Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Do Record Companies Provide any Benefit

Our class discussion about whether or not record companies actually provided any benefits really sparked my interest. In class I was really searching for a reason why they benefit society and nothing noteworthy came to mind. Over the weekend I had a further conversation about this with some friends, who are all big music fans and seem to be always looking for the next good unheard-of band.

Basically, the conclusions we came up with is that record companies probably do not bring much benefit to avid music fans who have a strong interest in searching the internet for new bands, going to shows, and actively keeping informed about music. I would classify myself as falling in this group, and consequently I found it hard to think of any benefits that record companies brought to me. I hear most of my new music through word of mouth. The one benefit we thought they might bring is to the average person who is more apathetic to music, whose attention is caught by the massive marketing ability of the large companies. We thought without these companies the overall interest and demand for music may decline overall. For example, I am sure there are plenty of people who are "fed" music through constant radio play and various promotions who consequently go to shows and purchase CDs who otherwise may not. This argument may be a stretch, but it seems hard to believe that these companies could be making so much money if they don’t provide anything; however, I am not oblivious to the lobbying power they have. Consequently, I can’t say I wouldn’t support a music industry without these record companies because it may mean more choice and lower prices for albums and concerts, but I think they may spark an greater interest in demand among people overall, as compared to other forms of entertainment. I can't say for certain whether this greater demand is good or not though.

Another interesting thing to think of is allofmp3.com. A friend of mine loves it for the ability to download any album for a few dollars a piece. However, after glancing over the site I figured it is a foreign website, and although you pay for the albums, the purchase is probably still in violation of U.S. copyright law. I’m guessing the company has some sort of license allowing them to legally sell it in certain foreign markets. Without giving any legal advice to my friend, as many of my professors have warned against, I mentioned it was probably illegal but I have yet to hear of any crackdowns on such sites or users of such sites. If anyone has heard otherwise, I’m sure my friends would like to know.

3 Comments:

Blogger Edward Lee said...

Joe B's point about sound quality needs to be checked into. I don't have direct knowledge of what happens in the studio.

I'm a little skeptical, though, that the 5 Major Labels have equipment that is so vastly superior to an independent label. One of my clients is a conductor of a chamber orchestra and they cut their own CDs on their own label. If that's good enough sound quality for an orchestra, I'm sure pop, rock, or rap would do well on it, too.

Also, if any of you saw Walk the Line, Johnny Cash cut his first single at a walk up, small recording studio. If the Man in Black can do it that way, I'm sure small time musicians can also do it that way, given how much better the equipment must be today.

2:34 PM  
Blogger limewash said...

On one hand, huge studios do provide a "dumb-down" service to the mass public, the majority of which do not spend a lot of time pursuing musical talents. It's the same with movies and the indy scene; there is just more money in providing "mainstream" stuff that the average Joe can enjoy without putting forth any effort. So in that way, the studios do provide a service.

On the other hand, because the studios raise demand for music in general, this also has the effect of raising prices. That's basic econ. One possible side effect of having a digital/internet-driven music market may be that there is less overall demand for music, but that the cost of music becomes cheaper as a result.

Is that necessarily a good thing? While avid music fans might think so (they get to do what they've always done, at lower costs), the "mass public" might not agree, as it deprives them of the ease with which they can tap into the current music scene (orchestrated by the studios, of course).

I don't think the "quality" of music will go down, simply because quality is subjective. If you're talking about technical quality, as we mentioned in class, beyond a certain sampling rate/level of quality, the human ear can't really tell. The nature of digital music is that it is basically sampled anyway; super duper high quality (beyond what an independent studio could produce) doesn't really mean that much once I digitize it. Isn't that why most elitist musicians who care about "the sound" still go with analog equipment in concerts?

The quality of backup singers, musicians, etc. will level out as demand for their services shifts from the big studios to the indies.

(Theories do not reflect the views of Blogger.com or its agents/subsidiaries/parent companies.)

2:59 PM  
Blogger kkoehler4070 said...

I was very interested in the allofmp3.com issue you raised and did some quick research. According to a BBC article , allofmp3.com is a Russian website and Russian prosecutors will not shut the site down because digital media is not covered under Russian copyright laws, see also Wikipedia entry . Depending on the validity of these sources, the website appears legal for use in Russia. For users in other countries, the website gives a disclaimer stating foreign users have to follow the applicable laws of their own jurisdiction. A simple Google search reveals that people say it is both legal and illegal; however, I could not find a website which gave legal justification for its conclusion. The site is not listed on RIAA’s list of legal download sites .

Related to this issue, on December 22, 2005, Congress passed a concurrent resolution, H.Con.Res. 230, which urged Russia to improve its protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

8:12 PM  

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