I was only just looking back and realised how much I have paid in the past for rare albums – sometimes of dubious legal validity. And sometimes it was only to get one track from the aforementioned …. overpriced …. album! However that has all changed over the past decade. Songs are now easy to access as individuals - MP3’s and saved on a phone or computer, not vinyl or even CD! Newbies might find it hard to believe that things were, in the past, hard find let alone own and were often unofficial. Now it appears most copies that are out there are unofficial!
The excitement of tracking down a bootleg album at a record shop or fair is now lost. In the not too distant past one was grateful for whatever snippets of BBC sessions or video footage that could be squeezed, stolen, co-erced from the seemingly bottomless (and certainly always double-locked) vaults. Collections had a few rare bootleg lps; sometimes nicely packaged – other times sloppily put together in a hope that the music would do the talk (and walking out the ship!) Often inappropriate in design, hugely expensive and tough to track down, these illicit LPs could often be scratchy, tinny and hissy as hell - but loveable and much loved because of it. They were exciting. Downloading and MP3 from an obscure site – while comparable is not the same. No complaints – getting the music and listening to it is what matters …..
Hopefully with regard to the record companies at least - this is the end of an age in which successful musicians and their managers, promoters and all hangers on will reap sickeningly disproportionate amounts of money thanks to what could be called simply a technological anomaly. It's a massive irregularity when historically being a minstrel musician was a low income occupation. It's only since music has been set to shellac and subsequently copyrighted that the successful ones have received such huge returns, and a large infrastructure has been built around it. Technology has now made this redundant and a few are clinging on to an obsolete way or business structure. Music was never designed to make money, it has only be adapted to do so and the money makers must adapt to continue to make some kind of a living. Music management and their crews need to find new, imaginative and practical ways that the public are willing to support either by pence or pounds.
Some would even say that “no one loses if a song is downloaded without a fee being paid. Sure, perhaps someone does not gain, but that is a lot different from someone suffering a loss. “ There is a strong argument to say that we are even regressing. Whilst it is true that the vast majority of ‘artists’ (eg. Painters, sculptors, photographers) seldom make a good living out of their works. Some sell ‘one offs’ for a nice amounts and perhaps that is where the future of music is heading with the box sets and nice packages like Elvis Costello’s new package.