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Author Topic: Shakeup In The Music Industry - MP3; Villian Or Hero?  (Read 1826 times)

hargerst

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Shakeup In The Music Industry - MP3; Villian Or Hero?
« on: June 05, 2004, 02:55:48 PM »

From April, 2002

If you watched the Grammys, you probably saw the head of NARAS and his speech about the downfall of the music industry, along with the pictures of colledge kids downloading a ton of mp3 files, "robbing" the industry of thousands of dollars in artist and record company payments.  Should "the music" really be "free"?  Are mp3s just another way for new artists to get some free exposure or does this whole technology really pose a threat to the music industry?  As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in between the positions held by the different people fighting over it.

First of all, mp3 files use a "lossy" format; they throw away part of the sound that they don't think you'll miss.  That's how mp3 can make the files so much smaller than wav or aiff files (which contain the entire range of dynamics and frequency response).  Can you hear the difference?  On a decent system, the answer is yes, although mp3s sound surprisingly good.  Is the difference worth paying for a CD instead of an mp3?  For many people, the answer is no, and that's where the problem occurs.  How do the people that make the music get paid if you just download mp3s for free and don't buy the artist's CD?

A lot of people argue that it's just like listening to the radio; they download the music, and then buy the CD if they like what they hear.  Fair enough.  But for many people, the medium IS the message; the mp3 format is good enough, and they stop there.  When that happens, the artist and the record company are screwed; the listener has the music in his possession, and no money has changed hands. IF enough people do that, the artist, the songwriter, and the record company are in a no-win situation; they ain't making any money off of the record.

So what's the answer?  Charge a nominal fee for the mp3?  Screw that.  People aren't gonna pay for something they now get for free anyway.  Raise the price of CDs to cover possible losses from the mp3 distribution?  Yeah, sure, the price is already pretty high for CDs already.  Do nothing and let the record companies die off, since they eat such a big share of the pie anyway?  Like it or not, the record companies put a lot of dollars behind an artist to promote sales and even advance money for tours and equipment.

A lot of people say, "Hey, this evens the playing field and lets the independent artists get heard for free, without needing the backing of the big labels".  But even the new independent artists hafta eat and the question still remains; how do they get paid for their music, if the public can download the mp3 files for free?  Adult music sales are down; there is no question about that.  But on the other hand, the record companies are pushing the kiddy acts for all they're worth; Brittany et al.  So the record companies may be slitting thier own throats by not promoting new artists properly or developing new artists.

I think we'll see some big changes over the next few years with more independent labels showcasing new talent, and the big labels doing a buyout whenever an independent artist gets a hit or some recognition.  But unless the big labels can come up with a way to make the CD package more valuable to the public, the mp3 problem isn't gonna go away anytime soon.  And it is a real problem that has to be solved if the industry is to survive.  The big labels are owned by conglomerates that are in business to make money.  If the label loses money, the "home office" will simply shut the doors of that division, and no more label, period.

Individually, we can't do much about what's happening in the industry, except to support the local groups by buying their albums and going out to see them perform.  Groups can help by making sure they change their show often enough to keep us entertained.  Why should I go see the same show I saw a few months ago?

There are no easy answers to some of these questions and these problems aren't gonna go away anytime soon.  What are you thoughts about this whole mess? As a fan?  As a musician? As a studio?
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Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
Indian Trail Recording Studio
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