Independent days may lie ahead for the music sector

Greek pop-rock act Dionysis Tsaknis’s recent decision to abandon his record label, after it rejected new material headed for release, and launch the project independently at a far cheaper retail price, has once again brought to the fore the pricing policy issue in Greece’s music industry – or, more blatantly, overpricing, as an overwhelming majority of consumers believe. Tsaknis’s latest album, «Mia Zoi Allou,» retails for 11.90 euros, around half the amount of most newly released CDs. «You just can’t justify selling a CD at such a price,» contended Tsaknis, while questioning why consumers were obliged to pay for hefty promotional overlays which, ultimately, inflate total production costs. «Why should consumers pay for the expensive video clips featuring luxury hotels and pools?» he added. The popular artist, who studied economics but has focused his efforts on music for numerous releases over the past two decades, also contended that besides the bloated production costs hidden behind many CD releases, overpricing in the music industry may also be linked with the sector’s struggling financial state. He did not rule out the possibility that labels were overcharging in a desperate attempt to recover from financial crises. Most likely reflecting the shrinking budgets at the disposal of local labels, the market has been flooded with countless live CD releases in recent years. Recorded on stage, a live CD tends to cost far less to produce than a project recorded in the studio over a much longer period of time. As for the music industry’s future, or its breakaway from its current grim state, Tsaknis noted that «hope lies in independent initiatives, small record labels, and, of course, the Internet.» Tsaknis expressed dissatisfaction over his previous record label’s decision to reject his latest material and questioned how a prospective release containing «songs with lyrics by Manos Eleftheriou, Odysseas Ioannou, and Lina Demopoulou» could be rejected. The artist attributed his rejection to what he described as the trend toward «homogenization» in the local music industry, as well as the pressure for instant commercial success. «They’re interested in songs that are homogenized and can fit in nicely with the similar lightweight, easy-listening programs,» contended Tsaknis. Whatever the motives, Tsaknis’s initiative to release his latest project independently, at a considerably lower retail price, could have a wider impact on the sector. It remains to be seen whether peers will follow suit. Faced by rampant CD piracy, both organized and small-scale – in Greece, approximately one in two CDs sold are pirate copies – many contemporary artists have come to realize that royalties from album sales are gradually waning into a luxury of the past. Album releases are no longer being viewed as a potential source of revenue, but rather as promotional tools that could win over listeners and attract fans to concert performances. As the situation currently stands, making a living through music increasingly demands that an artist have the ability to take the stage, convince his or her audience, and then keep doing this for a sustained period. Despite widespread consumer complaints about overpricing in the local music market in recent years, industry officials have so far taken no action. Instead, they have pushed for stricter measures against illicit trade, so far to no avail. Greece’s per capita GDP figure currently stands at 71 percent of the EU average, which ranks as the second lowest in the EU, slightly ahead of last-placed Portugal. Yet, consumers in Greece are expected to pay as much for a CD here as they would in countries where disposable incomes are considerably higher. Recent CD piracy rate estimates suggested that EU members with bigger economies, such as the UK, Germany, and France, have had greater success in restricting sales – or even domestic production – of illegitimate CDs. Greece’s CD piracy figure, estimated at 50 percent, is by far the highest in the EU. The global music piracy market was recently estimated at 4.7 billion euros, or a third of the legitimate market.