A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

The Lies Of The Beautiful Record Labels And The RIAA

During the recorded music industries heyday, there was this widespread idea, sort of like an unwritten law, that we (the fans of music) could purchase music and own it, the same way we purchased and owned the toaster and any other commodity.

Of course when it comes to music, that was never the case. What the music fans actually purchased was a non-transferable license to listen to the music under very specific and strict conditions. Nothing else was transferred to us with our expensive $30 purchase of a CD, other than the right to enjoy the music in private, over and over again.

So what do we have now. We have sales of music falling. Actually they have been falling for some time. The RIAA and the record labels are attributing this to piracy alone, linking the decline of sales with the increase of P2P file sharing usage.

So for the RIAA and the Record Labels, plus some misguided artists, it is simple, these two events correlate, so it implies that one is causing the other to move.

The thought that fans of music have changed the way they consume music doesn’t compute for the Majors and their association.

The arrival of iTunes and the chance to cherry pick what we want rather than complete albums is a pretty good indication that revenue streams would reduce. Instead of spending money on an expensive shiny piece of plastic for two songs, we could now just download those two songs.

The arrival of YouTube and streaming services have also put a dent into the traditional sales model. Of course, piracy does play its part, however with the increase in people attending concerts and festivals, one needs to ask the question, did piracy assist in this?

Watch the Iron Maiden doco, Flight 666. Nicko McBrian talks about not selling an album in Costa Rica, however they have sold out the local sports stadium. Twisted Sister haven’t released any new music, however in Europe they have a massive fan base that includes both old and young. Did piracy cause this?

The arrival of many platforms that allow DIY bands to release has caused a flood of new music to enter the music business. Competition is now at an all-time high.

What about the price of music? Normally if demand for a certain product drops, the prices for that product fall as well, to reflect the lower demand. It is simple economics. So what do the record labels do? They maintain the high prices so that they can maximise profits. So the recording industry is holding on to high price points and they blame piracy in the meantime for the decline in sales.

So if people are purchasing less music or illegally downloading content, how is this effecting the income of artists? Do artists still have an incentive to create music.

For starters, the majority of artists do not get into music to be millionaires. They get in to music because it satisfies a basic human need to be creative.

In relation to less incentive, this doesn’t seem to be the case. There is so much music hitting the market that no one has enough time to hear it all. In addition, if the artists is doing the live circuit, incomes in this arena are increasing. Some artists that don’t sell a lot sure get a lot of people into their shows.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Treating Fans Like Shit

Create The Undeniable Song – It Will Sell

I am listening to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” today, the third studio album by American rock musician Lenny Kravitz, released in 1993.

It’s funny that after all this time I still like only 3 songs from the CD, which are “Believe”, “Sister” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” in that order. There is also a track called “All My Life” that appeared on some bonus CD’s or as a B-side that is also up there. However, to hear all of the songs mentioned, I had to purchase the record label “promotional tool”; the good ol’ expensive CD.

That is why the album went multi-platinum everywhere.

Consumers of music had to purchase 10 to 14 songs, just to hear 4 to 5 songs. Of course we could have purchased the singles, however at $7 a single (that was the price in 1993), why spend $14 on two songs, when for $20 (on sale) or $27 (as a new release) you could buy the album.

I actually purchased the album for the song “Believe”. That is a great song and a dead sit hit in my book. When that lead break cuts in at the end, along with the strings, it’s goose bumps all the way.

The album went Gold (U.S) in May, 1993, three months after its release. By June, 1993, it was certified Platinum (U.S). By January, 1995, it was certified 2x Multi-Platinum. If you look at Kravitz’s most recent certification, it is for a single. How times have changed?

I don’t want to pay for a batch of songs I don’t like anymore. I didn’t used to be this way. I lived for music.

Misguided people think that piracy ruined the recorded business. What they don’t realize is that most people didn’t want the album/CD. People wanted that unique track. When the CD came and the record labels started charging us a fortune for it, albums suddenly became very long.

Instead of getting 35 to 45 minutes of music every year, we started to get 50 to 70 minutes of music every two to three years.

So the recording business saw the large profit margins and just kept on marching along with the overpriced CD’s business model, using MTV to push and promote the artists. So when people got the option to download, to cherry pick what they wanted to hear, a whole new market place was born.

We didn’t have to pay attention to what the major labels pushed on us anymore or any other label for that matter, because we started to have options. Today, we have options galore. That is why there will not be any super stars like there used to be. Competition in the market place diluted the record sales.

When I see artists like Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich complaining about Spotify, I just shake my head. Thom and Nigel have to be real damn great just to have a little bit more than a tiny audience today. The old paradigm of fans purchasing CD’s that had a lot of filler because very little content was available is over.

To stand out today, artists like Thom and Nigel have got to be incredible. Protest The Hero went via Indiegogo to raise funds for “Volition”. Their goal was $125K and they ended up getting over $341,146 USD from a fan base of 8361 fans. I gave $50. A small audience that was happy to spend money.

The report from the “London School of Economics” called “Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing” hits the nail on the head. Online piracy is not hurting the music industry. It has put a dent in recorded music sales, however that was inevitable with the shift in technology, the over saturated marketplace and the years of fan abuse by pushing overpriced CD’s. It’s simple economics. There is so much supply and the fans of music demand only what is great.

There is an argument from certain song writers that since people began downloading music without paying, royalties for them have dried up. Some have even had to take full-time jobs. Big deal is what I say. If you are a songwriter, then write more songs and better ones. Copyright was never designed to be a pension fund.

The bottom line is this – if the artist creates that undeniable song, they will have no problems selling it. The song will sell itself. I parted with $27 back in 1993 for the song “Believe.”

Looking at all the certifications around the world from the industry bodies, one thing is certain. The singles are dominating. So all those metal and rock bands spending years and dollars on a long player are doing it wrong.

Even Metallica now, have single Platinum certifications from songs that were released on their first five albums.

The following songs were given a GOLD certification by the RIAA (U.S) on December 13, 2012.

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Fade To Black
  • The Unforgiven
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • One
  • Enter Sandman (was also given a Platinum certification for both digital and physical singles)
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Until It Sleeps

Five albums are presented in the above list that ranges from 1983 to 2008.

We don’t need new laws to provide better protection for artist copyright. We need artists to create great tracks. We need laws that reduce copyright and puts the focus back on the Public Domain.

We don’t need to encourage internet service providers to make their customers do the right thing. We need to give customers a reason to buy.

If the customers have that reason, then they will buy.

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