Bob Ezrin: "Now, so, here we are. The year is 2005, the music industry has lost 30% of it's value. We're convinced that digital downloading is the death of the industry, that because of digital downloading, people will never buy anything ever again. And people are distracted by video games. We've been told that, right? The video game industry is taking over, it's the new music business, all this other stuff. Here we are, people are distracted by video games, and they have so many other things to do.
Well, I remember in 1978, when the music industry lost 30% of it's value. The cassette machine was all pervasive, and everybody was copying music on cassettes and sharing with their friends. NO! [laughter] And the industry was convinced that that and the VCR were kill … the VCR was going to kill movies. You guys may have read about this, but they thought the VCR was going to kill movies, and the cassette machine was going to kill the record business. People had stopped buying records. Why?
People stopped buying records, because a) we had a tired format. We were overpriced, and we were putting out shit. [applause] And two things came along to save the record industry. Two things. Three albums, and a new format.
The three albums were Eagles: Greatest Hits, Thriller, and The Wall. And the new format was the CD. Everybody liked it, it was sexy, it had a little drawer. “Feed me!” “Okay.”
And then it would play music, and people … you know, it wasn't about like, you know … and people were convinced, “Wow, that sounds so much better!” It doesn't. It sounds like shit. It's horrible. But … and that's another story, and we'll spend hours on that one. But, anyway, they loved it. It was exciting and it made them want to go out again. And then they heard this music that they just fell in love with … Michael Jackson just blew their minds, and The Wall got them back into rock music again. The Eagles, people were singing and rocking … and it's almost like the whole industry took like an upwards, you know, like … just a step up in quality. So much more good quality stuff started to come out. And that stimulated the business, and people got back out there and spent their money.
We're in 2005. We've lost 30% of our business, people are copying our shit. We have a tired format! We have a tired format! I'll say it again … We have a tired format! This box is so limiting. Like, who decided this?
I had this argument with Diane [unclear] seven years ago. I said, “This thing that you guys keep putting out, one size fits all. It's got to have, what is it now? 14 songs? Gotta have 14 songs, and it's going to cost $18.98.” So it's kind of like this … I go to a car dealership and I say, “You know, I work four blocks from my house. I want a little four cylinder sub-put-put, just for the weather, to get me from home to work.” And they go, “Fuck you! You're taking an eight cylinder, seven seater SUV. That's all we sell … or, you're walking!” What other industry in the world says to people, 'You know what, not only do you only get one kind of thing, in one shape, at one price, but you have to go to one place to get it!' What is that about?!
And instead of owning the future, instead of being alert to the changes that were coming their way … it's not like these guys didn't know about it, you know. It's not like there weren't people like me who were crying out in the wilderness from, from the year 1980. In 1980, I gave a speech to BMI and an interview to Record World where I talked about that. We all knew what was coming, we had wires in our house, right? We all had wires in our house and people were pushing stuff. It was TV, but it was coming into our house. How long was it going to be before it was going to be music? Why do we need boxes, why do we need stuff? Why don't we just go 'Barbra Streisand – People'? [humming] You know, why not?
It's the future, and the industry just hung onto this because they couldn't understand how to monetize a new sort of futuristic model. And they hung onto it so long that they were … the ship has sailed. It has so sailed, by the way. Who was I talking to about this yesterday? Anyway, the ship has sailed so far, it's in Tokyo. And our industry, our guys, the leaders of our business, are on the dock in New York firing shots at it with a blunderbuss hoping to sink it. It's over. It's really over.
So, anyway, we need a new format. We need better stuff. We need a better pricing structure that's more sensitive to what the audience wants. It's not that the audience wants to steal, you know, this is not stealing, they don't even perceive it as stealing. They're just interacting with stuff. They're interacting with it the way it has to be interacted with. You open up … I open this up and it says, 'Find something.' So, I go okay, I'll find something, you know. I'm not saying, “Well, I'd better not, because I'm stealing from people,” you know. “Bad box, don't tell me to find things.” You just do it, you just find things. It's like channel surfing, you don't think about it.
So the audience isn't stealing from us. They're taking the stuff from where ever it's being made available. The difference is we're not making it available as an industry. We're not. We're not. Our leaders have led us into a big dark hole.
I, for one, think this is the best thing that's ever happened. Because I think that only with the great flood comes purity, again. And … and I feel like, you know, we needed an ark, and we needed all the really cool people on the ark, and all the heads of record companies outside. [laughter] And we need a great flood, we need a big flush. We need a big flush in our industry … we need a big flush in our society, but we need a big flush, and then come back and start again. And that's kind of what's happening right now. We're getting a big flush. The rules as we know them are changing. Five years from now, remember this date, five years from now there will be a whole new way of finding music that you want, and having it where you want it when you want it, and it's not going to be anything you're doing right now.
It will be different. I don't know what it is. It will probably be through the air, but it will be different. And the CD business will be consigned to sections of large stores, big box merchandisers. You'll be going to Circuit City … I think you'll also be seeing them on the counters at Sketchers, at Starbucks, at everything else that starts with an 'S'. [laughter] But anyway, it will be everywhere. There will be little CDs everywhere, and they'll be for like 2 bucks. They'll be for nothing. 4.99 for stuff that you only use as a temporary way to take it from that spot and put it into your other device, whatever your device is. There will be stations where you'll just aim your wireless, whatever it is, and you'll just suck it up, and you'll get a bill. Cha-ching. Goes on your credit card. Thank you very much. Love that song. You can walk and have it.
With all due respect to the [unclear] Abrahms, and XM and satellite radio, I think those guys have got a lot to worry about. I think that that's a transitional technology. That's my humble opinion.
But anyway, here's where we are, today. Where we are today is we're in a time of incredible transition. And we're in a time where the rules as we know them have changed, and even though most of the people in the industry around won't acknowledge it, it's over. That which we knew before is over. There's still a little time to get in, if you want to get in, you can still do a little something.
But my message to you guys is let the business go through it's big flush. Let the business guys shake up. Let them become … let Warner Brothers go into the goddamned toilet. Damn them anyway, damn those people for what they did. I swear to God. It's the legalized rape of an amazing asset. But they've got my masters too, and I'm just pissed about this, about what they've done to what was once a, you know, a … there was so much great stuff on those labels. But anyway, let them go into the toilet. Let all that stuff go down. You guys just make your stuff. Make it, make it really really good. Share it with your friends, and let them share it with their friends. And let it disseminate naturally, virally, we say, or whatever the catch phrase is. But let it just … let it roll, you know? Let it go out there because it can. Let it be accepted because it's great. And let people come to you and say, “Do you mind if I burn this for somebody else?” “Sure.” And your stuff will find the new medium. It will find it, and it will find you.
You know, my greatest advice to you right now is to remember that in the beginning, today, and tomorrow, there's really only music. And that's it. Any questions?
[Note: If you like to improve your english, you can watch the video on the right and read along simultaneously. If you're German, you may want to check out the German translation
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