(Article used with Permission)
Now, as most of you know from my previous columns here on the site, I am extremely anti-RIAA. I think they’re a bunch of disgusting fat cats who wield the legal system as a tool to try to regain control of an industry that is slipping from their grasp, rather than trying to adapt to the new technology and going with it. They are convinced they can stop the filesharing stuff from happening, rather than just realizing it’s not going away and it’s been around for almost a decade now.
See, back in the days before Napster, what most of you may not know is there was this thing called Internet Relay Chat, or IRC. Back in the days of IRC, those in the know, swapped music and movie files back and forth, and still do to this day. Also, college networks were already starting to share music files. When MP3’s were invented, taking away the disgusting hugeness of .WAV files (which could be up to 100 MegaBytes per SONG), we rejoiced. Then the networks like Scour.net started up, which was basically a huge IRC search engine.
Then Napster came along, and the file sharing network idea became available to the public. Now, everyone knew about this… and music was a giant free for all. Full CDs were available for network downloading, and the Recording Industry panicked. Now, someone who was smart would have looked at this Napster module, bought them out, and then figured out “how can we make money off this.” Some people would have come up with the fact that this could be a huge boon that, used properly, could actually increase record sales overall. Someone could have realized that millions of eyes would be on this network every day, and millions of ears, too. Some sort of crazy advertising revenue might be possible.
But instead, somewhere along the line, the RIAA decided to go the way of the MPAA in the 80s when they sued Blockbuster video for the idea of “renting” movies. The MPAA argued that the availability of VCR tapes for rental would cut into the revenue they made from VCR tape sales. This case was, obviously, eventually ruled in Blockbuster’s favor. But the MPAA wasn’t quite happy from there. They combated it by making video releases “priced to rent,” which meant that, to get movies to rent to people, video stores would have to pay $30 to sometimes up to $100 per rental copy, a pricing structure which continues to this day. So, next time you rent a videocassette and break it, keep in mind that the replacement costs on VHS tapes can be $75 or more. (PSA from your friendly neighborhood Daniels).
It began with a lesser known website, with the RIAA vs MP3.com. An interesting case this was. Back in the beginning MP3.com’s system was as follows. The user places a CD in their hard-drive (thus PROVING they owned the CD) and mp3.com would store the fact that user owned that CD. Then, from any computer, anywhere in the world, you could access that CD without actually having the physical CD. To me, this is one of the most useful services in the world. I would much rather upload all my CDs to mp3.com at home and then be able to access them at work, without lugging a book of CDs with me everywhere I go. It’s easier not to lose them and easier not to damage them.
However, this service rubbed the RIAA the wrong way, and it was the first site they went after. They argued that the service COULD be used to facilitate the trading of pirated music files. Well, I used to be a member of AOL, and I used AOL to get to Porn. If someone uses AOL to get to Kiddie Porn, who is responsible? The user for downloading the kiddie porn, the site operater that is offering the kiddie porn, or AOL, which is just there doing it’s job.
Do you sue a gun company because the gun COULD be used to kill someone? Hell, do you sue a gun company AFTER the gun has been used to kill someone?
The answer is no. The RIAA used the courts as a pre-emptive strike against a service they didn’t like because it took some of the control out of their hands, even though there is absolutely nothing inherently illegal about the service. In the exact same way it is legal for me to make copy of a CD I buy for personal use, it is equally as legal for me to upload a copy of my CD to my computer (and MP3.com) for my personal use. So long as MP3.com could prove a secure service in which other people aren’t accessing my account, they are doing nothing wrong.
Another thing that is important to remember is: when the mp3.com lawsuit happened in 2000 (before which Scour, Napster, and mp3.com were still around), Total CD purchases actually went up even with the existence of the online services. But, this didn’t mean anything to the recording industry and in 2000, Alex Walsh then the vice president of marketing for the RIAA said: If we grew 3 percent as an industry, maybe we could have grown twice as much. There is just no way to tell how much we could have lost. There is no scientific or empirical way to determine how much more music we could have sold.
So, even at the beginning they were arguing that they were suing based on a presumed loss of sales, which means the RIAA was even trying to get these services done before they were even sure how they were going to affect the industry. Why? Control and Quality.
After the MP3.com victory, the RIAA fired off the Napster lawsuit, and it has been downhill from there. Lawsuit after lawsuit trying to, basically, stop technology in its tracks, rather than learning from it and adapting to it, they are using the courts to try and shore up a wall of sand. For every hole they plug, five more spring open. For every court battle they’re in, another two become possible. And, all the while this is going on, Recording Industry Revenue has dropped six percent.
Keep that figure in mind. Six percent. With broadband, CD Burners, and access to every song on the planet… global cd sales have fallen six percent. Just about anyone has access to every CD on the planet for free, and global CD sales have only fall six percent.
Amid one of the worst economies since the early 80s.
Amid $19.99 CDs for a half hour of music.
Amid one of the biggest void of talent in the music industry ever.
Amid growing DVD/VHS sales.
Amid XM/Satellite Radios.
Amid Streaming Radios.
Amid possibly the worst consumer backlash in recent memory.
CD Sales have only slumped SIX percent. Something else to keep in mind over all this:
In 1999, the last time music sales increased, there was an increase from 33,100 new releases in 1998 to 38,900 new releases in 1999. More new releases, more purchasing. Seems a simple explanation. But, something you DON’T usually hear the RIAA mention. In 2000, the number of new releases dropped to 27,000, and that number was mirrored in 2001. Which means, industry wide, there were 11,000 LESS releases. They cut their total inventory shipped by almost 25% and their total sales dropped only by SIX percent.
Now, I don’t know about all y’all, but I’m not going to buy the same CDs in 1999 that I am in 2000. If I have less selection, I’ll buy less.
Another figure the RIAA likes to tout is that almost of a quarter of the people THEY surveyed burn CDs instead of buying them these days.
Of the people THEY surveyed. Does it strike anyone else as problematic that the biggest source of data they use is surveys THEY conduct?
And remember, most of the mystical “decrease in sales due to piracy” happened AFTER they took it upon themselves to shut down Napster, Aimster, mp3.com and every other file sharing system that got in their way. But, all these details are left out when they tout their industry bulls**t about how CD piracy is costing them all their profits.
Now, if there IS one product I can give the recording industry as having died a painful, bloody death due to online piracy is the Single. Remember? Those old skool tapes that would have one song on them. The ONE song that they would charge you $3.50 to $5.50 for, with the “bonus” of another song off the album that sucked or a B-side that (usually) wasn’t good enough to make the album… and I only say “usually” because Pearl Jam had some of their best material released as B-Sides.
Now, what you’re left with is music coming out with less and less talent involved, more and more frequently, and prices of CDs that just keep going up, while the cost to produce them keep going down. It costs, on average, double to make a cassette than it does a tape, and yet CDs cost double cassettes. Why? How can something that costs five cents to make cost $20 by the time it gets to you. Well, lets see what the RIAA itself has to say.
A typical music fan who buys a CD might use that CD at home, take that CD in the car, make a tape of that CD, – or using it as part of a compilation, play that CD with friends and for friends, and keep that CD for many years. That’s probably why most consumers, when asked, describe CDs as a good value. At the same time, when asked directly whether CDs cost too much, some consumers will say yes! Why the contradiction? Because some consumers don't understand why the sales tag on a CD is so much higher than the cost of producing the actual physical disc, a cost, which in fact, has decreased over the years.
Yes, immediately lets make it the idiot consumer’s fault for not understanding.
While the RIAA does not collect information on the specific costs that make up the price of a CD
In two words… bull and s**t. You’re telling me they don’t know their costs to get a CD to market? Right, and I don’t know how many people read this column from week to week.
there are many factors that go into the overall cost of a CD -- and the plastic it's pressed on, is among the least significant. CD manufacturing costs may be lower, but it takes more money than ever before to put out a new recording.
Really? I can’t wait to hear this.
Obligatory stuff here about how artists rule edited for space
Once an artist or group has songs composed, they must then go into the studio and begin recording. The costs of recording this work, including recording studio fees, studio musicians, sound engineers, producers and others, all must be recovered by the cost of the CD.
OK, granted, I can see that.
Then come marketing and promotion costs -- perhaps the most expensive part of the music business today. They include increasingly expensive video clips, public relations, tour support, marketing campaigns, and promotion to get the songs played on the radio.
This is, in three more words: more, bull, and s**t. New artists need promotion, but how many new artists do they break each year and how many more are releasing second albums. Once an artist has “made it,” all the record company has to do is give a release date. How much promotion did you see for Meteora before it came out?
For example, when you hear a song played on the radio -- that didn’t just happen! Labels make investments in artists by paying for both the production and the promotion of the album, and promotion is very expensive. New technology such as the Internet offers new ways for artists to reach music fans, but it still requires that some entity, whether it is a traditional label or another kind of company, market and promote that artist so that fans are aware of new releases.
For every album released in a given year, a marketing strategy was developed to make that album stand out among the other releases that hit the market that year. Art must be designed for the CD box, and promotional materials (posters, store displays and music videos) developed and produced. For many artists, a costly concert tour is essential to promote their recordings.
Right, a costly tour. The same costly tour that brings in $40/seat for 15,000 people… which is $600,000 per night, before the money they will get from $20 T-Shirts.
But, enough with the groundwork.
Up until last week, the RIAA have been siccing their law monkeys on faceless corporations. AIMster, Napster, MP3.com, Verizon, etc. Last week, the RIAA Filed Suit against four college students, two of whom are students at my former college Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The lawsuit alleges that these four folks have set up Napster-like networks. Realisticly, all these guys have done is index a search engine across the campus network. Of course, as district judge Madelyn Patel proved back with the Napster lawsuit, the actualities of the technology really don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.
See, Napster really never did anything wrong. All Napster did was index a search engine that facilitated finding files on decentralized computers. They were a gateway, similar to AOL and Verizon. The ILLEGAL part of Napster were all the users who were trading files on it, but see, that didn’t matter to the judge. Since judges know nothing about computers (and neither do lawyers for that matter) they can’t make the differentiation… and they won’t admit that. So what you have is a bunch of technologically clueless f***s making decisions about s**t they know nothing about. Now, on the other hand, if I set up getfreecrap.com with a 20 gigabyte server with 2 million songs on it that I’m offering for free download… THAT’S illegal. However, if I set up linkstofreecrap.com and provide links getfreecrap.com, superfreecrap.com, and freemusic.com, I’m not doing anything illegal, but I’m providing a link to sites that are doing things that are illegal. But, according to people don’t know anything about domain names and ip addresses might think that I’m doing something illegal, too.
Regardless, the lawsuit goes on to claim that each of these students, on their respective websites, offered up a search engine. The lawsuit also claims damages of $150,000 per copyrighted work on the search engines for up to 700,000 files.
For those of you who don’t have a calculator handy, they are suing four college students for more than 96 BILLION dollars. And that’s just ONE of the cases.
So, what you have NOW is, not only is the RIAA shutting down corporate websites who are trying to make money… NOW they’re suing college students, who can probably barely afford their next dinner not provided by the dining hall, and who probably make about $8,000/year, much less afford a lawyer for the years that they may be stuck in legal wrangling. It’s ridiculous and it should make you sick to your stomach. See, there’s another group in the United States that use similar strong-arm tactics to intimidate their marks into submission, but we try to put the Mafia in prison all the time.
Hm… MafRIAA. That kinda works.
The backlash from colleges have already started. To this point, schools have been actively trying to shut down student-run sites when they are notified of illegal activity. This was also when the MafRIAA was willing to send them cease-and-desist letters. With this latest batch, however, no advanced noticed was sent and, instead the lawsuits were simply filed against the alleged perpetrators. Colleges are already wondering what the point of working with the MafRIAA was in the first place.
So, the lawsuits that I predicted months ago begun well ahead of schedule. The lawsuits of the enormous, multi-billion dollar MafRIAA vs the little guy. The guy who is doing nothing but writing a search engine. The guy who is trying to learn new things for the future of the computer industry. Instead… the MafRIAA is, once again, trying to stop technology. And basically, they want to ruin these kid’s lives for doing nothing inherently wrong. Nothing but writing a search engine. Well s**t, they better sue Google next. And, when the backlash from THIS lawsuit happens, and LESS people buy CDs then before… and total sales fall AGAIN… once more the MafRIAA will be completely innocent. They’ll drop their jaws and point their fingers at the Internet… all the while not laying one iota of blame on their greedy tendencies to throw around lawsuits and sue people with no money. Because, obviously, there’s not a person out there who will never pick up another MafRIAA backed CD after this latest lawsuit. Certainly not RPI, Michigan State, or Princeton Alumni, such as myself, who really has no interest in even buying the new Godsmack album tomorrow, which I’ve been waiting months for.
I mean, s**t, I already have a few tracks downloaded on my computer. F***’s the point of actually buying it when they’re going to sue me anyway?
Remember, next time you pick up a CD, where your money is going. Just remember that it’s now being used to ruin lives. Remember that it’s going to stop the advancement of technology. And remember it will only get worse the more leverage we give them.
Shutting down the sites that supposedly facilitate piracy isn’t enough anymore. Now they want to ruin people’s lives.
Maybe you’re next.
Godsmack tomorrow. The stuff I’ve heard from Faceless that isn’t the leadoff single is really good. Sully says it’s gonna be really good… who am I to argue?
Lisa Marie Presley… which is 10% her and 90% backup singers. Go figure.
Scarface… who I only mention because he is a PRICK in Def Jam Vendetta
And Jay-Z… who just about is always worth listening to.
New Live album has their tracklisting and cover art up for viewing at friendsoflive.com
Life of Agony will be releasing a 2-disc live set and DVD recorded at their reunion show back in January… spiffy. This band has released more material since their breakup then when they were together.
By the way, don’t buy any of these CDs.
Pearl Jam Can go F*** themselves, too
Vedder should learn to keep his mouth shut and just sing. I’m torn… since I already bought the tickets, I feel I have to go… if for no other reason than to boo him when he starts running his mouth. Hey Eddie, how about going to college for a year before you start talking smack about s*** you know nothing about… you pansy ass haven’t been good since Ten fuggin hippie. Oh wait, that’s right, Eddie is a Green Party member, which means he lives in a f***ing fantasy world where everyone loves each other and business isn’t necessary. Even though He’s already Got His.
In Other Reading
Yeah, I’ve about had it for today.
Modzelewski saw Dave & Tim… and he’s still a good guy, regardless of what he says about me.
Cody no longer pimps me. He is jealous of Claire’s and my deep devotion to one another. You may feel free to Read Him Though.
One Review this week? Are you guys serious? It’s Mitch Michaels with Hootie. Hootie with a new album…… are you guys serious?
Yeah, that about does it for me. If you wanted a bunch of different news, check out yesterdays or tomorrows. Also, spread this story to your friends. People need to know what’s going on.Posted by Muddy at May 16, 2003 05:13 PM | TrackBack