The Music Industry: Nine Inch Snails

So Universal signed the Rolling Stones.

Just great.

It's the latest installment in a sleepy record industry that has no answers and thinks with a calculator. After all, the Stones are a great rock and roll band but they are not exactly the future. The deal was made for the catalogue.

When Trent Reznor has to experiment with ways to sell Nine Inch Nails music in a digital world, you know the record industry no longer cares or no longer has any answers.

Live Nation is not the future of the record business. They sign the likes of Madonna and Kanye to guarantee that their concert venues will be full for years to come. They do so with some risk, however -- even though publicly you're led to believe every monster signing is a slam dunk.

Still, it has nothing to do with the future of the record business.

CD sales -- the labels Holy Grail -- continue to decline sharply.

Legal digital sales are not very impressive even if you like the ring of 99 cents.

Can you say Limewire?

There can be no solutions to the digital music crisis that do not involve developing new singers and bands. You'll note that very little has been done to help develop more musical genres and new acts -- unless forcing artists to sign 360 deals is considered progress.

You can understand how the labels could lose their way in 2008 what with social networking running rampant, the decline of radio as the hitmaker it always was and the labels' inability to prevent pirating music over the Internet.

But what was their excuse in 2000?

Radio was still cranking out the hits then -- whatever hits the labels handed them. The Internet had not yet come of age. The iPod was still a gleam in Steve Jobs' eyes and Napster was still a baby.

In the radio industry these days there is no shortage of news events that could have an effect on the industry -- unfortunately, most of these events are negative. But in the record industry there is no news at all.

And in the case of the record labels -- no news is not good news.

It's time for something radical.

A game changer.

Live Nation signing mega money contracts with old singers doesn't qualify.

EMI losing the Stones to Universal is a mere blip on some accountants calculator -- sorry, it doesn't cut it.

Things are so bad that when artists like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have to channel their inner Clive Davis to try something new -- they even fail. After all, they are artists not necessarily entrepreneurs.

The record industry is hopelessly lost.

Waiting for ISPs to charge their customers $5 a month for millions of tunes is not going to happen and even if it did, it's not going to matter because young people don't want millions of tunes the record labels are offering, they want the finite number of songs they like or their friends recommend.

There will be no interesting solutions in time to save the music industry without a new generation of leaders and a comprehensive understanding of what makes the next generation tick.

Suing them? Nah.

Boxed sets? You're kidding.

iTunes? Great for Apple.

360 deals? These deals won't make music better music or sell more music.

Monthly packages for cellphone users? Give them iPhone apps instead.

Where are the new ideas?

Not at the big four record labels who seem to be content to move at a snails pace while they business gets away from them.

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