It’s an…interesting…time to be a music fan. There’s tons of it available, in a myriad of genres. And thanks to the internet, there’s a flotilla of music available at your fingertips. Some free, some not, some legal, some not.
You’ve all heard about the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and its fight against the people sharing mp3 recordings of songs on peer-to-peer (P2P) services. You’ve heard the screams from their side, of how this is devastating the industry. Blah blah blah. I’m no longer fair and balanced, so I don’t have to pretend I’m pro-RIAA. I’m not. And I’ve become less so.
The RIAA has fought mp3 trading through a logical series of lawsuits and legal actions aimed at its potential customers. There’s no better way to build a consumer base, after all, than treating your potential audience like criminals. Their latest legal action involves 261 major file traders who were slapped with lawsuits. The RIAA is going after the big offenders, the worst of the worst.
Meet one of the big offenders: 12-year old Brianna LeHara. Try not to laugh at the ridiculous image of a multi-billion dollar corporation aiming a huge cannon at a 12-year-old girl. This is the RIAA. This is the image they have chosen for themselves. Some folks might be embarrassed by this, but not the RIAA. They decided not to hammer this little girl for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They settled for two grand instead.
It’s a ridiculous circus. How much are all these lawsuits costing, anyway? If they’re so strapped for cash, how can they afford to subpoena everyone in the world?
One label has decided on an alternative route. Universal music has slashed CD prices to an unbelievable $13! How heroic! How daring! Never mind that the industry has price-fixed CDs illegally for years. Never mind that it’s too little, too late. Never mind that $13 is still about $13 more than “free”. This article accurately mocks this endeavor.
I’m utterly disgusted. Yes, I’ve downloaded mp3s. And artists such as Neko Case, The Minders, The Apples in Stereo, Idlewild, Shivaree, Hooverphonic, Wilco, and Rooney should all be glad I did, since that was how I first heard these bands, found out I liked them, and then went and bought their CDs.
But I’ve done so with increasing distaste. It’s no secret how little the artists get from CD sales. Courtney Love and Janis Ian, both recording artists, have spelled out the artist’s relation to CD sales in well-done articles. Buying a CD doesn’t support an artist financially, apart from being a vote of popularity sent to the label. So it’s become clear that by buying CDs, I’m not supporting the artists, I’m supporting the lawyers. I’m funding the practice of slapping lawsuits on preteens. And I’m tired of funding that.
The RIAA doesn’t give a hoot about artists. If it did, it would pay them better. It’s not the Recording Artist’s Association of America, it’s the Recording Industry. Huge difference. They’re not worried about Weezer losing its nickel from a CD sale, they’re worried about this new mp3 thing eliminating their job as professional middlemen. You see, thanks to current technology, my friend Kurt can play music, record it, mix it, and distribute it, all from his own bedroom, for very little cost. If he so desired, he could also burn it to a CD, print up packaging, advertise it, sell it, and distribute it online. It wouldn’t require a huge amount of money or effort, all the proceeds would go in his pocket, and there’s no need for a label or RIAA. This is what terrifies the RIAA. They’re not suing pirates, they’re suing the Grim Reaper himself. The clock is running out on their usefulness and they’re not going gently into that good night. They’re dinosaurs trying to sue the asteroid away. And I’m tired of funding it.
So I present you a very useful site. Boycott-RIAA.com. All your anti-RIAA news. It’s chock full of good stuff to know about the RIAA and its practices. But here’s the most useful bit, in my opinion: RIAA Members. These are the labels the RIAA represents.
So I’m in the mood for some new CDs. The Raveonettes, who I first heard thanks to some MP3s I downloaded, are on Sony. Uh-oh, Sony, looks like I’m gonna give that CD a pass. Shame, because it sounded really good. On the other hand, Dressy Bessy, who I also first heard on MP3, is on Kindercore records. Hooray! New Dressy Bessy CD for me! When the new Minders CD comes out, I’ll happily purchase it knowing that SpinArt isn’t a part of the RIAA. It’s easy and fun to boycott the RIAA!