The music industry continues to suffer from lack of vision, Wired reports this morning.
The report discusses the vexations faced by RealNetworks in its dealings with the major labels. The company has approached the labels with a number of ideas. Sometimes they see one or two labels backing an idea, and the other three or four rejecting it. When this happens, the initially enthusiastic label also withdraws. No one wants to make a mistake.
Music industry insiders compare this to the behaviour of A&R teams. A&R men, the industry joke says, will be watching a band. Rather than make their own decision, they will turn around to another A&R man and ask: "What do you think?" This is why independent labels often sign more cutting-edge music than the majors, they say.
RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser told the Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington this week of his frustration in getting the labels to offer "creative pricing beyond the 99-cents-per-download model", Wired reports.
"On a host of packaging issues, Glaser said he can often get a couple of major labels on board. But then they hear that a couple of other labels aren't playing ball, and they back off for fear of being the only ones to make a mistake. The result, according to Glaser, is the "lowest common denominator".
RIAA president Cary Sherman told Wired that "executives at different companies don't all agree on how to market and price downloads".
"They don't know what to do," he said. "They are afraid of doing the wrong thing."
Music-industry fears are shared by some, but the manager of the UK's own Billy Bragg is optimistic, telling Wired: "I don't see how the Internet won't make us tons and tons of money."