This is a piece I wrote that just ran this week on KCRW.
The big end of the year news report on the record business is - the
song remains the same. The RIAA, or Recording Industry of America has
finally agreed to abandon its strategy of suing fans that illegally
download or share music. They have a Plan B. Plan B is getting the
Internet Service Providers, or ISPs to enforce their rights.
After 5 years of meteoric declines in revenue, with thousands of
employees affected in all areas of the record businesses, the
industry’s big shift in strategy is to go from filing lawsuits against
downloaders, to filing objections with ISPs, who then are supposed to
file grievances with the consumer. Sounds like the record industry has
just created a new bureaucracy and the attorneys who run the RIAA
bought themselves another 5 years of job security.
Are we really moving the ball forward here?
This strategy will never work because it fundamentally does not
address the consumers’ experience of using the web.
Consumers download and stream as much information as they can get
their hands on - and they will continue to do that. There’s no way to
stop it as the internet is built to explore. The only way to solve
for illegal downloading and peer to peer sharing is to embrace the
internet’s unique abilities and monetize accordingly.
The illegal downloading solution is actually painfully simple. Create
a win-win platform for ISPs to deliver music seamlessly to consumers
as part of their internet service. Give consumers the worlds’ music
library, free with their internet. It’s not an opt in - everyone
would get the library with their service. Add $3 a month to their
internet bill. That’s it. $3. and they’ll access every song they’d
ever want. Do this and you’ve eliminated illegal downloading, piracy,
sheriffs, bad guys,…and everyone who should get paid, does.
The RIAA’s new solution simply transfers the job of sheriff from the
RIAA to the ISP. Just how long, and how much time do you think ISPs
will spend chasing their own customers?
We have to accept the fact that the internet provides “seemingly free”
media, and that sharing it is an important part of the web
experience. The question should not be how to stop illegal
downloading, but rather how to create an economic model that embraces
the values of this wonderful medium.
America is entering an important time in history representing new
visions and new explorations. It’s time the record business woke up
and faced the great opportunities lying at their feet.
This is where the piece ends. But if I had more time, I would have delved into the point that if I were an artist signed to a 7 album deal (or even a 4 or 5 deal) and it began anytime after 2000, I would be enormously frustrated that the caretakers of my hardworking career seem to be working in opposition to my own success - ie: suing the folks who want my music - and yet I would feel legal bound to support them.
While I fully support artists and labels for doing what they feel they need to to protect their assets from being ripped off, I cannot abide an industry that turns its back on solving the problem with urgency. After all this time, the RIAA’s solution is beyond embarrassing.