(cartoon from Gaping Void)
Editor of The Register, Andrew Orlowski (articles) is never short of some ascerbic observations on the state of the music industry in its attempt to deal with the digitisation of its product. And recently there’s been no shortage of other opinion in that area either. With compact disc revenues falling 40% last year in some markets, the pressure for execs to react will only increase (doesn’t 40% sound low?) All signs so far are that they will do so in an inappropriate and old-fashioned way.
Bear in mind that this is an industry which has systematically simultaneously shafted both users and artists for years. When things start going wrong for them, they lash out at both – criticsing and threatening their customers and treating their artists like ungrateful children.
This is also an industry whose current strategy is widely understood to be to try and get its consumers to re-buy their existing collections in a new format. And yet there is suprise when the customers are “revolting” and downloading and sharing music for free from Bit Torrent. What’s the alternative they’ve been given? Steal it or get overpriced, DRM-infected music? You can pay us for it now but we reserve the right to charge you for it again in the future.
In this country at least, we have taught a whole generation to see music as something which is best stolen.
One anonymous comment posted on Orlowski’s most recent entry would seem to provide some optimism that a reasonable middle ground could be found.
On behalf of the public, I want:
1. DECENT quality recordings out for me to download when I want. That’s high quality, so when I listen to the product I have just purchased I actually hear it properly on my new expensive sound system.
2. Freedom. Fuck subscriptions, I don’t care about them. Charge me 50p or something for the song, and as long as I don’t make it easily accessible for everyone to copy from me (putting it on BitTorrent etc.) you should ensure that I can put it onto a CD, or my phone, or my Creative MP3 player, or even onto another computer. DRM free please – When I pay for my music i’m paying for the right to listen to it when and where I want, using whatever technology I decide I want to use. i’ve paid for it, let me listen to it on what device I want when I chose.
3. Reasonable prices. Stop feeding us this crap. It’s still costing around £8 for an album on iTunes – nearly the same as what Play.com charge. If they can charge £9, and you charge £8 – then what the hell is all that crap about distribution and media costs for? An artist is in a studio, send it electronically to the distributors (Napster, iTunes etc), job done. There’s no comparision to the CD or cassette market, so stop pricing it like there is.
So in summary:
If I can get, for 50p a track (or £4.50 for an album) 320kbps quality tracks with no DRM then i’ll stop borrowing mates CD’s and ripping them, and I’ll stop using BitTorrent.
Then, and only then will I be prepared to part my hard earn’t cash – e.g. when the product and service is worth it.
Would people actually pay in this way? I don’t know. I do know that the only customers that suffer from DRM now are the ones that obey the rules. That’s got to change. And prices presumably must fall too. Why shouldn’t the consumer benefit from the reduction or removal of distribution costs? Will it take the fall of the major labels before a reasonable deal can be struck? That will depend on what they do in the next 12 months.