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Could Pink Floyd Legal Win Set Online Downloads Sale Precedent

Gordon Kelly


Pink Floyd Legal Win May Set Online Downloads Sale Precedent

Pink Floyd have always done things differently (and rocked my world), but now the bands' high court victory could see the online music industry work very differently too...

The core of Pink Floyd's argument is that it signed a deal with record company EMI to sell their albums, not to make individual tracks available without its permission. This is the agreement the pair signed over 10 years ago relating to CDs and Pink Floyd said it should stand true for today's online downloads as well as physical media. The judge agreed.

"{EMI is} not entitled to exploit recording by online distribution or by any other means other than the original album, without the consent of Pink Floyd," said the ruling. Pink Floyd is consequently seeking £10m in unpaid royalties.

So what is the fall-out? At this stage it is hard to know for sure since this trial was somewhat unique. Firstly it took place behind closed doors, so we don't know the full details on who was awarded what. Secondly Pink Floyd had a specific clause in their record deal to "preserve the artistic integrity of the albums". And thirdly, musically Pink Floyd differs from the norm by producing many "seamless" albums where tracks follow without interruption from one to another. Indeed very few singles were ever released by the band during its epic and sprawling career, though its decision to release 'Echoes' - a best of - in 2001 somewhat undermines this argument!

Limitations? a) not many bands are working off 10+ year old deals that don't account for digital distribution, b) not many bands would want to deliberately limit potential sales by ceasing individual track downloads and c) no-one can make music like Pink Floyd (though Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós and a few others give it a decent go).

Adding a further twist, EMI has issued a formal statement which appears to completely contradict the court's ruling stating: "Today's judgment does not require EMI to cease making Pink Floyd's catalogue available as single track downloads, and EMI continues to sell Pink Floyd's music digitally and in other formats."

We'll await additional clarification on all this, but what it may do is serve notice to artists that album-only sales restrictions can be fought for and won if that is something key to their artistic beliefs. Me, I don't care either way. The option to buy individual tracks provides choice, but I only buy complete albums, can't stand compilations and I think the shuffle button was invented by the Devil so feel free to fight amongst yourselves...


via BBC News

Pink Floyd Official Homepage


March 12, 2010, 1:31 pm

Nice 1 Floyd! these record companies, dinosaurs, need dragging into the real world and stop bullying everyone. EMI has to be one of the worst of them, how much money have they made from the Beatles alone and with premium prices through every format change - mono vinyl, stereo vinyl, audi cassette, 8 track cassette, CD, SACD, DVDaudio, et all. this is why people get so mad and download illegally, Warner brothers actions recently with Spotify come to mind. I'm on free Spotify & realise it's only a matter of time till I have to subscribe, they will probably make some changes that reduce the enjoyment of the free service.


March 12, 2010, 2:10 pm

Very interesting case and result. Could change the playing field somewhat and bring back the success of singles downloads in that album and single sales will be kept clearly seperate rather than the muddle that is the norm just now.

Arguing that Pink Floyd have some uniqueness about them because their albums roll into one is a bit off - it is quite ocmmon for albums to have several tracks that flow into one. The album Im listening to just now (The Besnard Lakes newest) is a recent example.

At the end of the day I personally see it as a good thing - but how will this impact upon Spotify? Surely they must be worried as they allow track by track listening. I prefer listening to albums as a whole. For the odd track here and there I use Spotify or the free Napster downloads.

No doubt this will end up as a one of. Pink Floyd, or at least their members have a history of rocking the boat over little things.


March 12, 2010, 2:21 pm

Not sure how big a precedent this will set. I'm not usre that Leona Lewis has quite the same concerns about the format in which her music is consumed.

Ala Miah

March 12, 2010, 3:09 pm

Big companies just don't like to loose even when they do something wrong!

Good one Pink Floyd- you did all of us normal citizens proud!


March 12, 2010, 4:26 pm

Hi, my name is Hugo and I still buy physical CDs from bands, which produce albums, not singles.


March 12, 2010, 5:03 pm

You'd actually think record labels would want this, I mean the track model just means people will buy one or two songs instead of whole albums. I think downloads should be the same as the phyiscal format; either you buy a single/ep or full album. People hear a song and then go and buy just that track, if they were forced to buy at the least the single that'd give the artist (though mostly the evil record company) at least a bit more in sales. Then likes days of old second single comes out and you buy it and then decide it's as well to buy the album.

I actually thought it was more Apple/Napster/etc who were controlling the record labels rather than the other way around. Spotify and other streaming services are different; I see them more as the radio stations of the current time; there you listen to what you want but when you want to own songs then you buy the single/album to listen to where and when you like. (I realise with spotify on your phone & the fact you can purchase tracks within the client now they are moving more towards an iTunes model).

So in summary I think the record labels should use this as an excuse to change their sales model and move away from letting iTunes, etc sell individual tracks and go the single/album only route.


March 12, 2010, 5:45 pm

Who on Earth would even *want* to buy single tracks off a Pink Floyd album? Shame on them!

...and I just realised I've been a massive hypocrite there, since I seem to remember only purchasing Echoes from Meddle, but I feel that's justified.


March 12, 2010, 6:14 pm

This is all pretty much a moot point though, give it a few years and the album will consigned to the way of the B side. Why will bands devote time and energy into producing a whole album (one that is a costly exercise given the amount of time spent in the studio), when only the key tracks are downloaded. Albums will be replaced with EP's produced more frequently and more incentive to download the entire package rather than picking out 6 tracks of a 10 track album.

Fans get a consistent experience that happens more frequently (than 1 a year album). It's a win win as far as I am concerned.

Bands that continue to produce one track albums will still exist, but they will be the minority.

The whole last (physical) album I bought contained a couple of tracks that have not been burned onto computer (due to how bad they were) and the physical copy along with the fancy pictures in the release notes are now on a CD rack never to be seen again.


March 12, 2010, 6:58 pm

Well, there's been a lot of discussion regarding how downloads have hammered single and album sales so, as HK suggests, this is the opportunity that the record labels needed to revert their sales models back to how it was some years ago. Still think nothing much will come of it.


March 12, 2010, 11:13 pm

oh by the way, which one's Pink?.

sorry, couldn't resist it.


March 12, 2010, 11:37 pm

@itsallgonepearshaped - I think you just described the apocalypse


March 13, 2010, 12:48 am

Gordon: I don't think it will be that bad, as itsallgonepearshaped described, albums become a rarity. Why? Because as it stands, really GOOD albums are a rarity. Sure there are some albums that are consistently good, or which benefit from being heard in full - obviously "concept" albums being a case in point. But too often an album is simply one or two good tracks surrounded by pure filler. If they are not making enough from single tracks, raise the price of those tracks we want to hear - don't force us to pay for ten we don't want.

Personally I download full albums from my favourite bands, but how about tracks I happen to like by artists whose other songs do not appeal to me? Am I going to buy the whole album for that track? No, I will either not get it at all or obtain it by other means - either way they are not getting my money. How does this help their profits?


March 13, 2010, 9:40 am

@MrGodfrey - "too often an album is simply one or two good tracks surrounded by pure filler"

Then you're listening to the wrong bands ;) Albums are for download, singles for streaming.


March 13, 2010, 6:02 pm

Gordon: But we don't all listen to prog rock - I used to, but now I value my time more ;)

I do mostly download whole albums, but I don't see why the choice should be taken away; this idea seems somewhat backwards to me. With albums of a consistently high quality - or perhaps not so good but representing very good value (like Sandinista) - fans will download the full album anyway. Forcing users to only buy albums may preserve the integrity of the artists' vision, but will it really help their sales? I suggest it will have a polarising effect; dedicated fans of the band will still buy their albums, but casual fans/listeners will be put off - and we music snobs may have little time for that market but it would be foolish to ignore them. Streaming is well-received among those of us who frequent sites like this, who may have a netbook or smartphone with mobile broadband within reach 24/7, but the limitations mean it's not yet fit to replace MP3 for the general public. So ultimately the choice for many people would be between paying for the album or paying for nothing, and I think a lot would choose the latter.

Pink Floyd are entitled to do this if they want, but I certainly wouldn't want to see it become the model - and I'm not sure most artists would want that, if they think about the implications. If bands want people to download full albums, can I suggest less stick and more carrot?


March 14, 2010, 12:00 am

I've got nothing against the purchasing of single tracks, but I've personally never got into it.

I still prefer buying my music on CD as an album and in particular getting albums from artists I have little knowledge of. For me there's nothing quite like gambling on an unknown and coming out with a little belter of an album. Plus even if the album's not quite what I was after I find the psychological effect is that I still value the music more than if I'd previewed and then downloaded the single track I liked.


March 15, 2010, 3:13 am

Well using Pink Floyds logic they should also stop Radio stations from playing just single tracks and force them to play the whole album each time???


March 16, 2010, 5:59 pm

there is no way at all I am going to be forced to buy a whole album ever, esp when 99.9999% of all artists only produce an album where there are maximum only 2 tracks which are anywhere near good enough to listen to without wanting to throw your ears off the end of the Earth so they cannot be insulted anymore, nuff said!


March 16, 2010, 6:16 pm

@Jay - I said it earlier and I'll say it again. If "artists only produce an album where there are maximum only 2 tracks which are anywhere near good enough to listen to without wanting to throw your ears off the end of the Earth so they cannot be insulted any more" you're listening to the wrong bands!

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