miércoles, septiembre 29, 2010

Queda la música

Son tiempos turbulentos para la música, tiempos interesantes. Un recorrido de diversas fuentes que analizan la actualidad del sector y posibles escenarios a futuro permite vislumbrar algunas tendencias:

1. Los sellos discográficos evolucionan o quedan fuera del negocio

Esto, por supuesto, no es novedoso. Lo extraño es que tarden tanto tiempo en avivarse. En el artículo Take us to the River de la edición Julio/Agosto de Fast Company Warner Music Group "descubre" que su negocio tiene que ver con promocionar todos los aspectos vinculados a la música y también con apostar a la tecnología:
"The artist was like a sugarcane worker," says Devo frontman Jerry Casale of the good old days for the record business, which were the bad old days for many musicians. We're backstage at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in April, a traffic-jam-with-soundtrack east of the San Jacinto Mountains near Los Angeles. Casale, pairing a royal blue suit with a black tie and looking very much the new-wave pioneer, has no love for the labels after 30-plus years in the business. But last November, Devo signed a 360 deal with Warner Bros. Records, and he's here to rebrand his band.

"This wasn't our first idea, believe me," Casale says. "There was a lot of hot air from the cognoscenti in the business world about how record labels are dead, you can make a deal with a sponsor, get marketing money from Dell or somebody like that. Well, forget it." If that was ever true, Casale says, those days are already gone. "[Event promoter] AEG and Live Nation blew their whole wad on major names."

Casale bought in because of the label's willingness to try something different with the promotional budget. "We said, 'You're going to take your marketing money and give it to the ad agency Mother,' " Casale says. "And they said okay."

2. Los artistas tiene que tirarse de cabeza a la pileta de las redes sociales

Marillion es un buen ejemplo de valentía frente a la incertidumbre, como lo demuestra Mark Kelly en esta entrevista para el blog de Midem:

Even in the days of Usenet you were involved in Marillion discussion forums, am I remembering that right?

Mark Kelly: It was a mailing list. It wasn't official, it was run by a guy in Holland. Very interestingly, the vast majority of the fans on that list were Americans. I think mainly because they probably adopted the whole Internet thing a bit earlier than the Europeans. I just thought it was quite interesting that there was all these fans. I think there was only about 1,000 of them on the list, but just discussing Marillion, Marillion songs, lyrics, what we were doing. And so I signed up to it when I had Internet access or dial-up, you know, and I used to just read it and I was a lurker, nobody knew I was reading it.

After a year or two I blew my cover. I can't remember why but it was probably to correct somebody who said something that was completely wrong (laughs). And so in the process I started to get all the questions from people about why we weren't touring the States and all that sort of thing. And I tried to explain that we didn't have a record deal in the States and every time we did tour in the past it had always been with money from the record company. So then there was a guy from Canada said, "Oh well, why don't we raise the money for you to come and tour?" They opened a bank account and everybody who was interested donated money into it and then they raised about $60,000.

Actually, by this point, once they had said all this I was like, "Well I think you're a bit crazy but if you want to do it. I mean, obviously we can't have anything to do with it, but if you guys want to go ahead and organize it, we're not taking the money." Some guy said, "I'll set up an escrow bank account and we'll put it all in there." Anyway, within a few weeks it had about $20,000 and I hadn't even told the rest of the band at this point what was going on, so I had to sort of break the news to them how we'd gotten into this situation where if they-- I think I said we'd need about $50,000 to make it, break even.

Anyway, we did the tour. And oddly enough, because of the story around it we got quite a lot of publicity which meant we sold more tickets than usual because there was-- each gig that we were playing there'd be a little local newspaper or whatever would run the story about the tour fund and how the American fans had raised the money for us to tour. So it was this sort of interesting story in itself whether or not you knew anything about Marillion, you know.

That was an interesting lesson actually for us: to raise the band's profile, finding a story that sort of transcends music is a good thing. So anyway we did the tour. And I suppose that was our first realization of the power of the Internet and how rabid fans can change things, make things happen.

La clave sigue siendo encontrar una buena historia que atrape a los amantes de la música.

3. El futuro llegó hace rato: Apostar a la innovación

Algunos indicadores pueden alarmar a quienes celebran el advenimiento de la "era Itunes": De acuerdo con Mark Mulligan, de Forrester, las descargas (legales e ilegales) tenderán a caer en el mediano y largo plazo. Mulligan pone el ojo en Apple como posible salida pero advierte que la empresa está siempre varios pasos adelante del resto que los dinosaurios de la industria de la música:

When Apple looks beyond music.

The final piece of the puzzle is that Apple’s sights are now set on much bigger horizons than the comparatively narrow confines of music. In the days when their devices had monochrome screens music was the killer app. But now in the days of the iPhone and iPad music has been shunted aside by downloads of all other kinds of apps…3 billion of them. Music no longer powerfully demonstrates the capabilities of Apple’s devices.

Innovate the product, control the future.

Apple can absolutely be as important a driving force in the next chapter of digital music’s growth as it was in the first. But only if labels, publishers and artists alike engage Apple and other device manufacturers are product innovators. Until we have a series of new music products that utilize all of the creative assets of a device such as the iPad, download sales will rapidly lose relevance. And as well they should. The paid download was a transition technology and no more. It was useful for bridging the divide between the analogue and digital ages but it has run its course. But until new music products arrive the slow demise of the download will also be the slow demise of digital revenues. Streaming services, apps and the rest are all parts of the puzzle. But the music industry needs a new killer premium music product to pivot around.

It is time for a new generation of music products to herald in The First Golden Age of Digital Music...

Warner, en el artículo en Fast Company, parece reconocer este desafío y empieza a apostar sus billetes analógicos la hibridación tecnológica:

The two divisions push each other to break new tech experiments. Atlantic has used its artist Web sites to do things like reward people who purchase albums with personalized videos (Trey Songz recorded his shirtless). Jonathan Tyler fans get free downloads of his band's live performances. The day of Shinedown's St. Louis show, Atlantic updated the band's Web site with the latest features from Cisco's Eos social-networking platform. The technology lets fans post concert videos and pictures and allows Atlantic to offer full streams of songs for site members. The following week, Smith comes to New York to get a tutorial on the new features and does an impromptu video chat from a studio Atlantic has designated for the specific purpose of having artists record online content. Despite the short notice -- Atlantic sent an email to registered members just a couple of hours earlier -- about 1,000 fans show up.

De todos modos, la mayor parte de la industria le tiene terror a la tecnología. Rob MacArthur, de IOUmusic, con mucha lucidez, propone el remedio: Que las compañías ofrezcan licencias gratuitas a los desarrolladores de aplicaciones para luego asociarse a los resultados. De esta manera se liberan de mantener costosas unidades de investigación y desarrollo pero promueven activamente la innovación en la industria de la música:

Others have mentioned similar ideas to this but if I ran a major I would offer start-ups a blanket licenses for say 2 years. They’d have unfettered access to the catalogue with no upfront fee – or at least not something significant, maybe a small enough fee to act as a screening tool or buffer. But also upfront, the label would provide a fee for ongoing rights after the 2 year period. This would eliminate costly fees upfront for the start-ups, give them music to work with and place the responsibility fully in their hands to make it work or not knowing what it would cost after the grace period. Add a clause that if the service isn’t self sustaining the label has a right of first refusal to purchase the technology developed.

También prescribe una posición mucho más laxa e inteligente con relación a la propiedad intelectual, siguiendo el modelo de la industria de la moda:

I should be able to go to any site and see or listen to any music. It shouldn’t matter where the rights’ holders reside or anything like that. Right now Arcade Fire is, well on fire, and they own all the rights to their music and publishing. That should be the model going forward. So we have new artists coming up in that model, yet historically we have something completely different and cumbersome in existing copyrights laws and ideals on enforcing them. Something’s going to have to give, and artists are used to struggling, so I, for one, am putting my money there. They have the most to gain too. And they desire it.

If there were relaxed copyright laws, the industry argues there would be a widespread loss in revenue. My argument there is that there would be more opportunity to earn revenue and profits that that would be the outcome. Image if more people could pursue music in the style of GirlTalk.

Mientras tanto, en Buenos Aires, se está gestando una mesa de discusión coordinada por gente del Club del Disco, apoyada por nuestro programa Opción Música, e integrada por referentes de todos los sectores en la industria de la música. ¡Cómo dijimos más arriba, son tiempos interesantes!

PD: Esta semana se cumplen 10 años de la muerte del genio Cuchi Leguizamón (y Guillermo Klein propone la mejor forma de recordarlo).

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