Facing music

On Tuesday new albums from Coldplay, the Black Eyed Peas and the White Stripes hit the stores in the US. If you needed to be told that, then you are probably not part of the target audience.

Record companies and retailers alike are hoping that sales are a blowout for all three albums. That would be good for the weekly figures and the bottom line, but it would really do nothing to change the feeling that something is terribly wrong in the music business. The unease was palpable a month ago when the Warner Music Group went public, to a lukewarm response from Wall Street. Perhaps there was something about seeing Jimmy Page, guitar in hand, in the gallery above the trading floor that made even hardened traders queasy.

The music industry loves to blame its problems on digital piracy, a case that has yet to be fully proved. The real problem is an addiction to blockbusters. These days there are more musicians and bands than there have ever been, and there are still plenty of music-buying fans. Together, they are discovering alternative means of connecting with each other. The big record companies continue to insist that the only route to profitability is blockbuster sales of a few titles, and the result is all too predictable — music that matters more for how it sells than how it sounds. — The New York Times