[LINK] More on the Music Industry

Chris Maltby chris@sw.oz.au
Mon, 24 Feb 2003 16:09:33 +1100

On Mon, Feb 24, 2003 at 12:30:07PM +1100, Hans W. Groenewegen wrote:
> One of the many things that annoy me about this too frequently
> repeated LINK discussion on the music industry is the fact that
> most contributors seem to equate "music" with rock and other
> forms of contemporary (and generally ephemeral) popular music.

> There is very little consideration given to the fact that
> the music industry has for years been cross subsidising their
> serious music output from the income generated by popular music
> sales. With the decline in that income, partly due to web piracy,
> the amount of money being spent by the recording industry in
> commissioning new recordings of serious classical music, for
> example, has reduced significantly.

I think a lot of "popular" artists would be irritated to think
that the returns on their creative product were being diverted
to subsidise other non-commercial product (note: this is not
to make a value judgement about the "quality" of the different
kinds of material). But I think the premise that we need to
have a monopoly tax on music distribution in order to pay for
musical diversity is severely flawed. Among the questions you
might ask about it is the big one: who decides? If I am forced
to pay for this supposed benefit when I buy my copy of Britney
Spears' latest, why is my opinion not formally counted in
determining the recipients? Or is elitism acceptable when it
comes to music?

> Many of the classical CD's that are  coming on the market
> are in fact re-issues of recordings made many decades ago.
> Although the sound quality is still good and the recording
> artists are often legendary, it does mean that the opportunities
> for new artists to make their name and for new - and perhaps
> slightly more esoteric - works to be recorded are declining.

Actually, I think there are other reasons why there has been
a particular decline in classical recordings. Have you been
into a CD store recently? There are hundreds of "new release"
classical CDs with $10-$15 price tags and usually little known
orchestras and/or soloists - this is the growth area. I imagine
that artist royalties are minimal and that a good profit is
being made by the industry. But that's surely going to impact
the total amount of cash available for new "serious" recordings
at $30/CD and upwards.

> The purpose of copyright is not, as Chris Maltby (quoting Richard
> Stallman) said, merely to cover the significant costs associated
> with traditional methods of physical duplication and delivery.

Stallman was referring to the implications of the invention of
the printing press and comparing the revolutionary impact of
that with that of the Internet. You can only take the argument
so far, but certainly it's time there was a collective look into
the cost-benefit of the copyright monopolies in the different
creative fields.

> The purpose is to promote creative endeavour which is obviously
> much wider than that and not really affected by the changes in
> technology. No doubt it is quite possible for some uncouth local
> rock band to distribute its latest creation on the Web. But it
> takes a lot more resources to make a top quality recording of
> Berlioz' Requiem or the complete Beethoven string quartets.

And as someone who would much rather listen to Berlioz or
Beethoven than Britney Spears, I must nevertheless suggest to
you that the solution to your problem is to pay even more for
classical recordings of the kind you want, not to gather the
crumbs that fall from the rent-seeking behaviour of monopolies.
Or maybe we could cut record company profits and expand the
profit share for the creative side.