Breaking music

This article explains the record industry's futile attempts to stop piracy of compact discs.

The fact that so-called digital rights management might always be a doomed experiment became painfully clear with the fiasco that erupted after Sony BMG Music Entertainment added a technology known as XCP to more than 50 popular CDs.

After it was discovered that XCP opened gaping security holes in users' computers - as did the method Sony BMG offered for removing XCP - Sony BMG was forced to recall the discs this week. Some 4.7 million had been made and 2.1 million sold.

Factor in lawsuits that Sony BMG could face and it's worth wondering whether the costs of XCP and its aftermath might even exceed whatever piracy losses the company would have suffered without it.

That's not even accounting for the huge public relations backlash that hit Sony BMG, the second- largest music label, half-owned by Sony Corp. and half by Bertelsmann AG.

"I think they've set back audio CD protection by years," said Richard M. Smith, an Internet privacy and security consultant. "Nobody will want to pull a 'Sony' now."

It's amazing to me that so many smart people don't seem to get it. Maybe by getting burned this way, they will change their approach and adopt a new attitude towards the digital transfer of music. That said, here's why they probably won't.

[From page 32] In this counterfactual world with 30% less file sharing, the lower 75% of the distribution of sales is shifted further to the left, while the top of the distribution increases its sales. This is what should be expected given the estimates from above. Artists who are unknown, and thus most helped by file sharing, are those artists who sell relatively few albums, whereas artists who are harmed by file sharing and thus gain from its removal, the popular ones, are the artists whose sales are relatively high.


Greenleaf Music is still a new business. And it's still a new area of the business. We've had a lot of questions. So, to answer a few of them:

We still make CDs with specially designed jackets called digipacks. They are available by mail order through our store, We offer them at prices below the chain record stores, and SHIPPING IS FREE in the U.S. They usually arrive (within the U.S.) in a couple of days. We do this because we believe in passing lower prices on to our listeners, and we feel that at this point artists and listeners are best served by a direct relationship, with no middlemen. We count on our listeners to spread the word about their satisfaction with the music and service.

We ALSO offer downloadable music. It's the same music, but it comes directly into your computer instantly. You can get most of the information about the release at our site, but downloadable music does not come with the digipack.

Finally, we have a subscription plan; for a flat fee, subscribers receive a single track every month (a track that is not available any other way). Subscribers also get free CDs, discounts at, and the knowledge that they are helping make this independent model work.

Thank you everyone for your support. And please don't hesitate to contact us with any other questions, comments, or suggestions.

More music coming soon.

Dave Douglas chat transcript

On Thursday, December 8th, we hosted a live chat with our very own Dave Douglas -- read the transcript now!

Wait, you mean we can't keep selling the same music over and over anymore?

A Bloomberg article reports record company executives are finally realizing what normal human beings already know: the step from CD to mp3 isn't just another format bump that requires consumers to purchase The White Album all over again. Many people, instead of rebuying their music collection through iTunes (or whatever), are simply (and legally) converting their CDs into mp3s and transfering them to their iPods (or whatever). Gasp!

Of course, rather than focus on producing quality new content, media companies would rather break our televisions (and related devices), which is roughly analogous to intentionally tripping the girl you have a crush on.

November's subscriber mp3: Kneebody's "Bub"

Well, it's a new month (November, if you haven't been paying attention), so that means a new monthly download for Greenleaf Music subscribers. This month, we're proud to offer "Bub", an unreleased Kneebody track composed by Adam Benjamin and recorded at No Big Whoop Studios in 2004. Intended to be a part of the Kneebody debut album on Greenleaf but left off, it was inspired by a Ben Wendel song called "Hub."

So subscribers, log in and download the mp3 of "Bub" any time you'd like. If you're not a subscriber, well ... if only there was some way you could become one right now ...

Would you like toast on that music?

It seems I've fallen behind on what's cool these days -- I just assumed that toasters were still being used for, well, toast. It turns out that toasters make excellent cases for do-it-yourself music projects like synth boxes, guitar amps ... and something that involves shooting flames.

If nothing else, it's nice to know things in the music world aren't getting stale.

(via createdigitalmusic)

Your ears: right or left-handed?

Diana Deutsch, a psychology professor at the University of California, has studied how left and right-handed people hear sound differently. In this online experiment, a right-handed listener would expect to hear most of the higher-pitched tones in the right ear, even though both channels are exactly the same. Try it, then flip your headphones around and see if the higher pitches switch sides. Iif you're left-handed, you'll probably hear the higher notes on the left. Deutsch suggests, since most people are right-handed, this is why more high-pitched instruments are on the right side of the orchestra.

(via Music Thing)

Dave on Public Radio Exchange

There is a wonderful audio feature on Dave Douglas and the making of Keystone currently running on the Public Radio Exchange. It's called Dave Douglas, Redemption Songs for Fatty. (Free registration required.)

New playlist: Mike Friedman

We have a new playlist currently running on Greenleaf Radio (at the top of the page). Compiled by Michael Friedman, it's a smattering of great Chicago Soul music that Mike has been obsessed with lately.

Digital music is profitable and fun

According to figures released by an industry trade group, digital music sales tripled in the first half of 2005, even as physical sales fell by 2-10% around the world. Mobile phone "ringtunes", pay-as-you-go downloads and music subscriptions combined to offset the recent and persistent declines in overall sales.

Yes, we're shocked -- shocked! -- to find there is music-buying going on here.

Sue who?

A new wave of RIAA lawsuits has brought something else new: a 41 year-old Oregon woman, Tanya Andersen, has countersued the RIAA for fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, and deceptive business practices.

From the filing:

11. Settlement Support Center also falsely claimed that Ms. Andersen had “been viewed

Greenleaf Music Interview with Ryan Kotler

I recently did an interview with doctoral candidate Ryan Kotler about Greenleaf Music and the industry in general. If you're interested, read on.

RK: What are some of the largest obstacles that Greenleaf Music faces at the moment?

The challenges faced by Greenleaf Music are not unlike the challenges facing other start up entities in the record business, or any business for that matter: establishing name recognition, creating a recognizable sound, creating an identity in the marketplace, gaining the trust of the consumer and doing it all expediently so that what we are creating is a fiscally responsible entity.

RK: Are there particular threats to the overall success and viability of running a new independent record label?

There are numerous threats. Difficulty gaining access to the existing marketplace is probably the biggest. Large corporations are in control of all aspects of the music industry. Record companies, distributors, retail, radio, even the press to a certain extent are all owned by a relatively small group of businesses. Naturally they have configured the playing field so that it works best for them. Some of it is simply the natural bigness of these companies and some of it is aggressive tactics designed to lessen competition.

RK: What are some of the biggest opportunities Greenleaf is faced with?

The opportunities are related to the threats because as the saying goes, "nature abhors a vacuum." Big companies have created a vacuum, at least compared to what once existed, in really creative, compelling, heart stopping music production and in the consistent development of artists whose music does not conform to a very narrow range of musical possibilities. At the same time, the internet has opened up new and highly effective ways to reach people (potential customers). We believe there are people out there looking for something beyond what the big companies are offering and we thing the internet is an effective way to reach them . At this point, the internet as an effective way of reaching consumers is still unproven. For us, the next six months will tell a lot.

RK: Are there any existing successful business models that you're trying to incorporate into Greenleaf?

Maybe the closest business model to ours is the A&M Records model (one person does the art, the other person handles the business) but given that we are dealing with such a shifting industry it doesn't really seem to apply somehow. So there are really no companies that I am aware of that are attempting to do exactly what we are trying to do, which, at the most basic level, is to create a new label from the ground up by focusing strongly on the internet for sales and marketing. We are inspired by Lost Highway Records for their 50/50 artist/record company profit sharing ideal. We are inspired by Artist Share for their philosophy that music companies in the current era must learn to harness the power of the digital delivery of music not fear it. We are inspried by individual artists like Chuck D, among others, but in terms of a business model, there is not an easy fit.

RK: What are the long-term goals you have Greenleaf Music?

Our long term goal is to make records and stay in business long term.