You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why the Pay TV Model Won’t Work for the Music Business

You’ve got to stop e-mailing me Ted Gioia’s article in the Daily Beast about lessons the music industry can learn from TV.

This is what drives me crazy about America, people glom onto something that squares with their worldview, and they trumpet it to high heaven, even though this writer’s got no basis in reality, and the whole missive leaves the consumer and business realities out of the equation.

We had a high-quality carrier in the music business; it was known as the CD. Hell, we even improved it, with the SACD and DVD-A. But the truth, is no one wanted this high-end tech. It hit the market like the DeLorean, too late and too expensive — and out of touch with the times.

Yup, the music industry was there first. The CD was an improvement to most people’s ears. They already had scratched vinyl and high-speed duplicated cassettes. To hear pristine sound was a revelation. The fact that it was tinny and not remastered for the format initially … Well, change takes time. Was every show in HD when you bought your flat panel TV?

And your flat panel is enough for television; the price cratered seemingly overnight. Whereas in music, you need an amplifier and speakers, and it’s all very expensive, while people are notoriously cheap.

Technologically speaking, audio innovation has happened faster than video. We got the iPod back in 2001. We didn’t get video on hand-held devices until the advent of iPhones and broadband streaming. And still most video content is unavailable. You’ve got to steal it.

The barrier to entry in music is almost nonexistent. You know how much money it costs to make those TV shows? Far in excess of what it does an album. And despite endless uploads to YouTube, few have gravitated to network or cable from that platform, because the shows just aren’t good enough.

The truth is, the music business was the canary in the coal mine. The reason files sounded so bad has got to do with bandwidth — the ability to send over thin pipes. The movie and TV industries were laughing, believing their content was unstealable, not realizing that as soon as we got fat pipes, they’d be in trouble. And what have these visual content companies done? Lobby against the high-speed pipes of South Korea and other leading-edge technical nations. Yup, blame TV and movie studios for holding our whole nation back, because the truth is, faster broadband falls straight to the bottom line.

As a consumer, you can listen to music for one low price, all in one place. Try doing that with television. You’ve got to pay everywhere, and it’s only getting worse. You’ve got to have a Hulu subscription, an Amazon one and a Netflix one, and you still can’t see everything, which is why when you delve into P2P statistics, you see that most piracy now occurs in video; in music, we’ve gone a long way toward solving the problem of fair and legal distribution.

The Daily Beast says we can solve our problems by getting people to pay for tracks, by stiffening our backs and telling the public to do it our way. Hasn’t happened yet. Didn’t we try that? Didn’t the RIAA sue people? Did that make revenue jump? Of course not.

The great thing about music is how the constant flow of material renders indelible hits that could not be predicted a moment before their arrival. Like Lorde’s “Royals,” which is so infectious listeners can’t stop playing it. But the truth is, the music game is in the hands of the consumers. The business just follows the trends. And now we’ve got some guy saying we should go back to the old era, where content was behind bars and the gates were controlled by the few.


More Music

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up of late, like fragrant [...]

  • Will SmithNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Will Smith Joins Jaden to Perform 'Icon' at Coachella

    Parents just do understand the importance of Coachella. Jaden Smith was joined in the Sahara tent Friday night by father Will for a performance of “Icon” — as Instagrammed by the proud papa. The footage of Will Smith rapping was shot by Jaden, who turns his smartphone camera around just long enough to photobomb his [...]

  • Anderson .Paak performs at the Coachella

    Brandy, Jay Rock Help Anderson .Paak Light Up Coachella Weekend Two

    Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals took the Coachella stage at the second weekend of the storied fest as the sun descended, but the musician’s fiery set was more than enough to light up the audience. The performance, which featured pyrotechnics including fireworks and flames alongside the rapper’s slinky stage moves, was relatively heavy on [...]

  • Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale

    Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale Date

    The troubled Woodstock 50 festival has run into more difficulties, as multiple sources told Variety late Friday that the April 22 on-sale date for the event has been postponed. Agents for artists scheduled to perform at the festival — which include Jay-Z, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Halsey — [...]

  • Sirius Logo

    SiriusXM Unveils $8 Essential Plan for Consumers Without Cars

    SiriusXM wants to cater consumers without cars, or cars without compatible stereos, with a new $8 plan for mobile and in-home listening. Dubbed SiriusXM Essential, the plan offers access to 200+ channels featuring the network’s entire music programming, as well comedy, news and select sports channels. Consumers will be able to test the new plan [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content