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.

Variable pricing in online music

The era of fixed price music downloads may be coming to an end. Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, has called record company executives "greedy" for pushing for higher prices on Apple's iTunes internet music store. Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. responded by saying the price of downloaded songs should vary depending on the popularity of the songs and the artists and calling Apple’s flat rate of $0.99-per-song "unfair".

While it might be nice to see $2 Britney Spears tracks if it means two quality songs for a dollar, it's hard to trust record companies with ... well, anything regarding money.

EFF Guide to DRM

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published a guide blasting digital rights management in online music stores, particularly iTunes.

Many digital music services employ digital rights management (DRM) — also known as "copy protection" — that prevents you from doing things like using the portable player of your choice or creating remixes. Forget about breaking the DRM to make traditional uses like CD burning and so forth. Breaking the DRM or distributing the tools to break DRM may expose you to liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) even if you're not making any illegal uses.

In other words, in this brave new world of "authorized music services," law-abiding music fans often get less for their money than they did in the old world of CDs (or at least, the world before record companies started crippling CDs with DRM, too). Unfortunately, in an effort to attract customers, these music services try to obscure the restrictions they impose on you with clever marketing.