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Thursday, October 31, 2013

What if the record business survived but the album didn't?

Went to the Mercury Music Prize show last night in the company of the BPI.

From the table talk it seems the business is beginning to get the upper hand against the big torrent sites, which your ISP will be legally obliged to block.

The sales cake may be worth roughly half of what it was worth fifteen years ago in terms of value but since it's increasingly a digital cake the costs are lower. Streaming is on its way to being, if not necessarily the whole market, as it is in Sweden, then certainly a significant part of that market. Speculation is that at some point in the future you'll have a service like Spotify bundled into your broadband deal.

All this will mean that for most people it won't be worth their trouble to steal things. Access to all music will be more important than ownership of particular items of recorded music.

It seems funny to be discussing this after watching twelve acts competing for the Mercury Music Prize, which was introduced in conscious emulation of the Booker Prize and is dedicated to the proposition that the 45-minute album is an artistic form as coherent and enduring as the novel, that some forms of it are more precious than others and furthermore that the public at large can still be persuaded to buy into that.

I can see why you might believe it. I can see why the acts would want to believe it. There's very little sign that the people they used to call "the record-buying public" do.