Saturday, February 2, 2008

Would You Like Payola With That?

A coworker and fellow music junkie sent me a link to this Guardian article. On one hand it is a predictable indictment of the music industry. It is also much more than that. It specifically addresses the ways in which artists have been mistreated by the major record labels over the last few decades and how this is no longer sustainable. It also addresses the "pay for a piece of plastic" problem Larry Ellison articulated about software distribution over ten years ago.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/omm/story/0,,2241544,00.html

The most interesting part of the story this article tells is probably the rise, fall and rise of independent labels and their relationship both to the lives of artists and to technology.

Wired has also covered this recently, showing how the attitudes at the major record labels are causing their lunch to be increasingly eaten by smaller, more music oriented companies.

In electronic music the situation is extreme in that the number of independent, artist run labels is almost equal to the number of artists [1][2][3]. Recent decisions by Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails to bypass and or fight major labels are also big parts of the trend. The next few years are going to be very interesting. It is entirely possible that one or more of the majors will figure out how to maintain control of the production and distribution process without fundamentally changing how they treat their artists and customers. Let's hope not.

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