Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cashing In, Cashing Out

Alex: So, the announcement of Dependant going under has started off some delightful flambé on Side Line's message board. The fact that Stefan seems to be laying the demise of the label firmly at the feet of downloaders has kicked off the old debate about the perceived value of mp3s both legal and illegal. Cue DSBP label head Tommy T with a well-reasoned and stated opinion on said topic:

"I always noticed the people who love downloads so much are usually never in a band or run a label...its always the people who think that music should be devalued are the ones who don't create music..sounds like extreme jealousy to me...since they can't make music no one else should be able to make cash off of their creations or music either...its like all these free "netlabels"hahahah thye are a joke...any fool can do this and pay nothing to do overhead is good for the cheapies in this scene...they are free cause their shit is so bad no one would want to buy they have to give it away for free, and then this continues that vicious circle of training fans to think it should all be free....the wussies that do this are just trying to get in with the trend and think that free music is the way it should be...cause no one would buy theirs anyways....its called giving in and selling out to the sheep."

Thought provoking! On the other hand, perhaps it's not just illegal downloading leading to generally lower sales for Industrial artists. Quote Dr. Chop:

"i think the real problem here is a combination of a) traditional "labels" having far too much overhead to be supported by bands who only sell 5000 copies of a record, and b) the vast amount of bands creates so much noise that the scene is unable to be dominated by 5-10 groups as in the past. thus, as the amount of bands increase, total sales get spread out over more bands, thus *everyone's* sales go down. add in some random additional factor to account for illegal downloading and there you have it."

Now we have no way of drawing a direct correlation between downloads and declining sales, however a member of Battery Cage chimes in with the following:

"the MP3 site that he references in the statement, to see what the stats on the latest Battery Cage album were. well, it was posted to their site almost two full weeks before street date, so we can thank some fuckheaded "member of the press" for providing them with that. and the downloads were well over 3000 copies, which sort of helps explain why Metropolis is telling me that we aren't selling jack shit. who knows if we will even be able to release another album at this point? i don't!! why should i even bother? it's not like it's free for me to make this music...why should i keep pouring money and blood into giving thieves my soul for free?"

This of course assumes that everyone who downloads a CD illegally would have bought a legit copy in the first place. And finally, we have Tommy T again:

"CD's, industrial music, DSBP and Metropolis, etc. were all here before itunes, and we made this scene happen...not of going off on me or anyone else actually doing something cool with music instead of just following trends to be accepted you may want to reassses the facts and figures and see that some of us are just trying to help the scene and CD format stay alive and thats it...."

I understand the part about iTunes, presumably we'd be happier putting our money into the hands of our local CD importer instead of Apple computers, but I find the particular dedication to the CD format over actual content kind of puzzling.

Bruce: Dr. Chop makes a good point regarding the wider distribution of a finite number of consumer dollars spread across an ever-increasing number of bands. The increased access to means of production and distribution that we've seen in the past eight or so years means more bands and also theoretically means broader reach to new audiences that might not have heard a particular genre or band had they been active in the late 80s, but there's no guarantee that legitimate, lasting interest in any genre or band will be correlative to that effect.

In this sense, Dr. Chop's comments obliquely brush upon the uspeakable elitist heresy: that the disappearance of a certain amount of less-than-stellar bands might actually be good for a scene. It's a delicate balance: when a genre is in its infancy, or is trying to find a foothold in a new town or country, talk of unity and scene support is used to rally the troops and generally build the scene. But there's a point, a "critical mass" (groan) if you will, at which point the comparative strengths and weaknesses of a scene's varying bands come into focus, and niches are found or they are not. To be clear: I'm not saying that label and distribution factors don't have an effect on a band's success or failure, they have a profound effect, likely more than any content-based factors when it comes to major label releases (I'm a good McLuhanite, I suppose). I'm just saying that not every band that puts a record out on an independent label has an automatic right to success. Unfortunately, we've all seen too many great bands go ignored due to label politicking while many bastards succeed (to quote Gira). For every jaw-droppingly awesome band whom you foist on your friends whose records get overlooked in the shuffle of ineptitude (I'll be bold and say The Tear Garden), there's another astonishingly craptacular band whose promo material you can't help but trip over (Aghast View? Um...I'm struggling for a contemporary example. Alex, who do we hate? Alex: Cesium 137. We hate Cesium 137).

...One other short point: DSBP seems to price their releases well below many other independents (looks like $12 US is the average). In that sense, Tommy T's putting his money squarely where his mouth is, and he definitely deserves to be yielded some moral high ground in this debate on that account.

Alex: I don't know that he is actually. As is apparent by the first quote posted by him, he feels net labels and anyone else who offers content for free must have product which is of inferior quality. So if we take that to it's logical extension, doesn't that mean that in Tommy T's world if you charge less than another label for a CD, it must be of a lesser quality? Not a belief I subscribe to, but not a huge leap in his logic either.


Flatliner said...

Can we hate Unter Null instead?

Amanda said...

Too easy.

As for the Mp3 debate... the industry is changing/has changed. Adapt or die.

Adam said...

Whoops, that was me.

alex said...

"Can we hate Unter Null instead? "
I figure we can do both.