Friday, 2 September 2011

Why record companies should be happy giving music away...

As someone who loves music and wants to see the artists who made the music getting their payday, illegal downloading provides me with a moral dilemma. I remember reading about the Motown stars and the Small Faces not receiving the royalties they were entitled to and being outraged and yet the new model of musical acquisition means this sort of situation is inevitable doesn't it? If I paid for all the music I listen to I would be spending hundreds of pounds a month on records I barely listen to yet there is no doubt that I am increasingly accessing music for free which I might previously have paid for (some of which I never even get round to listening to).

The fact of the matter is, whether the record companies like it or not, we now have a whole generation of people who don't expect to pay for their music.  The result is that we consume far more music per capita than we used to but we don't covet it all. The last time US album figures actually increased was January 2006.The popularity of Spotify and other music streaming sites shows that the vast majority of listeners simply want access to a track at a particular time rather than necessarily owning it. Fopp and HMV inevitably get hit as do EMI and Parlophone but its an oversimplification to suggest that the music industry is being destroyed. Independent labels continue to thrive and the UK continues to develop new and exciting artists. Revenue streams (live gigs, TV adverts) are different than they might have been ten years ago and labels are having to work harder to sell product (see the deluxe double vinyl or the Deluxe CD re-issue for examples of the brave new world) but look only as far as Katy B, Adele or The Vaccines to see that artists are still coming through and still making a good living.

Listening habits have changed. I still buy CDs and vinyl but I'm a lot more discerning about it. I might listen to 15-20 albums a month through various routes online and elsewhere before picking the one or two that I want to own. These often tend to be the ones that not only sound good but are lovingly packaged too. The labels I spend my money with are Soundway, Analog Africa, Soul Jazz, R and S, XL and Domino - labels that do it for the love of the music, not the love of the money.

At the end of the day, people have a set amount of money that they are going to spend on music (especially in these tough times) but there is much too much product out there to actually be able to buy. People will buy something if they've had the opportunity to try it and if they can be sure its good value for money (and that isn't just about the quality of the music), the sooner the industry realises this the sooner we can all move on.

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