Group: Super Admins
Joined: Dec. 1999
||Posted: May 30 2003, 14:46
My problem with it really centres around industry standards. We have an industry standard for CDs, called the Red Book (not to be confused with the Red Book of Hergest, a medieval welsh manuscript), and as long as a CD obeys what's laid down in the Red Book, it will play on any compatible device - those compatible devices include computers. What record companies are doing is engineering deliberately incompatible discs, with the intent of preventing certain people from listening to them, and that's not an attitude which I can agree with.
I would certainly suggest taking the computer back if it didn't play the Red Book CDs that it's been designed to play, but these aren't Red Book CDs. The record industry is, a bit like Microsoft, attempting to twist an industry standard so that they can have more control over how the products are used (and make more money from them as a result).
My issue with it isn't so much the simple fact it won't play in a few computers and CD players, but that it's not working because the record company has engineered it to not work - I see that as a step backwards, not forwards.
They were happy to agree with the industry standard when it was introduced, despite the fact that one of the selling points of digital audio was how flawless copies could be made. Funny that they didn't see the potential for abuse of the system back then...but that's because they were far more concerned with providing their customers with the highest quality, most convenient format they could, right? No, of course not - they just wanted to sell everyone the same albums all over again, and having an industry standard format helped that, as it made the albums available to the widest possible audience.
They don't actually care about quality at all - copy protection is lowest common denominator stuff, making a product that's just about good enough for most people (this goes for the industry's attitude to music as a whole). They don't really care about the music at all, they're concerned simply with selling it.
One particular thing they love is loyal fans, who even if offered a rather bad product, will still buy it because of their dedication to the artist. Recording artists on major labels are, unfortunately, rather like Ronald McDonald - friendly faces of what's really ruthless multinational business.
It would be lovely to think that they're doing this so that artists can be given their fair share of money for their work. It would take quite an act of imagination to think that, though - if they could pay artists any less, they would. In fact, they do - the record industry is rife with fraud, with huge sums of royalties often going 'missing' thanks to various 'accounting mistakes'.
There's a massive amount of profit on CDs - I guesstimated that, for the £15 I paid for Tubular Bells 2003, a good £10 of that was profit (basing my figures on them selling 100,000) - some of that going to the shop, perhaps as much as £5 of it (some of that would be covering their costs, which I didn't factor into the calculation) and the rest going to the record company. Mike would probably see about 40p of that, though as he uses his own studio, he also makes extra out of the studio costs. Now, you might think that, after they've sold that 100,000 copies and the costs needing to be covered have dropped, they might charge less...yes, of course - which is why the 30 year old Tubular Bells often sells for around £17 a copy. The only extra costs on that, after 30 years, are those of remastering and repackaging it, and I'm fairly sure they weren't that high...
So, let's not have any illusions of poor, starving, penniless record companies here (and if they try and kid anyone that the high prices are because of illegal copying, I'd be tempted to laugh...they've been charging a fortune for CDs since before it became a problem).
I actually think that dropping the prices would do a lot to help - I would guess that a lot of the illegal file sharing/copying that goes on is between young people who have trouble paying the sort of money that the companies are expecting for CDs, and don't feel that the record industry's current output is really worthy of that much of their hard earned cash (can anyone tell me if I'm going along the right lines here?).
I think it should also be borne in mind that while Warner Records may claim to be losing out to the internet, it's not all as bad as it seems. Some of you might have come across a little company called AOL who just happen to be the world's biggest internet service provider and who are...yup, you guessed it, part of AOL Time Warner, the same as Warner Records. They're making a massive amount of money out of the internet and could, I'm sure, work out a way of taking their revenue from internet file sharing rather than CD sales (how about a special, competitively priced, AOL account where the user can download a certain amount of free music every month?).
I also wonder how much of the dropping sales of music is actually down to the fact that people just don't want to buy what they're selling...it's obvious there's some reason that people don't feel that the music's worth paying for, maybe it's about time they worked out what that reason is.
I don't really agree with the illegal file sharing of albums (though people have a point when they say it can lead to sales as well - something else for the record companies to investigate), but I agree even less with the way the record companies are handling it.
My main feeling is that both the artist and the consumer should be given a fair deal, and I don't feel that at least the large record companies are giving that to either of them.