....LMB: "RIAA (Doesn't) Confront the Obvious"....

September 08, 2003

Steve Gilliard just posted an entry on his website about the RIAA's (Recording Industry Association of America) latest plans to fight the evils of mp3s (no permalink on Steve's site, the article's called "Vietnam, Iraq, file sharing", dated September 9). His basic conclusion is that the RIAA's efforts are doomed to failure. I posted a long comment to the article, which I may as well copy here for y'all to read. I've probably said a lot of it before, but:

You are 100% correct. The prime services that record labels offer to their musicians are: loans to record the albums; manufacture of the product (the CDs); distribution of the product; and marketing. And for this, record labels usually take 80-90% of the profits.

With the invention of digital distribution, record labels are no longer needed for services 2 and 3. Musicians don't need millions of dollars to press thousands of CDs, they just need sound files on a hard drive and some bandwidth to send it. If more artists got turned on to this, they could start keeping that 80-90% for themselves, and be able to make a living selling far fewer records and being far less popular. In other words, there could probably be a much larger number of successful career musicians. Which is, in my opinion, a good thing.

And finally, perhaps the "album" is a dead concept. Digital music proponent Chuck D has said that artists should sell individual songs in a "buy 3 get 4 free" package. He says that that's what many albums are anyway, 3 good singles accompanied by a lot of no-good songs to fill out the rest of the album. Perhaps artists need to focus more on making songs that people would want to buy indvidually, or small packages of songs that have a higher good-to-bad ratio than your average album.

Bottom line is that the record label has sort of lost its quasi-monopolistic power, control of the "means of production." And they refuse to acknowledge it, vainly fighting the future through lawsuits and temporary technological stop-gaps. They'll have to face up to reality at some point.

Posted by Jake at 11:00 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

As I've said on my own blog, the record industry's business model with relation to the artists is pretty much indistinguishable from loan sharking.

And if the record bidness doesn't wake up and realize it's not in the record bidness, it's in the music bidness, it'll face the same fate the railroad bidness did when it thought it was in the railroad bidness rather than the transportation bidness. And I suspect that particular funeral will be pretty much devoid of mourners.

Posted by: Lex at September 9, 2003 07:52 AM

As I've said on my own blog, the record industry's business model with relation to the artists is pretty much indistinguishable from loan sharking.

And if the record bidness doesn't wake up and realize it's not in the record bidness, it's in the music bidness, it'll face the same fate the railroad bidness did when it thought it was in the railroad bidness rather than the transportation bidness. And I suspect that particular funeral will be pretty much devoid of mourners.

Posted by: Lex at September 9, 2003 07:55 AM

Yes, the loan shark analogy is very clear. The labels loan money to the artists to record their albums, and the artists don't start making money until they've sold enough albums that their 10-15% commission has paid back the label.

I alos did an interview with Tom Morello last year, who also used a "tenement/slumlord" analogy for the record industry itself. You can listen to it at http://www.killradio.org/proginfo.php?id=26

Posted by: Jake at September 9, 2003 09:43 AM

I couldn't agree more. I wrote about your post and the lawsuits on my blog. What gets me is that we were promised so much with the spread of the internet, and how much freedom there will be online, blah blah blah. We know now that the net is just another place for us to be consumers, except in file sharing. The practice of the freedom that was hyped so much can get you sued. Great, huh?

Of course I recognize that there are legal and ethical dilemmas in downloading songs, but I agree that the RIAA is two steps behind where the technology is going.

Steve Albini's article on the music biz should be read by anyone ready to throw anyone downloading songs behind bars. The triangular relationship between labels, bands, and consumers is in a state of flux, and maybe it won't be so bad if one of those parties is out of the picture.

Posted by: Incadenza at September 10, 2003 11:27 AM

Sorry, the link for the Albini article didn't make it on the post. Here it is: http://www.arancidamoeba.com/mrr/problemwithmusic.html

Posted by: Incadenza at September 10, 2003 11:31 AM

The CD/Album business is inherently illegal as a tying agreement in violation of the antitrust laws. Tying agreements are those that effect trade by a dominant seller in the market requiring the purchase of one product to buy another of the seller?s products to get the desired product. If you like just one song on a CD you have to buy a bunch of other stuff on the CD you don?t want. You have to pay the industry for their crap to get what one thing you want. That?s illegal.

Posted by: J at September 11, 2003 10:57 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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