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March 03, 2005

Sony's Andrew Lack, At His Bluest Ever

Coming here in much more detail later..he gave a barn burning interview today at the Billboard Music & Money conference in NYC.
His killer line, "The 'miserable tsunami' [of piracy] is going to hit the TV and studios this year"...
Some other [paraphrased] quotes:
  • Piracy is an idiotic word for what's happening...it is stealing. This is about criminals and thieves in the night.
  • I've had to fire thousands of people in the last few years [due to piracy issues]...it has been misery for me. These are people without jobs, without life...
  • Until we figure out a way to protect content, there is no growth, and no business model. [He said that in relation to the whole entertainment industry, and not just music]
  • Piracy, it can't be said enough, has been devastating for us. iPods and mobile are just a teeny-tiny fraction of revenues to our bottomline. The growth we are having is coming more from cost-cutting and reduction [than these new avenues]
  • Until we protect content --and that will not happen in any significant way for the next 2-3 years-- we cannot go to the bank with the business model
  • Grokster vs MGM issue: It is not just a music or movie problem, it is an intellectual property problem...
  • The young-- it is not their fault. Now we have an obligation on trying to educate them.

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Calling this mindset "Blue" disrespects Robert Johnson and everyone else in that great music tradition.

"Until we figure out a way to protect content, there is no growth, and no business model."

The only way this thought pattern can make sense is that Sony's Andrew Lack is thinking growth in a very specific sense.

Growth = label income. Label income seems to be highest when a few artist's material is promoted to fever pitch. This spreads the music acquisition costs out optimally. It also follows the sales adage of not allowing the sales target the pain of wondering what to buy.

Buying the new "Back Street Boys" CD can become a simple, sharable event, like talking baseball box scores.

How did the Back Street Boys do? 1 run, 3 hits, 7 errors.

What record are you going to buy? - no thought required, we're routing for the home team just like we were told. But maybe we can bond at the watercooler and heatedly debate Madonna's prospects for a come-back, while the labels build the hype for the home team - the team they've figured they can sell the most tickets for.

They determine who they can sell the most tickets for - then convince us we like it. Go Back Street Boys.

"Peanuts! Peanuts! Get you Pea--nuts!"

There is no need for a home team with music; music grows wild and there is amazing, new, exciting music coming from the local corner and all corners of the world and mind. And the joy of music, at its best, is more than bonding over some designated sounds we heard together: it is a moving, deeply personal experience.

Another person might have thought that growth in the music industry would mean growth in the amount of good music that reaches our ears; or that growth might be the progression of music, as more and more fantastic music reaches our ears, each artist upping the anty, in a frenzied, thrilling competition that holds the public in suspended disbelief and awash in joy.

Yeah, that music is out there.

A shame no one seems to work in that music industry.

Posted by: SongZilla Blogger | Mar 4, 2005 2:22:01 AM

Disappointing. I'm sorry, Lack should, and probably does, know better. If he doesn't, he needs to give himself a pink slip in the next batch. People buy less music because their disposable income has grown nowhere as fast as the number of services that have a claim on the consumers dollar - internet, cable, mobile, computer and console games, DVDs, etc. People aren't replacing their tape and LP collections with CDs anymore. 95% of new music is not worth the money. Protecting assets is very important, but not as important as appreciateing where you sit in a competitive environment, understanding where your market is going, and developing a strategy from there. And don't forget, your market are the people who love music, not thiefs who want to steal it. Is it time to think about them?

Posted by: Greg | Mar 5, 2005 2:51:05 AM

Mr. Lack is absolutely correct, the word “piracy” is an idiotic word for what’s happening . . . it is stealing and it represents theft. But the major labels are also guilty of theft. The labels practice their own form of piracy whereby their sources are commonly copies of copies, second and third generation masters, old records etc., assembled by marketing and public relations experts as opposed to professional and competent engineers. What we’re commonly offered on CD is the audio equivalent of a photocopy and that’s an RCA Camden standard as opposed to Red Seal. The labels are doing this (a) because they believe it doesn’t matter and people really don’t care or notice, and (b) because they’re trying to counter what they perceive as consumer theft. They use clever words such as “digitally remastered” from original recordings to mask their deception. When Mr. Lack complains about consumer theft he should look in the mirror and understand that the labels are also guilty of theft . . . the theft of consumer trust! The more consumers understand what is happening, the more they are able to justify their piracy. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The music industry can only save itself by returning to old-fashioned integrity but that’s a concept these executives consistently fail to understand. Caveat Emptor!

Posted by: George Townsend | Jun 15, 2005 10:53:13 AM

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