SOUND RECORDINGS

SPINING THE MUSIC

In the 1970s, European record-makers created innovative videos featuring recording artists acting out their music.

American record-makers, desperate to reverse slumping sales, borrowed the idea and made the videos available to cable television channels to play between the movies.

In 1981 the Warner media conglomerate, whose divisions included Warner records, gambled that a full-time music video cable channel would attract enough viewers and advertisers to make money.

By 1984 the Music Television Channel, MTV for short, claimed 24 million viewers, more than any other cable channel.

In Canada, Much Music was launched in 1984, followed by Quebec's Musique Plus. Surveys indicate 42% of teens and 41% between 18-25 tune into Much Music at least once a week.

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

In the 1980s, the record industry gave itself another shot in the arm by switching to compact disc digital playback equipment.

PERFORMER MEGADEALS

Michael Jackson signed a long-term deal with Sony in 1991 for $65 million and a 50-50 split on profits.

Madonna signed a deal with Time Warner for a 50-50 deal and an alleged $75 million deal.

The heavy weight and hard rock band Areosmith signed a $50 million deal with Sony, which eclipsed a $28 million Rolling Stones contract.

The scale of the new mega-deals reflected the corporate mergers that were consolidating the mass media into the hands of fewer but bigger companies.

MAKING AND SELLING RECORDS

 

Records have A&R, short for Artists and Repertoire departments to promote new stars.

Today, most performers insist on producing their own work, with A&R people scouting the country for new talent.

AIRPLAY AND MARKETING

Canadian radio music directors read RPM and follow the charts of what music is selling and being played.

DJs also use tip sheets used as a sideline and sold by subscription.

Airplay is valuable because it is the way in which most people are first exposed to new releases.

May have changed. In 1996, Parliament considered changing the Copy-Right Act which would force Canadian radio stations to begin paying royalties to artists and record companies instead of paying the required license fee to the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

Also use advertising campaigns and tours to generate interest for an album.

Tours are declining unless the record company picks up expenses, special effects and security personnel.

MEASURES OF COMMERCIAL SUCCESS

About half the records sold today are pop, a broad category that ranges from Barry Manilow to Motley Crue's hard-edged rock.

Other genres include country, classical, and jazz.

RECORD-RADIO PARTNERSHIP

The relationship between the radio and record industries is a two way street.

Radio stations need records and radio-makers need disc jockey's to air their records.

Also, since 1970, the CRTC has required radio stations in Canada to play at least 30% Canadian content.

What makes a song "Canadian"?

  • The music must be written by a Canadian
  • The lyrics performed by a Canadian artist
  • The recording must be produced in Canada or performed and broadcast live in Canada.
  • The lyrics must be written by a Canadian

Payola was the worst part of the relationship between record companies and radio DJs, where record companies bribed disc jockeys to play certain records.

HOME-DUBBING REVENUE DRAIN

Instead of buying records, people began sharing records and dubbing them onto relatively inexpensive blank tapes

Also, radio stations shifted to oldies, whose market targeted baby boomers who grew up in the 50s and 60s and liked to listen to the same music they did when they were younger.

The record industry began to slowly lose its traditional source of profits based on new releases.

AUDIO AND VIDEO PIRACY

Criminal piracy involves dubbing records and videos and selling the dubs.

Produced by shadowy pirate sources, mostly in Asia, the dubs are sold through black market channels.

Costs are low, profits are high.

It is not uncommon to have 100 "slave" tap copying machines dubbing 24 hours a day. And even ship illegal copies before the official release by the distributor.

It is a highly lucrative crime that's easier and less punishable than the exportation of drugs.

1996 the Antibootleg amendment to the Canadian Copyright Act became law. It is now illegal to record a performance and sell it.

The maximum penalty of copyright infringement is $1,000,000 fine or imprisonment up to five years, or both penalties.

SIX COMPANIES DOMINATE THE RECORDING INDUSTRY

  1. CBS Records owned by Sony
  2. Capitol owned by electrical and Musical Instruments of England
  3. MCA (formerly Music Corporation of America) owned by Matsushita Electrical Industrial Corporation of Japan.
  4. PolyGram owned by Philips of the Netherlands
  5. RCA is a subsidiary of a large German media giant
  6. Warner Music owned by Time Warner

The recording industry in Canada is largely controlled by American interests.

Major U.S companies have offices in Canada. (A type of branch plant economy).

CULTURAL HOMOGENIZATION

The reduction of independent record companies.

Awards mainly hype by record companies to promote certain artists.

Acts like Milli Vanilli who do not sing the lyrics but present a marketable image.

OBJECTIONABLE MUSIC

Depending on the geography and political climate, both the radical right and FCC have influenced musical fare in America.

EXAMPLES: Kurt Cobain

Record companies began labeling records , similar to the movie industry.

(Explicit Lyrics, or Parental Advisory).

Still unclear whether mores are affected by lyrics.

Studies have shown only 3% of listeners' listen to the lyrics of rock music. Most teenagers use rock as background noise.

Critics, however, see a subliminal effect.

CONCLUSION

Prospects for the record industry are upbeat as long as record-makers stay in tune with the changing times and tastes of young people.

Technological advances will continue to create new profit opportunities by rendering old formats obsolete.

Other challenges include home dubbing and the concentration of ownership in the recording industry.

SOURCE: Abridged version of Chapter three from:

Vivian, John and Maurin, Peter. (1997). The Media of Mass Communication. Allyn and Bacon Canada. Scarborough, Ontario.