Sunday, April 10, 2011

Daily Mail claims Google is robbing Adele, gets it very wrong

There's a great piece on MailWatch this morning looking at Alex Brummer's piece in the Mail which droned on about how Google is evil.

Google threatens to destroy not only pop sensation Adele, but Britain's film and music industries. So why is No.10 in thrall to this parasitic monster?
You might be surprised to hear that Google is threatening to destroy Adele. Sure, Twitter has issued a death threat against The Vaccines, and Bing insists it will start to remove one of The Saturdays every hour unless its demands are met by midnight, but Google threatening to destroy Adele seems to be something we've missed.

Brummer told his readers:
Nine out of the first ten websites which pop up on Google’s search engine are run by pirates who have downloaded Adele’s output and offer it online far more cheaply than official copyrighted sites and High Street retailers.
Mailwatch takes this surprising claim and grinds it into dust:
From this sample it seems that Google seems very adept at putting Adele’s fans in touch with official sources of information about her. Only the lyrics page seems unofficial or unapproved – and do lyrics really count as piracy?

There's a couple of other surprising claims in Brummer's article which are deserving of a closer look. Remember, by the way, the Brummer is not a generalist hack trying to froth up a piece; he's a former British Press Awards financial journalist of the year and a former city editor of the Mail.
The music and books retailer HMV and the music giant EMI are two of the grand old dames of Britain’s music industry. But the future of both these historic enterprises, with a pedigree of recording talent going back almost a century, is in doubt.

Together with other UK-based creative champions such as Warner Music as well as a host of imaginative, independent record producers, they are in danger of extinction — as is this country’s extraordinarily successful music business.
Where do you start? HMV has a "pedigree of recording talent", does it? Admittedly, there was an HMV label but that business has nothing to do with the shops.

More importantly, Warner Music are not "UK-based". Their headquarters is on Rockerfeller Plaza in New York.

Brummer suggests that the woes of the industry are related to Google - which is such a narrow view of what has happened since music went online as to be laughable. His subs make an explicit link in an image caption:
Grand old dame: But the future of recording giant EMI is being undermined by Google
Really? EMI still turns profits; the future has been undermined by loading the company up with unsupportable debt and a management regime ill-equipped to nurture the legacy of the company, and uninspired to cope with the future. Even if you want to take the RIAA line that unlicensed file-sharing is part of the problem, Google aren't putting the files there and work over-strenuously to take-down when their users have ignored the licensing regime.

There's a massive clunker from Brummer when he turns to HMV:
In Britain, some 70 per cent of music sales are still in the form of CDs and come through the High Street, where HMV is now the main retailer following the collapse of Woolworths and Zavvi in the early part of 2009.
Woolworths and Zavvi both collapsed at the end of 2008 although some stores were still being wound down in early 2009, but that's a minor quibble.

Oh, and HMV was already the main retailer before Woolworths and Zavvi collapsed as its sales outstripped both of them. But that's another minor quibble.

The bigger problem is the claim that 70 per cent of music sales "are still in the form of CDs and come through the High Street". Is that by volume? Is that by value? Brummer doesn't say, although the difference is important.

But if we accept his claim that most music sales are still on CD, does he really think most of those CDs are being sold through physical stores?

Does it not occur to him that a large chunk of HMV's problems are down to supermarkets selling large numbers of CDs as loss-leaders alongside the Mum's Day flowers and BOGOF baked beans?

And has he never heard of Amazon, which is selling quite a large proportion of those CDs, without the need for anyone to go near the High Street?

Although I suppose you can find Amazon by using Google. Clearly that's Google's fault, too.

Google aren't targeting Adele. It does sound rather like Brummer is using dodgy arguments in some sort of attack on Google, though.


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