With Chinese Democracy topping 1.5 million in CD sales and downloads in its second week — for a two-week total of 5 million, the best ever — it is now official: the American Music Industry has never been healthier. Even in what is easily the most crippling recession most of us have seen in our lifetimes, people are buying music at a record pace.
How have they done it? According to Frederick Stamphammer, the RIAA’s Vice-President of Digitization — and the man seen by most insiders as the key figure behind the transformation of the music industry into a virtual profit machine — it was by seizing the opportunity afforded by the internet nearly 10 years ago.
So here’s the deal: The National Music Publisher’s Association has said that they want to increase the royalty rate for each legal download from $0.09 to $0.15 per song. Apple has responded by threatening to shut down iTunes.
I assume that “iTunes” means “iTunes Music Store,” and this has nothing to do the the TV Shows, Films and Applications that also go through iTunes, because, well, that would just be stupid.
I’m not here to argue the merits of what one side will say is only a six cent increase and the other side will say is a 66% increase, nor am I going to point out that this is Apple’s way of saying that if they don’t continue to get exactly what they want, they’re going to take their ball and go home.
But I will say this: if the iTunes Music Store went away tomorrow, it wouldn’t even be a blip on my radar.
Yesterday, Kassia took issue with a Wall Street Journal article that trumpeted the fallacy that closing off a major avenue of music distribution was somehow a good thing.
One of the examples that the article used to show that selling a lot of music on iTunes was somehow a bad thing was the fact that while The Rolling Stones have sold 6,000,000 songs digitally since January 2006, they’ve sold the fewest amount of back catalog albums among the six top-selling catalog artists.
This, of course, is one of those made-up stats that purports to mean something while meaning very little. How is it not not a good thing to be among the top six selling catalog artists of the past two years? Or sell six million songs, many of which go back decades, and many many of which you’re no doubt reselling to some of the same people you’ve previously sold them to?
However, by using the high songs / low album sales as an example as how digital distribution can harm an artist, it totally ignores two very very important facts about The Rolling Stones.
- Since the very start, they’ve been marketed as a singles act.
- Their back catalog is a confusing mess, which is a huge factor to its relative — relative! — paucity of sales.
There was an interesting article in the AP yesterday about Battlestar Galactica, and post-finale projects that the producers are planning that will be set in the Galaticaverse.
The point of the article was this: BSG has never had huge numbers, and they are continuing to shrink, so why bother with spinoffs?
Most of the answers in the article had to do with the inadequacy of measuring numbers in this day and age, and how the numbers initially reported by Nielsen don’t reflect the true popularity of the show.
Which may be true, but if show, it’s true for every TV show, not just Battlestar. So what makes Battlestar different from, say, Eureka, which has much higher ratings, but no movies or spinoffs planned?
I’ve got a theory: in a Long Tail universe, it isn’t about the fan quantity as much as it is about the Fan Quality.
Previously, on An Early History of R.E.M.: We have complex, life-long relationships with the bands we love . . . It’s a piece written in 1991 . . . R.E.M. is discovered via Trouser Press flexi-disc . . . Chronic Town was their first EP . . . Murmur becomes an obsession . . . The R.E.M. lyric-deciphering party . . . Later on came Reckoning . . . The great American rock underground coalesced . . . R.E.M. is the “acceptable edge of the unacceptable stuff,” so they’re on a lot of TV shows . . .
And now, Part 2, of An Early History of R.E.M.!!
Written in March, 1991. Published in Rotting America in March, 1992
Oh yeah, something else happened in that summer of 1984 . . . R.E.M. played in Fresno. At a club called the Star Palace. And my roommate Kirk and I got to interview them.
The Star Palace, at some point in its history, used to be an Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio, and now it’s a waste of space, but for about five or six years, it was the coolest place in town to see shows. Since it held four or five hundred people it was perfect for big underground bands, and through some act of the gods which I don’t remember anymore, in June of 1984, R.E.M. and the Dream Syndicate played there.