Music

I gotta feeling

That the whole story is more complicated than the RIAA says

If you ever needed any proof that every sporting venue in every nation now has a copy of the Black Eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling," it came this past week.

(As someone who covers a lot of sporting events in my other life, let me tell you that the song has gone from grating to mildly irritating to musical wallpaper. I have become so used to hearing it that it doesn't even register.)

The Recording Industry Association of America announced that the song has become the highest-selling digital single of all time. It is now six times multi-platinum in the United States, a milestone no other single has reached.

But, it has to be noted that the album that spawned the single, The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies), is only two times platinum.

That means that only one out of every three consumers who went online to shell out $1.29 for the single actually went the whole way and got the entire album.

It's a shining example of what e-commerce has done to recorded music. Two-thirds of those people who stopped by iTunes to get "I Gotta Feeling" were happy to download that one song and leave. The single is far more important than the album.

Here's what the RIAA had to say about the Black Eyed Peas' record-breaking digital single:

"What does this milestone mean? For one, it suggests that purchasing music online is becoming even more mainstream. It's also a telling snapshot of one path to contemporary commercial and artistic success: diversification. Today's music business is no longer just album sales. That remains fundamental, to be sure, but it's also about cumulative singles downloads, ringtones, entrepreneurial licensing strategies, a compelling concert experience and various online radio and video plays."

The only part of that statement that rings untrue is the bit about album sales remaining fundamental. The success of "I Gotta Feeling" proves that the opposite is true in the modern iTunes world. Actually, it comes off as a little hypocritical when that statement is made in a release that discusses the record-breaking status of an, ahem, single. Look, I get it: the PR hacks have to make it seem like the success of a digital single can somehow be linked to the overall health of the album and its place in the recording industry.

But, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), "digital channels now account for 25.3 percent of all trade revenues to record companies. In the US, digital sales account for nearly half—43 percent—of the recorded music market."

The digital world is the realm of the single, not the album. Yes, there is a strong underground vinyl movement that is restating the importance of listening to entire records, but it still makes up only a fraction of the industry as a whole. If the digital world is growing as quickly as IFPI's numbers indicate, how can the RIAA state the album still remains fundamental?

I feel like Kirk or Spock in one of those Star Trek episodes where they make a computer self destruct because they use their infallible logic on it.

But, if you did download the ringtone, do us all a favour and deactivate it as your ringtone. I mean, that song has gone past the annoying stage for me, but I can't speak for rest of the world. I mean, that phone could go off on a crowded bus, and the next thing you know you'll be in a fight. A fight you started with that ringtone.

OK, maybe I told a white lie about being over that song. V

Steven Sandor is a former editor-in-chief of Vue Weekly, now an editor and author living in Toronto.

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