industries should alarm anyone who enjoys music. As Fred Wilson recently revealed, so wildly inefficient are the distribution models for music, TV etc compared to BitTorrent we've all downloaded music "illegally" (indeed, the original Napster remains, more than ten years on, the best music distribution system I have ever used). As the music companies die and fall into the hands of their bankers - as has already happened to EMI - the danger for us is that their only substantial asset becomes their IP, and the right to sue people for allegedly breaching it.
Rights-holders are currently constrained, a bit, by a desire not to completely alienate their valuable paying customers by suing all of them. Sooner or later, when the companies are broken up and sold off for scrap, some of that scrap will be the IP rights and the legal windfalls that can be secured against them. Which power without responsibility will be much worse news for anyone who has ever downloaded a song, a TV show, a film or a game off the net.
Photo from Photogallerie on Flickr)