The Columbia Records Plan To Save The Industry

A few weeks ago The New York Times Magazine had a cover story on Rick Rubin, the co-operator of Columbia Records these days.

Rubin was pictured in a white robe in the yoga position with his beard and long hair flowing and his eyes closed. Unfortunately, or perhaps appropriately, the photo was taken in Malibu -- a yoga paradise.

The article, written by Lynn Hirschberg, was titled "Can Rick Rubin Save The Music Business" with the subtitle "Or, Can a Recording Guru Be a Mogul Too?").

If you're pressed for time, let me answer the question.


Rubin is a talented creative guy who has been responsible for a lot of good records. He has the ear and the skill to handle talent, but judging from what I read in the article, he's clueless about the deep crap the record industry is digging itself into.

Rubin, a man who brags about not showing up to the office, is looking at building new Columbia Records offices -- perhaps in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills. I guess that's so he can say he doesn't even go to a nice office.

And tell the recording artists that he's building infrastructure on their backs because one of the hair brained ideas that is attributed to him in the article is that Columbia Records may ask artists to give them up to 50% of their touring, merchandising and online revenue.

Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, is saying tell us it ain't so, Rick. She's quoted as saying, "Artists should never give up that money. The companies are all scrambling because of the Internet and they will screw the artist to meet their bottom line".

Ya think?

Okay, let's see what else a guru has up his long sleeves to turn this baby around.

How about Rubin's idea to make the iPod obsolete.

You heard me right -- make the iPod obsolete.

A record label that can't even make the iPod work for them is now going to annihilate it.


By offering young consumers who don't go for spit when it comes to subscriptions -- a $19.95 a month subscription to a music service (hasn't this been done already?).

In his fantasy, Rubin thinks consumers will pony up to pay $19.95 (did I mention that price?) and they'll be able to hear millions of songs anywhere. Cellphone, car, computer, TV.

Did anyone tell Rubin about the lack of WiFi or WiMax coverage? Never mind.

He then drinks Sony's Kool Aid by envisioning a Walkman-like device that would plug into speakers at home (didn't Steve Jobs think of this without the yoga and no hair?).

I'm getting light-headed here.

The service can also have demos, bootlegs, concerts, whatever context the artist wants to put out -- as the article said and once all of that is in place Rubin says the industry will grow 10 times the size it is now.


What world are these record cats in?

Young people want to own their music not rent it.

Compare iPods/iTunes to Rhapsody.

They want to steal music not buy it.

They're not going to start buying when they've been stealing since they were teens (and their not confessing it to their priests, either just like their parents aren't going to get excommunicated for using birth control).

There's lots more to get excited or depressed about in the article and I leave it to you and whatever supply of Zoloft you can get your hands on because you'll need it.

The inconvenient truth (has anyone used that term yet?) is that to stop piracy and sell tons more downloads, the labels will have to sell their tunes for a lot less than 99 cents!

Now I can see label execs getting out of the Lotus position and jumping into the Pacific Ocean.

The music industry can survive if it listens to Steve Jobs.

As much as the labels hate Jobs, he is absolutely right -- make the music one price and make it cheaper. And I add, cheaper than 99 cents a song. (Scroll down and see my piece yesterday on this topic).

It's not all that bad.

The record business can be saved tomorrow if it does the opposite of what label executives say today.

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