Britney and Unfitney (The Big Four Labels)

The world is worried about whether Britney Spears is going to off herself eventually and Dr. Phil McGraw got himself in trouble for allegedly reaching out to Spears and her family for the purpose of furthering his top rated TV show.

So who should the record industry call when they can't call ghostbusters?

Dr. Phil, of course.

The record industry is suicidal. Unsafe at any speed. It's long overdue for an intervention. Please, Dr. Phil --it needs your special brand of tough love.

Let's look at how Britney and Unfitney (The Big Four Labels) are alike.

1. Britney has been seen in public without her panties and the record labels are the emperor with no clothes. The labels are losing share in CD sales, legal downloads are declining and artists are circumventing the major's like never before. So what do they do? The world's largest label, Universal, refuses to renew its long-term contact to allow Apple's iTunes to sell its music. In other words, a pissing match is more important than gaining market share.

2. Britney had a meltdown at her MTV awards performance and the labels are having one right now with Apple. Apple -- not the labels -- has control over iTunes pricing. Thank God for that or else these self-destructive labels would force them to implement variable pricing which will really cause a nose-dive in legal digital sales. (Check with the record buying public and you'll wind up kissing Steve Jobs on the lips because 99 cents is the high end of what they are willing to pay for legal downloads).

3. Britney holds her children hostage and the labels hold their customers hostage to an ongoing pissing match it has with Steve Jobs. The big four labels have agreed to sell their songs free of digital rights management (DRM) on Amazon, but only EMI does the same on iTunes. See what I mean about suicidal? There is no rationale that can defend making DRM free music available on Amazon while the company that owns a 70% stranglehold on the digital music market is ignored. The labels are more interested in getting back at Steve Jobs than selling music -- the biggest digital music resource they have.

4. Britney married K-Fed and the labels married the RIAA. If your customers hate you already -- and increasingly refuse to pay for your products -- why not piss them off further by suing them for ripping CD they legally purchased on their hard drives. The RIAA bullied The Washington Post into issuing a correction to a story they ran about the topic. RIAA argues the tunes were made available to public files that can be shared but they won't unequivocally say that consumers have the right to copy legally-purchased CDs to their hard drives. Good PR at RIAA is like good PR at Guantanamo. No such thing.

5. Britney exhibits self-destructive behavior in trying to win back visitation rights with her children and the labels show self-destructive behavior in trying to get radio's royalty exemption removed. If CD sales have been declining for all but one of the past seven years and even digital sales are declining, you can't get along with Steve Jobs and your artists are bolting to play record executive, why not try to get radio's royalty exemption revoked. That sounds like good psychology. Everything is going so badly, why not take everyone else -- even loyal friends and business partners -- down with you.

6. Britney refuses to have herself committed and the labels refuse to commit themselves to helping their artists win in a digital world. When big name acts like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails decide to give their music away in what's tantamount to an auction, it's time to go on medication. When Prince decides to give away his CDs by stuffing them into newspapers -- tabloids at that -- you've got problems. Maybe one-sided contracts and not enough attention has caught up with you. These tactics are not the new record business, they are symptoms of how artists are now joining consumers in losing confidence in you.

7. The last thing that Britney needs is a diet and the same is true of the record labels. Cutting back and trimming staff or doing one more big merger isn't going to solve anything. You've lost me at "How Low". Growth companies grow. Underachievers cut back.

Today, Steve Jobs gets up at MacWorld for his much anticipated preview of new products that his customers have been waiting for. Even though Jobs is not on TV, he will be on YouTube and Typically 35% of my college students have seen Jobs' speech within 24 hours. Most of the rest are familiar with what he has said at such events.

No television show.

No radio broadcast.

No record release can create this much anticipation.

Is it any wonder, then, that the winner and still heavyweight champion of the music media business is Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

What does Britney Spears and Unfitney (The Major Labels) have in common?

Both are time bombs waiting to explode.

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