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The PunkLawyer Blog » Blog Archive Happy Record Store Day! - The PunkLawyer Blog

Happy Record Store Day!

In honor of this special day, I thought I would post in regard to a panel discussion I recently attended at the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law Annual Meeting.  It was a great conference with sessions on current issues in copyright, patent, and trademark law, IP issues in social media and advertising, entertainment law and others.  Full disclosure, I’m a Young Lawyer Fellow for the Section, but I cannot say enough about the Section and its wonderful group of professionals.   I really enjoyed the conference, especially the entertainment law panels on intellectual property issues in entertainment transactions, as well as the future of the distribution of entertainment content.  It was in the latter panel that I really got to thinking about the state of the industry in comparison to the past and where it might be going.

One recurring theme was that physical content for entertainment is dead.  I found myself thinking of the recent buzz about the resurgence of vinyl, and recalled being at the Fest last fall seeing people carrying records to swap or sell.  I have a small vinyl collection myself, and in thinking about the number of bands and labels that have been and continue to release music on vinyl, the idea of physical content for music being dead seemed odd.  Certainly the industry has changed, sales are down and a lot of sales are from digital instead of physical format.  But the response I get when I talk to some friends and colleagues about the buzz on vinyl, for which sales were up 33 percent in 2009 while total album sales were down 12.7 percent, the response I get is “oh the sales aren’t that big,” as if it doesn’t matter.   Yes, vinyl accounts for only 1 percent of the overall market, but I think in this day and age if you can get people to buy physical content over digital, it’s kind of a big thing, especially if you consider that 2 out of 3 of those vinyl album sales were actually made in record stores.  I think instead of brushing it aside, the industry could learn from it.  Engaging your fans, putting out quality product and a great live show can go a long way in increasing sales, but I think labels and artists have to change your expectations as to what sales of recorded music will be.

Yes, the sales today pale in comparison to what they were at the peak of record sales (which interestingly I learned from the panel was from 1998-2000, the Napster years), but perhaps expecting those type of sales in the Internet age is unrealistic.  The landscape has changed dramatically, instead of there being only a few outlets for exposure to music (mainstream radio, MTV, etc) and limited options for purchasing music, now there are tons of ways to do both.  A big part of the future will be filtering services to help people sort out the crap out there, and there are going to be growing pains along the way.  I think there will always be people who want to be huge rock stars and pop superstars, and if that’s the route you want to go, you can certainly shoot for it and make certain sacrifices in that effort.  However, I know bands and artists that make a living from touring and making smart uses of their rights in publishing and other business efforts.  It’s not an MTV Cribs living, but I don’t think that’s the goal of every band or artist out there.  I’m not saying I have all the answers, and I’d like to hear what you think.  Hope you have a great Record Store Day and find some great records!

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One Response to “Happy Record Store Day!”

  1. Larry McClurg says:

    REGARDING: Yes, the sales today pale in comparison to what they were at the peak of record sales (which interestingly I learned from the panel was from 1998-2000, the Napster years),

    COMMENT: it just go to show that the recording industry hurt itself by persecuting open free trade of music aka Napster, et al., which often created a desire to own a better physical copy with a legitimate purchase. The equation seems obvious, peak of record sales is in direct proportion to peak of Napster free trade, 1998-2000, and the end of Napster free trade is in direct proportion to the dramatic decrease in sales of physical copies and downloads.

    I want to concentrate on the artist, which more than likely is the copyright owner in todays situation. There are more physical CDs and mp3s and “pay to download music” sites now than ever before, but sales are still dropping off because once free trade was killed the industry, in disguise as the artist’s friend, regained control to take a disproportionate share of the artist’s money, unless you think 30% is not disproportionate. I think it is outrageous.

    The truth is, once the song is on the server to be downloaded there is very little else for a human or the owner of the site to do. I know there are many sites with different policies, but I am talking about the major sites. Why should they continue to collect 30% from each sale after the initial robbery?. Software runs everything. In other words, once I am on the bus, should I have to pay the fare again at every stop?

    I am not just speculating on how things are, I am telling you how it is. I have a physical CD and downloadable mp3 which is known on every continent thanks to it being pirated on physical CDs, and traded freely on the internet, and I have not raised finger to stop it, BECAUSE I COULD NOT BUY EXPOSURE AND PROMOTION ON THAT GLOBAL SCALE IF I TRIED! PHYSICAL SALES OF CDS AND MP3S HAVE INCREASED ON MY OWN SITE.

    I wouldn’t use iTunes, or Amazon, etc if THEY paid me. Just because a song is on iTunes, etc doesn’t mean anyone knows it’s there unless you tell them the old fashioned way. iTunes, etc don’t advertise for you. YOU still have to do that. You will pay around $40 per year to put a single song on most of the major download sites, and Amazon, which will make a physical CD on demand for you and ship it anywhere. And I don’t think any of them will pay you until your account has a minimum of money in it. If your music is not setting the world on fire you may never see a cent because you haven’t enough to withdraw. You’ll have to sell almost 60 somgs just to break even,at your 70% share of a 98 cent sale. For the small wanna be without publicity, that’s a lot. Or maybe your song just isn’t that good, and nobody’s going to buy it, and you keep reinvesting the money into it year after year to keep it on iTunes, etc. The point is, everybody BUT the artist makes money from his song. The artist can’t even set the price of their muusic on the major sites .

    As someone with my own download site and free software, I collect more like 97% or the money on each download sold and 85% of a CD sale.

    The truth is, not much has changesd as far as “fairness” to the artist, just the way music is distributed and sold, which the “industry” still controls.

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