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Additions 21 January 2024

Underground music buying habits from 2016 onwards (part 1 and 2)

By Thomas (2000 Underground Music)

We would like to write a bit about, how buying music has changed.

For part 2 see Underground Music Buying Habits From 2016 Onwards (Part 2 of 2) published on the 6 February 2024.

Close-up shot of a bright yellow tape cassette, shows the black tap inside, with a white branded sticker on the front, where you can write on it.

Kamichi low noise high output tape cassette, made in Japan, in the 1960s (precise year not exactly known).

Photograph by Marlon Medau (25 January 2023), distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license, adapted, from https://unsplash.com/photos/a-yellow-tape-recorder-sitting-on-top-of-a-white-table-88uQ3ZM5ISI.

Vinyl… great sound quality, physical, tasteful, special, romantic. Mr.C in the podcast In the Studio with Mr.C of the Shamen (ZentripZ Talk, 2012) at 38 minutes and 5 seconds said ‘I play vinyl because it is sexy […]’. Still going strong since the 1930s, but not great to listen to when riding your bicycle or travelling on the bus… Cassette tapes, okay if you have a tape player. MiniDisc, great for recording 320 minutes (5 hours 33 minutes) of music, they were a revolution for the general public and amateur music recorders. But complications and copyright issues, ruined their longevity. CDs, still good, it is nice to have a physical item, romantic to go back to and get out. Does anyone use a portable CD player, remember those! (ha, ha).

The digital world compared to the past

Then we get to the big topic, digital MP3s, WAVs and so on… We like them when they come with a physical release, it gives us more options and ways to listen to the music. But we find it a little hard to digest, how a single track, is routinely sold for £1… We think it is a bit cheap and tasteless, but it can and does get the job done, for the consumer. Hold on… the creator, the musician, does not get that much… They would have to sell 100 digital 1 tracks, to make £100… that is tough income. However, when you do the math, so let us say a CD is sold with 10 tracks on. Usually the physical CD would sell for £10, so that is £1 per track. £10 as a final sale is better, for the creator and musician. But still the option remains, to buy 1 track, for £1, and it does not sit well with us… We like the idea of buying something physical, that you will keep, as well as getting the digital as well. And we are personally not that bothered, paying a higher final end price, if we get something physical for it (but we work, so that helps with money available, although not everyone can spend as they wish). If you look at Asad Rizvi’s back catalogue, a lot of his old vinyl releases, have not been released or are even sold, to digital resellers. We feel this is interesting, and would like to know more. What about the option of music released on a USB stick, encrypted, that does not allow the listener to copy or transfer the music (well at least in theory anyway). They just need a 3.5mm audio cable or USB port, to enjoy it. Interesting stuff and raises many questions in this area.

Madonna reopens HMV’s London Oxford Street store in November 2023

Then of course, the digital age and digitally available music as well, and I will try and be pleasant here, destroyed stores, physical music sales and vinyl stores, throughout the land… It has certainly reduced and impacted them. But they are great, you go there, talk with people there, socialise, find out stuff, ask them questions, and support people living, working and paying taxes in the local area. It is win-win! You cannot go wrong from a sustainability perspective. And I will say it again, people in stores doing a good thing, is win-win! Then we have something quite strange, or maybe not that strange at all… Madonna at the end of 2023 reopens and launches HMV’s London Oxford Street store (Sweney & Butler, 2023). You may say why, well to get sales, or to flutter her hair. I am afraid not, she is trying to promote and revive people going into stores, buying a good thing, paying the right price, supporting all the people involved around selling and making the music. That is why she is there, and she knows what a positive thing it is, and also how good it is for her bank balance (but she is entitled to that), and there is much more chance of getting a cleaner sale. What is she going to get, out of the millions of rippers and illegal downloaders last week, £0… We are living in incredible times. We simply should not be turned over by commercialisation, because they think something is a better idea, and wish to get rid of the old because they have some new digital technology, that is going to cut their staff numbers or slash their running cost.

Musician Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Orlando Higginbottom) on BBC Newsnight, comments on how the music streaming model affects artists

The musician Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Orlando Higginbottom) on the 25 August 2023, 10:30pm–11:11pm, on BBC Newsnight news TV program, talked about and discussed online streaming music sales and problems. [We have not been able to find a full online version of this interview in 1 video, however, there is 1 below, but it has been cut-up into smaller parts.] And on the 18 January 2024, Nyshka Chandran (2024) wrote for Resident Advisor, an article called RA Pro Newsletter: The Streaming Industry’s Dilemma, that tackles our previous comment of ‘We simply should not be turned over by commercialisation, because they think something is a better idea, and wish to get rid of the old because they have some new digital technology, that is going to cut their staff numbers or slash their running cost’.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Orlando Higginbottom)

The success of Bandcamp

So what is next? Bandcamp is doing incredible things, it is giving back musicians direct control of their music sales. By bypassing record labels, and cheap bad physical and digital sellers. A buyer of a musician’s or DJ’s music, can even overpay by as much as they like, for music (if an album is sold for £10, they can pay £1000 for it!), this is truly incredible, amazing for the musician, and very financially positive. Giving the musician more money than the release price, how cool is that! What is next, who knows? But of course, the record label is always important, as it can do many things, and things for the musician, that they cannot do. So it is tough stuff.

Huge 2nd-hand vinyl sales and massive loss of money for the creators of the music, especially with vinyl!

Oh yes, and we forgot the huge amount of 2nd-hand vinyl sales… The musician who made the music, gets £0 for the resale… not great hey… However, in underground music, it is quite common, or getting more common, to reissue and repress vinyl, often with very good and positive results, sometimes even 25 years later!

200% loss on most house and techno vinyl sales

The other bankrupting issue, and it is a big 1, is that with 2nd-hand vinyl sales through Discogs or through anyone else, a lot of old house and techno vinyl sells 2nd-hand, for ×2, maybe even ×3 more than the original brand new sale price, when it was 1st released… I mean what? Should it be made illegal? So in theory (and reality) the musician and DJ who made the music loses double (-100% [- 1st vinyl sale price]) or triple (-200% [- 1st vinyl sale price]), of the original brand new sale price. What? They might as well announce they have released a new vinyl, not send any to distributors, stores or people. Wait 5 years, then flog the lot on Discogs for ×3 the original sale price. I mean come on.

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