Why I Hate the Recording Industry

As I approach the issue of why I have a gripe about the Recording Industry, let me say that I do agree to the concept of intellectual property and copyrights. The Good Book says a laborer is worth his hire; in other words, you should get paid for your hard work. However, the current system does not do that for most recording artists.

Most recording artists (groups, bands or whatever they call themselves) would sign with a label. Between the booking agency and the recording label, they would handle recording, production, marketing, distribution and publicity. This would free-up the musicians and performers to do what they do best and let others with more resources handle the business end of things. Everybody got a share of the success of the group. Sometimes the label would make lots of money and often they would not. In exchange for the risk involved the recording companies ended up owning the rights to the intellectual property of the artists that they represented.

My complaint is not with this initial arrangement but what happens in subsequent years. Because the recording companies own the songs, only they can control what is released and what is withheld from the public. In my case, I have many recordings on vinyl that were never released on compact disk. You can no longer buy them. Not in a brick and mortar store and not on the Internet. Even the recording companies don’t offer them for sale. I know they exist but nothing is happening with them. It is as if they never existed. If you are really lucky, a few tracks might end-up on a “best of” CD.

This system is stupid. Recording companies are sitting on literally millions of songs that they have no intention of ever releasing again. They won’t ever do anything with them. To me this is criminal.

The intent of copy protection enjoyed by the recording companies should not give them an automatic moratorium on all recorded works for 99 years or even longer. The recordings were intended to be enjoyed by the public and also to earn money for the recording artist. Neither of these interests is served by the current system.

I think that the recording companies should be required to release the complete works of any artist that they own every fifteen years. No not a “best of” but everything originally done on the LP or CD. If they fail to do this, then all rights revert to the artist or their estate. Should they fail to release the material at some regular interval then the recording becomes public domain.

The bottom line is that the recordings be made available and the copyright is only in force as long as the recording is making income for the recording company and/or the artist.

The availability of the recording should also be in a format that is technologically relevant. I have an example that I wish to offer on this point.

One of my favorite groups is DeGarmo and Key Band. They did a double album of a live concert during the era when vinyl was being replaced by CDs. The album was later released on a double CD set. So far, so good. However, it was discovered many years later that millions of CDs released during that period were defective. The film in the CDs was known to decay in just a matter of years. My disk two is so bad that it will not play.

About two years ago, I found the recording on a download site owned by Sony. I thought to myself, this is great; a large corporation bought the music company and is making all their stuff available for download on the Internet. What a visionary and enlightened view of corporate management. I signed-up for their service and gleefully downloaded a digital version of the album. Finally I could replace my defective disk 2 of the set. I pressed play and was shocked. They had simply ripped the CD and put it for sale online. No remastering or ripping from a master. Their CDs were defective also! There were gaps in the recording and the quality in some spots was terrible. It was better than my defective disk but it was still wrong. I sent them an email to complain and instead of fixing the problem, they gave me a credit for another download. I just want a clean copy of what they were selling. I went back to the site about a year later and the download is no longer offered. They too have slipped into digital oblivion.

There needs to be changes in the current system. It is broken. The recording companies are hurting. They need a 21st Century business model instead of one from the 1960s.