According to today’s Guardian (complete with poster of salad greens – what’s with that?) Keane are to launch their new single – Nothing in My Way – on a USB memory stick through HMV at the end of the month.
HMV are doing a lot at the moment to improve their offerings in a world dominated by the likes of MySpace and Apple and where digital distribution of music is becoming the norm rather than the exception. In the last few months they’ve launched a new download service at hmvdigital.com – which allows users to download tracks without installing the HMV Music Player required by their older subscription site, introduced new access channels such as Txt2Buy and in-store kiosks, and in a desperate move to halt their recent decline in profits have even started slashing prices.
In short, these guys are desperate for our business, and as a result they’re increasingly looking for alternative ways to reach consumers – and most importantly that crucial 16-24 year old demographic.
But they’re not the only ones – further up the food chain, the record companies are too looking at new distribution models, and as a result you can buy many newly released tracks via CD, download or even your mobile phone. That’s great, right? Because surely with more ways to access music than ever before, more people are therefore able to enjoy that music?
Sadly the reality doesn’t always match this and often that choice isn’t there. So-called “exclusive” deals such as the Jamiroquai greatest hits album shortly to be available on a mobile phone near you a whole three weeks before you can get hold of it via CD mean that people are actually being stopped from listening to music – in this case for three weeks but in others for longer. The mobile operators signing deals with the record company licensing clips of concerts for exclusive use by their own subscribers are playing an even more dangerous game, competing with each other on who provide the most “exclusive” content.
So the net result is that people get locked out of content – “you can watch this music video, but only if you have the latest mobile phone” or “you can listen to this track, but only if you’re on Network X”. Add to this the fact that you need a credit or debit card to access most online music services, and 99 percent of music sold on those stores comes encumbered with DRM crap that will stop you listening to your collection if you ever stop paying for that service (or if your PC or iPod dies) and you’re increasingly slamming the door shut on legitimate consumers. These are people who want to listen to music and are happy to pay, but who if they can’t get at it easily will either download it illegally or worse – not bother at all.
So go ahead Mr Greedy Record Company – you go destroy your whole business through a series of misguided and short-sighted strategies that determine how you distribute the content that you so protectively guard. That’s fine. But remember that there are some people out there who actually are struggling to make a living out of selling music. People like HMV and of course the artists, who would probably rather that you didn’t destroy the whole entire industry when you eventually keel over like the big huge dinosaur that you are gasping your last dying breath.