Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Stone Age Music Companies

Posted by hyperpat on August 30, 2006

When are the music producers going to get it? Now I’m not referring to the artists, but to the giant companies that package and market music.

First these companies still set both restrictive and penurious clauses in their contracts with the artists, such that the poor artist rarely sees the full benefit of his work. While at the same time, these companies insist on pricing CDs at exorbitant prices. A $20 CD, containing perhaps 10 or 12 songs, and having perhaps only one or two of those tracks that the consumer is really interested in, provides only $1-2 to the artist, costs maybe $1.50 to manufacture, and is sold to the retailer for $8-9. This means the company gets something like $4.50-6.50 in gross profit, out of which (sometimes) some portion goes to promotion of the CD. Something seems out of balance here. And the artist must kowtow to the company demands for promotional tours, publicity events, etc, and can’t just hop over to a competing label.

Then we have the head-in-the-sand attitude of the company execs about the internet. It has taken them several years to finally admit that there might be a better way to market and distribute music, and to actively support digital downloading, albeit still with lots of restrictions on copying capabilities, a limited selection of their entire vault of songs (I mean, what if you want to get some of those hits from the 1940s? Darn few available), and pricing that is still too high, although somewhat easier to swallow on an individual track basis.

Maybe sometime they will finally get hip to what people want:

1. No proprietary formats. Apple’s format is OK, but if you want to play iTune songs on something other than an iPod, you’ve got a problem. And along side of this, some people want to able to get their digital tracks in the highest resolution possible, say 320 Kbps, instead of Apple’s 128K default, especially for things like classical music.
2. Ability to make copies to any medium the user wants (CD, DVD, iPod, CreativeMP3, etc, etc.). Limiting the number of copies allowed is probably OK as a partial preventative to rampant piracy, but the number allowed must be large enough to allow for any normal use. But whatever copy protection scheme is used, it must be fully and carefully checked out that it will not cause problems on whatever equipment it is being played on.

3. Pricing that makes sense. Probably about half of the current $1/track, and with a greater portion going to the artist.

4. Get the entire library of songs online, from all artists. If this means cross-licensing between these corporate giants, so be it. But people don’t want to have to sign up to several different services to get all the artists and tracks they want.

5. Cut the garbage lawsuit crap against those who have downloaded songs, even if they have done so illegally. This does nothing but give the music industry a bad image, and there is certainly some question about whether these lawsuits are really valid, anyway. Question: you own a vinyl, reel-to-reel, 8 track, cassette, and CD copy of a particular track, have paid for each of those formats in years gone by (If you think this is something that never happens, I have examples of just this in my own collection). You now download a copy of that track from, say, LimeWire. Is this illegal? Who knows? When the RIAA goes after ‘illegal downloaders’, they don’t even ask if you have a purchased version of the download – to them, that’s not relevant.

And finally, these companies should quit complaining that their declining sales numbers are all due to rampant piracy, and start doing some serious searching for artists and material that people really want to buy.

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