I expect you’ve now heard the news that Pink Floyd were victorious in their legal case against troubled record label, EMI, which reached its conclusion yesterday.
In a lawsuit filed last April, lawyers acting for the band argued that EMI should not be entitled to sell Pink Floyd’s extensive back catalogue – a back catalogue second only to that of the Beatles’ in terms of value – as individual tracks online so as to “preserve the artistic integrity of the albums”.
EMI argued that the contentious clause in Pink Floyd’s latest contract, signed in 1999, five years before the boom in legal digital downloads (which states that they have no right to sell any of Pink Floyd’s music as single tracks other than with the band’s express permission), only applied to physical copies and not digital ones.
EMI were ordered to pay an estimated £60,000 in costs, with fines still to be decided, and banned from selling Pink Floyd’s music online.
A challenge on the amount of royalties that band members receive from online sales has also gone in the way of Pink Floyd. It is the first royalties dispute between artist and record company ever to be held in private, as per EMI’s wishes.
So, a triumph for art over corporatism… or all a bit unnecessarily precious? Would you do the same for your music if you felt it were open to exploitation and if, through a lifetime of commercial accomplishment (which had created successful careers and all its trappings for many others, don’t forget), you felt you had very much earned the right to protect your work from being dissected and packaged in more profitable bite-size pieces to suit interests other than your own?
Are you disappointed that you may soon be unable to individually purchase Pink Floyd tracks online, or would you always choose an album in its entirety because of its characteristic “seamless” nature? Should it matter if the creators of the music would ideally prefer you to listen to their work as one continuous piece, or should the consumer always have the right to choose?
It’s cheaper to download an album than each of its tracks individually, after all.
Besides, isn’t love for the mellifluous the reason why such effort went into making Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd what it is (and why familiarity with the albums from which the songs were taken meant that, for many, Echoes didn’t really work)? That wasn’t merely a carve-up job with the songs idly presented in any old order.
Go on, as NME’s Luke Lewis set me off with his blog post yesterday, which songs – from any classic album, not just Pink Floyd’s – could you live without if you chose to purchase digitally rather than in the formats that many of us still cherish.
I’ll go first: Blood on the Tracks’ frenetic ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’ by Bob Dylan. There, I said it. (Forgive me, Bob.) More often than not, it gives me an instant headache. As does Don Henley’s ‘Man With a Mission’ (from Building the Perfect Beast). But I can skip these songs when my head is feeling particularly delicate and they remain part of two of my favourite albums regardless. Granted, when purchased, there was no option to pick and choose each song, nor to preview them freely at leisure. However, I still feel that today’s wider choice is mostly irrelevant to me when it comes to downloading music, and surely this should be all the more true when it comes to concept albums.
In fact, of Pink Floyd’s more obvious concept albums, you’d be hard pressed to find a track that does not segue at either its beginning or end.
Can you imagine ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ not turning into ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’? Or ‘Overture’ from The Who’s Tommy not concluding with the joyous announcement that ‘It’s a Boy’?
I’d enjoy sharing your examples of the perfect song segue, if you care to.
So, lots of questions to end the week with and perhaps to aggravate you well into the weekend, but I have (almost) managed to refrain from asking whether we should condone public flogging as the only punishment befitting the heinous crime of savagely butchering Dark Side of the Moon.
Now, there’s a thought… Dare I suggest that maybe EMI got off lightly?