Armenian Record Industry- Misconceptions and Realities
The Armenian music industry does not comply with current international standards when it comes to record deals, copyrights, and royalties. The downside of our small little niche market is that there is a limited market from which to play with. In most cases, it is restricted to Armenia itself and the Diaspora. In rare cases, Armenian music products will cross over into the world music genre or the classical market. It's rare, but, it can happen. In my opinion, it is all a matter of marketing and production values with talent assumed. The other obvious downside to the Armenian recording industry is the issue of pirated music. It happens all over the world, even in the US. With the advancement of technology, I dare say it is unstoppable if there are no laws or enforcement of laws prohibiting theft of music.
In the case of the Armenian market, it is a fairly simple process. In Armenia, there are a few large CD plants, and more in Russia and Eastern Europe who press illegal CD's of popular titles. The CD's are either shipped to Yerevan, or produced in the country. Once they are pressed, the CD's are sold to distributors. The distributors either sell direct to people like you and me at the Vernisage and in some stores, or on the street. Those cheap CD's you all buy for $3 or $4 is actually feeding the problem of ripping off artists. It's tempting to see the cheap price and buy it, but, in reality, the purchase is actually enabling corrupt entities who make thousands off of illegal pirating. The bad part there is that the artists, and record companies who legitimately pay thousands of dollars in studio time and production costs lose out big time. The end result is that the artists and labels stop recording since they know it is pointless to put in the time and money to make a CD project. Therefore, you have a lack of diverse culture and music to choose from.
Yours truly has gone to the Vernisage and seen at least three of my titles that were pirated. Now, my titles don't have a large demand since they are more esoteric recordings and not pop music. Still, it makes your pissed to see others making money off of the hard work of artists who usually don't make much, and labels like mine who have to save money from my work paycheck in order to create a project. So, i just learned to consider it free advertising. For now.
The other side of the coin is that it takes two to tango. Usually how record deals are done within this market are that an artist either has a master copy they sell to the record label for varied prices. The label prints about 2000 CD's and gives the artist about 100 free plus an option to buy more CD's at around $7. If an artist is unknown, they sell it for short money in order to establish their career. Obviously, the label takes a low cost gamble.
Most companies like Parseghian operate this way. And, in most cases, although people may say they have a "copyright", they usually don't. You have to file that in whatever jurisdiction you are based. For example, for any CD's Pomegranate obtains copyrights for, I file to the US Copyrights Office in DC. You fill out a form, put the music on a CD-R, send a check for $35, and you get a certificate in the mail in about a year. Sometimes, you have to show them the signed contract that gives the label, or artists the right to obtain copyrights.
I started Pomegranate as a direct response to the low-cost/low quality Parseghian business model. That is, I hated it and felt it was insulting to the consumer to get such a shoddy product. Hey, to them, it's mostly business. To labels like my own, it's more than business, it's an artform. I can't completely fault Parseghian Records without faulting the artists. They sign the deals and know what they are getting into. Usually, they take the quick cash, sign away their rights, and are very shortsighted with their art/career. Many artists actually view their music as a business. There is no right/wrong answer here. It is just the way it is.
In Harout's (Der Hova) situation, you have a case of blatent stealing. Here http://www.armenianmusic.com/view.cfm?pid=1869&CFID=4719332&CFTOKEN=38289326 is the link to the CD that used HAYQ's song illegally, I presume. Parseghian has a compilation of Armenian songs out that actually features HAYQ's hit single. Unfortunately for Der Hova and Company, they are getting screwed big time due to a leak of that song (who leaked it?), someone offering the song to Parseghian (and other outlets, I might add), and the profits going to everyone except the band and the producer for them to continue their music. While Der Hova could have immedately made the song available in some format (CD's, MP3 downloads) quicker and thus thwarted the effect of the pirating, the timing of the release is their right, not the pirates.
I think this example not only reflects poorly on the Armenian recording industry, but on the Diasporan company that broke the law and did not request permission from the artists/producer in pressing their compilation disc. Also, for those who don't think twice before buying $3 obviously pirated CD's at the Vernisage or CD stores, you are enabling the corrupt system. Other bloggers have said the same thing with regards to certain cafes and business that are run by "oligarchs".
What is clear is that the artists in Armenia have to create a music union that combats illegal piracy. And, in cases where Diasporan companies break the law, we shoudl publicize it and boycott purchasing their products until there is an improvement in business practices. As for the thieves in Armenia itself, well, that is another story altogether. Some say the corruption is a remnant of the Soviet Era. And for others, they say it is plain old greed and a lack of self respect or pride in their country. Whichever it is, what is clear is that aside from everyone agreeing that piracy is wrong and criminal according to certain laws, and ethically speaking, Armenians in Armenia have to wake up and do something about it through action. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" doesn't pay in the long run.
This issue of the music industry and pirating also crossed over into many other elements of modern Armenian thinking. I suppose we can either lament this fact, or, for those who are affected/sympathetic, form an action plan to minimize the phenominon.
Random Thoughts 1: Where are all of the Diasporan Bloggers? I'm getting a little lonely here...
Random Thoughts 2: Narek from Young "Bambir" emailed me to let me know the band will be in the US starting in LA and then going to NYC and Rhode Island. I will meet with them in Armenia before they shove off to the US and hope to get them a Boston gig.
Random Thoughts 3: Pomegranate Music has moved up our date to release rockers Lav Eli's "Notes from Vanadzor: Urban Armenian Rock" to the end of July. A local pressing is being discuss by the band for Armenia, and Pomegranate will take care of worldwide. This is Mher Manoukian and Gor Mkhitarian's old band that was recorded during the Yerevan Pomegranate sessions with Gor that produced "Yeraz" and "Godfather Tom" for the label. It goes to print at the factory tomorrow. This could be our biggest hit CD yet.
Next blog from Armenia...