Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Tools for boycotting the RIAA
July 21, 2003 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Sure, we'd like to boycott the RIAA, but how do we go about it? With the RIAA Radar, that's how. The Radar can tell you whether a particular album was released by a member of the RIAA. Not only that, it will show you the RIAA membership of the top 100 albums as well as the the top 100 non-RIAA albums on Amazon. There's even a bookmarklet. [via magnetbox]
posted by monju_bosatsu (43 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Nice (seems to be from the Google cache at least) but the next, say, Wilco album will be mine the day it comes out despite any major-labelness.
posted by Utilitaritron at 9:43 AM on July 21, 2003


If I boycott the RIAA, does that mean I can't download their music from Kazaa anymore, cause that would suck.
posted by Outlawyr at 9:45 AM on July 21, 2003


Sorry, it appears in a strange bit of synchronicity that kottke and I both posted this at about the same time, and as a result the server is getting hosed. Bookmark it and try it out later; it will be worth it, I promise.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:55 AM on July 21, 2003


Sure, we'd like to boycott the RIAA...

Not me. I think they have every right to go after file-sharers.
posted by hyperizer at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2003


That's good, because I just emailed to tell them that you are a file-sharer, and now that are going after you.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2003


My Frampton Comes Alive 8 track finally gave out. Any idea where I can get another one?
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:09 AM on July 21, 2003


The only thing I hate about my Styx - Pieces of Eight 8-track is the fact that the track changes right in the middle of Renegade. Lame.

Check it out WolfDaddy !
posted by Witty at 10:12 AM on July 21, 2003


Hmm. Magnetbox.com.

Homer: "I know a genuine Panaphonics when I see one. And there's Magnetbox, and Sorny."
[WAV]
posted by emelenjr at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2003


Or if you don't wanna wait for the server load to die down, provided that link is still even there after it's done getting MeFried, you could just support local music by going to venues in your area and supporting the musicians there. When I can afford it, I just buy CDs directly from the hand of the artist. On rare occasion they will have made a deal with the devil, but most of the time these CDs are either the equivalent of 'homemade' or done through a small independent company, at great expense to the artist. I find the music to be as good if not better than the corporate tripe passing as art.

Do I know which record companies are RIAA-affiliated? In some way nowadays even the smallest operations have to be to some degree or they can't function, but I know which artists are getting overlooked by the topheavy corporate behemoth claiming to actually BE the music industry, and I don't need an overworked website telling me which local companies support those artists directly.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:29 AM on July 21, 2003


The problem with a tool like this is one of inaccuracy. I looked up one artist (Happy Rhodes), who has been releasing indie stuff for about 17 years now. She had one album on vaguely major, Samson (a label which screwed her over and drove her back to independence). The only way to buy her albums right now are through her website. A site that purports to hurt the RIAA but hurts indies at the same time strikes me as a waste of time.
posted by jburka at 10:31 AM on July 21, 2003


the Radar was briefly discussed in MeTa a few months ago.
posted by gluechunk at 10:31 AM on July 21, 2003


That's good, because I just emailed to tell them that you are a file-sharer, and now that are going after you.

Because you disagree with me?
posted by hyperizer at 10:32 AM on July 21, 2003


It's a joke. Not a funny joke, but an attempt at humor.

Technically though, you are a file-sharer since you are accessing this page over the internet and downloading a copy to your computer. It contains copyrighted works by each of the participants.
And that's ok.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2003


no. no. i demand royalties.
posted by quonsar at 10:41 AM on July 21, 2003


My bad! I guess I should have specified "people who distribute copies of works copyrighted by RIAA members."

For people who disagree with the current copyright laws, wouldn't it be more productive to write to your representatives and maybe even contribute some money to their campaigns? The more people that boycott the RIAA, the more "evidence" they'll have that file-sharing lowers CD sales.
posted by hyperizer at 10:41 AM on July 21, 2003


'I guess I should have specified "people who distribute copies of works copyrighted by RIAA members."'
Just to be a complete ass about the whole thing, is it ok if I edit that to read, "people who distribute copies of works copyrighted by RIAA members without authorization or a legal right to do so." ?
Thanks.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:48 AM on July 21, 2003


Well, for one, wanting to boycott the RIAA doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with file-sharing. I don't use file-sharing programs, but I can tell what the RIAA is doing to stop them are beyond bounds... and that doesn't speak to all the other bad things the RIAA does that aren't in the realm of file-sharing.

Where you buy your music (like directly from the artist vs. indie record store vs. tower/amazon) has no bearing on who owns the right to it (and who profits from those rights). While it should affect your decision on where to buy it, the rights owners still have the control of what to do (or not to do) to the people that purchased (or didn't purchase) their product.

And as to the point of the Radar being "inaccurate", I would ask what was inaccurate about the results? It listed about 10 albums associated with Samson, and since Samson appears in the RIAA membership list, returned a "Warning!" flag. You don't have to be big or a major label to be in the RIAA.
posted by magnetbox at 10:51 AM on July 21, 2003


Just as a little exercise in ethical sophistry, how would people feel about going ahead and downloading mp3s, then sending the artist some large multiple of what the RIAA-affiliated record company would have paid them for it?

Yes, it's still using material produced by the record company and they don't get paid for their engineering and manufacturing costs, which makes it technically unethical. On the other hand it compensates the artist a lot better than they would have been, and it would encourage artists to set up the means to work more directly with their listeners.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but does one wrong and an enhanced right make an acceptable?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:10 AM on July 21, 2003


For people who disagree with the current copyright laws, wouldn't it be more productive to write to your representatives and maybe even contribute some money to their campaigns?

oh, man. that's the loopiest thing i've heard in a while. (no offense)

there's no way that our pooled monetary resources can match the industry's (and its supporters'). that's a losing game that is a waste of time and validates a corrupt system. as long as political influence=money, we're fucked.

i think an RIAA boycott is probably the most productive thing we can do at this point, until musicans realize that enough people *aren't* buying their album b/c they're industry friendly. that seems much more effective than spending $X million to get the terms copyright shortened by 5 years or some other worthless legislation. the industry will die on its own. just give it time. (we'll be left with a lot of shite music, but who cares?)

i agree that the site is problematic, however. isn't it easy enough to do similar research on your own?

oh yeah, what Zachsmind said.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on July 21, 2003


George_Spiggott, I was actually thinking the exact same thing this morning, in regard to the new Radiohead album. i generally don't download music, but i dl'ed the whole Hail to the Thief album cause i wasn't gonna buy it, but i wanted to hear it.

now, i like it, and i probably won't throw it away (even though i can't seem to locate it right now). i was wondering if i could just send Radiohead a check for $5, and Capitol a check for $3 (or other way around?), and be done with any lingering guilt. it seems reasonable to me.

i don't mind paying for music. i mind paying the middlemen.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2003


MrGrimm -- unless you can find a way to send the money to Capitol anonymously, or you don't tell them why you're doing it, you're effectively confessing to infringment. That and I think $3 is generous, from what I hear about their production costs. Yes, they have marketing costs as well, but since those include payola I've no sympathy.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:36 AM on July 21, 2003


i mind paying the middlemen

These middlemen are the reason you want the music in the first place. Do you think the radiohead album would sound so fucking good if it weren't for the blank check the label writes for studio time? Record labels are a necessity, they fund artists and then get them heard. You know what, that costs money. By downloading a song without paying for it, you are cutting the total investments lables ( big and small ) can make on unheard of artists.

Artists are an investment, you take away the recoupment by illegally downloading, and you are left with Thom Yorke pulling pints at a pub instead of using the advance as a safety net while writing lyrics.

Also, don't forget about publishing. If I write a song, and Madonna records it, I want my $.08/unit for it. By not paying for downloading, you a cutting out the songwriter.
posted by remlapm at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2003


Do you think the radiohead album would sound so fucking good if it weren't for the blank check the label writes for studio time?

I don't know the terms of Radiohead's contract, but thought I understood that label socks the artist for costs like this. And I've never in my life heard of a label writing a blank check for anything, ever. Can you clarify?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:47 AM on July 21, 2003


Am I the only one here who sees the irony of the Top 100 non-RIAA albums listed with an online behemoth? Again, what we have here is the Bobo syndrome. Support those outside the plutocracy, but buy within the autocratic retail outlets. Wouldn't it be better to point directly to the studios who cut and produce the non-RIAA albums?
posted by ed at 11:49 AM on July 21, 2003


I agree with remlapm, in a nonconfrontational, mellow sort of way.

Plus, don't forget that nobody ever held a gun to an artist's head in order to force him or her to sign with an RIAA-affiliated label. If you want the album, you should accept the fact that the artist willingly signed the contract that ultimately made it possible for you to purchase it, even if signing was, in retrospect, a boneheaded move on the artist's part.
posted by Prospero at 11:53 AM on July 21, 2003


Prospero, all quite true. But the labels became the gatekeepers in a somewhat different world than the one we live in now. It is at least technically possible for artists to reach listeners without making that faustian bargain. What we're discussing is what we as consumers can do to help that process along without simply being cheap, thieving bastards.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2003


Sure George. They don't actually 'sock' the artist for it. It comes out of their artist royalties. Radiohead probably spent 2-3 million recording "Hail....". It's not necessarily a blank check, but with big artists, labels generally allow for high recording costs because they know they are going to make it back in sales.

Radiohead ( et al ) are given a recording budget, which is negotiable, but Radiohead know full well they better come up with something good, otherwise they will make no money after they pay back their advance. Also, sometimes the band pays nothing, and the producer takes on all the recording costs, but is generally awarded more 'points' ( percentages of net sales ) to help recoup his costs, therefore lowering Radioheads royalties ( there is a cap to artist royalties, and they must pay producers points from their cap ).

In a perfect world, radiohead would record their albums on tascam 4 tracks, but you know what, it would more than likely sound like ass.

Also, as to what consumers can do? Use iTunes/Pressplay and whatnot. Sure, they might not be as good as Kazaa now, but you are helping out the artist and songwriter. Additionally, support downloading of entire albums only ( no singles unless the artists agree to it ), otherwise we will be saturated with bands that only write singles, and miss out on some true non-commercial gems that are foundon albums.

Also, support the eff.org, those guys are on the right track. George, I happen to work for a major label, in copyright, so if you want more info e-mail me.
posted by remlapm at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2003


And as to the point of the Radar being "inaccurate", I would ask what was inaccurate about the results? It listed about 10 albums associated with Samson

Uh, the problem is that only one of those albums was actually released on samson; the others were all released on a little indie out of Albany called Aural Gratification. Strikes me as inaccurate.
posted by jburka at 12:20 PM on July 21, 2003


If you are going to boycott the RIAA, you should write to the bands whose music you like, but are not buying. For example:

Dear "Band X"-

I really like your music and will come see you play live when you're on tour, but as long as you are on "label z", I won't be buying your CD. This is because "label z" is a member of the RIAA, an organization whose legal tactics I disagree with, etc....


At least then bands get the message and maybe some of them will choose to not sign that next contract if enough of their fans are boycotting their label. And in turn, maybe some of these independent labels will resign their RIAA membership.
posted by pitchblende at 12:33 PM on July 21, 2003


Am I the only one here who sees the irony of the Top 100 non-RIAA albums listed with an online behemoth? Again, what we have here is the Bobo syndrome. Support those outside the plutocracy, but buy within the autocratic retail outlets. Wouldn't it be better to point directly to the studios who cut and produce the non-RIAA albums?

As the site mentions: If you can find another hugely popular web resource that has a gigantic music library, plus has unique product codes for every product, plus all the label information in every product, plus has an open window to its database for developers... Don't like Amazon? Then use their bandwidth and information and services, and go buy things from wherever you want.

If Amazon didn't exist and didn't allow this information to be available, this tool wouldn't exist... and it is true, it is just an informational tool. There is nothing saying you have to purchase the albums from Amazon. It may hint towards buying things from Amazon, but those clicks help pay for the cost of having such a tool available, and in a small way gives Amazon credit for making such information and services available to the public.

And nobody knows everything about any particular artist or record label. I have proof in the amount of emails and feedback I get. Some users are surprised to find that Christina Aguilera is on a major label... to me, that's amusing. Other users find their favorite "indie" band, and they're suprisingly on a major label... or find out indie folk artists like Ani DiFranco are in the RIAA. That stuff is surprising to most. If you're using your indie rock intuition to know what's safe and what's not, you're probably wrong a good portion of the time.
posted by magnetbox at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2003


I think $3 is generous, from what I hear about their production costs...

It's weird how you never hear the same argument about buying books. I'll bet books are pretty cheap to produce, but people don't bitch about book prices.

A while back, Jeff Waye from the non-RIAA label Ninja Tune gave a pretty good overview of what you're paying for when you buy a CD.
posted by hyperizer at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2003


What we're discussing is what we as consumers can do to help that process along without simply being cheap, thieving bastards.

In order for artists to benefit from the ability to directly reach listeners, they have to be willing to turn their back on the extremely efficient distribution channels that the RIAA and its affiliated companies afford. As consumers, we can seek out and support non-traditional sources of purchasing music, but we're not empowered to show artists how to use those sources--they have to choose to do so for themselves. If I were to directly send Radiohead $5 for their work, isn't that demonstrating to them how amazingly well the RIAA distribution pipes work, just as if I'd picked up the CD as a loss-leading item at Best Buy?

Corollary: part of the reason that the RIAA has such a hammerlock on the music business is because of the ease with which they can distribute songs, which is why the Radar's compilation of top 100 non-RIAA albums available at Amazon is such a good idea. I'm much more likely to buy indie music if I don't have to spend any effort looking for it.
posted by Prospero at 12:47 PM on July 21, 2003


And as to the point of the Radar being "inaccurate", I would ask what was inaccurate about the results? It listed about 10 albums associated with Samson

Uh, the problem is that only one of those albums was actually released on samson; the others were all released on a little indie out of Albany called Aural Gratification. Strikes me as inaccurate.


Well in that case, the data is inaccurate, not the tool. I can't control the data... and on checking, Amazon isn't the only place that lists Samson in the label data. That is probably the fault of whoever provides Amazon its music data (such as AMG), and those companies usually go by the letter (aka there's no reason it would put Samson on something that didn't come from Samson in some way.)
posted by magnetbox at 12:49 PM on July 21, 2003


I don't believe boycotts work anyway. And this one may even do more harm than good. I say, download away, and if you find something you really like, buy the CD. If sales don't go down the RIAA is going to look even more criminally stupid pursuing their already feeble case. If this boycott were to somehow work, the RIAA would be able to justify their case that filesharing is equivalent to piracy and theft.

If you're going to boycott something boycott those fake-ass CD's with "copy-protection".
posted by wobh at 1:16 PM on July 21, 2003


I don't care what fantasy the numbers allow the RIAA to justify. They're going to make the numbers say what they want regardless. What I do care about is the fact that the RIAA is actively lobbying to take away rights I've traditionally enjoyed as a consumer. If I (or you) buy their product, then I'm financially supporting their campaign to rob us of our culture. I refuse to do it. I haven't for well over a year, and I don't miss their product at all.

I also don't believe that all of that expensive studio time really does all that much to make the Radiohead disk sound any better. There are plenty of independent artists out there (go look at CD Baby for instance) with great songs and good production values. Most music sounds good with a little raw edge anyway.

I do accept the idea that the label is spending a lot of money to make sure we've all heard of Radiohead and to make sure we all want to buy the disk. I wouldn't mind seeing that vanish though. That's a valuable service to provide when distribution is expensive and you need to move a lot of units to justify marketing any particular artist.

The internet makes distribution cheap, and it makes niche publishing to niche tastes possible. That's better for everybody. More artists make money. More people get exactly what they want rather than kind of what everybody wants. The major labels are putting themselves in the middle of that though and fighting it on every front. The sooner they die the better.
posted by willnot at 1:55 PM on July 21, 2003


In order for artists to benefit from the ability to directly reach listeners, they have to be willing to turn their back on the extremely efficient distribution channels that the RIAA and its affiliated companies afford.

Efficient for RIAA and it's members or efficient for the artists? I think the answer is obvious.
posted by geist at 2:44 PM on July 21, 2003


Record labels are a necessity, they fund artists and then get them heard. You know what, that costs money. By downloading a song without paying for it, you are cutting the total investments lables ( big and small ) can make on unheard of artists.

thanks for all the advice. by the way, i just remembered that i didn't download anything. that's right, i'm a viral marketer for capitol. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:13 PM on July 21, 2003


In order for artists to benefit from the ability to directly reach listeners, they have to be willing to turn their back on the extremely efficient distribution channels that the RIAA and its affiliated companies afford.

Efficient for RIAA and it's members or efficient for the artists? I think the answer is obvious.


I can't tell if you're disputing my statement or not, but the answer is obvious--it's "both." The RIAA is excellent at promoting the widgets that it has for sale. Those widgets are still art, though, and that art is seeing a much wider distribution than it would otherwise. The problem is that, for the RIAA, an album's status as a widget usually means more than its status as art.

A lot of anti-RIAA rhetoric relies on a stereotypical image of the saintly artist who's purely concerned with getting his work out to the public, and therefore isn't required to have any business sense. The RIAA is running the music industry because it understands that art and commerce are intimately, inextricably linked. If many RIAA-label artists don't seem to understand that, or if their A&R guys are managing to convince them that it isn't true, it's their loss.
posted by Prospero at 4:32 PM on July 21, 2003


Prospero, what you fail to take into account is that we want to stick it to the man. The man is tryin' to keep us down. The man is exploiting the sweat of our brow. Stick it to 'im, that's what we wanna do.

Seriously, there is absolutely no reason why any artist who is able to raise the funds to do quality sound production needs to sign with the RIAA any longer -- except in the matter of marketing and airplay. The internet has removed the final barrier to commerce between indie bands and their listeners: five years ago if your record store didn't have it, you couldn't buy it, at least not easily. That's all changed. The only problem now is, how are people going to hear about it? Internet radio is impractical if you're not tied to a desk. File sharing helps solve that problem, because at least you can hear it. Trouble is if it's listenable, then you don't have to buy it. Various companies are working on that, but really, there's no substitute for airplay. We really have to take back our radio stations.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:22 PM on July 21, 2003


Thanks George, my point exactly, just thought it was a bit more obvious.
posted by geist at 6:22 PM on July 21, 2003


Well in that case, the data is inaccurate, not the tool. I can't control the data... and on checking, Amazon isn't the only place that lists Samson in the label data. That is probably the fault of whoever provides Amazon its music data (such as AMG), and those companies usually go by the letter (aka there's no reason it would put Samson on something that didn't come from Samson in some way.)

And you don't think this is a possible problem when your tool is recommending that a product not be purchased? If a random fan noticed this on a whim check of a favorite artist (both J. Burka and I are long-time members of the artist's mailing list), how many other CDs are misclassified with noone who knows better to notice?

AMG, by the way, gets this right. As does Tower Records and MySimon and CDUniverse.
posted by atholbrose at 11:45 PM on July 21, 2003


And you don't think this is a possible problem when your tool is recommending that a product not be purchased? If a random fan noticed this on a whim check...

My tool is not recommending that it shouldn't be purchased, or vice versa. It is giving you the RIAA result based on the information that's given to me from two separate, possibly faulty sources (the RIAA and Amazon). It's there to help your purchasing research, not be it.
posted by magnetbox at 7:48 AM on July 22, 2003


Prospero, what you fail to take into account is that we want to stick it to the man. The man is tryin' to keep us down. The man is exploiting the sweat of our brow. Stick it to 'im, that's what we wanna do.

I agree with you, George--however, I still hold that it's impossible to stick it to the man if the artists I'd like to support aren't willing to help me out in this regard and are, in fact, 100% in league with the man. The only entirely legal option for me as a consumer in this case is not to buy RIAA-supported recordings.

We really have to take back our radio stations.

True.

geist--just because I can argue from the RIAA's viewpoint doesn't mean I support their tactics, as I thought I made clear.
posted by Prospero at 8:39 AM on July 22, 2003


« Older deadly weekend in iraq...  |  The Right to Flash is an onlin... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments