February 22, 2004

Ambivalence About CD Sales Figures [10:38 pm]

CD Sales Rise, but Industry Is Still Wary

“We’re still suffering as an industry,” said Monte Lipman, the president of Universal Records, whose artists include the rapper Nelly and rock group 3 Doors Down.

And yet, it has been hard to ignore signs of a rebound. First-week sales of Ms. Jones’s new album were only part of the industry’s good news for seven-day period that ended Feb. 15. Through that period, the most recent for which data are available, album sales for the beginning of 2004 were up 13 percent from the comparable period of 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales.

[...] While the music labels have tended to blame Internet music sharing and CD copying for the slump of the last three years, the industry’s critics have cited high CD prices and substandard music as the real reasons that annual album sales fell to 687 million units by last year, down by almost 100 million units, or 12.5 percent, from 2000.

Whatever caused the slump, it has forced the industry to try new marketing tactics, said Will Botwin, the president of Sony’s Columbia Records Group. [...]

[...] With the industry insisting that piracy remains a serious enough problem to warrant lawsuits, it might not make good public relations sense for executives to crow about a turnaround in sales.

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Ringtones Hit the US Market [10:31 pm]

Or, at least, the NYTimes sees them as a real option, even though the fact is that this has been a European thing for a while now. The statistics are impressive, though. But what this article is really about is the fact that "do it yourselfers" are about to screw up this revenue stream for the record industry — Cashing In on ring Tones

Turns out, teenagers are happy to pay for digital music - as long as they are forced to listen to cheap facsimiles of songs on speakers the size of a dime.

O.K., maybe that is a bit unfair. But there is no denying that ring tones, those synthesized melodies like 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” that are programmed to play when a cellphone rings, are fast becoming a big business for record labels and mobile phone services. Last year, cellphone users worldwide, most of them young people, spent $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion on custom ring tones. Total music industry sales worldwide for 2002, the last year for which figures are available, were $32 billion, according to the IFPI, a trade group.

The American ring tone market is a couple of years behind Europe and Japan’s, and is just beginning to take off, with an estimated $80 million to $100 million sold over the wireless Web last year. Cellphone users in the United States are expected to spend $140 million to $200 million this year.

[...] But the hopes of record companies for extra riches from selling ring tones could be tempered by the emergence of other Web-based businesses like Xingtone, which has started selling a $15 software kit that allows consumers to turn digital music files, whether acquired legitimately or illegitimately, into better-sounding “ring tunes” - cutting the labels and wireless carriers out of the deal.

[...] That is where Xingtone could make a big difference. On one hand, by making it easy to create one’s own ring tunes, it could force cellphone companies and record labels to sell their own tunes at lower prices. On the other, it could also serve as a vehicle to encourage wider sales of music in various forms.

Another copyright/fair use fight in the making?

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Well, It Sorta Works [7:24 pm]

Well, I *guess* I managed to upgrade to WordPress 1.0.1 — but I have to say that there are some serious style/css problems that are going to drive me nuts for a while. In particular, the layout of the Administration pages, including posting preparation, is completely hideous. I’m sure it’s because of remnants of older installs, but I can see that I have a bunch of CSS debugging ahead of me.

In the interim, my apologies — the page loads really slowly, and I’m sure it’s because there are some CSS glitches to repair. I’ll get on it as fast as I can……

Update: Cripes!! The page looks really ugly with some browers (Firebird/Firefox, for example!) And all sorts of new registration problems in IE too, I see. Especially the calendar. Sorry!!

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Jason Schultz on Declaratory Judgments [5:14 pm]

I got an e-mail from Jason Schultz (EFF staff bios; Lawgeek Unplugged) of the EFF to my question about whether declaratory judgments ever work in IP, especially when it comes to post-DMCA tries. Here’s what he had to say:

OPG v. Diebold. :) Not over yet, but we’re certainly got them on the run.

<http://www.eff.org/Legal/ISP_liability/OPG_v_Diebold/>

(note: now here)

And some would say Newmark v. Turner (ReplayTV), although they managed to moot it eventually by granting a covenant not to sue for commercial skipping and sendshow.

<http://www.eff.org/IP/Video/Newmark_v_Turner/>

Thanks, Jason!

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Foolproof, eh?! [5:08 pm]

Sorry, everyone. I’ve now spent 2 hours trying to achieve the "painless" upgrade from Wordpress 0.72 to 1.0.1, and all I’ve got to show for it is a script that achieves a rapid recovery of the site. I’ll probably give it one or two more tries (so you’ll have the site probably go down one or two more times). Then, it’ll just mean poring over SQL error messages and PHP code to figure out where things are going so badly for me.

At least I have my birthday present to keep me company (pictured at right!)

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Current Talking Point (BBC) [10:17 am]

Going on as I write this — Has the internet changed the way you listen to music? There are text comments online as well.

For example:

Unauthorised music copy and sharing is copyright infringement. It can have criminal intent or not but in any case it is not theft. No matter how you look at it. If it were a theft, by definition there wouldn’t be unauthorized copies. If someone makes a copy of the Mona Lisa does not steal it. He/She just make a copy that can be authorized or not. Theft associated with music copy is a marketing plot invented by the music industry than unfortunately does not reflect the truth.
Max Greco, London - UK

And this:

These little CD thingies will never catch on for music. Let’s stick with proper vinyl records and needle pick up. These technology advances will never change the way we listen to music.

Charles Smith, London UK

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And The Beat Goes On [9:57 am]

Via GigaLaw: Download lawsuits scare some, but song trading still popular [pdf]

But some experts and users say that file sharers are only being more secretive, and that file swapping is actually increasing. At least two research firms say more than 150 million songs are being downloaded free every month.

[...] BigChampagne’s Garland said he thinks the January study — which did not measure computer use but only what people said was their computer use — shows the lawsuits’ biggest effect was educational: People now know file sharing is illegal so they lie about doing it.

“What the study demonstrates is they have effectively put music downloading in the same stigmatized category as teen smoking,” Garland said. “People know when they should be shy about an issue.”

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NYTimes’ Editorial Look At The Music Business [9:48 am]

A reflection on the state of the music business, and the culture that it feeds: What Am I to You?

The sound of Ms. Jones’s piano is amiability itself, and in her voice there lurks a plaintive contentment. It feels churlish to speak even that critically of a woman whose music is so palpably pleasing. Who knew so many people needed so much consolation?

As it happens, Ms. Jones’s big week coincided with a big week for music sales in general. But then any week when a newly released album sells a million copies is going to look good by recent industry standards, especially if it also happens to overlap with Valentine’s Day. Ms. Jones’s numbers — and the fact that she’s selling mainly to grown-ups — make record executives hopeful that a recovery in their troubled business is just around the corner. They are going to need to keep hoping. Their business seems to be structured against steady, long-term success. The psychology of the recording industry, like that of book publishing, is now so dependent on blockbuster sales that the idea of profitability based on modest sales across a diverse catalog has nearly vanished. The business depends on the hundred-year flood, not a steady rain.

There is no begrudging Ms. Jones her success. Part of her attraction is that she seems to be pursuing the art as it appeals to her, without pandering to her audience. But what’s curious about her career so far is that she is essentially a midlist artist who broke into the big time.

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