Monday, March 16, 2009

Who gains when the CDs come out of copyright?

There is a battle going on about whether to increase the labels' ownership of recordings to 95 years (as recommended now by the EU) from the present 50.
The argument from the (big) labels is that a limited life of ownership inhibits the incentive to release new music. In fact, I wonder if they are only wanting the extension because we are coming up to 50 years since the real explosion of money earning for labels, in particular the Beatles (out of copyright in 2013 onwards).
If we look at the amount of great jazz stuck away in the "vaults" (i.e. currently unavailable on CD), it is lamentable. Two major examples: Windmill Tilter, the first release of music by Kenny Wheeler (made for the Dankworth Orchestra) and the last Loose Tubes album (Open Letter to Dudu Pukwana). And the list goes on.

Labels think that they are doing a service to themselves, in the hope that one day they'll make a killing. However, when the albums come out of copyright, we have seen them often properly remastered and made widely available. The music gets the respect it deserves, instead of just being a commodity.
In my shop, I have been selling 4 classic albums by the likes of Jimmy Giuffre and Count Basie for just £5 each. I have particularly had pleasure from listening to Giuffre, who was one of the main influences on the existence of ECM.

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