Thursday, January 27, 2011
It's The Same Old Song... (for 5 times the cost, if you're lucky.)
The following is a letter from the February issue of MOJO that feels more like the type of article that should be written about the ever-increasing decline in record sales. Author Izzy Young may have been focusing on one particular release in his complaint, but with articles about the record industry appearing every other week---another is running in the recent L'il Wayne issue of Rolling Stone---no one ever seems to give it to the majors, their greed, and total disregard for the people who keep them in business, the record buyers.
Mr. Young seems to have nailed it with his personal gripe, while most reporters only report, playing it safe, and rarely exposing the countless examples that have brought the industry to its knees.
MOJO's assessment of Bruce Springsteen's The Promise box was on the money and a jaw-dropper indeed. However, what makes this old Brucehead "mither" about the actual song "The Promise" is an unflattering part of the narrative that hugely pissed off a lot of people when "Tracks" emerged in 1998. "Tracks" had certain nailed-on bankers and "The Promise" was one of them, an absolute cornerstone of the "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" era and his career so far. However, it was nowhere to be seen. Then, a few months later came the 18 Tracks 'sampler' with three extra songs, one of which was a knock-off demo of--guess what?--"The Promise." Bruce's quote at the time was along the lines of not being able to source a decent version of it, which was an eye-brow raiser to this hardly extensive collector who had five perfectly brilliant, unflinching versions which knocked the 18 Tracks effort into Miami Steve's cocked hat.
This was pre iTunes (although I suspect it would have been an album-only purchase), pre your Pirate Bays and their ilk and pre "burning your mate's discs." So shell out again many of us did. Columbia have proved pathological with multiple version over the years but it impacts negatively on the huge amount of humanity and integrity Bruce possesses to have obviously sanctioned such daylight robbery from his core audience he claims accountability to. Love the guy, can't imagine my life without his music, but it stunk badly at the time and diminished, for me, the best thing he's ever written.
In 2007, my business partner and I wrote an OP-ED for the New York Times, citing the many wrong turns made by the major labels, which subsequently helped kill themselves.
You can read it if you like below.
Four years later and it seems to be getting worse. Another MOJO letter which immediately follows the one above says this:
To the dismay of my bank account, as a serial record buyer I've pumped even more money into the record industry as I have happily returned to vinyl. The advent of getting a download card with my records so I can iPod it during the day but return home to my beautiful, big warm vinyl is the best thing to happen for years. Hail the record companies who are doing this. It's a lifeline to a dying animal, yet some still resist it. In an era where the major labels complain of people stealing music let me say this: "I want to buy the new Neil Young album!! But I haven't. Why? Because WEA are charging £30 for the vinyl!! As I type, it is £40 on Amazon. Trawling the net for over a month, I can't get a copy for less than £28. At the same time Sufjan Stevens double LP on his own lable is available for a tenner and the Of Montreal record on 180 gram vinyl for £12. This strikes me as a graphic example of how the major labels operate and how greed has got them into the position we now see. Clearly, if the indie lables can afford to sell a record for a certain amount, then the big muti-nationals can too. Why rip someone off and risk them not returning to you? And to Neil Young, of all people, a champion of analogue sound.
I'm not sure it's as simple as A. Horne says above, but I don't believe he is far off the mark when stating the price gouge of the majors.
It's a real head-scratcher to read how the concert promoters are scratching their heads at the particularly lousy season they just had. What is it they aren't getting? A pair of tickets for a major act starts at $200. $35 for the new Neil Young album. $200 bucks to see a show. I'm sure I saw this on an episode of The Jetsons.
I know this is old news.
"So don't go!"
"I only see indie bands at clubs"
"There is free music everywhere."
This really isn't the point.