The Napster Problem:
||Right Brain > Left Brain - A Musician Marketing Column
By Tyler Tullock
© 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.
The Internet Music Revolution
The Internet has been nothing less than revolutionary for independent recording artists, musicians and songwriters. More than 150,000 artists have made their music available to more than 100 million Internet surfers in the past two years or so. The original buzz was that all you had to do was put your music on a web page and bingo you could be famous by selling CDs to millions of people who would come in droves to your page simply because you were on the web. Well, a couple of truths are becoming more and more obvious to independent artists and labels. First, as the Internet grows so does the "noise" or, in other words, there is more and more stuff to look at and more and more giant corporations giving away billions of dollars in cash, prizes & incentives to web surfers who will come to their sites. It is getting harder and harder to attract new potential fans to your site. We are now competing with thousands of private, web-only and brick & mortar radio stations that broadcast on the web. We are also competing against the major labels and against ourselves again numbering well over 150,000! It used to be that a fan looking for new music could just walk in to a record store and see 20 new albums to choose from on a display. Things are radically different now! For the most part things are better for unsigned artists. But being heard by large numbers of people on the web is becoming increasingly difficult even though most new artists are literally giving away their music to potential fans on sites like Mp3.com, Riffage.com, Garageband.com, etc.
You Go Big Time!
Okay, so you have managed to give away millions of copies of your 1st CD and have recorded your 2nd CD. You decide now is the time to go big time and sell your latest CD for $10-$20 bucks on Amazon.com & CDnow.com as well as on your own web site. On the launch day you are all geared up to sell a thousand copies per day. Guess what? One of your friends has done you a "favor" and made your CD available on Napster.com. Now it is available everywhere in the world for free, practically over night. OUCH!!! It is hard to compete with free.
What is Napster
For those of you who don't already know, Napster is a program that runs on the Internet that allows people to trade songs for free. There have been hundreds of articles on this program (and the accompanying web site). Go to any news site and search for Napster to get more information and different views on the matter. The bottom line is that Napster is part of a new breed of programs called peer-to-peer applications. These programs like Napster, Gnutella, Scour, and countless others allow anyone on the net to make their whole CD collection available for free to any other Internet user who wants it! No royalties are paid to artists or record labels (yet).
Napster Goes Big Time
Napster went public and the stock price went through the roof! The only problem is that the whole business is based on illegally trading music. Humm? Maybe bank robbers will go public next ;-) So Napster gets sued and then cuts deals with the major labels to start selling monthly subscriptions or pay per download in return for letting Napster stay in business. In theory, artists are supposed to get a cut of the action (better known in the old days as royalties) but if people can download 100's of songs per month for $10-20 how many pennies do you think an independent artist will actually see? We might be able to buy some french fries at the end of the week. If we are lucky. It could be a long time before we can afford to record our third CD!
The Bigger Problem
Most of the up and coming peer-to-peer programs aren't owned by anyone. A programmer creates a little program, uploads it to some freeware/shareware servers and bingo it's everywhere in no time. It's next to impossible to put these little programs out of business because a lot of them are not a business, they are just little pieces of free code. I am convinced that music, movies & software are now and forever going to be traded freely on the Internet.
A short bio:
Tyler Tullock is a performing singer-songwriter. He has taught more than 3,000 students Guitar, Bass & Vocals with at least one student going Platinum. He is a former Audio Director at independent label Track Record in Seattle, WA and a former President and founder of LocalSeek Advertising Inc.; an Internet marketing company with more than 200 clients including fortune 500 companies.
His band's new album can be previewed at http://www.tylertullock.com/.
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