Speaking of digital delivery, do you have an iPod?
I'm on my third iPod now, but I'm not one of those crazy people who have to have everything that has an Apple logo on it. I think there are some things that Apple does very well. Their venture into iTunes and downloading music is really to support the profit they make on the hardware. As a business model, they're really creating demand for a physical product that has a cachet attached to it. It's a standard by which other digital audio players are measured, and iTunes has a workable, operable system that's at least as good as and better than most. It really is the easiest to operate that I've come across, and iTunes, when it comes to ease of downloading, is pretty sophisticated. It doesn't search or give you as many genre options as certain others, but it's still pretty good.
And now there's pressure from the record companies on Apple to drop the price per track below its current level. I think where the price is pitched at the moment is just right. How many cappuccinos with all the trimmings can you buy for the price of one CD these days? Three? Not very many. [chuckles] When you price an entire classic CD - whether it's rock, pop, blues, or classical -as throwaway as two and a half cups of coffee at Starbucks, very enjoyable though they may be, they won't be with you a few hours later. We don't seem to value the music we listen to very highly these days, when you compare it to other disposable products that we seem to guzzle without thinking. I think music, arguably, is already underpriced, and those who think it should become cheaper, or even free, are talking out of their bottoms. Music is not valued the way it should be, and I would be very disappointed if the price came down.
But we have to remember that the future of music depends on new artists, and new people getting infused about new music, new people working at record companies and publishing and the recording industries and the marketing and promotional parts of the whole business. And if people aren't able to do that properly, there will be no new music. You can't expect there to be the investment in the artists of tomorrow unless the whole business of recording, marketing, and promoting music is going to be profitable for the many, many people involved in that process.
That's why most artists may be prepared to give away music on their websites as a promotional tool. It's the same way that record companies traditionally have given away 20 percent of the records for free for marketing purposes. That's happened. That's the real world. That's the way it goes. We can be pretty sure that artists giving away their records have to think about giving away records for the rest of their lives to stir enough interest for people to go out and actually buy them.
Are we at a critical point? Is there any turning back, or any solution in your mind?
It's about managing the system for the benefit of who comes next - managing the system so that we're going to see profitable and healthy companies. We should expect that people can make reasonable levels of profit so they can invest wisely in the music of tomorrow, whatever that might be. Whether we like it or not based on our ideas of musical merit isn't the point, it's about giving future artists the opportunity to do what's been done in the last 40 or 50 years of commercial music. It's about as cheap as it can be.
Of course there are people out there who feel that music should cost next to nothing or simply be absolutely free. I hope they don't get their way. Otherwise, there will be no meaningful music. The reality is, even if you're just talking about making music available on the Internet, nothing is for nothing. There are discernible costs attached. You have to get people's attention and get your product noticed. Then you have to find other ways to market and promote that, via the Internet or other traditional media in order to get people to go to the right website on the Internet to go download your music. There are still going to be costs attached to the delivery of any kind of music anytime anywhere. Those costs are just a part of the healthy democracy in which we'd like the Iraqis to live. If a lot more people had had iPods, we may not have had the Spanish Inquisition or the troubles in Ireland or the former Yugoslavia. We may have been able to soothe some troubled souls.
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