Tuesday, March 16, 2010

(empo-tymshft) Who decides how customers consume a band's output?

In the olden days, if you wanted to buy music from a band, you would go down to your record store and see what it had to offer. When you got there, you'd see that if you wanted to get some Elton John music, you could buy an LP such as Rock of the Westies, or perhaps a single such as "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." But you couldn't march into the record store and say, "I just want to buy the song 'Roy Rogers,' but I don't want to buy the rest of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album."

But now, in the wonderful twenty-first century world of downloadable music, you DO have more control over what you buy. In fact, you could go to your favorite online music store and buy "Roy Rogers" and Flash and the Pan's "Walking in the Rain" and Pink Floyd's "Us and Them."

Um, maybe not (H/T MediaMemo):

[Pink Floyd's] latest record deal, signed with EMI before legal downloads came along, said individual songs must not be sold without the band's permission.

They argued that the same rule should apply to digital sales as well as CDs.

EMI disagreed but a judge has sided with Pink Floyd.

Why would Pink Floyd want to enforce such a clause? Because they had a vision about how their music should be heard, and their vision is not a three-minute vision:

In court, Chancellor Sir Andrew Morritt said the contract contained a clause to "preserve the artistic integrity of the albums".

He said the contract meant EMI were "not entitled to exploit recording by online distribution or by any other means other than the original album, without the consent of Pink Floyd".

The band largely avoided releasing singles during their career, instead preferring fans to listen to entire albums such as Dark Side of the Moon, which has sold more than 35 million copies around the world.

OK, perhaps there is some financial motivation there also - perhaps the band will earn more if people are forced to buy the entire album rather than just buying, say, "Money." But since I've been listening to Dark Side of the Moon fairly frequently as of late, I can understand the artistic reasons why the band would prefer that the album be judged as a whole.

But Pink Floyd isn't the only artist who holds this position. The BBC cites Garth Brooks and AC/DC as two other artists who insist that albums should be downloadable in toto only. MediaMemo cites a couple of other artists who insisted on this - for a time:

And just because the band has won the ruling doesn’t mean that’s going to stop–its entirely possible, for instance, that a check of a certain size could allay the band’s concerns. Other album-only holdouts like Metallica and Radiohead eventually held their noses and allowed their stuff to be sold by the song on iTunes, too.

Yet it's important to note that we, the consumers, effectively have no say in the matter. We cannot download our own mix of one part Pink, one part Garth, and one part Bon - something that would cost about $3 at current prices could end up costing more like $30, since you'd have to buy three entire albums instead of three single songs.

Could this hurt the "album-only" artists in the long run? Probably not. Let's face it - you can't download Beatles songs OR Beatles albums in iTunes, but the band seems to be doing OK.
blog comments powered by Disqus