Former UK Record Boss Proposes $1.60 Album to Fight P2P
Here’s an interesting idea: let’s not charge our customers an exhorbitant amount of money for a mediocre product! Music lovers have always known that compact discs cost about $0.25 to produce, and therefore paying more than seventy-two times their production cost has never made sense. However, adding another order of magnitude of stupidity, record executives have been screaming like victims for over ten years, and threatening their customers over peer-to-peer file sharing putting a dent in their profits.
My favorite example comes from a personal (or should I say “impersonal?”) experience: I’m sittin’ at my desk mindin’ my own business one day and receive an email on the local bluegrass music mailing list from Ken Irwin, the founder and president of Rounder Records. Ken was very excited to tell all of us that the Japanese government had sentenced a man to prison time for file sharing. His message was basically “Thank you Japanese government! This is what should happen to people who steal my money!” with the news article attached. How would you react to that? I took it as a threat, and even if it wasn’t, I emailed him back to tell him he was an asshole and I thought he was above such stupid record-executive behavior.
I got a slew of replies saying “Hey, Ken’s a nice guy,” and people willing to agree with him that file-sharing was the problem that was failing to put enough Sushi in Ken Irwin’s mouth. I reminded these people that I handn’t bought a compact disc in years because I DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY. Nor have I paid to download music from $Tunes because on-the-whole downloaded music sounds terrible. In other words, music lovers know that downloading music is not an alternative to buying physical media, however they are still not buying physical media because it costs too much money. It’s not worth it. It’s one thing to buy a Mobile Fidelity digital remaster on vinyl for $60 if you have the right equipment; it’s quite another to pay $18 for a CD that sounds terrible no matter what.
I would rather pay $5 for an amazing sounding record, or a used CD, explore my existing record collection, or use Youtube as an internet jukebox (it sounds like $hit, but it’s free, all I’m losing is musical credibilty). I’m not downloading music peer-to-peer and I’m still not contributing money to the record industry. The other problem is that I can’t buy new CDs because I can’t shop for them: (a) I have little kids who can’t really shop with me, and shopping is half the fun, and (b) the stores barely carry the music I would buy. They hardly carry any music half as old as me (i.e. most of what I listen to).
All of this would be immaterial if the price just went down. If all I had to pay was $1.99, I would go to Amazon.com right now and buy Kate Bush’s first three albums and willingly pay shipping. That’s $12.00 for at least two hours of absolutely brilliant music that would last me for decades. Then I’m giving plenty of money to these recording industry jerks. To do the same with current CD prices, I would be spending a significant part of the week’s groceries, and my family needs to eat more than I need good-sounding Kate Bush media. As Rob Dickens stated (finally!) this is exactly the problem:
“If we lived in a micro-economy, that wouldn’t be a decision,” he added. “You’d just say ‘I like REM’ and you’d buy it.”
The article continues:
Dickens pointed out how albums had become sort of an afterthought for artists in terms of profits a long time ago, Prince having given away copies of his last album for free with various European newspapers and magazines.
Let us also not forget that artists only earn $23.40 for every $1,000 in album sales.
This last statement reminds me of the costs the record industry has really paid for their stupid tactics. The costs of adopting victimhood is losing credibility, and denial — but of course the victims don’t realize that. The other cost is that the real music industry (that is, people who actually make music) has gone to a local level, artists are distributing music on their own terms, and fans are able to connect with their favorite artists through the web.
And since artists are able to have their say when they distribute their own products, vinyl is making a comeback (again). It turns out that musicians love vinyl just about as much as they love making good music. That’s what musicians care about. If they can make enough money to live on and play music, they are happy; just ask The Grateful Dead (they would have been satisfied to make a lot less, actually!).