This topic has been discussed exhaustively on many of my friends journals (many people who are in bands signed to independent labels). For those of you who I have debated the downloading/pirating/dying record label issue with, I suggest reading this:
I know one of the major arguments is that independent labels are not dealing with same circumstances or market, and so forth. I disagree. Things we need to bear in mind about “piracy” (a word I hate due to its loaded and inaccurate nature):
1) “Piracy” is not going away. You can shit on it as a practice all you like, but all you’re doing is frustrating yourself. We, as artists, distributors and producers, must face this fact and figure out a way to make it work to our advantage. Any other whining, complaining or offering excuses will only make you fail commercially. Not to suggest that you need to make money to be an artist, but people not worried about making money with their art are not really effected by “piracy” in any negative way (they benefit from it, even).
2) Trying to make people feel bad for listening to your music for any reason only isolates them from you as consumers, and possibly even as an audience. Stop trying to appeal to people’s sense of morality on this issue. I see a lot of labels and artists pleading to their fans to buy, or even outright calling them thieves, instead of providing real economic incentive for people to spend money on your product. Stop doing this! It sounds desperate and pathetic, seriously.
3) Independent artists and labels are in a unique position to inject an amount of creativity that the major labels will never be able to do. The majors are doing things like selling ringtones to make up for the lack of revenue from the traditional CD. Independent artists can do things like custom, hand-made packaging( examples: 1, 2, or anything from Constellation Records). We can break the conventional rules, drop the UPC codes, hand number all of our albums, release your back catalog on a USB thumb drive, or any other idea limited only to our imaginations. One thing to bear in mind is that, with the availability of cheap or free music, the people who insist on buying physical CDs are largely doing so because they want to own something. So, treat your CDs like memorabilia. Create a nice, desirable package. Box sets are often overkill, but there are many ways to make neat, personalized packaging.
4) You’re in competition with “piracy”. You cannot expect people to not download your music because they feel sorry for you. “Piracy” plays a role in the market, and is a factor you must take very seriously. Build your strategy around it.
5) The show will go on without you. Either innovate and figure out a way to deal with these economic conditions or plan to get out of the race. If you disappear someone will replace you, as there is a demand for music out there. Where there is a demand, someone will provide. If the replacement is someone giving away their music for free on Archive.org, well, so be it. But it doesn’t have to be that way as many, many people like to buy stuff. Seriously, people are compulsive. People will spend money on things they like, we simply need to figure out a way to compete with video games, DVDs, and of course, free mp3 files on Soulseek.
Personally, I think cheap DVDs and brilliantly addictive video games (fucking World of Warcraft!) contribute more to loss of CD sales than piracy. Think about how much buying a cool movie on DVD is, and then think about how much it costs to buy that movie’s soundtrack on CD. I have seen cases where the soundtrack is more! It isn’t fair, as movies get a theater release where they make the bulk of their money. But that doesn’t change the fact that some major blockbusters can be purchased for $10-$20 while CDs generally cost about the same.
Anyway, I’ve discussed this stuff with some of your exhaustively. I felt the need to spin my wheels on it some more, when I saw that article. Personally, I think the majors are starting to get a better grip of the situation than many of the independent or DIY labels. Not to suggest that their suing fans or loading their music up with a bunch of DRM is a good idea. In fact, it is the industry shooting itself in the face.
My basic point is simply that independent musicians and labels need to stop pointing fingers at people and start generating realistic solutions. Period. Stop bullshitting yourselves and blaming people for your own failures and figure it out. Really, the power of this online “piracy” phenomenon is something that could easily be exploited if you put your brain into it.
Oh, and I am curious to hear any interesting ideas people have, too. Always.