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11:37 p.m. - October 09, 2007
The RIAA Verdict
Let’s see – dishes or write about tunes?

Well, der, what do ya expect?

And yes, my glasses are in one piece now, though driving on the Crosstown (62) was loads of giggles with one eye. But thanks to Poolie, and her virtual eye-patch, I made it through until I got to Lenscrafters for a repair job.

But since it’s late, instead of diving into mixes, I wanted to write about something related to the music industry. As you may have read, the RIAA finally got one of their lawsuits against an illegal downloader to court. And they won, and this downloader now is ordered to pay over $200,000 in damages for sharing 24 songs.

Now, I guess I am a sharer of songs since I burn CDs for friends, and also receive CDs from friends. However, many times, I use what people have burned for me as gateways to a particular artist. For example, without mix CDs from others I would never have downloaded (legally) songs by The Myracle Brah, The California Oranges, The Electric Six, The Shazam, among others. My collection would be bereft of “Rock And Roll With My Rock And Roll Rock And Roller”. And that just won’t do.

But most all of the music I have actually purchased myself. I am an avid consumer of music, and someone that the RIAA doesn’t want to get angry.

I have known artists that are trying to make a living at music, and that’s why I feel obligated to pay for a lot of it. They have to eat, you know. And I really think that one shouldn’t just scam an entire music collection for free.

Yet, the music industry is going about this all wrong. They need to fix their industry, and suing consumers of music isn’t going to do it. Even if they are stealing, targeting these people at random isn’t fixing the root cause of the problems.

For years, they’ve kept the prices of CDs artificially high, when manufacturing costs were plummeting. Only some independent labels dared to price some CDs at reasonable rates (like Dischord), and yet in big chain stores you could find Dischord CDs at $13.99 when they were $9.99 post paid from the company itself.

But until Amazon and some other huge retailers came into play, CDs were pretty well expensive unless you got one of the ‘hits’ during a ‘sale’. And still, CDs were more expensive than they should have been.

So when iTunes came on board, offering 99 cent songs and $9.99 albums, no wonder many brick and mortar chains closed down. Sure, they were crippled before, but that killed many of them.

The music industry’s consolidation has really hurt it. The major labels are now controlled by just a handful of corporations, and the labels don’t really mean anything. It used to be that A & M, Columbia, Atlantic, Elektra, RCA, etc. MEANT something. If a band was on IRS, you had a good chance it was hip and trendy, as opposed to a band on Epic, which probably meant it was fairly mainstream for the most part and if you were on Arista, you were a singles artist just looking for a commercial hit by any means necessary.

Now, it seems it doesn’t matter if you’re on a major label because they’re pretty indistinguishable.

It used to be that bands recorded albums every year. Some bands, like CCR, recorded three albums a year. It was a grind – album, tour, album, tour. But the tours weren’t long jaunts, and the bands tended to road test the songs. Singles were released every six to eight weeks and that kept things fresh. The charts were always moving and in flux.

Now, it takes forever for a band to make a new record, and there’s so much pressure to get a ‘hit’ it seems. I mean, there was always pressure, but now it seems that if you have a hit, you MUST record 39 songs just like it. So the albums all sound the same and uninspired.

And the fans are noticing it. They’re not buying it – because instead of art, it’s product.

(Yes, a lot of pop music has always been product, but it seems now more than ever…)

And with the digital age, fans are sampling and buying just the songs they like. I’ve done this – pulled up an album on iTunes and just scanned through and if some of the songs seemed flat and uninspired, I just bought the few tracks that really caught my ear.

Instead of a $12.99 CD, I may buy just $4 worth of tunes, because the rest of the songs aren’t that good. I want music of quality and distinction, not hackneyed recycled formula.

So the majors have declining sales due to the product decreasing in quality with no decline in list price for a CD. That’s not a good business model.

Yet, they claim ‘illegal downloading’ is the main reason for the trouble.

No, the main reason is that you’re not giving the consumer value for their hard earned cash.

Somehow, though, independent labels seem to be embracing the new paradigms of music. Bands are as well. Most independent labels just stay out of the artists way because they’re releasing music they like. What a concept! Of course, the ‘industry’ doesn’t care much for the independent labels – unless they’re trying to sign their acts or release albums on ‘independent’ labels that are just subsidiaries for major labels that you don’t realize until you read the fine print.

But now the RIAA has a victory, and their world will be saved forever.

Um, right.

Look, she probably was file sharing. Her excuses were kind of lame, but the amount of judgement is just out of control, and with all of the lawyer’s fees, etc. I bet the artists that were ‘ripped off’ will see just pennies anyway – that is – if they’re not in debt with the record companies.

It’s still not addressing the root cause. And it’s not going to fix the problem.

Record companies were scared to death of home taping, and now their scared to death of everyone’s iPods.

But they need to look at their business model, and in a business like music, the business model starts with releasing music that people want to hear. And not just one song. Work with the artists – encourage them to release albums full of good music that people will want to listen over and over again, and talk about with their friends, and fill up their diaries with analysis of the lyrical content.

That’s all it will take, really, and not suing single mothers from Duluth who just were following the trend.

Besides, with all of the spyware and crap that file sharing programs install on your computer, that’s punishment enough.


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