Bells Are Ringing

The music industry is a little less hapless than it was.

In a former professional life, one of my coworkers was Slovak. He would talk about “my country” in a tone vaguely reminiscent of the “Old Country” from Borgel. And one day, he came into the office with a CD he called “My country’s Sgt. Pepper and Dark Side of the Moon combined.” And despite my initial skepticism, I had to admit it was a striking album: late-1960s folk rock with catchy tunes, creative but never ostentatious instrumentation, and an infectious confidence.

Since then, that album — Zvoňte Zvonky by Prúdy — has been my touchstone for whether the music industry is genuinely serious about making authorized purchases more convenient than piracy. It’s not particularly obscure: indeed, it’s number one on the 100 Greatest Slovak Albums of All Time. There are presumably international licensing issues involved, but solving licensing issues is after all their job. That was a decade ago, and I’ve checked periodically since then. Each time my conclusion was the same: not legally available for sale in the U.S., by hook or by crook.

Until this week. I found Zvoňte Zvonky on iTunes. I hope it’s legit, rather than the handiwork of someone pretending to be the rightsholder. But assuming that it is, I’m pleased, surprised, and a little impressed. I’m not ready to declare the recording industry the victor in this contest. But I am now willing to say that it is at least taking the game seriously. And when it does, we all win.

So, go listen to Zvoňte Zvonky on iTunes or on Amazon and enjoy.

If you don’t know that either the band or the producer is making any money from this download (even if it’s legal), how can you say that “everybody” is winning?


This isn’t about downloading. I’d be equally happy to buy the album on a CD at retail. My point is that without some authorized outlet, we can be quite certain that neither Pavol Hammel nor Prúdy will see a dime from fans in the U.S. who would like to listen to their music. Fair contracts and honest accounting are important, too, but they’re literally worthless unless there’s money coming in in the first place.

But it has to be enough money to make production of the work worthwhile. That’s where “they’ve got it right by offering cheap downloads” arguments fail. If a work is pirated and the publisher or producer offers it really cheap to “prevent piracy,” even assuming it does, there is not necessarily enough revenue to support the creation and production of the work. You can’t lose money on every sale and make it up in volume.

Sorry, should also have said:

There’s a reason why most books are not published as mass-market paperbacks and if they are, often after a high sales level has already been proven by a more expensive edition of the same book, or large sales of previous books by the same author. Most products don’t become bestsellers/hits and never will no matter how low the price is.

Personally, I’m happy to entirely forego customers who only want to pay 99 cents or even 9 dollars for a book. They’re just not worth my time. I need to concentrate on the ones who actually pay.

This also isn’t about price. I didn’t say anything about “cheap,” and I didn’t condition my approval on the price. Zvoňte Zvonky was not previously available in the United States at any price.

“Zvoƈte Zvonky was not previously available in the United States at any price.”

Then it wasn’t pirated/available free either, right? So releasing it on iTunes would not be preventing any piracy in the US, since that wasn’t happening anyway.

Arguments using the phrase “publishers/etc. are getting it right” usually are also based on the assumption that a low price guarantees massive enough sales to make up for the low price. You were using the same words; sorry if I misunderstood you on that.

I left out the word “legally” from that sentence because I thought it was unmistakably implied by the context. Apparently, I was wrong.

Was this ‘LP record’ available for purchase in Slovakia or anywhere else in the world in the recent past ?

So it was pirated?

But has anyone ever done a study really proving that that legal accessibility actually prevents piracy to any significant extent?

The Slovak record label Opus is now owned by Forza Music s.r.o. , part of Warner Music , guess that the iTunes release is legal.

Opus was privatised in 1990 . Opus’s total output of releases between 1990 and its eventual acquisition by Forza (in 2005) was very small, think you might be reading a bit too much of global issues into this story?

(details are here

Frances, since both of your questions are (a) easy to answer for yourself, and (b) not responsive to my post, I’m going to go ahead and treat them as rhetorical.

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