1. What A Difference A Day Makes!
In case you're on a mobile phone or don't have the patience to click through to the Internet, this is a chart showing the switch in position by Congressmen after yesterday's web blackout. On January 18th SOPA/PIPA had 80 supporters and 31 opponents. On January 19 SOPA had 65 supporters and 101 opponents.
I applaud the result, but this tells me two things:
A. Congressmen are woefully uninformed.
B. Congressmen are susceptible to both the money and the people, in reverse order.
2. Neil Gaiman On Copyright
Nobody's got any time anymore so I don't expect you to watch this four plus minute clip wherein author Gaiman talks about his head being turned around by seeing the benefits of the pirating of his books.
But Neil does say one thing incredibly fascinating. At his live appearances he asks, by a show of hands, how many people discovered their favorite author by being lent a book as opposed to going into a store and buying it. He finds 90-95% find out about something via lending from a friend. This has huge implications for music. Once upon a time, you had to wait to hear a record on the radio. Now it's on demand. And sure, in the old days, your friends could play you something and often did, but I found few friends with tastes as far-ranging as mine. I didn't buy albums on a whim, I angsted about my purchases, I only had so much money.
The problem is once everything's freely available to be experienced the game changes. Instead of being dictated to by major corporations, only that with quality survives. This is the worst nightmare of both the corporations and the established artists. It's truly what have you done for me lately. You've got to keep releasing fantastic work to garner listening/attention, because everyone finds out via web chatter what's good and bad instantly.
3. Duff McKagan on SOPA
What I hate about America is everybody feels entitled to what they've got, their job is sacrosanct, they cannot move down the food chain. There's little compassion for the little guy, everybody's driven by self-interest.
So, let's see.
We've got to eliminate Orbitz, et al, to put the travel agents back in business.
We've got to eliminate printers so print shops can flourish.
Hell, while we're at it, let's just eliminate computers so typewriters can come back!
Change is hard. But anybody who resists it is stuck in amber and will be passed by. The ability for everybody to hear everything, as per #1 above, has resulted in a decline in recorded music revenues. But suddenly, every band can know exactly who their audience members are and sell them merch and special productions via Topspin, et al. And newbie and indie acts can raise money for recording via Kickstarter. And stunningly, they own the resulting record and don't even have to worry about recouping, never mind at these ridiculous royalty rates major labels employ.
Furthermore, as stated previously, I believe streaming subscriptions will become ubiquitous, the same way people signed up for ISPs and then broadband. So, people will pay for music. And isn't it interesting that cable companies changed their business model to becoming Internet providers and cell phone companies started selling data when voice matured and started to flame out.
Adjust or die.
I could go on endlessly cataloging the pluses that accompany the minuses of the destruction of the old model. But I won't convince either the ignorant or those defending their old, now threatened position. But I advise all those people to just wait. No one is in control, not the music business, not radio, not the government.
You see America is a great country, and it inspires innovation. And that innovation creates new models that are embraced by the public to the ultimate advantage of businessmen and artists. But the winners and losers might exchange positions and the money might be made a different way.
The public decides. Which is why you should always be on their side.
4. Not every artist is on the wrong side:
Let's see, you've got Amanda Palmer and Trent Reznor and Hank Shocklee, producer of Public Enemy. What do we know about these three musical acts? They have rabid fan bases who support them. These visionaries are hip to the new game, which is really just a twist on the old one. I guess you've got to dip your toe in the new world and see its advantages before you sign your name. That's unfortunate, that too many artists are unwilling to see that their customers are their fans, not radio and retail, and that the future is scary, but oh so rewarding.
By Walter S. Mossberg - WSJ
One of the more
interesting ideas in the new wave of cloud-computing services is the music
locker. This is a service that lets consumers store their music collections on
a remote server and access them from any device, either by streaming the tunes
or downloading them.
introducers a music locker service that does away with the need to upload the
vast majority of your music, while still allowing you to populate your locker
with your songs quickly and easily. WSJ's Walt Mossberg reviews iTunes Match.
Amazon and Google
offer such locker services. But they have a big downside: You have to upload
all your music to your locker first. If you have a collection of several
thousand songs or more, that can take days as most home Internet connections
have slow upload speeds, even if their download speeds are decent.
has introduced a locker service that mostly eliminates that problem by doing
away with the need to upload the vast majority of your music, while still
allowing you to populate your locker with your songs quickly and easily. It's
called iTunes Match, and it's the last piece in the company's rollout of its
massive iCloud initiative, which includes things like wireless synchronization
of contacts and calendars.
Here's how it works.
Instead of making you upload your song files to Apple's servers, iTunes Match
scans the iTunes library on your Macs or Windows PCs, then matches the titles
you have with the 20 million songs Apple has the right to distribute via its
iTunes store. If your songs are included in that 20 million, Apple simply
places them in your online locker. In almost all cases, users will be left with
only a small remnant of songs to upload—such as recordings by garage bands.
(ITunes Match works only for digital music, not movies, TV shows or audiobooks,
even if they're available in iTunes.)
Once the songs are in
the cloud, they also appear in your library in iTunes on computers, or in the
Music apps on iPads, iPhones and iPod touch devices. You can stream the music,
or press an icon with a downward arrow inside a cloud to download it. You can
include up to 10 devices in iTunes Match. Plus, iTunes Match—which costs $25 a
year for up to 25,000 songs—covers any song you own, regardless of how you
obtained it. That includes songs purchased from non-Apple music services or
imported from CDs, or even those that were downloaded illegally.
the cloud icon beside a song downloads it to a device.
I've been testing iTunes
Match on several Macs, a Windows PC, and on an iPad and an iPhone. In general,
I found Match delivers on its promises, despite some limitations and glitches,
several of which Apple told me it will remedy via software updates.
Because of Match, my
music collection is now complete and essentially identical on all my computers
and on my iPad and iPhone, allowing me to access any of my songs from any of
these devices, without manual synchronization via a cable, or paying more than
once for the same song. My Match locker is even accessible from my Apple TV
Match is an optional
addition to an existing free service called iTunes in the Cloud, which covers
only songs you bought from Apple's iTunes store, or which you buy there in the
future. Songs bought from the iTunes store don't count against the 25,000-song
limit in iTunes Match.
Google's music locker is
currently free, but limited to 20,000 songs. Amazon is now offering unlimited
music storage for $20 a year as part of a broader plan that allows storing
various types of files in the cloud.
One nice aspect of
iTunes Match is that even if your songs are in a lower-quality format before
they go into your iTunes Match locker, Apple streams or downloads them in a
relatively high-quality format.
In my tests, I scanned
and matched the iTunes libraries on several computers containing all my
music—about 5,500 songs, a number Apple says is fairly typical for iTunes
users. The process took under an hour, including the time needed to upload the
minority of songs Apple couldn't match. However, I have a mostly commercial
collection and a fast Internet upload link in my home. I have heard from at
least one colleague with a larger library and a slower Internet broadband link,
who says it is taking forever to upload his nonmatched songs to Apple.
In my case, some of my
songs weren't accepted by iTunes Match, and were marked with cryptic icons that
Apple doesn't adequately explain. A handful were declined because of an
unspecified "error." Apple later told me these files were corrupted,
sometimes so subtly that it didn't affect playback. Others were declared
"ineligible." Mostly, these songs had been imported from CD years ago
at a quality rate of lower than 128 kilobits per second. Also ineligible are
things like audiobooks or PDF booklets Apple sells with some albums.
In my case, these
exceptions were reasonable and few, but Apple needs to explain them better. The
company says it is working on doing just that. In the case of the subtly
corrupt files, Apple says a new version of iTunes coming soon will be more
liberal about disqualifying a song.
I also ran into two
Match problems on my iPhone and iPad that Apple says are bugs that will be
fixed in an upcoming release of the operating system for those devices. One bug
scrambles the alphabetical order of songs, albums and artists. Another causes
album art to either never appear, or to show up only when a song is almost done
playing. Apple won't say when the bug fixes will be ready.
There are a couple of
issues that Apple has no intention of changing. One: If a person has more than
25,000 songs, Match won't allow the user to designate a subsection for storage
in the cloud.
The other: On iPhones
and iPads, Apple downloads the whole of any cloud-based song you're streaming,
even if you don't want it on your device. Apple says it does this for smooth
playback, and for playback when you're offline. It adds that all songs stored
on your hand-held devices are now placed in a special cache from which old or
rarely played songs are automatically removed periodically to make room for new
In all, I like iTunes
Match, and can recommend it to digital music lovers who want all their tunes on
all their devices. It's another nice feature of iCloud, priced reasonably
By Bob Lefsetz - Lefsetz Letters
I'm reading an oral history of MTV. I find these
off-putting, good for bathroom reading but disappointing as books, but maybe
the hit and run nature of "I Want My MTV" works because that's just
like the station, it lacked depth, it was in your face, it was the opposite of
MTV changed music. I'm not talking about the music
business, but the music itself. Suddenly how you looked was important. And you
had to fit the genre the station was promoting. Which went from Brit art school
to flash to rap in a decade. Suddenly, music was all about the
heavily-promoted, the heavily-marketed, it was made by beautiful people for
everyone, and the people who weren't beautiful, who'd lived a life of
rejection, who considered music their own private playground, tuned out. It's
like you discovered baseball when everybody was playing cricket, only your
friends and you hit the diamond, then it went on TV and everybody was playing
the game and no new sport could get traction. Either you were on MTV or you
were history. Either you were monstrous or you were irrelevant.
The Web is gonna change the kind of music we listen to.
As a matter of fact, it already has. Lady Gaga is the first Web star. She
wasn't broken by radio, but by videos online, she established that paradigm.
But even more important Gaga was the first social network superstar. She
realized it was about the relationship with the fan first and foremost. You
could create that kind of bond online, the customer wasn't the label or the
radio station or the TV outlet, it was the end user. As for the music itself,
that came last.
In the MTV era the music came first. If it wasn't an
approved genre, you were SOL. Sure, you had to look good and have money behind
you, but if you didn't sound like what MTV was playing, you had no chance. Now
just the opposite is true. The way you connect with your fans comes first. The
bond is the initial attraction. The music comes last. The point is the music
can sound like anything, there are no limits, no rules, no genres you must fall
into. You've just got to have a relationship with your fans and consistently
honor it, put them ahead of all other interests.
Concomitant with the rise of Lady Gaga, we've seen the
decline of the mainstream. Despite what the players and the media have to say,
a mainstream hit means less than ever before. You couldn't be alive in the
eighties and not know Culture Club, you'd seen the video for "Do You
Really Want To Hurt Me". Either you had MTV and watched incessantly or
whenever you went to a friend's house with cable, you turned it on and wouldn't
turn it off. But today an album can go to number one, never mind a single, and
a great swath of the public can have no clue who the performer is, never mind
the kind of music this person makes.
This is a big change.
We might still have mass artists. That's what Gaga is.
But there will be fewer of them. And until there's an MTV of the Web, one
outlet we all gravitate to, and that could be in the offing, we'll have the
niches. Niches guarantee you a small audience. But crossing from niche to niche
is like trying to convince a Jew to become a Mormon, almost impossible.
So instead of being a follower, music online is all about
being different. If you're me-too online, no one wants you. There's only one
Amazon, one Google, one iTunes and there's no room for number two. But if
you're brand new and capture people's fancy, you can become Facebook. Maybe not
that ubiquitous, but Facebook is nothing like Amazon, Google or iTunes,
certainly not up to now, and people clamored for it.
1. Dream small.
This is the opposite of the MTV era aspiration, when it
was about getting on television and reaching everybody. Today your goal is to
reach somebody, a single person, and then have the word spread from there. You
can build something completely new or tap into a niche, but if you're playing
for everybody online doesn't want you. Online is about the site that only
appeals to you. Mass is a lucky accident after the fact.
2. Success is bidirectional.
You must know your audience and listen to it. If you're
playing to everybody you're gonna reach nobody. Try to excite one listener who
will spread the word. And it doesn't matter what age you are, oldsters are the
fastest growing demo on Facebook, they've got iPhones too.
3. The music is important.
But it's not the only thing. If you're waiting for
someone to write you a check so you can stay at home and create and they can
sell, you're missing the point. You rehearse in public. People weigh in on you
along the way. You grow with your audience. And money comes at the end of the
game. Instead of going for a big advance, be your audience's friend, they'll
end up giving you all their money via Kickstarter and concert tickets and merch
4. The music must be available.
Never say no to your music being exposed online. Unless
it's tied in with a product or pitch. Yes to YouTube, yes to Spotify, yes to
iTunes. With so much information out there, it's hard to get noticed, don't be
your own worst enemy.
5. Creativity is king!
It's the sixties all over again. The era of Frank Zappa
has returned. You want people to check out your music to see what you have to
say, to marvel at the insight, the outrageousness. One striking concept is more
important than tens of thousands of dollars in promotion.
6. Different is a badge of honor.
People embrace the outlier. Music has become foreground
once again. Unlike the hits du jour which are used as dance club fodder and
workout inspirers, people are now paying attention to what you have to say. You
can't do skin deep unless you're purveying irony. You've got to go for the
heart and mind.
7. Growth curves are different.
In the MTV era you were a hit overnight. If you're a hit
overnight today, you're gone tomorrow. That's what a YouTube phenomenon is
about, that's Rebecca Black. If you've got millions of views, you're on your
way to irrelevancy. You're better off with fewer hits generated over a period
of years. Your stuff is always available online, you never know when a new fan
will encounter you and decide to check out your entire output. They don't have
to sit in front of the TV and wait for your video, it's all sitting there
online, like a land mine.
The reason records sell fewer copies today is more about
the above rules than theft. Most people just don't care about what you're
selling. If you're striving to become a rich rock star, the Web audience is
laughing at you. What makes you so special? Your pure desire? And you want to
leave us behind? We're right there with you, the more you promote yourself, the
more we're gonna make fun of you.
As for television music competitions, they're the last
exponent of a dying game. And since the acts break all of the above rules, they
don't break, and if per chance they do, they don't last.
Don't forget that the music business was in the doldrums
prior to MTV. It was rescued by something the established players did not
The same thing is happening today. Not tomorrow, but
If you want to have a career, play to the Web audience,
don't care what the mainstream says, don't release music based on holidays and
other arcane data. If you wrote it at midnight, have it out tomorrow. Even if
it's Sunday. Your audience is online. Ready.
Do it for them.
They'll do it for you.
How it Works
Why the iPad?
Composers have copyright over their music until 70 years after their deaths, but for artists who made their names with songs written by others it runs out after 50 years
By Charlie Cooper - The Independent
A ruling by the EU was
expected to enable veteran crooners to receive royalties for their songs well
into their retirements, as copyright for music is extended from 50 years to 70
years. Lawmakers were set to ratify new regulations after a long-running campaign by record companies and
artists eager to secure royalty revenues before the 50-year copyright expires on
hits from the Sixties – often called the golden age of rock and pop.
Known as "Cliff Richard's
law", the new ruling would affect thousands of artists from little-known session musicians to world-famous performers such as Dame Shirley Bassey and Tom
Jones. An EU backed the directive this week and the Council of Ministers was expected to make it law on Monday on Monday, when details are expected to be made public.
Musicians and record producers welcomed the news yesterday. "It's extremely good news," Roger Daltrey, of The Who, said. "Musicians need to be paid. There are thousands of small musicians whose independence relies on the little bit of royalty, for work they did in the 1960s, they get by way of a pension." Though it has been welcomed by major record labels and big-name acts, there were concerns within the industry that the directive would be insufficient to recognise that royalties were owed to many uncredited backing and session musicians, .The Musicians Union declined to comment on the ruling until it became law.
The move would come as a welcome reprieve for the music industry, which is struggling to cope with the growing popularity of free online music. Sales of CDs continued a steady decline last year: they were down 12.4 per cent, to 98.5 million units sold. In the same year, BPI, the record industry trade association, predicted that 1.2 billion
songs had been illegally downloaded.
Pete Waterman, the record producer behind songs by artists such as Cliff Richard and Kylie Minogue, said that he had been campaigning for a change to the copyright law for 20 years. "If people aren't being paid for making music then they won't make music," he said. The new law would apply to performers. Composers already have copyright over their music until 70 years after their deaths, so while the likes of The Who and The Beatles, who wrote their own songs, were already safe from copyright expiry, artists who made their names with songs written by others, such as Sir Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, were threatened with a steady decline in their earnings.
Dame Shirley Bassey told The Independent: "So many of my songs would soon be out of copyright under the old rules. "It's good news for performers of all kinds, from session musicians to great singers. Unlike diamonds, copyright is not forever, but I'm happy it will last a little bit longer," she added.
Music to their ears: The songs likely to be affected
Cliff Richard, 'Living Doll'
Originally released in
1959, when it topped the charts, before getting a second outing in 1986 (as a comic collaboration with the Young Ones for Comic Relief) Sir Cliff's hit, written by Lionel Bart, has passed the 50-year copyright limit. But an extension to 70 years raises the prospect of a third release. Has Sir Cliff got it in him?
The Supremes, 'Meet the Supremes'
The debut album by the
Motown trio, above, which was more successful in the UK than in America, was released in 1962. Produced by the legendary Smokey Robinson it features the
'scandalous' "Buttered Popcorn" track and their first US chart hit "Your Heart Belongs to Me".
Shirley Bassey, 'Let's Face the Music'
The copyright for this 1963 album, which spent five weeks in the charts, is on the brink of expiry.
The Monkees, 'I'm a Believer'
The Monkees, left, laid a handy nest-egg with their 1966 Neil Diamond classic. The single is one of fewer than 30 to have sold 10million copies worldwide. Now that's a lot of
What the stars think...
Roger Daltrey, 67
It's extremely good news. I don't know why there was any argument that this shouldn't be done. The only people who would benefit from it not going through would be bootleggers. Musicians need to be paid. There's tens of thousands of small musicians whose independence relies on the little bit of royalty they get by way of a pension.
That would stop happening without the copyright being extended. I try to avoid getting anything for free off the internet. I hate it, knowing the work that goes into it that isn't paid for. I can afford to. But that's not the issue, it's piracy. It's the little guys that would have been hurt. I can't see who would gain from copyright running out.
Rick Wakeman, 62
It's always a good thing when people are benefiting from work that they've done. Many session musicians in their 70s and 80s are getting £100 cheques at the end of the month for things they performed for albums in the 1960s. We don't want that to stop. I used to sit on the board that represents musicians. Pamra represented recording artists big and small, and that money meant a lot to some of these guys who live off royalties from their old work.
Shirley Bassey, 74
This is very favourable news for the music industry. So many of my songs would soon be out of copyright under the old rules. It's good news for performers of all kinds, from session musicians to great singers. Unlike diamonds, copyright is not forever, but I'm happy it will last a little bit longer.
Pete Waterman, 64
It's excellent news but it doesn't stop the problems of piracy and people that don't pay copyrights, but it does mean that people aren't going to have to worry about their children's income. The thing that everybody forgets about this is that it's not a law that works for Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard and Simon Cowell. It works for everybody. Most musicians, session musicians, are lucky if they get £20 a week out of their copyright. It still hasn't addressed the problem of the pay we get – or don't get – from the internet. Everybody has this view that it's free, but it's not. You pay for the internet through your phone line and provider – they get paid when people use
the internet to download music, but the artists making music don't.
We've been campaigning for this for about 20 years.
After a Decade of Decline, Album Sales are Starting to Rise and New Artists are Turning the Tables
By ANDREW MCKIE - The Wall Street Journal
U.K. band Elbow play a concert at Finland's Ruisrock festival in July.
"ABC, Easy as 1, 2, 3, Simple as do, re, mi..." This cheerful, uncomplicated sentiment, expressed by the Jackson Five to a melody itself so simple that it might have been an attempt to provide a blueprint for the pop song, went to the top of the U.S. charts in 1970.
Some four decades later, the music industry looks a good deal more complicated. There is probably no other business that has suffered quite as much commercial upheaval at the hands of digital media. The recording industry's mood in recent years could be better summed up by the opening line of the song the Jacksons knocked out of the No. 1 slot, The Beatles' "Let It Be": "When I find myself in times of trouble..."
Musician PJ Harvey, the bookmakers' favorite to win this year's Mercury Prize, performs at the Primavera Sound Music Festival in Barcelona in May.
After a dramatic decline in album sales during the past decade, there are signs that things are changing in the world of popular music. This week, Nielsen SoundScan's midyear report announced that album sales in the U.S. have risen for the first time in seven years, thanks to albums by artists such as Lady Gaga, Adele, Katy Perry and Mumford & Sons. Indeed, that target would have been reached even without Lady Gaga's album "Born This Way," which sold a million copies in its first week of release in May.
There is cause for optimism, too, on the other side of the Atlantic. Two of those success stories—Adele and Mumford & Sons—hail from the United Kingdom, which remains the dominant territory for European pop music. In particular, Adele's second studio album, "21," has been the phenomenon of the year, selling more than three million copies in both the U.K. and the U.S., and topping the charts across Europe and as far afield as Brazil and New Zealand.
Rapper Tinie Tempah at the Wireless Festival in London in July.
The singer is also featured for the second time on the shortlist for this year's Barclaycard Mercury Prize, often seen as a barometer of the health of the British music scene. The list, which was announced last week and has traditionally been viewed as a showcase for innovative new acts or critically acclaimed artists who may not have commanded mainstream attention, even found itself the subject of some grumbling on the Internet from those who thought "21" had, by dint of being too popular, ruled itself out as a candidate. Interestingly, the bookmakers concurred, swiftly dropping it as favorite and installing instead "Let England Shake" by the alternative rock singer-songwriter PJ Harvey.
But then, attempting to second-guess the Mercury prize is a mug's game. The shortlist also includes the stadium rockers Elbow (who, like Ms. Harvey, have won before) and Katy B (who, like Adele, trained at the BRIT School for the Performing Arts in Croydon), whose "On a Mission" is an out-and-out pop record. They sit alongside urban hip-hop from Tinie Tempah and the folk music of King Creosote. There used to be the odd nominee drawn from the world of modern orchestral music, though none has featured for some years now. A jazz album—this year it is "Good Days at Schloss Elmau" by the pianist Gwilym Simcock—also usually features on the list, though so far none has ever won.
James Blake performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland last month.
It may be that this very diversity is a key factor in the relative health of the British music scene. UK Music, the umbrella body that lobbies for the industry as a whole, estimates that music contributed at least £5 billion to the country's economy last year, with £1.3 billion coming from exports. While this makes the country second only to the U.S. as a source of repertoire, 81% of the country's music companies now employ fewer than five people.
The primary reason for this shift from the traditional model, in which giant record labels controlled every aspect of a band's career, is technology. While online music piracy has greatly reduced the income from album and CD sales, the same phenomenon has actually increased the market for music as a whole.
In fact, the Nielsen figures suggest that—even before considering the income from direct-to-fan sales, public performance royalties, advertising from sites like YouTube or Internet streaming services—overall music revenue has increased by more than 50% since 2006. At the same time, recording and distribution costs have fallen to near zero. When I interviewed Daniel Ek, founder of the Internet music-streaming company Spotify, last year, he argued that, like home taping in the 1980s, these changes had actually greatly increased the appetite for music.
Adele gives a concert at the Tabernacle in London in January.
"The changes have certainly been complicated, and I'm still in the middle of them," says Pat Kane, of the band Hue and Cry, which had several Top 40 hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s. "We now run our entire business by using what is ubiquitous to drive people towards what is scarce; that is, as everybody knows, what capitalism is all about. The ubiquitous thing now, because of the ease of copying, is recorded music. The scarcity is in live stage performances and unique objects with our imprimatur on them. For example, for our next album, 'Hotwired,' which comes out in January, we might issue the chance to buy, say, an original vinyl copy, with handwritten lyrics and a personalized message, all framed."
This model is an inversion of what was previously the norm, when bands would stage tours, often at a loss, in order to promote a record. With the shift within the industry and the culture at large, however, even the biggest artists have embraced such innovative commercial models. Four years ago, Prince caused outrage in the music industry by giving away three million copies of his new album with U.K. newspaper the Mail on Sunday, and not even offering it for sale in shops. But the artist, whose previous record had sold only 80,000 copies in the U.K., went on to sell out 21 nights at the giant O2 arena in London. Sales of his back catalogue also boomed.
Anna Calvi performs at the Southbank Meltdown Festival in London in June.
"It's very definitely the case that people are considering things that they wouldn't have thought of when we started out 20 years ago," says Craig Potter, the keyboard player with Elbow.
"Putting songs in adverts, licensing, ringtones, that's all part of it now," he says. "We were actually worried about stepping up to arenas, because we didn't want just to do 'fist in the air' anthems, but luckily our more mellow stuff still seems to work with those audiences. But even then, I think we would have struggled if our last album hadn't broken through. For most of our career, people thought we were Manc miserablists." The band won the Mercury Prize in 2008 for "The Seldom Seen Kid," and their latest album, "Build a Rocket, Boys!," is on the this year's shortlist.
Mr. Potter, who is also the band's producer, acknowledges the changes that have been wrought by the ability to record an album on an ordinary laptop computer. "These days, bands can totally do it themselves. And even if producers are brought in, the record company often don't fund it," he says. "People talk about whether labels will even exist in five years time. But when we began, going into a proper recording studio was almost as big a deal as getting signed."
For Elbow, live performances and recording sales have become a virtuous cycle—sales of their latest album skyrocketed after their performance at this year's Glastonbury festival. But both Messrs. Potter and Kane point out that their bands had an audience created under the old models.
"It used to be that 'Top of the Pops' on TV and airplay on [BBC] Radio 1 were what mattered," says Mr. Kane. "People in the business still expect some macro-level solution for the industry. That may come, but I think it may be wishful thinking. Whatever, it has to be a solution that respects a generation that sees universal copying as a reality."
Mr. Potter also points out the disadvantages for bands setting out on a career in the new reality. "Not everyone is going to be entrepreneurial, and getting recognized in the first place is the hard bit," he says. "It's difficult if you're going down to the Job Centre or working in KFC to turn down a wedge of cash that will keep you going for the next year or whatever. And there's a reason why studio recordings work, and it's partly knowing you've got to get on with it because they're expensive. It's a bit different if you're at home with no time constraints, and you decide to go and put a wash on in the middle of a track."
Metronomy play at the Reading Festival in Reading, England, last August.
"The creative challenge is to respond to the new commercial environment," says Mr. Kane. "It is actually reintroducing elements of craft and care and design that have been relegated since the days of the triple-gatefold album."
Anna Calvi, whose eponymous debut album was released by the successful independent label Domino, and whose atmospheric, Gothic music received a boost from videos posted on YouTube, also sees new technology as a boon.
"I think that the Internet has allowed for a lot more diversity in music," she says. "It is a healthy part of the artistic process to be able to show your work, and this is now possible for everyone. Perhaps this has filtered through to labels, and more diverse music is subsequently being signed. It's obvious that independent labels are leading the way in Britain."
Even so, within such a dynamic and changing industry, it may be worth remembering that the same Michael Jackson who topped the charts 41 years ago, and went on to sell more than 61 million albums in the U.S. alone, ended his life with unsettled debts of $500 million. At the time of his death, however, he had hit on a way to settle those liabilities. He was planning on staging a series of 50 concerts at the O2 arena.