BDB just sent me a link to a band called The Books – two blokes from the states who make odd noises with samples and one of them plays cello and bass (can’t work out what the other one plays) – they make their own samples, release their own records, and have a very odd website. All fine stuff.
A quick look at their stats on Last.fm reveals that they have over 74,000 listeners on there!! A truly remarkable statistic.
Which made it all the more sad to find the following notice on their website –
We feel the need to dispel any notions that we are financially sitting pretty because of the acclaim our music has enjoyed. It’s true, we’ve released a couple of records and we’re grateful to all of the writers who have taken the time to write about them, but unfortunately our record sales do not reflect this. Our work, although deeply satisfying to us, has left us both on the brink of financial collapse since we began, so we are asking you: Please, do not steal our music thinking that we can afford it. We barely get by, and aren’t able to afford basic things like health insurance, let alone raising a family, etc. We love what we do, and we love that people listen, but if you would like to see our work continue, please support us, and all of the artists you enjoy, as directly as possible. The sad fact is, we can make a much better living selling t-shirts than we can selling music, so please help us keep this going.
Paul and Nick
Sad reading but I know exactly what they mean – I get way more interest, and have way more people who know my music than my CD sales would suggest. I remember a stat pre-internet that said that for every album sold, two copies were made. I’m guessing that’s at least doubled now. But it’s tricky – we all want people to listen to our music, and don’t want to have to go the route of disabling CDs from being copied onto iPods, or only having really shitty quality MP3s available. But it can be tough to make it all pay. One argument suggests that if people are swapping your MP3s then they’ll turn up to your gigs, and I’m sure there’s some truth in that, but on a week by week basis, it’s still tough to keep a record label functioning at the ‘profile’ level that the artists have when the sales don’t neccesarily reflect that.
From their statement, compared to their listening figures on last.fm, I’m in nothing like the dire situation that The Books appear to be in, but then I also haven’t got every track of every CD of mine available for download (all of theirs are on their site, I’m not sure if you can actually download them all).
I was talking at one point about doing a CDR amnesty – that anyone who sent me their copied version of one of the albums, or a signed statement that they’d just made MP3 copies off their friends could have a replacement for it for a fiver… I still quite like the idea but it was pointed out that it was in effect rewarding piracy and penalising those people who bought the CDs in the first place. I like to see it in more pragmatic terms than that, but I’ll hold off for now.
Still, you do have the opportunity to head over to the online shop and buy a CD/download/T-shirt/gig ticket if you like! There’s even a paypal tip-jar on the MP3s page (though I’m not sure if that just a way of absolving people’s conciences for downloading over an album’s worth of material but only giving me £2 for it!)
Either way, I feel sorry for The Books if things are really as bad for them as the statement above suggests, and I’m glad that my fan base is generally more forthcoming with the money for Cds!by