Looking at the world of media: from music to RIA.

Educating the Napster Generation

December 14th, 2005 Posted in Music

During one of our interviews with Cyrus Wadia on the Lab Report, we talked about how there is a need to educate the next generation of listeners about the costs behind making music. We have a whole new generation of music listeners who grew up with Napster and P2P systems. The concept of having to pay for digitally download music is a very foreign idea and unless we take the time to talk about what goes into making the music they won’t know why they shouldn’t get it for free.

I understood this would be an issue but it wasn’t until I had my first real experience with it that I saw how it would manifest. One of our artists was talking to a few of his younger fans (around age 15). They were excited about his release but were confused about the idea of going to the FS store and buying a download. They asked were they could buy the CD, and he told them there wasn’t one and that confused them even more.

I feel that this is one of the major disconnects for digital purchases, and not just for the Napster generation, but all music buyers. We are used to purchasing a physical object for music and we have this object in our hands when the deal is done. That makes sense. But to spend money on a few easily replicated bits can be hard to grasp. We generally understand the costs behind making a CD, the art, the cover and case, but we forgot (or don’t know) what goes in behind the scenes.

Most of the cost for a CD is spent in the making of the music and the marketing (recording, videos, ads, etc). If you read Chris Anderson’s now instant classic and Web 2.0 mantra “The Long Tail” you see that “the creative costs work out to about $7.50 per disc, or around 60 cents a track” (page 4, paragraph 9). Pull out most the marketing budget for indies, because they don’t have the money compared to the majors, we still have the cost of making the music.

This is where the education needs to begin. Consumers need to realize that artists spend an amazing amount of time and money making this music. Its not just studio time or gear purchases that cost a lot of money; it’s also the man hours put into it. We have to look at buying music as investment into future music. For the last 40 years music has been a commodity that we buy and sell and is very rarely seen for what it is; an art form. We should not look at music as a commodity to be traded, but as art that we are all Patrons of, and this is a revolutionary approach for almost all of us.

While we are letting everyone know what it costs to make the music we also need to work out a better way so that the artist can get reimbursed properly. Why can’t a musician live off their talent and their work (such as a programmer)? Why can’t we help fund their next project? Why do we have a system were the artist is always the last one to get paid? These are just a few questions that we as a community should think and talk about…

  1. 4 Responses to “Educating the Napster Generation”

  2. By Niko on Dec 14, 2005

    I completely agree about the need for education. Some years ago I actually tried to push forward a project to do that. I tried to sell the idea (for basically free) to pretty much every music organization here in Finland, from copyright organizations (local equivalents of IFPI, PRS, MCPS, Harry Fox…) to musicians’ union, and even to the cultural ministry of the government. There was some interest, but interestingly the agency representing record producers (labels) said “this would not be in their best interest”. The person on the phone implied that making it clear how the industry works would not be beneficial to the big players. Tells a bit about their business practices, doesn’t it.

    Anyway, I’ve started mapping it out, mainly as a reaaally slowly evolving hobby. Drop me an email if you’re interested in hearing more.

  3. By zephoria on Dec 17, 2005

    ::cough:: Transparency in FS maybe?

    The problem is not one of education – it’s a completely broken system. Until people know that they’re paying the artists, not the labels, it’s going to be a problem. Through Napster, older youth didn’t just get music for free, they learned how much music is controlled by labels and MSM. They know that they have to listen to things to be a part of social culture, but it doesn’t mean that they want to pay for them. Love of the artist doesn’t start for a while – it’s more about being “in” and a huge part of it is music sharing.

    I don’t know if you grew up with mixed tapes, but i certainly did. We didn’t buy many CDs in middle school – we copied our friends’ tapes and recorded from the radio. It wasn’t until high school where we started appreciating individual bands but even still, we copied tapes as much as possible. We spent our money seeing all-ages shows LIVE.

    For me, it’s not about “education” in some sorta condescending manner. It’s about transparency. People need to know where their money is going and they need to know the effects that payment has on things. Arts industries need to move in the way of non-profits in this way. Reports that show how the money is being spent, what costs for production are, etc. People donate to non-profits because they believe in the services. And non-profits who spend less money on fundraising and overhead costs are perceived better. It’s even AOK to have a high-paying CEO of a non-profit if the non-profit is doing well. But all of this is visible.

    One of the things that i used to love about the Ani DiFranco community is that everyone believed in buying her albums, supporting her directly. As she got bigger and the songs became the way to be “cool” in dyke world, people stopped feeling the need to pay. It was an interesting transition – the feeling as though you were actually supporting the artist to the feeling that you were supporting business. I wonder what that transition is all about.

    But seriously, you want to change things? Don’t start with “education” – start with transparency.

  4. By Niko on Dec 18, 2005

    I agree with need for transparency, and the “education” I was thinking about was exactly that: making the workings of the business visible. Preferably in a way that’s interesting, even thrilling for the impatient MTV-generation.. as impossible as that might sound.

    So not a curriculum, but more like a reality tv show or a game about the financial realities of creating music. ;)

  5. By James on Dec 19, 2005

    I feel that transparency is extremely important going forward, something that we are Fake Science are seriously looking at and trying to find the best way to do this (both in time, clarity and technology) but at the same time I still feel we need education (I personally don’t see the term education to be a condescending term, more about this in a bit).

    For now, we will not be getting transparency into the existing system by the major players. As Niko pointed out there is direct push-back for this idea. My interpretation of education is publication of the current process, via blogs, articles, interviews, podcasts, etc. This may be considered creating transparency into the industry and we are just using different semantics. For me, transparency is created by the people in charge and education is information being distributed by 3rd parties. I could be totally off on my terminology, but this is how I perceive it.

    After reading both of your comments, I agree for the need of “transparency” across all boards, for both my company and for the entire music industry. We are starting this at FS by being very clear that 60% over every sale goes to the artists and as I mentioned we are internally looking at all kinds of ways to open this up. I am curious about what you and anyone else that uses FS would like to see? What can we open up and show to the public to help create transparency in to what we do here?

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