Thursday, March 18, 2010

Are There Songs on Dark Side of the Moon?

Pink Floyd won in court last week. They were suing their record label EMI who was trying to sell downloads of songs from Dark Side of the Moon on iTunes. The band argued that their contract required that it be sold in album form only -- these were the days when it would be possible to sell two individual songs on 45s, although no one at the time was buying 45s (for those of the younger generation, find "45 rpm recordings" on wikipedia). EMI contended that the contract, negotiated before the digital era did not cover downloads because neither of the parties considered such a thing. The judge disagreed and contended that a new method of dissemination did not change the agreement that was reached.

It certainly seems like the proper legal decision, but one claim made by the members of the band seems odd to me. They argue that Dark Side of the Moon is not a collection of songs that can be sliced and diced, but, as a concept album, is a single coherent piece of art that cannot be unbundled.

The band's lawyer, Robert Howe, said the band was known for producing "seamless" pieces of music on albums like "The Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall," and wanted to retain artistic control.
Is this seemlessness claim true? The band seemed to have no problems collecting the royalties and getting the publicity when radio stations played parts of the album. The album does have song names and breaks where one could put down the needle that correspond to those names. The album does have at least two sides which cannot be musically contiguous, but can we draw distinctions that they seem to make in saying that there are discrete songs on Dark Side of the Moon?