Greg Beato says Internet devaluing music:
- Given the music industry’s current woes, it is no wonder so many artists are beating the drums of peace these days. In the same way that aspiring missile-sharers believe that the best way to “liberate” Iraq is to thoroughly destroy it, millions of music fans believe that unauthorised file sharing is actually helping miserable label-slaves break the bonds of oppression that have kept them in mansions, cocaine, and fancy cars for much of the past century.
Of course, with Iraq, apocalypse is only one of many possible outcomes, and thus, for the likes of Sheryl Crow, Ms Dynamite and the many other artists who have expressed anti-war sentiments, it offers a more viable outlet for optimism than their own situation. Indeed, the music industry apocalypse is already well under way, the casualties are mounting, and the carnage is not about to end any time soon.
….The truth is that digital distribution is bad for artists for the same reason that it is bad for record companies (and good for fans): it makes too much music available. As content becomes increasingly ubiquitous, it loses value; just look at how few print publications are able to charge successfully for their online counterparts. While there are certainly some people who are willing to pay for digital music, few of them appear to be willing to pay that much for it.
….The end result of this paradigm shift: many of the lucky few artists who now make a lot of money will no longer do so. And most of the ones who make little money will continue to do so.
Call me a conspiracy nut, but sometimes I can’t help thinking that the most zealous advocates of file-sharing are a kind of fifth column, working in concert with the Big Five labels. After all, a world where service rather than content has value ultimately favours the likes of Sony and EMI over individual artists. But if all the major labels suddenly dropped the price of their products to zero, they would only inspire price-fixing lawsuits. Better just to let the Janis Ians of the world do their dirty work for them, and chalk up the devaluation of actual content as the inevitable price of artistic freedom. [Guardian]
This fails to take into account the fact that the labels can and should continue to function as filters and marketers – their most value-added funtion now. They will continue to be hit-makers through the digital revolution by focusing media interest on acts, just as they do now.