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Do we need the majors?


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Once upon a time only record companies and some radio stations owned the technical facilities to record music and market it to a broad audience. To get anywhere like into the charts and on stage to nation- or worldwide audiences musicians were depending on record companies and radio stations. Even less than 30 years ago a rock band could make a good living with one or two albums out selling 100.000 copies - still working with a record company - usually one of the so-called majors, who still owned the factories and the distribution networks to the music consumer.
Today, any musician or composer can build his own digital recording studio for the price you once had to pay for renting one day only in one of the big studios. Artists also can burn and make multiple copies of their own CDs and still take advantage of the most powerful skills in the music industry : ambition and creativity. They can write, perform, record and even sell their own music while record companies have grown into gigantic marketing dinosaurs spending fortunes on media placements and advertising campaigns before the first copy of a new product is shipping. Only huge million selling records can pay back those investments. Majors have to focus on fewer artists to survive. Album sales of two million sometimes not even reach break-even.
According to record companies the big danger for the music business is the ease of getting music via the internet and burning and copying your own CDs. Only a ridiculously small percentage of an audio CD's retail price are royalties for the writers and performers, the major amount goes to administration, distribution, sales and marketing.
An artist with an acoustic instrument can still play music, attract and entertain an audience and survive without fancy offices, marketing meetings and evene without electricity. A record company can't. The musician today can record, multiply and sell his own music without needing a record company. Having his music registered with one of the copyright organisations taking care of the royalties, retrieved for example from a small fee on recordable media, authors also would be paid if their music is broadcasted or performed by other artists.
WB
04/2002 Pro-Music-News

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