DINO AND TERRY with ALANA BRIDGEWATER (live), STEPHANE "TEKNOSTEP" VERA with SKYLA J (live) and DJs PETER BOSCO, MAT CHRYSDALE and VITO at Revival (783 College), Friday (February 7). $10. www. dinoandterry.com Rating: NNNNN
Toronto house music legends Dino and Terry aren't naive about the dance music business, but even they were surprised to find out last fall that one of their collaborations with vocalist Alana Bridgewater had been bootlegged overseas before they'd even released the vinyl.
"I don't think they even made any money off it, so I wonder why they bothered," Dino muses from the studio where he and his twin brother, Terry, run their label, Crash.
"Apparently, the same guys bootlegged a Masters at Work track right after. The way it is right now, there's so much file-sharing going on, it's very hard to keep a lid on a track once you've sent out the promo CDs."
File-sharing networks have not only made it hard for labels to keep a lid on unreleased music, but have also, some people think, been a primary cause of the huge decline in music sales over the past few years. Defenders of these networks say the real reason all the major labels are showing losses is the steady decline in the quality of pop music, but that doesn't take into account small independent labels that are experiencing similar problems. These producers are increasingly horrified to see just how much of their music is being traded out there.
"I've been having these conversations with other producers and label owners. If I believed that downloading music from independent labels contributes to promotion and to spreading the word, I'd be all for it. But when it comes to records that are only going to sell a couple of thousand copies on a good release, it's ludicrous -- there's no money in it at all to begin with.
"Independent labels really do take a hit with this stuff. It's a bit different for the major labels, because they have so many more ways to make money."
The extremely small market for 12-inch singles has always been an issue for dance music, but in the past this was offset by the astronomical DJ fees an internationally known guest could command. The comparatively larger market for mix CDs was another way for producers to make up for the incredibly small profit margin of DJ vinyl.
"The model has been to use vinyl releases as promotional tools to get the DJ gigs and to get the track licensed to a CD compilation. This had been working fairly well, but both those avenues have started drying up over the past two years."
Touring DJs agree, and although Toronto still plays host to numerous international guests each weekend, more and more promoters and clubs are shifting the focus to their local residents. They're using their savings to lower cover charges in an effort to attract clubbers who are staying home more due to economic uncertainty.
Dino does see a bright side to this shift, though, in that it brings things closer to the environment that he and Terry came out of in the mid-80s. Part of the original charm was not just the club and the music, but the community that developed around that.
"It is nice to travel and play in new places -- it's a great honour. But on the other hand, you don't know what they want. To me, nothing beats knowing your crowd and developing a relationship with them, and there's no way you can do that when you're just flying into someplace where you literally don't know anyone."