Telling tellers tell me

November 13, 2007

A not-so-recent-anymore article includes the following:

Music sales have slumped in recent years as more people have turned to file-sharing. The Recording Industry Association of America, which is not a party to the lawsuit, says record companies have brought more than 26,000 actions against people alleging they shared files in violation of copyrights.

I’m not going to address the merit of this lawsuit in particular, or the approach in general. There’s enough of that all over the internet already. Nor will I point out that, during the “recent years”, while “[m]usic sales have slumped”, DVD sales have exploded and RIAA labels have released fewer and arguably worse albums. There’s gotta be enough of that all over the internet as well.

No, my point is illustrated by this list of the past 10 or so albums I’ve purchased, along with the record label (if any) for each one:

  • Elliott Brood — Tin Type (Weewerk)
  • Holy Fuck — LP (XL Recordings)
  • Husky Rescue — Ghost is Not Real (Catskills)
  • Junior Senior — Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (Rykodisc)
  • Manu Chao — La Radiolina (Nacional Records)
  • Maserati — Inventions for the New Season (Temporary Residence)
  • Menomena — Friend and Foe (Barsuk)
  • Portugal. The Man — Church Mouth (Fearless Records)
  • Radiohead — In Rainbows (?)
  • Spoon — Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge Records)
  • UNKLE — War Stories (Surrender All)

Green indicates an album is non-RIAA, red RIAA (post-purchase, I looked them up here). As you can see, that means one of the past ten CDs I’ve bought (or one of the past eleven albums I’ve bought) has been a release from an RIAA-affiliated label. I guess that means I’m so indie it hurts [1], but it also illustrates that, without even trying, you can nearly eliminate your support for the RIAA and still buy as many CDs as you did before. So while I don’t necessarily doubt that music sales in general have fallen, I have to wonder whether the fall is as big as it’s been made out to be. Articles tend to parrot RIAA talking points, and it’s not clear where they’re getting their numbers from. If their sales figures are only based on the sales figures from their member labels, then the vast majority of my purchases don’t count, and I know there are lots of people out there with tastes like mine (or, God forbid, even indier).

Incidentally, if not for downloads, I wouldn’t have spent actual money on any of those albums.

* * *

[1] Adam, if you’re reading this, you can consider this post an explicit recommendation to listen to all those albums listed above. Sorry this still isn’t a proper mp3blog, but at least it’s trending in that direction. In any case, all of those albums qualify as ‘best of new music’ in my book; other than the Elliott Brood, which came out in 2004; and the Junior Senior, which came out in 2005 but wasn’t released Stateside until this year. Though the US release of the Junior Senior album does come with an EP of all-new material—which is the entire reason I bought it, since I already had a copy that I got in Denmark this spring.


  • Aili says:

    Yeah I must say I have only bought one CD dead blind since I’ve started working. The rest of my money so far has all gone to purchase either favorites or things I am reasonably sure I will like, based on either having heard a couple of tracks or a recommendation from someone I trust.

    I still plan on eventually purchasing everything I love in hard copy. Just a matter of when I have the spare money for it.

  • Aili says:

    Haha speaking of which, a couple of weeks ago I bought The Velvet Underground on CD and now just today Helvi gave me the same album on vinyl for my birthday.

    Lou Reed eats for another week, courtesy of the Sarapik family.

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