Missing the beat

Missing the beat

: The music industry still doesn’t get it.

Universal Music just announced that it is doing the exact opposite of what it should be doing with music videos.

What they are doing: Pulling the videos from any online service airing them unless the service starts paying Universal a fee or revenue share.

What they should be doing: Opening up music videos for all to have and distribute freely.

Do we have to beat you over the head with this? Was the 2×4 of Napster not enough? Look at your own experience trying to prevent consumers from getting your product. You failed (but when Apple made it easy, they succeeded, remember?) Look again at the fact that Jon Stewart’s Crossfireicide got at least 10 times more viewers via free distribution on the web — via iFilm and BitTorrent — than it got on big, old CNN. Remember, music men: The network no one owns is far more powerful than the network the big guys own.

What you should do is put your music videos out there as free, downloadable videos and as BitTorrents and something magical will happen: The people will distribute them for you. The people will promote them for you. The people will tell you what’s hot and not by virtue of their links (something you can’t learn via MTV). The people will enhance your talents’ brands. The people will sell your music for you. You will gain tremendous value from our own customers — all for free! You can even slap product placement inside the videos and make a fortune on that; hell, it’s free, we can’t complain. The issue isn’t you giving the people stuff for free; your goal should be finding ways for the people to give you value for free, you fools.

Oh, I know, you’re still fuming that MTV made a business out of showing your videos. But that’s an awfully short-sighted, narrow-minded, greedy way to look at it. MTV kept the music business alive and full of life longer than it probably deserved. MTV sold your music and brands.

But ask yourself something: Why is MTV no longer showing hardly any videos anymore? Could it be that the audience doesn’t care? And now you think that the audience is going to pay services to see your videos or that online services will be able to make — and share with you — a fortune in advertising for showing video people don’t necessarily want to watch?

You’re doing the exact wrong thing: You sat around your conference tables and tried to answer the questions, “How can we stop this or, failing that, how can we make money from this?” What you should have asked instead is, “How can we embrace this? How can this drive our core business, our music?

This is an object lesson for any industry facing the internet and citizens’ media and exploding TV: The right question is, “How can we embrace this?”