The Daily Swarm has recently linked to a post by Alan McGee, a blogger for Guardian Unlimited. The post is titled No one wants to pay for music anymore. McGee’s premise in the post is that people in 2007, himself included, do not want to pay for music. He states:
“Like lots of people, I’m a music freak: we all want music but nobody in 2007 wants to pay for it.”
I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll get to that in a minute. He goes on to say:
“This leaves the record companies stranded. They’re selling things people don’t buy any more. I wish I could feel sad for the record companies but I can’t. Their product was poor value – all filler and no killer.”
This I can agree with. By and large, the record companies have been playing it safe and putting out “safe” music. Very little of what’s played on Top 40 radio interests me, and I know I’m not alone. When you quit spending the time to develop artists, you’re not left with much to work with.
Finally, McGee states:
“Give away the music and build the business back up through live gigs and merchandise. The 80s and 90s are over – someone tell the music business.”
I may be wrong, but McGee seems to be implying in his post that the record labels deserve a portion of an artist’s touring income, which I disagree with. I agree that the industry needs to be overhauled, but I’m not sure his solution is the right one. By and large, I don’t believe that the labels assume much of the costs of an artist’s tour, so I don’t think that the labels should receive a portion of the tour revenue.
Furthermore, I think that people are still willing to pay for music. I know that when I buy a CD of an artist I like, I’m directly helping that artist. I work full-time outside of the music business, so I can’t get to every show that goes through town. Oftentimes, my only method of supporting an artist is by buying his or her music, and I’ll do so happily.
I do wish, however, that there were more avenues for hearing new music. The radio is largely failing at this, and 30-second clips on iTunes are not always enough to tell if I’m going to like an artist I’ve never heard before.
Are you willing to pay for music?
Guitar Noize says
I think it is more of a case that people don’t want to pay over the odds for music, Apple’s iTunes Store has proven that people will pay for music they want, but not necessarily an entire album with packaging and distribution costs thrown in. However even iTunes is probably more than most people want to spend which is why sites like the soon to be rekindled allofmp3.com in Russia do so well, why pay AUD$1.69 when I can pay 17c knowing that they actually pay royalties as proven in court recently. Now I’m not saying that everyone should ditch iTunes and use cheap mp3 sites, I want musicians to get paid after all but we still don’t know how much of Apple’s money gets to the artist?
How much actually gets to the artist will be determined by each artist’s contract. I don’t know definitively how much Apple pays to the labels, but I believe that it’s a fairly large percentage of the sale…something like 70-80%. Apple’s not in the music selling business to make money off of the music(although I’m sure they make plenty off of it), but when you look at it compared to the money they make off of the sale of the iPod, then the money they make off of iTunes is relatively small.
I think eMusic and Amie Street offer a better alternative than something like allofmp3. I’m still not convinced any of that money ever makes it to the musicians who deserve the royalties. eMusic and Amie Street give independent artists a place where they can sell their music, and consumers a place to get relatively cheap music. I’m still exploring alternatives, but the sites I mentioned above are typically well reviewed.
At any rate, Alan’s premise in his article that I link to is that people *don’t* want to pay for music, and as you indicated, the success of iTunes would indicate otherwise, and I agree with you.
In my view, the big labels in general, probably since the grunge era, have just been feeding on themselves and putting out music that sounds the same all over. Just about every artist/band they put their hands on sounds the same as the other. So, what they’ve done is that they have turned their music (which is most of pop and top 40 music each year) into really just a fashion statement. Their music is not about music, but just fashion and attitude.
So, it’s not surprising that a lot of people feel like they don’t need to pay for music, which I think is terribly sad. It shows that people don’t put a value to it. You don’t see people saying that Ferrari should give away Ferrari’s for free. You see people who really like Ferrari’s paying for a Ferrari cuz they know it’s worth it.
The day folks stop paying for music will be a bad day for musicians and artists because they will be ripped of the honor to call themselves professionals and be valued just like any other professionals do, by the amount of money they make with their product and are able to reinvest back into their careers.
To me concerts are basically a marketing tool to promote a record and build an artist’s/band’s brand, and I don’t think many musicians and artists want to work and create so that a tour is the only revenue product of their work and effort. A concert is long forgotten the day after the tour buses take off, and there’s very little money to be made by a band after they have to pay everybody involved in the tour. The record, album, recorded music, is the benchmark of what a musician and artist strives for and should be paid for.
So, yeah, I think the labels deserve a lot of credit for putting music in this situation. But, I also think that a lot of people are just dead wrong in thinking that, post-Napster, music should be free and labels should just give it away. Would you go to work tomorrow under the promise that there will be no check for your work? Do you think many of today’s and yesterday’s artists would have achieved what they created without the ability to commercialize some or all of it? I think not.
You make some great points, IG. Especially about the fact that much of the music that is being put out today is commodity stuff and isn’t worth the price of admission. For the majority of musicians, the best way to make money is to tour and at the shows sell merchandise such as CDs and t-shirts. They make much more money when they can do that and, as you mentioned, the actual money obtained from playing the concert probably doesn’t amount to much unless you’re one of the big name acts.