Thom& Kanye& Curtis& Rick& Jay: The State of the Record Industry
October 2, 2007 § Leave a comment
Radiohead, pulling a Mark Ecko, put the test to the public.
KanYe vs. 50 Cent changed nothing, except that some wallets got some Hefty out of it. On Sunday night, though, you could feel the possibility of change in the ether of the internets. Radiohead’s fucking with everybody’s business, again. But I’ll get back to that once we catch up on the last few weeks of the music industry.
How do we know the record industry is in no fit state?
1. Resorting to making money off your phone, rather than the record store.
2. The choice of having Britney open the VMA’s rather than someone who can sing, dance, or play an instrument, rather than be a train wreck, seems like it was done by US Weekly, and not a television channel whose first initial stands for MUSIC.
3. When creativity does pop it’s head out of the bunker, it gets the shit sued out of it for sampling rights issues, while Puffy’s funded every single company off of songs that have samples to thank for their quality.
4. Finally, music just sucks these days, and not in that it’s too fun or poppy, it’s just that it’s too soulless. Maybe it’s always been like this. I’m not here to say that it sucks more scrot today than it did in yesteryear, I still remember Backstreet, but I’m getting sick and tired of it. High School Musical? Kenney Chessney? Hannah Montana? Fergie? STILL WITH THE FUCKING FERGIE AFTER 53 FUCKING WEEKS?
The Fuck Are You Thinking America(NoFerrera)? This is the trash that the industry is shoving down the gluttonous mouths of our country. Both sides are to blame, but always blame the system before you blame the addict.
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The Smartest Mustached Man I’ve Heard In Years
Amidst the almost boy-band-era sales numbers from the week of 9-11-07, there was a debate as to whether or not buying music was wrong because it enabled the fucked state the record industry is now. Jay Smooth, above, was the major proponent of the argument. Here, and above, he argued that to buy Curtis or Graduation was to buy into the fucked state of the biz, and enable the fat cats who are so scared they were about to try and fix things. I avoided 50’s Curtis because, well, much like Mr. Jackson himself, it suuuuucks. But, for the record, I ended up buying Kanye’s album, and even getting the Nobel Prize losing rapper’s autograph.
Maybe my writing this post is connected towards guilt from buying records for so many years, and how I only started listening to good music around the time I entered college (except for The Presidents of the United States of America album, from back in the day, that was fresh). I mean, even if Radiohead had gotten back with EMI or Capitol, I probably would have bought their record, but for good reason: it’s good music. I know this argument of “It’s good! It’s good because I say so and I like it!” is a little too similar of that of Mr. Rubin, who I’ll get to in a second. But, I think it’s safe to say that since he’s the one who ditched Def Jam to make death metal records and eventually work with Linkin Park, that he doesn’t hold the talent barometer that some think he does.
I agreed with most of his points, except his theory that Rick Rubin will be an instrument of positive change. Rubin is responsible for a shitload of brilliance and progression, but lately … well, he’s made some mistakes.
Rubin, as seen in this feature in the NYTimes Magazine, has been fired to try and fix the ailing sails of ship Record Industry. The article mentions nearly every single band he’s ever helped bring back from the creative grave. Every one, that is, except for Linkin Park. And when you work with the enemy of creativity, you lose your saved points. I guess in the hurry and passion of The Times’ love letter to Rubin, they forgot about it. And they forgot about the dumbest album cover in years.
Now That’s What I Call Rick Rubin Making A Mistake
Furthermore, Rubin is one of the few who think that music sales/ownership is headed towards some Jetsonian subscription service. In his future, it doesn’t matter where you are, if you’re driving, walking, at home, at work, at the beach braiding your beard, you can access some trillion song database of music including demos, concerts, ep’s, etc. You name it, Ricky’s future’s streaming it.
Meanwhile, a week and a couple days from today, Radiohead’s starting another future, trying to avoid Rick Rubin’s future, probably the same future where Bishop and Peter Petrelli share the same scar.
On Sunday night, it was revealed that Radiohead is going to continue to release music the same way they had been making it post-Hail To The Thief: without Capitol Records. Their latest release, titled In Rainbows,* will be released in three means. The most notable form of release will be the first, chronologically, way: a DRM-free download, which you can start to pre-purchase today. Then, on October 10, they will send you information for download and you’ll have the album in MP3 form to listen, treasure, and keep. If you’re the Deluxe Edition Completist Kind, as I am, you can get the album on compact disc and vinyl record, along with a second disc of bonus material, also on CD and vinyl., and to sweeten the deal (and make this edition’s £40 price point seem reasonable for those in America who will be set back $81, thanks to the weak ass dollar) you get a book of lyrics and a book of art, something that Radiohead has always done well.
A la JobsHova, One More Thing:
The album costs as much as you want to pay for it. For example, I want to listen before I plunk down the big pounds, so I chose $5 (£2.44), as that’s the street price of a mix tape, the stateside way to hype up a release. And unless all interested parties are going to go all Homer at the Museum on Thom & Co. and donate nothing, I’m pretty sure Radiohead’s going to show that this business strategy can work, at least as much as they need it to.
One business model that won’t work is subscription-based-music. I know one person who uses it, and while they’re an excellent person, they do not fall into the category of the target youth demographic that Rick Rubin’s employers are hoping he can lure away from MySpace, P2P, and guys on Canal Street selling bootlegs.
You might be wondering what a young curmudgeon such as myself could find at fault with this idea. The big glaring problem is simple: no ownership. You remain constantly sucking at the teat of the record labels. I wonder if CD burning is allowed in this future. Also, I’m fairly certain that the independent labels and artists would get stuck the shit end of the stick if this ever came to pass. The article goes into some detail about how revenue sharing between marquee artists and smaller older artists is a fucked concept, so I wonder how the littlest of guys and girls would fare.
I wrote the following paragraph prior to the Radiohead announcement:
“Like others, I take pride in my record, I mean MP3 collection, and want to keep us in a library based industry. I’ve collected stuff that big artists and their labels didn’t have to sign off on. My most treasured of these being Radiohead’s set from Bonnaroo 2006. There’s no way I’d have this by now if it weren’t for a world where file sharing is still thriving. I’d probably have to wait months if not years, instead of the three days I did, to find it.”
Furthermore, artists – such as Radiohead – who despise record labels wouldn’t be involved with a subscription service. And since labels seem to be pure evil, I’m apt to buy the below mega box set, just so that others can have hope to break loose from the matrix of assholes called the big three.
Buy The DiscBox Save The World! And I’ll Stop The Heroes Jokes.
And despite what Steve Jobs might tell you, iTunes, now the third largest music retailer isn’t a big fix either. If I’m going to be paying for music, I want no strings attached. On occasions when I’ve rebuilt my iTunes library, I’ve had to remember my old e-mail addresses and passwords from when I bought older tracks before I could play them on the computer or transfer them onto the iPod. Most of the DRM-free music they sell is from the quantity-marginal label known as EMI. Further, iTunes’ support of liner-notes booklets is as marginal as EMI’s online DRM free catalog. Unless liner notes somehow go the way of the newton/dodo** , I think that I’m going to continue to support those who support the libretto.
Finally, I’d like to say that I don’t believe that the Radiohead album will change everything. It’s a single step in the right direction, kind of like the Democrats getting Congress and the Senate. It didn’t change the world, the Republicans are still taking as much the Dems’ lunch money as they please, but it’s a start. I’d like to say that I’ve got the audacity to hope that the great day will come where Fergie’s out of the studio and back in the gutter with all of her old Methhead friends.
*To be filed alongside the Final Fantasy, the Canadian not the game, album “He Poos Clouds” in the record collections of sad lonely geeks everywhere.
** Which, if the “In Rainbows” disc box succeeds, it won’t.