Recording Industry Killing New Music

Want to figure out what’s up with the confusing claims of piracy and whether your overpriced CDs go to fund new artists? You can do little better than reading this Register piece about Fiona Apple’s new album–or lack thereof. Seems a new album has been created and finished for some time, but Sony, her label, won’t release it.

Thanks to the world of P2P filesharing, some people have heard it. So, el Reg asks, why not just put it online where there is zero marginal (per-sale) cost to the record company, and every download is pure profit? Because their heads are far, far embedded in their digestive tracts and can’t conceive of a world where marketing doesn’t surround collections of songs sold on physical media–and because promoting physical media well enough for it to be profitable is so hard, they try like hell to follow whatever the latest trend is in each subgenre…in this case, female singer-songwriters.

Additionally, the online material they want to put out is the most-heavily-downloaded: the back catalog. I mean, what is Fiona Apple really going to do when competing with Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Baez? Actually, she’ll probably do quite well as the per-unit cost to the consumer is so low they can afford to take a sampling from many artists as opposed to being forced into betting larger sums of money that they’ll like enough music from a single artist’s CD to make up for the 15x higher purchase price.

But the recording industry doesn’t understand that, which is why they spend their time quaking in their boots about online file sharing rather than on figuring out how to market in the first decade of the 21st century–which is half over.

3 thoughts on “Recording Industry Killing New Music

  1. They aren’t killing new music by not capitalizing on mp3’s and online marketing, they’re just failing to recognize that more comprehensive regulation could make them a SHITLOAD OF MONEY.

    I for one like the fact that I can get any album I want for free, I’m too broke to buy all of the albums I want to listen to. The radio, which was the old way to listen to free music, SUCKS because of ClearChannel now so that’s lost as an alternative.

    I guess there are some good internet-only streaming radio stations, like, which I can tolerate.

    If there is a complete regulation of downloads and online music, the cost of a song better decrease from $0.99 a song, because there is no reason why you should pay as much for an album of mp3’s as you do for an album (especially now with the CD’s packed with “extra features” and such).


  2. The point of MP3s (although nobody sells MP3s–they only sell WMA and MP4 files with copy protection, AKA Digital Restrictions Management or DRM) is not to lower costs below that of albums–it’s to break music out of the album mode.

    There are only a few times that you want every track from an album. Most of the time you want one or maybe 4 tracks. That’s going to cost you around $4, versus the current going price of new popular CDs, which is $16 or more. So 1/4 the price for the music you actually want. Therefore, you save. QED.

    The way the companies are killing new music, BTW, is only producing new music on the “bet the farm” strategy while being willing to open up their older catalogs for download. They don’t understand music in the “long tail” world, and so they don’t realize they don’t have to bet the farm when music can be recorded much more cheaply than before and digital copies distributed extremely cheaply. Then you can let all sorts of methods of marketing work and let the music find its audience. After a paltry number of downloads, the result is pure profit.


  3. “There are only a few times that you want every track from an album.”

    That surprised me coming from your fingertips. Maybe I’m a purist, maybe it’s irrational, but I almost always go for the full album. Part of the reason for this is that I download based on artist recognition rather than song recognition.

    More than that, though, I’m always wanting to find the b-side gem. I want to hear the album as a whole, as an artistic composition. Yeah, most albums are a series of singles, but there are a select few (which you admit) that can only be appreciated that can only be fully appreciated in their entirety. Song transitions, changes in tempo, interludes – all of this is lost in the mp3 world when it’s approached from the “I only have to buy the tracks I want!” perspective.

    Soon instead of having an entire album to stretch out and fully explore ideas, creative expression will be crammed into frantic, easily consumed sound bytes.

    I’d rather eat a five course meal than be able to mix and match off of the dollar menu. But just as the three hour meal is dying in favor of fast food joints, so too is the art of the album.


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