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Music at the Crossroads

Readers respond to Crossroads series

By SUN MEDIA

Sun Media's Darryl Sterdan has received a lot of e-mail from readers from coast to coast -- and beyond -- regarding his four-day series on Music at the Crossroads, which published last week and is still available online at canoe.ca/crossroads.

Here is a representative sampling:

Just wanted to shoot you a different perspective on your downloading column.. The way I see it is this:

1) Way back in the day, if you wanted to hear great music, you had to hire a musician to play for you. This way, musicians were paid for their skill. Simple.

2) Then along came technologies (phonographs, records, CDs) that allowed musicians to perform once, then get paid over and over through sales of whatever latest recording technology. Meantime, these musicians still performed live and were paid additionally for that.

3) Now comes a technology that allows music buffs to listen to musicians' work for free. Musicians are still paid to perform live. So, things have come full circle. Musicians are paid to work live. Just like almost every other working stiff on the planet.

In my opinion, if a musician wants to be paid every time he performs his craft, then he should stop recording his music and go back to live performances only. Of course, they won't do that because then they wouldn't be able to become the mega-millionaires they are.

Michael Cochrane -- Toronto

I enjoyed your articles very much. I worked for Capitol Records in Los Angeles from 1977 to 1990. The record companies knew then what the future held for them, but they would not accept change because they were never in touch with their customers. Radio was, retail was, and MTV was -- but the labels never wanted direct contact. If you don't know what your customer wants, you are lost.

Peter Blachley -- New York, N.Y.

Three points. First, the artificial sales increase that was the result of consumers replacing their vinyl records with CDs is now over. This contributed to the downturn in sales, but the major labels never bring that up. They prefer to blame the "evilness" that is downloading.

Second, the Canadian Recording Industry Association does not have any Canadian record labels any more and, as a result, is nothing more than a shill for the foreign-owned majors.

Third, the record companies insist on using the entire CD. In other words, in the vinyl days there was around 40 to 45 minutes of "space" available, which meant eight to 10 songs depending on their length. The CD holds up to 70 minutes, which means around 16 songs, essentially a double album's worth of music. Three good songs out of eight is a ratio most people can live with, but three good songs out of 16 makes it seem like we are buying albums full of filler. The labels hated promoting double albums in the days of vinyl, yet here they are today doing that very thing with every CD release.

Gordon Ross -- Windsor, Ont.

Much has been said about how the insanely rich executives of music companies point to downloaders as the sole reason for the industry's decline. I choose to look at it from an entirely different point of view. Perhaps the buying public just isn't interested in purchasing, to the same extent, much of the mindless drivel that has been produced in the music industry lately!

Back in the late 1970s and early '80s the music industry went through exactly the same thing as now, with record sales declining by double-digit decreases because, as the music executives were quick to point out, so many people were taping music onto cassettes from radios and from their friend's records. The similarities are staggeringly parallel.

To borrow a phrase from the financial industry, the music industry is simply going through a market correction and that those "evil" MP3 downloaders are just one small piece of the puzzle.

Pete Anes -- Cambridge, Ont.

When those in the music industry discuss the future of the CD, are they actually talking about the future of the ALBUM? Much talk revolves around the technological question, namely that an increasing number of listeners obtain music through file-sharing (legal, paid-for, or otherwise) rather than by purchasing a CD. But that's simply a technological issue.

Nobody seems to address the issue that music is a form of art -- and a very powerful one.

The 'album' is a distinct artwork in itself. Songs have a certain order. Plenty of artists produce work with this mind. Yet technology now allows listeners to rearrange or delete song.

Some may say this 'empowers' the listener. Yet what kind of empowerment is it when the artist no longer is allowed control over his or her own body of work?

John Lindblad -- Toronto

As a parent, I need to see a list that tells me exactly which downloading sites are legal and which aren't. How am I supposed to tell the difference? I pay a monthly amount for my family to use the Internet, and I'd be willing to pay a few dollars more a month to shut the musicians up.

Ed Sonnenburg

Thank you for your clever, well-written articles about downloading. As I see it, most people do not want the fancy packaging or the 20-page booklet anymore.

I used to buy thousands of CDs prior to downloading. There was a time when CDs held some value, but they simply don't anymore. There are hardly anymore used-CD stores, and those still around can't charge what they used to for a CD. Vinyl is different. I'm 37, so I used to buy a lot of vinyl as well. There's still value to vinyl records but there's little or no value to CDs.

The recording industry might be hurting, but the music industry is thriving -- sold out concerts, videos, endorsements, action figures...

Roy Liang -- Winnipeg

Thanks for your six suggestions for fixing the music biz. I am an entertainment agent and have been for 34 years now. I grew up playing and lost all my hair early, and back then you needed hair -- so I became an agent. Yours is (dare I say) a great piece on the state of the music business, especially the point on the awful Canadian Idol influence. Couldn't have put it better myself.

Ed Gauvreau, Frontline Ent -- Calgary

The record companies had their chance to oversee download technology when the inventor of Napster went to them with it. Shortsightedly, they said it couldn't work. Oops. The genie is out of the bottle and it's never going put back in. Knowledgable music fans are aware that artists make a very small percentage from the sales of their albums. Tours and merchandise sales are where the artist get their bucks.

Some bands have been using the concept of allowing concert goers to purchase a "soundboard" copy of the show they just attended, sometimes for a mere $9 or $10. Metallica offers downloadable concerts for that price and it works out to 2 CDs.

The record companies should stop trying to fleece us with $20 CDs, when we know they can make them for a cent.

Wade Babineau -- Prince Edward Island

I publish a worldwide Elton John fan magazine called East End Lights (my part-time job/hobby), and I recall speaking to one of the members of his band. I asked him what he thought about Napster (before it became legit) and he said he loved it! I told him his boss (Elton) hates it, to which he replied; "My boss has two private jets and five palatial homes around the world.. What's he worried about a lousy 25 cents for?"

Even within the industry, there are mixed views. Keep up the good work.

Kevin Bell -- Toronto

You have addressed the very issues that I, as a music fan, am facing. Your "six fixes" column is scathingly brilliant and right on the mark. I wish the record company association would hire you to immediately implement your sane fixes. I would be first in line for your front-of-the-line solutions.

Phil Menger -- Abbotsford, B.C.





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