Friday, May 11, 2007

Suicide Notes

Eric Zorn, ur-blogger at your Chicago Tribune, gives us the gist of an outrageous Billboard story entitled "New Laws Threaten Used CD Market."
With enthusiastic backing from the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, "Florida and Utah have passed (and Rhode Island is considering) second-hand goods legislation, sometimes referred to as pawn-shop laws, that could make the buying and selling of used CDs much more onerous to stores and less attractive to customers looking to sell music they are no longer interested in owning."

Among the impediments, a requirement that those who want to sell their CD's through second-hand shops must be thumb-printed and provide identification.

The intent is clearly to make used CD sales impractical or impossible. As a music lover/consumer, I've got some thoughts:

First, many music retailers make ends meet by selling used CDs. Used CDs have a much higher profit margin and, in effect, subsidize the retailer's ability to carry new product. By undermining this business model, the music industry is all but guaranteeing a reduction in the number of music retailers selling new CDs.

The corporate music industry may not think that this matters, but if their CD sales move exclusively to giant retailers -- Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Amazon -- those mega-retailers will gain incredible leverage in determining the price, wholesale and retail, of the product. Especially as the corporate music industry's traditional business model is undermined by the internet.

Second, although used CD sales may not put money in the pockets of the music industry multinationals, they do help the record labels' business model in a couple of ways.

First of all, used CD cultivates a culture where loving music means purchasing music. Buying popular music has traditionally been something quite different from buying a bag of cat litter or a washing machine. Popular music is marketed as a product that has a deeper meaning and as a signifier of membership in a group of persons who purchase similar music. Popular music is as much about identity as it is sound.

The stores that sell used CDs -- as opposed to electronics and department stores where music is just category of product for sale -- have been central to creating the culture(s) of music consumers. Sure, the sales people at Reckless may occasionally make me feel a bit clueless about my music purchases, but they never make me feel that my music purchases don't matter. (The Reckless staff at the new Loop store is top-notch, by the way.)

Secondly, used CD sales help create and foster habit of purchasing music in individual music lovers. When a music lover buys a used CD, the music corporations don't make any additional money. But that used purchase does keep that music-lover thinking about music in a particular way, i.e. that popular music is a tangible good -- an LP, a tape or a CD -- for which you pay money. The music corporations all depend on music lovers thinking like this. And if used CD sales end, music lovers who feel the retail price of new CDs are too expensive won't suddenly start buying $16+ CDs.* They will go on the internet and, in just a few clicks, download the music for nothing.

And those music lovers, who had previously been willing to pay for a physical manifestation of popular music, will be one step closer to thinking of popular music as information that is available for free.

The end of the corporate music industry due to music lovers expecting popular music to be free information may be inevitable, but the industry's latest actions will only hasten that day.

Personally, the knowledge that my purchase of a new CD would help finance the industry's attack on the owners and employees of local record stores makes me even less likely to pony up the cash for a new disc.

1 comment:

Greg Vendetti said...

Dear Listener,
I am writing you today to extend a notification of opportunities at hand for everyone who cares about music and the artists who bleed on the microphones that share the common vulnerability we can all relate to. My slogan, “Join the Revolution,” can be mistaken for many things, including a meaningless way to draw in certain crowds and attract new potential audiences. But I wanted to share with you the reason behind such a statement and give you a chance to diminish any negative opinions pertaining to such an open ended idea.
The music business is on the verge of change and it has been for quite some time. As we all know, the industry has recently gone through many stages of retraction from its usual methods and processes which have generated much discussion amongst the music and business communities. Since the digital platform has become the prominent medium for artists to connect to their fans, new ways of distribution, communication, advertising, and self-management have left the record companies in a query as to what happens next. Such services, up until now, have been the purpose of the major label and thus the motivation for “making it” as an artist. But because of the possibilities created by the internet and other digital mediums, artists can now accomplish their goals of spreading their music to the public on their own, thus leaving the major label useless. This new wave of modern music business is a great step in the industry. For so long, it has been inundated with poor business ethics and “sleaze-ball” tactics that give the business a bad name.
Although it is an exciting time for everyone, it brings about new problems as well. Because of the increased accessibility of music, the market has become saturated with mediocrity and low standards. This has caused a problem for the artists who have genuine talent and are lost within the crowds of off-key performers with over-achieving tenacity. This brings us up to speed as to why you, the audience is so important in this new stage of the industry’s evolution.
As the growing concerns amount to monumental levels, it is now known that the music community wants change to occur. You, the listener, knows that there is something wrong with the way music has been presented to the public and have the power to change it. “Join the Revolution” was thought up as a way to reach out to my fans and show them that they are unique and possess the intelligence to know what is moral and good. That they are not blinded by the light being shined in their eyes by large corporations and standard ways of practice. That they are the ones that hold the fate of the music industry in their hands. We alone have the power to change the way music is displayed and communicated to the public. Now it is the time to stand up and express your opinions on what you believe is worth knowing, worth listening to, worth playing, and most importantly, worth changing.
I invite you to conjure any opinions for or against my own. These words are merely an expression of myself both as an artist and music lover. I do not intend you to follow any protocol but to make your own. I also encourage you to research this movement in greater detail and discuss it with as many people as you can. Revolutions are hard to come by, they are far and few between. But circumstances as these are grounds for new ideas, new leaders, and new practices. Be apart of what is to come and know that you are what drive the artist and music to live. My thanks to all of you that listen to my music and support my movement and career. I hope to see all of you at the next show with a new head on your shoulders. Think. Love. Listen.

Greg Vendetti

Join the Revolution.


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