Feeds

Amazon MP3 fuels indie gloom

Not exactly retail therapy

The essential guide to IT transformation

Do you remember when the internet was supposed to "empower" new businesses, sweep away cartels and monopolies, and give a voice to the little guy? Well, unless you view increasing concentrations of power as a good thing, this week has been a bad one for the music economy.

Amazon finally launched its MP3 download service in the UK on the Wednesday, stealing the headlines with cheap deals. Yet popular acts who chose to opt out of the major label system received a kick in the teeth, with the front page carved up between the majors. Best-selling acts such as The Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand (both signed to PIAS group label Domino) are nowhere to be found.

As a "retail experience" goes, Amazon scores high on "efficiency" - you can find what you want and check out quickly. But there's more to an "experience" than the mechanics of purchasing. The Amazon MP3 store has the feel of a corporate warehouse, with no attempt to curate or promote good new music. And it's too bad if your startup label has created and then cultivated a strong brand for years, based on a well-chosen roster of quality acts. You can't search by label, and the acknowledgement that an act even belongs to a particular label is grudgingly displayed in the small print.

So Amazon doesn't "empower" anyone - except the biggest major labels.

Now many indie labels face a credit crunch of their own, as UK distributor Pinnacle went into receivership this week, with the loss of 94 jobs. Pinnacle owed money to some 300 small labels, holding some 2 million units in its Kent warehouse, Billboard reports. "This could drag some of the smaller labels down," a former employee told the newspaper.

The bankruptcy affects well-known acts, too. For example, US band Fleet Foxes have seen healthy sales in the UK, and were represented by a UK licensee, artist-run label Bella Union. Now labels have to try and get their stock back from the padlocked warehouse, and find another route to market in what's traditionally the peak retail season of the year.

AIM, the Association for Independent Music, held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the repercussions.

Majors have been ramping up their dominance of the shrinking recorded music market this year with a succession of questionable exclusionary practices. The majors demand large advances from digital services such as MySpace and Imeem, that ensure major content is promoted prominently. When indies do get a foot in the door, they may get only a quarter of the revenue a major receives.

The question for regulators is whether such tactics add up to a strategy? When we discover that majors insist on ownership stakes in major digital music portals, locking up the shop windows of the web, it's hard to see it as anything other than a bid to control the distribution channel.

Universal, Sony and Warner must be thankful for the indifference of the public. If Microsoft attempted such practices, it would make the front page. But for webloggers and commenters, democratic engagement with power begins and ends with a "to hell with record industry" rant - allowing the majors to quietly get on with the business of controlling the market. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.