December 31, 2003

consumer freedom?

I've just entered the CD market as a consumer buying the odd CD here and there to start a bit of a library. I've started by slowly working my way through the 60s and 70s.

I've been taken back by the cost of the CD's of the old albums. They are around $20 for a replica of the old vinyl records, and $32 for them remastered plus a view alternative takes or mixes of the songs. Many of the CD's I want are out of stock and must be imported from the US at great expense. There is a cosy little cartel going here that is at the consumers expense. In Australia it is illegal to make a back-up copy of legally obtained copyrighted material for personal use. The Copyright Act 1968 should be changed so that making a copy of legally purchased copyright material for personal use does not infringe that copyright.

THe current price for CD's is a rip off. That has been my gut reaction. The music companies are gouging us, even when the product has a couple of good tracks and the rest is filler. I'm angry.

My judgement from this Xmas experience is that the big recorded music companies are getting all the benefits of globalisation (cheaper manufacturing costs by taking grunt work to developing countries) without passing on the benefits of globalisation in the form of lower prices.

Nothing has shifted since I the 1970s other than CD's replacing vinyl. Where is the cheap digital download? Where is the the Internet as a distribution medium,Where is the licensing of content to enable legitimate online music services? Why cannot I legitimately select my own material from the back catalogues of recorded music and so avoid all the filler? Why aren't the labels in the process of digitizing their entire back catalog and uploading it as downloadable, high-quality MP3s for a small fee?

So I welcome people making their own CD's on a home computer through what the music companies call unauthorised copying. Of course the companies claim that each of the CDs made on a home computer is created at the expense of one sold in a store, and so the entire industry is being faced with wipe out. That is why Napster had to be taken out. Instead of putting their cataloguies online by the record companies have seen the Internet (eg.,online music services) as the anti-Christ.

Who cares about the corporate recorded music companies? They've been crying wolf for years. I do not see the global market rhetoric of ‘free’ flow and ‘greater’ access” with CD's leading to increased access to music greater democracy, a more diverse civil society and increased freedom. What I see is the neoliberal agenda that sweetens American corporate expansion by dusting it with the sugar coating of enlightenment principles. The result is that huge corporate conglomerations control the global music business. It is one that ignores that consumers have a right to copy legally-purchased CDs for their private purposes.

The artists now have the technology to make and sell their own CD's. Why not move away from the oligarchic recorded music companies to peer-to-peer sharing?

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at December 31, 2003 12:21 PM | TrackBack

The problem with downloading and burning music, though, is the potential for the smaller record companies to suffer as a result. There are labels such as Kent (a UK-based soul reissue label) which do operate more out of a love of the music and respect for the artist than an interest in gigantic profits, largely because there are no gigantic profits involved at their end of the business spectrum; they're operating in a small part of the market and sales are, consequently, rather more important to them. The major labels will always sell hundreds of thousands or millions of copies of Britney Spears; a soul or 60s psychedelic/freakbeat specialist reissuer, on the other hand, are working in a niche that isn't going to sell nearly as many records. So there is a potential for smaller labels to be hurt by unauthorised copying.

As for the big labels, though, I'm with you. Let them rot. As for those companies that have adopted CD copy control technology, they've effectively demonstrated overt hostility to the consumers that support them; by crippling CDs with this encoding they've basically said "we don't trust you not to copy this disc", and therefore as far as I'm concerned they're fair game for attack. If they don't trust their customers, their customers have no obligation to show them respect or loyalty.

Incidentally, what CDs are you looking for? When I get my burner working again I might be able to supply some...

Posted by: James Russell on December 31, 2003 09:54 PM

Nice of you to offer James.

At this stage its very narrow. I'm only looking at

1.a compliation of the very best songs of The Band from their third LP onwards eg.,

Stage Fright, Cahoots, Moondog Mantinee, Northern Lights Southern Cross, Islands Jubilation.

2. A compilation of the best songs from The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson on January 1, 2004 03:43 PM

Ah... unfortunately I can't help with either of those, since my Rolling Stones collection only goes up to Let It Bleed and I don't have anything by The Band. If you like, though, I can send you a list of what I do have, and if anything interests you from that I can make a copy of it once the burner is functional.

Posted by: James Russell on January 1, 2004 04:09 PM

Try and download WinMX, which is a little known program but is good for finding old songs like that.

Posted by: pete the pirate on January 1, 2004 10:11 PM

I will take up your offer.
I agree with your account of the effect of downloading and burning CD's on small record companies in a niche market. They should be supported.

It was the big corporate majors I had in mind. They've always been concerned with payola.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson on January 2, 2004 08:14 AM

thanks you have opened up the world of digital music to me.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson on January 2, 2004 10:11 AM
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