Saturday, January 24, 2009

If We All Give a Little...

I have been moved by the change taking place in Washington, and the shift in the people of our country from working from FEAR to working from HOPE. I am basically a very cynical person when it comes to human nature. Once again referring to Steven Levitt's book "Freakonomics": "Morality, it could be argued, represents that way that people would like the world to work - whereas economics represents how it actually does work."
But the big shift that Obama is presenting is not just adding more big government, but asking each person in the US to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to make things better.
In this vein, I have, for the last four years, held an annual fundraiser called "Jazz For The Holidays". I put together a kick-ass band, we hold the event at the Catalina Bar and Grill, the Premiere Jazz Club in Hollywood, CA, and we raise money for the homeless of Los Angeles.
We specifically raise money for PATH Ventures, an organization that is building "temporary transitional housing" for people in need. PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) provides services for the homeless - giving them a place to eat, get clean, use the phone for job placement and creating resumes, etc. But as well all know, once you fall it is hard to get back up - so PATH Ventures gives these folks a first place to live again as they start their first job, or continue in vocational school to work towards getting that job. It is a wonderful organization, headed by Shane Goldsmith, who herself was a homeless person as part of her resume.
This years show in December was the best ever - I was joined by MB Gordy, Karl Vincent, Pat Kelley, Gabe Johnson, Robert Kyle, and guest vocalists Dianne Wright, Crystal Knighton and the amazing Dwight Trible. And when the night was over not only did the sell-out crowd have a great night of music, we raised over $10,000 for PATH Ventures.
What can YOU do this year to Give a Little?...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Big Musical Picture: Where is Digital Music Going?

With 2008 finally biting the dust, it is time for a little review.
CD sales plummeted over the past three years, from 553.4 million in 2006 to 360.6 million in 2008. MP3 (digital)sales grew from 32.6 million to 65.8 million during the same time period, according to SoundScan. (Remember one "digital" album is equal to 10 individual downloads).
Although legal downloads have more than doubled over the last 3 years, they are still a small fraction of the illegal download and music sharing that takes place on the internet.
The cost of production is dropping every year. Anyone with a computer today can now create their own music (there are plenty of scary examples of this on Youtube and other places). A whole generation of music listeners now expect the music to be free, or almost-free.
As Stephen Levitt said in FREAKONOMICS, "regulation of a legal market is bound to fail when a healthy black market exists for the same product". This is why the RIAA law enforcement has not worked. It is the same reason why gun control does not work. You can pass all the laws you want, but a person that wants a gun can always get one on the black market. Even if the US passed a law to make no new guns as of tomorrow, there is an OCEAN of available guns right now that people can get if they want one. It is the same with free music on the internet.
SO then the BIG question is, How do I make money in a FREE MUSIC market? The answer is found in many places: viral marketing, cross promotion, doing it yourself so you have little or no overhead (like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead), or be the person that runs the "tollgate", like Myspace Music. The concept there is that while people stream the music for free, Myspace makes it up in advertising on their website.
We are in a brave new musical world, and I can only hope that those of us that believe in quality will keep up the fight to bring great music into the world, where basic economics does not seem to value our art.