New Voices

While I was sunning myself, Doug Kaye posted the most recent episode of Voices in Your Head. This one is my interview with John Buckman, CEO of Magnatune Records. This is the first of a couple of music episodes of the show. As much as I love interviewing authors and aim to continue doing it in the future, it is nice to interview someone entirely about music for a change. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Published by


Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

11 thoughts on “New Voices”

  1. I listened to this on the train this morning, and it was engaging (not unlike EGC clambakes). I’m really impressed with Buckman’s attitude about things, and admire his goal to run a “transparent company.” It’s hard not to appreciate a company working to improve a really jacked up situation.

    The “downside” is that I’m now on the Magnatune site and am tempted to spend a lot of money. 😉 Even if I do, though, it’s awesome that the company splits profits 50/50 with the artists. That’s profoundly great.

    I thought the interview was standard Slusher excellence. =) I’ve been a silent fan for a few weeks now. I dig your show(s), they’re good stuff.

  2. Ken Kennedy says:

    I’ve had a lot of luck at ITC this week. The VIYH was really, really good…you asked some great questions, and Magantunes rocks. The only sad thing to me is how out of the mainstream Buckman’s ideas appear to be; most media companies just Do Not Get It. At ALL.

    Add that to the Doctorow and Lessig pieces, and I’ve had 3 5 star ITCs for the week. Joy! Thanks again, Dave.

  3. Bill Riski says:

    Dave – great interview. Well researched on your part. Very good questions. And John B. seems to really have a refreshing approach to selling music on-line. Along the way I learned a lot about the main stream music business. I gave it ***** (5) over at ITConversations. Listened to it on my iPod during my bus ride into Washington D.C. this morning.

    Bottom line: anxious for more of your series & will certainly check out Magnatune web site & support some ‘starving artists’ via this new channel.

    Later – Bill R.

  4. I’ve been been mentioning the website for a while myself (very small voice in the podcasting wilderness), so it’s nice to see a ‘big shot’ podcaster notice the value of such independant websites..

    I kind of feel vindicated for plugging them (and the awesome range of music) now. 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dave Slusher has posted an audio interview with CEO John Buckman.. It’s a good interview, but Dave sounded a little sceptical and a quite disinterested, which is not his usual style.

    Magnatune is a Record Label that actually has some v…

  6. Paul says:

    While I support and applaud what Buckman’s doing with Magnatune, his broad-stroked tarring of the record industry as corrupt is inaccurate and self-serving. His overview of the music business was entertaining and he made many good points, but some balance would’ve been good.

    Yes, most major labels do accounting hocus-pocus in order to maximize their profits and screw the artists. However, in his tirades, Buckman needs to distinguish more between independent and major labels when making such charges.

    Despite his claim to the contrary, many, many independent labels are consistently able to sell less than 20,000 copies of a CD and stay adequately healthy…and, yes, even pass along a significant (and often more than fair) amount of that profit back to the artists.

    I work for a distributor that often considers selling 1500 copies of a release to be the break-even point. After that it’s gravy, and the artist gets a judicious ladeling of said substance, along with a full accounting of royalties and where and how promotional dollars were spent.

    The company I work for isn’t the exception to the rule, either. Yeah, there’s corrupt independent labels and distributors. But there’s good, honest ones out there, too.

  7. Dave says:

    I don’t understand the “disinterested” charge, nor “skeptical”. I disagree with him on the value of the single song sales – he thinks the album is the only reasonable unit of sale yet iTunes, MPeria and BitPass are all doing fine at the song level. I care a lot about what John has to say, because I think he’s the thing edge of the wedge to changing the world more to my taste.

    Paul, I don’t think you need to be so defensive. While he didn’t qualify it out every single time, it seemed obvious to me that he was not talking about the smaller labels when talked about the mismanagement and graft in the music industry. I know folks at or on small labels myself and I don’t consider them tarred by his brush in this interview.

  8. It wasn’t a charge Dave. It just seemed in a couple of places you were trying to ‘hurry’ the interview along. *shrug* you did ask for comments, etc. Sorry, it wasn’t meant to offend, just some of it came across as though you were not really clicking with Buckman (which is not always easy.. yes I do know that).

    Your interviews with some of the artists you play have been quite a bit more energetic.. It definitely was a “good” interview, just indicating what I noticed (again, you did ask for feedback, I do apologise if I am somehow stepping out of line here).

  9. Dave says:

    Brendan, I did ask for feedback and I thank you for it. I was just surprised because my experience of it was much different. Bear in mind that I do have a lot going on when those are happening – I’m trying to make sure that my recording is still leveled correctly, following my notes, listening to what they are saying, trying to decide where to take the conversation and take notes to perhaps add in new topics on the fly. It should sound like a conversation, but I’ve got a lot more going on than I would at a cocktail party.

    I think part of what you are hearing is the difference in the stakes. I’m not controlling the conversation as closely in the clambake interviews, which gives it a different feel. I might try lightening up the ITC interviews in that direction a little, but these games are played for different stakes. I can be more adventurous when there is less to lose.

  10. Paul says:


    For all Buckman’s philosophizing about The Long Tail, he neglects to mention adequately a significant part of the music business: the independent sector. Y’know, the one that still manufactures and distributes CDs the old fashioned way, while also selling downloads directly and via other internet delivery services….the people he kinda competes with.

    Of course, it’s an understandable omission, since the interview is about his company, not his competition. But there’s a couple points I’d like to follow up upon, for the sake of a balanced view of the issue of music distribution, both traditional and non-traditional.

    I just skimmed through the IT Conversations file again to see if, perhaps, I was projecting when I declared that Buckman had used some unrealistically broad generalizations during your interview with him. I checked before and after the remarks he made (detailed below) for context, noting especially if any qualifier was made to distinguish independent label behavior from that of major music labels.

    * “In today’s world of CDs and [music] distribution, if you’re gonna make a CD and you’re planning on selling less that 20,000 copies, it’s not gonna make it as a business. You’re gonna go bankrupt.”

    later, again:

    “The bottom line is, unless you’re selling 20,000 CDs, you’re gonna go bankrupt moving boxes of little plastic all over the world trying to sell it. It’s a bad business to be in, and everyone from the artists to the distributors to the labels has to act in what I call an evil fashion just to survive.”

    These statements were not framed by you or Buckman in a manner that would split hairs regarding indie/major business practices (that’s my job. heh).

    It’s also necessary to address Buckman’s contention that the music business “makes a product that costs 30 cents and sells it for $18.00.” This is a widely perpetuated (and, in this instance, a self-serving) half-truth and is, at best, disengenous, considering the source. Anyone who’s manufactured something knows that the raw material price of a piece of merchandise is only a fraction of what it actually costs to bring it to market. The disk itself may cost 30 cents (when made in bulk of 8 or 10,000 or more), however, the packaging costs about a dollar, promotion, advertising, labor and warehouse space costs cash as well. The true cost of an average independent new release CD, figuring in the overhead, is probably closer to $4.50 or so.

    Regardless, very, very few labels and distributors that I deal with sell their CDs directly to the consumer for $18.00. Indie distributors usually sell full-line CDs to retailers for between 6 and $10.00, then the store marks them up about 35 or 40% percent. If a middleman like a onestop is in the supply chain, they mark it up another 10 to 15 percent.

    Since Buckman sells CDs via Magnatune, he knows this as well as anyone in the business. Or maybe he doesn’t. The problem is, he states obfuscations and sweeping generalizations as facts because they happen to support his particular business model. Unfortunately, the facts don’t happen to support his argument.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A recent IT Conversations Voices In Your Head segment found Dave Slusher interviewing Magnatunes CEO John Buckman. A couple things Buckman said provoked responses from me in the Evil Genius comments section. Dave calls me defensive, and I guess I…

Comments are closed.