Meet the New Boss, Worse Than the Old Boss

Friday, March 08, 2013


David Lowery of bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven thought the internet would become a vibrant new marketplace for creators. Instead, he says, the internet era is worse for artists than the infamously unfair record company system. Brooke talks to Lowery about what's wrong and how to fix it.


David Lowery

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [51]

Josh P from New York

I'm a little late, but thanks for this excellent discussion guys! Ultimately it comes down to this - if we're going to transition to an information based economy, the mantra that "information wants to be free" is simply not going to work. It's really just economics. If we want the economy to grow then we need to monetize more of it, not less; and when the economy is based on information and content they are what need to be monetized.

Right now we have a situation where all the benefits from content creation are filtered to a small minority (Google & the tech companies). It's basically the "Wall-mart" effect. It looks really good at first, especially if you're a consumer, but the result is a reduced economic outlook for everyone because we've eliminated our own opportunities to profit from our work. So just like a town where many of the opportunities to make a living have disappeared due to wall-mart; content creators (musicians, journalists, game developers, movie makers, etc.) are no longer to make a living because their opportunities to profit directly from their content are gone. Quite sad really, and most importantly completely unsustainable.

Also for those of us who work with musicians on a daily basis the reality on the ground is much closer to what David Lowery is describing. This magical environment of democratized opportunities that is promoted by the tech enthusiasts is just an oasis - it looks great from the outside but once you get there you find out that its just an illusion. Dealing with the reality is quite different I'm afraid.

Mar. 27 2013 02:38 PM

I understand what you're trying to say CSK, but some of it is just not supported by reality.

Your statement that we now have "content that would never have seen the light of day under the old boss" is an assumption, and a pretty shaky one at that.

Please remember that the "old boss" signed and financed Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Bjork, Beck, The Wu-Tang Clan, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, The Beatles -- I could go on. And that's just the major labels. We haven't even gotten into the pure independents yet.

Similarly, the major movie studios paid for Citizen Cane and got the world to pay attention to it. They also advanced resources to fantastic money-losing pictures like Blade Runner and Baron Munchausen. And we haven't even mentioned the publishers or the indie film houses yet!

Sure, there's also plenty of "crap" art made, from our perspectives perhaps. But by and large, it's made because there is demand for it. It's not necessarily "crap" from the perspective of people who enjoy it.

Truth is, that even if your tastes are extremely unusual and esoteric, the vast majority of the art you love most was likely funded by companies that made money off of the art, and gave back to the artistic community with continued, sustainable levels of funding.

The tech sector however, is not doing that at all. They are instead forcing individuals to fund themselves, most often at a personal loss, while the tech companies reap huge profits on their aggregate creative output -- regardless of whether any one work is profitable or not.

I'm not here to tell you the old system was perfect. My only intent is to explain to you that Lowery is right about at least one thing: Compared to the "old boss", the new system is far more exploitative, and gives far less back to the creative people who make its profits possible.

The truth is that most people don't pay for broadband service and laptops because they love "the internet" or "computers." They do it because they love music, film, images and the written word.

Creative workers generate tremendous value. Today, they're being shortchanged to the greatest extent they have been in more than 100 years. And that's the truth. The overwhelming weight of data supports it, too.

Mar. 24 2013 05:43 PM

The games industry is an interesting turn to the conversation. It's an industry that started on indie developers, who were gradually pushed out in the commercialisation and the large barriers to entry for consoles or increasingly complex game engines required for new PC games. That said, there is a massive resurgence in indie games, starting with free mods for existing PC games (some of which are responsible for the massive success of their chosen platforms) as well as licensable engines that greatly simplify development. Most of these mods have had communities spring up around them contributing to their continued development, all without asking for financial support.

Similarly movies have seen production costs able to be brought down with consumer grade equipment and tools consistently dropping in price and rapidly rising in quality.

I may come off as obsessed on this point, but I really believe that content production and more importantly distribution is rapidly being democratised. Content that would never have seen the light of day under the old boss, is now possible by the ease of creation and quality of tools available as well as instant global reach. Creativity is flourishing and it's not the life + x + y + z + ... protections that copyright provides that is the cause.

Mar. 14 2013 05:08 AM

> "Minecraft and HumbleBundle"

Minecraft would run the game off of a browser window, allowing users to save their game only if they paid. Most people I've talked to had no idea that it was even possible to pirate Minecraft. Most people thought Minecraft was another subscription-style game like WoW (except that you pay a one-time fee instead of a monthly fee). In light of that, I don't think it proves anything about anything.

As far as Markus Persson (of Minecraft) being a member of the pirate party - I don't know. He's made far more money than any game developer ever dreamed. When you get a windfall like that, you're inclined to be generous with your money. I feel that Markus is effectively throwing all the other game developers and the game industry under the bus with his unhelpful comments about piracy. Heck, if he was an anarchist, I wouldn't take it as much of an endorsement of anarchy. Of course, he's not all pro-piracy. Here's what he's said in the past: "What do you feel about people illegally downloading the game and will you increase security to stop it in the future? xNotch: I think they're being jerkasses and they should pay for it if they like it. But at the end of the day, piracy isn't as big of a problem as the industry pretends it is. We might add measures to stop it as long as it doesn't take too long to implement, doesn't bother legitimate customers, and has some measurable effect. Or we could add more value-added services to having a paid account on, such as online stores statistics and achievements."

Most of the HumbleBundle games were sold as full products and then sold on the Humble Bundle after their main period of sales. There was a huge conflict among pirates over the Humble Bundle. One group of pirates said, "We should support these guys: they're giving us the option to pay what we want". The other group of pirates were like, "Who cares, we can take it for free, information should be free". The HumbleBundle also wasn't that happy with the pirates, but said they weren't going to do anything to them in retribution.

You have to understand that most people are coming from a place where they know they're supposed to pay for stuff, so when creators offer "pay what you want" people appreciate that. But, things are changing. More and more people are used to getting it all for free. When people are coming from a background of "get everything for free" they're far less likely to appreciate "pay what you want". Why not? Because it's the author asking for more money than the "should" get. In other words, the author is *NOT* being generous. When you're coming from a background of paying, then "pay what you want" is the author being generous, which invites reciprocity.

Mar. 13 2013 08:45 PM

Mike, you're misrepresenting once again.

First of all, out of the 75,000 CD released in 2010, 60,000 of them sold an average of 13 copies each. (This was also most likely at a great net *loss* to the artist.) So to say 'more artists are making more than $0' is misleading no matter which way you slice the data.

Whether you want to look at professional careers, or hobbyists making an extra buck, your analysis is wrong. It is simply not supported by the numbers. Especially when you're looking at net revenue or sustainability or anything else.

You're also not being even remotely accurate about the model of record labels. The revenue there does not come from a "single buyer." It comes from many, *many* buyers, buying many products at a very low price point. A label or a publisher is in fact a *lender* that specializes in financing a very unique type of high-risk investment: Art.

The vast majority of the artists they fund fail. The few that do succeed make enough to generate new investment dollars for new artists. It's almost a little like an idealized version 'socialism' in a strange way. The few hits pay for everything else.

The artists that fail still get an honest crack at a wider market, attract investment from wealthy patrons that they wouldn't have access to otherwise, and at least have a shot at realizing their full potential -- whatever that may be. Even when they do fail, in the meantime they get a chance to live and work and focus on great things. A luxury that is otherwise only afforded to the independently wealthy. And on the other end of it, consumers get records -- great records -- even when those records fail.

Finally, no one in this thread is "sniping" at Amanda. I have worked with her, and I am also a personal fan who in fact donated money to her campaign. (I was critical when she briefly considered not paying musicians while demanding professional-level service from them -- But she quickly turned that around, which won even more of my respect.)

Brit has not been "sniping" at her either. David may have seemed dismissive in the podcast, but I know that he in fact admires her success. Having talked to him personally, I know that he doesn't have an "issue" with Amanda's nudity. It may not have come across properly, but I believe he was instead trying to point out that this is a person who is so unusually good at connecting with her fans that she feels comfortable getting naked with them, in person.

We should not expect every single artist to have that level of comfort outside of music -- whether literally or metaphorically. You may not understand it Mike, but connecting with fans and the press outside of music is not a musicians' most important job. Their most important job is making great music.

I take it you don't understand the power of great music. That's fine. To each their own. But some of us do. We'd appreciate you sticking to what you know best. Clearly, that's not the economics of music or other creative fields.

Mar. 13 2013 08:34 PM

All this talk of not compensating artists has me confused. The data shows clearly that MORE people are getting compensated for making music. In the past, MOST people making music got $0. Why weren't you guys complaining about how they weren't being fairly compensated?

As for the sniping at Amanda, she sold a variety of products at a variety of price points and people were very happy to buy. And she was very happy with the results too (oh, and she's made it clear that her music is available for free if people want it, or they can pay her if they want to) Not sure I understand the attempts to suggest that this was wrong or unfair. Besides, for those complaining that her money came from mostly the higher end, let's face it, for most musicians on a label contract ALL of the money comes from a *single* "high end" buyer: the label providing the advance that never recoups.

Finally, on the claim that no good video games can be made without relying on copyright, I have two counter examples: Minecraft and HumbleBundle. Two different companies who have both focused on providing things that people want, and being explicit that they don't worry about copyright infringement or DRM, but recognize if they focus on providing a better product, people will pay. Both companies are doing amazingly well. Most of my own gaming nowadays is via games I got on HumbleBundle. Meanwhile Minecraft recently became one of the most profitable companies per employee ever -- and its founder and CEO is a member of the Pirate Party who has gone out of his way to publicly thank the founders of The Pirate Bay. Those are extreme examples, to be sure. But to argue that no good games come unless you rely on copyright doesn't appear to be true.

Mar. 13 2013 07:21 PM

Also: Brit and Will -- You say smart things. Keep on saying them.

Practices like non-compensation of creative works and unpaid internships are going to be seriously curtailed in the next 5 years or so. They're going to have to be!

These are among the many contributing factors to high unemployment, stagnating economic mobility, a narrowing tax base, and abnormally skewed concentrations of wealth, income, and opportunity.

When we stop rewarding creative work, it has real economic effects. And the especially sad thing is that creative works are now generating *tremendous* revenue through advertisement, hardware and software sales. It's just not being distributed appropriately anymore.

I mean, look at Masnick's (misleading) numbers on iPod sales! Look at the numbers on laptop sales and broadband expenses. People are flocking to the internet -- and it's not because they love "the internet". It's because they love movies, pictures, music and the written word. And based on consumption patterns, it appears that they love the carefully and professionallyproduced ones the best.

We just need to find a way to compensate people for their value again. It has become abundantly clear that disrespecting copyright is not the way to do it. There are now several academic studies which show that effectively curtailing piracy at the source is not only possible, but that it *causes* (not 'correlates with', but causes) increased revenue for creative works.

Personally, I'd love to live in a Star Trek economy where everything is free, including food, rent, health care, laptops and broadband internet connection. But until those things are free, professionally produced music, books and movies can't be the only things that are.

OK -- that's enough out of me. God forbid I type as much as Lowery or Mansick on this one :)

And OTM -- thanks again for the interview. As heated as it can get, the conversation is an important one, I think.

The position that Lowery takes has been neglected for too long. We've heard plenty from the Lessigs and Masnicks of the world, and we see where it's gotten us: To a place where wealth has become abnormally concentrated around a few tiny industries -- notably tech and financial.

Mar. 13 2013 06:24 PM

(And to be clear, I don't begrudge Amanda her success. I'm super proud of what she was able to pull off!

It's just fair to put it into context by pointing out that less than 25% of her total revenue came from fans who were able to chip in $100 or less.

How this model would have worked for breaking The Beatles or Nirvana or any of the great Motown artists is quite unclear.

Fact is: fewer and fewer exceptionally talented working- and middle-class musicians are getting a shot at having their work produced and widely heard in this new system.

It may sound counter-intuitive for some --what with the "democratization" of record making and all-- but that is one of the clear byproducts of this model.

Take away the rewards, and you take away the investment.)

Mar. 13 2013 05:41 PM

Mike, you've made a good handful of very misleading statements in this thread, but at least on Amanda Palmer you're absolutely right.

That accounting is public and quite clear: Unusually wealthy patrons able to bestow $5,000 or $10,000 so that Ms. Palmer might make a cameo appearance at their dinner party accounted for about $200,000 of her total revenue. That's 100% more than her initial goal, and a bit less than 20% of her final gross.

If you add in patrons who are only "very" wealthy, and could afford only $1,000 premiums, then we're at over $300,000 already. Include the merely "well-off" who could afford a book, CD and small-venue concert at $300/pop and we're up another $200,000+ -- about half her total.

All told, us plebes who could contribute $100 or less (and I was one of the ones who did!) accounted for a bit over $250,000. Admittedly, that's quite respectable in and of itself.

Palmer herself however, doubts that she'll walk away with a net of more than $100,000 after a year of non-stop donor-fulfillment. (And she said that before she realized that she has to pay all her musicians now!)

Once you take that into account, you realize that, financially at least, what Palmer is getting in the end is not necessarily better than what an established artist like her might have wrangled on a even a "failed" release at a label.

Meanwhile, she now has to focus on running a full-fledged media business and donor-relations department instead of focusing on making really great music. Even in this best-case scenario, this new model is no clear step forward from the past.

An additional downside is that in this funding model, far fewer lower- and middle-class musicians will get a shot to take time off from a menial job in order to focus on their craft.

In this system, the next Beatles or the next Kurt Cobain, would likely remain jaded amateurs for their entire lives, would have never lived up to their true potential. And the world would be at a net loss.

That's not to say that we should rule out this new model completely. From what I've heard, Lowery doesn't rule it out completely either.

I think he's merely saying that we should now shift our concern from those who have exploited musicians in the past (labels) to those who are exploiting them now (tech companies and ad-supported pirate websites.)

And it is certainly fair to say that this "new boss" has taken uncompensated exploitation of creativity to a higher plane than ever before.

I understand that the two of you have opposite interests, and both of you sometimes overstate your case (Lowery through rudeness, Masnick with cherry-picking and questionable data) but I think that even the two of *you* can find some common ground.

Bottom line: Copyright was invented to both protect and reward artists and other creative folks. We disregard it at the risk of devaluing those things we care about the most.

Mar. 13 2013 05:11 PM


Mike: "Your second paragraph is purely opinion, and I'll just state that I disagree, and see evidence to suggest otherwise, but there is little benefit in arguing over matters of pure opinion."

I wrote two posts, so I'm unclear on what you mean by my "second paragraph". I assume you meant my paragraph about freeware versus commercial games? I can understand why it's safer for you to chalk this up to "it's just a matter of opinion". That's certainly a lawyerly response that helps you avoid admitting the obvious. I've had hard-core open-source advocates admit to me that the non-copyright model doesn't seem to work for games. I'm just not sure if you're so out of touch with games that you can't see how right I am, or if you're just doing a lawyerly-dodge to avoid admitting a fact that would argue against your anti-copyright stance.

Mike: "'The problem, it seems, is that consumers are buying more single tracks now instead of entire albums and that consumers have an expectation that digital music tracks should be cheaper than purchasing plastic discs. The result is that the number of single digital tracks purchased is rising... but the revenues from selling single tracks isn't matching those of peak years of selling CD albums."

And let's not forget that some people's entire music collections are pirated ( ). I've had numerous people ask me "why are you paying for something that you can get for free on the internet [via piracy]?" It's not hard to see a connection between the declining music revenue and attitudes that piracy is "the way" to get music.

And, as I said earlier, it's about a lot more than music. I work in software, where we don't have the luxury of performing concerts (where musicians can force their fans to pay money in order to experience their music). I can't see this working out well for the movie industry, either. At the moment, the movie industry's decline in the US (both box office revenue and sales) is at least being offset by the third-world's increasing spending on movies. At the moment, I doubt many third-world countries have the kind of broadband speeds that would allow internet piracy to undermine movie sales significantly, though I wouldn't hold my breath for the long-term.

Mar. 13 2013 04:41 PM

Mike: "Concerning Brit's conspiracy theory claim on Amanda Palmer, there's no need to talk about secretive math."

I understand your desire to discredit me with the "conspiracy theory" label, but let's look at the facts: (1) Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman (net worth: $18 million) who is not only rich and famous, but undoubtably is well connected to other rich and famous people. He's certainly a heavy-hitter that most musicians don't have in their corner. (2) Amanda Palmer's kickstarter is the most successful music kickstarter ever ($1.2 million); if you look at the most-funded page, you'll see that the second highest is $225,045. In other words, she was 5x more successful than #2 on the list. Seems odd, and shows that she's an outlier, which doesn't bode well for "anyone can do this". And, of course, she's faced a lot of criticism for how she's spending that money ( - like paying her tour musicians next to nothing. One wonders if $1.2 was really enough to cover her expenses, and what will happen to contributions as fans become unhappy with how musicians are spending that money.

Mike: "The highest amount that Kickstarter allows is $10,000, and two people contributed that... Yes, there were a grand total of 2 $10,000 contributions. And that's it."
Her kickstarter page says "$10,000 *OR MORE*". Anyway, after reviewing the numbers, it looks like most of the money is accounted for if you add up the values. She made almost a very little percentage of her money from the $1 and $5 levels. 75% of her money came from the $50 tiers and up - so it tells me that you have to have rabid fans (sorry small/medium musicians, only musicians that can create rabid fans can use this). Not to mention that the kickstarter obligated her to run all over the globe and perform concerts in people's backyards. (It reminded me of another kickstarter, where, after a successful kickstarter campaign, the company realized that they spent something like 1/3rd of the money just in rewards for contributors. They ended up with only 2/3rds left to pay for the thing that they were trying to fund in the first place.)


Mar. 13 2013 04:41 PM

Concerning Brit's conspiracy theory claim on Amanda Palmer, there's no need to talk about secretive math. You can see all of the totals right on her Kickstarter page: The highest amount that Kickstarter allows is $10,000, and two people contributed that. 34 contributed $5,000 to get a house party -- and Amanda did a tour last year of house parties, many of which she talked about on Twitter. Either way, the vast chunk of the money came from lots and lots and lots of fans contributing much lower numbers.

Considering that info is entirely public, I'm not sure why you would state the provably false claim: "it appears that she must've had some five-figure and six-figure donations." Yes, there were a grand total of 2 $10,000 contributions. And that's it.

As for people "replicating" it that's a silly standard. No, no one else has made $1.2 million on Kickstarter, but plenty of artists have build successful Kickstarter campaigns that have allowed them to make amazing albums (like Lester Chambers) or tour the world (like Marian Call). Setting the line of success at $1.2 million seems silly. Under that standard nearly every band who got an advance has similarly failed, since few advances are $1.2 million.

Your second paragraph is purely opinion, and I'll just state that I disagree, and see evidence to suggest otherwise, but there is little benefit in arguing over matters of pure opinion.

Mar. 13 2013 02:44 PM

Hi Brit,

Happy to discuss any points you have that you think are misleading -- though, for the record, we highlighted directly in the report that transactions do not equate to revenue. From the report itself: "There are a few caveats with the Nielsen SoundScan sales data that should be mentioned. First of all, thse are transactions without regards to the price of an item, so as we'll discuss later, this does not necessarily mean that consumers are spending more when they buy music." And, later on, we directly stated that spending on recorded music had declined precipitously; 'The problem, it seems, is that consumers are buying more single tracks now instead of entire albums and that consumers have an expectation that digital music tracks should be cheaper than purchasing plastic discs. The result is that the number of single digital tracks purchased is rising... but the revenues from selling single tracks isn't matching those of peak years of selling CD albums."

So I'm not sure how it's fair for you to claim that we claimed otherwise, as you do in your first paragraph.

As for your second paragraph, there's a much larger discussion to be had (and the touring numbers we saw were MUCH higher than your claimed numbers -- plus we've seen both publishing and licensing continue to rise significantly), but we felt that the more important number to look at wasn't necessarily overall revenue, but *revenue to the artist*. And, here, we used the metrics first put forth by PRS in the UK (so an organization on the side of musicians), who gave us some pointers in calculating revenue to the artist. Here, what's important is that *so little* of recorded music sales go to artists, but a much larger % of touring/licensing/publishing go to artists. Now, with touring, there are also high costs that need to be accounted for, but there's a strong argument to be made that many artists (certainly not all) are able to make more today, in part because they get bigger chunks of the revenue, rather than having a label own all the revenue from their one main revenue source.

Mar. 13 2013 02:35 PM


As for Amanda Palmer: Yes, she's an interesting case. It should be pointed out that nobody has come close to replicating her kickstarter example. I'm not sure what to make of it. Although I had taken a close look at her numbers some time ago and figured out that she seemed to have a handful of very-large money donations (it appears that she must've had some five-figure and six-figure donations). That made me rather suspicious - perhaps her rich friends or maybe some "everything should be free on the internet" advocates decided to donate lots of money to make her kickstarter successful. It'll be interesting to see if she can continue to replicate her success, or if she ran a second or third kickstarter, whether she would see big declines in donations. There's definitely a "novelty" and "donator fatigue" factors going on with this kind of system, which favors donations the first time, and could result in declining money moving forward.

Mike Masnick has been a staunch ally and friend to the pirates' "everything for free on the internet" movement. Despite being trained in economics, he still doesn't seem to understand the economics of digital media creation. (And I say "digital media creation" specifically, rather than "music" because copyright in the digital age is about a lot more than music. It's about movies and software and books, etc.) It's unfortunate that he has chosen to use his talent and intelligence to promote a bad cause that will leave us all worse off in the end - because undermining the economic system of digital media creation will ultimately leave us all worse off in the end. If things go Masnick's way, I see the internet become a kind of anarchy - with all of the benefits and flaws of that type of system - you'll have all kinds of freedom to do whatever you want on the internet, but there won't be a lot of good stuff that you'll actually want. As someone who works in software, I'd recommend looking at freeware/open-source game quality versus commercially-produced game quality. There's a vast gulf in the quality of freeware games versus commercially produced ones. It would be tragic to see games decline to the quality we see in freeware - which is where things are going if the "everything should be free" crowd wins (with the exception, of course, of subscription-based games like WOW - which is effectively "copyright enforcement via technical means").

Mar. 13 2013 02:19 PM

It's nice of Mike Masnick to show up in the comments section.

Yes, I agree that the "Sky is Rising" report is terribly misleading. I had meant to write a large rebuttal of the report some time ago, but never got around to it. If Mike Masnick hasn't seen criticism of the report (other than from David Lowery), then he hasn't been looking very hard. I've written several rebuttals on tech sites of particular claims in the report. For example, as pointed out by David Lowery, the use of music "transactions" in their chart is misleading because it makes it appear that sales are going up. Of course, since sales have shifted from sales of Albums ($10+ each) to individual digital tracks ($1 each), he can make things look like they're going in an upward trajectory when sales are declining. For example, if the average consumer was buying 1 album a month in the 1990s ($10), but buying 3 tracks a month in 2013 ($3), by talking about "music transactions", he can paint a picture of "transactions" increasing by 3x, when the reality is that sales revenue decreased by 70% ($3 in sales rather than $10 in sales). In my opinion, that's a shadey trick meant to mislead the public.

Mike Masnick can talk about other sectors of the music industry going up (like tour revenue), but he never puts it in the proper context: how do these new revenue streams offset losses from the declining music sales revenue? He's looked at the numbers long enough that he should know the answer. The reality is that music sales revenue took a nosedive, while tour income increase, but not nearly enough to offset the loss: "While US music sales and licensing revenue are slipping (from 2001 to 2011, sales dropped from $13.7 billion to $3.4 billion), show revenue has spiked ($1.7 billion to $4.3 billion)" - Wired Magazine, July/August 2012. For those struggling with the math: that's a decline of $10.3 billion and an increase of $2.6 billion. If David Lowry is right about more time spent touring and smaller crowds, this means more work for the musician, higher costs per tour, and a net decline of income. Personally, I don't much mind if the record labels go away (perhaps replaced by the internet), but I strongly favor the existence of economic systems which allow musicians to make a living.


Mar. 13 2013 02:18 PM

I actually agree with Mr. Buckley that quality matters as well, but I made no statement against quality in my comment. It may be an open question as to whether or not great quantity leads to greater quality, or if greater full time musicians lead to greater quality. He implicitly suggests it's the latter. I have seen no evidence to support that, but I'm open to it if he has any. I have, actually, seen a recent study that suggests music quality has continued to rise over the last decade. I am working on a post about it which should be up on Techdirt in the near future.

In my experience, some of the best music I've heard lately has come from musicians who never had a shot under the old system, and thus their music would not have existed a decade ago. I see plenty of quality music coming from these musicians. Yes, with a greater number of musicians there is also a greater amount of low quality music -- though, quality is inherently a subjective measure and my anecdotal experience may not apply across the board.

I do wonder, however, what Mr. Buckley's basis is for insisting that I am arguing in favor of lower quality music. Nothing is further from the truth.

Mar. 13 2013 01:06 PM

I came to this site because I was disappointed in the original interview. I felt it was one sided and Brooke came off a star struck and not pushing back enough. On air Lowery's only argument seemed to be "the old music model worked for me so it's better." Basically, the reporting didn't meet the usual high standards of On the Media.

But, this is a thoroughly enjoyable thread. I find the back and forth informative and fascinating. As a fan it's given me somethings to think about. I wish that OTM had gone with a more balanced story to begin with.

Mar. 13 2013 12:34 PM

"Furthermore, that only refers to full-time musicians. You can make the argument that full-time musicians are the ones that are most important, but there's also a reasonable argument that the goal should be maximizing support for music in general. And if that's the case, we're clearly getting there today. More music is being produced today than ever before and more people are making *some* amount of money for their music than ever before, even if many of them are not doing it full time."

I find this absolutely fascinating, that someone would be so intent in support a world of mediocrity. There needs be room and support for inspired virtuosity, not just music that is sometimes referred to as "Good Enough".

Life is about quality not quantity, at least mine, and to be party to creating a world that does not aspire to and support greatness is a grey colorless world indeed.

Your parsing of statistics is fascinating and only proves my point, Sir. Open your eyes, reality is out there somewhere other than your computer screen.

Mar. 13 2013 11:59 AM

A quick response to Mr. Buckley's claim that there are 40% fewer musicians today than a decade ago. This number has been an RIAA talking point for quite some time and... it turns out... is not true. It is based on the RIAA cherry picking highly variable *monthly* statistics, and then failing the basic "percent change" calculation. When done properly, there is still a decrease in full time musicians, but it is about 8%.

Furthermore, that only refers to full-time musicians. You can make the argument that full-time musicians are the ones that are most important, but there's also a reasonable argument that the goal should be maximizing support for music in general. And if that's the case, we're clearly getting there today. More music is being produced today than ever before and more people are making *some* amount of money for their music than ever before, even if many of them are not doing it full time.

The open question is which is more important: the amount of music being created, the number of people making money from their music or the number of full time musicians. Mr. Buckley clearly believes the most important statistic is the latter, though I'm not sure why.

As I pointed out in one of my earlier comments, there is much greater *competition* in the marketplace today, because more people are making music. So there is more money being spread across more artists. As such, it's not a huge surprise that there would be a dip in full time musicians.

That said, keep an eye on those stats. We're looking at a market in transition, and one issue is that without a clear roadmap, a number of musicians have struggled. But as we see more and more success stories, new roadmaps are being created, and today's musicians have more options than ever before. I believe it's quite likely that the number of both full time and part time musicians is likely to rise, now that the ways to make money are becoming more and more clear.

Mar. 13 2013 11:31 AM

In the weeds. Did you ever wonder why some commenters like to be anonymous? And even have multiple handles?
Perhaps they even have multiple personalities, who knows.

I guess that's another freedom of speech argument.

Mar. 13 2013 11:10 AM

When discussions like this go off in the weeds, as often is the case, it helps
to clarify the basic underlying principles.

The (proposed) Digital Sanity Act of
2012 is an excellent reference for bringing these types of discussion back on

The Digital Sanity Act of 2012:

Whereas digital media must be decoded in order to be useful and that there
exists multitudes of devices and software whose purpose it is to decode digital
media, it is hereby recognized that it is fundamentally impossible for state or
federal government to police each and every digital media decoding device or
software in order to prevent the possible unauthorized decoding of content.

Therefore, it is hereby declared that it is incumbent upon the producers of
digital media to ensure that their content is not decoded without their authorization

Also, as there is no fundamental right to profit from a specific technology, it
is also incumbent upon producers of digital media to determine for themselves
whether or not a particular technology is a viable means of income, without
governmental interdiction.

In layman's terms:

Bits are bits and, if you can't make money selling copies of your work, don't
release copies of your work, don't allow copies of your work to be made.

Mar. 13 2013 10:43 AM

Clean Coal.

Statistics, do they really tell the story? To equate the absurd context of "The Sky is Rising" is not dissimilar to standing in front of clear cut red wood forest and proclaiming that the mass destruction would actually result in a healthy forest.

Even the most biased individual simply needs to look around and see the destruction. I don't need to use staggering statistics, like over 40% fewer individuals have filed tax returns listing their occupation as musician over the past decade, to make my point. Sure, there are a few musicians who have achieved incredible success using open source technology, but you'll find the legion of enthusiastic proponents of online music distribution who "make" music are the hobbyists.

Or those who believe creative content is digital road kill and that copyright creates a financial barrier to creating the next internet success story. Copyright is bad for business, just like the price of steel is bad for automobile manufacturers AND the consumer.

Talk to those who call music their profession and depend on "sales" to survive and you will find them thanking David Lowery for taking a stand on their behalf.

The reality of the situation is right in front of your eyes and it is only your refusal to open your eyes that propels your perspective. Shame on you for adding to the confusion and misinformation that some people use to justify their actions.

Will Buckley, founder, FarePlay

Mar. 13 2013 10:31 AM

David, as stated, the shill comparison is to highlight your ridiculous claim. Show me a document from Mike where standards of disclosure have been lower than something that comes from a RIAA backed study. As for the "sky is rising" report, do you have any more than a single chart which you claim was misleading (despite the source being your industry body) and a lack of attribution (despite being on the cover, closing thanks and promotional blog post)

Ultimately, I shall take solace in the fact that the "the internet is a magic beaver land" that I live in shows no sign of slowing in growth. The democratisation of music creation and distribution will continue and the record industry as it exists today will continue to crumble - all the while bemoaning services such as iTunes who are in reality the last lifelines they have

On that topic, with all your experience in music this, business that and angel investing - when is your iTunes competitor that gives artists a fair cut coming to market?

Mar. 13 2013 08:30 AM
david c lowery

Mike the reason i don't respond to your comments half the time is cause you claim i'm saying somethhing I'm not. (as on the advances). then you ask me to defend it. It's down the rabbit hole nonsense. Not going there.

Get over it. you got caught making misleading charts (total number of transactions) and including iPod sales in overall revenues to give the impression that overall music revenues are rising. Clearly I'm getting under your skin with this.

Your reports have been recieved well at these "tech" Unilogs like SF Music Tech or CES where everyone has exactly the same point of view. Outside of "the internet is a magic beaver land " your stuff is regarded as an industry lobbying propaganda.

And to CSK I'd like you to state unequivocally that I am a shill for the music industry. Please I'm begging you.

Mar. 12 2013 11:54 PM

so glad the the interviewer called Lowery out about his veiled suggestion that the only reason Amanda Palmer raised the money that she did is because she was willing to show off her body. (and psst, yeah, if you're asking for money from people it helps not to be a jerk, hence, gregariousness...)
ick. kinda dismissive and misogynist at the same time. but also not surprising given the rest of his interview.

Mar. 12 2013 08:37 PM

The point of referring to you as a shill was solely for comparison to highlight the ridiculousness of you calling Mike a Google shill - I'd like you to show exactly where he has misrepresented his position. As for the accuracy of his work, from reading his blog I've found his work to be continually well researched and to regularly include coverage and links to dissenting opinions.

Ultimately I think your position is best summed up by an Upton Sinclair quote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Another thing that is bugging me is your comment on mom-and-pop stores 40% vs iTunes 30%. You are aware that Apple put in an enormous amount of work to create an ecosystem where music purchases are as frictionless as possible - as such they are entitled to reap the rewards of that. Other artists / competitors / labels are free to create whatever competing services they want, with whatever payout ratio they like. At least under the iTunes model, we have democratised sale of music - an independent artist can take 60% (10% distributor fee factored in) home rather than the 0% he will most likely see under a label.

Mar. 12 2013 07:31 PM

Dont both of you have 'strong admirers?' I dont see a copyright argument ever with out seeing a link to one of your blogs sometimes both. Usually I think the musicians post to Lowrey and the "I want movies for free" people post to you. Anyway can you two cut it out with all the name calling. You sound like a couple of babies. So your report is kinda silly and pro-technology and Lowery is kinda a jerk and he likes record labels better than websites. Big deal. Whatever, both of you are probaly smart and you both cherry pick. Go arm wrestle or something. Are people actually reading all of this stuff anyway or just your fanboys?

Mar. 12 2013 06:17 PM

I will only note that I find it amusing that I pointed out numerous *substantial* factual errors made by Mr. Lowery in his claims about me and, specifically, about the report I co-authored.

In response, he has addressed exactly none of those claims, but rather argued that I was spreading "untruths" by suggesting that he and his friends comment on the site. Since he insists it is not him, I will take back the claim that Lowery himself commented, but stand by the fact that his friends do. There are two commenters in particular who regularly dump links to Mr. Lowery's blog, usually demonstrating a sever misunderstanding of rather important details, and arguing that this has somehow debunked everything we believe in (which they also misrepresent). If Mr. Lowery would prefer, I will say that the existing evidence merely shows that they are "strong admirers" of Mr. Lowery's site, if not his personal friends.

I stand by the rest of my assertions, none of which Mr. Lowery seems to want to respond to.

Mar. 12 2013 02:42 PM
david c lowery from austin tx

Hey CSK you are funnier than Mike. Aren't we all "Self Interest Shills?' This is the reason I love the web. So many unintended poeticisms.

Are you saying I take money from record labels? Damn you found me out! I do receive money from record labels. Yes as a songwriter I get money from record labels. These payments are called "Songwriter Royalties."

If you mean I am fronting for a record label? Again you have found me out. Yes indeed I am representing the interest of my independent artist owned record label I formed nearly 30 years ago!

So what is your point? Those who earn a royalties or own their own recordings are disqualified from the debate?

Also I should address this comment from Mr. Masnick:

"The articles we have written about Lowery (all in response to Lowery and his friends directly filling our comments with claims that we dare not respond... until we do)"

Aside from our initial dustup in feb 2012 I do not visit his site and nor do I post comments. Further I am unaware of any "friends" posting comments on his blog. Masnick has access to the IP addresses of all his commenters, my travel schedule is very public. He knows what he is saying above is untrue.

Now I dont' really care what Masnick says about me. I bring this up to illustrate that Masnick is willing to say stuff that is untrue to score points. He is highly manipulative and anything he writes should be carefully examined.

Mar. 12 2013 11:23 AM
Karl from Boston

To aaa:

"It was because of the labels money she was able to do it."

This is wrong, as it turns out. Read this interview with Emily White (Amanda's tour manager through the whole thing):

That may be true of other bands - and it's one of the reasons that bands signed with labels, back in Lowery's "golden age." Since 9 out of 10 bands on a label would not recoup - hence, not see a single dime from artists' royalties - the labels needed some reason to get the bands to work for free. Since the majors had a monopoly on all the commercial radio stations in the country, as well as the majority of the medium and larger-sized venues, they were able to corner the market on promotion and distribution of all music nationwide. Access to those channels was almost always the only way bands benefited from the labels.

Of course, Lowery rarely mentions this... which is one of the reasons (and there are many) why his arguments don't hold water.

It's also pretty incredible how he condescendingly dismisses people like Amanda. I've been casually acquainted with her for years, and I can tell you from experience that his characterization of her is both insulting and chauvinistic. Considering that he claims to be speaking on behalf of artists, it's really amazing how much he despises any of them that don't become successful on HIS terms.

Mar. 12 2013 08:54 AM


"She did so when she was on a label, and couldn't make enough money for them to keep her. But after she got dropped, she was able to raise $1.2 million via a single Kickstarter (just a few months after raising $130k on Kickstarter for another project). That wasn't because she showed her breasts, but because she's built up a loyal fanbase who wants to support her."

It was because of the labels money she was able to do it. They invested into marketing her. It's not the point to question her leaving the label, but the investment is a fact.

She couldn't have raised that money alone.

If the pressure wasn't so hard on labels, because people would actually pay them, they could AFFORD to have a longer breath in developing their roster in the first place.

Mar. 12 2013 08:18 AM

Sorry David, but you are completely nutty. Mike is much less a Google shill than you are a music industry / self interest shill. On the topic, what harm has Google actually done, what harm are they doing by funding reports that show an alternate (and most likely less biased) view of the current situation. On the topic of the EU Parliament, what Parliaments have you been invited to speak in front of?

The general public is getting a bit sick of back to back releases by the entertainment industry of "Record profits" / "Piracy is killing everything" (hence the resonance of the title "The sky is rising"). Ultimately the industry is doing itself no good by disrespecting consumers and going so far as to demand an end to civil liberties in the name of higher profits.

As far as the industry treating artists well - they still have default clauses for a fixed % of breakage costs, taken out of the artists cut, on DIGITAL sales. Yes, the truck delivering the music to iTunes crashed on the way and 1000s of AACs were destroyed.

Mar. 11 2013 07:38 PM

Once again, I am afraid that Mr. Lowery has a problem dealing with facts, but instead chooses to make false assertions concerning me. That is unfortunate.

The *cover page* of the Sky is Rising has a very conspicuous logo from CCIA. The final page of the paper clearly thanks CCIA for its support. The report was initially announced via a joint press release with CCIA. Our blog post in which we announced it, clearly mentions CCIA (and the co-sponsor Engine Advocacy). To claim that we did not mention that is, again, Mr. Lowery suggesting things that are simply untrue. Why he feels a compulsion to do this, I do not understand.

The supposed "Google Shill List" was nothing of the sort. Our response to that odd bit off judicial drama explains it all pretty clearly: It is hardly the scandal that Mr. Lowery makes it out to be.

At this point, I am at a loss as to why Mr. Lowery feels the need to repeatedly misrepresent my work, and when called on it, to double down with further misrepresentations.

The rest of his comment appears to be your basic "appeal to authority" logical fallacy argument. If I, too, had no legitimate argument, I could simply point out in response that our report is an *economic analysis* and my training is in both economics and statistics, the two skills useful for understanding those subjects -- whereas 30 years touring in a band does not make one an expert in economics or statistics. But that's a silly argument, as it is not about the quality of the work, but rather a pure appeal to authority.

The work we put out stands on its own, Lowery's digs aside. The articles we have written about Lowery (all in response to Lowery and his friends directly filling our comments with claims that we dare not respond... until we do) do not say that he does not understand technology. They each point to a particular statement made by Mr. Lowery and deconstruct why his argument does not make any sense. Those articles are available on Techdirt for people to see and judge on their own. His description of them is, as with nearly everything else he has said on this page, inaccurate.

Finally, we absolutely agree that every band is a web based business. That's why we brought together 50 artists and entrepreneurs a few months ago, to spend a day together brainstorming and kicked it off by pointing out that every artist is an entrepreneur, and every entrepreneur is a creator, and so we wanted to highlight similarities, while exploring differences.

That does not, of course, make every band a *good* entrepreneur, though we hope that more and more artists figure out how to be good entrepreneurs.

Mar. 11 2013 11:14 AM
david c lowery


Speaking in front of the EU parliment? that's funny. that's like being a HuffPo contributor, it's a sign of non-seriousness.

And as other here have reported your report was funded by an Internet Industry lobbying group CCIA (read Google). Nowhere do you admit that. Further as a result of this report you were named in court documents as a "Google Shill" in the Google vs Oracle lawsuit.

But here is the rub. Exactly what experience have you had in the music business to make YOU the expert? When have you ever got your hands dirty? For thirty years I've been writing songs, recording albums, running an indie record label, running a recording studio complex, producing albums, producing music for commercial film and tv, music supervising films etc etc. I have a new album out right now and in the midst of promoting it. Hence my appearance here at SXSW.

That's mine. Where's yours?

Further you've written at least 7 articles that all seem to suggest that I don't understand technology? It's as if you are stalking me (or paid to rebut my comments?!) So this brings up the question, what is your tech experience? I don't see you as anymore of an expert on technology and internet than I am. After all what is a band but a web based business? Every band has been web-enable since 1992 or so, and web-based since 1999. We are the internet content providers.

I see you were educated at Cornell in labor relations. I was trained in computers and mathematics; ran amateur radio packet networks since the mid 1990s; have long been a technology investor; was on the board of advisors to Groupon (for better or worse); helped start an angel investment fund; sit on the board of said fund and also mentor for the related tech incubator. I am actively involved in two tech startups at the moment.

But, yeah sure if you want to "explain" what I don't understand about the internet, go right ahead.

Mar. 11 2013 09:24 AM

As for Lowery's other points:

Lowery's treatise on "old boss/new boss" is entirely reliant on the concept of advances, but fails any statistical rigor because he discounts those who failed to get an advance, but who CAN and ARE making money under the new system. Any realistic calculation of "the old boss" would add in all of those people and count their revenue as $0. Instead, Lowery pretends they are not a part of the market. That's just bad economics.

On top of that, his calculations involve celebrating musicians who don't earn enough because he counts their advances as revenue and suggests that they "made more" under the old system *based on a percentage*. This is no way to count. Under that argument, the band who made NO direct revenue would be the most successful band in the world, since it would earn infinite percentage of its actual earned dollars. That's just silly.

Finally, concerning the idea that this is "blowback" or the comment from someone else that the report has been "debunked," I hope that everything I do in life has this much "blowback." To date (and the report has been out for over a year), there has been loads of positive press coverage, I've presented the report to the EU Parliament, I helped bring together a discussion on the subject at the request of the White House, and I've been asked to speak about it to numerous governments, conferences, companies and artists around the globe. The *only* negative reports on it came from Lowery's own blog and the RIAA blog, both of whom misrepresented the report.

We have yet to see a single substantive complaint about the report, and plenty of praise and interest in further research.

In the end, I try to report on what the data shows, and try to help promote progress in having lots of people recognize new opportunities. This may upset the old guard who is having their existing way of business crumble around them, but it seems silly to blame the messenger for pointing out what the actual data says, and showing how the new market can be quite amazing for many thousands of artists and not just those, as Lowery falsely implies, who are willing to get naked for their fans.

Mar. 11 2013 01:56 AM

Daniel Moynihan's famous saying "you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts" has become something of a cliche these days, but there are times when it is entirely appropriate, and David Lowery's comment in response to my comment is one of those.

He claims that in our report, The Sky is Rising, which he misrepresented on this segment of the radio show, that we used the IFPI numbers on the broader music industry and claimed they were "music sales." We did no such thing. Either Lowery has not read the report (my guess) or he has and is deliberately misrepresenting it. You can see for yourself, as the report is available here:

Page 25 of the report is where we cite the IFPI numbers, and quite clearly note that they describe "the broader music industry" including "revenues from music in radio advertising, recorded music sales, musical instrument sales, live performance revenues and portable digital music player sales (among a few other income categories)." The point of this number was, again, to show that *music* in general is not at risk, even if certain parts of the industry may be struggling.

We do NOT (nor would we ever) claim that those represented the sale of music. In fact, two paragraphs later, on that very same page, we quite clearly note that the revenue from recorded music sales has been falling steadily.

I have no problem having people disagree with my opinions, but I do have a problem with people misrepresenting what I have said. Here, David Lowery blatantly misrepresented what we said.

Separately, as you can see on the pages before and after page 25, we cited a number of other numbers as well. We did not rely on any single number, nor something as meaningless in the grand scheme of things as a single recording studio (in which many other variables may impact the data). We looked at the global market from a number of different angles, and reported what we found.

(next comment will respond to the other points).

Mike Masnick

Mar. 11 2013 01:50 AM
Robert H from Minneapolis mn

File this under "The Big Payback" For years buyers of music bought CDs only to find that perhaps two songs were any good. Unlike any other transaction if you bought a defective CD(as far as quality goes) you were stuck with it with no able to get a refund. So forgive me if I don't feel too bad about the current situation. I do agree that piracy is wrong. I now download an album and if its good I'll buy it. But as a huge consumer if music I will no longer give money for inferior products. Markets change and the genie is out if the bottle. Digital music may have to be a loss leader to get people to shows.

Mar. 10 2013 03:19 PM
ZoSo The Band from Echo Park Musicians Building

poor mikey... his bosses at the CCIA get upset when the work they paid for gets holes poked in it... the sky is rising is a great work of fiction and I wonder how much ed black had to pay to get it, shame, shame...

as for The New Boss... funny thing is that YouTube artists who should be empowered in the digital revolution are seeing this first hand. Creators are battling Maker Studios and Machinima (source LA Weekly) over draconian contracts while Big Frame (source All Things D) says YouTube does not pay enough for them to produce "premium content" despite generating 3.7 billion views.

as usual the truth is the easiest thing to see. artists are being exploited by new digital gatekeepers who control the money directly now, and not the just distribution.

the more things change, the more they stay the same... keep cashing those checks mikey... it's good to know that at least you are getting paid on the artists back...

digital pimps are starving their girls.

Mar. 10 2013 01:51 PM
Manny Chien from Austin

Did I miss it or did Masnick fail to disclose that he is in the paid service of the Computer & Communications Industry Association that sponsored his Sky is Rising native advertising?

Mar. 10 2013 11:33 AM
david lowery


The IFPI may have talked about iPod sales. But does not claim they are music sales as you suggest. By your logic if the IFPI report had talked about Chevy Truck sales you could have included them as evidence that

Again don't shoot the messenger. This is the blowback you get for getting creative with the data and making misleading statements. Don't do it anymore and you won't be defending yourself in the comment sections of an NPR show.

Finally, Mike, you repeatedly fail to understand that I'm not talking so much about my revenue than I am about the lack of revenue for younger bands that come through my studio complex. It's a long discussion but Incumbents like Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker have had their advantages cemented into place by the explosion of music. There is a remarkable lack of competition for us in a lot of ways.

Anyone who wants to read the my full exhaustive examination of the new digital paradigm and the share of revenue the artist receives read it here:

Mar. 10 2013 01:27 AM
Dan from Alaska

Ian - the tune is "Good Guys & Bad Guys" from their self-titled album. Available on iTunes and Spotify ;)

Mar. 09 2013 05:46 PM

It's fascinating that Lowery is so disgusted by Amanda Palmer's nudity that he rejects her ideas as being beneath consideration. By making herself vulnerable, she encourages connection. By being open and asking for help she builds community. Is it that vulnerability that he fears? This is really the heart of the matter. By just receiving a check in the mail from the record company, one avoids the "dirty" friction of commerce. In the past you could stay on stage and preserve your honor as an artist who is above such things. But the platinum tower has crumbled and musicians need to get back down to Earth with their fans and make that connection. Put aside pretenses and do their own promotion, their own asking and be vulnerable. And yes, it feels like being naked. That's why trust is so important.

Mar. 09 2013 03:01 PM


Mar. 09 2013 01:28 PM

Thanks so much for this segment, Brooke.

I'm a big fan of David Lowery's work, and deeply appreciate his reliance on overwhelming evidence and an honest look at the data.

(Full disclosure: I also like his bands.)

Lowery's work with The Trichordist has been a refreshing change of pace to those of us who were misled by the atypical anecdotes and cherry-picked numbers presented by big tech lobbyists in publications such as the now widely-discredited "Sky is Rising" report.

The only thing that could have improved this segment further is if Lowery had brought more data to this particular conversation. But I'll rest easy knowing that curious listeners can find plenty of it on his blog.

I also appreciated your interview with public domain advocate James Boyle, as well as PJ's look at the case of "Happy Birthday", which helped bring some much-needed balance to the episode.

My only regret is that I wished PJ would have shone a much-deserved spotlight on The Free Music Archive's recent Happy Birthday Song competition, which has helped create dozens of fantastic public domain alternatives to that particular protected work.

But as silly as the 100+ year copyright on that song is, there's a powerful and unintended irony at play here: The very existence of copyright on that work is what encouraged the creation of dozens of *new*, enjoyable, sometimes sweet, and sometimes absurdly funny new tunes.

As much as I'd like to see copyright term-limits reduced, it's hard for me to see *that* part of the law's effect as anything but a positive.

Thanks again and keep on doing what you do,

Justin Colletti
Producer/Journalist/College Prof -- and a decade-long fan of the show.

Mar. 09 2013 01:21 PM
Ian Hoffman from Cleveland

Can someone help me out? What is the name of the CVB song played during the interview? Thanks.

Mar. 09 2013 12:07 PM
Matt Tullis from West Salem, Ohio

David Lowery sounds like an absolute idiot in this segment. He sounds like someone who doesn't like the fact that the world has changed on him, which has made his life more difficult. But guess what, that change is not a bad thing. As Michael Masnick points out, the reason Lowery is having trouble in today's business model is because there is more competition. I know and enjoy musicians today that I never would have heard of 10 years ago. There are so many musicians out there who are making music in a DIY model, and it's good music. They build solid fan bases. They're able to reach them because of iTunes and Spotify and their own websites where they can release music. Because of this, the music is better. Musicians don't have to satisfy the old boss, because they are their own bosses now. They can make music they know their fans like, or that they like, and they can make a lot of it and it can reach however many people it needs to reach.

Also, Lowery needs to learn the difference between nihilism and anarchy. But that's another topic.

Mar. 09 2013 09:30 AM

Ouch, I never knew that so many of the great albums that I have are so crappy. Quoting Michael Masnick: "We are no longer inefficiently bundling 1 or 2 good songs with 10 bad or mediocre songs." I'll make sure that I use social media to connect with all my musician friends to let them know to stop wasting their time.

Mar. 09 2013 09:25 AM

Is Amanda Palmer's business case dismissed out of hand because of the nudity in some of her videos & promotional material ("willing to show her breasts"), or simply because she has them?

Amanda has made crowdsourcing work because she makes compelling music that her fans are willing to pre-pay for. That's the real bottom line and the explanation for her Kickstarter success.

Mar. 09 2013 07:29 AM
Michael Masnick

(and the grand conclusion of my 3 part comment...)

What we've seen is that, IF you rely solely on the old way of making/selling music, you're probably having more trouble than making money than in the past. But for artists who do really embrace their fans, rather than cursing them out, those fans rise up to support the artists (and, no, it's not just the Amanda Palmer's of the world who "show their breasts" as Lowery implies). And, if Lowery weren't so condescending towards Ms. Palmer's success, he might realize that it has little to do with her willingness to get naked on occasion. She did so when she was on a label, and couldn't make enough money for them to keep her. But after she got dropped, she was able to raise $1.2 million via a single Kickstarter (just a few months after raising $130k on Kickstarter for another project). That wasn't because she showed her breasts, but because she's built up a loyal fanbase who wants to support her.

Just last week, Amanda gave a great TED talk in which she explained the kind of connection she has with fans. I'd argue that she would make an excellent guest if you plan to do any follow ups on the question of musicians making money today.

Folks like Amanda, the people I listed above and many, many more, have shown that, contrary to Lowery's claims, there is tremendous opportunity in today's modern music ecosystem *if* you know how to embrace the tools and services to your advantage and *if* you work to connect with your fans and to build a strong, loyal fanbase who wants to support you.

The key to our Sky is Rising report was not to suggest that because people buy iPods the industry is doing fine, as Lowery says unchallenged in this piece, but to show that consumers are happy and willing to spend and there's tremendous opportunity for those who look to embrace it.

I am, as always, available to anyone at On The Media should they wish for further comment.

Mike Masnick

Mar. 09 2013 02:45 AM
Michael Masnick


3. Lowery is correct that we have a chart showing the increase in music transactions, but he proceeds to mock that number, since digital singles are a new phenomenon. He's correct that digital singles are a new thing, but I don't see why that's mockable. The fact that the record business has become a singles business, instead of an album business is inherently a good thing. We are no longer inefficiently bundling 1 or 2 good songs with 10 bad or mediocre songs. Consumer welfare is increased, and it also allows consumers to *spread their money among more musicians*.

4. Given all of that, I can see how some small number of musicians -- such as those who were of Lowery's general level of success under the old system (and I will admit that, despite Lowery spending large portions of the last year cursing me out in public and otherwise saying mean things about me, that I was a fan of his music -- though, these days, I tend to prefer to listen to artists who don't call me and other fans names) have a slightly more difficult time than in the past. But it's not because of "the new boss." It's because in the past, with the record labels acting as gatekeepers, he didn't have to compete nearly as much. Under that system, MOST musicians MADE $0 because they could never get into the system at all.

Today's system, on the other hand, allows thousands upon thousands of musicians who wouldn't have made any money at all under the old system to make significant money today. And we're seeing tons of success stories of musicians who would never have made it under the old system becoming successful full time musicians today.

We've profiled artists like Jonathan Coulton, Corey Smith, Matthew Ebel, Uniform Motion, Moto Boy, Erin McKeown, Steve Lawson, Zoe Keating, Pomplamoose and many more making a living (and often a good one) making music today and embracing the new systems and the new tools and services. In the past, none of those people would have any career in music at all. Should we have lost out on all the wonderful music produced by folks like that, just to assure that one David Lowery can keep making money under the old system? I'm not so sure that's the best outcome.

(still more on the way...)

Mar. 09 2013 02:44 AM
Michael Masnick

Hi there.

I'm a bit disappointed that Brooke allowed Lowery to completely misrepresent a report that I co-authored, "The Sky is Rising." As a past contributor to On The Media and someone who has helped out providing background info on multiple other stories, the producers know where and how to reach me, and could have easily sought comment and/or response. Unfortunately, Lowery spoke about a report written by me and completely misrepresented it, and that was left completely uncorrected. So, a few key responses:

1. Lowery mocks the claim that "the sky is rising" because he says we include iPod sales in the calculation (and similarly claims that the report is from an "internet" lobbying group). The number he is talking about is in the report, but actually ORIGINATES from the IFPI, which is the RECORDING INDUSTRY's main lobbying group. We merely pointed out that these were the IFPI's own numbers. In other words, that number comes from the very organization that represents the group that Lowery claims we should trust more. Yet he doesn't trust their own numbers? Odd. It seems silly to blame the tech industry for quoting the recording industry's own numbers, doesn't it?

2. Lowery also misrepresents the overall purpose of the report -- which was to look at a *variety* of different statistics. We did not claim that the industry was doing great just because the IFPI number he discusses is going up. In fact the PURPOSE of quoting that number was to show that CONSUMERS are still spending more and more money to enjoy music today. A key point in the report is that, despite complaints about "free" music and piracy, when you look at the *actual consumer spend* it continues to go up. That suggests that the real issue is not piracy, but rather a changing market where the money is going to new and different places -- including much greater revenue to touring, somewhat greater revenue to collections/publishing organizations, much (much) greater revenue to licensing, somewhat greater revenue to merch, and then new channels of revenue, such as streaming/contentID/direct to fan, etc.

Lowery also leaves out that we've made it clear in our presentation about the report ( that musicians today do in fact, have a greater challenge, not because "the new boss is worse than the old boss," but because there's significantly greater competition. That's because many more people are producing and releasing music today than ever before. In fact, the report shows that it's likely in the last 10 years that we've seen more recorded music produced and released than in *all of human history* before that. That suggests that there are plenty of incentives for the creation of music today, and that's a good thing.

(more coming...)

Mar. 09 2013 02:43 AM

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