Steal this music!
June 16, 2005 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Why one man steals music. Either a wonderfully scathing indictment of a music industry that doesn't care about its customers, or a pathetic attempt at justifying illegal activities, depending on your perspective. (Looks like Glenn Mcdonald didn't close up shop after all.) [Via.]
posted by dersins (49 comments total)
Oh crap. Now I notice that 43folders got it via kottke. Sorry.

But that still doesn't change the fact that this is an incredibly well-written piece that anyone who cares about music and is saddened by the current state of the music industry should read...
posted by dersins at 2:34 PM on June 16, 2005

This seems to be another pedestrian "Since you don't provide what I want how I want it, I'm perfectly justified in stealing it" essay. Haven't we read enough of these?

While my personal morals on music "theft" are that it's pretty much irrelevant, people that attempt to justify it almost always seem to infuriate me, as they provide vacuous reasoning like what's used in the article.
posted by leffler at 2:36 PM on June 16, 2005

Part of the problem with this article is that he's painted himself into a corner, language-wise, with his use of the word "steal." Copyright infringement isn't theft. Here in the US at least, our supreme court has said exactly that. It's copyright infringement - a different crime altogether. Currently it's purely a civil crime unless you're distributing stuff in really large quantities.

For years the Lotus Elise wasn't available in the US, only Europe. Who would buy the argument that I was justified to steal one because they didn't have domestic dealerships and it would cost too much to import one? Making any argument that you're allowed to "steal" something for such trivial reasons as matters of musical taste or aesthetics is really pretty dumb.

However, arguing that you're justified to copy an audio recording, well there I think you have a lot more wiggling room. Excluding any Ethics 101 type issues about stealing medicine for your ailing daughter or whatever, stealing is always wrong. Copyright infringement? I'd say there are lots of valid reasons, and in fact many of his reasons are just fine with me.
posted by mragreeable at 2:47 PM on June 16, 2005

Well if nothing else DRM is coming to the hardware.

Of course it's wrong, but it's not full theft. There is no deprivation of the owner of what's theirs. There is only pecking of holes in the gradients of distribution. You can't own that. You can't deprive Lucasfilms of the lack of ownership of Star Wars III by people who haven't paid for it. That's strange. You can damage their market. So they'll talk about how you deprive them of sales. Then they quote figures which are vastly overblown.

If you could break into Lucasfilms and erase all copies of Star Wars III that they have. Then keep a copy for yourself, but through DRM make sure Lucasfilms can't have a copy. That would be real theft. There's a malicious quality to it that the 15 year old hacker downloading a ghetto low quality rip, he doesn't have.

So this petty quasi theft of downloading an mp3. Does it really deserve the broken tone which the author of the linked essay feigns?

(on preview I see I'm hitting some points which mragreeable also does)
posted by nervousfritz at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2005

posted by ori at 2:52 PM on June 16, 2005

Oh crap. Now I notice that 43folders got it via kottke. Sorry.

duh, guess what? kottke got it somewhere too.
posted by quonsar at 2:54 PM on June 16, 2005

Q, thanks for the snark. I was well below the R.D.A. today.
posted by dersins at 2:58 PM on June 16, 2005

Theft is and has always been a poor analogy for copyright infringement.

However, causing someone to lose money is pretty de rigeur for courts, and the proof here is dead simple -- we're not arguing about whether my running over your foot prevented you from eventually becoming a pro athlete, but the money that you would have spent had you bought the CD. A finite, definite sum. (leaving you with just one possible counterargument: that you wouldn't have bought the CD, copying it only because doing so was free... not very endearing to a court)
posted by dreamsign at 3:01 PM on June 16, 2005

This seems to be another pedestrian "Since you don't provide what I want how I want it, I'm perfectly justified in stealing it" essay. Haven't we read enough of these?

Maybe, leffler, but I see it differently. This article touches on an important issue. In particular, I am referring to the force of this argument:

We are in here talking to each other about solitude and connection and our grandest mistakes, those of us for whom music is human, and you are outside in the streets shouting about damage and margins and some venal thing you've obscenely labeled sacred, and insisting you are always right. And we are in here listening to records without you.

The prose is overwrought and clumsy, but I identify with it nonetheless. Music, to me, is not a commodity--or rather, perhaps it is also a commodity, but it is also something grander: an artifact that lends more than just comfort and simple pleasure to life, but a shade of meaning and value. One of few fortunes of living in such a networked, globalized country is my almost limitless access to music. I can accept that there might be an unethical dimension to downloading copyrighted music, but this constitutes no dilemma to me. I am absolutely convinced that as I near the end of my life, I will be glad to have been a transgressor for the sake of broadening and deepening such a rich facet of human experience. Were I to choose not to download copyrighted music, I seriously doubt I would congratulate myself for upholding copyright law.

Selfish? Maybe, but this is an accusation I am willing to live with.
posted by ori at 3:04 PM on June 16, 2005

ori writes "Selfish? Maybe, but this is an accusation I am willing to live with."

No side of the "music sharing" issue is acting in an unselfish way.
posted by clevershark at 3:08 PM on June 16, 2005

Leffler, being a long time merchant who is always interested in what my customers have to say about how my business can be improved, this thing rocks and we can't have too many of these types of writings. Seriously the industry should pay people like this to sit down and share with them how they use their products and how they would like to best like to do business with the industry.

The focus on whether or not these types of writings have value to you or whether or not this is or is not stealing is completely irrelevent to the industry. Their only concern should be how do we serve our customers better.
posted by filchyboy at 3:13 PM on June 16, 2005

Excellent point, mragreeable.

Here are your MP3s, hippie.

No side of the "music sharing" issue is acting in an unselfish way.

I must disagree heartily. Lots of people post music that they love online for free (at their own risk). See how easy it is to find Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, etc. in an open directory.

It's almost the inverse (converse?) of the used CD store: the better (or rather, more popular) the music, the more likely you are to find it.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on June 16, 2005

it is also a commodity, but it is also something grander

Digital rights policy is being designed and negotiated right now. There are efforts underway (and not for the first time) to extend copyright indefinitely. This is like anything else: your elected representatives are going to decide on your behalf just what rights you have to this stuff. If they make the "wrong" call, that doesn't give you the (legal) right to do otherwise, unless you're willing to face the consequences.

Not really much more to it than that.
posted by dreamsign at 3:18 PM on June 16, 2005

The record industry doesn't stay in business caring about morality.

In the business world, might makes right. When they pay off senators to pass bad laws, then track down my IP with records proving copyright infringement and prosecute me, they win. When I develop or use an infringement system they either can't, or are unwilling to trace, I win.

When the Egyptians stole the Assyrian's ideas about iron, humanity benefitted, even if the Assyrians didn't. History has no morals. I will infringe because I can, until I can't. It's that simple.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:19 PM on June 16, 2005

I thought he made some very valid points. The greed of the industry has begat an indifference to the moral question on the part of the consumer.

but, I had to disagree with the statement...."You smiled when you first got away with selling a Billy Joel LP for $8.98, and you can damn well smile again now when we fold the worthless thing into jagged thirds and ram it up your ass."

I really think you would have to folk an LP into more than thirds to accomplish this without massive blood loss! (although, you could probably make it happen with a 45)
posted by HuronBob at 3:28 PM on June 16, 2005

damn... folk of course should be fold
posted by HuronBob at 3:28 PM on June 16, 2005

Well, all this couldn't have happened to a nicer industry. Other than pharma.
posted by MillMan at 4:03 PM on June 16, 2005

I was all with him right up until here:

I have stolen from you where you refuse to acknowledge what I've already paid. For the price you ask for concerts, you should throw in CDs. For the price you ask fo DVDs, you should include the audio files. For the price you ask for real albums, you should give away covers records

I can't speak to Cyndi Lauper, but I've been to plenty of shows that are cheaper than CDs, bought DVDs that come with audio files, and gotten plenty of additional music in bonus discs for the price of "real albums".

(Also, the "30 second samples aren't long enough for trance" argument falls away very quickly when you buy off a properly marketed music store.)
posted by Remy at 4:05 PM on June 16, 2005

What really rings true for me is the frustration of waiting for a CD release of a beloved LP. It took EMI Canada something like two or three years to release an old Martha and the Muffins CD, during which time I almost pieced it together online from persons who had gone ahead and digitized it on their own.
posted by docpops at 4:05 PM on June 16, 2005

He uses far, far too many words to say a few simple things. "I copy stuff that's out of print". "I copy stuff because you sometimes ship worthless crap and expect me to pay to find this out." "I copy stuff when I paid for the expensive concert, which should have included a CD." "You should be happy to let me download stuff for free, since it costs you nothing and I might buy it."

I just don't see this as wonderful writing. Far too many words for the level of actual content. (the monogrammed Is are kinda cool, but they're not content.) He's not even saying much that's new, it's just repackaged.

That said, he is fundamentally right about a lot of this stuff. The music industry is a bunch of clueless morons that need to adapt to a new climate. Instead, they're using the guns of the government (the guns YOU PAID FOR) to enforce new laws, in an attempt to preserve an obsolete business model.

A good capitalism lets businesses fail, so that new, better ways of doing business can arise. But we haven't been a real capitalism for a long time. We want it with only the parts that feel good, so companies like the RIAA are successful at getting the government to enforce their business models.

Sad state of affairs.
posted by Malor at 4:11 PM on June 16, 2005

Labels have had over 100 years to iterate this Edison-era business model, but, instead, at virtually every turn they've chosen to abuse their customers, raise their prices, limit options, and generally leverage their audience's captivity in the most unapologetically drastic ways.

So to my mind, yelling "Thief! Thief!" whenever someone like Glenn tries to gently hand these delirious people a clue is just disingenuous. I mean, this is a guy who obviously likes paying for his music.

I can't believe that a business would screw themselves so long and generously just to prove they never need to change.
posted by merlinmann at 4:14 PM on June 16, 2005

You want to know why I routinely infringe copyright by downloading MP3s? Because:

1) I want music.
2) I can get it this way with an extremely minimal effort.
3) I won't get caught (newsgroups through a paid anonymous server).
4) I don't believe I am actually hurting any bands I care about or grow to care about. In fact, I think the reverse is true.

I don't rationalize it any more extensively than that. If I was convinced that #3 was no longer true, I would change to another mechanism, such as physical borrow-and-rip or trading. I doubt I could be convinced that #4 was not true, for all the reasons commonly discussed whenever this topic comes up. I were somehow to be convinced, I would cease downloading music, but I doubt I'd erase what I already have.
posted by Invoke at 4:17 PM on June 16, 2005

The writing isn't great, but I chuckled when I read this:

which is subjectively reasonable because she doesn't even have a database, and obviously people who do not keep databases are the sort of people who lose things.

I'm not the sort of person who keeps a database.
posted by OmieWise at 4:44 PM on June 16, 2005

Copying music isn't theft: it's trespass. When I play illegal mp3s, I'm on your lawn. Sometimes you notice and tell me to get the hell off. Usually, no one notices and there's no harm.
But he certainly has hit on why I rarely buy new music, even though I love it (that may be mitigated by the fact that I get a couple decent albums a week in promos...)
posted by klangklangston at 4:50 PM on June 16, 2005

duh, guess what? kottke got it somewhere too

Yep, and he gave credit to....oh wait, I forgot, kottke doesn't do that.
posted by justgary at 4:51 PM on June 16, 2005

You have to wonder what the long term effects of mass music file-sharing will be. Established artists will have made their money from CD sales pre-Napster, so can probably tolerate the (admittedly hard to quantify) lost sales. undoubtedly new artists will have to accept that the old model of flogging a few million CDs and then retiring to the Bahamas is unlikely to survive.
posted by smiffy at 4:55 PM on June 16, 2005

new artists will have to accept that the old model of flogging a few million CDs and then retiring to the Bahamas is unlikely to survive

You forgot: underground artists that would normally have sold mere hundreds of CDs, get the chance to be heard by wider audience then the industry would traditionally allow. Which results in them instead selling thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of CDs instead of hundreds, and having triple, quadruple or more attendance at live shows (which is where they make their money anyway.)

This shift in the buisness really helps the smallest players in the buisness at the expense of the largest players (who have a vested interest in being able to control exactly what it is the public is exposed to).

Big dinosaur dies, small scene lives. Fair trade.
posted by Jezztek at 5:14 PM on June 16, 2005

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I really wouldn't care if the current record industry completely collapsed.

I really wouldn't care if artists weren't paid tens of thousands (or more) dollars to play music.

In fact, I really wouldn't care if it became impossible to make a living by being part of the record industry.

I've met many artists who do what they do because they love it, and barely get by (or have a day job). They will continue to make music even if all major record companies go under, and thanks to technology, many people will still have the chance to hear that music and appreciate the work of that artist.

If there were no more rock stars, music would still get made. If all the people trying to break into the business and strike it rich devoted their time to something more socially constructive, I do believe I would be happy.

on preview, Jezztek is goin there, too.
posted by plexiwatt at 5:16 PM on June 16, 2005

Jezztek, I completely agree with your analysis.
posted by smiffy at 5:43 PM on June 16, 2005


Exactly. In fact, this is why, to a person, all of the people I know who are in bands (some of whose record sales are as high as the 10's of thousands) support freely sharing music-- including (even especially) their own.
posted by dersins at 5:53 PM on June 16, 2005

Janis Ian has a couple of articles saying just what Jezztek says, including the fact that her own sales have increased since she started hosting mp3s online.

Since I started downloading, I have bought more CDs than I had in the past several years. All but one I would not have heard of except through downloading (and finding them on websites and mp3 blogs). They were new artists, folk artists, people who don't get big radio play (though some have since), not that I seem to get anything but talk or classical radio where I am (I like the classical).

My current favorite albulm is Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill's Lonesome Touch, which I bought after I heard the mp3 hosted by Salon magazine.
posted by jb at 8:35 PM on June 16, 2005

The framing is wrong, as noted. "Theft" and "steal" are the wrong words, and distract from the real points.

There have been many articles justifying copyright infringement in one way or another. I can't recall any that so succinctly described an industry at war with its customers.
posted by dhartung at 9:21 PM on June 16, 2005

Since I started downloading, I have bought more CDs than I had in the past several years.

Can't speak to CD's, but I've bought seven DVD box sets as a direct result of downloading (shows I couldn't have seen otherwise) and two more regardless of it.
posted by dreamsign at 9:56 PM on June 16, 2005

When the revolution comes, your album will not be spared.

BMG is a bitch. Pyratez 4 Lyfe.
posted by saysthis at 10:31 PM on June 16, 2005

(that may be mitigated by the fact that I get a couple decent albums a week in promos...)

If this is who I think it is, you have a semi-decent album on its way to you as we "speak," but I could be biased a bit.

It's good to read Glenn, again.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:38 AM on June 17, 2005

I don't want to be a blind defender of the music industry because it certainly has areas that need fixing. It is a business and like any other business, it will always have its self interest in mind. But what people like the writer of this article have to realize is that there are often real reasons for many of the industry "failings" he cites in his diatribe.

Idlewild - an artist can only be in one place at a time and having that artist physically present in a market to do promotion, play live, etc is an essential part of a release plan. You know when a CD comes out and that band is suddenly being interviewed on local TV, touring locally, has prominent racking in stores, etc. That all has to be timed as part of a proper launch. Put an Idlewild record out with no promotion from the band behind and you know what you'll have? A stiff. They are doing a service to the band by waiting and doing it right. The record co is not simply fucking with you to get you to pay import prices.

KYO - oh, so you're the guy in the US who wants to buy that album. The record company is supposed to do a full manufacturing and distribution run for every title released by one of its affiliates around the world? That's just a huge waste of time and money. Doesn't it make much more sense to simply bring in a few copies of the physical stock from another country so the small number of fans who want it can purchase it locally? Well, that's what they do. Unfortunately, shipping a CD from France rather than Scranton, Pennsylvania cost a bit more so you're going to have to pay a bit extra.

John Zorn - I don't know where this idea came from in which consumers feel entitled to "live with an album" over a period of time to see if they like it before purchasing. Try driving a new car around for a few weeks and then tell them you'd prefer a different one. The point is that there are lots of ways in which you can research your purchase beforehand. Songs are on the radio, samples of tracks are on Amazon, reviews are printed and if all of this is not enough, you could still download an illegal copy and then purchase it if you really like it. But c'mon, don't blame the industry because they can't guarantee that you're going to love every song on the CD before you purchase it.

And, for the record, you can go to iTunes and just download the individual tracks from an album that you like.

"I have stolen from you where you refuse to acknowledge what I've already paid. For the price you ask for concerts, you should throw in CD"

Yes, and when I go to a movie I'd like to be handed a DVD of it on the way out. Get real.

Tristania - let me get this straight. If a band's earlier albums are not as good as the new ones, the earlier ones should be suddenly be free? Nice try.

Joe Jackson - I don't know specifics on these titles but often the rights of an album revert back to the artist. Joe might own these and has been unable to find a label willing to pay him enough to license and re-release them. It's not always the label just sitting on things.

Like I said, I think the industry has a lot of problems that need fixing and this extends well beyond record companies to include the music retailers, radio (don't get me started on Clear Channel) and promoters. In short, it's a big mess and perhaps could benefit from being burned to the ground only to start over. But at the same time this whole file-sharing thing has empowered people to essentially hold the industry hostage with an ever growing list of often unreasonable and unworkable demands.
posted by gfrobe at 2:50 AM on June 17, 2005

gfrobe writes "KYO - oh, so you're the guy in the US who wants to buy that album."

Why is it that I can source and copy a CD, print out the cover and put it in a jewel case for the cost of a can of pop (that's soda to the rest of you), but the record industry presents an almost identical product to me for 15 times the price? I have friends in bands who can sell Cds at a profit, after all expenses for the price of 5 cans of pop, and that includes postage.
What exactly is the music industry doing to make it easier for me to access the music I like, which they own the copyright to, in the 21st century? Are they offering their entire catalogue on a computer terminal in a shop, where I can listen to tracks, decide I like an album and have the product printed (with cover and jewel case) in a matter of moments? Why am I having to think up ways that they could make their content available to me? Isn't that someone else's job?

I have come to the conclusion that the music industry does not value me as a customer as I like music too much. They want me to like the music they have decided on, rather than what I have discovered.

The car analogy doesn't work as the music does not wear out. Also, good customer service should allow for a cooling off period. Music is a special case, as it is 'goods' but it also is very subjective in it's enjoyment, this should be reflected in the way that it is sold.

Granted some people seem to want the moon in a stick when it comes to copying copyrighted content, but the music industry isn't even offering a concilatory lolly.

The last album I bought on vinyl had a copy of the album on CD included, fourtet being one artist who understands his market:
'The new album Everything Ecstatic was released today in many countries... Still a week to go for North America I'm afraid. You should be able to get it easily from your local record shop or from your favourite record selling website. It's available on CD and vinyl... All vinyl copies come with a copy of the CD booklet so that you get all the artwork, and the first 2000 copies come with a free copy of the CD too!'
posted by asok at 4:18 AM on June 17, 2005

Gfrobe: Nope.
Here's why: Put out an Idlewild album in the US with no promotion and you'll have a modest selling Anglophonic power pop album. Why? Because previous Idlewild albums have been released in the US with little or no promotion outside of college radio, and yet have done decently. There is absolutely no reason in a global market to hold back things and charge import prices. If it's a smaller band, you don't need a big launch; you need a long tail. You're still thinking about how albums used to be marketted.
Here's why: Know what it costs to manufacture a small run of CDs? Next to nothing. Know what it costs to "import" music files? Next to nothing. Small run CDs with online distribution (or even a next day order system, like one of my local shops runs), and incredibly easy and affordable. The Kyo album could be min my hands tomorrow if there were a sane distribution system that used this intarweb thing that people keep talking about. The actual disc, with liner notes and everything, not just a download. And since CDs still have a recoupables charge that's higher than vinyl (usually around $2) outside of manufacturing and marketting, there's no reason that money can't be put to use making small run albums.
Here's why: Car dealerships do offer overnight drives now. And there's simply too much music out there to evaluate it all rationally. In 2001, the last year I could find figures for, the major labels alone (not counting even the larger indies) put out over 30,000 new titles. If listening non-stop, you only have to get in 83 records per day to be sure to have heard all of them. If a record averages an hour, you'll only have to listen to 3.5 of them per hour (at once).
So, there's too much risk out there. And the rational listener will seek to mitigate it by hearing as much as possible for free, then sticking with the things they like. While I'm generally against DRM, if it was used to give people free songs that they could listen to for a week before deciding to buy, people would listen to a lot more music.
Here's why: Yeah, honestly, Tristania's early stuff should probably be tossed into newer albums as a free bonus disc. Mostly because it't not all that great, and there's no way that it's worth even the $.99 per track that iTunes wants. Charge an extra dollar, sell it as a double, and rake in more dough. This, again, can be done without changing most artists' recoupables contracts.
Here's why: The label is in the business of distributing and marketting music. Joe Jackson's albums are awesome. It's their job to get it to me and make sure that I pay for it. If I can't get it, despite the absolutely nominal amount of time and effort that it would take for them to press it and ship it, I'm not gonna feel bad about swipin' it.
Here's why: We're holding the industry hostage with unreasonable and unworkable demands? Someone's been to Guiana with the RIAA. In this digital age, meeting our demands is easy. Antagonizing us is hard, but the RIAA manages to do it anyway. They use outdated practices that were based on an artist-fucking paradigm in the victrola days, and perfected it through rock and roll (labels like Sun). The thing about the demands is that we're sitting here with cash in our grubby hands saying "Please, let me buy some music," while the RIAA wants to spend its dough on commercials that tell us that we're gonna kill puppies if we don't buy the music on their terms.
Record labels used to exist for artist development, recording, distribution and marketting. They don't do the first, second or third anymore, and suck at the fourth.Why is hastening their death a bad thing?
posted by klangklangston at 4:41 AM on June 17, 2005

Asok, yes, anyone can manufacture a CD for less than a buck. Do you really think that means it should be sold for a buck? There are recording costs, mechanical and publishing royalties, marketing costs, independent promotion (ie greasing radio programmers to get the music on the playlist), artist advances, artist traveling costs, distribution money and don't forget that your local music retailer then marks up the wholesale price by another 40%. This on on top of what they charge the label for prominent racking and window displays. And then, at the end of all this, there needs to be profit for the record company. That's why CDs costs more than your friend's band recording and selling a CD out of a garage somewhere.

Could prices be lower? Yes,advances paid to major artists are ridiculous, salaries for key executives the same, etc. But you can say that for a lot of industries.

What exactly is the music industry doing to make it easier for me to access the music I like, which they own the copyright to, in the 21st century? Are they offering their entire catalogue on a computer terminal in a shop, where I can listen to tracks, decide I like an album and have the product printed (with cover and jewel case) in a matter of moments? Why am I having to think up ways that they could make their content available to me? Isn't that someone else's job?

What are they doing? You don't even need to go into your local shop. Sit and home on your computer, go to iTunes or Amazon and listen to samples. Listening posts in retail outlets are controlled by the retailers and they make record labels pay through the nose to get their music on there. They also work hard to get the music on to the radio so you can hear it, as well as to get the bands on to TV for the same reason.

In the end, they want to sell music and to do this, they need to get the music heard. Do you think they don't know this? Yes, they could probably do more but some things are feasible and some are just pie in the sky hopes of consumers who believe that things happen just by snapping fingers. I'd like to watch a particular TV show on demand at any time I want over the internet rather than when the networks tells me to watch it. It's theoretically possible but it's not happening and no one is screaming at the networks that they're not giving the consumers what they want.

Klangklangston, I'm sorry but you don't understand the global music market. You try putting out a record by a low or medium level US artist in the UK with no promotion or artist presence and you watch what happens. Retailers won't take very many without a plot or story, it will enter the charts low, fall off and probably never been seen again. That's how the UK market works. If I was the manager of a struggling artist and the label tried to do that to client I'd hand them their head. Sometimes it's better to wait and set the record up properly with the artist in the market and perhaps an exciting sales or press story coming from the home territory rather than just shove it out there so a few fans can get it.
posted by gfrobe at 6:15 AM on June 17, 2005

I agree with Invoke. Not that I actually do that. no, umm... but a guy I know, yeah, this guy, he's exactly like that. But not me.
posted by boymilo at 7:19 AM on June 17, 2005

Gfrobe: You have no idea what you're talking about. First clue? You think that charts determine monetary success. Scott Morgan, a musician from here in town, started turning a profit in the UK at 2k sold, and he's up to about 10k now. He made it to the bottom of the Top 200 in the UK (he made it to the top 3 in Sweden, on the strength of a collaboration with the Hellacopters). He's practically unknown outside of the vintage soul and garage rock scene, but he's turning a decent profit with absolutely no promotion over there (save a tour that he actually lost money on; don't tour the UK with a 12 member band if you want to make cash).
Back to Idlewild: They're an excellent case study in diminishing returns. They could drop thousands of dollars on a promo campaign here in the states, but that's not going to do them any real good. Critics already love them, and they're not going to get real play on commercial radio. Since promo money is all recoupable (comes out of royalties), Idlewild would be better served by touring than trying to buy radio time. And since they're a niche band, it's not gonna matter that the album has been out for months before they get to tour here. It might even help them. Of course, that money will go mostly to the band, and not to the label, but they'll sell more copies on tour.
So, once again, you don't seem to have any clue as to how labels or musicians actually make their money.
posted by klangklangston at 8:01 AM on June 17, 2005

I just like free music!!!!

Actually, it's not really free for me, I pay a russian site to download them, but I'm paying next to nothing so it's practically free.
posted by illuminatus at 8:24 AM on June 17, 2005

Klangklangston - The diatribe in the original post was against the industry and by that, I believe it was meant as an attack against the major labels. I'm sorry but a major label US artist is not going to turn a profit on 2k units in the UK. And I'll stand by my comment that if a major label tried to just throw my record out in a major foreign market without a proper plan that included sending me over to perform and promote it, I'd be justifiably livid. I'd much rather they hold it back until I was finished promoting in the US and I would then work another market.

My argument was that some albums actually benefit from being held back rather than released simultaneously worldwide and that it's not a case of the evil label trying to stick it to consumers by making them "pay import prices". If you want to argue otherwise, OK.
posted by gfrobe at 8:39 AM on June 17, 2005

Am I the only person who finds this argument to be most academic considering the fact that independent production, publication, distribution, and marketing have become so easy and prevalent?
I mean, everyone knows somebody (or knows a friend of a friend) who has all the technology needed to create a professional quality album. A garage band is no longer just a 4-track recorder and a couple of inexpensive mics. Where I'm living, at least two of my neighbors have racks of equipment and computers in their homes and are successful as independent musicians. It's not the exclusive kind of enterprise that it used to be. Additionally, all of us are sitting in front of an intensely powerful marketing and distribution tool.

The Big Music Industry that we're familiar with has ceased to be the only option. Unless you're looking to fill arenas and get played on low-brow, homogenized radio, the Big Music Industry is probably the LEAST preferable option as far as getting your music heard and sold. At this point, a creative and unique musician can bring their dreams to fruition without the debts and control that Big Music tends to inflict on its stables of artists.

To be a little cliche, the paradigm has completely changed. It's changed at a magnitude that's even greater than the change that accompanied the invention of the phonograph!
Technology has really surpassed the Music Industry's necessity and ability. Not only is it no longer needed as a primary source of music, but it can never have the ability to keep up with the ever increasing number and variety of artists.

The argument about the legality and ethics of filesharing, in my opinion, is like arguing about whether to take a couple bucks out of a dead man's wallet.

Big dinosaur dies, small scene lives. Fair trade.
That's about right.
posted by Jon-o at 9:48 AM on June 17, 2005

It's good to read Glenn, again.

Agrred. I was just thinking of twas this week but couldn't remember the name of the site. Also, I assumed he'd committed suicide by now. I don't know why. Just figured it was the logical conclusion (not because I think he's that dedicated of a Big Country fan or anything).
posted by yerfatma at 11:25 AM on June 17, 2005

Gfrobe: That's because of how the major labels do business, not because of how the market works. Instead of working on establishing an artist and developing an audience, they try to manufacture "big launches" and bullshit promos WHICH COST THE ARTIST MONEY (see, once again, recoupables). And a major label starts to make a profit at about 10k sold (for that album), and an artist starts to make a return at 30k (it's because records that do make a profit are expected to make up for the bombs that artists only get renewed at about 25-30k). Idlewild could do 10k on a modest launch of less than 5k in promos, which would actually mean MORE MONEY for the record label. With media increasingly globalized, there's absolutely no reason not to have global launches. Christ, even the MPAA is figuring that out.
And while you'd be livid about having your album out before you could promote, you'd be an idiot. Are you annoyed that your album is released in California at the same time as NY, even though a bus tour isn't gonna hit both of them in one trip unless you're playing a Skynard-esque 122 night jaunt? A savvy record label can even wax and wane your exposure, so that while the album has been out and developing buzz, they can give it a bigger push once you get close to touring. That's what PR campaigns are for.
You might have an argument if you didn't want your album coming out in China at the same time, as coordinating that level of media takes, well, a major label, but honestly, that's what majors are fucking for, man. And if they don't realize it, they'll shuffle off that mortal coil.
posted by klangklangston at 1:55 PM on June 17, 2005

Klang, here are the worldwide release dates for the Idlewild album, the band you are using as an example. As you can see, the dates are staggered. Are you saying the band was not part of the decision to stagger the release dates? Are you saying they would have benefited more from a simultaneous worldwide release date ? Of course not. The dates are staggered because the band and the label understand how the markets work. They will sell more CDs this way.

Do you know when most artists appear on TV programmes like Leno and Letterman or Jonathan Ross or Jools Holland in the UK? Or major radio programs? When they have a new album coming out. Reviews are timed to coincide with the release date. Deals are struck with retailers to make sure the album is prominently racked. Artists go on tour, etc. All of these things are timed to happen at the same time so you have as much impact as possible.

Now try generating that same interest from radio, press, retail, etc. when the album has already been out for months but has been dormant because there hasn't been any promotion from the band.

No, I wouldn't stagger release dates between NY and California because there is national media, TV shows, music mags, etc. But artists still cross the country doing local promotion, radio visits, etc. because they know that being in the market to support a new release is important. And it's the same in other major territories around the world. To say that media is now "globalized" to the point where you can hit the whole world at once is just plain wrong.
posted by gfrobe at 3:04 PM on June 17, 2005

And promo tours are not recoupable.
posted by gfrobe at 3:08 PM on June 17, 2005

A CD costs me 30 AUD, a DVD movie costs me 15 AUD...

There's something fundamentally wrong there.
posted by Jerub at 10:11 PM on June 19, 2005

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