The BBC has an interesting piece on a new report on online music piracy in the UK that claims to give data on demographics and geography, and where we can learn all sorts of shocking revelations like that the best selling artists are the most pirated, and that middle class teenage girls in Oxfordshire villages like Justin Beiber. Groundbreaking stuff, even if the reality of being able to monitor illegal downloads is nowhere near as cut and dried as the report seems to suggest.
But anyway. What really caught my eye were the comments from the British Phonographic Institute CEO Geoff Taylor. He says piracy has an impact on everyone that works in the industry.
“It’s on session musicians who play in the studio; it’s on the engineers and tape ops in the studio..”
Whoa. Reel back a bit for me there. Tape ops? Do you mean tape operators? Are you saying that modern pop music recording studios are still using tape, and employing dedicated staff just to operate it?
I’ve no idea when Geoff Taylor was last in a recording studio, but I’m guessing it was some point in the 90s based on this. As far as I understand it – and I’m happy to be corrected – multitrack recording is all done digitally now on computers, and sadly the tape operator has gone the way of the dodo.
To be fair, in a way Mr Taylor does have a point. This new dark age of computing has hit the likes of tape operators hard. Non-linear recording, cheap software/hardware and automation have quite simply made them redundant. This is the unavoidable truth about music technology. Music technology that the music industry has adopted whole heartedly for the costs it can cut. Costs it can cut by not employing people like tape operators.
Look – don’t get me wrong – music piracy is a serious issue, and requires a serious debate. It just disturbs me – although sadly it fails to surprise me – when those involved on the industry side seem to be permanently stuck in the past. I’ve talked about piracy elsewhere on this site, and about how I believe the main driving force behind it has been decades of over-commodification of music and artists. I’d like to hear Mr Taylor’s views on that, though I’m pretty sure he’d dismiss it out of hand. Especially as he’s not just concerned about ‘tape ops':
“…it’s on the guys working in a PR company trying to get coverage; it’s on the marketing department; the guys in legal who are doing the contracts.”
Ah, ok. So that’s all the industry people that have nothing to do with the making or producing the music themselves, whose main role is to keep themselves in employment by pushing forward that never-ending commodification? Yeah, I’d hate to see them be impacted.