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for June 26, 2003

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How To Learn To Stop Worrying
by Sean Carolan

Two items that appeared over the past couple of days, seemingly unrelated, may point to the future of the music industry. Maybe.
First: The new Foo Fighters video has been banned from MTV Networks. Apparently, it features Dave Grohl and Jack Black prancing around in drag, seemingly unaware they're being captured on video, doing things one would expect one wouldn't want to have captured on video unless one were being paid really well. MTV objected to two scenes, one involving them spanking each other, and one showing them horizontal with the suggestion that they maybe possibly are having sex.
For the moment, let's discard the notion that they might actually be outing themselves; it's doubtful, though Grohl is the best drag performer on TV since Kids In The Hall. And let's think for a moment about what it means to be banned from MTV, which rarely, if ever, plays videos anyway. (Yes, MTV2 does, and the sundry MTV Digital networks do too, but come on.)
Nope, getting banned from MTV can onlty increase the visibility for your video. Especially if it's included on a DVD that's packed with the CD of the Foo Fighters' new album.
Yes, it's a ploy, and a canny one at that. Had the video been accepted by MTV without incident, we wouldn't be talking about this now. However, it does play into crystal-ball-gazing about the music industry's future I hinted at above.
Second:Yesterday, the RIAA announced that it would the tracking down individual file sharers on peer-2-peer networks like Kazaa, Gnutella, etc., and suing them individually. I'm predicting now that this is unlikely to help them combat their percieved loss of sales.
Though they may succeed in scaring off some portion of the sharers, thus reducing the pool of available music on those networks, the RIAA does not reach worldwide; the networks will still be viable, albeit slower. This will not help sales.
In addition, they will be actively pushing more potential customers in the direction of never buying music from them (or from anyone) again. This, also, will not help sales.
So what will help sales? For a start, the realization that the music industry is in the music business. Right now, they still believe they're in the audio business. And the audio business is evaporating, because any likely customer with $20 in their pocket is going to walk into the store in the mall, look at the $18 CDs, look at the $18 DVDs, and choose the latter. That is, if they haven't already bought a video game at the store next door.
The audio industry is dead. The music industry has a fighting chance, with the CD specifically, and the audio-only product in general, being a value-added convenience for purchasers of music DVDs and subscription services - and in that light, file sharing is as valuable as radio to the music industry. The Foo Fighters item mentioned earlier is, however cynical, a step in the right direction; let's hope the rest of the music industry is paying attention.

©2003 Sean Carolan

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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