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2008.08.09

Comments

Adam Heathcott

Saying that Blip.fm is pulling from "publicly available song databases" is not mentioning the fact that it's pulling from sources that can be illegal.

From what I can tell, it's leveraging Hype Machine and/or elbo.ws (two popular mp3 blog aggregators). The good news is, that means a lot of my label's tracks are up there, because we promote our music to music blogs and often give them a few free tracks from the albums. The bad news is that mp3 blogs are very much the wild west and there are a lot of people posting a lot of other songs that they don't have permission for. Those songs end up in these aggregators and when someone goes to search for one of my artists they can listen to most of the album if not all of it, for free. And I should state, not just listen: DOWNLOAD.

Which brings us back to the Trent Reznor model. If the people already have the music...will they pay for a download of it too? Will they buy a physical copy if they see it in a store at a merch table at a show? Do people still go to record stores or shows?

We (at Hometapes; my label) have been doing a variety of experiments in regards to this. With our last two releases (from spring and early summer) we made sure to have a digital version of the album available at various online retailers (iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, et al) as we started our online and periodical press campaigns. Would people actively search for these albums digitally and buy them perhaps out of fear or good conscience? Or would they just download the full album from the quick links people post to Rapidshare, Mediafire, Megaupload and the like. We definitely generated some early sales from those releases, but compared to the numbers of fully downloaded albums and single track downloads from music blogs, it wasn't even close to 1%. Does this mean the music sucks? Maybe...but the artists were both getting fantastic reviews and were playing tons of live shows (also to rave reviews) and the comments sections on the blogs were filled with praise.

I think people's relationship with music has changed to such a degree that they have actually forgotten how to properly support artists by purchasing music. There's so much more availability to music online that there is no reason to ever buy music except for the old souls who feel guilt about the hard work of the artists. Even if I really liked an album that I had downloaded. Why would I buy it? A new generation of kids are becoming adults and have jobs and have their own income to play with. Are they buying music? Nope. They never have before...why would they start? And here's a funny anecdote: A few weeks ago we had our records set up in a record fair at a large music festival. One day, a kid bought two of our cds and a label-branded totebag. The next day he used the totebag to steal a record from one of our partner labels who was set up right next to us. This is a kid so confused that he doesn't know the difference between buying and stealing anymore. ( To be fair, it does show that he's completely obsessed with music).

If I download 50 songs a day from online blogs for free, buying a record at a store would actually be over-consumption. Where in the world would I find the time to sit and listen to an album when I'm already probably not listening to all of the stuff I've downloaded? I've got lots of friends who speak of this problem. "Oh, I still haven't gotten to that record yet." "Oh, I'm waiting for a good time to listen." "Oh, don't even send me that, I'm 3 months behind on my listening." Those are actual quotes from friends. AND MYSELF. It's like eating unlimited free food out of the dumpster behind your favorite restaurant. It's lower quality, a bit messier, and it doesn't have the visual flair of proper presentation on a plate with silverware...but it's free. Would I actually go inside the restaurant and buy a proper meal later in the day?

I don't know where this leaves labels and artists. We've got a really open relationship with our bands and we respect the music and art foremost. We believe in the power of a good album that you can get lost in. I love listening in "radio format" (singles only) as much of the next guy, but I have to admit that I'm rapidly becoming a dinosaur: a true lover of the album. The power I felt the first time I listened to the White Album, Eat A Peach, Fear of a Black Planet, The Chronic, Debut, Yank Crime, OK Computer, Quicksand/Cradlesnakes or Misery Is A Butterfly is something that blows away the quick caffeine rush of a good single. The singles are the jump-off point that should stir my interest in an artist and want to seek out their masterworks.

What we're missing right now is that connection that should happen between a good song and a fantastic album. It needs to be more than an Amazon link. Most bands don't have the ability to make a rad ARG. Especially, when you do the math on the cost of the ARG and apply it the number of people who participate. Trent may be able to afford a few chartered buses, but most artists I know can't. So, I'm putting two groups of people on notice:

Bands, start making real honest-to-god albums again.
Fans, get your attention span back!

There, I said it.

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