Tuesday, March 30, 2010
ECM and the art of piracy
As yet another EMI chief executive ends up on the editing room floor the major corporate labels continue to blame piracy for their problems. But illegal copying is an interesting gauge of demand. In many cities in Morocco 100% of the CDs on sale are pirated, and you won't find any copies of the latest offerings from teenage Chinese pianists or barely post-teenage celebrity conductors among them. But significantly there is an awful lot of counterfeit ECM product available. Which, as the CD inlay seen above shows, does bring a different kind of problem.
As books have been devoted to the graphic art of ECM it is worth dwelling for a moment on the graphic art of piracy. It must be assumed that the illegal copy of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Jan Garbarek's Ragas and Sagas seen above predated the availability of cheap image scanners as the pirated copy has new artwork replacing the ECM original seen below.
On the pirated version below, Herbert Maeder's typically atmospheric photo, presumably of one of Pakistan's many mountain ranges, has gone. Its replacement mimics the shadows in the foreground and peaks in the background using a fjord backed by mountains. A cheap copy or a flash of creative insight? Well ... saxophonist Jan Garbarek does come from Norway, and the CD was recorded in Rainbow Studios in Oslo, Norway in May 1990. And Norway is of course the country of fjords. The major corporate labels have a lot to learn from the pirates.
I have started a fighting fund which accepts PayPal donations in case the the following lands me in trouble with the RIAA. The pirated version of Ragas and Sagas was bought from the store seen below, the synchronistically named Bob Music in the souk in Essaouira, Morocco. Yes I know piracy is bad. But give me five minutes in Bob Music to five hours in the corporately bland HMV stores in the UK. If you want a kora from Mali or an oud from Morocco Bob's emporium of musical delights is the place to go, and I am quite happy to add his shop to my list of best record stores in the world. I should hasten to add that Bob Music also has some very interesting non-pirated CDs, including Platinium Music transfers of classic 1970s recordings from sufi influenced Moroccan protest band Jil Jilala, more on them soon.
Piracy is not new. Back in 2005 I wrote about early music piracy.
Hear an excerpt from Sagas and Ragas here. Bob Music is at 3, Rue Youssef Ben Tachafine, Essaouira, phone (212) 0668 252695, email bob_music2000 at hotmail.fr With thanks to non-aligned blogger Antoine Leboyer for the EMI story heads up. I was going to say the lower photo is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2010 but I had better keep quiet on that subject. Do please do report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk