My Dear CD



My dear CD, how much you cost us!
The issue about the cost of CDs long has been touching all countries more or less with different solutions, depending on the country's or the audience's habits, mentality and money availability, which bring to plain lacks of balance; take, for example, the USA or Scandinavia, where a year's average net salary is around US$ 40,000 and a CD costs around 12, 13 (consider that in the USA you need to pay your own insurance, too).
A third world country pays from 200 to 2000 US$ a year and a CD costs too much for normal people, whereas in the middle there are countries like Italy, Spain or Greece where a year's average net salary is about $ 11,000 and a CD costs from 15 to 20 US$, owing to the plague of the Euro existance. This is due to the fact that in Italy music is not considered culture - which happens in other better nations - when referring to CDs and the VAT is 20%, while it is 4% on books, so there's a contradiction because a book about Abba, Metallica or whoever you want to is considered culture, but a CD is charged with more taxes for it's seen as entertainment. And don't forget all the passages among wholesalers, distributors and final shops that makes the prices increase, with each one of them blaming the others before. Result? It's always the poor consumer paying for them of course, quite democratic isn't it? This is the reason why MP3's have had more and more success these years, and no-one expected a decrease of the phenomenon with the forced change imposed on Napster, just a natural evolution.

I think it's right to download a song if you wanna know a new band or a new CD from a band you're not sure if they're still up to, and if you do like it, you'll buy it later. Many people won't do that and will keep their personal burned copy, however most people who love music do it. Remember that the quality of the original CD is always better and how to renounce the fascination of the lyrics? Personally I'm a freak for artworks, and I'd like to have the whole package so as to give a complete review when I get a CD to criticize about.

A lot of big artists, Metallica included, tried to intervene to stop this because they didn't mean to renounce of their new villas or other priviliges and I understand them. They did work hard and made way for metal to become popular, but they had to accept more and more compromises and have today grown weak and a pale shadow of the monsters they used to be (sorry, guyz!); if you add that now that they've lost inspiration, then you'll understand why there're no big bands between the 90's and today, but only a handful of good bands. The only value left is vile money for 99% of them. We don't have to generalize because there're also some bands selling their CDs at fair prices and sticking labels with the words: This CD can't be sold at more than...", yet they appear like drops in the ocean and are usually limited to indie punk or hardcore bands.
However, other artists like Stratovarius became angry when some journalist put the songs from their promoCD on the Internet before the release. In this case I agree with them, as I know that they're not rockstars and they need that money to go on because to be musicians is their job and not a mere hobby. To avoid that, big record companies put promo-CDs out with raw versions where the sound quality is inferior to the one in normal CDs; sometimes the songs are cut into a lot of tracks to prevent MP3 ripping-off or even worse before the end, causing not few problems to the reviewer. Recently more and more not-burnable CD's are being released; a harmless thing? Not at all, if you consider that a few old CD players can't read them, so you have to resign the old one and acquire a new suitable one.

In my opinion, small artists can only benefit by the Internet's appearance, as they can quickly reach a lot of people worldwide, who can contact them, listen to their songs, visit their websites and buy CDs if they're not distributed in their countries, jumping over the intermediary passages of the a.m. music business's sharks. A CD shouldn't cost that much; it's theorically much more expensive to make a vynil than a plastic CD, and only if you wanted a luxury jewel case with a 24-page booklet, you should spend so much, but in truth a record company or a band who wants a normal CD have to pay a CD manufacturer quite a deal and not print less than 100 copies for example. It's obvious that in such a saturated market, life is hard for small (unsigned) bands and not only for fans, and all of this doesn't help music at all.
That's why old-style shops are failing in Italy and it's right, because it's unfair to pay so much. People stop going to them and they buy 3 CDs from at 12 Euros each. They've already saved money even if they had to pay shipping costs. People in developed countries like the mothertongue English-speaking ones or Northern Europe ones purchase CDs online from mailorders or MP3's from legal or illegal sites. The culture is changing, as people don't go to shops anymore; even big ones in traditional strongholds such as the City in London had to sell due to high rents and lower and lower incomes. Nowadays it's more comfortable and faster to order most merchandising from home, unless you're a vinyl searcher and therefore need to check conditions of the item at a shop or a specialised exhibition.
In Italy and other Latin countries not many people trust online purchases yet; their slow mentality and culture brings them to change their habits very carefully, so a solution to the issue seems the release of prepaid credit cards similar to the ones used for mobile phones that endanger only a small amount of money. Anyhow the way is open, they just have to walk it and they won't regret going back. Music fans are becoming more selective or they'll lose the chance of listening to music other than that the one broadcast by networks, which is mostly commercial boring music without a soul. Even here, something is changing and I never lose the opportunity of listening to my favorite online radio whenever I get connected. I also try to download all the episodes of online TVs or multimedia sites showing my fave videoclips, but as broad band connections are often a utopia promised and paid but not kept, I prefer to stay out and apply to a hot spot.
By the way, I can feel lucky enough though, cos even in my home country (that is Italy, unfortunately), there're 2 free national music networks and both of them have Rock and Metal programs at night once a week, so that we can record or just watch new metal or old forgotten videoclips. Last but not least, my webzine and my collaborations allow me to get a hold of more stuff than I could afford, especially in the long periods of unemployment I am going through thanks to the trashy humans chosen as job selectors.
The future of music is in the hands of a sly, greedy and powerful elite as usual, but if you're not passive and you like to choose what to listen to, now you have the weapon to do it: Internet; you can find everything on that, including small distros selling CDs at fair prices or bad distros stealing your money. You can trade or simply buy, but you have much more choice now than before and that's something we all should exploit so as to prevent the policy of the music biz masters from ruining people's entertainment and culture right. Art is something that shouldn't be mixed with business and we should keep their dirty hands far from our beloved music as much as possible and it seems that only the payment of a fair sum for digitally downloadable music is a solution for bigger bands and artists. Small bands into metal and other uncompromised genres know their fans may listen to or download MP3s, yet the rule is always valid: if they like it, they are the one customers that will certainly buy the original CD. A collector needs artworks and pure sounds, and the comfort of finding their CDs quickly, and if you add that sites with downloadable artworks have lately become forbidden in several countries, you will agree that fans of metal (especially) are really the ones deciding the life of a band, although tours have turned to be the major income for small or medium acts.

Update: on 20th January, 2007 the Italian Court established that file sharing with MP3's or CD's among friends without lucre aims was NOT considered a crime any longer, since everybody has the right to have a personal copy the same way it happens with photocopies or happened with tapes. This, along with the resurrecttion of Napster after its freezing and its second life through paid downloads some years ago, appeared a measure of common sense that would ease lots of vexed citizens and would not damage bands' incomes. Yet, after just two days, the Italian authors' and publishers' associtaion hurried up to explain that that rule was appliable only to the case object of trial dated back to 1999, so there's always a wicked manner to make laws unappliable in practice, a typical Italian miscostume that will never ever disappear, as they are a people ofparassites and swindlers just as many others from latin countries and other inferior nations of the world.

MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - 20th February, 2004, updated in January 2007

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