Music + emotion + context + discovery = networked economics

October 30th, 2009

The interest in both the prospect of Beatles downloads and the big sales of their re-released CDs highlights an increasingly important back-catalogue business within the embattled music industry. Struggling to earn money on new artists, record labels are mining their vaults for hidden gems and classic tracks to exploit anniversaries, new generations of fans, demand for collectable re-releases and impetus from new formats such as downloads.

Writes Peter Preston


Radiohead did no have such a good time financially as when Nine Inch Nails released their album under a CC+ licence

Companies, record labels that is, are starting to find ways of mining the back catalogue. Reading Prestons piece for me its all about context – something that SMLXL explored with a major record label a few years ago. But the pain was not enough right then for them to think the unthinkable.

Back catalogues go back to when time began but its all about connecting people to context. Something that I implored Nokia to do with their ‘Comes with Music’ offering. Its no good just offering up FREE – one has to find and create the context and the context of value.

EMI’s Beatles mono box set goes for £199, but has been flying off the shelves as fans covet their own special collection of hand-glued sleeves and mini-vinyl CD replicas.


Contexualise music for me, link, filter, bundle and aggregate, point to link to

Some of the issues that arose from said record label were these:

  1. Everyone tends to be involved in everything. People tend to approach stuff (despite their own expertise, and lack of expertise in areas outside their specialism) with an open mouth….
  2. Within 3 years the physical market will have halved in size (that was a year or so ago)
  3. Our current approach, structure and skill-set are minimising our effectiveness
  4. Decisions get made in spite of our approach, structure and skill-set
  5. There is a certain amount that our division can do on its own
  6. There’s a lot of effort expended making the proscribed  alliances work
  7. Often silo-holders priorities trump co-operation
  8. Our work is currently skewed towards music (there is a lack of broader business experience)
  9. There are “pockets” of potential support in other divisions/departments

If a young person (around 15 years old) looked at us, they would see:

  1. A place full of old people who don’t understand me
  2. A company that doesn’t make enough of the music that I love
  3. They would be surprised how far away from the music we are
  4. They wouldn’t understand how much effort it takes to do well (or not!)
  5. “A business environment”, that doesn’t feel like a community

The label admitted that the label, the artists and the audience were 3 separate entities and realised that finding a solution to that problem was pressing. This was serious organisational stuff. We talked about being the first major socially networked entertainment company..

We did discuss

  1. Simplify music discovery
  2. Recommendation of other music – for instance via “Rock Family Tree” structure (not just artists, but producers, instrumentation). Consider kick-back to recommender, like the USync model.
  3. Story-prompted song selection
  4. create channels of interactivity

Yet none of this was implemented – if you can’t contexualise then you cannot find the meaning in things – as I mentioned earlier today its about: attracting, linking, pointing to, contextualising, aggregating, sharing, embedding, filtering, its a blended reality of offline and off.

And there is a long list of the nostalgia business at record labels  in full swing in Preston’s article, but as he says,

Yet for all the ways of using great recordings, there are concerns that even the dependable catalogue part of the music industry is set for tough times eventually. Paul Williams, editor of Music Week, notes that a focus on the old over the new can only hold up so long. There is a risk of neglecting A&R, he says.

SMLXL archives on music

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