28 March 2008

Almost Moving Day

It's been a bit busy here, getting the Voracious Teen ready for a trip, dealing with the Less Voracious (But Still Hungry) Teen on his Sprin Break, and doing all kinds of miscellany. So, I offer the following items for your consideration:

  • The old domain will be reopening at a new address over the weekend, including the Warped Weft (quasiessays from this blawg). This blawg, however, will be remaining at this address for at least some time.
  • Lots of strange stuff in the music industry that bears some careful examination, particularly by authors... because the music industry has, for the last half-century or so, anticipated — experienced is probably better, because it doesn't imply any real foresight — the technological and economic challenges that make their way into publishing by about five years. For example, a major symphony orchestra has gone download-only with new recordings — not just stuff from its back catalog. (It's too bad there isn't more from its back catalog in this format, though, as some of the recordings from 1978 through 1986 — which up to now have been available only on vinyl — are truly outstanding.) Conversely, industry gadfly/bloviator Bob Lefsetz has turned the volume up to 11 with his recent screeds. The problem is that his proposed "solutions" may well be as bad as the disease... although, admittedly, it's awfully difficult to see how they could be worse.
  • Continuing with the music industry, Rolling Stone offers a ridiculously gullible breakdown of CD pricing:

    This breakdown of the cost of a typical major-label release by the independent market-research firm Almighty Institute of Music Retail shows where the money goes for a new album with a list price of $15.99.

    $0.17Musicians' unions
    $0.82Publishing royalties
    $0.80Retail profit
    $1.60Artists' royalties
    $1.70Label profit
    $2.91Label overhead
    $3.89Retail overhead

    Where does one begin here? The most obvious problem is that the purported "artists' royalties" (and "publishing royalties" when the artist is also the songwriter), thanks to the structure of music contracts, goes almost entirely to paying off the "label overhead" for the first 250,000 or so copies, and a substantial portion after that gets allocated to other charges in the music contract. And the profit margins are pretty healthy for everyone else, too... keeping in mind that the purported $15.99 list price does not reflect the revenue streams actually achieved, and that "overhead" and "profit" together are what we would normally call "item income" when somebody else pays for it. On this example, the CD was wholesaled out at $12.30 ($15.99 - ($0.80 + $3.89)), so the retail profit margin was $0.80/$12.30 = 6.5%, right? Wrong!

    Then there's the question of whether these are mean, median, or mode figures, which will vary greatly; what genres they include; what retail outlets they consider; etc., etc., etc.

    And whoever says "antitrust" first gets a gold star in relation to the entire article.

  • And it really doesn't get any better when considering purported publishing alternatives. I have yet to see a feasible business plan not based on pulling general-use figures out of one's rectal orifice.