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April, 2011

The Unbundling of Media

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the changes in the record business. Mostly how we are living in a period very similar to the days of the radio single circa 1950-1960. Where an artist delivered the single and a “B” side to the radio stations and hoped these would drive demand of their tours, fill concert halls and let them sell buttons, stickers, posters and t-shirts.Today everyone has access to EXACTLY the content they want and no longer have to wait to pick up the entire album to get the content that they really want or even buy the single.

I came across this article by David Putnam and thought it was appropriate to share.

…… The new devices we use to access information and entertainment are wreaking havoc on traditional business models based around ad sales. But I think the biggest change is the way new modes of consumption are forcing the unbundling of packaged media across a wide spectrum of industries.

In music, the carrier format shifted many times, from vinyl to cassette to 8-Track to CD to MP3. In all but the last shift, the content owners controlled the format changes. Along the way, largely driven by the allure of bundling economics, record labels started packaging songs together in albums rather than selling them individually as singles. This allowed the unit price to go up 3x – 6x. If singles cost $2 – $3, records cost $12 – $18. Consumer went along with it.

But as digital emerged, the labels were faced with a harsh reality: over the decades, consumers began to prefer singles. There was no economical way to get them, so we bought full albums to get the 1-2 songs we really wanted. We wanted the album unbundled, but we had no choice. With the emergence of alternative distribution (like Napster and then iTunes many years later), the latent demand for singles was unearthed and havoc ensued.

It was havoc because the labels had not prepared a business model or cost-structure for the unbundling of the record. They had grown accustomed to higher-margin and higher unit-priced albums. We started to witness the unbundling of media. And it took the record industry more than 5 years to offer digital singles for sale legally. Now, music industry total revenues are down more than 50% since their peak in 1999, and continue to fall every year. The biggest culprit is not piracy, it is the fact that consumers, when they buy music, are buying 10% of what they used to, because they only need to buy the single, not the album.

In print, newspapers and magazines have taken a bundled approach for decades. It is impractical to pay for editorial content by the article. Bundling articles into convenient formats like newspapers and magazines solved a distribution challenge and made the economics of selling editorial possible. Once editorial went digital and we could consume information by the article simply by following a link, the unbundling began. Today it is still impractical to charge consumers by the article, so newspapers are trying to convince us to subscribe to digital bundles.

But as it was with music, it is getting harder and harder to imagine this model holding for the vast majority of editorial we consume, since we are discovering more often what to read by following a link passed to us through social media. It might be from The New York Times, but it also might be from Reason Magazine or The Nation or Huffington Post. In looking back at the totality of the editorial media we consume online these days, I imagine it is from a far more diverse group of sources than in the past, making it harder and harder to justify these monthly subscriptions to bundled media, despite the model of metered access being touted the latest great hope for print pubs.

I believe the same unbundling is now happening to traditional and cable TV networks. For decades we watched networks. They made judgement calls about what shows we would like, and we had little choice, so we watched them. The economics of cable TV networks are fantastic (with their dual advertising and subscription revenue streams), so more and more of them popped up. But thanks to DVRs, and now internet video, we stopped watching networks and now only watch shows. We don’t even care on which networks they appear, nor do we tend to know. This is the unbundling of television. And if consumers could only pay for the shows they watch and not the 500 channels times 22 hours per day of other programming I pay for but never see, we’d spend a LOT less on TV than we do know, and the total subscription revenues of cable networks would crumble. Until we have real choice among digital distributors, this is not likely to happen. And the powerful forces of TV networks are working very hard to make sure we must be paying them even if we are watching shows online somewhere else (read more about TV Anywhere here.)

My observation is that unbundled media results in smaller markets than bundled media by artificially inflating total revenues. Some will say, “if you only bought (TV shows, newspaper articles) individually, you’d have to pay (10x, 100x) what you are paying now.” That is only true if you assume the cost structures must stay the same. And when media is unbundled, the cost structures do NOT stay the same. They are forced to radically alter themselves and become more in line with what the market is willing to pay to consume those atomized bits of content. We won’t pay $120 per TV episode. We’re willing to pay something closer to $2 per episode, and so production costs are going to have to fall dramatically. Mobile devices and the social web are accelerating the unbundling of media. This is the great disruptor.

Feel free to contact him at dp at venrock dot com Or follow him on twitter: @pakman

Its a brave new world people, strap on a helmet and get in the game.

Kelly Warren CEO
Your Pressing Needs
Kelly Warren
Co-Founder / CEO

Pressing Media: Adding CD Text Register with the CDDVB & ISRC Codes

Pressing Media: Adding CD Text & ISRC CodesSource: Kelly Warren, Vancouver

Publication date: Dec 4, 2015

Adding CD text to masters, Registering with the CD Database and ISRC Codes:


A CD-Text “Block” may be made up of a maximum of 256 so-called “Packs”. 4 packs are needed for internal purposes. The other 252 packs can be used for CD-Text information. Each pack contains 12 characters. Thus a total of 3024 characters of CD-Text can be saved.
One character is needed as a separation character per track, thus with the maximum number of 99 tracks (+ 1 pseudo-track for the CD title), 2924 characters remain. If artist and title are entered for every track, 2 * 100 characters have to be subtracted, as artist and title are saved separately (so 2 separation characters per track are required), i.e. 2824 characters still remain – there are still 28 characters per track (for artist and title, i.e. e.g. 19 characters each for artist and title or any other distribution)!


It should be strongly noted that many (if not most) CD Text compatible players will truncate the titles when they go beyond the player’s own particular limit:
i.e. A Denon player  displays only a maximum of 31 characters (including spaces) per each field and there are some Tascam units that apparently display a maximum of 24 characters per each field.
So any more than 24 characters may not display.


After you’ve received your pressed CDs from us, it’s important to take one more step and upload your stuff to the Gracenote CDDB (Compact Disc Database), so that all your identifying information (album title, artist, and track titles) is available to everyone else. You can do this using third party software (Winamp or QMP), or you can just use iTunes (and an internet connection). It’s not very hard to do. Here are the steps:
• Insert the CD in your computer CD drive
• Do not import the CD yet
• Select all the tracks, right click and select Get Info
• Click the Info tab and enter the album title, artist name, year and genre
• Right click in each song title fields (Track 1, Track 2, etc.) or double click to edit to  the individual track names. Double-check for typos and make sure you have the track order correct.
• When you are all done, click, OK.
• If you want other users to also be able to see the correct album title, artist information, and track titles, highlight all the tracks again, go up to the top menu bar, and click Advanced / Submit Track Names to upload them to the CDDB Database. That’s it.
• If you want the database update to happen a bit faster than a few days, repeat this process from another computer/iTunes account. This speeds the Gracenote “verification” process up because you are essentially “verifying” the database entry from another computer.
For more information, see the Gracenote FAQ for artists, labels and publishers. On an interesting side note, Gracenote is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corp. of America. No kidding.

Note that entering the title and track information does not “encode” that information on the CD. When you enter the artist and track information for a CD in iTunes, that data is kept in a file on your computer, and when you reinsert that CD later, your computer recognizes the CD and supplies the data in iTunes. If you have followed the instructions above to upload this data to the CDDB website, others who insert the CD – or an exact copy of it – in their computers can see the data if they are running software that can access that database (like iTunes). CDDB matches the data to the CD when the CD has the correct number of tracks of exactly the correct length, so if you edit the CD, you’ll need to upload the data again.

Here’s another tip: In the process of recording a song, you may make multiple versions of the same track. When you are uploading these preliminary mixes of a song to iTunes in order to listen to them, you can use the technique above to enter the correct song track title and artist name, but call the album name something like Mix or Demo instead of the final album name. This avoids confusing all the non-final versions of the same track with the final version. It’s way better than having a billion Track 1 files, too.

I hope this will help you avoid the same sinking feeling many clients have when they put their newly pressed  CD’s in a computer for the first time !


ISRC – International Sound Recording Codes

For publishing your music, an application must be sent in to the ISRC: the international identification system for sound and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. This provides the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments from radio play, syndicated TV, film & video.

102 ISRC Format
arrow Country Code: represented by two letters (GB), which identifies the country of residence of the registrant at the time the ISRC is allocated.
arrow Registrant Code: represented by three digits (SRT), assigned in sequence from the ISRC database that is unique for each record label / master owner. This code does not change if ownership of the recording changes or if licensed to another repertoire owner.
arrow Year of Reference: represented by two numbers (04), identifies the year in which the ISRC is allocated to the recording which will usually be the year in which the full mastering process for the recording is finalized.
arrow Designation Code: five digits assigned by the producer / owner as they choose (00441).
example of an ISRC code

An ISRC identifies a particular recording, not the song itself. The CD format allocates encoding space for the ISRC for each track. It is applied in the authoring or premastering stage by the mastering engineer and must be prepared onto the master CD before the glass master is processed for manufacturing.

ISRC is administrated in the USA by US ISRC Agency: www.usisrc.org

ISRC is administrated in Canada by AVLA: www.avla.ca

A one-time fee is charged to issue the registrant code which is good for life and allows up to 100,000 tracks per year. Once you have submitted the songs to the indexing services, registered the ISRC codes, and added them along with the CD text, the master is now ready to be submitted for a professional release.

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