Monday, January 22, 2007

detailed notes on fair trade music

my previous post is my whole talk from Moshito.
this post is my notes of just those 7 elements of fair trade for music.
again, the caveat. these notes were meant for me to use on the podium as a guide, so they don't read particularly well. that being said, there is some good stuff in here, if i may say so myself.


I've been asked to speak on “Fair Play” in the music download environments. Probably because Calabash Music's tagline is “The world's first fair trade music company”. We have been very clear since our inception that we are not just another music company, and are out to change the face of the music industry.

I'm going to speak first on fair play, or fair trade, and then cover a topic that most of you will find more interesting. For, i'm assuming that most of us want to do good in this world, but that all of us want to make a living.

The majority of my talk will be on

How artists/labels can get income from downloads


“Using the Download as part of an alternative marketing and promotional strategy”

Let's turn first to fair trade, or fair play. Implicit in any discussion of “fair trade” is a critique of the current state of affairs as “unfair.” I would argue that the major label set up is unfair to artists. Earning 8-14% of sales is unfair. Major label domination of radio and TV broadcasts is unfair. Major label domination of shelf space in record stores is unfair.

It is worth noting that there is no organization certifying music as “fair trade.” However, there are a number of common themes laid out by those businesses engaged in fair trade business, and by those organizations that monitor and certify them as fair trade. These themes are fairly straightforward, and worth following in our opinion.

  1. Create Opportunity for Economically Disadvantaged Producers

You don't need huge amounts of cash to access the market.

  1. Transparency

Agreements should be clear, standard and open for the benefit of all involved. No more hidden fees, costs, etc that were borne by artists where they would end up owing labels after tours.

  1. Capacity Building
Fair trade should help the producer build their capacity. We do this by getting money back to the artist to use as they see fit. Perhaps that money will mean they can do another session, maybe buy some new equipment.

  1. Fair Price

What is a fair-price? This will be determined by the market. Calabash Music is experimenting with variable pricing.

  1. Consumer Education

As consumers learn which places are good for artists, they will make decisions based on which place gives an artist the better deal. This is proven – coffee, etc.

  1. Financial / Technical Support

Some sites help artists understand the available tools, and some will likely work with artists to do innovative and new promotions.

  1. Respect for Cultural Identity

Cultural Democracy possible with downloads. Don't have to log onto iTunes anywhere in the world and see the same bland american pop crap.

How can these conditions be fulfilled in the music industry? This is an industry that has faced challenges in fulfilling any of these mandates, at least in the USA.

The Answer is using the tool know as the INTERNET.

A close second is the need for education, on the production and consumption sides.

For an example of this, it is worth looking at a document written in 1976. The charter of the OAU touches on the last of these 7 themes – cultural identity & the democratization of culture. The internet gives artists, labels and producers the tools needed to meet this charter's goals, and democratize culture, and get Britney Spears, Madonna and JayZ some real local competition on radio and TV around the world.

So, now to the other part of my discussion.

How do artists/labels get income from downloads?

You MUST Use the Download as part of an alternative marketing and promotional strategy.

The download does NOT replace the CD. This is the mistake of the major labels in the USA. They are fighting losing battles on things like DRM, and missing the opportunity. This is GOOD news for independent artists and labels situated outside of the USA and Europe. It means that you still have opportunity to move into markets that were previously controlled by the majors. You don't have to wait for them to select your top seller and then take that act and tour them, or leave them on the shelf. It is now your call. Download sales will be part of a revenue stream for artists and producers going forward that will also include live show revenue, merchandise revenue, CD revenue, synch license revenue, ringtone revenue, and more. Now it's more about building a brand.

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