Effects of Digital Downloads on Business

Discussion in 'Mixing' started by Don Grossinger, Oct 16, 2002.

  1. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    I'd like to see what people think about the effects of digital downloads on the music business

    Do they help by exposing new artists, & music?

    Do they have the potential of ruining retail sales?

    Do you down load?

    Will this change the entire music industry sales model as it is currently configured?

    How does this effect the mastering world, if at all?
  2. joe lambert

    joe lambert Distinguished Member

    321 West 44th Street Suite 1001
    Home Page:

    Yes is my answer to most of your points. I think it's great for people to check out new music and there are a lot of artists who you would never come across if it wasn't for the internet and downloadable files.

    It is a double edge sword with the majors. It helps the medium range major label artists but I think it can hurt the real big artists like the Britney's of the pop world.

    The scary thing is the kids growing up now will have that as there sound reference. Why would they buy it if they can download it for free? There not concerned with sound quality because they are only listening to the speakers on there boom box, TV and computer so they don't know any better.

    I personally don't download more than 1 or 2 things a year. It doesn't interest me for some reason. (maybe because of all the things I just mentioned)

    Online music will ultimately get profitable for the majors. They will figure it out at some point. But I think there biggest problem is the lack of creative artists being heard. If you don't show your belly button you have very little chance of a record deal at this point. They also do not look to develop artists. They want the quick hit which leads to disposable artists. I can go on all day. ( I won't)
  3. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    Hi Joe,
    I think that the most important point you made is the one about quality & what people are used to. The home stereo is mostly used for surround sound these days, I think. I'm pretty sure not many people sit in front of the stereo like I did & completely studied the sounds of records (or CDs). Music has become more disposable. Stereos reproduce movie soundtracks. Quality of sound reproduction has become less important.

    There's a magazine out there called "The Absolute Sound". They maintain that hearing acoustical instruments play live in a room is the true benchmark of what sound systems should aim to reproduce. While I don't agree that that is the only point of measurement, MP-3s on computer speakers or boom boxes don't approach that at all. I guess we have to rethink our goals...and aim toword what the public will buy.

    The other thing you wrote was:" why pay for something if you can get it for free?" Does the download & the "free-ness" of it remove financial incentive to produce more music?
  4. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    With respect to the music industry, downloading is byproduct of over-inflated prices for music, hogs in the executive branch (Of music industry) and an outpouring of great musicians that cannot get a contract...either because they are not good looking, or fit the record labels model of what is hip. This is a small portion.

    I gurantee if a gas (petro for those abroad) station were to give away free gas, you would have a line as long as you could see.

    Face it, Napster is dead, now their is KAZAA, WINMX, and others with over 4 million people sharing files at a time. Anytime. On each!

    We have not mentioned other file protocols.

    Hell, the last full work I did was all d loaded wav. files of over 1.7gigs for mastering.

    Streaming audio with high speed sounds very nice and at 400KBS, it is as good as the releases IMHO.., especially for trying new artist.

    There is a whole plithera of music I otherwise would never know of if it were not for d loading.

    Russian rock, some of it is fantastic, good mixes too! Try to buy http://txt.zvuki.ru/photo/b/3104/picture.jpg
    at your local record store. This is great stuff, and guess what, I did some mastering on it too..which never would have happened if it were not for the internet.

    In Russian, ЗЕМФИРА ( 42 )
    ЗВУКИ РУ, 2000

    For crying out loud, who the hell had enjoyed the fine acoustics and mixes of Kurder & Dorfmeister, other than me that resides on RO?

    If not..check out some fine sound....

    Okay, enough of that..but all European nations, China, Japan, Down under...Lots of talent.

    I will declare this, I have downloaded literally hundreds of tunes and also purchased (when avalable) hundreds of CD's over the years DUE to the ability to hear before you buy.

    I agree, wholesale theft and burning of CD's for sale is a huge no no.

    I simply have never seen anyone offer a slew of CD's with MP3's on them for sale. I think most folks that dload illegally, do so for personal enjoyment and that they end up making purchases as well. Some fall through the cracks.

    It is like Floridas' Turnpike, the speed limit is 70MPH.

    I dare someone to do 75 in the Left lane, better do around 85 to 95 or you will get "ran over" and cause a serious accident. Even in the rain last Sunday, I was set on cruise control at 88MPH and I did not pass anyone, I was in the right lane (lane 2) and lane one (the fast lane) was doing 95mph and more. For the hell of it, I got behind a BMW that passed me, simply to see his speed,(he was flying) and it was 134MPH...cruising. I top out at 152MPH...but rather drive 85MPH at most. Tires are H rated at 130 MPH continuous.

    Police, they clean up carnage, nevermind trying to pull over 5000 cars doing 90+, this would cause more carnage at best. I saw several FHP (Florida highway Police) cruisers, sitting in the median clocking cars, I passed them at 88MPH and I was being passed. Go figure. For safetys' sake, drive around the average of the flow. The farmer that gets on the turnpike with the load of hay will cause a 3 hr shutdown of the system, simply from being rear ended.

    Nuff said..but true..go ck it out if you think I am blowing smoke. It is true.

    People break the law; as long as your consience allows you to do the right thing and ultimately support the artist you d load via buying their CD, go for it.

    If the d load sux, delete it.

    Just my humble O here folks, right or wrong, the cat is out of the bag and it cannot be captured. Too late. Record companies arrogance. They should have joined this free advertising bandwagon the moment they got wind of it. Hell I would gladly pay 5 dollars for an album d load, afterall, it is my time, my equipment and my blank CD that are getting used. And my internet connection.

    Thank goodness we are on monthly internet rates. Imagine if you paid 10 cents a meg for service.

    Look toward your higher power and ask, is this Kosher? If not, don't do it.

    I am at peace with what I do. I have winmx and kazaa, but nowdays, it is useless, que time is running 4 hrs for a single tune. Nothing there worth d loading. Do a search for Russian Jazz or Something like that to explore. Best to go to http://www.mp3.com
    Tons of fresh listening , liget there. That is what I do these days.
  5. 20db.com

    20db.com Guest

    Here is an interesting study that was done by Forrester Research that addresses a lot of the questions you are asking.

    Labels are in trouble, and it's not from file sharing. To tap into $2 billion in new revenues, they must let people find, copy, and pay for music on their own terms.

    Downloads Save The Music Business
  6. joe lambert

    joe lambert Distinguished Member

    321 West 44th Street Suite 1001
    Home Page:

    As mastering engineers I think our goal stays the same. To make the listening experience as enjoyable as possible to the end user. When I was a kid listening to my Cheap Trick and Kiss records I wasn't that concerned with the quality. But as i got more involved in music I learned to appreciate better fidelity. I'm optimistic that the current generation will do the same.

    Also with all the other media now competing with music for a kids attention anything that gets them excited about an artist is a good thing.
  7. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    I actually liked it when napster was around. I was downloading everything I thought I might like but not enough to buy. Some I liked so much, I went out and bought it. This is stuff i would never have bought if I hadn't downloaded it. When napster was around I was buying more music than I ever had. As far as the quality, when I was 10, I was recording songs off the radio onto cassette and listening to that. If I really like it, I would eventually go and buy the vinyl. IMHO I think MP3 sounds a lot better than radio to cassette so I think the bar has been raised. I only see the major artists being bootlegged and this is really going to hurt them and hence the labels that depend on these few artists to support the whole label, so they are going to figure out how to fix this. I feel like if the labels were selling CD's for $10, people wouldn't go to all the bother of bootlegging. But as long as CD's sell for $20+ people (especially kids with limited resources) will find a way to listen to the music at a lower price. Now most of these majors that cry about this, also make the hardware to do it. I just bought a new G4 and opened it up to find a Sony burner in it. They know that itunes ships in every mac. Maybe music should be looked at as a loss leader for the hardware? I just mastered a compilation cd for a food corporation that is going to be given away when you buy x$'s worth of their product. As far as our craft? Could we go the way of typesetters? being replaced in 30 years by microsoft music maker bundled with office 2030?
  8. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    Greetings all,

    I think downloading music is of great benefit to up-and-coming artist trying to be heard in a torrent of noise. I often go to artist's web site and listen to clips that they are providing. And I listen to clips on amazon.com during late night scavenger hunts to see if there is something new and different worth buying. I have never downloaded from Napster or the like.

    Bill's right, a little soul searching and to thine own self be true. My comments are not meant as a judgment or statement of righteousness as I'm one of those guys in the fast lane on I-95. We all make choices. But, I appreciate getting paid for my work and believe that I should pay others for their work as well. If something has value to me, I should be willing to pay for it.

    Will it change the model for music retail? Maybe, if done correctly. I wouldn't want a whole album of MP3s, but a great quality, high-rez-overnight-cable-modem-download? Sure. The majors are missing the boat. Why can't we pay a reasonable fee, download a whole album, PDFs of the artwork and make a one off? There ought to be a way.

    Will it change mastering as we know it? It already has. Every recording studio with a finalizer does "mastering" these days. And when you're listening on a set of Monitor Ones, who could tell the difference anyway? I miss great sounding music. At a time in history when we have a media (CD) with greater dynamic range and signal to noise ratio than ever before, we jam everything into the top 3 dB of headroom and EQ the piss out of it so it will sound ok on somebody's car system with a monster sub at 60MPH, or the little speakers built into their ViewSonic CRT.

    But I don't think lo-fi will ultimately rule. SACD and DVD-A will hopefully bring consumers into the gene pool of people who care about audio purity. And I think vinyl will live on because it has its own sound, and because we have Don.

    Thanx for letting me throw my two cents on the pile….

    (ps. don't joke about the microsoft music maker bundled with office 2030? they already bought Pacific Microsonics. let's not encourage them, it could happen.)
  9. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Distinguished Member

    Nashville TN
    Home Page:
    I generally get flamed for appearing pro-RIAA but there are a few important points worth looking at.

    1. the internet has been remarkably unsuccessful at breaking new artists for all the talk. The potential is huge but the problem is that there is no affordable way for the good stuff to rise above the garbage.

    2. We've got a great big fat radio problem where music is being used to sort people into lifestyle groups for advertisers rather than to entertain them. Instead of finding music that's so great it crosses genres, radio is choosing inoffensive genre-flavored background music and avoiding controversy or new artists like the plague. This problem is not caused by the major labels who desperately NEED new artist sales for their bottom-lines. It's a case of the Madison Avenue tail wagging the music radio dog.

    Internet radio is appealing EXCEPT that virtually everybody doing it is trying to out-narrow-cast over-the-air radio when excessive narrow-casting is the main problem I see with music radio.

    3. The gulf between store sales and internet sales has been expanding and not contracting as one might expect.

    4. The drop in CD sales has been dramatically greater in locations where broadband is available.

    5. Blank CD-Rs are selling more units than audio CDs and software CD-ROMs combined.

    6. Today's pattern of sales is huge numbers the first week followed by astoundingly low numbers the next. This is unprecedented in 50 years of the record biz. and the only plausible explanation is massive levels of piracy.

    7. Artists NEVER made any money off singles. The cost of promotion is exactly the same for a single as an album. If we return to a pre-1970 business model, it'll mean the end of writers having their own publishing and of artists getting big enough advances to launch a career. Television will completely take over the music business and we'd all better get ready for lots of Disney sourced artists.

    The only solution that makes any sense to me is a return to performed music and much more compelling artwork and sound quality to make owning the real thing lots more desirable than just having a copy.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    I think it's a big Karmic pay back to the record companies for over charging, formula-izing and generally ruining the biz. Bean counters run the labels. No talent anymore, just good looks. No one sits and listens like they used to because there is no need to visualize anymore. You can watch the video. All the radio stations are owned by a handful of corporations. There is no diversity of material any longer. Everything is changing and not for the better. I'm so happy I got to grow up in the 50's,60's and 70's...Fats

    "The extension of the frequency range beyond audibility is beneficial to sound quality and produces brain electrical activity from the area associated with pleasure. The absence of frequencies above 20 kHz result in subliminal frustration and restlessness."
  11. wave

    wave Guest

    Music was in trouble before napster et al.
    Downloads have focused this to a great degree. Major labels have increasingly sold product rather than music, and have devalued the publics perception of what they sell. The public are happy with the quality of mp3 (hey it's digital?). The audiophile market is very very small in multinational terms and most listerners just want the song. It's hard to sell new improved formats when everyone was told that CD (digital) was perfect sound. How do you tell people that SACD or DVD-A is more perfect?
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    :D Aaahh ha ha ha ha!
  13. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    What a mess. So many levels of problems, all coming to roost in our time.

    So what can the audio community do? We need to keep working. I know we do not own the labels. We don't own the radio stations or concert promoting company (only one of those these days) either.

    In an ideal world broadcast radio with wide open formats would lead the way out of artistic doldrums. New artists (with smaller contracts) would re-invigerate the artistic arena & the next "big thing" would emerge. I personally hate narrow casting as a former radio guy.

    Lower prices for CDs would help a lot too. It's tought o justify nearly $20 for a disc at Tower or on line at your favorite dot com retailer. More record labels will go out of business as a result. Bootlegging is indeed killing profits for labels. Entire markets overseas are supplied by bootlegged CDs I am told.

    I'd like to hope that improved quality (SACD/ DVD Audio) along with better packaging will help. I'd also hope that someone comes up with a way to more quickly down load saleable music for a reasonable amount of money.

    Do we just try to ride it out till then? Does anyone think the barn door can be closed now that the digital horse has escaped? So the world needs lots of artistically great new artists who can sell their CDs for $10.00 and play concerts for less than $150.00 a ticket.

    Anyone out there want to open a new Free-Form radio statioon with me?

    Too bad the Beatles only come along once in a long while....
  14. MANTIK

    MANTIK Guest

    I currently do a lot of LP to CD transfers and when I find a track that is so screwed up ( Ex. the needle jumping out of the groove many times ) that I can't do anything to save it, that's when I resort to downloading. I then remaster the MP3 and slip it in the mix. It saved me a number of times.
    I don't have the time or the connection to sit down for hours downloading songs. I don't even honor requests from friends anymore to download songs for them because I know the audio quality sucks.
    The RIAA has been focusing their attention on peer to peer networks that are springing up one after another. There is actually something new and more harder for them to control going on. You know all those palm pilots and pocket PCs have the ability to "beam" data across to one another.
    Think of it. I could send you hundreds of songs across the room in under a minute. Imagine millions of people doing the same thing! It's like gossip. It spreads like wild fire.

    I wonder, are there any mastering engineers getting part of their income from remastering bootleg material for the bootlegging companies?
  15. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    I refuse bootlegs, unless I recorded it and the artist is involved.

    That is not to say that a streme off a European station will go to hard drive and be edited for a CD for my personal enjoyment.

    Don..About the internet radio..vehicle is in place..all we have to do is spend time with it.

    Check out thesoundman.net and look for pirate radio. Funny stuff.
  16. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    i teach drums in richmond hill, a wealthy suburb north of toronto. all my students bring burnt cds off of ftp sites. none of them would want to spend money on the original cd's.

    some of them bring mp3 players, and i try to show them the difference in sound quality and why i hate them. granted, they are drummers and not very bright to begin with but they don't care.

    they are perfectly happy with mp3's and not paying any money. if this situation continues the industry as a whole will continue to change.

    the artist will suffer the most as far as being in a record deal situation. but what else is new. in an industry that pays the artist last in every situation thats what's going to happen.

    ultimitly the labels won't be able to hold there own weight. when they are throwing out 500 thou to a million for a new artist in recordings, videos and promotion just to see if it can fly. they are not gonna get back what they spent 80 percent of the time just based on normal sales 10 years ago. with the advent of mp3's they will see 2% doing well but it won't be enough to keep the ship goin. how many majors are left?

    how many just do music?

    the numbers are dwindiling.

    add the advent of computers and software making quantum leaps. as well as the homoginization of comercially viable music in general. the industry is going to collapse on itself.

    do they charge for water in a restuarant....

    no, because you can get it almost anywhere. would you pay for bottled water if there was fountain right in front of you? (this doesn't apply to people in l.a.), no....

    hopefully music will live on for the masses through the internet. if it's regulated. labels will not be necessary. all they are used for is a bank to finance recordings, shoot videos and promote people.

    with the internet and newer, cheaper technoligies hopefully artists can put out their music on their own like marketting a home business.

    labels have taken too much for too long.

    to me all the entertainment industries blow. when's the last time you saw a movie that cost 100 million or over that was any good? they spend way too much money on crap and most of the time it comes back to haunt them. no one can afford to continually loose money at the rate they spend it.

    chris perra
  17. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    I'm not even sure what to write to you. I guess in your view it would be a good thing if the entertainment business turned into a cottage industry, but on the internet. I'm not so sure myself, but that's what this forum's about....

    Many of the independently recorded / mixed / mastered & released product I see needs work. The music needs content editing & a producer with perspective, the artwork is lacking & I still believe the home mastering world doesn't add the touch that a practiced engineer can give it in general, although there are exceptions.
    I will grant you that Big Conglomerate Labels stink in the way they promote homoginized pop, but I do have a vested interest & biased outlook. Although I do a little major label mastering, I do have many "label" clients. Independent Labels are good for distribution, & quality control of music (when run by caring music people). These people DO seem to care & the quality matters to them. I do not think they can or should be replaced by MP3s over the internet.

    I do not think the whole system should be brought down to punish the big labels.

    I would love to see good distribution of speciality independent labels with a chance to see "big hits" if the public deems the music worthy. Distribution deals seem like a great opportunity for producers. If someone with distribution thinks your music is good enough to put out, certain standards would undoubtably be kept. The individual could still be an entrepenure & perhaps benefit from some guidence & staff with skills in marketing, artwork & sound.


    PS I really liked the Lord Of The Rings movie ( a major studio release)
  18. themidiroom

    themidiroom Active Member

    St Louis
    I don't really download MP3s. I have listened to some new artists and songs from a couple streaming sites. My opinion about music sharing is somewhat mixed. We have to ask ourselves would any of the people really buy this material if it wasn't available for free? If the answer is yes, then there should be a way for the artist to receive royalties from these downloads. If the answer is no, then nobody really loses. I think with all the radio programming and music videos, I don't have much need to buy anything. After I've heard a song a half million times (and it's not that great of a song mind you) why in the world would I want to own it? Something to think about.
  19. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    to don. upon reading my rant i realized that i started in one area and wound up in an other.

    i don't want the industry as a whole to dissapear, but i do think it will have trouble because of the system it has created over time.

    with the advent of mp3 piracy, the insane budgets for everything can't be recouped. something will have to change. either they take over the internet or they will have to rethink their system.

    i don't think it can continue. you are right about standards of recording quality, and artists needing help to develop. i think big changes are coming... either through the internet being regulated or the record industry reshaping it's system.

    by the way i did like "lord of the rings" as well. my previous staement was an exaggeration now that i think about it. but there are a lot of crap movies and albums out there that had tons of money thrown behind it that stiffed. i think that with mp3's the money cushion for failure is getting smaller. i guess we'll just have to wait and see.

    chris perra
  20. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Distinguished Member

    Nashville TN
    Home Page:
    The thing that really sucks about this kind of "pay your own way " music business model is that very few of our greatest artists would have ever had a chance because they didn't have the money. It used to be that somebody could earn their way using nothing but pure talent. Today everybody has to buy their way into the music business and the results, as everybody agrees, aren't very pretty. I'm not at all sure just the labels are to blame for the lack of great new talent making it. Fewer and fewer people can still afford to give a truly gifted but financially disadvantaged newcomer a break.

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