Let's talk about what's going on these days. There are a million ways to come at it, but I'll just leave it wide open.
Well, things have changed so dramatically and we all know they've changed. The big question is: does music have value? That's really at the core of what a lot of the labels and artists are going through. And what is that value? And have we allowed a significant shift to occur in the public's mindset where music doesn't have value? Really, there's a certain portion of the argument that would suggest we've actually created a two-headed monster. Intrinsically, I believe that there is value in music, and that it is the universal language, and that's the reason that people always gravitated towards it, regardless of the delivery mechanism. Whether it's vinyl, or some downloadable medium, people are always going to seek it out. But certain changes have occurred. There's always the art versus commerce argument, and you only have to be in the industry for four or five years to realize that that those two characters are unhappy bedfellows. They never coexist happily together. You know, it's very rare that you find people who come at it from those two perspectives and exist symbiotically. I think that what's happening now is that you've got this fracturing going on, because the industry has been set up in such a way that there's always been a certain number of new artists going though the mill, and a pool of established artists, too. And there's been this reservoir of talent, and a catalogue, that's feeding new development, and hopefully some intelligent decisions have been made over the years about finding new talent and promoting it. But in the last ten years, there's definitely been some miscalculations made. There had been an assumption that this thing was always going to continue the way it had, and you could start to see in the late '80s that that was not necessarily going to be the case. In the '90s, with the beginnings with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, people were clearly buying records, but if you actually broke down what people were buying, they were buying a lot of back-catalogue stuff, and you just had to logically conclude, "Oh my god, once everyone's replaced their old vinyl, we're not going to be able to sustain this level of sales, so what's going to happen then?" That's when you saw labels start to buy each other.
So a large percentage of CD sales at that time were people buying stuff they already owned, just converting to CDs.
That's one element of it. Then you had the labels converge and merge together, and what normally happens in those processes is that artists get dropped, and staff get dropped, and you've got a duality of purpose there. There's the fundamental shift away from development, and we definitely have seen it over the last fifteen years. And on top of that you've got the whole availability of a medium that allows people to copy, ad nauseam, at a level of quality that just isn't very good. You know, as engineers we've always wanted our music to sound as good as it did in the studio and vinyl came close to it, but even this whole notion of vinyl as the greatest sounding medium ever is a complete fallacy. It sounded great, of course, but...
...not on a crappy turntable.
Not on a crappy turntable, or on a crappy playback system. And if it was duplicated incorrectly it never sounded great and it never sounded as great as your master tape, ever. So, the promise of digital was that it would sound as good as your master tape. It took a while for that promise to become close to a realization, and just as it did we were forced to adopt standards that were — well, 44.1 kHz/16 bit is a video standard, not an audio standard. Recordings have always suffered from the fact that the audience never really get to hear what the artist intended, ever.
So now they're listening to MP3s, and they've adopted...