This New York Times article by David F. Gallagher, outlines the shift from old media to blogs as a means of generating buzz for a new band. The article went on record as citing Warner as the first major label to ask an MP3 blogs to play its music in the form of downloadable MP3 files on the blog Music For Robots. It also provides a cautionary tale for blogs attempting to expand within the confines of a major label. Warner's attempted to circumvent any bad comments by posting several comments saying how their band, The Secret Machines, was "so cool." When Music For Robots got wind of this they turned apprehensive to future major label involvement, saying that Warner's had turned the blog into something as deplorable as an "AOL chatroom."
This article gives weight to the argument that it would be tough for blogs to retain their independent credibility once they are bedfellows with major labels (conflicts of interest, and downright manipulation by labels could arise). It complicates my argument that a blogs could truly work alongside labels without being crushed by the corporate steamroller. However, it does add weight to my point that MP3 blogs have become legitimized by labels as a viable venture in band promotion. Also , it reaffirms that record labels have now become middle men in the music industry. If new bands appealed directly to blogs, they could avoid the major label, and appeal directly to an audience--thus beginning their careers, like Vampire Weekend
In this article Andy Greenwald, examines the success of Vampire Weekend, a band for former Columbia University undergrads, who have recently and rapidly been thrust into the forefront of the music industry because of the blog buzz they incurred. Vampire Weekend appeared on the cover of the February 2008 issue of Spin Magazine, becoming the first band in Spin's history to achieve a cover before they have released an album. Admittedly, the band avoided sending their demos to traditional record labels, calling the very idea "ultimately fruitless" due to the industry's rigid thinking. Greenwald uses Vampire Weekend as the poster-child for the radical redefinition of 'success' in the era of the Blog. The band utilized this modern-grassroots venue to showcase their music, which with the internet, allowed for instantaneous dissemination.
This article highlights the growing displacement of traditional record labels by MP3 Blogs. Bands view the traditional route of label and broadcast radio play as obsolete, so much so that they choose to opt out of the process altogether. Bands directly appeal to these new gatekeepers who in turn appeal to their audience with a review to the benefit or detriment of that particular band. Also the idea of redefining success of bands is an important point to my claim that MP3 blogs have transformed the traditional music industry. The article states that no longer is selling CDs, selling out concerts, or in this case, even having a CD out is a means of defining success. Nowadays, success comes with generating blog buzz or appearing on a TV show that premiers to your demographic. Old media now plays catch up with internet, as opposed to the pulling strings, as it had done for decades.
This article is a roundtable orchestrated by The Morning News .Org consisting of several blog editors discussing the ethics and future of blogs. Oliver Wang of Soul Sides Blog and Sean Michaels of the Said the Gramophone get into an argument during the roundtable about the financial responsibility blogs have to the artists whose MP3's they upload. Wang contends that artists,generally, do not make money off of record sales and cites touring as their main means of revenue. Wang decides that the name recognition that MP3 blogs give these artists is more important than a few missing sales. Michaels, howevers, rebuts with the fact that not all artists are able to tour (laptop based acts, tiny indie acts, and even older defunt bands such as the Beatles). Michaels acknowledges that name recognition is a powerful gift but says to think of the fiscal effect of their piracy as "negligible" is a facile argument. Michaels contends that the purpose of his blog is to expose an audience to new music, and for them to purchase the music. Andrew Nosnitsky, of the Cocaine Blunts blog, chimes by saying that his blog deals in the out of print and obscure--so he in no way feels any fiscal responsibility.
This article both helps and complicates my argument that MP3 blogs have transformed the music industry for the better. The idea of using MP3 blogs as used bins/ rental emporiums is an interesting idea. In the utopian view, the audience would take the MP3 for a while, delete the track after a thorough listen, then purchase the track if they liked it. However, this view seems pretty naive and very 'honor-system' based. How can blogs be sure that the illegal MP3 won't just remain on a user's computer. Also it calls into question the idea of 'name-recognition' being the most important thing for a new band.
This rebuttal ironically comes from a music blogger, and complicates my claim that blogs are poised to supersede traditional labels. Dave Allen of Pempelmoose, states that blogs will simply not be the new music labels. He credits this thinking to the crisis-mode state that the entire music industry is in and their hastiness to "grasp at straws." His counterpoints center on a blogs' need to remain independent and his idea that record labels will not discontinue their functions as A&R sources. Allen rebuts by saying that a blog must remain pure. Plainly said, if they are contaminated by the corporate steamroller, blogs will lose the credibility they have garnered throughout the years. Also, if MP3 blogging becomes a careerist endeavor, blogs will be shackled by a conflict of interest (promoting their own bands), betraying the very nature on which MP3 Blogs were founded. Also in regards to A&R, Allen states that the ceiling is caving in on major, not indie labels, who he claims to be thriving and will continue to act as band developers.
Allen is correct that if MP3 blogging became about money and sales, a conflict of interest would ensue. However, there would be other blogs around who would police these postulated 'label-blogs' and poseurs would be quickly flagged and discredited. Allen's second point is also true--major labels are flailing. However that is all the more reason why MP3 blogs could become the new labels. Capitalizing on the lack of trust in major record labels, a new system could develop--a congregation of smaller blogs.
Legal Outlook For Blogs--Revisited
This article was written by Urs Gasser, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law school. In this article, Gasser examines the legal outlook for MP3 blogs and whether or not they are prime for litigation. To determine this, Gasser examines the economic significance detailing blogs' relatively small size, means of musical promotion, their 'niche' clientele, and the short-term availability of the linked files as viable legal defenses for MP3 Bloggers. Gasser also makes a Fair Use argument for both Blog uploaders and downloaders--citing that the non-comercial status of these blogs and their promotional effect don't have a negative impact on said markets. Gasser also acknowledges the role that record labels play in the survival of blogs--by intentionally leaking teasers and unreleased tracks.
This article sets up several premises of my paper. It establishes MP3 blogs as the new gate-keepers of the music industry, citing these blogs as the effective modes of instantaneous promotion. An important point is Gasser's mentioning that the record industry voluntarily leaks tracks to these blogs--snubbing the copyright law they have sued for in the past. This point reaffirms my claim that record-labels themselves have taken part in legitimizing MP3 blogs as a means of new media.
This article by Forutune Magazine senior writer Devin Leonard, features Jon Cohen and Rob Stone, two veteran music marketers who have turned to MP3 web sites to reach their much desired demographic. However, the difference lies in the fact that these two have gotten advertisers (blue chip companies) to sponsor free downloading. They have set up a network of MP3 blogs and have already inked deals with Microsoft and Toyota. The two say that Fortune 500 companies are finally realizing that blogs are where influential tastemakers graze, the same gatekeepers (with a constant audience) they want to advertise their products to. While independent blogs have troubles obtaining profitable ads on their sites (due to the posting of illegal copy-written material), Cohen and Stone have capitalized because their network of blogs (serving only authorized material) has an audience of 240,000 which is more enticing to advertisers.
This article takes the postulated ideas of 'blogs as labels' and puts it into practice. While this isn't exactly a record label, this is blogs acting as the publicity department for major labels, while still maintaining free content. The marriage of blue chip companies with the trendiness of blog culture is what Cohen and Stone are capitalizing on. Both advertisers and labels seem to comply and since their network of blogs appeals to 240.000 daily their audience is certainly substantial. This could be the future role of blogs in the music industry.
In this article, Betsy Schiffman of Wired Magazine, sets out to find out why MP3 Blogs have yet to be targeted by the RIAA, subsequently she declares that these blogs could be a "win-win" situation for all parties involved--including Google. An owner of a blog aggregator divulges that record companies contact them about promoting bands." The owner goes on to say that he performs this service free of charge; Schiffman declares that MP3 blogs are not a moneymaking operation. Many blogs run ads, but these only add up to 75 cents for each hour put into it. These ads come from Google's AdSense program. Google reportedly makes 1/3 ($1.45 billion) from AdSense in 2007 alone.
This article discredits the Guardian article's assertion that blog aggregators hurts the music industry. If labels are voluntarily seeking out these hubs in order to further their band's notoriety, than they can't be "killing music" because if these labels could avoid a middleman they probably would. Also why is the RIAA so laissez faire about MP3 blogs? Could it have something to with the fact that both sides are making money, emphasis on the record labels? They are getting free promo, while bloggers toil simply out of love. Also could the influence of Google, who has just as many lobbyists as the RIAA, carry a certain amount of clout in the RIAA's unwillingness to act?
Written by correspondent Siddhartha Mitter, this article defines what an audio blogger actually is. Mitter makes a claim that these MP3 bloggers are tastemakers--influencing their audience about what is good and what is not. An important point is that audio bloggers don't just post an MP3 file, they also provide commentary, "a whimsical capsule review, with sound attached," he calls it. He defines audio bloggers as unpaid obsessive music geeks who have capitalized on this generation's "sense of immediacy" about everything culture related. He acknowledges that bloggers have become the tastemaking elite, able to take acts such as Diplo from "obscurity to sensation" because of the 'buzz' these bloggere build. Also mentioned briefly is a vague allusion to an unwritten Bloggers' Code of Conduct', in reference to how long a song is allowed to remain an downloadable.
This article raises several different issues pertinent to my topic. First, it underscores the importance of the 'non-commercial' status of blogs in regards to their legality. Second, it reaffirms the ideas that bloggers are the dictators of what is deemed "cool" as opposed to the industry public relation firms, music magazines, MTV (old media). Perhaps most importantly, it parallels the mp3 blog and the book review. An MP3 blog is contingent upon the fact that along with the MP3 posted, there is some sort of commentary to go along with it. To me, this raises the question of Fair Use. Obviously, book reviews are allowed to print excerpts of the book in their critiques, and the courts have ruled this as a transformative version of the original work. My insinuation, is that MP3 blogs could fall under the same statute. Does the fact the song is being being critiqued force the MP3 blog under the Fair Use Defense by creating a transformative work?
In this piece Louis Pattison of the Guardian contends that MP3 blogs do more harm than good, and their 'grass-roots' 'for the love of music' tone is causing a detriment to the industry. He begins the piece with a succinct and emphatic statement: MP3 Blogs are killing the music industry. He describes audio bloggers and music as if they are in an abusive relationship, calling that kind of coverage, "killing it with love." Pattison showcases the Rapture, a band on a small New York-based indie label who have witnessed a significant decrease in sales since the advent of MP3 blogs. It also brings in the underlying complications of having MP3 Blog Aggregators like The Hype Machine, who index every blog with a downloadable song of the band you search for. Pattison says aggregators cause frequenters to develop a sense of "comfort." Pattison says that users will not use these MP3s as a means of trying before buying, but use them for a quick fix.
This article provides a contrast to the Vampire Weekend article in Spin Magazine. For every Vampire Weekend, there are other lower level bands who will not reach instant success. Smaller indie labels are sometimes hurt by the widespread use of blogs. Although blogs appeal to a small number of people, the demographic for an indie band is just as small, allowing for a dramatic effect on sales. Pattison also brings in the implications of Blog Aggregators, that act as central hubs, allowing users to put together a band's entire album by rounding up every relevant MP3 blog. This complicates my argument that MP3 blogs are a force of good in the music industry, in regards to fans ultimately purchasing the band's music after being swayed by a particular band's buzz. However, under the new terms of success name recognition, is just as, if not more important than CD sales.
In this article Miles Raymer of the Chicago Reader makes a claim that MP3 Blogs could be viable record labels. He establishes MP3 blogs as "curatorial" in function, performing the acts of a talent scout, and then offering the band an endorsement in the form of a good review. He makes a note of the reader's loyalty to and trust in the blogs he or she visits. Because blogs project a personality, it presents the illusion of a one-on-one friendship as opposed to the face-less record label. The blog takes on the role of friend instead of a stoic music pusher. It would only make sense, as he says, for these blogs to start signing and developing acts considering the strong brand loyalty and audience blogs would already have.
This article is a major point in my argument that blogs have transformed the music industry. Raymer points out that Blogs are poised to replace traditional labels, since Old Media has lost out due to the tight reigns of radio and the narrow thinking of many major labels. Blogs allow a direct appeal to the consumer under the guise of a helpful friend. It is only a natural transition for them to become the industry norm, superseding the traditional label. In a sense, these MP3 blogs would be acting like the all-encompasing labels of yesteryear such as Motown--finding the act, being the means of the publicity, and serving as A&R executives.