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Record Store Owners Blame RIAA For Destroying Music Industry 586

Posted by Zonk
from the should-have-thought-ahead dept.
techdirt writes "It's not like it hasn't been said many times before, but it's nice to see the NY Times running an opinion piece about the RIAA from a pair of record store owners which basically points out how at every opportunity, the RIAA has made the wrong move and made things worse: 'The major labels wanted to kill the single. Instead they killed the album. The association wanted to kill Napster. Instead it killed the compact disc. And today it's not just record stores that are in trouble, but the labels themselves, now belatedly embracing the Internet revolution without having quite figured out how to make it pay.' It's not every day that you see a NY Times piece use the word 'boneheadedness' to describe the strategy of an organization."
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Record Store Owners Blame RIAA For Destroying Music Industry

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  • a little anecdote... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yold (473518) on Friday April 06, 2007 @04:50PM (#18639651)
    I go to the second largest undergraduate university in the country. Within the last year, both record (CDs) stores near our campus have closed. The one that closed last week had a sign on the door that said

    "to all the people that download music, if you think you are only hurting big companies you are wrong. There are two working people with families who no longer have jobs because of music piracy."

    I don't know who is to blame for the major decline in CD sales, the RIAA's stupidly clutching to the old music business model, or the students with 3000+ stolen songs on their ipods. I admit that I have pirated music, but I just listen to SIRIUS now and don't even own an iPod.

  • NY Times (Score:1, Interesting)

    by midnighttoadstool (703941) on Friday April 06, 2007 @04:56PM (#18639735)
    The NY times are a bunch of bone-heads themselves, so it's a bit rich coming from them. And I'm not just referring to their recent major journalistic scandals. They aren't cold rationlistic businessmen, which is the lense they should use to analyse this situation, rather they have their rather-too-liberal agenda that they push pretty hard.

    You have to read their stuff through a special de-warping lense. Take this article with a big pinch of salt.

  • by HaeMaker (221642) on Friday April 06, 2007 @04:57PM (#18639755) Homepage
    This industry had to die. [salon.com]

    If the record stores are not controlling the market, and the radio is not the place where music is heard, then the artists win. If you find a new artist via MySpace, the artist wins.

    The artists should stop signing slave labor (or worse, pay their employer for the privilege of working for them) contracts and sell their music directly; either online or they can burn a CD as easily as a record company can press one.

    A band can play a small joint, record the show to a Notebook and burn a CD to sell to the patrons for $5. Profitable gig. DONE.

    Yea, it won't sound like a studio job, but the music loving community doesn't really care that much.
  • Re:Hello, RIAA? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andy_R (114137) on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:00PM (#18639807) Homepage Journal
    That's a great example. "Ozymandias", CD only bonus track on the single "Dominion" by the Sisters of Mercy, rights owned by RIAA member Warner brothers.

    Not available on iTunes, the only way to get it is via a torrent, or by spending about $50 for the original 3" CD secondhand, $0 of that $50 goes to Warners, $0 to the artist.

    Have a pat on the back for a job well done, Warner Brothers, I'm sure your shareholders are proud of you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:02PM (#18639839)
    The store owner seems to think that all downloads are illegal - once music became available online, the brick&mortar record store was in trouble. The ability for the casual music shopper to find the songs they want without having to leave the house, and the limited draw of the store pales. For every store with helpful, cheerful employees, there are (were?) 2 with condescending indie-alternative snobs who were rude to people just looking for what they wanted.

    The RIAA has shown that even if it squashed illegal downloads, it would not save the small stores - TFA mentions the deals with the big box stores that undercut the small stores wholesale costs. The RIAA would love to cut out every bit of the middle, and not lower prices one cent.
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:16PM (#18640027)
    Very interesting post. I want to see posts from people who are directly affected by the topic under discussion.

        By the way, I have a friend who is an excellent aucoustic blues guitar and dobro player. Can he come give a concert for a few hours some evening in your store?

        Oh, you don't allow music in your music store. You sell the packaged disks that come from the distributor. Music can only be played in a public forum like a bar. With special licenses and fees and union bullshit and dispensations from authorities and on and on.

        It's too bad that both my friend and you can't make any money in the 'music' business. He creates music and you sell music; we buy music. Again it's too bad that you both can't work together. You could both make money. But, that's not the way that the music business has been set up by those people who are destroying the entire business by refusing to be flexible to the 21st century.

        Oh well... Personally, I feel that I got a lifetime subscription to all music industry product when I spent most of my disposable income on music when I was a teenager. I don't 'buy' music product from music stores anymore. Oh, you disagree? Well, I'm just so sorry....Have a nice day!
  • by Lane.exe (672783) on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:20PM (#18640069) Homepage
    If the GP is talking about the University of Texas (my alma mater), then no, at least one of these CD stores was no different than your average record store. Same music, higher prices. It was actually cheaper to go to Best Buy to pick up the CDs you wanted, although the Tower Records was much closer. AFAIK, the actual "record store" stores in Austin are doing just fine. I buy most of my albums off iTunes these days, but that's only because I tend to do my music shopping late at night and from home.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:21PM (#18640071)
    ETA of record store troll: T minus one minute and counting. Look, we all want things as cheap as possible, even free, so we err on the side of any model that gives us that. That notwithstanding, there are reasons for the problems of record stores that have nothing to do with piracy: The music industry has been ignoring the technological development of the last 10 years. Not only that, they also don't understand their own product. Music has a strong social component. DRM, copy protection and a lack of devices which enable customers to share their music with friends (not necessarily by copying) make a product that people don't want, because it can't be used the way it is MEANT to be used. The CD store has as much to complain about to the record industry as it has to complain about piracy, but in any way it is an outdated business model, so it doesn't really matter if they're obsoleted by piracy or legitimate online distribution. I wonder if they would put up a sign thanking Apple for the loss of the CD store jobs if there were no piracy.
  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:21PM (#18640079) Journal
    That's sad. That is called evolution. You can blame piracy on it, you could also blame iTunes. The former is illegal, the latter is legal. Are both immoral ?
  • by mrtexe (1032978) * on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:28PM (#18640173) Journal
    As problematic as the obsession with DRM is, the biggest problem with the music industry is that profit per unit is not high enough to sustain continued investment, because capital can easily be invested elsewhere for higher ROI. This goes for both record producers and music stores.


    The solution is to increase profit per unit. That is done by increasing unit price, to about $50 per album.

    How do you get a consumers to buy music albums for $50 a piece? Take a page from the boxed set and extend the concept.

    1. Make sure the entire content has quality music. You want consumers to be able to derive hours and hours of non-stop enjoyment from the product. No more manufactured bands and no more "song and dance acts."
    2. HD formats without the DRM
    3. Remaster to support surround sound
    4. Include full-length video material on DVD, including the music videos
    5. album art, posters, copious liner notes with photos, lyrics, sheet music, guitar tabs, WMP/Winamp/whatver visualizations unique for the artist. Mini-biographies of the artists. Fun, unique little narratives for the consumer to read.
    6. unique items that make the consumer use of the product into an "experience"
    7. No DRM and you don't need DRM because no one can make a digital copy of an "experience" anyway.

    Ok, now that I've saved you, please cut me in on the action. No, really!

  • by swschrad (312009) on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:40PM (#18640315) Homepage Journal
    back in the 20s and 30s, most labels would NOT license for broadcast, leading radio to set up their own studios, orchestras, and put out better stuff than the labels did.

    the record industry wised up, and started getting all cuddly with radio. which became its jukebox and top promoter. you know, "Now on The Big Zero, 86th caller wins free tickets to Screaming Babies in concert at the Echobowl, 86th caller, GO! With! The! ZERO!! -- here's Pap and the Droolers -- get Nulled!"

    here's a hint. those weren't row EE tickets bought that morning, no sir. they were front 5 row tickets the record companies reserved from sale for promotion purposes. you play enough Screaming Babies, you get the tickets and a box of free albums. give 'em out on air and at public events, push WZRO and the record, climb on the spiral and ride to the top of the charts....

    then the top 40 of the week on WZRO 860 became the top 20, and then the top 15, and another wave of "kill the payola" went through the bizz, and now it's all hate talkers on either end of the political spectrum spitting on the station down on the other end of the dial. "them silly Internets things" came along, and radio and physical records became almost irrelevant overnight.

    and this morning, there weren't any dinosaurs outside my door when I got up....
  • by Tiger Smile (78220) <james@do[ ]n.com ['rna' in gap]> on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:44PM (#18640377) Homepage
    I knew some people here and there who were in the music business and allot that wanted to be. I'll be honest, not all were good. But surprisingly some were great, well beyond anything you hear on the radio. It's hard to get heard, played on the radio, and hit the right ear to get the record contract. I only know a handful that did that. Even then there are problems. Some ended up being pawns in the scheme to bilk money out of a large label. One band was hardly promoted at all, after recording great album. In fact the ONLY place I heard them played was at big name gym chain.

    Problems to beyond that. In one case a friend's band was to open for a well known band since they both had the same agent. It was a done deal, but at the last minute the big name band didn't want them to open. It appears to be out of fear that the opening act might be too good.

    I also know people who have made it and done well, but they are the exception. To date it's only 1 person out of the many many many people I met in the LA, San Francisco, and Boston music scene.

    Some bands I think people would enjoy.

    Tsar (fist Album if my favorite)
    Calendar Girls
    Lee Press-on
    Champion
    Ken Layne (kenlayne.com)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:46PM (#18640397)
    Still works in the right market. Try Berkeley or San Francisco.
  • Bandwidth (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dobeln (853794) on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:55PM (#18640503)
    "Movie theaters and HDTV may be their only saviors, in that it takes enormous (by current measure) amounts of bandwidth and storage to copy a quality movie."

    100 mbit pipes are growing common in these parts - personally, I'm on a 24mbit pipe, and frequently get over 1/Mbyte (8mbit) per second download rates on the good DC++ hubs. The movie industry can't be resting easy here - they're next.
  • Hahahahaha!!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StewedSquirrel (574170) on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:57PM (#18640529)
    You assaulted a customer who was approaching the register to pay for your product? In order to sell more product?

    You want to blacklist anyone who ever pirated music so that they are NOT ALLOWED to buy music with the idea that this will force people to buy more music? if someone downloads a song, then they are prohibited from ever again PAYING for a song, making music exclusively accessible through online pirating..... and this is supposed to make them... buy CDs? but wait... I thought that they were blacklisted..... I'm confused.

    Obviously, you didn't write this, as it was plagiarized from the Internet, but the original author of this is as "boneheaded" as the RIAA. Can't you see that the idea is patently absurd. heh

    Stew

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @05:57PM (#18640531)
    IMHO, the reason the music business is failing is greed.

    Among other things, I'm an media producer. As such, I've had to get CD replication done for clients. Even small runs of CD's - we're talking 5000 and up - the cost for full replication, including artwork, shipping, printing, shrink-wrapping, etc runs well under 1.50 per disc. So the price point for CD's is just ludicrous.

    Combine that with the absolutely moronic state of A&R in the business, and you've got a recipe for failure.

    I'm also a musician. One who has his own album. And I couldn't afford to get mass replication, but I am replicating it on my own. And I'm charging folks just under 10 bucks for the CD, which has 19 tracks on it. When you do the math, that's a pretty decent deal.

    Lastly - I think we should be a bit cautious about tossing out the wheat with the chaff here. Just because you don't like every track on an album, doesn't mean it's not worth it in the long run to buy the album. Why? Because you are supporting the artist. Honestly, how many times have you bought an album on which you loved every single track? Me neither. But if the artist only gets the revenue from a single track, chances are they'll be working at Home Depot before too long. No one writes hits all the time, and part of supportin the arts is accepting that too.

    M.

  • by dylanr (455383) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:08PM (#18640659)
    The Dead Kennedys said it best back in 1985:

    Forget honesty
    Forget creativity
    The dumbest buy the mostest
    That's the name of the game

    But sales are slumping
    And no one will say why
    Could it be they put out one too many lousy records?!?
  • by Khaed (544779) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:08PM (#18640661)
    Downloaded music is free. It is easily copyable without loss of quality between copys.

    But there are a lot of people who don't want to break the law, even if it is copyright law. I'm friends with a fair number of them. They just won't pirate anything, at all, ever. Even if it means going without music.

    It's kind of a bitch, because they're hesitant about anything that is free on the internet -- free software makes their brains hurt. And the weird thing is, most of them are in their 20s and right at the age where you'd think piracy would be more common.

    And they're also the people who the music industry annoys with DRM, because people who want to pirate something will and nothing will stop them.
  • by zoney_ie (740061) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:17PM (#18640763)
    I buy more music on CD than ever these days (rip it then and do what I like with it). HMV, Virgin Megastores, supermarkets; constantly have a changing selection of CDs for under €10 (for comparison rather than exchange rate, iTunes is 99c a track here). If you want a new release, get it in the supermarkets (or sometimes the record stores) on marked down price of maybe €15, or else just buy for about €11 from online places like CD WOW (I don't care where they import the CDs from).

    Seriously - are things so different in the USA or are people there just not prepared to even spend the equivalent of say €10 (about $12.50) on albums?

    The music offered here is more varied than ever too - there's a lot of old stuff being dug up and some of that you can get for less than €5 an album!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:17PM (#18640765)
    the real solution is vastly decrease your cost price and retail price by embracing the used CDs concept. stores that have based a large percentage of their business are not as endangered as those who tried to take on best buy / amazon head on. stores that have diversified further to include vinyl, dvds, accessories, etc could even claim to be doing well.

    much of what you described was tried with dual discs and dvd-a, sacds. while, personally, i'm in love with the sound quality of them, there wasn't much available on the format, and even at typical new cd prices- say, 15-20 dollars- they really didn't sell too well. higher quality plus dubious, not-what-the-artist-intended, surround sound mixes, with the addition of a bunch of shit you can get online for free anyways, does not equal an experience. and it sure as hell wouldn't be worth fifty dollars.

    as far as an economic strategy, profits for big name rap breakout stars represent unprecedented ROI- those records are recorded very cheaply, often on home equipment, and then sell millions.
  • my.mp3.com (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:20PM (#18640803)
    Actually it was my.mp3.com :D

    You could also buy CDs from 3 different retailers (only 3 signed up before we got sacked).
    And INSTANTLY get access to the songs. Your cd would arrive days later. I had many an un-opened CD i purchased :D

    Here is a pic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mymp3com_screen shot.jpg [wikipedia.org]

    Thats my all legal (well i guess not after the ruling) music collection, i was a systems admin there.
  • by myowntrueself (607117) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:20PM (#18640805)
    Piracy is killing the music industry.

    The de-industrialisation of music?

    Sounds good to me.

    Industrialisation has caused so many problems for the world. Aside from the benefits of mass production of consumer items such as cars or refridgerators, industrialisation only brings dehumanisation.

    The industrialisation of warfare.

    The industrialisation of education.

    The industrialisation of music.

    All three have been distanced from reality; warfare has become so preposterously easy that nations walk into wars with their eyes shut and no idea what they are getting themselves into.

    Education has become a process of (attempted) mass production of nearly identical minds.

    Music? Music has become a process of mass production of bland repetitiveness.

    Will the likes of Britney or Metallica be able to survive in a post-industrial music world? I doubt it. And the music stores which pander to this kind of rigid, unimaginitive pap? I doubt it.

    There will be more live music and improvements in software and technologies which today contribute to 'piracy' will only help to return control over production to those who actually *create* music.

    Its becoming easier and easier for 'ordinary' musicians to produce and distribute for themselves; music becomes a 'cottage industry' again.

    Next on the de-industrialisation hit-list: education.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:28PM (#18640893)
    "warfare has become so preposterously easy that nations walk into wars with their eyes shut and no idea what they are getting themselves into."

    Wait...which era are you talking about?

    In past centuries, a minor social slight could cause one European country to declare bloody war on another. Sometimes, leaders declared war as a sort of casual sport. They were so cavalier about it. Warfare today is a bit more deliberate, don't you think?
  • by greginnj (891863) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:41PM (#18641001) Homepage Journal
    Here's a record store that is near a much smaller university; it is not only surviving but doing well:

    Princeton Record Exchange [princetonr...change.com]

    Note that they also buy used albums, so they are not bailing out on their stock. In fact, "...Please Note: We do not currently handle mail orders, list our inventory or sell online mainly because our inventory changes greatly from day to day."

    So it's a hardcopy music store that buys stuff back and refuses to do mailorder/online. Tell me, RIAA Cassandras, how are they managing it?
  • by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:52PM (#18641089) Journal
    'bout time. A much proved dino-industry dies. Cry me a river. If by small independent lables, you mean all those hip-hop record labels that are selling out theatres and are making and owning their own music, then I say pour some more gas on the fire.
  • by spagthorpe (111133) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:56PM (#18641133)
    I have no aversion to buying music. My entire life, I have spent many hours in record stores, and had over 1000 LPs at one time. Even once CDs became popular, I made the 90-minute trip each way to a Tower Records store, because they had the best selection around. Problem is, over time, my musical tastes changed, became more obscure, and the music became very difficult to find in retail stores. I had a small used shop near me with a knowledgeable employee on similar brainwaves as me, and through him I continued to fine tune my music. Later, I changed tracks again musically, but still wasn't going to find new stuff in stores. Online stores have all this. I don't need to re-purchase all my old ELP CDs, and there aren't any new ones coming out. The Sam GOody in the mall isn't going to carry a lot of Norwegian death metal either.

    Back when I first got on usenet around 90-91, and discovered progressive rock discussion groups, full of people with similar tastes in music, I was amazed. Now I could find out about things that I couldn't even buy. Tape trading was still popular among that crowd, as few of us could spend the $30 for a imported CD that you didn't even know if you liked. I did buy some that I really got into though, but it wasn't in B&M stores. Once the mp3s got going it was more of the same. I can guarantee that Napster got me to ultimatly purchase far more music than I would have otherwise, because I could find what I liked. I go to at least 20 shows a year as well, and continue to support my favorite bands. Often traveling to other countries to see them since they don't have much of a fan base in this country. Which kind of comes around to my main point. As my knowledge of the world grew, so did my music, and that purchasing could no longer be constrained to my local record store.

    I feel for the small B&M music stores, but just like hat makers, times are changing.
  • by OakLEE (91103) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:03PM (#18641203)
    I was not questioning the comments themselves. You are probably right, they are different people. What I was questioning was why the community as a whole (i.e., the comment moderation) has two completely inconsistent viewpoints on two very similar issues.
  • Root Cause? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jordipg (910826) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:21PM (#18641389)
    I think it's worth noting that one of the only reasons that this controversy began in the first place is that we are all accustomed to large amounts of money being associated with the music industry. Ironically, the biggest amounts of money are associated with a very small percentage of the performers, and definitely not with the best music. In other words, CD's cost so much because we don't bat an eye at the thought of millionaire rock stars, multi-million dollar live performances, and billion dollar companies behind it all.

    Of course, none of that is really necessary for the production and distribution of good music anymore. Just look at the proliferation of internet radio and things like Pandora.

    Compare the music industry with the writing industry. No one thinks about famous authors as millionaires. There isn't a very substantial book piracy industry (in the US, anyway) because people that want to read books don't usually hesitate to pay for them. It's much easier to steal from someone you think is very, very wealthy.

    I realize that not all of the cost of a given musical product goes to the performer; in fact, I've heard that only a very small percentage does. Nevertheless, the perception is that most of the money goes in the pockets of people who have more money than you do.

    Fortunately, the information superhighway has the potential to mitigate this effect entirely. Let us hope the RIAA and the CRB do not slam the door on that, too.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:22PM (#18641399) Homepage Journal

    I don't think there is anything that could be done to save brick and mortar record stores the NYT article was bitching about either, and that was really my point. It didn't have anything to do with the RIAA, really. The RIAA was fighting for its life, and that's to be expected. They're being stupid about it, we think, and that's because we've already abandoned the RIAA's business model - we do not think it is reasonable (and for the record, I think that is precisely correct.) The thing that has changed here was the ability to get a good digital single at 2am, seconds after you discover it. From Europe, if required. No brick and mortar store can compete with that.

    As far as DRM goes, that, I think, will be a drop in the bucket. I'll tell you why: Everything to do with music and video and book "formats" can trace its roots back to insufficient storage. Everyone was looking for compression. Preferably lossless, but lossy was OK too if it wasn't too onerous. Today, you can buy fast storage devices in the half terabyte range for a few hundred dollars, and there is every sign that this trend of more storage for less money will continue for a while. There's nothing stopping any musician from putting down music in uncompressed raw format and handing it out. There's nothing stopping us, as customers, from storing it. No "format" involved really, more like "lack of a format." We're not there yet for video, but I think we will be. There may yet be a few free compressed formats that we can use, too. Also, eventually patents will begin to run out; and finally, no one can tell me, as a musician, that I can't give my music away to you. There are other models besides I give you music, you give me money. I write a blog, for instance, and I make a decent amount from the google ads. You can read the blog for free. Maybe you'll click an ad, maybe you won't, but enough people do to keep me writing. I've even got some music on there. I despise DRM, but I rest content in the fairly certain presumption that it will die because it is stupid and because it has its roots in conditions that will not obtain for all that long.

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:31PM (#18641489)
    major p2p services were reporting billions in ad revenue before they were sued into oblivion, but did the music industry get the hint and "out p2p" the p2p providers? no, they continued their rediculous demands for iron control over what music i'm allowed to listen to, how, in what format, and where, even in my own house!

    welcome to the future of the music industry, scorned and rejected for their rediculous demands for control over our stuff.
  • by TempeTerra (83076) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:35PM (#18641523)
    I think it's because people are more likely to express, and mod, viewpoints that they feel strongly about due to of a gut feeling or moral outrage. The common theme between the up-modded opinions is that they're simple and negative. It's easy and cathartic to express strong opposition, as in "I hate the music industry" and "furriners are stealing our jobs". On the other hand, moderate and nuanced opinions like "Existing music licensing business models are outmoded, and we need to achieve a smooth transition between current models and innovative solutions to maintain a healthy musical culture" or "a global free market is inevitable, and is the only viable alternative to a future of eternally warring nations" are more difficult to express AND proponents of such views are less likely to feel strongly enough to post or mod a comment, since their views are not usually emotionally founded (how many people are rabidly in favour of outsourcing, even though many people think it has a net positive effect?).

    More simply put, people who are afraid of outsourcing are more likely to post and mod than people who like outsourcing (or rather, pro-outsourcing people will still post and mod just as much, but they'll do it in discussions about different things where their emotions are more stirred).

    This is just armchair psychology of course, but if it is correct I expect that most negative posts would be original posts (because the poster feels strongly about the topic) whereas moderate/supportive posts should be in response to negative trolls and flamebait, since the trolling would add the emotional incentive that the basic discussion lacked.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:45PM (#18641581) Journal
    Agreed, the last single I bought was over 30yrs ago, Leo Sayer - "Long Tall Glasses".

    These days I prefer DVD's of live concerts. "Rattle and Hum" is a favorite of mine, during a rendition of "Sunday bloody Sunday" at a Boston concert Bono makes a short speech aimed at the Irish of Boston "who have not been home in 20yrs" and have asked him "how the revolution is going". His impassioned little speech ends with the words "fuck the revolution". At the time it was an incredibly brave thing for an Irish singer to publicly denounce the IRA and it's Bostonian backers, it's also the type of thing that will never be found on a "top ten" single.
  • by 808140 (808140) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:55PM (#18641665)
    I lived in China from 2002 to 2006 and there, you have a completely different dynamic. Whereas in the US it's generally understood that copyright infringement is illegal and maybe even wrong, in China, there is absolutely no respect for copyright whatsoever. Large, legit companies offer mp3 search engines that directly link to popular music. The discman and walkman were never common in China -- the mp3 player is ubiquitous, and no one really buys music. Even if you wanted to buy a CD, finding a reputable vendor that isn't just selling you a pirated copy is difficult.

    So what's the deal? Why isn't the music industry dead in China, as so many analysts in the western world are predicting will happen here because of widespread "piracy"? Maybe they're just freeloading off of us? No, western music is not particularly popular in China. Much of their music comes from Taiwan and Hong Kong, but there's no respect for copyright law in those places, either. And the mainland market is growing, fast. A few years back one of the most popular songs ever on the mainland was a silly song some college kid recorded in their dorm and that spread on the internet like wildfire (Laoshu ai dami). So in a market where any artist can record their own song and make it big by word of mouth and "illegal" copying, what value-added services do the labels offer?

    The answer, simply, is fame. Nowadays, recording your own music and distributing it on-line is no longer difficult. Making it sound really good might be hard, but let's be honest: the top 40 hits aren't exactly classical music. They sound just about the same on shitty iPod earbuds as they do on a 20 thousand dollar audiophile setup. So, given how much you give up to have that producer do the recording for you, maybe signing with a label isn't such a great deal anymore.

    But the one thing a big label can give you is fame. Instant fame. If you want to be famous, if that's your goal -- and for many musicians, their goal is not so much making music as living like a rock star -- then the RIAA and its ilk can give that to you. In China, this seems to be their only purpose. They don't just make you into a famous musician, they make you into an idol. You sell products. You act in films. You go to fancy parties, appear on TV shows, you do all that stuff. All the bagua gossip magazines talk about you, all the kids want to either sleep with you or be you, depending on their gender. This is their value-added service: fame.

    That kid who did "Laoshu ai dami" -- I don't even know his name -- produced the most played song on the mainland (and in Taiwan, too, if memory serves) for like a two year period. His song was instantly covered by all sorts of label-sanctioned teen idols, who's versions went into heavy circulation. The kid, well, I don't know who he is or what became of him. That's the difference between having a label at your back and not.

    People will always want to be famous, and we unwashed masses will always want celebrities to gossip about, envy, and emulate. In a world like ours, becoming super-famous can be easy if the corporations are backing you, and without their help, it's nearly impossible to have sustainable fame.

    I don't see the labels and their ilk disappearing anytime soon. But like China, they may simply have to accept the fact that people are not going to stop copying music. Regardless of whether you think it's wrong or not, understand: it's not going to stop. Trying to keep it from happening is like passing prohibition, or trying to convince kids not to have premarital sex. You might win a few hearts and minds, but not enough to matter.

    The only answer is changing how your business model works, and what it emphasizes. Perhaps the Chinese model is worth a look.
  • Re:A little rant... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:08PM (#18642201) Homepage
    You hit it right on the head. Music equipment has largely been displaced by "home theater" garbage, and by garbage I mean a 6 inch "sub"-woofer and five puny 6-watt "satellites" whose tone is about as steady as a knocked-up Britney Spears. You can't go to the local megastore and buy music speakers, they don't have them anymore. They have multi-element bullshit home theater speakers, and if you're lucky the 16 year old salesperson might be able to recommend a set that's semi-decent, but in most cases he'll push you onto whatever earns him the biggest commission.

    That leaves you with the specialty shops, where you add a zero to all the price tags. I've got a few stores down the street, they've been around for ages. They're quite spacious and breathy, in that there's plenty of empty space like it's a goddamned art gallery. The sales people wear Armani, and they talk with a stupid fake accent that's a hybrid of British, Ontarian (abooot) and ASSHOLE. The answer to any question about a certain product, is the next product up in price, kind of like Scientology.

    The funny thing is I've never seen anyone enter either store, which is kind of odd when the daily throughfare is around 125 thousand in this particular area. Maybe it's because the shops look so friggin' hostile that nobody dares enter, still they must catch a few rich suckers to keep the business afloat.

    I guess the point of my rant is that you can't point the blame on any single entity, whether it's the RIAA, or made-up Christian Rock peddling psychopaths, or the illiterate short-bus acts that dominate the charts, or the assholes that killed the stereo business, or the people who rip and share music online. It's either everyone's fault, or no one's (direct) fault. Every aspect of human life is changing at an ever-increasing pace, that's the product of population growth and technological advances. Businesses that flourished 20 years ago are going belly up because they've gone obsolete, the same as most of today's businesses will be dead in 2027. The RIAA can't stop the world from changing, they're just making this beachball a more miserable place to live on, and 20-40 years from now, when our grandchildren discover our old MP3 stash and ask about it, we'll have to tell them the sad tale of the music industry, much like our parents (or grandparents for some of you) told the story of Buddy Holly's tragic death.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:30PM (#18642363) Homepage Journal
    The whole point of TFA was that the RIAA's tactics trying to "hold on" to their business killed it about as fast as optimally possible, given a retrospective view of the situation.

    Yes, I understand they were trying to blame it on the RIAA, but again, I disagree. It wasn't the RIAA. It was digital, easily transferred music. Didn't matter one whit what the RIAA did, that store would still be out of business right now. The RIAA didn't make music available on the net for free in digital form; you can't blame that on them. But *that* is what killed the store. They - and you - can try to blame the RIAA until you turn blue in the face, but that's not going to make it anything more than a sideshow. I said - clearly - that I thought the article was a poor one. This is why. No one promised the middleman anything, and technology passed them by.

    they could have easily extended their run and lifetimes quite a bit if they'd adopted technology and social change rather than turning luddite and then turning on their customer base.

    Well, I hear you, but I don't think that because you say so, it becomes fact. YMMV.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:33PM (#18642389)
    Little Background info on book piracy.

    Around 10-12 years ago i got into this as i was after a series of books by barry sadler that went out of publication in the 80s and i couldnt find them anywhere on the net or in shops to buy, not even to borrow from my library.

    So i join the bookz scene on undernet, looking around for them there and bingo they had just 1 but that was still 1 more then i was able to find anywhere else!

    I ask the regulars in the room for any help if they could suggest other places for me to try, none could suggest anything that i hadnt already tried though, but then about 3-4 days later, had a nice surprise, one of the regulars had remembered me asking for help while they were at there local library and did a quick look and found another one and had scanned it in for me, couldnt believe it in just under a week i had managed to find another 2 in the series!

    It then snowballed from there, other members then went out and found a couple more, one person even got one in a second hand shop and posted it to me to keep so long as i scanned it in.

    From here i listed all my books and offered em out for scanning as i had some rare and out of print books, and got a coule of hundred requests! luckily mostly for the same books, but damned if i didnt scan em all in though.

    anyway end of the boring background stuff of how i got into it.

    When #bookz was originally started it was just a place to trade rare and out of print books, but it snowballed from there with people asking for the latest books from places where they werent able to get it themselves, I.E. living overseas and couldnt get the book in english.

    Now adays though pretty much any new book out is available on the net within hours if you know where to look, but still i personally dont believe it has hurt the book industry as most people will realise that downloaded books are near useless (unless you can use the work printer on the sly), as it puts a hell of a strain on your eyes trying to read em, And upto a few years ago (havent check lately) there where no suitable portable devices that wouldnt kill your eyes staring at them reading for hours on end.

    I do remember when the 4th harry potter book came out though, a group of people all did the chapters individually and proofread just there own chapter, it took about an hour from it being released at midnight to being on the net.

    The average size of an ebook is about 100-200k so long as it doesnt have the covers, but even then thats about 500k with em, they are much easier to copy between people as most can download that in seconds.

    "Casca"

    P.s. posting AC for obvious reasons
    P.p.s please ignore all spelling and grammar errors as its half 2 in the morning for me
  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:40PM (#18642431) Homepage Journal

    I meant lack of a format in the intellectually encumbered, "we own this" sense. I'm an engineer; I understand the issues just fine.

    BTW, storage is not even remotely the driving force behind compression of music and video. Network bandwidth is.

    No — it really isn't. People are downloading multi-gig movies (and often in multi streams, like bittorrent); time, and therefore bandwidth, isn't a significant factor (and becoming less so all the time) they wouldn't give a rats butt if a tune took 4 megs and 8 seconds or 40 and 80 seconds in transfer of the tune, what they're counting is how many tunes they have. That's the bottom line. You don't see ipods and their ilk advertised as how fast they can move data; they're advertised in how many tunes they hold. It's all about storage - you're completely off base here.

    And streaming - that is *so* old news. No serious number of people wants streamed music. They want the music itself, in the library and owned. You couldn't sell me a streamed tune unless you provided a hot and willing brunette with it.

    Re Ogg, yes it is free, and one hopes it remains free. But the odds of some submarine patent torpedoing it are probably approaching 100%; just like JPEG. We live in an intellectually damaged society and will as long as patents in their present form remain status quo. The less tech is used in stuffing music, video, etc into a file, the less likely it is to be caught. No one has a patent on a text file, for instance.

  • by Belial6 (794905) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:41PM (#18642443)
    I can honestly say that if CDs were $2, I would never even consider copying a cd I didn't buy. If I knew for a fact that the CDs would still be available forever at $2 without DRM, I would probably also stop my household policy that original discs do not leave the house. Only copies go in the car. If they were $2 and I didn't have to worry about DBD (Defective By Design) problems, I can honestly say that my household CD purchases would be way more than 15 times what it is now. I used to buy at least an album a week. Once the DBD discs started coming out, I pretty much quite buying music. My wife was buying a little more than me. Since she got one DBD disc, she has not bought a single album. Also, we are not 'We just want to pay for one song' people. We want albums.

    Of course if Movies were $4, I wouldn't rent. I would just buy tons of movies. If last generation games were sold at $2 a piece, I would be happy to subscribe to auto purchase whatever they sent me. In fact I have done that in the past. I don't remember the magazine name, but about 10 years ago, there was a PC gaming magazine that came with a free full (OLD) commercial game in every issue. I loved that. I didn't really care about the magazine. Some of the games sucked. But, every month, I got a full commercial game to play for $2 or $3.
  • by myowntrueself (607117) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:52PM (#18642513)
    I agree with what you say but...

    But with the cost of production quality equipment continuing to fall to commodity prices

    I think that at the end of the day the quality of the music itself will end up being more important than the quality of the production equipment.

    Todays corporate-quality music is massively over-produced with massively overpriced equipment and massively overpaid producers and executives..

    Once we get past this into the impending era of de-industrialised music I think people will appreciate the *music* more than the production.
  • by tbuskey (135499) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:57PM (#18642543) Journal
    The recording industry will soon die, and eventually the only survivors will be the indie bands singing for the love of music. They'll end up as 21st century minstrels wandering from pub to pub, settling for a meager income and drinks on the house, regardless of their talent.

    I listen to folk music and the big names have already gotten out of the niche. Many churches around here in New England become "Coffeehouses" a few nights a week for folk singers. There is enough there for a singer to make a living, but they're not going to be rich.

    Some smaller labels have popped up for folk. Some run their own label. Some record in studios, some with a simple 4 track. For me, this all works.

    There is one radio station http://www.wumb.org/ [wumb.org] that does folk all the time and it's on the net since '98/99.

  • by NitroWolf (72977) on Friday April 06, 2007 @11:01PM (#18642929)
    This is one of the most appropriate and relevant quotes on I've seen about the RIAA and all these articles about what they are doing and not doing:

    "At this point, it may be too late to win back disgruntled music lovers no matter what they do. As one music industry lawyer, Ken Hertz, said recently, "The consumer's conscience, which is all we had left, that's gone, too.""

    It really strikes a cord with me, and I'm sure many others. I was (and still am) more than willing to pay for music. I am not willing to over-pay for music. I never liked paying $15+ for a CD with 1 song I liked on it. It's over priced, always has been. .99c a song is a bit over priced, but I'd be somewhat willing to pay for it and I wouldn't mind *too much* -- but when there is access to songs at .5c and .10c a piece, that's a little more reasonable to me. That's what I'm willing to pay (and I do from allofmp3 of course). I haven't downloaded music from P2P or FTP in years... I'm more than willing to pay for the convenience and quality of allofmp3. So are many other people. We've always been willing to pay for it - most have not been willing to over-pay for it. They've over-paid in the past because there was no other option.

    However, getting back to my original point - after the RIAA's antics, I have absolutely no remorse about downloading from allofmp3, or even using P2P to get the music I want. The quote is dead accurate... the last currency they had with consumers was their conscience, and they threw it away, stomped on it, whipped it out and pissed on it, then laughed. Now, I don't care. I just plain don't care ... after seeing the lengths they have gone to corrupt the legal system, the business model and everything else, I simply just don't care about paying them anything, ever. I will pay for a convenience, but I won't pay for the content. If that means no more content is being made, fine... I can do without. I will, however, pay artists directly for what they are worth. As soon as I can go to an artists website and be sure the funds are going to them, not the RIAA, I will happily download from there.

    To those "business owners" who are complaining about their stores going out of business - whatever the cause, be it pirates, the RIAA, etc... - too bad is about all I have to say. I don't want to buy CDs, in fact I never did. I never liked CD's... they were too big and a pain in the ass to carry around. Couple that with the fact that I had to switch CD's after every song or two (because I couldn't buy a CD with the songs I wanted on it), it made me hate the format. I want a format that contains everything I want to listen to in one discrete, easy to transport and easy to manage package. You don't or can't provide that at a record store, thus your business and your business model is totally irrelevant. Your business closed because it's irrelevant and nobody wants the service you are offering, not because of pirates or the RIAA. You need to adapt to what people want or go out of business... you went out of business... that's the way these things work.

    Record stores converted to 8 tracks (or added 8 tracks to their inventory), then added cassettes, then added CDs. The record stores that did NOT do this went out of business... nobody wanted to buy 8 tracks anymore. Any store that still sold only 8 tracks went out of business. Today, nobody wants to buy physical media like CDs or records... adapt like generations upon generations of music stores did before, or go out of business. Stop bitching about it... adapt.

  • by yog (19073) * on Friday April 06, 2007 @11:03PM (#18642941) Homepage Journal
    As a musician, I disagree. There's no law chiseled in stone that proclaims a musician's right to live off album sales. Musicians historically have lived by the largesse of wealthy patrons. Selling sheet music, performances, and recordings yield a certain level of income but for the average musician who is not a star, it needs to be supplemented by teaching, whoring (i.e., playing for weddings/birthdays/bar mitzvahs), building and repairing instruments, or a part- or full-time job washing dishes, working at a music store, etc.

    There's also no law that says a CD which cost about $0.50 to stamp out has to sell for $15. Cut the prices back to $5 or $8 per disk and you'll see sales go up. Record albums used to sell for $4 or $5 back in the day, then tapes came along and bumped the price up to about $10 or $12, and then CDs went through the roof. OK already, a CD *player* costs $20 so why are disks still so expensive?

    The amount of money musicians see from a CD sale is vanishingly small, especially when a middle man has done the production work. Do you honestly believe that out of that $15 (or $12 or $18) the musician is receiving more than $0.25 or $0.50? Typically not. If you self-produce, as less well-known musicians are forced to do, you have to front about $20,000 in studio time, design, copying and printing expenses, and it takes a long time to make that kind of money back from sales, let alone start to turn a profit. Disks are really a calling card, a way of getting your name out there and popularizing your music rather than some kind of bread-and-butter solid income that RIAA makes it out to be. Sure, a nationally known act with a dozen recordings out is going to be making some income from record sales but the lion's share is still going to the record producer.

    Because of this situation, I think it makes more sense to simply upload your music and get the public listening to it, then ask them to pay to hear you play live. People have demonstrated that they will pay for great music either live or recorded. There are people who were making thousands of dollars a month on mp3.com, though of course most of the musicians there were amateurs. Yet, mp3.com had an interesting business model and I'm very sorry it got bought out.

    The RIAA is living in a time warp. It's no longer possible to monopolize sound waves. Even twenty-five years ago, we used to constantly tape each other's records and tape albums played on the radio. No one was rich enough or crazy enough to purchase every single must-have album out there, though we all wanted to of course. Now we have a much better music delivery system that will very quickly get music out to millions of people all over the world--let's take advantage of it and the money will follow. Apple, CDBaby, mp3.com--they were thinking creatively and sooner or later a business model will emerge that leverages the current technology and gives musicians back some remuneration for their efforts.
  • by jocknerd (29758) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @12:17AM (#18643329)
    Before CD's, you had two choices in how to listen to an album. Either on a record or a cassette. Both formats pretty much forced you to listen to the album in its entirety. When the CD came out, all of a sudden it become easier to listen to individual tracks.

    So people buying singles from iTunes is a result of the CD killing the concept of the album itself.

  • Re:boneheadedness (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Maitri (938818) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @12:38AM (#18643431)
    I think that there is a flaw in your logic. You state that "they obviously can't make a profit" I don't think that anyone in the industry has ever argued that they aren't making a profit - they are saying that it hurts their profit. The problem is that it is hard to prove how much with statistics.
    Do these artists have a right to be upset about downloading? Maybe... (I dabble in writing and I would be thrilled to have people interested enough in my work to go to the effort doing something illegal). But is it really smart to start suing people - your potential customers? People who obviously are interested in your work? It seems to me that this indicates you really don't understand what consumers want and that is a big problem for a company to have, let alone an entire industry. I don't have a problem with the ethics involved in the situation - what I have is a problem with the business sense of these people. I also have a problem with an industry demanding that my middle-class tax dollar ought to go to protecting the profit of executive big-wigs that have several more zeros at the end of their paycheck than I do (trust me - they aren't worried about protecting the little people under them when they are lobbying, they will cut the low end jobs before they start cutting their own paychecks).

    I posted earlier about a great article I read on Baen's website. They are a book publisher and with the advent of book piracy and e-books they are starting to face some of the same issues. Rather than freaking out and worrying about the sky falling they have embraced technology and put books up for free on the site. Their argument is that increasing exposure will increase profits - and the actually have some statistics listed to prove it.

    For example: "Or take author Mercedes Lackey, who occupies entire shelves in stores and libraries. 15 years ago she published a series of books with "Arrows" in the title; she's been getting royalties ever since. However, one royalty period after putting the first "Arrow" book on Eric Flint's "Baen Free Library" site, she received over triple the normal royalty. In fact, payment on all her old titles increased, suddenly and significantly, with the only change being the availability of that one free book. I don't know about you, but as an artist with an in-print record catalogue that dates back to 1965, I'd be thrilled to see sales on my old catalogue rise."

    You wanted proof of a smaller company using free exposure and the internet to their advantage to compete with larger market forces, there it is. Baen has business smarts.
  • by king-manic (409855) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @03:27AM (#18644169)
    Since most recording artists that release CD's work for a percentage (professional hired guns excluded) the cost of a recording and pressing a CD is less then $1,000,000 USD. You can have it done for $10,000 - $150,000 depending on the studio you use, the time it takes, and the number of copies. The Recording industry doesn't ussually spend that much on the recording, it spends on the advertising. Which contributes nothing to the product.
  • by maraist (68387) * <michael.maraistN ... gmail.n0spam.com> on Saturday April 07, 2007 @11:27AM (#18646423) Homepage
    BTW, something that's often lost in /. discussions regarding music/movies: Just because you disagree with the price of something (especially something that you don't need!), doesn't give you the right to steal it.

    You're right except for 2 things.

    1) We're not talking about an individual stealing anything - though I'm sure a lot of us are haphazardly guilty - expecially during our poorer younger years. The issue is the invisible hand. The fact that the store left the back-door open and can't figure out how to put a lock on it means that there is plentify low-moral-cost availibility of a commodity good. Music, Musak, however you view the current pop-culture-in-a-box, has forced the industry to lower their commodity prices. The fact that they're now allowing us to purchase $1 songs (and especially now on itunes - the subset of a CD with no future risk) means that cost pressures are there.. That labels have to compete against the existing reality of their own short-sightedness. So $15 is no longer practical for a CD, the market won't bear it [for much longer].

    2) Copy-right violation is a legal term, and in that sense, as similar, but not identical to stealing. But there is no moral attachment to that particular law.. It's a purely commerce oriented legal artificat that both England and the US support. China isn't as big a supporter because it's currently to their benefit to allow copy-right theft to exist. But there is no fundamental moral dillema here. No more than having God-justice being applied to you if you use a button on a web-browser to purchase something in a single step (which violates the current suite of patents - unless that has changed, but was still in effect for some time). So please don't appeal to a higher sense of morality for a tertiary concept of commerce.
  • by Schnapple (262314) <`moc.saxetaiv' `ta' `ddikmot'> on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:53PM (#18648497) Homepage
    I think the real question everyone wants to know is, who would pirate christian rock CDs?
    At one point in time, my sister did. She was at the time the most die hard fundamentalist Christian you'll ever meet. Also at the time she could literally barely turn her computer on (I once had to "fix" it by turning it on - this was in College). And yet she figured out Napster (1.0, the old illegal version) and had filled out her puny 1GB hard drive with pirated Christian music

    This says a few things.

    First, it says Napster was so ubiquitous and easy to use a caveman could use it.

    Second, it says that, at least at the dawn of P2P, even people who made it a big deal to live their life through religious teachings (i.e., thou shalt not steal) and criticize others for not doing so (I once stubbed my toe and said "SHIT!" and got an hour long lecture from her) saw no problem with pirating music.

    But most of all it says that people didn't get P2P at the time, they just knew it gave them what they wanted. They don't want to buy CD's, they don't want to wait until the radio plays what they want, they just want to type in the name of a song and start listening to it. I honestly don't think my sister knew, at the time, what she was doing. She just wanted to listen to the songs she wanted to when she wanted to.
  • After IP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by trout007 (975317) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @03:05PM (#18648643)
    We are at a point in time where Intelectual Property cannot and maybe should not be protected by Governments. In the old days it was very difficult to copy something. To copy a book you needed a printing press, to copy music you needed expensive recording equipment, to copy any product you needed alot of experience. So at the time it was realativly easy to stop since there would be less offenders and it may have seemed like a good idea.

    But today IP can easly be copied by anyone and is impossible to enforce except for making examples. So they question is should we even use government to protect IP at all? I don't think so. People instinctivly ask why should movie and music stars be so rich and how it isn't fair but they fail to grasp the real reason. The reason is they use the force of government to protect their cartel. I think we should get rid of patents and IP protection because today they stifle growth. A persons reward for creativity and creating something new is their ability to be first to market. Artists will still make money but by actually performing. A musician can sell tickets to a live show. Movies still would make money in the theater because the theaters provide an expeience you cannot get a home.

    Some examples are the food and clothing industries. There are no protections for recipies or designs. You can legally make knock offs of famous dishes or clothing as long as you don't pretend they are made from the famous manufacturer. Those buisnesses thrive and come out with new designs all of the time.

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