Getty Images' acquisition of Pump Audio is an exciting turn of events in the music licensing world. It's a perfect example of how technology can be used to make music more broadly available.
As everything else in the music business, licensing music has by design been a phenomenal headache. For some reason, rights holders seem to think that making things difficult will make it worth more money. I love this quote from Getty Images CEO Jonathan Klein: "There's a focus on licensing a tiny percentage of the catalog in a very complex way with prices in the stratosphere that have no basis in reality to a small number of people. Everyone always focuses on the grand slam, but that's not a sustainable way to build an industry."
Pump Audio is one of several companies who make the process easier. Just go online, browse the songs available and license the ones you want. Like iTunes for licensing. The result will be more music used in more places. It may cost less to license, but we're talking volume over value here.
That's the key to the whole digital music revolution. It's all about democratizing music, making it available everywhere like water -- not locking it up and only allowing the occasional peek.
Will the major labels get on board with Getty's plan? Who knows. But as album sales continue their freefall, I expect they will. Another choice quote from Klein:
"The music industry is in a state now where it has to be more flexible and accommodating about generating additional revenue. The best way to monetize (their publishing) assets is with technology, teamed with a customer base."
Right on brother.
Manhunt 2. OK this may seem like a stretch for a music industry publication, but stick with me here. The decision by both the UK and US videogame ratings boards to give the upcoming videogame Manhunt 2 an "Adults Only" rating is indicative of the growing pains the game industry is going through today.
I've not played the game (as it's not yet been released) but I did own the first installment. Yeah, it's a creepy, violent game. Among other things, it allows you to decapitate characters and then use their head to distract others so you can kill them more easily as well. I walked away from it feeling vaguely similar to the feeling I had after the movie "Seven."
By all accounts from reviewers, Manhunt 2 takes it to new levels of discomfort and darkness. It's set in an insane asylum where the inmates have taken over and do all sorts of horrifying stuff to each other.
Sounds like a horror flick right? Well that's the point.
Horror movies like "Saw," "Hostel," and "The Hills Have Eyes" are free to get the same R rating as less frightening fare as "Knocked Up" or "XXX." But in the videogame world, Manhunt 2 is denied a Mature rating (the industry's equivalent to R) in favor of an "Adults Only one (equivalent to NC-17).
Take this quote from the director of the British Board of Film Classification, which completely banned the game from the country for "its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game."
If it were a movie, this quote would've been placed on the poster. But as a game, it's considered an outrage. Why? Because people still equate games to children. In fact, some in the videogame space would rather it be called the "interactive entertainment" industry to get around this.
And here's where the music industry should care. As Manhunt 2 shows, the upcoming generation of videogames have the potential to elicit more powerful emotions than ever before. With Manhunt 2, it's fear,... but others may spark laughter, suspense, perhaps even tears?
While casual games like Wii Sports are currently all the rage, it will be these more intense "games" that raise videogames to a new level of cultural relevance, and music will play a big role in that -- just like in movies.
It's a shame that Manhunt 2 is being punished for essentially succeeding in what it set out to do.