The Year The Music Died (apologies, journalists/bloggers have been writing this same story for years)
It's official - the single is dead - or at least mortally wounded. New figures from the UK record industry reveal that sales of singles fell by a third last year, plunging from £52.5m in 2002 to just £35.9m in 2003. That's an astonishing collapse, and the British Phonographic Industry is mighty concerned. And it's getting worse. In the third week of January Britons bought a total of only 400000 singles - a record low for records. What could be to blame for this appalling state of affairs? Take your pick.
The BPI are quick to blame illegaldownloads for the single's decline, and they'd be right. Evil Britons have discovered they can rip tracks off the internet for free. How terrible. People have stopped forking out nearly four quid for a poorly-produced plastic case with minimal artwork containing a maximum of three tracks, two of which are merely mixes of the main track but sound absolutely nothing like it, released two months after the song was first played on the radio so that by the time you can actually buy a copy you've lost interest. It's a disgrace. The record industry has even been thoughtful enough to provide online download services, at reduced cost, but the public still insist on getting something for nothing instead. Quite unforgiveable.
The BPI also blame piracy for reducing their profits. Seems ne'er-do-wells are pressing illegal copies of records and then selling bootlegs at much lower prices than official record shops. How dare they? Do they not realise that CD production is expensive? I mean, you'd never find free CDs being given away with newspapers and magazines would you, they cost far too much to manufacture for that. A single's full cover price of £3.99 is fully justified and, at just under half the price of an album, definitely worth every penny.
The BPI was responsible for the highly successful 'Home Taping Is Killing Music' campaign from the 1980s. Thoughtless musical parasites nearly brought the entire record industry to its knees by recording scratchy vinyl or crackly medium wave onto hissy cassettes. I know I did. Countless lo-fi compilation tapes stifled musical creativity and encouraged people to listen to artists they might not otherwise have heard - without paying. Scandalous. The relentless spread of mp3/iPod culture threatens to do the same two decades later, and must be stopped at all costs. Let's sue the culprits.
Thank goodness popular music remains as strong today as it was 20 years ago, if not stronger. Artistes from this week's Top Ten such as Blazin' Squad, Emma Bunton and Pop Idol's Michelle McManus will be household names many years from now, all no doubt with successful greatest hits albums under their belts. Whereas who now remembers the stars of 1984? David Bowie, Duran Duran and Eurythmics - not one of these old has-beens is up for a Brit Award next week, are they? No, the future of music is now. The future of music is Gareth Gates, with clones of Dido on backing vocals, as heard on Radio 2. Respect.
So, between us we can save the UK record industry. Uninstall that shareware from your hard drive, delete those illegal mp3s, send a signed confession to the police, pop down to your nearest record shop and buy yourself a single. You remember how to do that, you've done it many times before. Just not recently. Go on. Ronan Keating's got a new song out. Ah, I think we're buggered.