RIAA mistaken, mp3s not the problem says new study.
August 14, 2002 12:20 AM   Subscribe

RIAA mistaken, mp3s not the problem says new study. The study has some interesting predictions too. Will we ever pay for tunes if we can get them free?
posted by BGM (54 comments total)
 
Take street musicians - they are essentially providing free music. There are nothing that forces you to pay them, yet many do in appreciation.

The same is true with a lot of web pages. Some support them - some don't - yet the content is often free for all, regardless if you've payed or not.
posted by cx at 1:08 AM on August 14, 2002


i dont know - since AG closed I've actually bought a CD. Why doesnt somebody set up a website where one can make direct donations to any band? I would certainly support such a thing. I dont not buy CD's cause I hate musicians, i dont buy CD's cause i hate the middle men.
posted by zoid at 2:15 AM on August 14, 2002


Why doesn't somebody set up a website where one can make direct donations to any band?. You could call it Fairtunes, it could be heavily promoted through standard news sources, and it could fail because people will rarely pay for something if they can get it for free.
posted by seanyboy at 4:29 AM on August 14, 2002


My pet theory (which I've discussed here before) is that the RIAA isn't worried about the lack of sales, it is worried about peoples tastes in music. File Swapping allows people to experiment more, and this means that the range of music people start to buy becomes wider too. For reasons I havn't totally worked out yet, the RIAA considers this a bad thing.
posted by seanyboy at 4:52 AM on August 14, 2002


These people predict an increase in sales by the year 2007, but only after 2005 when the record companies unite? When has an industry united together for the benefit of consumers? This sounds like wishful thinking to me, or insight into a magical version of the future.
posted by nemesis at 5:12 AM on August 14, 2002


Has the RIAA ever considered that perhaps the CD's they're putting out are crap? To be honest, the last CD I bought was "Veni, Vidi, Vicious" by the Hives, and most others I've bought over the past year were by indie bands. (As in, they-still-have-day-jobs indie bands.) There are very few major label artists that interest me at present, therefore I'm not buying many CD's.

Perhaps they need to reconsider the emphasis on boy bands and blonde formula pop singers...
posted by greengrl at 5:16 AM on August 14, 2002


For reasons I havn't totally worked out yet, the RIAA considers this a bad thing.

Maybe because they are counting on limited exposure to different music to promote mainstream artists that appear in company-owned movies and soundtracks, and appear on company-owned cable TV concerts. Or maybe not.
posted by adampsyche at 5:24 AM on August 14, 2002


File Swapping allows people to experiment more, and this means that the range of music people start to buy becomes wider too. For reasons I havn't totally worked out yet, the RIAA considers this a bad thing.

seanyboy, if the market base widens, profit margins shrink. The traditional system has been pyramid-based, with "a-list" acts on top, b-lists to support, and rest serving as a talent farm for new potential, but more likely, musicians who may become songwriters, studio musicians, etc.

A smaller hierarchy of top-list material has been the raison d'etre for major acts. Why should the labels waste time cultivating tens of thousands of little Elvises, Journeys, David Bowies, and Britneys when five or ten big specimens from each genre can pull in more revenue in less time?
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:26 AM on August 14, 2002


I say let the big companies die. Dinosaurs.

It's been said so many times before: the cost of cd's is too high, the bands pr'ed and media'ed down the public throat, and overpaid to publish formulaic pap that has spinoff sales in dolls, clothes, carbonated beverages and baad movies. When faced with a garbage heap of lame "adult alternative" or "bubblegum pop" that sounds exactly the same as the next group, what else should the public do? Buy the stuff anyway, like good little sheep? Bah! Most of us fall into the trap because we've been brainwashed from hearing the same turds over and over again.

In related news, Vivendi Universal reports (pdf file) a net loss of 12 billion Euros. There's something wrong when a company can lose that much money and still operate...

I say again, die, dinosaur, die, and let the rest of us mere mortals get back to enjoying quality music.
posted by ashbury at 5:46 AM on August 14, 2002


what ashbury said.

C'mon, let culture evolve! We need a Renaissance right now! We are surely in a cultural trough now because of The Man. It's time for the dinosaurs to die and turn into oil.

As for the practicalities - in 2005, 2006, 2007, how many p2p users will there be? How the hell are they gonna stop p2p? E-donkey? Kazaa? How many new p2p clients will pop up between now and then?

If the RIAA are really serious about stopping file-sharing they're gonna have to convince somebody that the internet is not good for the economy and simply demand to pull the plug on the whole thing (and as if that will happen).
posted by SpaceCadet at 6:24 AM on August 14, 2002


ashbury I couldn't agree more. It blows my mind that people still want to work with the RIAA even after they are obviously more interested in running to the nearest authority figures (congress, attorney general) instead of listening to fans and adapting to the new market.

Die Dinosaurs, die indeed.
posted by skallas at 6:27 AM on August 14, 2002


I say let the big companies die. Dinosaurs.

Okay. But the solution is to encourage people to buy better music, for the industry to adopt better practices, not to encourage them to steal the same, media-flogged pop tunes.

As you hint at, it's a fallacy to suggest that the majors are failing because the internet gives exposure to the indies, when p2p services are, by far, filled with the work of the mainstream acts. Diversity/exposure isn't killing Universal et al; some combination of the economy, copyright infringement, and other, lesser factors, are.

This piece by Forrester looks to me to simply be a PR-grab by a new research firm. Asserting that mp3s aren't having any effect on sales, in the current online arena, contradicts some pretty obvious demographics (imho). It's also taking the wagon before the horse - it's premature to be yelling that P2P is saving the industry, economically-speaking.
posted by Marquis at 6:34 AM on August 14, 2002


seanyboy - thanks for the link

We need a Renaissance right now!

P2P is the Renaissance.
posted by zoid at 6:38 AM on August 14, 2002


In the words of the immortal cock sparrer:

we worked our way up from east end pubs to gigs and back stage passes ex-boxing champs,
west end clubs,
americans in dark glasses driving ten grand cars,
they drink in hotel bars they're even making money in bed. they wouldn't be no loss,
they aint worth a toss
it's about time they all dropped dead

take 'em all
take 'em all
put 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em
short and tall,
watch 'em fall,
come on boys take 'em all

well tough shit boys,
it aint our fault your record didn't make it
we made you dance,
you had your chance,
but you didn't take it well,
i gotta go make another deal
sign another group for the company
i don't suppose we'll ever meet again
you'd better get back to the factory
posted by goneill at 6:38 AM on August 14, 2002


I would gladly pay a buck or two for top-quality downloads of individual songs. I won't pay 17 or 18 bucks for an entire CD when I only want one song.

When I was a kid my allowance was $2 a week. 45s cost $2. So I bought one a week. I'm not that old. What happened to singles?
posted by JoanArkham at 6:50 AM on August 14, 2002


What happened to singles?

In Europe, they continue to be sold, and purchased, although piracy has eaten into those sales significantly.

In North America, they were too expensive. People didn't buy them. Lots of people pirated them. Retail phased them out. And now the labels are trying to stage a renaissance, but we'll see how successful they are.
posted by Marquis at 6:59 AM on August 14, 2002


nemesis: When has an industry united together for the benefit of consumers?

In 1983, when Roland, Oberhiem, and Sequential Circuits jointly released MIDI 1.0.
posted by atavistech at 7:48 AM on August 14, 2002


Asserting that mp3s aren't having any effect on sales, in the current online arena, contradicts some pretty obvious demographics (imho).

From the Lawrence Lessig Free Culture thing linked here a couple days ago: the RIAA claims that filesharing volume (in 2001, I think) is 5x that of music sold legally, yet their sales dropped 5% during that period. Huh? One could also look for similar drops in other industries that don't face the so-called threat of piracy. There was some manner of recession afoot, apparently.
posted by D at 7:53 AM on August 14, 2002


I'm a musician and my music is freely available on the internet. It's a hobby of mine - I write music after my real job.

When I weigh up the fantastic amateur artists that can be found on the net compared with today's commercial radio-friendly drivel, I think our private culture and the music business are going head-to-head. The music Business has underestimated people's tastes and sensibilities and is now paying the price.
posted by SpaceCadet at 8:02 AM on August 14, 2002


D: The RIAA's claims are exaggerated: the majority of pirated music wouldn't have been purchased in the first place. But that doesn't mean that P2P hasn't had a significant effect on sales.

As for the economy: Canada isn't in a recession. And yet our music sales, too, are down 10%. While I'm sure there are a number of factors at work, we all know people who listen to burned CDs - and a large number of those CDs might have otherwise been purchased.

The RIAA is stupid, and greedy, but copyright infringement does take money away from musicians - and they deserve compensation for their work. I'm an advocate of file-sharing, but I also think it's the responsibility of those who enjoy free music to compensate artists by continuing to buy records.

The music Business has underestimated people's tastes and sensibilities and is now paying the price.
The indies are suffering too. Again, I don't think this is about taste.
posted by Marquis at 8:09 AM on August 14, 2002


It's easy to argue either way that in the current market, piracy is or isn't hurting music sales. Personally, I don't believe it is.

However, it's hard to argue that in the long run, digital music piracy won't start to cut in to record sales - assuming the industry remains in its current state. Why? Consider the following assumptions for the future:
  • The vast majority of music will be stored and played in digital form.
  • Consumers will acquire their music (which, of course, would be digital) using the easiest available method.
  • High-speed internet connectivity will be prevalant
Based on these assumptions (and I don't think I'm jumping to any conclusions here), consumers, in the future, will download their music from easy-to-use P2P applications, bypassing the record industry, and putting them out of business.

Is this a bad thing? Not really. But can you blame the labels for trying to prevent this from happening? Not at all. It's just good business.

On the other hand, there's nothing in this to say that if the labels can come up with a decent service that delivers quality and value to the consumer, that they won't make even more money than they do now.

Forrester's predictions are way off (and who's going to remember this report in 2007, anyway?), but it's still gonna be fun to watch.
posted by Darryl at 8:27 AM on August 14, 2002


Vote with your dollars against anyone who participates in the intellectual property status quo. This is essential, and the outcome is inevitable.

But it will take a while. Is there anything that the consumer can do to help speed the greedy bastards on their way out?
posted by rushmc at 8:35 AM on August 14, 2002


I don't have the wherewithall to do this myself, but won't SOMEONE create musicfilter? *grin* Or... is there someplace where people discuss indie and amateur and other types of bands where I can learn about them and visit their sites? Dear Santa.... ;-)
posted by thunder at 8:43 AM on August 14, 2002


As for the economy: Canada isn't in a recession. And yet our music sales, too, are down 10%. While I'm sure there are a number of factors at work, we all know people who listen to burned CDs - and a large number of those CDs might have otherwise been purchased.

Doesn't Canadian law require a tax on all blank CD's, paid out to companies presumably hurt by their use? (Unlike the US, where there are special "for music" blanks with the RIAA surcharge that few people buy.) Or was that just a proposal that was never implemented? If that universal tax does exist, record labels have no right to complain of reduced sales in Canada - Canadians who burn CD's have paid for the right to do so.
posted by hilker at 9:05 AM on August 14, 2002


Canadians who burn CD's have paid for the right to do so.
What, by paying a $0.30 tax, artists/labels have authorized you to infringe on their copyright?

It's a government measure, intended to dampen the impact from crimes they're not currently able to enforce, not compensation for allowing unfettered access to an artist's complete catalogue. It takes 50 such CD-Rs to make up for $15 worth of CD sales.
posted by Marquis at 9:19 AM on August 14, 2002


Ack. That's not right at all.

What I meant to say was that in Canada, blank media levies are the trade-off for "personal copying". They've got nothing to do with piracy. Consider the tax a license for additional copies of music you own.
posted by Marquis at 9:53 AM on August 14, 2002


thunder: but won't SOMEONE create musicfilter? *grin* Or... is there someplace where people discuss indie and amateur and other types of bands where I can learn about them and visit their sites?

Someone did, and it's called emergentmusic.
posted by mfli at 10:14 AM on August 14, 2002


File Swapping allows people to experiment more, and this means that the range of music people start to buy becomes wider too. For reasons I havn't totally worked out yet, the RIAA considers this a bad thing.

Well, for one thing, having to stock lots more variety would drive retail inventory costs way up. This isn't an argument the RIAA would use, I think, because their concerns do not involve retail very much, but it's certainly true.
posted by kindall at 10:59 AM on August 14, 2002


I'll consider the levy, which is taking money out of my pocket every time I back up my hard drive, explicit permission to steal as much music as I can. I am so pissed at SOCAN/RIAA/etc fuck-overs that I have absolutely no sympathy for their concerns any more. Fuck me? No, guys, fuck you. Come out with a fair system, and I'll play nicely.

Ultimately, I want the ability to pay artists directly.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:43 AM on August 14, 2002


Consider the tax a license for additional copies of music you own.

Excepting the one copy that's fair use? (may be different in Canadia, of course.) Here's a wired article on the tax - if we're talking about the same one. The one referenced by the article is a second tax that will go into effect in 2003, raising CD-R prices an additional 59 cents. DVD-Rs go up $2.27. The iPod's price would rise $100. One motherfucking hundred dollars!

What's the problem with the tax? If you're backing up data, you're paying royalties to Celine Dion. Transfering your purchased CDs to your iPod? Pay $100. Also, since there's obviously no way to tell exactly what people are copying, royalties are administered according to sales. So, if I back up a bunch of Destroyer discs, I'm paying Celine, Nelly Furtado, et al. People who I would never, ever, ever, give money to willingly.

Because of the behaviour of the recording industry over the last few years, I decided never to feel guilty again for using digital media. They need to offer something better. Instead, they are criminalizing their customers.

But can you blame the labels for trying to prevent this from happening? Not at all. It's just good business.

In this case, good business would involve staying abreast of technological innovation and using it to create superior products that consumers want to buy. Retarding technological advancement? Clinging to a dying business model? Alienating your customers, calling them terrorists - why would they want to buy your shit? That's bad business.
posted by D at 11:47 AM on August 14, 2002


Ultimately, I want the ability to pay artists directly.

But it's the labels that paid for the recordings...

I mean, sure, we want the artists to benefit, not the middlemen. But that requires savvier bands (signing smarter contracts), and laws making sure labels don't fuck artists over with seven-year contracts... It doesn't mean that labels shouldn't get paid for the investments they've made within the current system.

And go ahead - give the finger to CRIA and SOCAN. Show 'em who's boss. Stop buying CDs. Who cares if bands are earning income, after all? The labels are assholes!

D: Excepting the one copy that's fair use?
Yeah, it's different in Canada.

If you're backing up data, you're paying royalties
Yeah, I agree. That sucks. This is pretty unavoidable, though. The system we eventually end up with should be spread out across all of the nodes of infringement (media, cd-burners, high-speed internet), to dampen the effects on the individual consumer (who may or may not be infringing).

They need to offer something better.
Agreed; but I think this is separate from government legislation.

That's bad business.
You're totally right. But you've gotta admit that it'd also be bad business to condone music piracy - the labels have a responsibility to their shareholders and to the artists they represent.
posted by Marquis at 12:03 PM on August 14, 2002


this has all been said before by people smarter and more succinct than me, but I don't care

I've downloaded entire albums, not to mention hundreds of individual songs. I have stated on my site that I have a conscience about this, while at the same time justifying my actions (altho when it gets right down to it, there is no justification--it is out and out theft. The fact of the matter is that I would never have bought most of those albums or songs. Ever. This doesn't mean that I will never buy any of the artists that I've dl'ed--on the contrary, I am now more likely to buy some Imperial Teen than if I hadn't downloaded some songs. But this isn't the issue.

The issue, as I see it, is that the business model for the personal ownership (or whatever copyright calls it) of music is no longer valid. P2P is not comparable to going to the store and taking what you like without paying for it. P2P allows the goods to come to you without the merchandising and packaging. As consumers we are almost obligated to take what we are offered, especially since there doesn't seem to be many consequences. (To be sure, big business wants us to think that we have sinned on the Biblical levels, and that probably stops some of us from dl'ing.) That obligation comes in the form of the constant bombardment of "sales", "no interest until...", "don't pay until...", "free with purchase of..." On the one side Big Business says "search for the best deal you can find, and we'll bend over backwards to treat you the best we can because you deserve it," and on the other side we are told that to download the best deal you can find is criminal.

Bullshit! This is the proverbial wanting their cake and eating it too. They gave us the power to do something without them and now they can't put the genie back in the bottle. It's not us who must change but them and they are starting to realize it.

Furthermore, what incentive do we have when we are paying well over 10$ for albums that are over 35 years old and half the band is dead (RIP, my friends)? You know damn well that most of the money isn't going to the remaining members.

On preview, the labels often go out and get the bands when they are too young to understand how the music business is run. The labels are the pimps and the bands are the prostitutes. I'd prefer paypalling the bands directly, or at least being given that option and letting the bands themselves syphon off the cash to the labels, the way it should be done.
posted by ashbury at 12:11 PM on August 14, 2002


The RIAA is a mafia that makes money by controlling three monopolies:
Distribution. The move from CDs to MP3 destroys that monopoly. They lost control of the format, so now they need to stop any form of Internet distribution, not just P2P. They've even been fighting to prevent artists from offering music on their own Web sites.

Promotion. The payola system for in-store, radio, and major magazine promotion meant that bands had to go through a label to get heard. That's why they had to stop Internet radio and P2P, no matter how much you say that you buy CDs because of them.

Creation. The RIAA has always had an interest in making sure that recording, mastering, and pressing disks was too expensive for bands to do without a label contract. MTV was a godsend for them, since it added a minimum of $20K to the money a band had to raise to have any shot of success. Most bands gave up hope and signed the Faustian deal with the labels instead. Home studio technology is just hitting cost-effectiveness in the last couple of years.

The RIAA's nightmare isn't piracy -- that's the lesson of Lessig's 5% comment. Their real nightmare is the day that musicians don't need the mafia to make a living.

The dance-music scene, with independent stores, studios, promoters, and clubs, is leading the way here. If you think dance music seems a bit generic, well, that's what scares the RIAA most. David Bowie gets it more than anyone else in the industry. First he cashed in his songs for $55 million, and now he is saying that songs will become worthless: "Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity."

File sharing is not the battle that matters. Watch for the new ecology of independent creation, promotion, and distribution, and support it.
posted by fuzz at 12:34 PM on August 14, 2002


Someone did, and it's called emergentmusic.

That's a very interesting site, but I don't understand what they're thinking. You rate the posters that recommend music instead of the music?

I think there are probably people who are better at finding and recommending new artists. It makes sense to create some element that recognizes these recommenders, but it misses the point that all music is totally subjective. It seems like it would make more sense to correlate my rating of music against other people's rating of music to determine which songs/artists I might also like. The closer my ratings are to another individual, the more valuable that individuals ratings will be to me.

I don't even know how to begin rating the raters. If they give it a 2, and I would have given it a 5, does that mean the rating was good or bad? Interesting idea - confusing implementation.
posted by willnot at 1:17 PM on August 14, 2002


D: worse yet, take a picture, pay SOCAN! The greedy mofos are proposing that all portable memory media be taxed!

So you buy a Sony digital camera. It uses those nifty chewing-gum sticks of memory. But because that memory is also used in a few MP3 players, you're gonna pay something like a buck for every 64k worth... even though it'll only ever be used in a camera!

Again, fuck 'em. I feel bad about screwing the artists out of royalties, but I'd feel even worse supporting the gangsters that control them.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:43 PM on August 14, 2002


The RIAA's nightmare isn't piracy -- that's the lesson of Lessig's 5% comment. Their real nightmare is the day that musicians don't need the mafia to make a living.

I'm hoping like heck that within five years, artists realize they've been completely effed-over by RIAA/SOCAN/etc, and get a clue about direct-to-consumer.

What's really needed is for some superstar rock star to gain a clue and fund the establishment of a music-sharing, payment-organizing distribution system.

The time's coming when it'll be practical to manage 50-cent transactions on the net. Bill songs out at that rate and piracy becomes moot: enough people will participate that the looters aren't a significant factor.

Avoid pulling a dot-com and keep the executitve count and paycheques to something reasonable. Skim a mere 1% from every transaction to fund upkeep: let the other 99% go to the artists.

Make your real money in providing accounting support to the artists. I can't imagine many of them want the hassle of figuring out who gets what cut, tracking bills, etcetera. For a surcharge, automatically distribute the incoming funds to multiple recipients: recording studio, CD press, publicist, band members, etc.

Also make some serious coin by intelligently paying out the distributions. Bulk 'em up: do a payment transaction for every $5000 collected or once a month, whichever results in the least number of payouts. Holding the money in the meantime, you can collect some good interest off long-term bonds &c.

There's a solution, I think I've figured out the basics, and all that's really needed is someone rich enough to hold a float while it gets off the ground. The angel investor probably won't make a mint, but his name will go down in history as having fundamentally changed music...
posted by five fresh fish at 1:52 PM on August 14, 2002


Every now and then, I have to explain to people why I no longer buy CDs or go to the movies, excepting private/indie labels and indie film. It's hard to explain in just a couple of minutes to someone who has no idea of the history behind the industry.

Basically, my understanding is thus: the movie and music industry are not particularly concerned about piracy. The piracy gambit is a ruse. How can hollywood be concerned with piracy eating their profit when new films break records? LOTR. Episode 2. Spiderman. Cash cows. The industry has made in excess of a BILLION dollars from those movies alone. Ms. Spears still sells out stadiums and most of her "peers" are selling just fine. So profit loss as a result of piracy specifically isn't the problem. The music and movie industries are not by any means hurting - they're making enough spare cash that they can pay lawyers to write laws for them and to pay congress critters to approve them.

One of their concerns, though I don't think this is the main one (I'll get to that) is choice. Neither the music or movie industry can do well if we have choices. It's all about economies of scale. It is far easier and more profitable to sell 10 million copies of one CD than it is to sell 1 million copies (each) of ten CDs. With 10 different CDs, your production costs are X10, which cuts into profit. The more varied the music you purchase, the more money they have to spend on producing new artists. Clearly, they don't want that.

I think the more serious concern for both the RIAA and MPAA is who owns the content. Making it hard for the little guy to produce and distribute their own work is what this is about. If the RIAA/MPAA don't have a hand in it, they don't want it made. It's all about monopolizing content and delivery. One of the side effects of destroying piracy is that you destroy alternative means of distribution for legitimate purposes. By making mp3s illegal (which you know they would do if they could), they limit the avenues by which indie artists can get their work to the public.

By forcing copy protection into all consumer level devices, they prevent the distribution of consumer made content. If you buy the wrong handy-cam, you will find that it is not possible to make copies of your home movies, because the copy-protection flag gets set regardless of what you do about it.

This all leads back to the issue of choice: they don't want you to have one. Like microsoft. Most people don't have a choice - they run windows. They want to make it so difficult and expensive to produce and acquire independent media that most people would rather just open wide and lick the spoon.

I will not lick the spoon. I will swipe it and sharpen it into a shank with which I will stab out the eyes of the industry.

While I would love to give money to the artists, the harm I do to the artist by not paying is less than the harm I would do to the world by lining the pockets of the RIAA/MPAA and thier lawyers.
posted by jaded at 2:03 PM on August 14, 2002


Hear, hear.
posted by rushmc at 3:03 PM on August 14, 2002


The time's coming when it'll be practical to manage 50-cent transactions on the net.

Why Micropayments Won't Work, Ever

Music really is going to be like running water or electricity. The RIAA will maintain a small number of highly branded entertainment packages, complete with stadium concerts, videos, and merchandising. Britney, U2, etc. will be like Evian water.

And the rest of us will make our own music, trade it, download it from everywhere, all free all the time, just turn on the tap. Services that provide a lot of added-value convenience around the content, or filter it really agressively for specific niches, will charge subscriptions. Musicians will make money from playing live, getting sponsored, and selling their songs to advertisers, TV shows, and the movies.

You heard it here first.
posted by fuzz at 3:16 PM on August 14, 2002


After I post this, I think I'm gonna go see Tracie Merchant play at Poor David's Pub. I almost decided not to go cuz it's threatening to rain, but after writing this I talked myself into it.

Support your friendly neighborhood independent artists.

It's like a football stadium. It caters to making football a spectator sport. If many of the fans in the stands suddenly decided to climb down into the football field during the first quarter and insist on playing with the "professionals" you'd have bedlam. So the owners hire security to make sure the football fans behave themselves. It's understood you don't jump out of your seat and take to the playing field in the middle of the game.

But what if 20,000 fans decided to do that at the same time? In this metaphor, the independent musicians and their fans are the 20,000 sports enthusiasts. The RIAA is the football franchise. It's in the football franchise's best interests to control which people get to play and for how much, and they expect the rest of the world to just sit back and watch, but what if that's not sufficient for the fans to just be spectators? And what if there really are people in the stands who can play better than the guys on the field?

"The RIAA is stupid, and greedy, but copyright infringement does take money away from musicians - and they deserve compensation for their work.."

The RIAA takes money away from musicians. They do it legally, by signing starry-eyed up and comers to contracts that they never would have signed if their future self had a time machine. Don't blame fans of music for a system that's been bleeding musicians for decades. This revolution is long overdue.

What's really hurting RIAA isn't the downloads of their stuff. It's the downloads they can't clock. The fact that top 40 radio is no longer their be all and end all. That the true lovers of music, the ones with the cash, are seeking new avenues and finding better stuff through independent outlets. What RIAA's members provide is easy, and there's a market for that. There are people who would rather just find a 'name' with lobotomized music that passes as art so they can talk with their friends about how great such and such is. It's a lot of hard work finding gems amid the maelstrom of today's independent music artists. Many would rather just invest in what big record companies have already invested in. There's less of a risk and people can spend more of their lives doing something else.

Seeking out independent music has to at least be a hobby. You have to love it and be willing to devote time to it. Some people can't or don't want to do that, and for them the RIAA will probably always be there.

I don't see it as a dinosaur, but the RIAA members are gonna have to learn to evolve or they will become dinosaurs. They'll have to realize that both their audience and the newer musicians out there are smarter than the average bear, and won't be as easily tricked as they were less than five years ago.

"The RIAA's nightmare isn't piracy -- that's the lesson of Lessig's 5% comment. Their real nightmare is the day that musicians don't need the mafia to make a living."

It's a good thing. That's gonna be your revolution right there. Some would argue that it's already happening. Some would say it's hardly begun.

"P2P is the Renaissance."

It's just a piece in the puzzle.

The mp3 trading is going to be remembered in the history books as one of the events leading to the real revolution. Like a Boston Tea Party or Paul Revere's Ride. History will not blame mp3 trading as the single catalyst. 20/20 hindsight will allow historians to see the bigger picture. This has been a long time in coming.

"Make your real money in providing accounting support to the artists. I can't imagine many of them want the hassle of figuring out who gets what cut, tracking bills, etcetera. For a surcharge, automatically distribute the incoming funds to multiple recipients: recording studio, CD press, publicist, band members, etc."

But this is ultimately where the big record companies have been handling things thus far. The appeal for a musician to sign that record deal is precisely so there's a corporate entity taking care of the accounting and management worries for you. If you ask some successful musicians, they'll say they don't mind working for the big guy. They don't mind that they get only a small percentage of the pie. When they see the alternative of having to do all that money stuff, they prefer their metaphorical cell. It frees them up (in theory) to be creative. The problem is only a small number of artists make it big. The vast majority can't get heard, because it's not in the big corporate behemoth's best interests to cater to every artist on the planet. They take the ones who will follow their rules, and tweak the signal to noise ratio by controlling distribution and promotion, so that their boys and girls get heard and the others get squelched out of radio, tv, and other media.

The Internet has, and continues to have the potential to level the playing field. That's why the RIAA is screaming. From their perspective it's unfair. The RIAA has spent all these years building the rules, and now there's musicians and audiences who are successfully breaking those rules.

The idea of someone coming up with a new way for independent artists to do this without the big five is all fine and good, but then it just becomes another monster. Eventually the need to keep the doors open will lead to corporate greed. Profit's profit. Rules would have to be implemented and the "new way" will become just as top heavy as the old way, and would actually benefit the Big Five, just as FOX, UPN and WB have failed to shut down ABC, NBC or CBS. The new networks became part of the establishment rather than successfully replacing the old with something new.

Independent musicians may or may not have been given the opportunity for a contract with the big guns. Most of them just play because it's in their hearts to play. They can't do anything else. It's what they feel their calling is. It's what makes them happy.

They decide to go on their own but since the RIAA's 'football stadium' is the entire world, it's kinda hard for independent musicians to make their own rules and play their own game when it upsets the game that the RIAA is already playing.

Eventually, either the RIAA's gonna have to police the entire world, through government intervention and the invention of yet more victimless criminal laws, or they're gonna have to evolve, and change the rules to cater to the new players on the field.

Right now it looks like they're going for the first option. They're using the government like a football franchise uses security employees, to try to keep the real players off the field. This would work IF they could prove to the world that music is a spectator sport.

I don't see that working. Do you? Music is not a spectator sport, but then neither's football really. Unless you enjoy being an armchair quarterback.

Speaking of which, it's time I got off my ass and went to support one of my star talents in the music game. Y'all have fun. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 6:00 PM on August 14, 2002


You know that RIAA don't own Top40 radio, right? That they'd sooner not pay out indie promoters to get their artists on the air? And you know that what people are downloading isn't Tracie Merchant or Bright Eyes. Right?

Or that the big reason we haven't yet seen a good internet music model is that retail has the RIAA's nuts in a vise? That in Canada, HMV is not currently carrying anything by Warner - because Warner wouldn't capitulate to HMV's terms? (And that they will very likely cave.)

I mean, I wish it was as simple as "the Internet will give people the music they want! When they want it! And the majors are screwed!" But the fact is, the people want Britney, regardless of who's selling it. Hits are hits. The masses like them. Metal Machine Music won't leap off the shelves. Millions more buy the Oops I Did It Agains than the Amnesiacs. And for the masses to know what to like, money needs to be thrown behind acts - on the web or not. Like you say, for the ones who do not make music a hobby - they will turn on the radio, online or not, and hear what their fellow commoners have approved. Sterile, easy, vapid. But hits!

I think the net widens the playing-field for the niche acts, the indie acts, the sort of acts I write about on my website, or read about in Pitchfork. It's not going to dethrone the mass artists. Can you name even one internet success story? A band without major label push that got heard by the masses, and made a splash bigger than ...Trail of Dead? Like one of those thousands of bands on mp3.com?

Or how about Epitonic. One of the greatest sites on the net. Songs:Ohia, Bonnie Prince Billy, Brad Mehldau - all of them out there, just waiting for the masses to wipe away the sand from their eyes and say "Jesus Christ! Mariah sucks!".

Well they haven't. I don't think they will. No matter how much you clap your hands and say fairies exist.
posted by Marquis at 7:19 PM on August 14, 2002


ahhh, epitonic. My life without audiogalaxy is bearable because of epitonic.

marquis, the weird thing is that I don't have any friends who like brittney, much less own a copy. It's not that my friends have good taste or anything, they just don't need to buy something that they can hear on the radio ten times a day. I'm not saying that they don't own some U2, but at least U2 is in a different league than britney and backstreetboys, etc. I know that most of my friends, if given the chance, would download anything but top 40.

Ever noticed how nobody on metafilter admits to liking mariah, britney, bsb, nsync, etc.? There's got to be somebody in this 15k mob who likes this mindless crap (no offense).
posted by ashbury at 7:59 PM on August 14, 2002


First off, great speechifyin', everyone. Lots of fascinating ideas, and a great thread.

Yeah, it's different in Canada.

What's the equivalent of fair use in Canada, do you know? I feel pretty bad that I don't know more about it - I'm a Canuck myself.

And the rest of us will make our own music, trade it, download it from everywhere, all free all the time, just turn on the tap.

Right behind me, my friends are teaching each other guitar. One of them spins vinyl. The things he likes to download are breezeblock sets, which aren't sold in any record store anyway, at least not around here.

[optimistic rant]
You have the digitization of music, wherein copies are exact clones, and stealing ain't exactly stealing since when you take my music, I keep it, too - you know the spiel. It means the brick-and-payola music distribution system is no longer needed, at least not in its historical incarnation. You also have the fragmentation of music, genres spawning subgenres in part because the industry of cool constantly appropriates things just approaching mainstream status for use in its action films and sports drink advertisements. Put all together, it's outs for the guys who build bricks and in with the dudes who send bits. It would be a return to localised music, you know how it used to be, with the oral tradition and the party singalongs and suchandsuch, except for the Net, connecting all those subcultures and offering a bottom-up rather than top-down system for the sharing of music, which is what it's always been about. So what if no one's buying - music's no longer a product. It was never supposed to be.
[/optimistic rant]

jaded: I hear ya. As someone in the so-called content creation industry, I'm actually quite sympathetic to copyright in general. But when laws are rewritten and the tech crippled so that I am actually unable to give away my content if I so desire - well, I get, er, frustrated.

Or that the big reason we haven't yet seen a good internet music model is that retail has the RIAA's nuts in a vise?

Shouldn't the RIAA be thrilled to cut retailers out of the system and distribute digitally? Shouldn't they be thrilled to lose their packaging & printing costs? Is their something in some contract somewhere that states RIAA labels need to sell through HMV, they can sell through any store they want, right? Why not an all-digital store?
posted by D at 8:30 PM on August 14, 2002


D:

Canadian copyright law has "fair use", but copying to other media doesn't quite apply. Here, that falls under the "private copying" clause, that allows you to make copies for "personal use". Sound familiar? There's a lot of common ground between copyright law, internationally, due to treaties such as WIPO.

Shouldn't the RIAA be thrilled to cut retailers out of the system and distribute digitally?
Yeah, they should be (and would be), but regardless of what you may have heard - and contrary to MeFi's demographics - people aren't spending much money online. Real-world sales could eat online sales for lunch, in just about every area but auctions. :) Consequently, no single label can risk pissing the retailers off. These guys have great power - much like ClearChannel - and even now, if something's not #1 on radio, it poofs to the back of the store. They have no interest in doing what the labels want - just in selling product, and making profit. (Not that I feel sorry for the majors...) As retail consolidates - see Canada, now that HMV has closed - the mega-chains have real muscle to make or break an album.

If you want to get conspiracy-theory, the label whose market share is most suffering these days is EMI... and guess who is cooperating most fully with the viable digital music services (eMusic, Rhapsody, FullAudio)...
posted by Marquis at 8:39 PM on August 14, 2002


people aren't spending much money online.

Sure, but there are a heck of a lot of people downloading music online, by the RIAA's own numbers. They need to compete with free, unfortunately for them. Even so I think they can do it (if they put their minds to it), since people will pay for reliability, extra features, etc., but obviously it would mean losing a few beachfront vacation homes in the process. What they've come up with so far, however, is expensive crippleware. If album downloads were $5 I'd be sucking the RIAA's teat in an instant.

Weren't there antitrust suits against the RIAA for fixing the price of CDs? Those cats are God's own cartel, so I'm not sure I buy the story of them getting slapped around by the retailers. They could all pull all of their stock from HMV at once, and let's see how HMV does.

Here, that falls under the "private copying" clause, that allows you to make copies for "personal use".

So what's the justification for the tax again, if private copying is protected?
posted by D at 9:24 PM on August 14, 2002


Marquis: "...But the fact is, the people want Britney, regardless of who's selling it. Hits are hits. The masses like them."

What planet are you living on? It's obviously not the same planet I'm stuck on. I know of no one who actually admits to liking Brittney Spears. She's popular so long as The Machine pushes her wares. I do agree that there are people on this planet who buy Spears, but these are the same people who would buy a CD by a band of Monkees if you market it to their demographic just right.

"...The masses like them..."

The masses like mob rule, witch trials and red scares too. Doesn't mean we should let the masses get everything the masses like. Individuals are smart, but the masses are dumber than dirt.

"You know that RIAA don't own Top40 radio, right?"

You do know that there are some women in this world you can sleep with without actually marrying them, right?

"...Can you name even one internet success story? A band without major label push that got heard by the masses, and made a splash bigger than ...Trail of Dead? Like one of those thousands of bands on mp3.com?"

You do know the labels already have more than enough public relations marketing analysts and don't need your help? Right? There's a whole stream of internet success stories, but if your definition of success is an MTV video or an HBO special, ah cain't hep ya.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:47 PM on August 14, 2002


ZachsMind, I'm not a shill. I'm a music pirate, a professional music writer, a sometime civil servant (in this area), and a realist. Since the birth of the phonographic industry, people have listened to disposable pap. Before radio, they were doing this. They were buying the sheet music, for christ's sake. Yes, marketing sells. But about people not wanting crap - you're simply wrong. Tens of millions of people spend money disagreeing with you, and although I think they're fools who are missing out on the good stuff, I'm not so deluded as to think that all those who purchased the 130M Mariah Carey albums would enjoy the Flaming Lips if only they heard them.

Doesn't mean we should let the masses get everything the masses like.
I don't quite get what you're suggesting. That music which doesn't meet critical standards is not permitted to be recorded, marketed or sold?

There's a whole stream of internet success stories, but if your definition of success is an MTV video or an HBO special, ah cain't hep ya.
For the purposes of this discussion (which is about the genuine challenges to a big-dollar industry), my definition of success is sales. High sales. Sales that prove that the internet can break the RIAA monopoly.

I appreciate your rhetoric. I wish it were true. But you're just gonna go and get everyone's hopes up.
posted by Marquis at 10:13 PM on August 14, 2002


D: So what's the justification for the tax again, if private copying is protected?
The private copying stuff was amended to the Canadian Copyright Act as recently as a few years ago, and the tradeoff for its inception was the blank media levy.
posted by Marquis at 10:16 PM on August 14, 2002


The RIAA takes money away from musicians. They do it legally, by signing starry-eyed up and comers to contracts that they never would have signed if their future self had a time machine.

Or if they had listened to Steve Albini or Courtney Love or you. And yet, despite all the warnings, people are still signing up. The truth is, the reason the RIAA gets away with this is because there is simply an oversupply of talent. If you want 15% but your neighbor who also is in a band is willing to take 14.9%, well, you'd better be willing to take 14.8% and hope he won't settle for 14.7%. There are more people who want to be rock stars than there is room in the culture at any given time for rock stars. Classic supply-and-demand.

So if you're in a band, and you suck, stop. Without so much competition, the other bands in your scene will have that much more leverage to get a good contract.
posted by kindall at 11:45 PM on August 14, 2002


willnot: Interesting idea - confusing implementation

You rank the recommendation based on how accurate you think it is, not necessarily on how good the music is. You can also edit the recommendation to include your own opinions, and give the actual music a different rating. The recommendations for the same music has a tree-like structure, and at the root is the person with the highest "reputation" points.

For more info, look at their help page.
posted by mfli at 12:22 AM on August 15, 2002


Marquis, when you measure things by "topic demographics" you get the equivalent of mob mentality. I'm not saying music should have any kind of censorship, but that's precisely what corporate direction creates. It censors out honestly talented individuals in order to cater to what the corporation has already invested its money.

What are The Backstreet Boys anyway? A handful of male cheerleaders encouraging their audience to go crazy over their insipidly juvenile dance routines and either canned music or some studio musicians who really should be the ones getting the credit. One could get an audience to go crazy over a dog and pony show if enough millions were poured into it.

Corporate money is not only used to elevate the talent that corporations are gambling on, but also to squelch or silence their 'competition' simply because they have more money. The same thing happens in politics. A poor politician with a very good idea for how to resolve a community's problems will never be heard over the money invested in tv commercials and publicity stunts of a rich politician.

As for musician internet success stories, I submit the following for your perusal:

Aeone
Kevin Montgomery
Emily Richards
Fisher
posted by ZachsMind at 2:55 PM on August 15, 2002


One more thing I wanted to add:

Someone made a comment to the effect that Forrester research is just trying to make their name known with a study having "controversial" results - forrester has been around for a longish time - and given that they probably weren't hired the music industry to do to the study, I'd tend to trust them as a lot of what they said makes sense.

The industry is, according to the numbers they present, suffering a little bit. But how much of that can honestly be ascribed to piracy? If piracy was as big a deal as they make it out to be, then microsoft, with windows being by far the most pirated software, wouldn't be doing as well, and mr gates wouldn't be one of (if not the?) richest men on earth. How is Brittney, one of the more pirated artists, filling stadiums and doing HBO specials if they're not making money off of her?

So if piracy isn't doing it, what is? First and foremost, I'd have to say, the industry itself is at fault. Everything they're putting out sounds exactly the same. They have like 4 categories: britneypop, backstreetpop, grungyrock, and pimphop. When there's no differentiation between, ahem, artists either stylicstically or qualitatively, then there's no reason to buy them all. This is probably exacerbated by the fact that we *are* in a recession and that the music budgets of most people are somewhat reduced.

In addition, the industry is starting to see increased competition from markets that fall into the same spending space - the luxury entertainment space. You've got DVDs, VHS, games, and broadband eating away at everyone's "luxury" income to a grreater extent than they had in the past. People are buying more DVDs and home movies than ever before, people are buying more video games and consoles than ever before - *and* they're a little bit pricier than they used to be.

Cable and DSL are also eating into that budget with the expansion of broadband and the ever increasing cost of even basic cable. Cable used to be $19.95 a month. I know people that spend upwards of $70 a month on cable. That's a difference of $50 a *month* that they could be spending on CDs, but aren't. Add that to a $50 monthly broadband bill, and your budget goes down more.

I think that if the issues are given an honest and comprehensive look, then piracy will be found to have little effect on the bottom line of the industry. I also think that the industry knows this.

As I said in my previous post, I believe the entire piracy spiel to be a ruse to deflect us from the real issue at hand which is: who owns, creates, and distributes the content?
posted by jaded at 3:10 PM on August 15, 2002


Fisher are signed to Interscope.
posted by Marquis at 7:45 PM on August 15, 2002


Marquis, I didn't say I was listing only independent artists. A lot of Fisher's success story involves their use of the Net. I was listing musician internet success stories.

Anyway. Back on topic. Some people will never pay for music if they can get it for free. The study in question does have some interesting predictions, and mp3 trading has nothing to do with the impending downfall of the RIAA.

There. Now we've come full circle.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:39 PM on August 15, 2002


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