Tag Archives: value

Update on Featured Artists Coalition on the MIDEM blog

I was asked to contribute a few words following Ed O’Brien from Radiohead’s announcement of a keynote interview at Midem next year. I contributed a brief update on the progress and perspective of the FAC.

Quotes from CISAC Copyright Summit 2009, Washington DC

“The degradation of the quality image is the only thing I fear from the digital age.” (Frank Stella, artist)

Frank Stella

“How do you value consciousness?” (Frank Stella)

“Artists are lazy but they are capable of being mobilized. But they won’t organise around financial things but more about moral protests and causes.” (Frank Stella)

Paul williams

“In 1967, I turned up at A&M Music in a stolen car. I looked like a kid until you put me next to a real kid. Then I looked like a kid with a hangover.” (Paul Williams, songwriter)


“The Internet is like a supermarket shopping bag with all the things in it for free too.” (Milos Forman, film director)

Richard Feynman – the orange juice song

Sometimes you have to just let go –  sit down on that back step and start talking in tongues or singing with drums or whatever it is that you feel the need to do – just to let that precious brain relax awhile.

Boing Boing just highlighted this fab extract from a great documentary on the legendary scientist and eccentric Richard Feynman. I was inspired by his song to encourage my children to drink orange juice (fortunately no video of my orange-juice remix has been preserved) –  you can use it to let it take you to whatever destination you choose! In Feynman’s words it’s Tuva or Bust! Enjoy!

Limewire in the limelight

In Brighton at The Great Escape festival,  I had the interesting opportunity to interview Nathan Lovejoy from Limewire Networks Inc in New York.   Limewire, as you know, has 50 million users, is one of the longest running filesharing clients and sits on top of the opens source gnutella network.

They are also being sued by all the major record labels in the US in a case that has been running for two or three years now. Their key defence is “substantially non-infringing uses” ie: there are a lot of really cool things that you can do with our application that are entirely legal and that, gosh, we never thought anyone would use it for filesharing in an unauthorised way that might infringe someone else’s copyright. Oh and by the way – we have absolutely no idea what goes across our client – we simply make the software and hope people will pay us money for the upgrade to our super Pro version – but we really have no idea what people use us for.

Now Nathan Lovejoy, as his name suggests, is a very nice, smart and engaging gentleman. However, he is also not totally unaware of the British TV series of that name featuring, as Wikipedia puts it “a British antiques dealer based in East Anglia whose scruples are not always the highest”.

Sadly, disingenuous is a word that springs to mind.

But I’m not really interested in giving them a hard time. There are plenty of lawyers paid by dinosaurs out there to do that. After all if it wasn’t them it would be someone else – and they didn’t invent the gnutella network – someone else did that – they’ve just given it a reason to live. The key question is really, having established a user base of 50 million, and having a lawsuit that you would have thought they ought to be able to settle soon, what kind of value-creation can be generated here going forward? How do we avoid a repetition of the wasted experience and potential that was Napster?

In other words, never mind if they’ve been naughty boys (and girls but, actually, mostly it seems boys) in the past, is there anything here of value that can be preserved, learned, expanded upon or taken seriously from a business and creative perspective?

Now some would argue that they are the perfect interface to place over a network to which you had applied a blanket licence. So all the music could be freed up by the ISP having charged a small monthly licence fee – and then for the users Limewire could continue to feel like free. And this might be ok – if we could believe that ontop of that real money could then be made with so-called value added services – like recommendation, discovery, bundling etc. I want to be convinced of this, but so far I have yet to see anyone produce the economic model or financial case study to prove it.

So for the moment, as far asLimewire is concerned, the future, based on my interview with Nathan, would seem sadly to not hold much of value for their experiment. The main problem seems to be that the lawsuit prevents them from either admitting much or developing more interesting features. But they do have about 75 developers so may be they are beavering away as we speak inventing the future in an ingenious fashion. We can only hope so.

Because while they can talk creatively and constructively about contextual advertising and recommendations and discovery, the reality is that they can’t currently be seen to offer either since they profess to have no idea what’s going on across their application or the network is attaches too. Never mind the fact that Eric Garland’s Big Champagne has been monitoring and analysing the flow quite successfully for several years now.

So, nice and simple though the interface is, Limewire is going to have get its act together techicallly, legally and commercially pretty fast  if it’s going to convince any of us that it has some means of leading us all into a more enlightened and profitable future by monetising the behaviour, interests and passion of its 50 million music lover users.

The Value of Nothing and the Price of Everything

In the frenzy of the last few weeks of the economic crisis, there has been much that is familiar to the recorded music industry in the performance of the global economy.  The markets of the world are in crisis over value. Albeit for very different reasons, the recorded music industry has been on a quest to arrest evaporating value for the last ten years.

The recorded music industry has long attempted to blind both paying fans and creative artists with complex explanations of the enormous risks and costs in the industry. The regular practice has been to create contracts in which the true mechanics became opaque and to offer perverse pricing structures which seemed to ignore intrinsic value. The sophisticated segmentation of intellectual property rights in music where no physical good ever existed, and a questionable belief system of trading those rights looks a lot like the house of cards complexities of the broader capital markets. What’s happened in music is comparable to the very sophisticated financial instruments which have sought to conjure profits from counter-intuitive commercial outcomes (hedging that you will ship silver and return sub-prime platinum) and from the parcelling out of debt so that risk averse investors could no longer see what it was that they were putting money into (invest in my label, I’ll do the A&R).

Ironic, given that the one investment mantra that financial wizards repeat with consistent banality is “know your market”, understand what you’re investing in. Yet, what we have witnessed is the detachment of value from substance. It used to be that we thought it was only in creative industries that this kind of crisis could occur, where technology (recording and distribution) has enabled us to invest in and ascribe value to a cultural good. Technology has also undermined that ability and insists that we create a new means of adding value. The value of the music has long been separated from the cost of plastic in the CD but consumer journalists still even occasionally today want to ask how could labels charge £15 for a piece of plastic that only cost 50p?  Today though, consumers have already moved on. The majority of music consumers now happily pays for music as a service while the recorded music industry still tries to sell it as a product. In the volatility of the world’s stock markets over the last few weeks, what we have seen is this same critical separation of value from price.  It would seem that once the cultural, pyschological and technological underpinnings of value are rendered opaque or anachronistic, then any price is as meaningful as any other and none is low enough – until it looks like a bargain and then you can buy like crazy!

But there is a very broad spectrum that goes from Damien Hirst’s £10.3m Golden Calf to the Volkswagen share price spike which confounded the hedge-funds.  Hirst’s prices seem as if were achieved by manipulation and propping up of value, Volkswagen’s price spike appeared to derive from an unexpected  realisation of and faith in the management team behind the business. And it is the Porsche team that brought back the confidence with a reputation for design, innovation – and making very fast cars!

Blinded by bling or putting faith in management and the quality of innovation?

As we look towards 2009, the characteristics that we will see coming to the fore are going to be all about transparency, quality, and experience in innovation. We will see a move away from the most technically dazzling and a preference for good execution on more tried-and-tested ways to innovate. But there can be no deviation from innovation – that is still be a requirement to grow markets by responding to technological change and by racing to take advantage of what it has to offer. And in the current climate the best way to do that is to temper the risks by a greater depth of experience in innovation itself.