Less For More

I’m glad to see artists speaking out about high-priced CD’s. The lower prices for developing artists has been a very effective marketing ploy for me. I picked up the new Vines CD because it was priced at $6.99. I haven’t paid that price for an album since *all* albums were available on vinyl! The White Stripes album I picked up for $9.99. Same for Pete Yorn, Ed Harcourt, Elbow, etc.

And, thanks to the artists interviewed for pointing out that the people who profit the most from high CD prices are the record companies themselves. Touring and merchandise sales are definitely the way most artists (especially any artist that is not a “blockbuster” act) make their living.

I just love the fact that now the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) are thinking about bringing back the single! Yes, the same industry that decided that they would completely delete vinyl singles, and drastically reduce the number of domestic CD singles released. They argued that releasing the “hit” song on a single, would prevent people from buying the entire album. Well, if it’s a crap band with one good song, that’s true. If it’s a good band, then it’s a great way for the listener to try out new artists (at a low price), especially since corporate radio stations predominantly play singles by top-selling artists, and seldom add newer, lesser known artists to their high rotation playlists.

Face it, record companies, you’re fighting an uphill battle, and you’re losing.

First, you decide to delete vinyl and introduce CD’s. At the time, you argued that the sound of the recordings was better, and, while initial CD prices would be much higher than vinyl, eventually, CD’s would cost less. That never happened. Meanwhile, digitizing music has allowed it to be played on many more mediums.

Then, you decided to delete singles, which allowed the casual fan to buy the songs they loved. The fan that would fall in love with a particular band, might be introduced to the band via that single, and go on to buy all of the albums. Instead, the casual fan, downloads those songs for free off the Internet!

Then, you decide to consolidate the record companies into 4 or 5 big mega corporations run by bean counters who look to the “bottom line.” So much for nurturing a truly talented artist’s career.

Radio undergoes consolidation around the same time and only a few corporations own all of the radio stations. Clear Channel currently owns 1200 stations and counting. So much for the free wheeling days of FM radio, which started as an alternative to the set playlists of the top 40 on AM stations. Days in which DJ’s played music that they cared passionately about are nearly gone. Now, it’s play the flavor of the month.

Meanwhile, music fans start gathering on the Internet to share songs and stories.

Eventually, the record companies get wind of what’s going on the Internet. They start a hue and cry about people obtaining music for free. Yet, they refuse to look at their role in limiting the fan’s choice of available music, whether by exposure or by pricing. Don’t even get me started on the lack of domestic distribution of many overseas artists.

The record companies’ solution? Create CD’s that can’t be duplicated, and oftentimes, unplayable outside of the user’s home stereo.

Yay! In the record companies’ infinite wisdom, we’ve come full circle. They are recording music onto a format that can only be played at home. It is no longer portable, except if you record onto analog tape, perhaps. That’s the exact situation we had when music was only recorded on vinyl! Now we’ll be charged more for it, with tiny lyric booklets (if even included) and tiny artwork. Less for more!