- Alarmist music industry quote alert: "As things stand now, digital music has failed." That's from the mouth of Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research, in a New York Times article about what might happen if sales of digital downloads stop growing (Nielsen SoundScan reported that in the United States, digital track sales in 2010 were up just one percent over 2009). The article goes on to track how crackdowns on illegal file sharing in South Korea and France have coincided with growth of digital sales, and suggests that supposedly untapped markets opened by cloud-based or services and mobile devices might pull the industry out of its slump.
- An article on the ailing concert industry in The Economist contains a curious bit of logic. The article notes that sales dropped last year, and that 40% of tickets to shows promoted by Live Nation go unsold. The obvious solution? Raise ticket prices. Um... Shall we hear them out?
Live music is one of the few businesses in which second-hand goods often sell for more than new ones. "As soon as a show sells out, front-row seats appear on the web for £600," says Rob Hallett of AEG Live. Tickets to see musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, who insists that entry to his shows be cheap enough for working stiffs to afford, are particularly susceptible to what fans call "price gouging" and an economist would call price discovery. Outfits such as Ticketmaster have tried to capture some of this huge secondary market by setting up ticket exchanges. But this leaves fans confused and suspicious.
Ignored in the piece: the many shows that don't sell out, aren't susceptible to resale markups, and account for one of the industry's largest revenue shortfalls. A cited road to salvation is cheap "early bird" tickets, but The Economist takes a skeptical stance on whether the parties concerned can agree on a plan before the bottom falls out completely.
- Music industry storm watchers who aren't sated by the apparent failure of digital and live music should take note: a few developments at the end of last week could shake up the remaining major labels in a big way. First, The New York Times' DealBook blog reported on Thursday that Warner Music Group had hired Goldman Sachs to find potential buyers for the company, while the company is in the middle of investigating a possible purchase of fellow major EMI.
But that's not all. WMG CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr. was found guilty of insider trading in a French court on Friday, connected to the sale of Vivendi Universal stock in 2002, and a group of investors has initiated an investigation into "whether certain directors and officers at Warner Music Group or others will breach or breached their fiduciary duties in connection with the takeover rumors an in the event of a buyout."
- More industry shake-up: Universal Music Group will lay off about 60 employees as part of a move that includes hiring Larry Jackson away from Sony Music Entertainment.
- If you're a fan of Bob Dylan's book Chronicles, or just of watching to see whether a guy who plays 100 shows a year on a tour that rounds the globe can possibly manage to meet his publisher's deadlines, this item's for you: Dylan has reportedly agreed to a six book deal with Simon & Schuster. He'll write two more installments of his autobiography, the first of which he has already started.
- Speaking of Dylan, the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog is spending the week honoring the 50th anniversary of Dylan's arrival in New York City, with daily profiles of some of the landmarks that played a role in Dylan's ascent to stardom, pieces from the paper's archives, essays, and a playlist of favorite Dylan songs from artists who love him.