02007-09-10 | Internet, Music, Studio, Technology | 13 comments

Techdirt: 40,000 Explanations For Why The Recording Industry Is Wrong About Business Models
He also highlights how the idiotic focus on getting more per song just as everything else about music and technology gets cheaper is hurting the record labels much more than it helps them. He compares the situation to how expensive it was to use mobile phones a dozen years ago. People were scared to use mobile phones because the charges were ridiculously high.

Yes, recording has become much cheaper than it used to be, and IF you record techno or some other music style that uses samples, then your cost is low and that is that. All you need is a laptop and a keyboard. You can make an album for next to nothing and can afford to charge next to nothing. If, however, you make music with other people, a band, a cast of studio cats, or an orchestra for example, the cost of recording has not come down. People need to get paid and that pay goes up over time, not down. A classical orchestra recording now costs more than a million dollars, which is why so few classical orchestra albums are recorded these days. So, if we as a culture want to listen to nothing but rap and techno and other stuff that one or two guys can slap together, congratulations, we are on our way to accomplishing that.

Another important oversight is that there is a natural cultural pyramid. Yes, the pop stuff might sell 10 million copies at 10 cents per song and that would be a million bucks per song – and if that many people buy the album one would end up with $10,000,000. But how many people are going to buy a jazz record, a progressive rock album, a classical music album, a world music recording? You won’t find a lot of jazz albums selling more than, say 20,000 copies. At $0.10 per song that would bring in $2,000 for a single song, which is the cost of a pro-studio for a single day!!! Even if the album sells 20,000 copies, one will have to pay for studio, engineer, producer, musicians, promotion etc… So if you want Wal*mart-ify (not really a word, but you know what I mean, yes?) music and culture then let’s go ahead and charge only pennies per song.

Some people suggest that music could be sponsored by advertisers (see this item: Singer Fergie To Promote Candie’s Clothing Line In New Songs – for US$4 million)… Great! Now, imagine the next Dylan, cleverly crafting his lyrics to satisfy his personal sponsors. Or back to the middle ages, when every count had a court-composer. Make it more happy, no make it more like Spring… write something for the countess’ birthday…


  1. Will

    It is a shift in the culture and you hit it on the head, Walmartify. People want high quality products for the cheapest price. The problem with this is you eventually price yourself into garbage. Manufactures are at the whim of the consumer. They “feel” what the customer wants most and usually that is a good price so they start with price and then mold the product. In reality it should be to start with the product and end with the price (which has to be within a reasonable tolerance).

    People listened to Dylan for what he had to say. He was a great poet and musician; people respected and loved his music. They paid to hear what he had to say. The same goes for a lot of other musicians. I really don’t see that in today’s culture. The emerging culture has no respect for intellectual property. It is freely taken off the internet, stolen, used and abused.

    Maybe it is the walmartization of America, maybe it is pop music doesn’t have real value anymore, whatever it is the “true” artists are the ones suffering the consequences of our actions. Remember you always get exactly what you pay for.

  2. ottmar

    Steve: the upcoming binaural dummy head album will be rather quiet as we will not compress the music. By not compressing the music we are able to retain the full dynamics of the live-in-the-studio performances.

  3. stephen duros

    The possible future?

    Fast Food music. The dollar menu at Mickey-D’s. or should I say, the .10 menu.

    “Yes, I’d like the #4 Cheese burger w/ 100 song download card meal please?”

  4. Carol

    Workmanship and artistry in general are taking a beating. The assembly line concept is in it’s extreme….making many as cheaply as possible. Sure the quality is horrible but…the aim is toward the lower segment of society anyway so resin models are sold instead of marble or wood. Plastic looks as good as steel on everything from toys to cars. After all we only want them till we tire of them.
    I’m sorry. I don’t always feel so cynical, and as long as there are still real artists creating real things and being really appreciated, it’ll be okay.
    and I’ll turn on your music…each one remains as rich and wonderful as the first time I’ve heard it.

  5. ottmar

    One spam item I caught for this post started like this:

    Try this vendor, it’s even cheaper there:

    How apropriate!

  6. Franklyn

    I am a musician and I work with both organic and sample based music and I don’t see how the capability of an ipod translates into the pricing of music, this article contains some of the worst logic on this subject, there’s plenty wrong with the music industry but even before the new 160GB ipod was introduced you could buy drives with hundred of gigs really cheap.
    Also on the subject of how cheap it is this days to make music as a potential translator for pricing is also flawed logic…so then why should a painting sell for thousands of dollars if the canvas and materials were cheaper, aren’t you paying for the art? In other words if I spend a couple of months working on a sample based project using a computer and cheap software I should not be paid like it’s art…my rent and my groceries won’t be .10 cents
    Most articles on this subject seem to forget that the recording industry and the artists are not one and the same…but at the end of the days the idea being pushed remains that the value of music should drop because it all comes from a magical place where the creators don’t really need make a living.

  7. Eddie Russell

    most techno i hear, has a simple strong baseline with a catchy melody, not exactly brain surgery compared to the immense effort, training and cohesion that is required for an orchestral recording session……i just dont see a laptop as the source of good music, is it an instrument…because it can create music?

  8. yumiko

    “Yes, I’d like the #4 Cheese burger w/ 100 song download card meal please?”

    Stephen, who knows? I would not be surprised!
    Much to learn from reading all of this.

  9. ottmar

    Eddie: combining a strong bassline with a catchy melody is quite an art, one that most orchestra musicians would fail at. I am not putting down the talent required by techno, I am talking about the cost of recording it. I have great respect for many techno musicians, but they just don’t have the expense that a band or orchestra would have.

  10. steve

    J.S. Bach was a master at combining hip bass lines with strong melodies. I particularly like it when he changes the “bassline” to the melody part and the melody moves to the bass instrument, as in The Art of Fugue.

  11. stephen duros

    Yumiko, they would call that the Mc Download meal!

    hm… gives me an idea here! Maybe they could change their name from:

    McDonalds “I’m lovin it”


    McDownloads! “I’m listening to it!” hahahha

  12. yumiko

    Okay…so…Stephen, will you be applying for a position behind the counter or in the kitchen? I’m sensing a big change in career here…


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