Music Startups Aren’t Dead: They’re Just Changing


Rumors of the death of the digital music industry are greatly exaggerated, says former executive Matthew Hawn. While there may not be much room for profiting from recorded music any more, an entire generation of companies are building a different, more exciting future.

For those of us who work in digital music, this week has delivered a nasty one-two punch to the gut. First David Pakman (eMusic, N2K, MyPlay) posted the text of his testimony during US Congressional hearings on his blog. It focused on how prohibitively expensive it is to license music from record labels. Then Peter Kafka, one of the best writers at All Things D, was incredulous that anyone would even bother starting something new in the music space at all.

I’d argue that both of these very smart guys are obsessed with the wrong problem and, on this topic at least, they are as stuck in the past as major labels are.

They both make the mistake of focusing primarily on start-up business models that revolve almost exclusively on getting publishing or performance rights to stream or download music. And by getting tangled up in that mess, they miss the forest for the trees. They’ve forgotten that the music industry isn’t — and has never been — just about recorded music. Sure that part is hard and it’s been shrinking for the last decade, but that aspect is only a part of the bigger picture.

Don’t believe me? Here are some forward-thinking companies who are wisely focusing on other parts of the music world and not just whining about the high cost of licensing music. So what are they doing right? Read the full story at


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