WHAT A DECADE: Looking Back Ten Years. Are We Up Or Are We Down?



“We have a serious problem with the industry… the CD business could be destroyed entirely in three years by the availability of free music on the Internet.” –Miles Copeland in a 2001 Interview.

In 2000 it seemed like the music business was about to end.Spin magazine was shutting its doors, MTV began its ten-year retreat into irrelevance by closing The Box, labels were losing massive market share to home video games and artists were making pennies on the dollar of what they were supposed to be making.And then, in 2001 the Napster war exploded.

But even though there are many who like to purport that the music business is still in a downward spiral (mostly those who favor tech companies) these claims defy all logic. ASCAP/BMI have reported record earnings for the past three years and music sales in general are up. This, in spite of music “futurist,” Gerd Leonhard who said in 2002, “The performing rights organizations as we know them, will vanish.”


CD sales are sliding and are destined to become the new vinyl, as a vinyl resurgence makes the old 12″ the new LaserDisc. This is in contrast to the “futurists’” who in 2002 stated emphatically that the pricing scheme of music-buying will be shelved before 2007 and that “CD prices will end up at around $5 USD per unit.”


Last I checked we still managed to sell more than 300 million of those silver roof-shingles in 2009 for about the same price they were in 2000.Most were also bought them the same way we’ve been buying music for fifty years—in record stores.

All RIAA data seems to suggest that physical music sales are down 30%– if you start counting in 2005.But if we wind the clock back ten years, instead of five, CD Albums look bleak but overall music sales are pretty much where they were a decade ago despite how tech-biased web-zines like to skew the numbers, This might sound like bad news if you worship the concept of “expansion,” until you remember that industries, like finance, automobile manufacturing, the stock market and other US staples have seen a sharp decline since 2000, due largely to the fall of the past two years.

By comparison, the music biz is holding its own and all this while dealing with rampant piracy, rapidly evolving technology that is too fast to legislate, no government bail-out, and technocrats who hurt the music business with dumb statements like, “Mechanical royalties as we know them [in 2002] will cease to exist within 15 years.”(Yes, he really said that.) And these two gems which could not have turned out to be less true when predicted by “futurists” in 2002 yet were hailed as “forward thinking” by organizations like the EFF, The Future of Music Coalition, and some very pessimistic music business professors:

1) “The lifetime of copyright will be cut back to 15-25 years, to reflect the fast pace of innovation and cultural development.”

(Copyright was extended to 95 years less than two years after this prediction.)

And my personal favorite:

2) “Piracy will be stamped out in less than 10 years.”

(Gerd did get a couple of important things right.To read Leonhard’s full 2002 predictions go here.)


As one of my readers, the decade change-over should be a bit significant because it was the year2000 that www.MosesAvalon.com went live, bringing you in-depth, accurate, balanced, analysis of the music business that had never before been available to the public.Along with it came our advocacy efforts that in the past ten years have helped draft legislation, creating better deals for artists and being instrumental in recovering over $1,000,000 in “Black Box” revenue for US writers, including Sting (who never thanked me) Arrested Development, Hanson, BTO and 100s more.

We’re proud of our work and I’m thankful to have you as a reader.Some of you have been on this list since day one, when Moses Supposes was little more than the rant of an author with a radical book.What a trip it’s been.Here’s a little stroll down memory lane and a fast look at some of the predictions and the highlights of the first nine years of the new millennium.


9/11 Will Chang The Music Biz. 2001 Prediction: “The hard edged thrash tunes that you may have noticed on K-Rock will likely soften radically for a few months and yield to more “thoughtful” music.If you are a writer of serious tunes now is the time to dust off some of those compositions that were a bit too “political” for your pop clients. They have renewed value. You may also want to change the old rusted strings on your acoustic guitar.In the Rap/Hip Hop genre I believe that we will be seeing a radical drop in anti-social themes.”

Reality: One demerit for me. Music on K-Rock stations got harder than ever. Rap got nastier and more misogynistic.Labels discouraged artists from writing political music for fear of pissing off their parent holding company’s sensibilities.MTV pulled several politicized videos if they criticized the Bush administration.And let me just add two words to how wrong this prediction about how politicized music would have a resurgence–Dixie Chicks.

360 Deals and Major Label Policy.2001 Prediction: “Starting with personnel. A&R departments will be trimmed. Firing on a massive scale is eminent. (You aint seen nothing yet, Motola not withstanding.) Wild card prediction: WEA will be the only American owned distributor in 2006.Promotion departments increased. Companies will look to slash manufacturing costs. This means that Internet deals will take a sharper front seat interest and majors will start to take a bite out of other revenue from their artists, like touring and publishing. Companies with strong Internet pipelines (like AOL/WEA) will likely continue to have more options for revenue streams in the next few years than their competitors.”

Reality: One check for me.Most all of this happened.Motola was fired, along with much of the old regime.Warner is now the only US held major. UNI, Sony, and BMG are all foreign owned. [Update WMG was sold to a Russian-lead investment team n May of 2011and is now privately held i) 360 deals, have become the norm.AOL mismanaged their synergy to the media business and as a result severed its music division.The pipelines were built but they never managed to monetize them.Proof that it wasn’t only labels that didn’t understand how to monetize music on the internet.Internet companies themselves had trouble with this.

Full article from 2001.

Satellite Radio Dominance, XM/Sirius Merger and the Stern Deal. 2004 Prediction: “Consider that it took almost 15 years before cable TV (a very similar business model as Satellite Radio) became thought of as a “utility” in the American home. During that time cable teetered on profitability and they had NO DIRECT COMPETITORS until Dish in the mid-1990s. Sirius has a far bigger uphill battle, facing STRONG competitors like XM Radio, internet broadband radio, iPods, and coming soon, HD Radio. During this decade-long war to gain market share, Sirius will be paying Stern about $100,000,000 a year– regardless of his success. Howard is smiling. Shareholders are not… I hear XM Radio was also negotiating with Stern and if I were a bit paranoid (never) I would guess that XM’s strategy was to do nothing more than drive up the sale price so that Sirius would be stuck with tent-poll talent that they could not financially justify, making them ripe for a buy-out… ”

Reality: I said it six years ago and I’ll say it today.Satellite is cool, but it has not replaced terrestrial radio, it won’t and the merger between XM and Sirius was easily foreseeable by anyone with sense of media history.Stern lost relevance the very second he crossed over to the digital underworld.Read the 2004 article published on Moses Supposes.These theories, now six years old are still valid.

Internet Radio Survival? 2002 Prediction: “The 2003 CARP rates [for internet radio] have not really effected internet radio in any material way.Those who were going out of business for lack of a stable model just used the CARP rates as an excuse to their investors.Those with viable models hung in there and were awarded a special reduced rate for small stations.All seems about fair for the moment.In 2003 this issue will go away completely.Internet stations will become comfortable with paying the set rates. The RIAA/Sound Exchange will not, repeat, will not separate as they have promised thus creating an antitrust issue that will probably go ignored by many.”

Reality: Internet radio did survive despite the “high” rates.All their blither blather about the RIAA driving them out of business was bunk.SX and the RIAA did separate eventually, after much pressure (some of it from me) but still remain joined at the hip both politically and philosophically.Many of their board members are the same and they share attorneys as well.So on paper it seems like I was wrong, but in practice I was not.

Tower Records Closing Is the Beginning Of The End.2006 Prediction: “Sure, the Tower is gone. But so what?Have you been to Amoeba Records on a Saturday night? Sunset and Vine in Los Angeles.Packed with bargain-hunting hipsters who love music…This bunk about Tower signaling the end is just that.It’s coupled with another rumor that I heard this year that Best Buy is phasing out its CD section.Completely false. The CD as a loss leader is petrified into their business plan well into the middle of the century.In fact, Best Buy just made a deal to stock an unprecedented 80 weeks worth of physical product this month.Don’t tell me they’re going to stop selling CDs.”

Reality: Many disagreed with me.But, the closing of Tower Records was not the death knell that others predicted.CD sales continue to represent the vast majority of recorded music income.Best Buy never phased out their CD department and still considered the CD to the mainstay of attracting business. I spoke to a Best Buy manager this week and asked him if there was less floor space allocated to CD this year compared to other years.  He said, “no.”

Full article from 2006.

Gaming and Ringtones.2003 Prediction: “Gameing will become the number one new source of revenue for composers, but there will be fights over licensing that rival the ones over TV rights about 20 years ago.Issues about weather companies issuing a downloaded game sample for promotional purposes should be paying for the performance of the music in the sample, will be the star arguments.Game developers will eventually lose in 2004.Meantime cell phones are going to be the number 1 new income producer for song writers this year and next.An estimated $50 million will come from ring-tones in 2003.But this will be quickly defeated when some board college kid comes up with a way to create a ring tone from MP3s with your home computer and just download it into your cell phone.Something I’m not sure the publishing companies have thought about yet.”

Reality: My bad.  Game makers seem to have won the high ground in their music licensing negotiations.It was not the money tree I thought it would be.It’s hard to say who is to blame for this, but I like to blame a general lack of unity in the industry which allowed game developers to play both ends against the middle.Conversely, Ringtone money was far more than $50 million in 2003.Today it’s counted in the Billions per year, even though people can now create their own with free software.It seems consumers will side with the P2P’s and complain about paying $15 for an album and 99 cents for a single but have no issues paying $3.99 for a twenty second clip.Go figure.


All-in-all.I think we’re in a great business.While the walls of others come crashing down and the naysayers beat their chest, people seem to still want to pay for music. As long as it’s good.  Correction, as long as they like it.

Keep making great music and we can not fail.

Happy new decade.

Moses Avalon

Don’t just click away. Leave a comment.Join the talk.Make a prediction of your own.Don’t be afraid to be wrong.

26 responses to “WHAT A DECADE: Looking Back Ten Years. Are We Up Or Are We Down?”

  1. As always, great insights and comments.
    Keep it up and goin’ strong.

  2. Aaron says:

    Good lookin’ back, Moses. I don’t always agree with you, but I do always applaud your willingness to constantly reevaluate the current state of things. Never a dull read. Best wishes for the 10s.

  3. Norm Dale says:

    Well Mo..( Pats his back) You have been sort of correct but Las Vegas is not putting mcuch into your analysis of the future!

    As an Mechanical Engineer, I have seen the writng on the wall with all the new technical innovations and the lousy music that is being recorded. Why do you think the same old Christmas songs are still being played year after year? It’s because nothing new has come to replace them Hey, “Snoops” rendition of “White Christmas” is a little short for my liking! Even Beyonce with her Ghetto sounding “O Holy Night” make me cringe a little!

    Face it Mo…like I have said all along…those little discs just don’t sell lke they once did!

    I think your 12 million number is laughable when you realize there are around 5 Billion people in the world!

    Love ya though…

    Your buddy, Norm

  4. Peter Kearns says:

    >people seem to still want to pay for >music. As long as it’s good.

    This statement is always fundamentally flawed. Who can say what’s good? Some musicians and producers who do actually know the difference can, but they’re not the taste-makers unfortunately.

    Music is a feeling. Who knows why one thing turns us on and another thing doesn’t? I’m just as easily excited for example by a Keith Jarrett track I like as by a Cure track. One could argue that technically one was produced by real musicians and the other wasn’t. At the end of the day, I like ’em both. People will pay for music as long as they like it.

  5. Jef Jaisun says:

    CDs as roof shingles? Has anyone ever tried that???

    I mean, they’re impervious to rain (as long as you plug the center holes). Plus, on a sunny day their reflection would blind hostile alien spacecraft.

    Beats throwing them in a landfill. I’m just sayin’… 🙂

  6. Hey Mo,

    Best in 2010 !!!

    Aaron Wolfson – artist/guitarist/producer


  7. Zoltan says:

    Very insightful and enjoyable read as always, Mo! And each previous comment has elements that I agree with.

    What I am missing terribly on the part of the music industry is a massive, coordinated (with all majors and indies aboard), tasteful and brilliantly devised awareness campaign, something similar to anti-smoking or environmental campaigns, positioning legal music consumption as “fair, cool and followable. It should not be an anti-piracy thing, rather a “pro-music” message. Not a policeman shouting, but a movement for something positive and valuable.

    This “war” cannot be won by technology. Therefore, the focus should be on leading people to the right direction. As this is a fair and decent cause, I see no reason for not trying it.

    From a pure marketing standpoint, Obama’s campaign is a great example.

    Having said that, I think the biggest difficulty in the music biz is on the marketing side. The technology aspect (piracy) only aggravates that, forming a really nasty constellation of circumstances.

    • Moses Avalon says:

      I think you re right, Zoltan. I’ve tried pitching various campaigns to the RIAA, SX and ASCAP/BMI over the years. The responses I’ve received boil down to 3 types: 1) we’ve tried that. (but, not exactly the way I was pitching it) 2) Great, but you’ll never get the cooperation of everyone: HFA, RIAA, NMPA, etc. (which was necessary for the idea to work– and that was true) 3) We’re going to do that and have it already in the pipeline. (and it never occurs.)

      Something ones needs to understand in order to comprehend why your obvious good suggestion is not going to happen, is that the elite portions of record business are enjoying the public perception of its failure. Everyone on the inside knows that the business is not failing. (Is it in poor health? Maybe, depending on how you tally up the numbers.) But the perception of “death “creates in the mind of the public a bit of guilt about contributing (via P2P) to it’s “demise.” And this guilt is the agent of change that will lead music back to its glory days. They are coming again.

  8. Dan Guerrie says:

    Great article.

    I’ve also been watching the Soundscan figures and the RIAA’s yearly reports on CD sales and I totally agree that CDs aren’t going to be on the endangered species list anytime soon. At the Atlantis Music Conference I had a conversation with a large independent record distributor that really reinforced that belief. He informed me that a group of CD manufacturers and record distributors commissioned a study to determine how much longer the CD would be a viable music delivery format. From the research they were told that the Compact Disk has about twenty more years before a new format will become the dominant music delivery vehicle. I suspect that the CD will continue to be used for music delivery beyond 20 years in a very similar same way that vinyl is being used today to deliver music.

    The fact is that most people like the artwork and printed booklets as much as they like the music that’s recorded on it. That tangible aspect of recorded music is something that, I think, music buyers will want for decades to come. This is something you don’t get when you buy music in an MP3 format. At best, you get a crappy low resolution version of the jewel case cover. No information about the musicians, where it was recorded, when it was recorded, what guitars the guy played, photos of the artist, special thanks and no-thanks or lyrics to the songs (the most important aspect to many fans). The liner notes and inserts of cassettes were where I, as a young musician, began to learn the names of the people in the industry who made things happen. I became aware of people like managers, producers, publicists and A&R representatives. This was info that just wasn’t printed in Rolling Stone, Circus or Hit Parader magazines and today, is not written anywhere on a music download. The only place you’ll find it is on the booklet that comes with the CD.

    I think it’s way too early to consider the CD (or the sucessful record labels) as outdated, obsolete and on the endangered species list.

  9. I’m a somewhat succesful singer/songwriter who for all intents and purposes gives away his music in order to tour. While this has worked I can’t say that the quality of gigs has increased with the quanity, especially in the Americana area.
    To be clear, my hard copy CD sales are minimal as is my retail distribution and most hard copy sales come from CD Baby and live performance sales. And I hate selling CDs at live preformances as it makes me feel “cheap’. I know I’m being “pirated” on downloads though my own technology limits don’t allow me to know how.

    In a previous life I was an award winning marketing expert who knew how to manipulate the media in order to achieve goals or sales. I’ve been able to do the same in todays music business but the end result hasn’t matched the exposure success.

    Rough game out there with no middle class. Sort of reminds me of the boxing game. Maybe a dozen fighters making any real money and the rest are just shuffling from fight to fight hoping for a miracle. Me, I share the same routes night after night with others like myself who can’t figure out how to make this all work and actually yearn for the old days of no downloads or independent production.

    In a nutshell, what I love about today is free enterprise. What I hate about today is free enterprise. There is no marketing mechanism in place to help guide the consumer or the media from the shit or to the shinola. And yes I believe in the myth of the $5CD with retail stores selling them, run by Mom and Pops and even by major labels. The way it is now really sucks.

  10. Axel says:

    I’m not downright pessimistic, but I don’t believe the “glory days” of music are coming again, unless the just-born generations rebel against the incumbent by entirely discarding rather than embracing, or building upon, its current practices (video games, Facebook, Tweeting, et al).

    Music was such a vital part of the Baby Boomers’ generation (and its first couple of off-springs) because there were little other options for social glue. Teens bonded based on who they listened to; there was not only appreciation (or adulation) but also a reverence towards artists (musicians and singers alike). One looked to artists for social and political commentary as well as sonic enjoyment or a good time.

    You said so yourself, above: “Labels discouraged artists from writing political music for fear of pissing off their parent holding company’s sensibilities.”

    I don’t see this policy changing; I don’t see Facebook, video games etc (the social glue), falling into oblivion anytime soon; I don’t see music education making a come back into school curriculum; I don’t see any generation caring much about political or social commentary, when there are dozens of radio and TV shows, in this country at least that do just that (and draw millions of viewers).

    Basically, the glory days of music are over, and unlikely to come back ever again, in my opinion.

    The good news is that people still need and enjoy listening to music, quality issues notwithstanding 😉

    That fact is what we, as active participants in this industry, should focus on. More adjustments are forthcoming, and the potential of a great majority of markets around the world has yet to be capitalized. This is where growth will come from, but glory? I wish, but regretfully, I think not.

  11. mattskills says:

    hey mo, today I received two viewpoints on the last decade from two different angles in my inbox. one of them was your post and the other was from dj shadow. i hope he dont mind that i quote his blog netry here. if you wanna read it on his page go here, it is very interesting and written passionately though also peppered a little desperately, I can really understand him and it’s a little difficult to combine his picture to that of yours Moses, but I’d say having both your viewpoint and that of dj shadow, both eye-openers, one can see the whole picture in 3D, go here or read on: http://www.djshadow.com/news/shadows-starting-new-year-bang-check-out-his-latest-journal-entry-here

    “Shadow’s starting the New Year off with a bang, check out his latest journal entry here!
    Posted Jan 4, 2010


    Well, here we are again, another year, another decade. Optimism about the future is tempered with a nagging sense that underlying factors causing most of the misery in the world still exist. Lucky, then, that I’m a musician and not a politician.

    Specifically, when it comes to the wallet, everyone’s suffering…of that there can be no doubt. And what of the financial prospects for musicians and recording artists in the years to come? Shaky, at best. Unless you’re one of the grotesque ‘Idol’-type pop disasters in the top 5, you’re looking at getting a day job or finding other sources of income. Conventional wisdom amongst my peers has been remarkably short-sided over the last decade: “Yeah, CD sales are down, but all the money is in licensing.” Not anymore. “Yeah, licensing money is down, but the video game industry is killing it.” Less so these days, according to recent data. “Well, the real money is in touring.” Really? When was the last time you saw a ‘new,’ post-record company artist headline a major music festival? At this rate, we’ll be stuck with Coldplay for decades (no offense intended).

    Time for a little straight talk, from one reasonably intelligent human being to YOU, the reasonably intelligent reader. As distasteful as it may sound, the fact is that so many of our heroes: Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, The Beatles, whoever you care to name; generated much of their best art in return for financial compensation. If you take away the compensation, guess what…the art stops. For example, how many young rap artists are grinding away these days in New York, trying to get a deal? Not too many, certainly compared to the ‘80s and ‘90s. There’s no allure, no pot at the end of the rainbow. People have been asking for years now, “Where’s the next Nas, the next Jay-Z?” Be prepared to keep waiting…and for music, overall, to keep sucking. Why? Because only bottom-of-the-barrel, embarrassing pop tripe generates enough income to feed the machine. Anything unproven or risky? Nobody’s going to bankroll that kind of ‘experiment.’

    Let me be clear: I love music. I love the culture of music, making music, playing music, geeking out over music from the past and present. I love old record company stories, and the characters that inhabited it. In other words, I have learned to appreciate the merchants of commerce as well as the art. If you love movies or cars, chances are you can relate to what I’m describing. What would Hollywood be without the larger-than-life, audacious personalities behind the scenes? What would cars be like if there had never been Detroit?

    Gone are the recording studios (including the historically important Plant down the road from me in Sausalito), the record shops, and the music magazines. Replaced by the oh-so-cynical, oh-so-corrosive AM talk radio of the new millennium, the Internet. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Chances are, you may have even been one of those majority who danced on the grave of the falling record companies, pointed to Radiohead giving their album away for free and said, “See, look, if they can do it, why can’t everyone else?” Slowly, I turn…

    Every artist is entitled to their own price point, just as every consumer has a choice in what they purchase. Nobody puts a gun to someone’s head and says, “Hey, buy this Picasso for 20 million.” Likewise, if $9.99 is too much to spend for one of my albums, so be it, your choice. But if you’re holding your breath, waiting for me to boost my cool-quotient by giving my music away for free, it’s not going to happen. The fact is that I feel my music has value. You may disagree, and that’s fine. But I know how much energy I put into what I do, and how long it takes me to make something I’m satisfied with. Giving that away just feels wrong to me. It’s not about money per se; I can donate a large sum of money to charity and not think twice, but I won’t give my art away. I’d rather sell it to 100 people who value it as I do than give it away to 1000 who could care less. That’s MY choice.

    I realize these are all unpopular subjects. Artists are never supposed to address their flock about such icky subjects as business and commerce. (By the way, and I hope it doesn’t sound disingenuous, but now would be a REALLY good time to express my undying THANKS for your support, which matters IMMENSELY in my ability to retain music as my primary endeavor. As a fan of others, I always used to wonder, “does this artist or group really care about whether I buy their stuff or not? Do they care that I go to their show?” YES, WE CARE!!!!! Now, more than ever). Most think that I should stop whining, grow up and embrace the Internet, become more active, tweet more, hype more, give more stuff away, etc, etc. Honestly, I’ve tried…and will keep trying. But the bottom line is that not every paradigm or system is right for everyone. We’ve all been told for years that the Internet is our Savior; it’s cool, youthful, hip, the solution to every problem, and if you aren’t joining a new networking site on a weekly basis, you’re a social pariah. Sorry…I just don’t feel that way. I’m old enough to know that when 99% of the population is marching lockstep in one direction, sometimes it’s wise to break rank and go the other way. Plus, I simply don’t like sitting in front of a computer screen all day.

    I’m not saying that I don’t use the Internet on a regular basis; I do. And obviously I’m very proud of this site and its ability to support itself through the store. Honestly, I just think a large portion of the dialogue and content available online is an utter shit fest: a Pandora’s box of violence, neurosis, bad impulses, and bad intentions. It has become the “Super Horror Show” the Last Poets could never have dreamed of, like bad television on steroids and angel dust simultaneously. CL Smooth memorably called television “a schism…negative realism.” And much like the TV of the ‘60s and ‘70s, you will NEVER hear or read anything negative about the Internet ON the Internet. There’s too much money to be made, by someone somewhere (and hey, why ruffle the feathers of the goose that’s laying the golden egg, right?). 20 years from now, it will be interesting to see what hindsight reveals. I predict a flag on the time-line: when we moved closer to becoming a passionless, listless, hollowed-out society, one in which art and nature could no longer provide the psychological shock to the system required to endure another harrowing day of terror alerts and super-bugs. Music can only suggest sex and violence…the Internet provides both, full frontal and full strength, 24/7. Maximum dose.

    Whatever…what will be will be. As long as I breathe, I’ll make music, love music, support music. I used to get in fights at school to defend my right to listen to rap, and I’ll fight on against any institution or prevailing thinking that seeks to dictate to me how and when the music I make is to be disseminated. If there’s 50 of you, or 100, or more out there willing to accept my right to choose, as I accept yours, then welcome aboard…you are my fan base. The rest of you that don’t, and want me to play someone else’s game…I wish you well. Let’s just leave the subject at that and call it what it is: a mutual misunderstanding.

    Regardless, it’s going to be a hell of a year. I am working hard on new music, and hope to share some of it with you in the coming months (really!). I’m fully aware that there are many former fans that insist my best work is behind me. Well, respectfully, I disagree. It’s not easy walking the tightrope between artistic validity and financial solvency, but I stand behind all of the decisions I have made to date. What matters to me is that EVERYONE reading this knows that I take my career, my music, and my fans EXTREMELY SERIOUSLY. When I started in music 25 years ago, my mission was to provide an alternative, to expand the scope of choice available to music lovers like myself; and above all to demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile and put the MAXIMUM EFFORT in EVERYTHING I DO, so that the bar continues to be raised, not lowered. Whether that manifests itself on stage, on record, or as a character in a video game, I honestly feel that I have given it my best, win or lose, and I’m proud of that. I have to believe that your continued support is a vote of confidence, which I take great comfort in as I strive to create some of my best work to date.

    I may not be the best looking dude out there…I may not be the most linked-in, the most prolific, the most successful…but I’ll be god-damned if I’m not up there with the most passionate. If you agree with what I’m saying, that so much music we’re fed is utter GARBAGE that insults the intelligence, then no matter where you’re at…the States, the UK, France, Japan, Canada, Australia, wherever…we’re ALL outsiders, and we owe it to each other to band together and fight for something better. Personally, I’m loving the challenge, and when the time is right, I look forward to reconnecting with all of you.

    Until then…

    DJ Shadow”

    cheers all,

  12. mattskills says:

    I took the Gerd Leonhard “Future of Music” course online at berkleemusic and read the accompanied book which was written by him and David Kusek and I reading your post today it reminded me of my feelings about the course and all. I consider myself more a futurist myself so thats why I was curious about the course and book but to my taste those (or most) typical futurists have too much optimism regarding their own predictions, too much “the future looks bright and I already knew it” self-adulation. I’m more of a pessimist (which is not always the better choice btw) and that seperates me from those guys. But even though I dont see shiny blommy fields of joy I wanna be prepared, thats why I prefer to look forward back. I like my old tapes, I like my vinyl lps, i like old cars without trashy and expensive console units, i like good old ghetto blasters but I also like them to be non-mainstream and I like them all to be outcast or even outlaw. But that doesnt mean I dont see or use any opportunities that so called modern life provides.

    aloha from germany,

  13. Hey Moses and Happy New Year!

    For what it is worth, I will add my two cents on the changes I’ve seen in the music industry over the past decade.

    Speaking as a professional songwriter, and independent publisher; maker of my own destiny, here are only some of the changes I’ve witnessed. I’ve watched hundreds of Songwriters lose their publishing deals, pop/rock and country songwriters. I’ve witnessed major music publishers and boutique music publishers shut their doors, unable to afford the cost of expensive demos and pay their writers, as well as staff, i.e. songpluggers etc.

    However, on a more positive note, over the past decade I’ve also witnessed some wonderful changes, such as the serge of home studios, and writer, artist, producers who have successfully created their own soulfully moving CD projects, inspiring many in the process, as well as moving their careers forward. Case in point is artist Imogen Heap—Heap is a lovely European artist who does it all her way, and has become known the world over for her self produced, mixed and engineered debut CD “Speak for Yourself.” As well as, the extremely talented, Todd Rundgren who created his last CD project entirely his own. Rundgren did the entire project mind you on Reason, a $300.00 piece of software made by Propellerhead. Each of these artists had really good reasons for doing the projects themselves in their studios, and their inspired affects are undeniable upon first listen. As for me and my own home grown CD projects via my studio using Cubase SX, these projects are now landing me work as a producer, a background vocalist, and have garnered me cuts, all very positive and unforeseen changes.

    The past decade put DIY’ers on the map and the next decade will see even more of us buzzing around the big labels and publishers, like little speed boats we will be, getting to the future faster than they can. They may be bigger, but they move slower, we are lean, mean, racing machines, zipping round ‘em like a hammy in the movie—The Hedge! We are already laying down the foundation for others to follow, look at the artists I mentioned above, they are setting new standards; THEY set them, not a label or publisher!

    I feel “joy rising” (Oprah), in that the 21st Century will be the Century for all Independent artists—answering our own questions with regards to where the industry is going, leading the way for so many to follow. Out with the old and in with the new! In every way an artist will be heard and perform, giving Indies, like myself new ways and methods of reaching our audience; an industry audience, or otherwise. Whether that is through the internet, live gigs, or as some are doing it now, via a web cam/utube, how cool is that? It is my hope that this next decade moves those of us who have thrown down their flag, and reclaim the creative spirit, stop grumbling about the future and jump in it! I challenge all of you to do this, bringing with you the things that you know that will remain constant, along with a grateful, eager attitude to learn as much as you can about your business and be the change you want to see. With more resources now than ever before, the time is at hand! Bottom line is, there ain’t no turning back, never was!

    Amanda Hunt-Taylor
    Co-Director of AmandaRick Music


  14. A great newsletter!! Love it!

    You know further proof that people still love and care about CD’s, is that my latest CD was a special collectors edition, with premium packaging, embossing, etc. and the investor involved calculated that i needed to sell it at 39.99 for him to break even at some particular point in time, and I was worried it wouldn’t sell. but you know what? it does sell. even at 40 bucks a pop, my 2-Disc CD, sells just fine! 🙂 (2 hours of dark classical music.) (a genre, that you wouldn’t normally see this kind of success in.)

    Proving that people aren’t music phobes and while yes, Adam Lambert type artists can sell their music for 3.99 at Walgreens in the photo checkout on shitty “jewel cases”… there are still real music fans out there, willing to pay proper ammounts of money for limited edition releases made with special materials. 🙂


    I worked 5 years on that release, and didn’t make a cent for all 5 of those years. It was the fans who wanted me to release it in CD format. otherwise, it’s been free online for 5 years anyway… proving they have a choice in the matter.

    a good success story in my opinion. 🙂 long live the “album”


  15. Justin Bonnema says:

    It’s amazing how much culture has evolved in the last 3,650 days. When I was in high school I would play the role of DJ at parties, which meant a five-disc CD changer and a binder of CDs. When I went to college in 1999, high-speed internet was in every dorm room. Every party had a laptop and Napster. You want it, you got it; the American dream; free booze and free music.

    I eventually matured but the music business never did. RIAA went political (suing 35,000 people for stealing music), Napster went subscription (because of the lawsuits) and I went into rehab (just kidding – I went on to be a mastering engineer). But what really amazes me is the longevity that the “silver shingle” has had. For a form of media to be introduced in 1981 and STILL be the leader in delivery format blows me away. Here we are 29 years later, when the DVD barely lasted a decade (record labels really dropped the ball on that one), and every other format was quickly replaced, we’re still buying and selling CDs. But I can tell you right now that it won’t last another 2 decades. In fact, I see it being phased out by the end of the decade.

    The technological shock value has been lost on my generation and generations to follow. We no longer ask questions like “it can do that?” and started asking questions like “why can’t it do this?”. It’s going to take something remarkable for us to be surprised by anything that comes out in the next 10 to 20 years, maybe more. The amount of time we have is grossly disproportionate to the amount of information available at our finger tips. Google is the verb of the decade and Wikipedia is the new Britannica. The point is, all you need is an internet connection and all these resources can easily be accessed for free.

    Streaming seems to be the word that everyone’s afraid of. In the same way that the word “downloading” has been terrorizing record labels for years. MP3s must be the enemy because millions of dollars have been spent to create and destroy them. The reality is, in a few years broadband restrictions will no longer be an issue. Hard drive space will no longer be an issue. Download speeds (oh shit there’s that word again) will no longer be an issue. The writing’s not on the wall; it’s in binary code being sent via data packets from my computer to yours. Right now you can get app for Pandora that will stream the music of your choice to your smart phone. That means you can connect your phone to the sound system in your vehicle and listen to the music that you have purchased (or not purchased). THAT is the future.

    No, Best Buy isn’t clearing the CD shelves off their floor space. Last I checked, they actually made room for vinyl. Which, I find amusing because vinyl DOES NOT sound better than CD. It scientifically CAN’T sound better than a CD. I don’t have time to go into the technical details of why it doesn’t sound better; just trust me when I tell you that people don’t listen to old records on vinyl because of the way they sound but because of the material on the vinyl. Meaning that the music is good and worth the pain in the ass of putting on a record. Sure, there’s a nostalgia related the sound of the needle dragging across a surface that you don’t get with CDs but it’s not because it sounds “good”. So that fad will surely die out before 2010. Even if I had a major label rep. tell me that 70 percent of what they release on CD gets released on vinyl as well.

    The only way to predict the future is by taking the information available and making the best decision possible. The only way to get the right answer is to ask the right question. “Why did Sirius and XM merge?”

    “Either we heal now as a team, or we die as individuals” – Al Pacino, “Any Given Sunday”.

    That’s simple economics. When there is no market, there can be no competition. I urge you not to get a subscription to satellite or internet radio because it will be free within the next ten years (or maybe 20). What major labels have failed to realize is how Clear Channel has killed radio. What indy labels have failed to instigate is any progress towards getting radio play. Radio is important. It was, and can be, the driving force behind music. It is the brochure that guides people towards what music to listen to and/or what music to buy. Satellite radio will adhere to all needs. Imagine buying a new car from a dealer and getting a free 5-year subscription to satellite radio along with your warranty. Why would that suck? Why hasn’t Sirius/XM investigated this option? Why haven’t internet providers done the same? What if when you signed that 2-year contract with Direct TV you got unlimited steaming and limited downloads from “suchandsuch” website? Performance royalties would follow.

    The fact is, the music industry needs free radio and needs major labels. We just need them to provide better content. We need them to remove the politics and just provide music. I love this idea of all the majors coming together and campaigning towards a greater industry. But coexistence doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary. They want to keep stamping out one-hit-wonders and .24 cent ring tones. But what indy artists and enthusiasts don’t understand is that we NEED the majors. What the majors need to understand is that in order to make money you have to spend money; but when all the money has been spent, the quickest way to make money is by saving it. That means no more 200,000 dollar record budgets. That means no more spending 100,000 on marketing a record. If you have to spend that much money on marketing it’s because you don’t have anything to sell.

    When do we reach that crossover where we ask “are we improving technology or is technology improving us?”. It seems like anyone with a credit card can go to Guitar Center and buy a $350 Pro Tools rig, a $100 microphone, set up a Mypsace page and they’re making music and making it available. There is too much now. Major labels were that filter. Mark my words; major labels and radio will come back regardless of the delivery format. It’s just a matter of time.

    • Moses Avalon says:

      I guess I gotta respond to some of this. I agree with the last paragraph and much of Justin’s philosophy. But some of this facts/history are a bit hinky.

      [I eventually matured but the music business never did. RIAA went political (suing 35,000 people for stealing music)]

      They probably should have sued the ISPs but the law prohibited them from doing so by creating a “safe harbor” provision in the new Copyright Act. So, they had no choice but to go after select, grossly negligent individuals. 35,000 out of the 100s of millions that were stealing from them seems very reasonable all things considered. Surveys have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the lawsuits have curtailed US piracy.

      [Napster went subscription (because of the lawsuits)]

      No, it was because they had no choice if they wanted to have a legal business.

      [Google is the verb of the decade and Wikipedia is the new Britannica.]

      Sadly true. But Wiki has sooo many inaccuracies that I have moved away from using it for anything but gossip or pop “facts.”

      [The point is, all you need is an internet connection and all these resources can easily be accessed for free.]

      It’s anything but free. It’s paid for my advertising and the fact that IPS are stealing (or facilitating stealing) from content providers. In essence, all musicians, actors, writers, etc are subsidizing the “free” internet. This is why our little $10B a year industry is getting the lions share of attention on the Hill. The public policy issues being created by this new, “free” paradigm are bigger than our small industry.

      [That means you can connect your phone to the sound system in your vehicle and listen to the music that you have purchased (or not purchased). THAT is the future.]

      Yes. Now just add a “buy” button to the GUI and a connection to every label’s digital store and we have a music business again.

      [What major labels have failed to realize is how Clear Channel has killed radio.]

      They don’t see it that way because CH is part of the same “Old Boy” network that they are. CH has reduced Payola costs drastically and made it semi-legal.

      [What indy labels have failed to instigate is any progress towards getting radio play.]

      Sigh. I’ve written too much on this subject already. They have failed because “success” in this platform is quite impossible for the reasons about CH stated above.

      [Satellite radio will adhere to all needs. Imagine buying a new car from a dealer and getting a free 5-year subscription to satellite radio along with your warranty. Why would that suck? Why hasn’t Sirius/XM investigated this option?]

      It’s been tried. Few wanted it. They gave up.

      [The fact is, the music industry needs free radio and needs major labels. We just need them to provide better content. We need them to remove the politics and just provide music. ]

      What a great idea. Why didn’t they think of that? Just sign the best selling acts and fire all the lobbyists. Who needs them anyway. So what if the ISPs keep their lobbyists and change all the copyright laws so that music is free. Labels should just provide top selling music and not get involved in political debates. Right? Then we’ll surly have a better music business. Er, well not a business, b/c no one will pay, but we’ll have a better… I don’t know, something. Music will be better, right? Or, something. Someone help me here. What will be better if labels give up the fight over getting paid? Anyone? Anyone…?

  16. Justin B says:

    [They probably should have sued the ISPs but the law prohibited them from doing so by creating a “safe harbor” provision in the new Copyright Act. So, they had no choice but to go after select, grossly negligent individuals. 35,000 out of the 100s of millions that were stealing from them seems very reasonable all things considered. Surveys have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the lawsuits have curtailed US piracy.]

    Suing ISPs would be like Smith & Wesson suing an owner of one of their revolvers for using it unlawfully against someone. Sure the lawsuits may have stop piracy but talk about bad publicity. Suing your customers in any industry is a sure-fire way to fail. Maybe if labels would have recognized the business model that was in front of them instead of taking it to court to stop it they would be in control of services like iTunes instead of a computer company and really cash in on Taylor Swifts’ 24 million downloads in 2009.

    [It’s anything but free. It’s paid for my advertising and the fact that IPS are stealing (or facilitating stealing) from content providers. In essence, all musicians, actors, writers, etc are subsidizing the “free” internet. This is why our little $10B a year industry is getting the lions share of attention on the Hill. The public policy issues being created by this new, “free” paradigm are bigger than our small industry.]

    “Free” for the end user. Like AM/FM or basic TV. Like you said, it’s all paid for somehow, by advertisers or investors or stock holders, but to this day Google hasn’t cost me a dime and now I can search for songs and stream them. That’s the direction I see satellite radio going. It will replace standard AM/FM. Much like streaming will replace CDs. The artwork will be interactive. The credits will be listed. It’s not a bad thing. It took me awhile and only up until about a year ago did I let go of my “long live the CD – there must be physical product” banter and gave in to the reality of what is coming. I guess we just need figure out how everyone’s going to make money off of it (labels, artists, service providers, ect.).

    Thanks for responding. I’ve always respected your insight and look forward to more of it. I think it’s going to be a good decade.

    • Moses Avalon says:

      [Suing ISPs would be like Smith & Wesson suing an owner of one of their revolvers for using it unlawfully against someone.]

      That parallel doesn’t even make sense. Labels are not suing customers, because, by definition customers PAY for their goods. The RIAA/P2P suites are more like a major department store suing a shoplifting ring.

      [(the internet is) anything but free. It’s paid for my advertising and the fact that IPS are stealing (or facilitating stealing) from content providers. — Response: (I meant) “Free” for the end user. Like AM/FM or basic TV. Like you said, it’s all paid for somehow, by advertisers or investors or stock holders, but to this day Google hasn’t cost me a dime]

      Google hasn’t cost you a dime? You’re very naive. Goggle, ISPs et all, almost cost the entire US a content industry– out 4th largest export. They are trying to force content into the public domain way before its time. You may not feel the pinch now, but when new content because worthless because you can get it for free the overall economy of the nation will suffer deeply and certainly YOU as a someone who flourishes in the content creating industry will be feeling the pinch. Wake up people! These techie companies want to put artists out of business. To seduce the public they offer cute gadgets. To make creators give up fighting they peddle the “resistance if futile” mantra and try to make anyone who is holding out (music and film makers) look like they are backward and greedy. Its nuts. Read this if you need proof.

  17. ian bruce says:

    non-profit venues, from 100 capacity (godfrey daniels) to 1,500
    capacity (state theater, easton,pa)
    will spread across the country and become the norm for live music venues, some will be genre based, some free form. memberships, grants & donations will help keep them going & growing. non-profit labels will become the new biz model.

  18. Justin says:

    I think we’re actually agreeing with each other but we’re getting caught up on semantics.

    The parallel is RIAA suing internet service providers vs suing thieves. I’m defending (as much as I hate to) ISPs because they don’t control what people do with their services, but I like your analogy too.

    I’m not trying to spark a debate about the definition of the word “free”. I agree with some of what you’re saying and I have read the DRM Manifesto. But I don’t think Google and other techie services’ intent is as malicious as you think. If the content they provide becomes worthless wouldn’t they themselves become worthless? So now we boil down to the quality of what’s being provided and come full circle to why people stop buying full length albums and why majors started sweating. Provide me with something I want to purchase. I will then decide where or how I’m going to purchase it (itunes, band’s website, best buy, Grimey’s New & Preloved, ect).

    I’ve been against this DRM-free concept since I first heard about it and I still don’t like this idea of subscription services. Unfortunately, that’s where things are (going). I don’t know what we can do to stop/correct the situation. This isn’t baseball, we can’t go on strike. One of my colleagues suggested that we rally against iTunes…. and not have your music available on the number one music retailer in the world? Good luck with that.

  19. mattskills says:

    “These techie companies want to put artists out of business. To seduce the public they offer cute gadgets. To make creators give up fighting they peddle the “resistance if futile” mantra and try to make anyone who is holding out (music and film makers) look like they are backward and greedy. Its nuts”
    That really is the hidden shadow of the new dharma (the way things are). Sad but true. Anything is upside down. And we the people missed a good chance to change anything for good. Why not pay all artists by counting how often a song is played and not “bought”. IMHO you cant BUY music. Art is property of its creators. But “broadcasting” it, that should make the dough go round. With itunes goin DRM-free in the end thats when anything went wrong somehow.

  20. Chuck Griffiths says:

    There are many business models. The Grateful Dead had one that worked amazingly well for them and didn’t count one iota on album sales.

    Aerosmith makes about what, $1.40 a disc, but can make $50M on a six week tour, right? Who sells 36M discs every year or so?

    If you have an act that can or does sell tickets, live is where your money is. In 2007, U2 played a soccer arena in Spain and grossed $13.8M–on ONE show!

    Problem is, many acts, especially in Rock & Alternative, of the last two decades think arenas & sheds are beneath them and never cultivated that aspect of their business as they should have.

    The objective is to use your label to build your future and outgrow them as quickly as you can.

  21. Mary Dawson says:

    Mo: Have followed you for years and have enjoyed the ride all the way.

    Perhaps the greatest lesson we can take away from the last decade is that all of us music-types HAVE to start thinking creatively in other ways besides writing and playing our music. I have found that some of the greatest opportunities for our music to be heard are usually right under our noses. We just don’t see them because we keep re-winding our old 20th Century mental tapes and keep trying the same things over and over again expecting different results. You are like my yoga instructor. You make us keep stretching our mental/creative muscles that most of us don’t even know we have! Here’s to another great decade! Cheers!
    BTW…Hi Jeff Jacobson. Happy New Year to you!

  22. The flaw in that statement is that it is not the CD business. It is the music business. A CD was only ever a storage device, like a cassette before that, an LP before that, a 78 before that and a cylinder before that. I am still amazed that after a decade people will think the industry has gone south because the storage device has changed. If you follow the 2001 argument from Miles, then the industry really died when the cylinder became obsolete.

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