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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Call A Plumber, The Music Industry Is Leaking

There is a wave of leaks plaguing the music industry, but it's not coming from the bathroom sinks in record label offices. In the industry, the distribution of new music before it's planned release date is known as a leak. Some are intentional, like MTV's "The Leak", in which new albums are made available to preview before they're released meant as a catalyst to boost early album sales. However, the problem comes when the new releases hit the Internet for downloading before they're released in stores which puts an early halt to album sales. There are probably thousands of sources that host a wide range of albums for free, but most of them are old releases and most site owners urge visitors to purchase the album after listening. Of course, good intentions only go so far so many people build up their music libraries without supporting the artist. Any site owner who provides access to download full albums and expects visitors to still go buy the album is foolishly idealistic, being that in an iPod and mp3 world, many just want the music files. Personally, I love having the actual album artwork and being able to read the liner notes. My friend Tony, author of "Tony's Hazy Concert Memories" in my sidebar, has a home office and on one wall stands a large wooden storage unit which hosts his entire CD collection. To see the colored spines of his CD cases adorning his wall, filled with the incredible music that is the soundtrack to his life, is incredible.

I think back to the days before the Internet when MTV and radio were the only outlets for hearing new music from your favorite artists and the premiere of a new music video was highly anticipated. The Internet is an invaluable tool but, as with anything, it can be a dangerous resource for those who misuse it. Unfortunately, there are people out there who do not believe that artists should receive due payment for their work and they post new music to be taken, and there are plenty of takers. Some artists have fought back, as Eminem did when he released his album "The Eminem Show" on a Sunday, two days before its planned release, when news spread that his album was available on the Internet. Tuesday has long been the standard day for new releases to hit stores, although Fridays would be better being "payday" for most people. From time to time, artists will release their album on other days like Friday or Sunday, like Pearl Jam whose new release Backspacer hits stores September 20th, this Sunday. I'm not sure if it's a way of putting extra attention on their album for its unusual release date or, like with Eminem, an attempt to get people in the stores who cannot wait any longer and will resort to downloading illegally.

A serious lack of security at the recording studios is the real problem here, because if any accountability or protection were in place this could not possibly happen. First of all, no studio should allow cell phones, recording devices or storage devices in the mixing room or recording area. Next, the media on which the music is recorded should be locked away after each session with access allowed to only the artist and the producer. Once it leaves the studio, when the finished mastered copy is prepared for duplication and packaging, there needs to be some monitoring done there as well to ensure none of the copies are taken. If those kinds of practices were in place, there would be no excuse for music to be leaked, but obviously there is some carelessness involved in the recording process these days. I don't know much about the industry or the numbers involved in making a record, but I've heard different artists say in interviews that some studios and artists have to sell a minimum number of albums before they even make profit. That should be enough incentive for artists to keep a closer watch on their work and for label execs to protect their investment better.

In the hobbled economy we're facing, people have less money to spend on luxury items like entertainment (music, movies, theme park visits, etc) and these people who leak new music are taking advantage of the common desire to get more for less these days. However, artists deserve their paycheck like anyone else and with new releases being sold for just $9.99 I think everyone can afford to support their favorite artists, even if they have the opportunity to get it for free. You can bet I'll be in the store this Sunday to buy Pearl Jam's new CD as well as back to get the new Alice In Chains CD a week later, even though I could go download them.


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