Boycott the RIAA.
July 27, 2000 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Obviously an effort of a bunch of people who cannot see the big picture -- the RIAA doesn't make money when you purchase a CD, the individual record companies do. From that money, they pay all of the people who worked on that CD, from the manufacturing plant people who made it to the art department people who designed the cover, to the accountant who figured out who got what cut of the pie.

And a part of that pie is used to underwrite the costs of things like music videos -- yes, everybody who bought "Baby One More Time" paid for a small fraction of Britney's red fetishwear catsuit. Promotions are paid for -- those obnoxious commercials that they air on radio and MTV that tell us how popular and wonderful music is before anyone has had a chance to even hear it yet.

The songwriters get a small cut. The CD producers get a small cut. The session musicians and engineers get their tiny sliver too. And so does, uh, who am I forgetting?

Oh yeah, the artists.

So the average person who signs onto this movement stops buying their one CD a month. Big deal. Even if a million people agree to this concept, all it does is reinforce the RIAA's position -- that Napster users are more concerned with getting something for nothing and feathering their own nests than in doing what's right, what's fair and what's legal.
posted by Dreama at 2:04 PM on July 27, 2000

Is it right to allow the record company to force you to pay for something you don't need in order to listen to a musician you like, especially when that musician won't even see any of the money?

Is it fair to allow record companies to use their market clout to strongarm artists into signing away all rights to their music in exchange for what is almost always a pittance?

Should Americans let their government play hired gun for insanely wealthy record companies by letting them enforce ever-stricter interpretations of the copyright laws?

posted by Mars Saxman at 2:39 PM on July 27, 2000

Leaving out the red herrings, misinterpretations and the flat-out inaccuracies in your comments for a minute, and looking at the issues. . .

It doesn't matter!

Why? They're two separate issues, and all of the illegal free trading of MP3s in the world is not going to change the record industry. They are NOT the same fight -- one is coming from the end users of the product, and one *has* to come from the parties affected, namely, the artists.

Until the artists stand against the record companies as a united front, saying no more owning of our mechanical rights, no more co-opting of copyrights, no more crappy contracts that give us $1.23 per CD sold, when each CD makes at least $8 in straight profit for the company, the industry will NOT change.

And don't expect that fight to come from any major label name player that you now know. Why? Because if you know of 'em, then they have what they wanted, (fame and/or widespread exposure and/or chart topping sales) and they're not going to be stupid enough to take on the industry that gave it all to them.

How do we know that this is what they want? Because if their true desire was simply to make music and to get it out there to as many people as they could through grass roots means (and not through the hit record machine) then there'd be a thousand artists on the order of Ani DiFranco and a pitiful handful on the order of Madonna. There'd be more big names like Prince who fought to get out of contracts, or like John Taylor who walked away from a very successful group, who have both turned to the internet to distribute their music themselves.

Now, as to your last point, Mars:
Should Americans let their government play hired gun for insanely wealthy record companies by letting them enforce ever-stricter interpretations of the copyright laws?

First out, could your class envy be stronger? Companies make money, if they don't, they fail. Don't malign the record companies for being wealthy -- that wealth equals success and a lot of jobs. Secondly, you mistake the actions of the court for an edict of the government. Of all the bastions of redress in this nation, the court system is the least politically motivated. This isn't like Tipper Gore running to the Senate to do something about the dirty pictures on Def Leppard records. And lastly, copyright laws are being more loosely interpreted than ever, and the copyright protections on recorded music were redefined via legislation not so very long ago, when it was finally codified that it was, indeed, your right to make copies of the music that you own if those copies were for your own use.

So to answer your question in the style of a skit from the episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Jesse Jackson, the question is moot. The conditions that you question don't exist.

posted by Dreama at 3:15 PM on July 27, 2000

I do not believe that this boycott enforces the RIAA's position at all. The stance that they are taking is that the existence of Napster encourages the acquisition of records through legal means by exposing music to listeners. From the numbers on the sight, these people do actually buy records; records that may have never been bought had the person not been exposed to the music in the first place. Other means of exposure are often difficult for many bands to find and I would think that any additional exposure would be appreciated, especially if it eventually leads to an increase in sales. The debate still rages on as to whether or not Napster causes RIAA to lose profits, however meager the amount may be. Well, now they should take care, for they are losing money (however meager) due to their actions, not Napsters.
posted by TractorInc at 3:28 PM on July 27, 2000

If artists want exposure, they can easily get a website or an account on and post songs of their own accord. That's different than having their whole album ripped, put on Napster and dowloaded by several thousand people, without their knowledge or permission.

Illegal MP3 trading won't go away, just like home taping hasn't. The difference is, a legit company won't be making any cash off of what is essentially automated, organized theft.
posted by scottandrew at 3:49 PM on July 27, 2000

"...all of the illegal free trading of MP3s in the world is not going to change the record industry..."

Then what's all the fuss about?

(And if MP3 trading is straight-out stealing that hurts the music industry, then how could it NOT change the music industry, if only to inspire them to find a way to stop getting hurt by it? Suing Napster obviously isn't staunching their "wounds"; MP3 trading is almost as easy as ever, and general opinion now seems to be running about 10:1 against them for shutting Napster down.)

As I mentioned in one of the earlier threads, both sides are simplifying this issue too much. Dreama, it may be easier to deal with the issue of MP3 trading if you put blinders on and ignore the related issues of music distribution and artists' rights-- after all, if you can screen out every other interrelated issue as irrelevant, you're sure to win your argument. But like it or not, MP3 trading is intimately connected with inequities in music distribution and the control of same.

We're all familiar with the statistics which say that six corporations control 90% of all media, and the music industry is also "media" which is dominated by very few companies that decide which artists get distributed and which are consigned to oblivion. Yes, these corporations exist for the purpose of making money, but not all of us think that a subjective experience like music is best distributed by entities whose only concern is the bottom line-- which (rather than "class envy", I think) is why you keep seeing references to money in these comments.

Some MP3 traders are, in fact, motivated by a desire to see change in the music industry-- at least to the degree that the industry sell music online in the MP3 format, preferably on a song-by-song basis. MP3 traders aren't all class-envious freeloading thieves, and the people involved in the music industry aren't all money-grubbing, soulless and evil. Reducing the issue to those terms is only going to set up opposing camps and start them warring.
posted by wiremommy at 3:51 PM on July 27, 2000

"First out, could your class envy be stronger?"
Dreama, you keep attempting to shoot down arguments with this class envy nonsense. What makes you think that it's somehow irrational or illogical for the exploited to resent their exploters?
posted by twitch at 4:10 PM on July 27, 2000

Don't be too hard on Dreama; blame it on Ayn Rand.

If I tape Friends and give the tape to someone else, that's also copyright theft. Like most people, I don't take it seriously because the theft is negligible, and probably benefits the show.

Downloading songs on Napster has inspired me to buy several CDs. I've gone from a one-CD-a-year purchaser to someone who actually goes into record stores again. The record industry is doing much better with me because of the rampant distribution of MP3s. For this reason, I have trouble taking Napster's "theft" any more seriously than the VCR-assisted theft I've been doing for years.
posted by rcade at 4:43 PM on July 27, 2000

Are Wiremommy and I somehow displaying our class envy by preferentially buying music on indie labels, Dreama? The Napster brouhaha is only one part of it -- the entire major label system screws the vast majority of musicians.

And I certainly don't think that it's "class envy" to note the ever-increasing control large media conglomorates hold over copyrights -- as notions like "fair use" and "public domain" shrink, every one of us is culturally poorer.

The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900. It went out of copyright in 1951, and a wealth of fan literature and treatments have been springing up ever since. Steamboat Willie was released in 1928, and Disney's doing their best to make sure that the copyright never, ever expires.

It's simply become obvious to a lot of people that the RIAA supports a lot of dubious positions. I hardly think that Don Henley is an exemplar of someone who would feel that it was time to eat the rich.
posted by snarkout at 4:44 PM on July 27, 2000

No, let dreama go on. I'm always terribly amused when rabid anti-communists adopt social criticism virtually unchanged from Marx and Hegel.
posted by dhartung at 6:32 PM on July 27, 2000

As usual, my opinions lie somewhere in the middle. Not buying CD's wouldn't put a dent in the RIAA's pocket book. They're a type of union to protect artist's intellectual rights. They're gonna get hired, and their clients/members are gonna pay them no matter what.

Napster had to be made an example of. Simple as that. I'm sure all parties involved would have loved to find a way to make money in the deal. But they didn't.

I find it toally ironic how Limp Bizkit are such strong supporters of free MP3 trading (tour promoted by Napster, no less), and yet their page of samples consist of 30-second RealAudio files.

And yes, it think it's time the record companies start to change their thinking about their products and revenue. As I said once before: "Where's Tommy Mottola, Clive Davis and Berry Gordy in all this?" Answer: MP3 trading is good business, and it ain't harming the recording industry one bit. They're only losing a few cents, and getting a lot of exposure in return. What they need to do is hire some financial whiz kid to figure out a new business model, where you can get high-quality MP3's on the record company's sites (kind of along the lines of the "Legalize drugs/prostitution" theory)... thus eliminating the piracy on the web. Kind of a "Columbia House" on the web deal. Then the MP3.Com's on the web can serve a greater purpose by creating an underground and promote unknown and really talented artists. If you ask me... the unknowns getting exposure, and making a shitload of money using the internet will be the *only* way for the recording industry to pay attention and rethink about this...

...'Cause lets face it, if people were stealing stuff from *your* sites, and passing it around on the web, you guys would be hiring lawyers and pitching a bitch too.
posted by CyberPal at 6:45 PM on July 27, 2000

Let's skip the pointless political commentary shall we?It doesn't matter if you boycott the RIAA or not. They're still fighting the battle but they haven't figured out that they've already lost the war. Like it or not, if media can be converted into a computer file format, be it text, audio, video, software, etc. it will end up on the internet eventually and you'll be able to get it for free. That's fine with me.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 6:49 PM on July 27, 2000

"...if people were stealing stuff from *your* sites, and passing it around on the web, you guys would be hiring lawyers and pitching a bitch too."

Actually, if they credited me with the stuff they took from my site (as most MP3s contain artist/title info), I'd probably thank them. You can't buy publicity like that! (Well, I guess you can, but how much better not to have to.)

posted by byun at 6:57 PM on July 27, 2000

You can't buy publicity like that!

Exactly... that's why the record companies are sitting back and laughing their asses off at all of this. The only time I really had a problem in all this was when Metallica turned on their fans.

And yes Mr. Skullhead, the war is definitely over before it even started. This is why the record companies should really start thinking of a new way to legally distribute MP3's (preferrably cost-free to the public)... because I am *so* sick of lawsuits.

There was a proposition about encoding sponsor ads into MP3's... that was a hell of a great idea. Anyone know what ever happened with that?
posted by CyberPal at 7:20 PM on July 27, 2000

I think the whole sponsoring MP3 idea is about as stupid and evil and idea I can think least as a resolution to this conflict.

I'd rather pay money, cash, limbs, maybe, to NOT hear ads when I listen to my music. It's bad enough they're in public bathrooms now...the last thing I want to do is sell a bit of my mind space to Nike so I can listen to music.

IMO, if you have enough money to own a computer, you have enough money to pay the people creating the music you're listening to.

And then, to the guy who thinks copyright laws are more loosely interpretted then ever...where? Mars? Cause here on earth I see copyright priveledge extended 120 (?) years after the death of the creator...I see the DMCA...I see the decss trial...
posted by Doug at 9:16 PM on July 27, 2000

rcade: Don't be too hard on Dreama; blame it on Ayn Rand.

Fuck that, blame it on Dreama. Ayn Rand proposed a philosophy, and she's certainly not forcing Dreama to follow it, or forcing Dreama to interpret it the way Dreama feels like interpreting it.

Objectivisim allows for freedom, and for giving away a product. Don't let the glossy pamphelet version fool you, capitalism can handle Free Information.

And before you go bashing Rand's philosophies, don't forget the bit in Atlas Shrugged where the big composer guy (can't remember names) performed for his audience and refused money. The joy of seeing his audience enjoy his creation was enough.

Payment doesn't always mean gold. Flip side: I'm not arguing that artists should be willing to perform for free, either.

I think a lot of people don't realize that a huge percentage of the population, a percentage that's growing, is no longer willing to pay for the supposed privilage of having a copy of a song on CD, and MP3 and tape, and whatever other media we feel to have it on.

In the very near future, two choices will be available to the producers of content. They can either stop producing the content, or they can find other means of making money from what they do.

The first one will never be effective, because there will always be people willing to give away for free what others would charge for. People who write for their personal sites, who pull out a guitar around the campfire or who whistle while they work.

How are artists going to make money? Make stuff people enjoy, and present it to them. Music isn't bound to a physical constraint as much as other arts. Sound is very rapidly becomming ephemeral. You need physical equipment to enjoy it, yes, but the sound itself can be stored countless ways.

A CD doesn't compare to a live performance, which is how artists currently make the bulk of their money anyway.

Renting a video doesn't compare to seeing it in a big theatre.

Reading a book or a newspaper or a magazine online doesn't compare to curling up in a chair and flipping pages.

I could quite easily download the software necessary to modify and compile an OS kernel for free. I choose to by a FreeBSD CD because it's presented to me, compiled, all in one place, and it's convenient.

Or I could choose to buy a RedHat CD because I prefer their presentation, and their support.

Physical art - a painting, a photograph - is much easier to control. You can charge people the privilage of seeing it, or you can sell it to someone, and let them control it's presentation for money.

Control presentation of the content, and let your content be free.
posted by cCranium at 7:26 AM on July 28, 2000

I thought I read somewhere that most artists at best break even doing concerts and only the most successful are able to make money?
posted by gyc at 9:53 AM on July 28, 2000

A CD doesn't compare to a live performance, which is how artists currently make the bulk of their money anyway.

cC brings up a point commonly raised in these MP3 arguments: "Give away the music and make your money by touring". I don't agree with that stance. First reason is, I hate most concerts. I'm not fond of being packed into a space with a gazillion other people who sweat on me and shove me to get six inches closer to the speck on the stage. So if I want to support these artists, what am I supposed to do? I can only buy so many t-shirts.

Also, many of the artists I love don't tour, maybe can't tour. Autechre, Meta Beat Manifesto, Wagon Christ and Aphex Twin come to mind. What are these musicians going to do if no one pays them for their music? Sell t-shirts? Last time we had an MP3 discussion here, a musician piped up and said "I'm in this to play music, not sell clothes-- if I wanted to sell t-shirts I would have gone into retail." And he had a point. They're musicians, not fashion designers-- and besides, like I said, I can only buy so many t-shirts.

I'm willing to pay for music. I want to pay for music. But currently, a lot of the music desires that I have are not being fulfilled by our "free market" system. I believe this is due to market manipulation on the part of the major labels. Therefore I'm not buying major label music new, only used-- in effect, I'm boycotting the RIAA (the lobbyist group is made up of representatives from the five major labels, Sony, Time-Warner, Universal/Polygram, BMG, and EMI, and I'm not buying new music from any of those labels). This is a perfectly reasonable political response to the problem I see, and even if I'm the only one doing it and it's not effective, it makes me feel better because I'm acting on what I believe. Besides, I still buy the major label music I really want-- USED, where it costs less anyway.

Here's another reason to hate the RIAA, like you need one.
posted by wiremommy at 10:07 AM on July 28, 2000

I think the whole sponsoring MP3 idea is about as stupid and evil and idea I can think of

And, like VCR's that can record & skip commercials, I'm sure WinAmp will have a feature to skip the ads. I'm also sure you'll have to pay extra for this feature too...

In the immortal words of Damon Wayans: "Mo' Money, Mo' Money, MO' MONEY!!!!"
posted by CyberPal at 10:45 AM on July 28, 2000

Yes, please, blame me for my philosophies. I believe what I want to believe and apply it as I see fit, as do the rest of you.

When I hear, however, "wealthy record companies" this and "the artists are losing money but they make a lot of money anyway" that, it comes off very Robin Hood-like to me: steal from the rich, because they've got more than we have and can survive anyway or, steal from the rich because they don't deserve fair payment for what they've got because they're so rich. It screams to me of entitlement and typical underhanded class warfare, and I call things as I see them.

I'm frankly getting tired of all the haranguing over the issue, as it doesn't affect me either way. I just know this -- my opinion on this issue won't be turned until I hear a major artist speak fully in favour of 100% free trade of MP3s -- ah, with this caveat -- it'll have to be a major artist who *doesn't* have his hand in the corporate cookie jar. As such, Limp Biskit doesn't count, Fred Durst is a Vice President of Interscope Records.
posted by Dreama at 11:14 AM on July 28, 2000

So if I want to support these artists, what am I supposed to do?

There's no reason not to continue selling CDs for support, or charging for certain tracks mp3s. My point, though somewhat buried I admint, was that if the artists control the presentation, they'll be able to earn money any way they want.
posted by cCranium at 11:39 AM on July 28, 2000

Kitty's vision of the future: central sample sites (something like imdb for music would be sooo nice) that have information about artists and tracks, including links to the artist's site, where you can buy the CD directly.

Primary to this vision is a business model that *cannot* include payment by the artist or any music distributor for listing. The point is that the user would be able to find new music and buy it on its own merit, not just accept whatever pap the monopolies are offering.

Perhaps a subscription model would work. I dunno. In fact, this may well be off-topic. Bad kitty.
posted by frykitty at 11:45 AM on July 28, 2000

Ignore my high-falutin vision. I found this. I'll be using it to find direct links to the artists I want to buy from while I'm not buying RIAA disks.
posted by frykitty at 12:31 PM on July 28, 2000

An interesting look into the blatant lies that the Napster folks are pushing to the public in their quest to stay alive -- take a look at this chat transcript from
posted by Dreama at 2:40 PM on July 28, 2000

" opinion on this issue won't be turned until I hear a major artist speak fully in favour of 100% free trade of MP3s..."

Someone like Courtney Love, maybe? (Does it count even though she was basically parroting Steve Albini's article "Some of Your Friends Are Already This Fucked"?)

Love said: "Recording artists have essentially been giving their music away for free under the old system, so new technology that exposes our music to a larger audience can only be a good thing."

"...I'm frankly getting tired of all the haranguing over the issue..."

Yet you continue to participate in the discussion. If you're tired of haranguing over MP3s and music distribution, this is the wrong place to be. This must the the 10th sizable discussion on Metafilter about the issue, and every time the participants make new points that prevent us from summarizing the dilemma or finding an easy answer.

As Eileen Richardson points out in the article you linked to, "...these are the early days... we are five months old and in beta..." MP3s are relatively new technology and we're all still trying to explore all the implications of what this could do for music. I imagine there's a lot more haranguing to come.
posted by wiremommy at 3:58 PM on July 28, 2000

You know, that selfsame Steve Albini piece was taken from the Baffler (and it's in the Baffler book, and I think I've seen it reprinted in zines). It's on at least half a dozen different websites. I wonder if whoever owns the copyright (whether Steve or the Baffler) is aware of this. I wonder if they care. I wonder if they just think, "Hey, free publicity, and getting the message out."

If you don't know who the remarkably caustic Steve Albini is, he's a producer -- excuse me, "recording engineer" -- and the singer in Shellac. And very, very angry.
posted by snarkout at 8:16 PM on July 28, 2000

Someone like Courtney Love, maybe? (Does it count even though she was basically parroting Steve Albini's article "Some of Your Friends Are Already This Fucked"?)

I don't recall Love's statements to meet my criteria as mentioned, plus, I should think that those comments should best come from someone who is a.) not parroting and b.) is known for their coherence.
posted by Dreama at 11:07 PM on July 28, 2000

Steve Albini is not angry. I cannot think of anyone who loves humanity more than he does. He also loves the truth, and is willing to tell people that they are liars. It is just interpreted as being angry. Albini made this thoughts pretty clear on NPR yesterday, I do not know which program it was, and the NPR search engine seems to be down. Maybe it was just a Chicago show.

Courtney love is slime. She steals, lies, and destroys. If she were on my side of an argument, I would start looking at whats in it for her, or whats wrong with me.
posted by thirteen at 8:48 AM on July 29, 2000

Dreama has a point there. Other than Courtney Love, Metallica, Dr Dre.. Most of the artists are being eerily quiet about this. It's as if they either have their opinions but don't want to speak them cuz they know it would alienate their fans, or they're just waiting for the other shoe to drop before they come out and say, "yeah we were behind Napster all the time!" or "We were in full support of our record labels and we're glad to see Napster ripped to shreds and pounded into the dirt!"

It's sad actually. I mean if you actually had the chance to speak to any artist signed on with a big label, of course the first thing out of their mouth will be stuff like, "I do it for the music" or "I'm there for my fans" but the truth is, once they've signed up to a big label, all the rules of the game change. There's always a line of people protecting the artist from his or her fans. And considering the loonies out there, there's a distinct need for that protection, but somewhere the artists seem to lose touch, which is one reason I think why I sense very little good music coming out of big labels.

I think Emily Richards sums it up very well.

"...too often the chains of a record contract that bind an artist, are the very chains that hold them back from finding their creative voice. An artist needs creative freedom in the early days to find what works for them. ...That's not always possible for an artist once they've signed with a major. Major labels are great at marketing, promoting, and distributing big name artists, but can be slow to adjust to the fast pace at which a new artist needs to be allowed to work."

This doesn't just apply to 'new' artists. Once signed on with a big label, way too many hands get into the pot. Whether we're talking money, or the creative process. Odds are the reason why we've heard few big label artists speak for or against Napster, is because they can't. That same ring of protection that gets them their gigs and pays for the limosine also tells them what to do. When they sign that contract, they give up a lot of themselves.

posted by ZachsMind at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2000

Boycotting RIAA may or may not be a good thing, but I resented receiving a spam this morning urging me to do so.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:56 PM on July 29, 2000

I haven't gotten one yet. Not that I want one, but you have to admit it is inevitable.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:04 AM on July 30, 2000

I assume everyone here has heard "Have a Cigar" by Pink Floyd.

"By the way, which one's 'Pink'?"
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:48 AM on July 30, 2000

I should have made the point that I rarely download MP3s (don't have the bandwith to make it worthwhile) and I'm perfectly happy paying for content at a reasonable price. Many of you may not be old enough to remember when CDs first hit the market. Suddenly, we went from paying 7 or 8 dollars for an album on cassette tape to 14 or 15 dollars for one on a CD, for the exact same content!I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't like being ripped off by greedy corporations. They always whine and cry when a new copy technology hits the market. Did recordable tapes ruin the music industry? No! Did videotape destroy the movie industry? No! Corporations should be embracing the new technology instead of suing everyone in sight. Until they do so, I won't lose too much sleep over people stealing from them.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2000

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