By Christian Anderson Smith
I was watching television a while ago when I came across a story on the news starring Chad Kroeger who is working in conjunction with McDonald’s. The advertisements say it’s “the best deal in music history”. Here is the deal as far as I can tell: if you buy an extra value meal you get a coupon which will allow you to download a free song off the internet. Now, I am paraphrasing here but this is what Chad Kroeger said, “What’s happening in the music industry is a travesty. I’m not working for McDonald’s, I’m doing this for Nickelback and musicians everywhere.”
It was after said comment that my interest was really sparked. Chad Kroeger is doing something on my behalf? I am a working musician so he must be. Chad does seem like a nice enough guy in interviews and I do believe his heart is in the right place. However, before he starts running around doing things for musicians everywhere, I dohave an alternative solution to the problems with music downloading. But before I do allow me to tell you a little bit about myself so you can understand where I am coming from.
The first thing you should know is I love music more than anything. It’s saved my life more than once and I think it saves other’s lives everyday. I gave up everything I have (except myLP collection) to play music full time. I don’t even own a bed. I spent the greater part of last year putting my life on the line everyday on those wintry Canadian roads and my body and mind, like many musicians beforeme has paid the price to do what I love which is play Rock & Roll. I am not saying this to complain or gain sympathy for the reader. I say these things so you understand how important music is to me. It is of primary importance.
Now that I’ve finished that digression, I’ll go back to what I was initially talking about. The problem of downloading. I can’t help but feel a sense of incredible irony when I think of the problem and Mcdonald’s solution to it and here it is:I can’t afford to buy music. I’m not the only one. That is the true travesty. For example, I desperately want to buy one of my current favourite albums, “The Plastic Ono Band” and simply cannot justify paying what they are asking for it. I have gone across Canada over 5 times this year and have visited many a record store and have never seen it priced for under $23.99. I cannot afford that. That’s over five percent of what I pay in rent. And I live in a really cheap place. Is buying music an activity that only the privileged can afford? At those prices it certainly seems so. I know that some will say, “Well, when you’re paying that $24.00 you’re paying for the recording, the employees at the record company, the music videos and so on. Then you have to pay the middle men: the distributor and the store that carries it with all their costs etc.”
I also know how much it costs to make a CD. I have four of them, I have eight videos. My last album cost me a little over $2 to press. And it gets cheaper the more you make. I sell them for $12 but you can usually talk me down to $10 if you don’t have change. Now that is a reasonable amount of money. I could afford that and would buy more music. In fact, if you super-size your extra value meal at McDonald’s it comes to around $8.50. That’s only the difference of $1.50.
The mark-ups seem excessively high. I have never seen any of my albums in any of the big corporate stores for under $20. I sell my album to an independent distributor for under $10 which means that in one step, from the distributor to the store, the price of my CD is marked up 100%. It seems gluttonous, and where does this money go? I certainly don’t see a lot of it.
I think people would be happy to buy music if they could afford it. People aren’t stupid. They know if they spend their money on their favourite bands it allows them to continue on. I had a burnt copy of The Flaming Lips’ “The Soft Bulletin” for over a year now and have listened to it in excess. I was in a record shop and saw a copy for $12 and bought it immediately. I wanted to support them financially before but couldn’t afford it. I have to eat and clothe myself.
If CD prices were lowered I think more people would buy them and if more people bought them, it would make up for the money lost from mark-ups. It seems like such a logical and simple solution but as I’ve learned, the best solution is the one most often overlooked.
It is noble what guys like Chad Kroeger are trying to do. It’s a terrible thing when anyone loses their job. Especially in an industry which so many people care so desperately for. As for the music, you don’t have to worry. Music will never die and the people who truly love it will go on playing it in spite of what is going on in the business side of things. All this downloading is hurting people. I just don’t know if feeding them more hamburgers is the proper solution to the problem.