I have read no less than three different posts today about music, Pandora, the RIAA and piracy. Well it’s actually only two real posts since Chris Pirillo’s offering was no more than a cut and paste of his conversation on FriendFeed. Along with his non-post post there was Cyndy Aleo-Carreira who looks to be filling in for Duncan Riley while he hobnobs with all the cool folks at this year’s Gnomedex. This was followed up with a post by MG Siegler over at VentureBeat.
Of course all this breast beating over the demise of online music services follows on the news of Muxtape supposedly running afoul of the RIAA and how Pandora is going to possibly pull the plug because of excessive copyright fees being collected by RIAA’s bum bosom buddy the SoundExchange. Of course the call to arms by the RIAA and SoundExchange is of course that they are only doing what they have to do to protect the musicians against music pirates. You know – those scum buckets who think that they can take whatever they want and not have to pay for it.
One of the most common arguments people seem to use as a way to combat the scourge of piracy is to price the products at a price point that is fair to both the artists and the consumers. Great argument but it falls apart on two parts
- The artists under the current label management system which pays for the RIAA don’t have any say over the price of their products. While this might be changing as some bigger name in the business tell the music labels to kiss their asses the fact is the labels control the whole process.
- Even if the prices are at a level that is considered reasonable for the quality of the music not everyone has access to buy the product online. The primary method of any purchases made on the web – including iTunes – is via credit cards or US based debit cards. Well guess what – not everyone lives in the United States and not everyone in the world owns a credit card.
While there are some alternatives to iTunes that do accept payment methods like PayPal they are few and far between (without googling name three such services) and then you have to hope that they even have the library of music available that will cover your interests.
As I read through all the comments from Chris’ cut and paste post it utterly amazed me just how many people equated pirating music with the person being cheap. The fact that we are willing to pay $3.00 for an over-rated cup of black swill from Starbucks and yet not want to pay 9.99 for a musician’s CD makes anyone who illegally obtain a copy of that CD as being cheap. Well I tell you what … the moment you make it as easy as walking up to a counter and ordering that CD and pay for it by putting my money on the counter then I’ll agree that those who steal it under those circumstances as being cheap bastards.
I also think that it is high time that we start making a strong distinction between the recording industry as run by the music labels and their RIAA lapdogs and the real music industry which is where the money we spend should be going to. As Cyndy Aleo-Carreira points out in her post on The Inquisitr
If the RIAA has its way, every music app, with the exception of basic consumer sales sites like iTunes, will be gone. In its zeal to recreate the past with a sales model that had the labels rolling in money and the industry controlled by the complicated and often incestuous relationship between radio and the labels, the RIAA would completely eliminate the technology that could make even the long tail of recorded music profitable
I would be willing to bet my next year’s almost non-existent ad revenues that there isn’t a musician around that wouldn’t love to see things like Muxtape and Pandora continue to keep doing the thing they do best – introduce us all to new and interesting musicians. Before Pandora was forced into a position of geotarding its service I can’t count the times that I came across music that I would have loved to buy either the single song or the whole album.
The loss of services like Muxtape and Pandora have nothing at all to do with piracy but everything to do with the recording companies, the RIAA and the government who depends on the massive amount of monies funneled into re-election campaigns. If anything services like Pandora would be a viable way to fight piracy especially if there was a way that anyone had an easy way to buy the songs they heard on the services like Pandora.
Will there be people who will always want something for nothing? Of course – that goes without saying but agencies like the RIAA and SoundExchange are not going to change that one iota. Digital goods will always be available through illegal means just as physical goods have always been available from the backs of trucks – nothing is ever going to change that. As MG Siegler points out in his post
But more, I’m perplexed. Both of these sites are absolutely brilliant for discovering and enjoying music — shouldn’t the labels and artists be embracing them? Figuring out how to make it work, rather than shutting taking them down?
Regardless of the spin campaign used by the recording industry and the RIAA the current situation of services like Pandora and Muxtape; and even Napster from some time ago, has nothing to do with fighting piracy but everything to do with maintaining their iron grip on their gravy train. It just so happens that the pirates are making us all realize just how screwed up the whole situation is. So in the end don’t be blaming the pirates or calling them cheapskates instead focus the anger and dissatisfaction on the recording industry for making it so hard to find the music we like and for all of us to be able to buy it.
UPDATE: Just after I hit the publish button on this I came across a post on The Technium called Why People Pirate Stuff – excellent follow up read