In recent weeks I’ve mentioned PledgeMusic and Kickstarter on twitter, in the podcast, etc. The music industry is changing and needs to change, some labels are better than others, but in the end the vast majority have more to do with why people are downloading music off of Torrents. Sorry, but that’s the truth, regardless of what your out of touch idol is telling you. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Steve Jobs innovation with iTunes, actually knowing how to successfully use the lesson Napster taught everyone (people are tired of paying over $20 for a CD to only find out the single you hear on the radio is the only thing that isn’t a hot steaming turd on the album), and create a business model around it (e.g. $0.99 single song downloads) is what has helped bring the industry down to its knees.
Also, people keep bringing up how sales were so much better in the 90s. Ok, so let’s set something straight, those figures are skewed. Hear me out, back in the late 80s the industry had not gone to an all CD format yet. CDs cost too much, so the labels decided to start putting out poor quality vinyl albums. If you don’t believe me, check out any vinyl album that was released in the late 80s to early 90s, and compare the thickness of the album to something that came out a decade before. For anyone that says that doesn’t make a difference, than why are people now paying $30 to $40 for 180g vinyl albums? So they phased vinyl out, but the cassette tape took over, it was still cheaper than a CD, and everyone finally had a cassette player in their car, you could make a mix tape, etc. What happened? You guessed it, they cheapened the quality of cassettes. I was in collage radio at the time, and saw first hand how the vinyl albums, and cassettes we received were of better quality than anything you could find at a store.
So finally, they convinced people to start buying CDs in large quantities to replace their existing vinyl and cassette collection. But that wasn’t enough, the labels admitted to the fact that a lot of the early CDs were not mastered properly, so the remastering craze started, and people started buying a second remastered copy of certain albums. This is why 90s sales figures are skewed, if you take away/factor in people buying a piece of music only once, how would those sales figures be affected?
Now factor iTunes into all of this, how many people are just ripping their old CDs to MP3 and passing them over to their iPod, iPhone, MP3 Player, etc. instead of repurchasing something on iTunes? This is replacing the money that was made on people switching media from vinyl, to cassette, to CD. If people are going to iTunes, chances are, they’re only buying a song or two off of that long lost vinyl album, not the entire thing.
So now couple this with the fact that the labels are not paying artists more, and want to continue to pay artists under a business structure that accounted for things like scratched albums, broken tape, or damaged CDs, when the majority of what they are selling (in most cases) is digital media? If a track is corrupted, well you re-download it and you’re off! So why haven’t artists been paid more in accordance to what type of media is being sold?
In any event, back to the subject line. Similar to the old E.F. Hutton slogan, when Trent Reznor mentions something about the ever changing music business, artists should take notice! He just posted an article regarding TuneCore, and why people should look into their services when releasing an album, and wanting to have publishing administration of songs handled in a transparent manner. You can read it here.