Phil Gyford

Writing

Thursday 12 August 2004

PreviousIndexNext MP3 blogs and the record labels

Dan points to an interesting discussion at The Morning News between a bunch of MP3 bloggers who seem remarkably optimistic about the genre’s future. While I’d love a thousand MP3 blogs to bloom, thinking that record companies will be their loving gardeners seems rather misguided given said companies’ previous track record on this kind of thing. It’ll only take blogs to reach a brief level of mainstream popularity before the cease and desist letters are sprayed like a liberal dose of weed killer.

At one point, John from the Tofu Hut says:

Only a few days ago, another music blog I contribute to, Music for Robots, was contacted by Warner Brothers to hype a cut from the band The Secret Machines. This is the first time I’ve been aware of one of us being used as a conduit by the big boys and this new wrinkle adds lots of intrigue to the soup; we now know that at least one of the major players in the industry knows that we’re here and they think it’s possible we may be a positive influence. Bodes well for the future, both ours and theirs.

It’s sweet to think of this as the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but this seems unlikely. Companies have no qualms about taking part in promotions of dubious legality in order to foster some kind of ground-level or “street” credibility. I can well imagine the marketing departments of Warner continuing with this relationship even while the lawyers begin doing their best to shut any website hosting an MP3. The enthusiasm of a marketing person, desperate for any way to promote their current project, shouldn’t be taken as a sign that a multinational corporation is about to do a stunning u-turn.

As I said, I’d love to be wrong, but I can’t see the labels changing their official tune — sharing MP3s is bad — because they’ve been overcome by a blog’s great writing or noticed its ability to give a handful of new bands a touch of credibility. In another universe there’d be a way for individuals to buy some kind of blanket PRS-style license that would let them legitimately share a certain amount of tracks from a website for a flat fee. This would help foster a huge excitement about music, and I have little doubt it would help music sales, but it’s also, sadly, completely unlikely.

So we’re here waiting for a few MP3 blogs to become hugely popular to see what the labels do. Although it’ll be interesting to see whether any blogs can actually reach a popularity where they attract legal attention: running an MP3 blog costs money, and the more popular the site is, the bigger the bandwidth fees. So without some external source of funding (generous users?) it’s entirely possible popular blogs will have to close their doors.

Comments

So glad you've written this post. I've just been turned on to the mp3 phenom by the NY Times article a few days ago. Now, I'm writing a post of my own about it.

I'm very interested in the issue of copyright as it applies to digital "property" like images & music. Like you, the Warner's flap points to an interesting new development. If the record labels begin to sense that blogs can actually help them make money, then maybe there's a small way out of the stupid, narrow minded approach they've taken to sharing of digital media (whether by filesharing or mp3 blogs).

Again, as you said, this is a nascent development & no one knows which way it'll go. BUt I'm hoping that the sheer logic of a free & open approach to this issue will prevail--eventually.

Posted by Richard Silverstein on 18 August 2004, 9:17 pm | Link

No, I don't necessarily think so. Some mp3 blogs don't actualyl host the mp3s, they just link, like the popular Heraclitus sayz (the Return of the Lo-Fi). http://heraclitussayz.blogspot.com

My bet is on these kinds of blogs weathering the storm. my 2 cents.

Posted by Joseph Spiegelman on 19 August 2004, 5:56 pm | Link
Some sites linking to this entry (Trackbacks)

MP3 Blogs: Music to my Ears
I couldn't help myself from using that tired pun in my title. But I think it's nevertheless apt for my subject. I recently wrote a post, What's Missing from Blogs: Music
At 'Tikun Olam-???? ????: Make the World a Better Place' on Wednesday 18 August 2004, 10:12 PM