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Saturday, October 11, 2003

where have the musigeeks gone?

kevin laws did, as expected, provide a very lucid description of the trouble with walmart over at due dilligence.

some time ago, i hinted at some of these points, saying that “the battle of pennies between vivendi and walmart will squeeze every last penny out of the existing business model.

kevin’s material gives a good functional description of just how that squeeze works.

one thing i missed in my post was the strength of the “push back” from the record retailers. i mentioned it when i heard about it, but ultimately, the retail channel was apparently strong enough (still) to result in the collapse of the price-reduction plans at vivendi-universal. so much for my crystal ball 🙂

the independent music specialty retailers have been folding under the weight of large chains for some time now, and with that, the power of negotiation is consoldated. 1000 indie stores probably couldn’t get organized enough to push back and avoid the price cuts, but with only a few large chains, all it takes is a few phonecalls to say “we won’t take this.”

the real damage, on both a social and musical level, is that the traditional filters we used to find [good] new talent aren’t sustainable anymore. the brilliant musigeek at the local indie cd store – the one who knew every act on the 40-foot-long jazz shelf – he’s wasting that knowledge asking you if you’d like to supersize those fries or buy a refrigerator. the buyers at the retail level and the a&r people at the labels live under one-screwup-and-you’re out conditions. oh, and just to mention it – the djs at the local radio station are under the thumb of a centralized program director with a not-entirely-hidden agenda.

there aren’t many people left in the society that are paid to know music and find good, new talent. there are still people who are paid to push hits (top down), but the discovery-and-filtering process that can only happen with time (listenting to music is not time-compressible) and experience (lots and lots of listening) is suffering. sure, these people still exist, and they may even be on the net posting opinions for free – but if they’re holding down a non-music job to keep themselves fed, that’s an inefficient use of their time (at least as far as the music business is concerned)… these are extreme specialists.

ultimately, the business of music doesn’t work without these filters. on the macro level, you need to be able to go from a half-million garage bands (and, by the way, has anyone ever quantified the number of garage bands out there? i just made this number up because i can’t find a good data point) to 165 charting superstars. from a business perspective, you need to be able to focus resources – today more than ever.

posted by roj at 7:30 am