Friday, 19 March 2010

My opinion on the Pink Floyd case

The other day, Pink Floyd won their court case against EMI, meaning that EMI is no longer allowed to sell the Floyd's music track by track online as well as offline. Now a lot of people think that this is idiotic on Pink Floyd's case, because it is now the norm that people buy individual tracks from iTunes skipping buying the filler on the album and saving money which they can spend on more great music. Pink Floyd put the clause into their contract saying that they did not want single tracks released in the days when the album was king and singles were considered uncool. They wanted people to listen to the whole albums rather than individual tracks because of the way they make music. A Pink Floyd single does not have the same impact that listening to The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon, or Wish You Were Here in its entirety has. Their live shows were based around their albums, the tour on the back of The Wall was essentially an extension of the album. You can see why they would want people to listen to the album as a whole.
The argument that this just doesn't make business sense seems crazy to me. OK, their sales will probably suffer, but why would Pink Floyd care? I'm sure none of them are short of money at this stage, the only thing important to them at this stage is maintaining their artistic integrity. I think that the worst thing that could happen to their legacy is if they ended up being thought of as the band that wrote Money and Another Brick in the Wall, just another band with a couple of hit singles.
Now why EMI would want to monetize their back catalogue, that makes a lot of sense. The two things that EMI does really well is publishing and having the best back catalogue in the world. They're struggling at the moment, possibly more than the other two majors but these two arms seem to be holding up pretty well. The logic of trying to build new catalogue that can support the future of the company, despite it losing money at the moment, on the back of the other two arms makes a lot of sense.
But in a business that hinges on cutting artists a terrible deal that they sign and then milking them for all they can, why would a record company have such disregard for contracts the other way round? This clause in their contract I assume was pretty pivotal in Pink Floyd signing with EMI, and they did agree to it. The idea that digital singles are somehow different from CD or Vinyl singles is the exact argument that the record companies have been arguing against for years. In a standard contract, you will still pay the same packaging deduction from your royalty whether it is a physical or a digital single and yet somehow in someone's head, it doesn't count in the same way for clauses in your contract.
This is the typical arse-headed behavior that makes people hate the majors. Screwing over the people that make them their money.

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