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July 27, 2010

Part 1 Summary

The record industry is suffering because they assumed they were selling music when they were actually selling technology that was associated with music. They were not interested in developing the technology and now they can't control it.

Music has always derived its value from being shared. If it is not shared, it loses all value and the culture suffers. Unlike a q-tip or a burger, the more music is shared, the more it is valued.

The power of music to help people learn, define their collective identity and bring them together has been used to sell ideology. Thus, value accrues to people who control access to music's reproduction or performance because they determine which music people hear.

Music's beauty and inspiration have been used to sell power. Thus, value accrues to those who can afford the most prolific and in-demand music-makers because they control access to the best musical experiences.

From its very beginnings, the effect of the copyright law was to create a temporary monopoly over the application of technology to recording and distributing music, not on the music itself. Thus, the primary beneficiaries of copyright laws have always been owners of technology, not creators of intellectual property.

From the very beginning of music technology, music has been used to sell technology. Without music, some technologies would never have been viable, much less a world changer.

Broadcast technologies proved the most effective way to use music to sell ideology, power, and technology. Being able to control the content as well as the technologies of production and distribution gave a few companies incredible market power.

Digital technologies ended the temporary scarcity of recorded music, just as analogue technologies created it. Greater value now accrues to music that is shared free of technological constraints and the companies that tried to halt the technological dance are struggling to find some lurve.


"Selling music" has always been about using a musical experience to sell something completely different: ideology, power, or technology. With 21st century production and distribution costs greatly reduced, the competitive advantage of the major labels has been eroded and many others can enter the market. Since the cost of the technology to the consumer is now almost nil, value accrues according to the music's social and cultural significance.

This post is the summary of Part 1 of Dr Huge's "How the record industry got it so wrong". The latest version of the complete ebook can be downloaded here and a hard copy can be ordered here.
Posted by DrHuge at July 27, 2010 10:28 AM

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