Why the naysayers were wrong about the record industry

Alison Wenham, Chairman and Chief Executive of AIM, rounds off this month's edition of Music Magazine

Crash and Burn! – I don’t think so… 2007 was another year of relative torture for the record industry. Wehave few friends or champions, or at least few who are prepared to stand up and be counted.

Crash and Burn! – I don’t think so… 2007 was another year of relative torture for the record industry. Wehave few friends or champions, or at least few who are prepared to stand up and be counted. And yet, despite the many colourful obituaries, whose authors have acquired full-time celebrity status, we’re all still standing. A little battle-scarred, but still putting out great music which is selling by the shedload at prices that would make Gerald Kaufman proud of us.

So what went wrong? Why are we not laid to rest, cast aside as the naysayers have predicted for nearly 10, long years? And why, does it seem that the tide is finally turning, and the acceptance of music at a reasonable price is a reasonable, and achievable expectation for producers who spend their time, money and expertise to bring artists and music to the public?

On the internet, other content industries are just beginning to experience the piracy we have lived through, and are still adapting to. They got off lightly up until now, simply because a film or TV programme uses much more bandwidth than a skinny little song, and has not been popular due to the slowness of downloading the file.

With broadband size and speed accelerating, their industries are now threatened. Once they start to lobby government about the ravages of the internet, we will have a chance to establish that content should be king, as well as the pipe that delivers it. Then, once that little misunderstanding is cleared up, we can work with ISPs to bring people what they want – high quality, legitimate music, video, film and TV, without all the dodgy spyware that usually accompanies an illegal file.

The other reason for optimism is that we are generally creatures of habit. When something’s really good, we want to own it. While the CD may not be the sexiest accoutrement of the Noughties, when it comes to Leona Lewis, who just beat Arctic Monkeys into second place for the fastest selling album of last year, it still remains king. Long live Leona Lewis, Arctic Monkeys and all the great artists who have emanated from those apparently pointless record companies.

And one last remark on the last 12 months. The HMV poll of polls found that seven out of 10 of the critics’ choices were artists from independent labels. That gave me a very happy new year.

Alison Wenham is Chairman and Chief Executive, AIM (The Association of Independent Music) www.musicindie.com.

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