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成功之声

(2008-11-06 20:18:57)
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杂谈

分类: 让你知道
 网络和电子产品的蓬勃发展改变了人们生活的诸多方面,本文从音乐产品的角度阐述了这一发展对音乐的影响。所谓“仁者见仁,智者见智”。
  
  Classical music hardly seems like a growth business. We're forever reading about how concert audiences are graying, and new artists must flounce around fiddling in tank tops and platform heels to get attention (think Vanessa-Mae and the gals from Bond). In fact, classical music is doing a lot better than you might think. Although total sales in all music categories (online and offline) fell 5 percent last year, classical sales grew by a whopping 22 percent. “When I talk to people in the industry, everyone is making money,” says Klaus Heymann, chairman of Naxos, the world's biggest independent classical-music company, based in Hong Kong.

  So why are Heymann and his peers singing such a different tune? Because classical retailers have been the best at exploiting the potential of online revenue. The biggest companies of the classical genre are now earning about 20 percent of sales from digital music, double or triple the average for other categories. This is a tremendous advantage for them, as selling music in the digital format can be twice as profitable as it is offline. The bottom line: while this may well be one of the worst years for music sales in general since charts were started in the 1960s, most classical labels expect revenue to continue to rise.

  Classical music has proved to be ideal for the digital-music era. The complex and subtle nature of the recordings makes them tough to pirate; the classical customer is technologically savvy and more likely to buy in bulk, and the viral nature of the Net has allowed the music to be heard by new audiences, fueling overall sales. “The classical-music sector has done a very good job of maximizing the opportunity of the Internet,” notes Mark Mulligan, a digital music analyst at Forrester Research.

  It's all part of the “Long Tail” theory of cybercommerce, in which companies do a good business selling a few units of many, many things. Many other musical genres still follow the traditional “big hits” business model: 80 percent of revenue coming from 20 percent of inventory (that's why labels generally push a few artists very hard). Classical is different—consumers like to geek out on niche recordings, reveling in different versions of the same work or finding obscure versions of well-known pieces. Of the 146,031 tracks offered by Naxos online, about half have sold only 10 units or less. Still, that was enough to push digital revenues to a quarter of the company's total $82 million in sales for 2006, increasing profitability and helping offset a decline in offline sales. Heymann, a serious classical buff who started the company 20 years ago, says, “We could live very comfortably if from tomorrow we never sold another CD.”

  Classical also benefits from the fact that most users want to buy an entire album, rather than a single or two. They may also want to download the liner notes, background on the artists, the recording venue, the composer, etc. A pop song can be enjoyed for 99 cents, while a piece of classical music will likely cost more than $10.

  Of course, none of this will save the recording industry from its larger problems. Classical-music sales are about a fourth the size of country's, and barely 10 percent of rock's. Still, the success of companies like Naxos have provided a case study in how to optimize profits with the Long Tail. “Joan Tower: Made in America,” a Naxos recording of the U.S. composer's work conducted by Leonard Slatkin of the National Symphony Orchestra, held the No. 1 slot on last month's classical charts. That meant selling merely tens of thousands of copies, but given that online production and distribution costs are so low, the recording is on its way to becoming one of this year's most profitable items.

  The lesson for labels is that prepackaging global pop stars isn't the only way to profitability. EMI digitalized some of its rare historical recordings by the late opera great Maria Callas, and Decca is resurrecting long-extinct labels like Argo and L'Oiseau Lyre in downloadable format.

  At the same time, some industry watchers believe digital might also help create more classical megastars. Witness the rise of Lang Lang, a young, spiky-haired Chinese pianist who topped iTunes' charts in mid-May. The fact that he ended up on iTunes' main page helped push sales of his new album, “Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4,” even further into the top 15 of the general iTunes charts. “When you see Lang Lang right next to Toby Keith and 50 Cent, all of those artists get a chance to reach the consumer,” notes Christopher Roberts, chairman of Decca, which produced the album.

  Meanwhile, labels are working on the next big digital challenge—how to let consumers search a really, really Long Tail of recordings. Mike McGuire, vice president of Gartner Industry Advisory Research in the United States, notes that virtually all systems of organizing online music data were “designed for three-minute pop or rock songs.” Finding a particular piece of Spanish piano music composed between 1850 and 1920, or looking for multiple movements that add up to a single title requires more-sophisticated technology. That's something Naxos developed for its own businesses, but is far from the current standard of popular digital-music retailers. The upside of this is that the digital revolution has given smaller labels like Naxos yet another way to level the playing field—by selling or licensing their own proprietary technology. Niche search technology is one of the hottest areas of technology development at the moment. A classical label that can score on that front may find its audience—and its sales—get a lot, lot bigger.

  经典音乐很难被视为有增长潜力的商业门类。我们永远读到的是音乐会中听众以老年人居多,而新艺术家们必须穿着小可爱露肩背心和厚底鞋才能引来注意(想想陈美和其他邦德女郎们)。事实上,经典音乐比你想像的可要好得多。尽管所有音乐类别的总销售额(包括网上的和网外的)去年下降了5%,经典音乐销售收入却剧增了22%。“当我和业内人士交谈时得知,每个人都在赚钱。”纳克索斯唱片公司(总部设在香港的世界上最大独立的经典音乐公司)主席克劳斯·海曼说。

  那么为什么海曼和他的同行们能够唱出如此不同的曲调呢?因为经典音乐零售商们最好地挖掘了网上收益的潜力。这家经典音乐界最大的公司目前20%的销售收入来自数字音乐,这是其他音乐类别平均水平的两到三倍。他们的巨大优势在于,网上销售数字格式音乐要比网外销售利润多了一倍。底线是:尽管目前或许是自有音乐排行榜以来所有音乐类别销售最差的年份,大多数经典作品仍然有望盈利。

  经典音乐已证实是数字音乐时代的理想之选。经典音乐唱片复杂微妙的特点使得盗版很难;经典音乐的消费者技术上更趋理智、更有可能大量购买。而互联网的特点使得这些音乐能够为新听众所聆听,从而带动了整体销售额的增长。“经典音乐部门在最大限度利用网络方面做了很好的工作。”福瑞斯特研究公司的数字音乐分析师马克·马利根说。

  这都是电子商务“长尾理论”的一部分。长尾理论认为那些销售类别很小却品种繁多的公司将会有很好的业绩。许多其他音乐流派仍遵循传统的“大热门”商业模式:80%的收益来自于20%的产品(那就是为什么新艺术家被逼得很紧的原因)。恰好与此不同——消费者喜欢寻找“利基唱片[译者注:利基是指通常被大公司忽视市场缝隙]”,他们热衷找到同一作品的不同版本或是某个著名音乐段落的晦涩版本。在纳克索斯公司网上的146,031条音乐作品里,有一半仅仅卖出10套甚至更少。即便如此,这也足够推动数字收益达到该公司2006年8200万美元销售总额的1/4,网上销售的增长有助于抵消网外销售额的下降。作为一个20年前开办了这家公司的严肃的经典音乐行家,海曼说,“即使明天一张CD都卖不出去,我们也可以过得很好。”

  经典音乐同样得益于一个事实,大多数用户想得买整张专辑,而不是一两首曲目。他们还想下载唱片封套说明文字、艺术家背景资料、录制地点、作曲家等信息。一首流行歌曲只需付费99美分下载,而一首经典音乐作品可能要花上十多美元。

  当然,这并不能解决问题众多的唱片业。经典音乐销售额只有乡村音乐的约1/4,还不到摇滚音乐的10%。不过,纳克索斯公司的成功为如何利用长尾理论优化利润提供了一个案例。就拿琼·托尔的《美国制造》来说,纳克索斯公司制作的这张由美国作曲家作曲、伦纳德·斯拉特金指挥全国交响乐管弦乐队的唱片,在上个月的经典排行榜上居于榜首。这意味着仅销售一万张唱片,但是考虑到网上产品的发布成本极低,该唱片很有可能成为本年度盈利最丰厚的唱片之一。

  关于唱片的教训是预先包装全球流行明星并不是唯一获利的途径。百代公司将其有历史影响的稀有经典唱片,如已故的伟大戏剧家玛丽亚·卡拉斯的作品数字化,而迪卡唱片公司则重新将久已绝迹的如Argo和 L’Oiseau Lyre的唱片制作成可下载的格式。

  与此同时,一些业内观察家相信,数字也能够帮助制造更多的经典音乐巨星。有鉴于郎朗的兴起,这个头发竖起的中国年轻钢琴家5月中旬成为iTunes排行榜的首位。而他在iTunes主页的出现帮助了他的新专辑《贝多芬钢琴协奏曲第1~4号》的销售,该专辑进入了iTunes总排行榜的前15位。“当你看到郎朗在托比·基思旁,而且只要50美分时,所有的艺术家有机会被所有的消费者认可。”迪卡唱片主席克里斯托弗·罗伯茨说,正是他制作了这张专辑。

  同时,专辑名称正在迎来一个巨大的数字挑战——怎样让消费者寻找一个很长很长的长尾唱片。美国加特纳工业咨询研究公司的副主席迈克·麦圭尔说,几乎所有的网上音乐数据组织系统都是“为长度为3分钟的流行音乐或摇滚音乐设计的”。寻找一件在1850~1920年作曲的西班牙钢琴曲,或是寻找拥有同一名称被多种运动演绎的音乐作品,需要更复杂的技术。这正是纳克索斯公司为自己的生意所研发的,但是它还远没有达到流行音乐零售商的现行标准。这个优势是数字革命给纳克索斯这类的小公司另一个游戏场——通过销售或授权他们的专有技术。利基搜索技术是目前最热门的技术研发领域之一。一件经典音乐作品可以被搜索出来从而面对其听众,而它的销售额则会变得很大很大。

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