Page 1 of 2

Humans v The Music Biz pt 452: Long Tail Definitely Winning

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:00 pm
by Ian A.
There's a rather interesting little piece of information ferreted away in economic news in today's Guardian. The "basket of goods" on which the cost of living is calculated - the most commonplace things bought by the general population - has been adjusted. Out: Top 40 CDs. In: Non-Chart CDs. Which to me is very concrete proof that non-mainstream music is winning over the music business, and that the "long tail" theory is indeed correct. Oh, and that people are still buying CDs, just not the ones the majors depend on them buying, and not necessarily lots of any specific one.

(Qualification to overseas readers: this may be UK specific.)

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:28 pm
by Nigel w
Out: Top 40 CDs. In: Non-Chart CDs.

More than a little misleading , I'm afraid. What the new shopping basket has dropped is Top 40 CD singles which they have replaced with what the Office of National Statistics press release calls "non-chart classic albums by artists such as U2, Pink Floyd and Madonna." ! ! !

More disturbingly, the new shopping basket now includes smoothies and blueberry muffins. Sad news for those of us who grew up on a breakfast of a bacon butty, washed down with a pot of PG Tips .

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:53 pm
by That Was Jonathan E. Then
Years ago, when I took a class in The Business of Publishing, we were told that publishers made their money on their back lists, i.e. catalog. It was an early statement of the Long Tail idea. Now that seems to have become otherwise — but I always wondered why that same model didn't hold true for the music industry as well. But I remember well when Van Morrison among many others lost their record contracts in the early 1980s — and I was quite amazed that such a thing could happen to such a significant artist. I guess that label, it was Warners in the US, still kept the catalog, so they just avoided the costs of new production. Still, bloody topsy turvy.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:53 pm
by Nigel w
Not sure whether this is humans or the biz winning, but here is a very strange one. Elvis Costello's new album , out on Lost Highway April 21, will not be released on CD but on digital download. However, in order to get a unique code to download the album , you will first have to buy it on vinyl LP. No CD version of the album will be made available.

Now Elvis always was a perverse kind of fellow (telling Delaney and Bonnie that Ray Charles was ''a blind ignorant n****r'' just to wind them up and start a fight when he actually loved and revered Ray Charles - that sort of thing). But even by his standards this LP/download-but-no-CD notion seems wilfully deviant!

PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:18 pm
by David Flower
2 posts here from Nigel, but still stuck on 99. Will he nurdle a single for his century, or be pipped by the WG Grace of Harringey with his 500th?

it's so exciting!

PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:28 pm
by Nigel w
Yeah but David, I was cheated out in the first innings. Something went wrong with my log-in back in 2006 and they sent me back to the pavillion, put my score back to zero and made me start my innings all over again. So really I should be up there somewhere past Don Bradman!

Silly point

PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:37 pm
by Gordon Neill
That historic moment as Nigel gets his century:


PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:40 pm
by judith
nigel w wrote:
Now Elvis always was a perverse kind of fellow (telling Delaney and Bonnie that Ray Charles was ''a blind ignorant..."

Nigel, I understand this is a direct quote, but I do have a request. I was wondering if for awhile - when this word and words like it are used, that asterisks be substituted.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:49 am
by Nigel w
I understand this is a direct quote, but I do have a request. I was wondering if for a while - when this word and words like it are used, that asterisks be substituted.

Judith, I totally understand your point - how could I not , as someone who thinks language and how we use it is so important that in another thread on this site I've taken consistent issue with the lack of civility of somebody who has used the description "loathsome slug" and other such abusive terms about a fellow human being. But as you know, there is a profund debate over the ethics of the use of this particular word.

As you rightly point out, in the Costello example it is a direct quote (he also wrote a song called Oliver's Army, by the way, which contained the line 'one more widow, one less white nigger. ') But it goes far beyond Elvis Costello. The new album by the African-American rapper Nas is titled "Nigger". Should we refer to it on this site as "N****r"? If you try to buy the album from Amazon with a bunch of asterisks, it's not even going to accept your order...

The black comedian/activist Dick Gregory titled his autobiography "Nigger". Should we render that as "N****r"? Joseph Conrad wrote a magnificent novel in the 19th century called 'The Nigger of the Narcissus' . John Lennon wrote a (not very good) song called 'Woman Is The Nigger Of The World''. Should we asterisk those ?

It's a hugely difficult issue and you are right to raise it but there are more questions than answers, as Jimmy Cliff once sang. Should we make a distinction between those who use 'n****r' in a pejorative/abusive manner and those who use "nigger" (like Dick Gregory and Nas) in order to reclaim the word from the racists? And how do we judge the intent or motivation of the person using the word before we decide whether it has to be asterisked or not?

I really don't know the answers here. I do know that Elvis Costello is a good man who is not a racist and has been profoundly ashamed of his words for the last 30 years and gets deeply embarrassed when reminded of them. But he said it and it cannot be unsaid. So I really don't know but I'm very glad that you raised the issue...

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:07 pm
by Gordon Neill
I do think that we all need to be careful with the language that we use. But I would have thought that it's more about how words are used rather than what particular words are written. A saucepan is an everyday, practical unobjectionable object; in the wrong hands it could become an offensive weapon.

To me, the blanket use of asterisks to mask a particular word would be slightly ridiculous, and possibly counterproductive. It reminds me a bit of the Victorians covering up their table legs (which they didn't by the way, something of an urban myth).

I didn't actually feel the need for smelling salts after reading Nigel's post. It was clearly a quote of something that was actually said. It was even a quote of someone being ironic. I know that some subtleties can get lost over the internet, but not all of them, surely. And then, of course, there's the use of that word in proper names. Ironically, in Lennon's not-very-good-song, the word is used deliberately to shock in order to get across his message about women's rights.

In other words, my view is 'it depends'. It depends on how it is used and the context in which it is used. There are plenty of situations where I'd be disgusted if someone used that word. But not the way that Nigel used it. I would have thought that the real guidelines we need to keep in mind are good manners and a tolerance for other people's views and experiences.

But that's just my view. I'm happy to have them challenged. Politely, please.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:48 pm
by Charlie
nigel w wrote:but there are more questions than answers, as Jimmy Cliff once sang.

Excuse me, sir, but should that not be Johnny Nash?

I partly post this pedantic point because Johnny is one of the great overlooked/unsung artists of his time (and mine).

Born in Texas, he had a few American-made hits in the early 60s and went to record in Jamaica around 1967. His first Jamaican-made hit, 'Hold Me Tight'/'Cupid', was fairly straight reggae, but he was one of the first to pick up on what a good song-writer Bob Marley was (doing 'Stir It Up' and several others) before recording his own songs that were quite different from anything the Jamaican session musicians ever made without him: 'I Can See Clearly Now' and, yes, 'More Questions Than Answers'.

I realise this is a severe case of thread-creep, but.......

PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:14 pm
by Nigel w
there are more questions than answers... and there are as many corrections as cock-ups. You are indeed right, Sir Charles. It was Johnny Nash.

You also mention that he was

one of the great overlooked/unsung artists of his time

That's true and I was thinking about the reasons for that. Partly , of course, it's because he had charts hits at a time (69-71) when reggae was not 'cool' but was , in the UK at least, associated with the skinhead boot boys.

But I think there's also a perception that far from being one of the first to recognise Bob Marley's talent, Nash was one of the many who ripped him off. I suspect that's unfair - it was surely Nash's manager Danny Sims. But it is true that in thwe winter of 1971/2 after Sims had persuaded the Wailers to fly to Britain to back Nash on the I Can See Clearly Now EP, Nash then jetted off to the sunshine of Miami with Sims leaving Marley and the Wailers stranded in London, living in a Bayswater flat , allegedly with no heating and no hot water and no money to get home.

In the event, they did Marley a favour. With no funds to get back to Jamaica, Marley famously went to see Chris Blackwell at London's Island Records HQ and CB gave him £4000 to get the band home - in return for their next album. That album was Catch A Fire and the rest, as they say, was history. And so pretty much after that were Danny Sims and Johnny Nash...

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:19 am
by Nigel w
Apple's iTunes has now leap-frogged Wal-Mart to become the No 1 music retailer in the United States, which is the No 1 music market in the world. Apple has 19 per cent of the music retail market compared to Wal-Mart's 15 per cent. A year ago, iTunes surpassed Amazon for the first time. Now, Amazon is in fourth, according to statistics from industry sales tracker NPD Group.

While the report suggests download sales are still surging (at least for Apple), it does point to yet again worrisome news for the labels. NPD Group had been tracking the precipitous decline in physical music sales for some time. In February, it estimated that "one million consumers dropped out of the CD buyer market in 2007, a flight led by younger consumers. In fact, 48 percent of US teens did not purchase a single CD in 2007, compared to 38 percent in 2006."

So, while everything looks rosy for the sale of iPods and tracks on iTunes, few music execs have reason to smile. These latest figures no doubt will propel talks by the major labels to push ahead with plans to introduce all-you-can-eat monthly fees to broadband users who want access to their catalogues. If a universal fee is introduced, it might just be called the next "iTunes killer."

Back to Ian's original topic (or close to it). Found the above on a news wire yesterday. I know the stats relate to the American market, but food for thought for everybody. The two stats that particularly leap out are that

a) One million former CD buyers stopped buying CDs in 2007

b) 48 per cent of American teenagers did not buy a single piece of music on CD last year.

Perhaps Elvis Costello is right after all - is the future vinyl for the collectors market and digital downloads for the mass market, with the CD squeezed out in the middle as obsolete?

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:29 am
by Charlie
nigel w wrote:and the rest, as they say, was history. And so pretty much after that were Danny Sims and Johnny Nash...

I may move this thread somewhere else, Nigel, but let's see where it leads first.

Far from being history, Danny Sims acquired ownership of much of the pre-Island Bob Marley and the Wailers catalogue, which he has been repacking ever since. I've never been clear whether Johnny Nash was a financial beneficiary of these maneouvres. I had not realised that Johnny also left Bob and the boys in the lurch, not a pretty tale. I guess it is in the Marley biographies, must go to check.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:59 am
by Rob Hall
I found a long interview with Danny Simms here. It appears to be from 2004. In it, he talks a lot about Johnny Nash, Bob Marley and Chris Blackwell, though I'll leave it to others to comment on the credibility of what he is saying as, frankly, I found much of it difficult to follow.