Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Musicians' jobs before free downloads

Thankfully the BBC has decided to limit the scale of its free music file downloads during the upcoming Bach week (16th to 25th December) -

'Nothing will happen without consultation and, should it happen, it will be nothing on the scale of Beethoven,' a Radio 3 spokesman said.

In some quarters this decision is being interpreted as another victory for the 'evil' record companies, as expressed by the Open Rights Group -

'We find the complaints of various parts of the recording industry not only selfish but short-sighted.'

This decision by the BBC is not selfish or short-sighted. Nor is it about caving in to pressure from the recording industry. The BBC has realised that its 'shoot first, aim later' experiment with the Beethoven Symphony downloads put at risk not just record companies, but the jobs of many more important individuals in the music supply chain, including musicians, producers, arrangers, and composers.

The BBC remembered that it has complete control, including broadcasts, public performances, touring, and programmes, of five leading orchestras, plus the BBC Singers. They also have total control over the world's largest live music festival, the BBC Promenade Concerts. This employs musicians ranging from the Berlin Philharmonic to Ravi Shankar.The BBC has one of the largest commissioning budgets for new music, with an annual spend in excess of £350,000 ($630,000). This commissioning budget is larger than the turnover of many independent record companies.

I see the internet as an essential part of the future of classical music, and continue to promote it vigorously. But I also passionately believe that musicans' jobs are more important than free classical music downloads. Thankfully the BBC now seems to have come to the same conclusion.

An Overgrown Path visited the BBC's music downloads at Holy smoke - what a lot of downloads!, Download doomsayer, Music-like-water and BBC Beethoven plays, and plays, and plays...

Heads-up to the excellent The Well-Tempered Blog which led with this story
Picture credit - Steve Lieber, do visit his site for his caricatures of John Cage and Duke Ellington
Report broken links, missing images, and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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