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Columns  Express Bi-Weekly Article  
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Bells of Doom Ringing for Majors? Predictions for 2003.
By Eric de Fontenay,
 For some reason, media pundits are compelled to provide us with their 'pearls of wisdom,' as if we knew any better than you what would unfold in 2003. I usually don't let them phase me until I read Loyd Case's "8 Predictions and A Funeral" in ExtremeTech. Nothing of particular that you couldn't find on other tech-site 'predictions' lists, that is until I stumbled on the last one: For some reas

  "I predict a major, mainstream music act will release their latest CD on the Internet, selling directly to all those high school and college kids and bypassing the traditional channels. They'll sell a zillion copies, and the recording companies will really hear the bells of doom ringing. "

  Ok, one could be excused in '97 or '99 for making such bold predictions (remember Michael Robertson as the 'Major Label Slayer,' though now he seems content as the 'XBox Slayer'), but this is 2003! While the major labels are not exactly 'doing dandy,' Napster is dead, & Emusic have been 'co-opted,' the rest buried, and the majors (whether they be AOL/TW or Clear Channel) are sitting pretty with all the crown jewels.

 This prediction is driven by some misconception, nearly unique to the music industry, that success can only be described as multi-platinum. In the real business world, success is where you've been able to improve your margin and sales by expanding demand, cutting cost and upselling. If a business in today's environment can boost sales or cut cost by 15%, they're hailed as the latest business gurus. Hell, in my sector, survival is worn as a badge of honor!

  On that basis, thousands of independent artists have succeeded by "bypassing the traditional channels" to grow a larger fan base (market), vastly increase interaction with their customers (cut cost/expand demand) and tap new revenue sources, all thanks to the Internet. On that basis, the majors should already be sweating.

  As for the "bells of doom ringing," the major labels heard them quite a while back and have been busy responding ever since through litigation, PR, lobbying,... you name it, they're doing it. Even making their music available in ways they sweared they'd never before allow, though not on the same terms as the original 'revolutionaries'. The problem with Loyd's 8th prediction is that it assumes that the labels will crumble all of a sudden, with a big bang. True, when, Napster and many others were at their height, you could be excused for wondering. But today? Please!

  Rather, I predict (if I may be so bold) that the "bells of doom" will in fact be whispers of change, progressively and inexorably nibbling at the cash-cows of many music industry 'institutions,' as well as taping entirely new and until now virgin markets. And as they've been doing over the last year, the major labels will continue to adjust to the new digital reality. We may not agree with their approach, strategy or speed, but considering where they're coming from, they can afford to make mistakes.

Provided by MusicDish Content Express ( Copyright Tag It 2003 ( - Republished with Permission