B.S. CHART OF THE WEAK: Propaganda By The Tech Industry Gets Dumber as They Get More Desperate

Moses Avalon

Boy, it pains me to have to agree with Bob Lefsetz, but his take on this “Chart of the Day” business is on the money.  The chart is pure nonsense. And no, my use of the pun “Weak” in the banner is not one of my common misspellings.

For those catching up, a chart on Silicon Alley Insider, of un-specific authorship titled, “The Death of the Music Industry” has gone viral.  Most of the sites re-posting and reTweeting it as “fact,” no surprise, are those that cater to the technology industry. If you’re a reader of mine you’ll be able to see the flaws in its logic at first glance.   As the tech industry loses its grip on their insidious campaign to devalue music, biased stories of the “dying music biz” become more and more transparent.

In essence, the chart shows the decline in CD shipments and how digital sales have not made up the difference.  Duh. Everyone knows that, but how is a decline in CD unit shipments equal the “death” of an industry that still brings in 10 billion a year domestically and has been growing in revenue consistently over the past five years (albeit slowly) while everything else in the western world is falling apart?

ASCAP, BMI, SESAC all have posted record-breaking revenue year after year, and while it’s true that EMI is headed for the action block, Universal and Sony don’t seem to be selling their corporate jets anytime soon.

The chart bases its logic by showing a decline in units shipped as reported by the RIAA.  It’s no secret to my readers that not only does RIAA shipping data not demonstrate the entire music revenue picture; it doesn’t even give you enough pieces of the puzzle to render the outline.  Why?


YOU WANT CHARTS – HERE ARE CHARTS (See my chart of the week.)

Well, I covered a lot of this in my blog of several weeks ago (link) but basically, units shipped has little to do with actual sales, number one.  Then, streaming revenue is not tracked by the RIAA, nor is licensing data and the fact that movie and TV sync fees have increased over 1000% in the past ten years. The chart also assumes that since unit sales are down that the profit made from such sales would follow. Charts from my NAMM lecture show that that is not the case.  Profit margins are higher now than they have ever been due to reduced costs in production, manufacturing, shipping, adjustments for inflation and substantial streamlining of old guard overhead by labels.

The funniest thing about this Silly-con Alley chart, are all the haters who post their comments below it.  They ramble on about how the RIAA deserves this and that. For geniuses you’d think they would be better informed.  These haters are so out of touch that they don’t even realize that the RIAA is a trade group, not a label; the RIAA does not work off of commission on what their member labels make.

The ignorance of this “music biz revenue down = RIAA is evil” thought process doesn’t even take into account that RIAA members make up only a portion of the music business. Outside their circle we have the entire touring industry, the Performing Rights Organizations, 1000s of independent labels and what else…?  Oh yeah, every publisher on the planet. Then there are the ancillary people who are first-cousins to the biz: DJs, clubs, musical instrument stores, radio stations, unions, orchestras, recording studios, and hundreds of other venues whose sales metrics are not bound to declining CD sales.  Are they all evil too?  Do they all deserve to die? C’mon haters, get it together.  If you’re gonna hate us, do it right.  At least learn who we are first.

Part of the problem is that most bloggers, who fuel the haters with half-researched articles, don’t know how to read a financial report or are not familiar with financial terms. (Probably too much work– Easier to have an opinion just slightly more sophisticated than your readers’.)

They read the headline and presume the rest of the story.  Case in point, Warner Music’s first quarter earrings being way down, which was the subject of many a blog banner last week.  Their comments were based on a conference call between stockholders and Warner Execs.  Headlines grabbed that Warner revenue was down about 15%.

But, Exec VP and CFO, Steven Macri stated clearly in the conference that the decline in revenue was mostly due to the lack of demand for ring tones. Not recorded music.  This, in concert with the large severance packages they’ve paid out in the last 18 months, is what is ailing the company most.  In other words, the biggest monkey on the Warner back, is debt, not bad talent or weak sales.

Now, every blogger would have caught all these points– if they read past the first page in the transcript. But the devil is in the details. And it seems like the Music Biz haters don’t have much patience to look carefully at those.

So this chart is just more propaganda by the tech heads who want the content industry to just give up, give in and give away our entire inventory for free so the Tech giants can get more subscribers to whatever they’re selling; join the Internet revolution and find a way to monetize our product by selling advertising. How and when did selling ads become cool?  Oh yeah, when you’re a talentless geek who can’t get laid, because writing code doesn’t get the chicks into your pad.

Next life, try learning guitar.

Meanwhile, we’re not giving up and the law is catching up each day with people who steal content.  Observe…

The FCC’s net neutrality ruling in conjunction with credit card companies dismissing clients who engage in illegal P2P, Sweden making copyright history and jailing the owners of Pirate Bay, and even Google, posting low to no tolerance policies for illegal P2P, makes it easy to see the direction the corporate horse is riding in– and it’s riding in our direction.

The writing on the wall is so clear that even tech-sycophant Paul Risnikoff of Digital Music News is starting to shift the music industry-hostile spin that most of his pieces take. I’m actually starting to enjoy his work.  And music biz curmudgeon, Bob Lefsetz can’t seem to think of anything negative to write either these days.  He’s shifted his focus to the touring trade. All the other music biz naysayers seem to be strangely quiet in their post New Year posts as well.  So, I guess this new chart is exactly the fodder they needed to get back to work.

Yes, it’s a brave new world, one that is beginning to resemble the old world more and more.  The one where music mattered, where artists mattered and people gladly paid for the song they loved.  It’s all coming back; iTunes agreeing to variable prices as well as “Album only” sales will ultimately make the new on-line record store look and feel much like the old one where you scrolled through aisles of LPs (except you won’t meet anyone cool buying music on your phone. Well, maybe.)

This ridiculous, irrelevant “chart of the day” shows how desperate the tech groupies are to make us blue.  But we’re not, because music is what changes the world and the biz is going to be doing better than ever in the coming years.  I know that is of little solace to those struggling now, but looking at the big picture is inspiring and I for one am glad to be in this space and at this time.

Thank you for hanging in there.  It will be worth it.

Mo out.

13 responses to “B.S. CHART OF THE WEAK: Propaganda By The Tech Industry Gets Dumber as They Get More Desperate”

  1. I had a very successful home based business for years creating and marketing Band In The Pocket CDs, backing tracks for practicing musicians. We were sold in about 1500 stores, including the Guitar Center chain. Guitar Center sales dropped and they stopped ordering in 09. Now there are Internet sites giving away THOUSANDS of tracks – for free – to get traffic so they can – you guessed it – sell advertising. The first time I saw one of these sites, I couldn’t figure where they were making money until I saw the ads at the top = Craftsman Riding Lawn Mowers! Go figure.

  2. Moses Avalon says:

    “Boy, it pains me to have to agree with Bob Lefsetz, but his take on this “Chart of the Day” business is on the money. The chart is pure nonsense. And no, my use of the pun “Weak” in the banner is not one of my common misspellings.”

    First of all, that is very self-depreciating, and very funny and is endearing!

    Second of all, great blog/article by you. I agree with you, (and also about the faint bad smell I generally feel around BL’s incredibly self-referential and negative usual pronouncements). But you’re, again, right about this one.

    Good writing and good call.

    I was in LA for the weekend and awards, but was swamped. We’ll hook up, keep up the good work.

    GD – a veteran major label record guy, who was also an artist and successful song writer before he went to the dark side”. 😉

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Gross, mosesavalon. mosesavalon said: The tech world is getting desperate to devalue music. Here's some reality and why they will fail. http://j.mp/ggrc8x […]

  4. Dex Vegas says:

    Thanks for all the info, and for calling these guy’s out on their ‘charts’. The part about CC co’s “credit card companies dismissing clients who engage in illegal P2P”
    is a bit chilling. Giving these greedy scum any more power over us is a big mistake. Unless you are referring to ‘for charge’ P2P sites, they deserve whatever they get.

    Still waiting for the music biz to come up with that ‘World changing, brilliant electronic distribution/sales scheme.’
    They need to come up with something.

    What do you think of a band like ‘Cake’ who’s latest debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, without a major label (their own label), recorded in their modest home studio and self produced. Figure they must have some kind of distribution deal with their old label, I don’t know.

    Times are changing fast.

  5. Marla Hughes says:

    Moses, even though I’ve ended up in a totally different career path for now, I still love reading you. You’re one of the few connections to the music industry I keep up with right now. This article helps demonstrate why.

  6. Roxanne says:

    Mo, Thanks!!! We also fail to mention the venue/concert/festival CD sales. I believe the culprit of that is the manner (or lack of) Neilson requierments to record such sales. There a ton of sales CD sales that are being counted for.

  7. Rat Skates says:

    I would love to see an Amazon.com operating revenue statement, where we could compare CD/ DVD sales of NEW (Amazon), NEW (from 3rd party), and USED…not to see what Amazon actually rakes in from their marketplace/ broker activities, but to guage how the consumer chooses to spend on physical purchases.

    Huge gap between “buyers” and “listeners/ individuals who have acquired the song”…

  8. Dalton Priddy says:

    The chart on Silicon Alley Insider is by Bain Analysis, are they part of Bain Capital, who happen to own Guitar Center and Warner Music Group?.
    Bain Capital – Group of Companies.
    ▪ Aleris, AMC Theatres, Bombardier Recreational Products, Brookstone
    ▪ Burger King, Burlington Coat Factory, Clear Channel Communications, Dollarama
    ▪ Domino’s Pizza, DoubleClick, Edcon Limited, GOME Electrical Appliances
    ▪ Guitar Center, HD Supply, Hospital Corporation of America, NXP Semiconductors
    ▪ Sealy Corporation, Staples Inc., Toys “R” Us, Warner Music Group
    ▪ The Weather Channel
    One must never trust big private equity companies who seek to monopolize on a weak market.
    When Musical instruments from Guitar Center are grouped with Burger King, Domino’s Pizza and Toy’s “R” Us, one has to wonder about all the dis-information.
    Always a great read, Moses, thanks for sharing

  9. Anthony J says:

    Mo your the best if you have a workshop comin to boston or new york. Sign me up.you got the best info in the music business. I have all your book. And I love them. Peace.

  10. Mike says:

    Hey Moses, great article! Go music biz! Nice to know there still hope for us.

    If you like rock, take a listen to my tunes at run23.com

    Peace out.


  11. Ophelia says:

    The music industry wants it both ways: you want to say that file-sharing is utterly killing you and that’s why it should be stopped and the perpetrators be slapped with multimillion-dollar lawsuits, but you also want to say you’re alive and well and doing better than ever. So, which is it? The more you say the sky isn’t falling, the more your case against the content-devaluing masses is undermined. The fact is that lots of people who can afford music are still buying it in one form or another. People who can’t afford it are getting it elsewhere. This doesn’t seem particularly tragic to me. What am I missing?

    • Moses Avalon says:

      @Ophelia yes, you’re missing a great deal. Too much to put on a single reply. Read other posts on this blog to get up to speed. But a short answer would be, 1) it’s not the music industry that sais P2P is killing us, it’s the record labes and publishers, which make up about half the industry, and 2) even if they are lying, their is no excuse for theft. If a hungy person steals food to feed his family, it’s still a crime that should be discouraged. Now, if he asks for charity and is ignored, then that is crule, but if he steals at the point of a gun (which is what ISPs have done metiphoriclay) then he is a common thief that deserves no sympathy. And in this caes ISPs are not just allowing their users to steal from rich fat-cat, this is not a Robin Hood senerio as the ISP propaganda would have you believe. They are stealing from musicans, only a small handful of which are rich. I hope this helps.

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