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Go BackThe sound of music? Not for you, sorry: the digital music debate.

Posted: 12/11/07 11:51

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In the space of the past few weeks some stellar albums have passed through the Voice office – albums we would love to review. But we can't. Why? Because there are labels, in their wisdom, refuses to allow anyone to stream samples of their music.

Unfortunately, this falls foul of Ibiza Voice's rule of allowing its readers to not just read about music but to hear music. Though we are only too happy to offer our opinion, music is subjective and we think it's only fair everyone has an opportunity to listen and comment. Our reviews are not about disseminating our precious prejudices, but about allowing artists to connect with fans and vice versa. Ultimately, we believe honest feedback from an informed audience is more valuable – both creatively and commercially – to artists and record labels than mere pat-on-the-back reviews from faceless journos.

While most of the dance music industry appreciates this there are pockets of knee-jerk protectionism. Contrary to logic (and in a display of wilful ignorance about their fan base) some labels seem to feel allowing someone to hear a sample of a song for free is equivalent to handing them a free CD.

Wrong. Imagine if the print media industry worked that way: all magazines would be under lock and key. If you wanted to know what was inside you'd have to look at the cover, take a gamble, and dig into your pocket. You want to leaf through and check out the headlines? Forget about. Ridiculous, isn't it? Yet some in the dance music world behave as if allowing fans to hear a minute or two of a six-to-eight minute record is going to sate their appetite for the tune and discourage them from buying the record. It doesn't say much for a label if they have so little confidence in their product they expect people to be turned off by hearing a sample. If that is genuinely their concern, they should focus on improving the quality of their output. Not trying to hoodwink listeners into buying inferior goods "sight unseen."

However, as is the case with the recent Marcus Intalex and Steve Bug mixes for Fabric, quality is not the issue. (Nor is the artist the issue: Steve Bug has been happy to allow Ibiza Voice to air samples of his compilations in the past.) Both are superb compilations that flirt with the boundaries of their respective genres and ooze creativity. To hear them is to enjoy. So why do Fabric go to such lengths to prevent people from hearing them?

Interestingly, while some forward-thinking dance community are fiercely reactionary about allowing fans access to music it is fuddy-duddy rock'n'rollers who are leading the way. To wit, Radiohead have released their latest album, In Rainbows, online, for whatever price you want to pay.

When you go to checkout you simply enter however much (or little) you're willing to spend. Apart from a £0.45 handling charge the album can be anything from free up to £100.00. The reaction has been overwhelming. Fans, naturally, are thrilled to have instant access to the new record (and it is quick: it took less than 10 minutes from Googling "radiohead" to having In Rainbows on my MP3 player). It is the reaction of casual music lovers, however, which is even more intriguing. One forum conversation at includes the following comment: "I'll throw them $10 on general principle. I'm at best a casual Radiohead fan, but I'd like to support this business model."

Another user posts: "I respect them so much for doing this. I really don't want to pay because I don't have much spare cash, but I am going to for sure."

A host of other comments from broadsheets and blogs alike indicate not only are people happily paying for the "free" download, but many are deliberately paying above the odds to show their support for Radiohead's venture (see additional links below).

All this flies in the face of the narrow, suspicious "us versus them" attitude some labels still cultivate. Dance labels will argue they don't have the selling power of a world-renowned rock act like Radiohead, and they're right. But Ibiza Voice is not suggesting all labels should adopt this sales strategy. What we are saying is there is a Grand Canyon-sized void between these approaches to marketing music. The Radiohead model, while not for everyone, shows they know their audience and are actively, creatively engaging with them. On the other hand, labels that baulk at allowing a few seconds worth of samples to go online show no appreciation for – or understand of – their listeners.

Music lovers deserve and expect more. Clubbers are not tight-fisted opportunists looking to take without giving (would we drop €100 on a Saturday night out, any given weekend, if that were the case?) The sooner record labels start treating their listeners with respect, the better it will be for musicians and fans alike. |  New_Radiohead_album_In_Rainbows_pay_what_you_think_it_s_worth

Words by IV