Saturday, January 17, 2009

MIDEM 2009: Can ISPs and music companies play together nicely

One more dip into Music Ally's excellent coverage of Midem, and in particular a panel exploring the chances of ISPs and copyright companies finding ways of working together constructively. Gerd Leonhard was one of the panelists, attempting to share some of his insight into the remaking of the music industry online. And what does he get for his pains?

Feargal Sharkey, that's what:

He cautions that the industry needs to remain acutely aware of music’s role in the bigger picture of “a digital economy and a digital culture”. And now he takes aim at “pseudo-intellectual cyber-professors”. Cor! “This is a creative and commercial challenge that can and should be solved by creative and commercial solutions,” he says.

Oh, yes. God forbid that the music industry should pay any attention to what people who understand the web and where it's going might have to say. After all, if they'd fallen into that trap back in the 1990s they might have forseen Napster and done something about it before their business models got smashed to pieces.

This smug, rude embrace of ignorance and the belief that experience of flogging vinyl in dump bins at Our Price is of more value than having studied the market place has already holed the music industry. How does Sharkey think that record labels or collection agencies can shape their "creative and commercial solutions" if the choose to ignore the people who can explain how going online changes people's behaviour, or who are already exploring the implications of the next wave of internet developments?

Sharkey's snarky reminds me of the people who turn up on Property Ladder and then set about ignoring all Sarah Beeney's advice because - while she might know what she's talking about - they're the ones who own the house.

Something else Sharkey said caught my eye:
the value of music has been sucked away through unlicensed unapproved copying and sharing

But, clearly, that's double-decker nonsense. Upstairs, it's wrong because billions of songs are being sold online, and record labels are still making millions of pounds, and advertising agencies are licensing tracks for thousands of campaigns. Downstairs, it's rubbish because Sharkey has been wearing suits too long, and can apparently only conceive of the value of music if it comes in a form which can be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. Nowadays, if someone told him that hearing Teenage Kicks made John Peel pull his car over and cry, Sharkey's response would be "but how can I monetise those tears?"

Also on the panel was the UK ISPA's Nicholas Lansan, who effectively spent his allotted time stressing that making laws wasn't going to stop file-sharing, and had this to offer:
[A]mong consumers, there’s a lack of understanding of copyright issues, and frustrations with DRM.

The second half, perhaps, Mr Lansan. The first half, though, is probably wrong: Consumers generally do understand copyright issues. They just don't care. They don't believe that filesharing a cheeky track or two will mark the end of music as we know it. They don't care that Paul McCartney and the ghost of John Lennon have issues they need to talk through with Apple before you can legally download Please Please Me; they just want the track now. The belief that the public don't understand is patronising, and attempts to shift the blame for the spread of free music on the public. The people who don't understand copyright issues are actually the ones who hold the copyrights, and what they don't understand is that if they choose not to share, their copyright ceases to have any value whatsoever.

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