The music industry is dying. Okay, I exaggerate again. Maybe not in it’s death throes but definitely sick and suffering. Not music, mind you, but the industry in its present form. Music per se can survive revolutions and world wars, even flourish. But the industry, mainly the record companies, if it doesn’t smart up pretty soon, will soon follow in the footsteps and sudden demise of the cinema industry in the Philippines, now extremely emaciated and probably permanently so.
The record labels like to blame music piracy for their woes. Quite naturally. It’s all too easy to stick an accusing and dirty finger at the shameless pirates who sell CD’s at absurdly low prices and at lowly places. But who would want to buy the real deal when you get the exact same sound from a sidewalk hawker for one-tenth the price?
Labels, I surmise, are either too proud or too dumb to admit that their own downfall is mainly their own doing. I mean what business would survive long selling crappy overpriced products. The way I see it, piracy had to happen. Karma for all the years the labels had been duping artists with cheap contracts and cheating the buying public with too expensive CD’s.
I mean how expensive can a thin disc of plastic be? It’s the cheapest material invented on the planet, right? P450 for a thin plastic wafer? I think not. The likely argument would then be that the labels do shoulder the production cost of the music. Baloney! Let’s not get too technical and serious and keep this thing candid. I don’t have the patience for that today. So lets not even begin to discuss the pet pop artists of the big labels and how much their music is worth because they’re certainly not worth listening to if you ask me.
Crappy stuff sold far too expensive for far too long. That’s some serious negative karma accumulating for many long years. It’s amazing how they’ve managed to dupe everyone this long. So now it’s all coming back to haunt them. Revenge in the form of unfair competition. No wonder when pirated CDs started coming out, many bought frantically and proudly. Everyone wanted to get back at the labels for their exploitative pricing.
Speaking of exploitative pricing, the local oil companies could learn a thing or two from this. With the way they’ve run their businesses, the national government, and the national economy for that matter, the day a viable fuel alternative comes will be a day of revenge for everyone. Just like Microsoft and every other exploitative monopoly. Their time will come as surely as death and taxes. And just like logs, the bigger they are the harder they’ll fall. But enough about the pump powers and Bill Gates for now.
Like the cassette tape, which had its time, so too will the CD, as a format, live out its usefulness, and reach the end of its life cycle. And near its end it definitely is. The signs are present. In the United States, a most telling statistic is slowing sales: as formats age, overall revenue has declined 13 percent since 1999. Not helping is the fact that the cost of a CD has risen 16 percent since 1997. In terms of CD titles, new releases have gone down 14 percent since 1999. A few factoids I shamelessly copied off a year-old issue of Wired.
Anyway, many are predicting MP3s will be the next big winner. I-Pod’s success certainly is telling. Or maybe peer-to-peer distribution, legal or illegal. If record labels are slow to recognize the wave of the future, and if they’re slow to catch up, they’ll be left behind and lose their usefulness. In business, if you can’t offer anything, you’re dead.
So what’s the future for the ‘old school’ record labels? Well, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings, or maybe until her song finds its way in Quiapo or Kazaa. When that happens, my dear friends, we’ve got ourselves a whole new opera.