Sorry, Pirates — Your Business Model Has Been “Disrupted”

This video is about a half-hour long, but it’s worth watching all the way through, as there’s a lot of interesting stuff in it. Marc Geiger is the head of the music division of the huge William Morris agency, and he’s obviously a smart guy — but he only has to turn out to have been half-right about the predictions he’s making now, and the consequences will be enormous. One of those consequences is that the business model of on-line piracy is broken (and yes, it is a business; its advocates, enablers and proprietors like to pretend that they’re all ideologically driven, on a now old-fashioned “information wants to be free” basis, but really it’s all about advertising revenue). The pirates are about to sink beneath the waves of the changes that are coming.

Okay, here’s my partial takeaway from Geiger’s speech. He’s predicting a massive revenue surge for the music content industry, based on the streaming business model replacing the file download model, which has already pretty much kicked the ass of the old physical media model such as CDs, DVDs, etc. He’s certainly right about that much, and he’s probably right that this revenue surge will go through the big players, the Apples and Googles and Amazons, dominating the field; outfits such as Pandora and Spotify, etc., will be absorbed or wiped out.

Why is this the death knell for the pirates? Because the pirates’ business model, what made their operations attractive to the consumer of recorded media — music, movies, etc. — was the enormous cost savings to that consumer. Get in bed with the pirates and you had access, through a not very attractive user experience, to thousands and perhaps even millions of music recordings and movies that you would otherwise have had to spend thousands of dollars (tens of thousands of dollars for the real enthusiast) for your selection out of that pile. Whatever was wrong with the piracy experience was offset by the enormous amount of money you saved, to get what you wanted from them. That all changes when the streaming model finally takes over. Get in bed with the pirates then, and what do you save? Ten, fifteen bucks a month? Sure, some people will make that choice, but the vast majority of consumers won’t. Which of course hammers the pirates’ revenue stream — what companies will choose to spend their advertising dollars with pirate outfits, when they only get a minuscule fraction of the audience that the streamers get? That swamp in which the pirates sail is already drying up; they’re not able to charge for ad spots on their websites what they were able to even just a couple of years ago. Eventually their already thin profit margin will fall below zero, and then they’re out of business.

There are a lot of things I don’t like about the future on-line landscape that Geiger predicts, and I’ll probably do another post about that. And of course, nobody has a perfectly clear crystal ball, including him. But whatever the exact nature of that future, one thing is pretty certain — Piracy is so 2008. It’s done. We just have to wait for the wreckage to wash ashore.

Kawaii & the Darkness

Cecile Tiger Again, a new to me Japanese primitivist-pop girl group; can’t get this damn song out of my head:

I’ve never been quite sure why the US never developed a similar kawaii popular-music element (though strictly speaking, these Cecile Tiger Again girls are more kawaii-influenced than true kawaii), given the ongoing sexualization-masked-as-innocence tendency in American culture. (My significant other watches what she calls her “favorite train wreck” television show, something called DANCE MOMS, which makes my skin crawl with its perfect sleaziness. Surely it’s the preferred mainstream TV programming for paedophiles all over the world.) Then again, there’s a certain sly, subversive element to some kawaii, with a lot of the girls being their own autonomous agents more than any number of sullen, snarling “riot grrls” ever were.

My latest theory, which I’m still mulling, is that kawaii (at least as a musical performing style) came to exist there rather than here because of the relative unimportance (or perhaps even absence) in post-World War II Asian pop of the dark Celtic strain that still informs so much of American pop music. The sunniness in American music is always just a brief interval before the murderous clouds roll in again, whereas these Cecile Tiger Again girls and their sisters inhabit — or at least have the ability to pretend that they do — some sort of timeless pubertal paradise. This seems to be the case especially when you start talking about the primitivist mode. Musically, the Handsome Family (currently out of Texas, though originally from Chicago, I believe) aren’t any more sophisticated than Cecile Tiger Again, but lyrically everything ends up badly in Handsome Family songs, or starts out that way and you get some redemptive light with the final chord, whereas kawaii girls don’t have that problem; they’re just happy, without the gloomy Celtic super-ego dampening their spirits. More power to them, I say.

Here’s another, live version of the same song. Are the girls actually playing their instrumental parts on their phones? Finally!

Here’s a Freebie Offer for My Friends & Readers

I’ve been listening to the e-book marketing gurus, and what they’re telling me is that I need a mailing list, to let people know about new books and stories of mine as they become available, special promo offers, all that sort of thing. I had kinda been using this blog for that purpose, as I always post something here about new books, etc., so that anyone who subscribed to the blog would get that information automatically. But apparently that’s not really optimum for getting the word out.

So I’ve set up a K. W. Jeter Books & Stories Mailing List, with a sign-up page here. I’d like to get all the followers of this blog, my Twitter followers and Facebook friends, etc., etc., to sign up for it — and I’m not above bribery to accomplish that. So here’s the deal:

Click on the link for the sign-up page, put down your preferred e-mail address, do the little online dance with the confirmation e-mail — I expect you know the drill — and you’ll wind up on a page with a list plus links for all the Kindle e-books I’ve published so far through my personal Editions Herodiade imprint. Pick one, e-mail me the title, and I’ll send the Kindle file to you ASAP. Free, gratis; just my thanks for indicating that you’re interested in receiving news and information about my e-books as I make them available. And that’s all I’ll send out on the mailing list; I don’t feel like spamming my friends and readers and cluttering up their inboxes with a lot of useless stuff, just to remind them I still exist and how wonderful I am. So I hope you’ll sign up, and of course I hope you enjoy the free book.

Time Passes in Los Angeles

Going over the text of my 1987 horror novel DARK SEEKER, getting it ready to put up on Amazon as a Kindle e-book (available now here), was an occasion for some bittersweet reflections on mortality and the passage of time.

As I’ve remarked elsewhere, I loved the old Los Angeles, which is now pretty much gone, alas. I thought it was an exciting and oddly romantic city, in its own dark, twisted way. I don’t recognize the glossier and more crowded version that has replaced it. In my equally vanished youth, L.A. seemed like the place where anything could happen, and it kinda did, for better or worse. The last few times I’ve been there, it seemed dull and corporate, safe and sanitized; I doubt if there are many rough beasts, pace Didion, slouching toward it now.

The book’s protagonist Tyler is seen on the first page, taking the Melrose off-ramp from the freeway. I took the same off-ramp a couple thousand times at least. Back then, in the seventies and eighties, that stretch of Melrose would take you past the Anti-Club, a short-lived hangout where my future wife and I heard some of the first-generation L.A. punk bands, such as Fear and Nervous Gender; an oddly friendly den of iniquity. Also, heading further along Melrose, usually heading toward Aron’s Records in its original location just before Fairfax (I had a huge collection of white-label promo vinyl trolled out of Aron’s bins), you’d go past a postage-stamp front lawn, with a slowly decaying Cadillac permanently parked there — said Cadillac having been given as a tip by Elvis to a local waitress. Where’s it now? Towed away, I suppose, to make room for whatever office tower or condo building took its place. DARK SEEKER is a very car-oriented book; whole big passages take place in one vehicle or another. Re-reading it was like taking the wheel, to drive around a city whose streets only exist in my head now.

Other signs of time rushing past: in the book, phones have cords, and recording studios have reels of tape. My memory is all analogue, I suppose. I toyed with the idea of updating the personal technology the characters use, to drag the book into the digital age, but decided instead to leave everything as a shabby memorial to so much of what I loved, figuring that I haven’t really lost it if I can still remember it.

Dark Seeker for Kindle