A perspective on the future of the music industry
Missing Link Records is recognised by all as one of Australia’s leading independent record stores. As times change, so has the way we listen to music.
Missing Link Records is launching their new digital download service, Missing Link Digital Media and we talk to owner, Nigel Rennard about their dedication to keeping indie label and unsigned bands alive.
SR: You have been in the music industry for over thirty years now, how have you seen music change over the years?
NR: Back in 1981, when I took over the shop, we were just about to embark on the arrival of the CD, as the new format for the future of music – the single largest change to music since it’s change to vinyl. Just like we did in the early 80’s we were committed to bringing new music, from both the U.S. and European arenas to Australia, along with our strong focus on Australian Independent artists. Of course we have seen the punk/new wave movement, the grunge movement, the emo movement, the advent of urban rap/hip hop music, the many various metal genres and all the other trends in music style over those years.
SR: Missing Link Records is an icon of Melbourne, have cd sales slowly declined over many years or has there been a sudden and quick drop?
NR: There is no other way to put this but yes we have, especially over the past year, seen a dramatic decline in cd sales and sales overall. As we have traditionally catered to a male audience there has been an almost total disappearance of the 14-20 year old punk/metal/thrash crowd along with just the overall trend in all age groups and genres being downward. I put this down to a number of factors, the economic conditions, the type of music being promoted and last but significantly the most damaging has been the theft of music by our target market.
SR: Do you think joining the digital download world is a necessary step in keeping music sales alive?
NR: Missing Link are currently in the process of creating Missing Link Digital Media, which is going to provide a digital download facility, along with a hard copy sales option for our customers and hopefully many, many more around the world. The writing is on the wall as digital sales increase by hundreds of percent each year and hard copy sales decline somewhere around 8-10% a year.
SR: What is your vision for MLDM?
NR: We are looking to create the largest archive of Australian Independent music stretching back as far as we can go along with the latest offering from the artist as they leave the recording studio. To this end we have been hunting down people from the late 70’s to now, in order to get hold of anything recorded by them over the past 30+ years. It is a mammoth task but we will persist to create a catalogue that will offer previously unheard music to areas of the world that has never had the opportunity to hear it. We will also provide overseas music on the service that is distributed by Independent Australian wholesalers.
SR: Is it a case of “if you cant beat them, join them”?
NR: We must get our music back from the clutches of free file sharing and once again protect copyright owners from the greatest threat to their intellectual property ever conceived, the internet. We must be part of this if this is the way that people wish to receive music. Just look around at the human zombies as they walk around, sit on the tram or elsewhere with headphones, downloading music just by putting their portable device up against a speaker to recognize a song for them, which they then hopefully pay for. We also change our shop from being a storefront in Melbourne to a storefront to the World.
SR: Some people may believe that digital downloads are killing the music industry. What do you have to say to those people?
NR: They said the same about cd’s killing off vinyl and music 30 years ago. Illegal downloads are the biggest factor, as previously mentioned, in causing the greatest damage to music and movies for that matter. Governments must create laws to stop this a.s.a.p. but all we can do is do what we are doing and become part of the new technology, provide something different to our competitors and charge money for that service.
SR: We all know that illegal downloading has been an issue for some time now. How can we stop this from happening?
NR: Governments and ALL businesses involved in the entertainment arenas need to put pressure on ISP’s to stop illegal file sharing. The mindset, amongst the young generations is that music is just a free throw away commodity, yet if asked about a career in music they all wish to be rich and famous, it doesn’t add up.
SR: What about those artists who want to sell their albums in hard copy form?
NR: Our service will be offering both single download (if permitted by the artist), album/e.p. download and if it is available, a hard copy purchase.
SR: Will we ever see physical form music completely disappear?
NR: There will be a place for hard copy and there are still millions sold each year but more likely as a collectable item in the future.
SR: It seems hard for unsigned and indie label bands to get their music heard on mainstream digital services. How is MLDM different?
NR: As our focus is on Australian indie, they will get the opportunity to self promote on our site along with us giving priority to these releases through our banner ads. They can promote their live shows, do instores at the shop and generally benefit far more than sites that give a high profile to Lady Ga Ga or other such nonsense.
SR: What has the response been so far from independent labels and unsigned bands?
NR: Just about everybody we have contacted has been very enthusiastic and signed up. Chasing down old label owners like Citadel and Aberrant, AuGo Go and many other icons from their eras like, Cosmic Psychos, Ollie Olsen, David Thrussell and plenty more has been a personal job of mine. We also have commitment from Shock, Stomp, MGM and plenty of medium and small labels that self distribute.
SR: When will we see MLDM up and running?
NR: The first week of June 2010.