Creating a Merit-Based Music Economy: Compulsory or Blanket Licensing for Interactive Subscription Services
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A7. The Power Pillars of Major Music Market Control

When you put it all together, the major labels have a dominating stranglehold on the mass market for recorded music.

It begins with mass media, especially commercial hit radio with controlled-rotation programming, and the way that skews the business towards huge success for a few artists and failure for everyone else. In order to play the game, you have to play big. Otherwise you can rarely play at all. (Even the "alternative" market for indie-label music is often based on similar mass marketing techniques, and behaves like a little brother to the Big Brother market.) This creates a high barrier to entry for promotion.

It continues with the domination of retail distribution, and the ability to make money by selling a product to the audience. That creates a high barrier to entry for sales revenue.

These are the two essential requirements for making a business work:
  1. You have to make your audience aware of your product (promotion)
  2. You have to deliver and sell it to them (distribution revenue)
In the major music business, they both have very high barriers to entry -- I'll call them the two Power Pillars.

If anyone hopes or expects to create a viable alternative to the major/hits/star music market, both of the Power Pillars have to be taken down together. That means there must be:
  1. An inexpensive method for incremental exposure to the appropriate audience
  2. Access to distribution that pays incremental revenue for incremental exposure
If the hits model is a risky, all-or-nothing "pole vault to success" then what is needed is a safer, flexible, incremental "stepladder to success" instead. Mass media are structurally incapable of providing this, so we will have to look elsewhere for a solution.

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