Why Are There Still ‘Record’ [sic] Companies?
December 19, 2011 1 Comment
Let me clarify. Of course my sympathy lies with the musician. I want musicians to get paid for their output. I want them not to get screwed. I want the musicians I like to be able to make recorded music and yet still be able to live their lives and pay their bills. I am willing to pay a premium if that will help. (Side note: in the current setup, there doesn’t seem to be a good way for me to do so.)
But most of that blog post is about how the record company, a large organization probably staffed to at least some extent by the sort of overworked schmoes with boring, go-nowhere jobs you’ll find doing the grunt work in any such organization, has probably screwed up the data collection and accounting necessary to create an accurate statement of the current status of his digital royalties (which are still in the red and not likely to go black anytime soon). The statement seems screwed up. It seems like it must be missing info. It took a long time to produce. When he raised objections, his questions were answered, but the clear attitude was that since his wasn’t a band that was ‘recouped’ (which means, I gather, a band on which (bizarro, admittedly) record-company accounting can recognize as having had their investment pay off), it wasn’t much worth focusing on them or correcting the odd $10,000 rounding error here or there.
The reason I chuckle is that it seems so much like banking.
He, as the ‘client’, is clearly a small fry. They only produced the report as a special favor to him because he had connections. But ultimately, some poor schmoe probably had to do some manual bullcrap in Excel or Word to make it. The numbers that it’s based on probably come from fusing various databases that some poor IT grunt fights with and find/corrects errors in every day. The project timelines to fix everything and get it right extend and extend as other fires pop up to put out, other high-profile projects (and clients) take precedence. And so it goes. What do you expect when you go through a giant organization like this?
Because more than anything it occurs to me that this guy, and (one assumes) thousands like him, are being extremely ill-served by these large organizations we call ‘record companies’, and should cease using them. There are no ‘records’ to produce anymore, after all. So what exactly is the value-added they are contributing? From what I’ve been able to gather so far, it boils down to,
1) They will sign a giant contract on your behalf with iTunes and Spotify and (&c) on which they get like $10 bajillion dollars upfront and some percentage of each download, out of which you get, like, $0.00002.
2) Promotion and whatnot, cuz without promotion your band doesn’t get known in the first place.
It seems to me that function #2 could be done by any sort of PR agency, and possibly better. Meanwhile, function #1 doesn’t seem like a service that musicians should seek at all.
Make a web page and sell your mp3s on your own. If nothing else, it’d probably be just as easy a way to (not) make $62.47.