A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record baby, right round round round."

There's a lot of talk about the dire straits (ha!) in which the music industry finds itself. Record labels claim that illegal downloads are killing them, and so they have started suing people who've been using file-sharing sites and whatnot. The Clash (snort) has been pretty nasty. Now look, I'm a Mac person when it comes to computers, so I have legally bought all my music, either through iTunes or from CDs I have purchased. I believe that stealing is wrong, and I believe artists should be compensated for their work.

However, I believe the music industry will never defeat this type of behavior. People will always find a way with technology-- look how few hours it took people to hack the iPhone. Instead, the recording industry needs to come to grips with the real problems that have caused the number of CDs purchased in this country and around the world to decline precipitously.

First of all, CDs used to be much more scratch resistant. Now, you breathe on the things and they're ruined. I hate that.

Second, the price. Eighteen bucks? You gotta be kidding me.

But the greatest problem is quality. For too long, the recording industry has taken an "artist" who has one or two good songs, then slapped 7-10 crappy songs into an album and expected the sheeple to just fork over 18 bucks without a murmur. You have signed the flavor of the month, record companies, and tried to dupe us into buying albums that did not provide value for the money. Thus, people go to file sharers to get only the songs they like and avoid the garbage. When I was a wee tot, one could avoid this problem by buying the 45 (Explanation for those under 40: it was a little record with a popular song on the front and another song, called the "B-side" usually, on the back. Sometimes the B-side sucked. But sometimes they were neat quirkly little gems.)

Now there are some albums that sustain themselves all the way through. But they are usually by people who don't get as much airplay on the radio as they deserve-- often people who belong to some tiny label that lets them follow their inner muse, God bless 'em.

Artists have been standing up for themselves against the conglomerates themselves:
Prince freed himself from record labels years ago. Paul McCartney, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have followed. Now the Material Girl appears to be kissing her big-name record company goodbye for a cool $120 million.

Could U2 be next? Justin Timberlake? Coldplay? Do superstars even need traditional multiyear album contracts when CD sales are plummeting and fans are swiping tons of music for free online, or tuning in to their favorite bands via YouTube, MySpace and other Internet portals?

“There’s a prevailing wisdom that many established acts don’t need a record label anymore,” said Bruce Flohr, an executive at Red Light Management, which represents artists such as Dave Matthews Band and Alanis Morissette, and ATO Records, home to David Gray, Gomez and Crowded House, among others.

Boston ceased publishing for years while they and their record label were involved in a lawsuit, and when they finally broke out of that deal, they were down to two guys whose moment had passed. Aimee Mann is now self-published after she had had loads of mistreatment from recording companies. Madonna just famously left her record label that she co-founded. Radiohead just announced that they will release their latest album In Rainbows online and are allowing fans to pay whatever they want for it. It's an intriguing idea.

The lack of quality is a real issue, and the recording industry needs to face it. Have you ever had the experience of buying an album on the strength of one or two songs, and then finding out that the rest of the thing is just rotten? It's infuriating. They must think we are American Idiots-- apologies to Green Day.



At 10/23/07, 8:37 PM, Blogger Mike in Texas said...

I think the record companies are getting exactly what they deserve. For years they have ripped people off for CDs, and surprise, surprise, people found a way around it.

At 10/26/07, 10:02 PM, Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

Oh good gracious, I'm sending your post to my hubby who's been selling import collectable CD's and vinyl for years - we've discussed this very thing for ages as we've seen the industry change and the record companies have only themselves to blame. Nearly 12 years ago Pete Townshend started selling his own material off his website and it was better quality and better packaging than anything you could ever get from a major label. (Even today, imports still have better sound, and better quality - domestic stuff is usually crap). The bands don't need the big labels at all. Between bloggers, websites, email lists, and what not, there's no need. I'm a huge progressive rock fan (Porcupine Tree is my favorite band) and they aren't with a big label and have been successful with labels that tend to be more artist run - they produce great material with neat packaging and lots of bonus stuff. Great quality, too, probably because the label is artist-driven (as opposed to stockholder, lawyer, or accountant driven)

There's no reason on this earth why a domestic CD should cost more than 9.99. But the record companies have packaged crap (Britney Spears anyone?) and have overpriced themselves. Little do they realize, but not one of my 7th graders buys CD's. They burn, they download, or they ignore music altogether (which freaks me out). There's a whole generation lost when it comes to music. Amazing how short-sighted these stupid record labels are!

At 10/27/07, 9:46 AM, Blogger MommyProf said...




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