A digital music nation?

The recent release of a new album by indie cult favourites My Bloody Valentine was, if it ever happened, always going to be a big deal.

It’s not just that they invented a sound that simultaneously inspired a genre of music while  remaining impossible to accurately emulate. There’s also the small matter of the 22 year gap between new record M B V and Loveless, their last.

For the purposes for this blog what struck me about the record was the way it arrived, which was with almost as big a surprise as the new David Bowie album.

Then there’s the way My Bloody Valentine are selling their new record. Not, yet at least, on Amazon, it was instead made instantly available for online purchase and download.

Even their choice of streaming option bucks the usual trends. Rather than put it on Spotify the band again followed a DIY route and put the whole album up on YouTube (at reduced quality and with fade in/outs) for people to listen to. It seems like a successful strategy. In just over a week they’ve had more than 1.9 million video views.

The arrival of M B V speaks volumes about how music distribution can change, tapping into, rather than being threatened by, online channels.

Just days after the record was released the UK record industry association the BPI coincidentally released their Digital Music Nation report.

You might be sceptical about BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor’s claim in the report that the music industry has embraced all of the changes in digital music that services like the iTunes Store, Spotify and YouTube has wrought, but the nub of the report – that  the UK has become a digital music nation – is difficult to argue with.

Digital music revenues overtook those from physical media last year; the singles market is massively, overwhelming digital; and nearly double the number of people download or stream music legally than use peer-to-peer networks to illegally share music online.

But there remains more than a nagging doubt that the record industry is still struggling to keep up with the changes. The BPI’s case was hardly helped when the release of their report also happened to coincide with the news that bankrupt music retailer HMV was making a wave of store closures.


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