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Australian Hi-Fi Magazine

May / June 2020

Editor's Lead In
I Miss The Record Companies

Editorial By Greg Borrowman


Australian Hi-Fi Magazine May / June 2020


  That heading probably has a few long-time readers of Australian Hi-Fi Magazine spluttering into their home-made cappuccinos. Actually, that's one of the things I most miss in these coronavirus times... being able to amble down to my local coffee shop and enjoy a cap in the sun while I'm reading the day's news (on real newsprint of course!).

I know I can go down and get one at arm's length to bring home, but it's just not the same. But it's all necessary. Luckily, I lost my mobile phone before I had to consider whether to load the tracking app. Now I'm wondering whether to replace my phone at all. Maybe the government will provide me with a free one with the app already loaded. That would be nice. Anyway, back to that heading...

I have decided that I miss the record companies. I don't miss their rapacious pricing, or their non-existent PR support, or their inability to stock any album that isn't on the top 40, and I certainly haven't forgotten (or forgiven them) the fact that they mostly failed to pay their artists the royalties they admitted they owed them, much less the full value of the royalties that should have been paid.

No, what I really miss about the record companies are their A&R departments, because they acted as triage nurses for our ears, filtering out the rubbish before it ever had a chance to reach our loudspeakers. A&R is industry-speak for 'Artists and Repertoire' and was the division in a record company responsible for discovering new talent.

It's true that the 'A&R men' (and they usually were men, due to the amount of drinking in that was required in the process of 'discovering the talent') were not infallible, which meant that a great many very fine, and very innovative musicians very likely fell by the wayside as they worked, but they at least made sure only those musicians who had a chance of being successful ever got to set foot inside a recording studio. (Though the most famous of the 'A&R men' was Decca's Dick Rowe who told Brian Epstein, who was trying to get him to sign his unknown band, 'Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr Epstein', so the process wasn't flawless).


Australian Hi-Fi Magazine May / June 2020


That has all changed. Now, thanks to computers and technology, musicians are recording and producing their own music at very little cost, using a low-cost home studios and making it available via download from their own websites, or sites such as Bandcamp. Not only are downloads electronic, so are the uploads, in the form of your credit card details or, more safely, PayPal. In short, they can do for themselves absolutely everything a record company would once have had to do for them. Except for one thing. There is now no A&R person to tell them: "Really great, but don't give up your day job." Which means there's now so much dross out there that finding good music is like finding a needle in a haystack.

What's all this got to do with hi-fi? I thought you'd never ask. It's new music that is the lifeblood of hi-fi. That's what makes enjoying the fidelity of your system so much fun... making a musical discovery, then getting to play it back in your own home, on your own system. But how do you find new music that's any good? I know that Roon and iTunes and most other music servers have programs to do this, but they can only find 'new' music that's similar to what you already listen to. That's not really 'new' music, it's just same old, different clothes. I really don't know how best to go about it. It's got to the stage where I am now spending so much time trying to find new music that I enjoy that I am starting to not enjoy the process itself.

Is there an answer? A solution? If you have one, please email it to me and put me out of my misery! 


Greg Borrowman




Australian Hi-Fi Magazine

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