Amazon Scoops the Top Gear Guys. Wait Til They Start with Music

Captain Slow tweeted something earlier this week:  “Good news! I’ve got a new gig. The bad news is that the other two have one also.”

I knew Clarkson et al would turn up somewhere following Jezzer’s silly and inexcusable fallout with the BBC; I just didn’t expect that new home to be Amazon. Up until the announcement, the smart money had been on Netflix. So much for being smart. (ITV was immediately ruled out because there was a non-compete clause in the contracts that prohibited the team from working with any other terrestrial broadcaster until 2017. They can get on with Netflix as early as mid-next year.)

This is a very bold, very serious play by Amazon. By signing the Top Gear refugees, they’re getting the stars of the biggest TV brands…in the world. TG was seen by 350 million people every month and is reputedly the most-pirated TV show…in the world.

Jeff Bezos just muscled to territory held by some very well-entrenched incumbents. Just as Sirius showed they were, um, serious by signing Howard Stern away from terrestrial radio, Amazon has let everyone know that they want to be a playa in the world of IP TV. This should do it–and it should give IP TV an even bigger boost. There isn’t a petrolhead on the planet that won’t want to see the new show, whatever it’s called.  (Side note: As many people have pointed out, Amazon had better make the production available everywhere otherwise it’ll continue to be the most pirated TV show…in the world.)

Amazon also wants to play in the sandbox marked “music,” something they’ve barely touched to this point. But make no mistake: they’re coming. This is from Music Business Worldwide:

A few months back, MBW suggested that a tide was turning in terms of rights ownership: Amazon and Apple were morphing into content creators, and the natural next step was for both leviathans to become record labels.

This was incorrect.

Because Amazon is already a record label.

There was no grand launch, it required a mere modicum of investment and it’s largely a by-product of its other activities.

But the fact remains that ‘Amazon Content Services’ (the online giant might want to work on the sexiness of that brand at some point) has been directly commissioning, funding and distributing recorded music projects for over a year now.

The first prominent effort was the soundtrack to its Golden Globe-winning series Transparent; a US black comedy which tells the story of a family readjusting to life with a transgender father.

The second was a little more traditional; a one-off playlist called ‘All Is Bright’, which saw recording stars such as Liz Phair, Yoko Ono, The Flaming Lips and Beth Orton lay down original versions of traditional Christmas songs – all on Amazon’s dime.

A light dabble in the world of music ownership, or is Amazon getting a taste for it?

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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