Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, March 10, 2008

We Don’t Need No Steenkeeng Record Companies

First Radiohead; now Nine Inch Nails. This makes two popular bands whose latest CDs were released online. They’ve completely bypassed the recording industry. There's nowhere else for this trend to go but UP.

Another dinosaur is slooowly losing its grip. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of douchebags. The world is full of meanspirited amoral industries, but when it comes to taking a shit on the general public, the Recording Industry Association of America stands head and shoulders above the rest.

As you know, the RIAA has sued thousands of individuals. For the heinous crime of downloading music for free, they're often sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. OK, so it’s wrong. But a $200,000 fine?

On top of that, the RIAA has virtually strangled Internet radio. Sky-high royalty fees — for which the RIAA is responsible — have forced a lot of webcasters to close down. Their new fees (retroactive to 2006) are proportionally much higher than those paid by large commercial broadcasters. It was nice while it lasted.

Record companies have also been catching it from Big Box retailers. Because CD sales have gone way down lately, Target and WalMart (among others) are setting aside less shelf space for CDs. And as fewer CDs are available in stores, the public will buy fewer CDs, stores will set aside even less space for CDs, and the cycle continues…

Personally, I probably won't make use of these online CDs. I've never downloaded anything (but I listen to music on YouTube a lot). I’m one of those Luddites who has to have a solid physical record reel-to-reel tape eight-track cassette CD right in front of me, with a label that says “Name of Song” by “Performer.” (But I still tape music off the radio, which supposedly brought the recording industry to its knees in the 1970s.)

But as people buy fewer CDs and get more music online, the RIAA will ultimately go the way of the covered wagon repairman. It can't happen soon enough.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Blogger J. Marquis said...

I'm like you, I still like to buy the cd. And I enjoy hanging out in cd stores...hope that experience doesn't go away entirely.

March 10, 2008 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

J: Yeah, I like CD stores too. But if CDs get less and less common, hopefully the CD stores will branch out and carry other items. They could even have a "novelty" section where all the records and CDs are.

March 10, 2008 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

I like that trend. Personally, there isn't much on the radio I like any more. Besides, I don't need a radio DJ or record executive to tell me what I like or brainwash me into liking something by playing it so many times you can't help but like it.

There are SO many talented musicians out there - and a ton of web sites devoted to showcasing the unknown. I enjoy browsing their free music better than I do listening to the radio for sure.

March 11, 2008 at 3:11 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

Let me third the "I like CDs" viewpoint. Getting the artwork, the liner notes, lyrics, all that. It seems so ephemeral otherwise.

I can't remember the artist - I want to say Elvis Costello - who was releasing an EP or maxi-single online only, but you could also download artwork if you wanted to make your own jewel case insert.

March 11, 2008 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Carlos: Broadcast radio sucks, that's for sure. The Guitar Channel (linked in my sidebar) has a webcast plus articles and videos. That was where I first read about the RIAA squelching internet radio, about a year ago. The webcast is sometimes up and sometimes not, but if you're into jazz fusion guitarists, it's really dynamite. I thought that style of music died out after the 1970s, but there's a whole army of incredible jazz-rock guitarists out there that I'd never heard of; easily comparable to John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, Alan Holdsworth.

Randal: That's true, that's one of the things I'll miss when CDs are gone. I used to spend hours (yeah I know, get a life) in record stores poring over the liner notes on obscure jazz and blues records. I know there's a universe of music and information out there on the Internet, but in somes it's just not the same.

March 11, 2008 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

I also have to say I like CDs best, and like J.Marquis says, I like hanging out and browsing in CD stores too.

I agree with Carlos that there isn't much to listen to on mainstream radio anymore. It seems to me today's youth has indeed been brainwashed into thinking there are certain kinds of music they must listen to because that is what is "good" and "popular" (according to those greedy people who are telling them such things). What a racket... it makes all the old "payola" stuff from 40 years ago look like no big deal. And what a way to suppress all the actual talent that's out there!

I paid about $9 for the Radiohead "In Rainbows" album online, when it was released, because I had been dying to hear it. When it came out a few months later with artwork and liner notes, I got it again because I found out that I missed those things in the packaging. I probably won't be buying new music as online downloads again unless that becomes the general way people acquire new music. I too prefer to hold the actual CD in my hand, look at it, read the label, read the liner notes, enjoy the artwork, etc. So, I will go to websites, read music magazines, hunt the music down, hear it, and if I like it I'll order it from someplace like Amazon or else I will go to a CD store and buy it in CD format.

The music industry DOES SUCK, generally speaking. They have been spoiling what is good for years by attaching monetary priorities to it. I believe music is something people shouldn't treat as a means to an end unless that end is an inner, personal satisfaction. If the end is "how much money can I make from it", which I believe it is, we get the kind of modern pop/hiphop crapola that infests the modern popular music charts and airwaves of today.

March 11, 2008 at 12:33 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

I haven't spent any money on a RIAA product for 8 years, and I'm not going to start again tomorrow.

Not only did they sue us, but they have REPEATEDLY jammed Britney down our throats, even when we made it very clear we don't like Britney. They and DrearChannel stations are two things I avoid like a happy marriage avoids Dr. Phil.

F*CK the RIAA.

March 11, 2008 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Yup, broadcast radio really sucks. They use several different format names, but it sounds like they're all playing the same ten songs over and over.

Greed has ruined the music industry (like almost every other industry). It even comes from some of the musicians whom you'd least expect it from. I heard on the radio (one of the rare times I was listening) that Bono said ISPs should disconnect any customer that they catch downloading music illegally. Ouch! So much for all those liberal U2 lyrics.

JR: Damn, 8 years; that's an achievement. I still break down and buy CDs sometimes but I try to minimize it. I'll check out as many songs by that group as I can find on YouTube so I'm at least reasonably sure I'll like the CD.

DrearChannel -- LOL.

March 11, 2008 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

I think the best bet for all bands is to produce, record, and distribute their own music.

I realize it is not totally easy. But my brother has been in a band for over 10 years and they are able to do just that. Sure it costs money, takes equipment, etc but no where near what the recording industry and distributors demand.

It used to be that musicians required these parasites in order to make money and get their music distributed. Those days are slowly going away.

Should be easy enough for any band to record their own music and sell it for download via their own website.

There's likely still room for music stores to shift from CD's to MP3's where you can go in and download your music on the spot after previewing it. Especially if they can niche and aquire hard to get downloads.

March 11, 2008 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: So true. It's quite possible for musicians to do it all themselves and bypass the record companies. It requires more risk and entrepreneurship, but at least there isn't a corporate leech sucking out most of your profits.

It was kind of like that in the early 1960s with the British Invasion bands. They used record companies, but there were lots of small companies instead of just a few giant megacorporations. And most of those bands wrote and arranged their own music. Same with the psychedelic groups who came out a few years later.

The music industry was so vital a long time ago. It's a shame to see how much it's deteriorated.

I think most CD stores (especially the smaller ones) will be able to stay in business if they adapt.

March 11, 2008 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Mauigirl said...

I think in the future there won't even be CDs - it will probably all be downloaded. I'm still old fashioned like you - I like getting the CD case with the literature and names of the songs, etc.

March 13, 2008 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mauigirl: I'm sure CDs will become fewer and fewer. I hope CD/record stores can survive, though. Hopefully, if they branch out (music publications, DVDs, instruments, memorabilia) they'll survive.

March 13, 2008 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger David said...

As a musician, I can only echo your sentiments, downloading is not killing music,it is killing the music industry. An industry filled with people who care more about filing cabinets than music. YAY !!

March 15, 2008 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

David: You're absolutely right. Downloading, legal or illegal, has to be good for the musicians. It gives them more exposure. The established musicians who are already millionaires (Metallica, U2, etc.) can't stand the idea of somebody getting something for free, but I don't think most musicians have a problem with it.

March 15, 2008 at 6:39 PM  

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