I am sure that this is going to be one of many posts on this subject over the next few days and weeks, not that that makes things any better. The news from late last week that Roadrunner Records‘ parent company Warner Music are pulling the plug on their UK operation (read the closure announcement here), shutting the Canadian branch and making what are reportedly deep cuts elsewhere has come as a terrible shock to all of us in the rock & metal community and is the just the latest sign of problems in an industry that, as an extremely astute comment on Twitter put it “knows it must evolve but doesn’t know in which direction”.
The bottom line is that record labels must be a profitable going concern, or cutbacks will have to be made, as we have witnessed. However this seems an incredibly short sighted decision by the powers that be at Warner. If as suspected they are doing away with Roadrunner’s entire European operation, that is hardly going to help boost sales across Europe. Without staff dedicated to pushing Roadrunner bands across the respective territories, the PR outreach will be less, promotional opportunities will be less and these things only point to sales falling even further in an age where almost everyone (there are a few exceptions) under the age of 25 (and a fair amount of those over 25) seems only prepared to pay for music with a £10 a month Spotify subscription if at all.
Ultimately, we all share the blame for situations such as Roadrunner losing their UK offices and countless bands calling it a day. People have become used to downloading music illegally for free, so they don’t pay. The ISP’s don’t really do anything to stop it, the Government doesn’t really understand how to legislate for (or against) the Internet and so bands (and labels) are left to rely on the goodwill of people to purchase their music. Since we’re in a recession (again), the amount of people with the disposal income and who are inclined to do so will probably fall to its lowest levels yet. One can only hope for the bands sake that Roadrunner will outsource their PR operations to somewhere in the UK or Europe, rather than running it all from the US to give the bands some kind of voice in the UK and Europe, but that doesn’t help the talented people who have just been put out of a job.
An excellent point on this whole situation was made by a good friend of mine, who when I discussed the Roadrunner news with him put it bluntly: “It’s easier for me to steal it than buy it. If that’s the case, I’m always going to steal it”. Aside from those who are emotionally invested enough in certain bands to pay for their music, this is the overriding attitude nowadays towards paying for music, particularly for downloads.
I couldn’t really decide how to summarise and finish off this post, so I’ll leave you with a few quotes from Trivium frontman Matt Heafy, who’s had some passionate words to say on the developments and is understandibly upset by the treatment suffered by people he considers close friends:
I’ll also leave you with a plea; If you can afford to do so, no matter what your age or choice in music, please buy music from your favourite bands and artists and support them, particularly newer or younger bands, otherwise they might not be here much longer because they simply cannot afford to carry on. They are people with families and mortgages, rent and bills to pay too. As for the staff at Roadrunner UK, you’re all brilliant, and we will miss working with you a lot.
Update – One last thing. There’s another great post on this subject over at the MWD Reviews website, please read it as it’s a very good read with a lot of good points.