The band is just fantastic,
that is really what I think.
Oh by the way, which one's Pink?
~Pink Floyd, Have a Cigar
In the classic rock tale, the young, talented musicians are exploited by one of two entities: the unscrupulous manager or the greedy record company. This week Pink Floyd turned the tables on the record company, winning a case involving a 1999 contract that stated Pink Floyd's albums had to be sold intact. In other words they could not be broken up and sold as individual songs.
A high court in England agreed that the band had a right to preserve its music in the form outlined in the contract. The irony here is that EMI, the band's record label has been making good money selling individual digital songs, and if the ruling holds, the company, which has been reportedly losing millions, will lose this lucrative cash flow from a popular band. The band won the battle, and screwed the record company in process. Talk about a role reversal.
It's a Digital World
Today, people tend to buy individual songs, instead of an entire album, but back when Pink Floyd was at the height of its popularity, you had to buy the whole album and listen to both sides usually in order. Even with the advent of CDs, the whole album tended to be played in order, but that has changed in a big way. According to an article on PaidContent.org the other day, "Digital singles outsold digital albums in the Floyd’s native UK nearly tenfold last year."
Although the same article points out that album sales are on the rise again, individual digital sales are still the leader by far. In today's world, younger music buyers are far more likely to buy a digital song than a digital album or a CD. Pink Floyd has won a key battle with the record company to maintain its artistic integrity, but at the same time, it's shutting down a way for a younger audience to become familiar with its music.
Record Companies Lose More Ground
Record companies as an entity face a threat from the same online forces undermining other corporate media. It's a simple fact of a changing world. Engadget had an excellent post the other day called Record Labels: Change or Die outlining just what the traditional record label is up against. The funny thing is that EMI was trying to make adjustments to this newer way of selling music and got pushed back by the old rules (which for so long it fought to preserve and protect).
If it holds, this ruling puts the music firmly in Pink Floyd's control, but in a twist of fate, it also puts another nail in the corporate media coffin. In a case that just can't stop dripping with irony, the courts have traditionally been a place where media companies could take refuge, but EMI got slapped down for trying to take advantage of the digital marketplace.
It will be interesting to see if there is any longer-term fall out from this or if it's is just an isolated case related to an 11 year old contract that affects the band which signed it. Ultimately though, you can't help but love the 'man bites dog' aspect of this story and how one band, for at least one ruling, stuck it to the record companies.