Posts tagged ‘EMI’

Art Fraud?

The band Pink Floyd won a court case in Britain yesterday over EMI.  The judge ruled their contract–written years ago–applied also to digital downloads.  This gives the band the ability to prevent the sale of individual songs on venues such as iTunes.

Many music artists claim that an album is designed as a single work that cannot be fully enjoyed in parts.  They must be appreciated as a whole.  According to the Wall Street Journal,

“This is an art debate, not a commerce debate,” said a band spokesman, who added that Pink Floyd plans to see to it that the albums are sold only as whole pieces.  He added: “The court has upheld our contractual rights that those tracks should not be unbundled.”

Sorry, but this is hogwash.

Don’t get me wrong.  I agree with the court’s decision.  Upholding Pink Floyd’s claims seems consistent with the intent of the original contract.  Nor do I disagree with the band’s rights to sell their wares as they see fit.  (Though I think it’s bad business, for reasons I’ll save for another time.)  I even think many albums are better appreciated in their entirety.

Nonetheless, this strikes me as being more about bands that have already made it big, now throwing their weight around.

I don’t recall Pink Floyd (or any one else) having such qualms about breaking up their albums when it came to marketing the music in the first place.  How far would they have gotten as a band, or as a business, if they didn’t allow individual tracks to be “unbundled” to be played on the radio?

Now maybe as a young, unsung music act, the band members agonized over such a decision.  Perhaps they felt they were betraying their principles by allowing their label to push individual tracks to radio stations.  Maybe they lost sleep for years, because their concert promoter convinced them to play live shows that weren’t performances of an entire album.

Maybe.

To its credit, Pink Floyd has led the way in doing these sorts of single-album concerts over the years.  But the fact remains that most bands have built their following, and their music sales, on the back of listeners appreciation of individual songs.  Having once “sold out” their artistic principles, it seems somehow disingenuous to get back on the high horse now that they are successful.

Not that they don’t have the right, mind you.  Obviously they needed to press their case in court to protect their legal rights.  Fine.  Let’s just not take it for something it isn’t, hmm?

Disclosure: I hold no position, either long or short, in any stocks mentioned here.

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March 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment


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Scott J. Berry, NY area

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