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Don't Feed the Dinosaurs: or, What the Fossil Record Tells Us About the Record Industry
Facts about file sharing
For starters I'll revamp a comments post I made earlier, with some more detail of course, on why teh record industry is finding itself to be more and more irrelavent. In one word : Internet.
In Brief Summary:
1)Recording: In the past only the record companies had the money and facilities to produce studio quality albums that were fit for consumption. This meant that after a suffcient amount of time writing and playing your songs you went, hat in hand to the record inductry to front the money to get you into the studio with a producer to lay down the tracks of your magnum opus. The record company liked this arrangement beause it meant that right off the bat you were in their debt. After all, if it wasn't for them you wouldn't even have an album out there. You can't argue with that logic. But sadly for the RI the rules have changed. Now, with the aid of some really ingenius software and an off the shelf computer, together with a little know how and a few pieces of essential hardware you can lay down a pretty respectable masterpiece all by yourself. I know this is possible because I have done so myself. A feet that I am most proud of and I owe absolutely $0.00 to the labels.
2)Promotion: In the golden age of the Recording Industry only they had sufficient means to bring your "next Abbey Road" to the masses. It was either go to them or labor on indefinetly in obscurity. Once again, glad to say, the RI no longer holds that absolute power, though in this regard they still mantain the upper hand, for now you can reach a near global audience with the power of the internet. You still have to find a way to get yourself noticed amongst the vast chaos. But your chances are a helluva lot better now than they were before the internet existed. It is in this area that musicians themselves are most relieved to be rid of the Ri. In the past, if the Powers that Be determined that you were not meant for prime time or were considered old news then you were left to rot on the vine. You see, they only want to promote what they feel will garner them the most rewards. Spending a million bucks to promote one CD and making 10 million is ultimately better than spending 10 million bucks on ten CDS and still only making 10 million back. One of my favorite bands, echolyn suffered this fate at the hands of Sony550. After years of recording, promoting and selling their cds around the North Carolina area they signed with Sony who put them into the studio where they recorded "as the world". After the completion of the CD Sony decided that they didnt want to promote the CD and cancelled the supporting tour. The band was trapped and they broke up. Eventually they re-formed and are now once again making their own way in the world.
3)Distribution: Once your "record that changed the face of rock music" has been recorded and promoted it still does you no good unless you can get it into the grimey little hands of your fans and future cult following. Without distribution you are dead in the water. I once read that Steve Vai made more money of his self produced album "Flexible Leftovers" over his label produced "Passion and Warfare". I don't have access to the article anymore but the numbers were, seven dollars for every copy of "FL" and two dollars for every copy of "PAW". Meaning he had to sell three copies of "PAW" to make teh same amount of money as he does on "FL". This was in large part due to distribution. Of course now any little obscure and can ship direct to their fans once they have been contacted through their website. Many small independent shops have gladly accepted small DIY projects to bulk up their catalogs.
What really chapped my hide was when I found out that record companies, at the time of the CD's emergence basically just dumped the existing masters onto Compact Disc without doing anything to take advantage of the new medium, hence the need to remaster everything under the sun.
How is it that little 'ol me can record and burn a CD for just a few dollars but the cost of CD's has not dropped in the last decade? Am I the only one that remembers the promise that CD's would drop in price. That was in the early days when you paid $17.99, nowadays you pay about $13.99 to $15.99, not what I would call a significant drop, not when considering the pervasiveness of the technology.
Why is that artists that sell millions of copies of their albums still find themselves scraping to get by? Well, the answer to that question is answered in this folkloric post by Steve Albini, "The Problem with Music".
In the end it all boils down to self preservation on the part of the Record Industry and its puppet arm the RIAA. They are parasites that have been bleeding the artists and the consumers dry. "The FTC estimates that U.S. consumers may have paid as much as $480 million more than they should have for CDs and other music because of these policies over the last three years" (link). The internet will be a boon to musicians and listeners alike as artists will have more leverage to negotiate better contracts and record sellers will have to work harder to keep their consumers rather than just relying on their monopoly. The only danger lies in the RIAA's efforts to squelch this burguening marketplace in favor of control. They claim that they do so in to defend the artists, but when you have the artists themselves crying foul over their actions we know we smell a rat.
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