6/03/2008

The Death of the Record Industry, the Resurgence of Vinyl?


Reading through my RSS feeds today, I came across this article. Apparently services exist that very cheaply and very easily will publish your music to the iTunes store, Amazon, etc. Indie artists can pay the minimal fee of about 30 bucks and completely forgo having to sign over rights to music to record labels. Anyone can now produce a record and have it for sale in the largest music store on earth in minutes.

Record companies are panicking because they are losing the control they had. They believe the problem is entirely rested on P2P programs like Napster, Audiogalaxy, Bittorrent, etc. The reality is, no one gives two shits about "owning" music anymore. Nobody wants to pay for something that they can't hold in their hands. Intellectual property like music, falls into that catagory. No one views music as something tangible--as tracks on an album. CDs are garbage. You can buy 100 for ten dollars. Why would you want to spend $18.99 on ONE?

Rick Rubin was recently asked to "save the record industry." His solution was to offer consumers the ability to listen to anything they wanted to, streamed to their computer and on demand, for a subscription fee per month. The record companies, being big, dumb dinosaurs, didn't like the idea and thought it undermined the value of the music. But if current trends continue for them, their music will be completely worthless. It's already completely free.

The brilliance of Rubin's idea is that it is actually easier than downloading music. You don't have to store hundreds of gigs of music, and you would be able to take everything you like around with you, as long as their was some sort of internets being piped in wirelessly. Microsoft is already doing this, and I don't know who else might see the light. A small cash cow of twenty bucks a month is certainly better than almost no one ever buying albums ever again.

In my opinion, and it may not be a unique vision, but I see two distinct markets for music. The Rubin subscription service will work fine and dandy for most users--low quality, down and dirty radio-like streaming, ala Pandora, will get the job done for most consumers and gets them paying for a service--something more tangible than just digital information. Getting all the music you want on all of your devices is more like getting your water or electricity turned on. So that makes sense. But I think there is still a market for audiophiles and music geeks--those of us that still buy albums in this Golden Age of Piracy.

I'm hoping there will be a bigger movement to fill the need of audiophiles. I own a lot of vinyl and know more than a few music geeks that collect it to. That's part of the problem with CDs--that big record really makes you feel like you're getting something warm and rich. The art on the sleeve is enormous compared to your regular CD sleeve. More often than not, an average CD cover looks considerably better printed on that paperboard sleeve. A lot of illustrators moaned about the demise of large album art. I say bring it back. Offer the audiophiles high quality music, with the dramatic range many critics of CD and MP3 sound so often cite. Give us a real reason to want to own the music.

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