Linn focuses on Linn

Posted by trig on July 12, 2014

Linn Records, one of the longest-established and highest quality sources of High Definition ("Studio Master") music downloads, has announced a fundamental change in its business model. Instead of being a storefront for its own recordings and for dozens of other record labels from around the world, from August 2014, it will sell only its own Linn Records products.

Evidently, producing and recording records is not the same kind of business as running an online store. So it's not surprising that Linn is going to focus on just one business. (However, it's still going to run a retail store, so they're not getting out of retail as such, just shedding their third party suppliers.) The Linn in-house catalog continues to expand, so I guess they've judged they can attract customers just with their own material. Actually, that probably makes sense: just about everything I've bought from Linn is one of their productions.

(BTW Not that I haven't tried buying other labels from Linn ... but most of the third party albums I was interested in turned out not to be available to me, since I don't live in the UK. The record labels themselves are responsible for that silliness, not Linn. Probably some guru has worked out that a business model that involves turning down certain money when a customer offers it is a bright move, but it sounds like not a great idea to someone raised in a normal business environment.) 

That aside, how significant is this change to the download-buying public. How about all those labels that have lost their place on the Linn shelves? It's easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a bad sign. But in fact, looking under the surface, it turns out that the marketplace seems to be flourishing, and that means that most of the labels already had an alternate outlet. Look at our list of download sites, and you'll see plenty of places where you can find labels you've never heard of. Online stores that stand out for the sheer number of labels they offer include: HDtracks; the Classical shop; eClassical; Klicktrack. Fun to browse!

So there are grounds for optimism. First, as evidenced by the increasing number of download sites, people are paying money for CD-quality and High Definition downloads. It's a real business. Second, more and more big labels are making their catalogs available online through specialist stores and (surprise) they have been forced to recognize that downloads offer decent revenues at high margins and low cost: this after years of moaning about how downloads are killing the recorded music industry. The proliferation of online sites for good quality downloads is enabling small labels to stay in business, and in some cases grow, and the artists who record for those labels can maybe hope to earn a living. More and more, some artists are their own record label.

In the traditional environment in which record stores could only hold a tiny fraction of all the recorded material that wanted to be out there, it was really quite difficult for diversity to flourish. Downloads can be good for music, in more ways than one.