Saturday, 17 March 2012

Consuming Music In Australia

Australia can be a really isolated place at times. Media has for a long time tricked us into thinking otherwise, and especially the internet has given us the illusion that we are not as isolated as the physical reality would suggest it should seem.

Yet the reality is that while we have this interconnected infrastructure, the boundaries still exist. And as the internet has matured, so too has the capacity to put those boundaries back in. I used to stream full episodes of The Daily Show and Colbert Report through their website, then it got restricted so I could only see the clips. Now I can't see it at all - and they were an anomaly in that there was once a point I could actually watch it!

Trying to find digital music similarly has this problems. If there are MP3s at all, they are usually through iTunes or The former will double the price upon seeing you are Australian while the latter will let you get to the point of buying then politely inform you that they can sell only in the United States! I'm trying to pay for music, but they won't let me!

In trying to keep up with modern music, I'm often finding myself on the basis of recommendations or good reviews trying to hunt down a legal copy. If I'm lucky they have a bandcamp, where I can buy it without much hassle. But usually the music can only be bought in CD form and almost always accompanied by huge shipping fees. I understand that shipping isn't going to be a charity, but the geography does play a role.

Take the new Paradise Lost CD. To pre-order it from the label, the CD costs $10, while there's $9 for shipping. I'd be more than happy to give the label (preferably the band, but one step at a time) $10 for the album, but I can't do that without paying almost that much again for distribution. Meanwhile I don't think I'd have any problems finding that album illegally. So it goes.

I wish this was the exception rather than the norm. When I ordered the new Opeth CD last year, delivery was the bulk of the cost - I threw in a shirt to try to at least shift that balance a little. Just today I was checking up the new Adrenaline Mob CD where the delivery was higher than the cost of the CD. When delivery was included, it was usually an extra $5 to get something internationally. The only store that didn't seem to charge extra (perhaps delivery costs are hidden based on I.P.) was ProMedia.

This is trying to catalogue some of the frustrations I have had in trying to be a legitimate consumer of music. I don't blame any record label for their delivery costs, nor particularly do I blame them for the lack of decent digital sales. It might just not be viable except through Amazon or iTunes. And there are no-doubt leftover remnants of a once-viable business model that don't fit at all well with the new way the internet connects us.

It is a frustration, however, that Napster was well over a decade ago and there's still only a half-arsed attempt to shift towards digital sales. Perhaps Australia isn't enough of a market to warrant consideration (though enough of one to crack down on piracy), but what good is putting up digital barriers based on geography to restrict when the technology it's in response to doesn't?

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