How do musicians get paid in the new value chain? You know it's always been really tough to make it as a musician and also really ridiculously easy too – for a brief flash in the pan few.
I started thinking about this the other day as I played with the lastest loops for Garage Band. You know it's free as part of iLife so for free software it ain't half bad. I might have to add a few Jam packs at a hundred bucks or so to improve things, or if I really want to get sophisticated I can even purchase Logic which even has a rather poor notation solution built into it.
So I can record my song, post it to iTunes and sell it for 99cents and have it downloaded to my fan's iPod anytime I like. Of course I would only have the one fan at this point, but heck everyone has to start somewhere. And, after all, if Apple wanted to trumpet my talent and iminent stardom from their website rooftops, they easily could stick me in prime place and positioning for a very good exposure to their millions of avid downloaders.
But I glided over the posting to iTunes rather too easily though didn't I? This is the bit in the middle that is where it all counts. The filter is everything and today as traditionally the old model still applies to doing the selecting bit. As things stand today, iTunes is not available to me as an individual, iTunes does not do its own filtering. I would have to go with my lovely Apple of a song and submit it to the usual label A&R (or um and ah as we used to call it in my Virgin days) who would then perhaps, if I was incredibly fortunate and had the right narcotic mix with me to engage with said talent scount, promote it for me. Or perhaps I could take an indie distributor route and, for an entirely suitable fee, someone charming and genuine like my good friend Mr Pakman might place my apple of a song in his delightful Orchard, would then thoughtfully include my precious apple of my eye among the millions he is currently posting to iTunes. And he might make the odd pip squeak of a penny from the 99cent sale and I might receive a pipette too.
Now of course, the reality would seem to be that as the music world changes, the amounts of money that musicians will be able to make out of it might change too. Not that anyone has ever believed that musicians actually get paid fairly for their work. After all I'm quite certain that if every musician jo or joette member of PRS, ASCAP, BMI. etc etc actually collectively audited their illustrious royalty hunter gatherers (and supposed distributors) they would discover a vipers nest of ineptitude that would probably bring the orgs down crashing round their necks. So whether the mighty mighty few who get to make a very affluent life out of their music is any more or less likely to continue to do so in the new digital world or whether as some suggest there will be a kind of fabulous democratic levelling that will occur and more musicians will be able to make money but none of them will earn as much as they used to – will emerge as the new model who can tell?
But, the question for now remains, just what exactly is holding Apple back from setting up the filtering mechanism at the heart of iTunes to become the label that will dictate what you want to hear from the newest, most Applest artists in the world. Surely it's not that nice Mr Aspinall who runs Apple Corps who threatens to sue their artistic arses if Apple ever enters the music business proper? Surely that would not be enough to stop the big Steve the Jobs man from doing it himself. After all he's now directing every Disney movie anyone will ever get to watch, styling every piece of hardware anyone wants to covet, why shouldn't he be the arbiter of taste for every piece of music I needs might want in my iLife? And if he can't find a new Jimmy Iovine or Doug Morris to come down and be his record man for him, I guess he could afford to pay those guys themselves to come on down to the Infinite Loop in Cupertino to iparty.