Avenging the rejected

About one month ago, EMI, one of the biggest recording companies in the world, invited a group of teenagers to its London headquarters. There, executives of the company asked the group to share their listening habits and musical preferences. When the session ended, the EMI people thanked the volunteers for their feedback and pointed them to a table covered with stacks of CDs, telling them to take whichever album they like. Every single teenager walked past the table without giving it even a cursory glance. This incident – as reported in The Economist on January 10 – describes the situation in which the recording industry has found itself in recent years more aptly than hundreds of studies, tables of statistics and data, or pie charts recording sales. Young people listen to anything they want to without the help of intermediaries. They are technology mad and they discover new music and up-and-coming bands on YouTube and MySpace long before the record company hounds even catch scent of them. They also have a very different set of selection criteria to the big labels and are little impressed by deluxe wrapping and editions. The Internet gives them all the music they could hope for, and instantaneously, at the time of its birth. The biggest problem facing record companies is not piracy, it is that they have lost touch with the world’s teenagers. They have grown weak because they banked on sure winners and stopped investing in new forces and taking risks. The weak argument of recording companies is that they cannot invest without profits. The answer to this argument can be found in the countless stories of Greek artists – not to mention artists from abroad – who began their careers by knocking on doors that remained permanently shut and who today are recognized as the musicians, singers and songwriters who defined contemporary Greek music. George Dalaras had been rejected by two recording companies at the start of his career; the Katsimichas brothers’ smash hits «Rita, Ritaki» and «Gela pouli mou» spent years on a shelf because no one wanted them; and Nikos Portokaloglou knocked on the doors of numerous Greek recording companies hoping to publish the very same songs that a few years later became such a success with the band Fatme. So it may be that the young men and women of today are simply avenging all of these stories of unjustified rejection.