There was an interesting debate on today’s Ron and Fez that speaks to a subject we’ve been whinging about for some time now: digital delivery of content, specifically of music. Pink Floyd has won a court ruling that will put an end to places like iTunes selling its songs individually. The band feels that their music can only truly be appreciated in the album format, from start to finish, and it never liked people being able to pick and choose what songs they wanted to download.
I will say this right now: I’m not a Pink Floyd fan. I have nothing against them, but when kids were starting to get into bands like Pink Floyd, say around age 13 or 14, I was busy playing Final Fantasy. It’s a case of not being exposed to their music, and at this point, I’m not going to bother. My loss, I suppose. But don’t cry for me, because that’s makes me especially suited to write this story—I have no emotional attachment to the band in question.
The gist of the ruling—The High Court in the UK, to be exact—is that EMI, the band’s record label, won’t be allowed to sell individual songs from its catalog online. That means, from now on, you’ll only be able to buy The Wall as a full album online, and not merely “In The Flesh?” and “The Thin Ice.”
Yes, I had to Wiki that. Again, I wouldn’t know a Pink Floyd song if [insert cliché here].
That’s the debate: should consumers be allowed to buy whatever song they want without having to buy an entire album?
One side says, “Yes, consumers should be able to pick and choose whatever song they want without worrying about what any band says. Just because a band ‘says’ its music can only be appreciated in album form doesn’t make it so. Is There Will Be Blood any less valuable when you’re watching the Blu-ray on your 60-inch plasma instead of at an actual movie theater?” (I’d say no, it’s not any less valuable, especially since I can control the viewing environment when I’m watching the Blu-ray—no having to worry about loud idiots texting back and forth with their mates.)
The other side says, “Well, Pink Floyd made the music, and only they know how it can be appreciated. If they intended for the songs to be listened to as an album, we as consumers should appreciate their artistic wishes.”
While I side with the first opinion, the fact is I really don’t care too passionately one way or the other. The band wants you to buy albums? Fine, whatever.
But surely Pink Floyd understands how music is consumed in the year 2010: people put their iPhone or iPod or Zune HD or whatever on shuffle mode, run on the treadmill at the gym for 20 minutes, and hear “Poker Face,” “Run This Town,” and “Lay in a Shimmer” all in a row. Young people ask, “What’s an album? I only listen to my Spotify playlist when I’m writing about what I did on my summer vacation.”
Don’t expect to see this trend—going back to album-based music sales—continue beyond Pink Floyd. The music industry knows people are already used to buying this or that song from iTunes, and it’s in no position to say, “Actually, we want album sales now. Sorry.” It’s grateful that people are buying music at all, let alone expecting people to buy entire albums.
This is where I throw it to y’all: is Pink Floyd in the right here? Should a band be allowed to dictate how its fans listen its music? Or is this a giant “who cares?” debate?