riding the gravy train

Some time ago here I mentioned the viability difficulties of some kinds of music in today’s plug-n-play, single download kind of world.

Like, Pink Floyd’s landmark album Dark Side of the Moon.

Yes, you can listen to Money or Us and Them and still enjoy them apart from the larger work. On most radio stations you’d never hear Floyd at all if they didn’t break it up into the separate songs. But you listen differently, knowing the experience is something akin to listening to an isolated movement of a symphony, or concerto, outside of their greater musical context. That’s fine, sometimes the only thing that really hits the spot is the middle movement of a Mozart Piano Concerto, a good Mahler Adagio (and they’re ALL good), or the sublime Largo from Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony. With classical music especially there’s a long history of concerts where single movements were played over and over, repeated spontaneously as a sort of in-concert encore in immediate response to audience enthusiasm.

It’s one thing when you, as a music consumer, make the choice to excerpt your recording of – whatever. It’s another when a recording company willfully convolutes contractual reality (the same contract to which they fiercely adhere, when the financial advantage is to their benefit) in the name of profit.

Today Pink Floyd scored a victory against EMI in an effort to preserve the artistic integrity of their recordings. The dispute centers around whether or not the original contract, prohibiting EMI from selling records other than as complete albums without written consent, still holds in a world where individual mp3 downloads are the standard. Pink Floyd says it does. EMI contends that the existing contract only applies to the physical product, not to online distribution.

So why did it take this litigation to bring that to light? iTunes has been around for TEN YEARS now, if EMI felt their standing contract didn’t cover new distribution methods comprehensively enough, they’ve had a decade to renegotiate the contractual terms.

EMI didn’t do that, because – “valid” or not – the existing contract was financially beneficial to them until now. With today’s ruling, both EMI and Pink Floyd will likely have less revenue rolling in from downloads. The musicians (millionaires, yes, but artists nonethelss) don’t seem bothered by that. 

Artistic integrity: 1

Corporate greed: 0

Oh, by the way, which one’s “Pink”?

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