Manage for Success: More Musings, Newsletter #107, May 2010


"Manage for Success" is a free monthly newsletter for record label executives who want to operate their companies efficiently and successfully. It's published by Keith Holzman of Solutions Unlimited, a management consultant, troubleshooter, and trusted advisor, and is based on his many years as a senior executive in the music industry.


Copyright 2010 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.


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The music scene feels eerily quiet these days. No single act is cornering the market, either in terms of music sales (CD, online, etc.) or live performance. And there's been no major music business event that would make the casual fan -- no less concerned industry veteran -- sit up and take notice.


By the way, you didn't miss the April newsletter because there wasn't one. I was out of the country. And now that I'm back it's seems things are as quiet as they were before I left. I guess I'll just have to stir things up a bit!


Stirring things up is exactly what The Doors did during the very few years the group existed as a quartet, with Jim Morrison as charismatic front man. I was reminded of Jim's lizard-like dynamism while watching "When You're Strange," a feature-length documentary that screened in theatres just a couple of months ago and that was shown on PBS's "American Masters" series last week. If you missed it on TV, it's available as a DVD rental from Netflix, which describes it as follows:


"Composed entirely of original footage from 1966-71, Tom DiCillo's documentary about the Doors filters truth from myth, reveals new insight into Jim Morrison and his bandmates, and captures the essence of the iconic rock group and the era. DiCillo's film pays tribute to the Doors and their music and to a generation's struggle for individuality and authenticity during an unstable and transformative epoch in America."


Having worked with The Doors during those fateful, music-filled years, watching the film was a reminder of just how dynamic and star-filled the music scene was in the late Sixties, It was a period of exciting new music by artists and record labels that weren't afraid to try something marvelously new. And the audience grew eager to listen to and experience each new musical direction. Unfortunately, the industry has never since come near to emulating the excitement and creativity that existed during that brief period of time.


And that's certainly one of the reasons that music sales have been declining steadily during the past ten years. A lot of new music has been released, but frankly very little of it bears the provocative excitement that most of us felt in what many now consider to be the Golden Years of the late Sixties and early Seventies.


I'll not list here the great number of exciting artists who were active during that short span because it would take up way too much space, but most of them became household names -- known to almost everyone, worldwide.


The only really new and distinctive genre that's arisen since that era is rap/hip-hop and although it appeals to a fairly wide demographic, that's it! Sales are generally not very high, and much of what people listen to has been downloaded illegally.


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Please pardon a brief interruption:


Record label executives often deal with a great many crises. Contact me if you're having difficulty coping with running your company. I've had many years of record industry experience at labels large and small, and have solved many problems. Let me help you as I've helped so many other labels "manage for success." Email me at <mailto:keith@holzmansolutions.com> so we can discuss how I can improve your business.


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A few items have come to my attention recently that I'd like to share with you.


Digital Music News published the following in an article dated April 30th. They cite woeful numbers derived from IFPI, which "reported a 7.2 percent decline for recordings in 2009, to $17 billion...A range of other sectors -- including radio advertising, portable player sales, and even musical instrument sales -- also suffered significant declines. Radio and recordings were the biggest drags, and the overall music industry dropped 8 percent to $140 billion last year...Musical instrument sales suffered a severe, 5.4 percent drop to $14.8 billion, based largely on consumer belt-tightening...Music-related games also witnessed a significant drop...47 percent to $3.5 billion."


As regards publishing, Digital Music News wrote "Songwriter copyrights edged slightly upward to $9.6 billion, and performance rights also ticked northward to $1.6 billion." However I've read elsewhere that publishers, in general, claim that their revenues are declining.


There's one matter that I think we all should be keeping a close eye on, and that regards what's happening at the FCC. Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Commission, would like a clear message from Congress that it has the right and obligation to keep the Internet open to all, without reservation -- so-called "net neutrality." He considers the net to be a telecommunications service requiring the same oversight as telephone services. But Congress seems to want to limit the FCC's role. The New York Times reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled
in April that "the F.C.C.’s classification of broadband service as an 'information service' rather than as a 'telecommunications service' did not allow it to sanction Comcast for slowing or blocking access by its customers to an application known as BitTorrent, which is used to share large data files including video and audio."


In a Billboard Opinion piece dated April 24th, Gigi B. Sohn, co-founder/president of Public Knowledge, a public interest advocacy group in Washington, cites a quote from the Future of Music Coalition describing the need for net neutrality. " Imagine logging on to your favorite band's Web site, only to have it take forever to load on your computer because they couldn't afford (or didn't want) to pay a toll to powerful Internet service providers. All artists deserve the right to use the Internet to cultivate listeners, and fans deserve to make their own choices of how and where to access legitimate content. That's why net neutrality must be preserved."


I agree that it's in our best interests to maintain a "free and open Internet."


Until next month,

Keith Holzman -- Solutions Unlimited

Helping Record Labels Manage for Success.

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Copyright 2010 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.