Does the internet spell the end of music or is it just one more revolution

of pop's endless cycle? To coincide with the Edinburgh International Science Festival, we consider the future of music Words: Mark Robertson


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WHEN ALAN MCGEE QUIT CREATION Records last November he declared the end of the record industry as we know it. The death knell was sounded as a result of the internet and the MP3 music format, as he predicted that his merger of ‘old school indie ethics and the internet’ would mean music fans would turn to the virtual world to seek out and purchase new music. At this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival, the lecture “The End of the CD we know it’ presents the view that digitally recorded music downloaded from the internet, will do away with the need for a visit to a CD store and even the CD itself. Claims of this kind are coming from all corners but if this revolution is happening, where, how and why?

The internet like few technology forms before gives the people at the bottom of the music ladder the same control as those at the top, the sheer scale of the medium and the corporate giants’ inability to police or formally control it means entrepreneurs big and small are taking full advantage of its potential.

Alan McGee finally leaves Creation Records in July and in the meantime he has been busying himself setting up Poptones, his own internet-centric record label where he claims he will sell CDs direct to the

public for lower prices, a mooted £7.99. cutting out the necessity for distributors and record shops. Artists rumoured include reggae legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and ex-Creation Records stars Alex Lowe and Lawrence Felt.

McGee is not the only veteran in action. one-time Factory Records boss Tony Wilson has launched his site and is in the process of gathering together a selection labels and bands to offer on-line and downloadablc music.

These people are experienced record label faces. used to dealing with the machinations of the industry, but it is not only the been-there done- that types who are taking advantage. Glasgow’s Mint Records is celebrating its first birthday this month by hooking up with a young independent internet company to launch its fledgling label on-Iine. Only a handful of records old. it made the decision to turn its attentions to the digital realm to promote its artists.

‘The majority of our costs go on manufacturing and distribution.‘ says Damian Beattie. one of the founders of the label. ‘The fundamentals of using a website to push our artists are far tnore financially viable. Instead of pressing up 1,000 CDs for an artist. NC can minimise costs and provide the

'Alan McGee is wrong. I don't think CDs and Vinyl will vanish'

Damian Beattie.

consumer with more choice. Punters buy a CD and might only like two tracks of five and are stuck with that. We are making it so that people can go to the site. listen to snippets of tracks and download the tracks they like.”

But what of our old CDs and vinyl? Will we be stock piling them ready for scrapping or submitting them for display in museums? ‘I think Alan McGee is wrong.‘ says Beattie. ‘I don’t think CDs and Vinyl will vanish. I reckon people still like to have CD collections. Our idea is to take the hand-picked track listing for each customer and press them up a CD in some original branded artwork and ship it out to them. It means someone in Afghanistan can log on and receive our music and have something to show for their cash. We are looking at a range of limited square vinyl singles to put out, we haven't forgotten the need for a quality product.‘

This summer’s battle will not be conducted, as once thought on the beaches, but on the websites. will be launched later this spring. Poptones will be officially launched in July, while music33 can be visited at For Edinburgh International Science Festival highlights see Edinburgh Life, page 86.

30 Mar—13 Apr 2000 THE “8'”?