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Why the RIAA Really Hates Downloads 289

Posted by kdawson
from the how-to-spell-irrelevant dept.
wtansill recommends the saga of Jeff Price, who traveled from successful small record label owner to successful Internet-era music distributor. His piece describes clearly what the major record labels used to be good for and why they are now good for nothing but getting in the way. "Allowing all music creators 'in' is both exciting and frightening. Some argue that we need subjective gatekeepers as filters. No matter which way you feel about it, there are a few indisputable facts -- control has been taken away from the 'four major labels' and the traditional media outlets. We, the 'masses,' now have access to create, distribute, discover, promote, share and listen to any music. Hopefully access to all of this new music will inspire us, make us think and open doors and minds to new experiences we choose, not what a corporation or media outlet decides we should want."
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Why the RIAA Really Hates Downloads

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  • by FeldOfBuzztown (1262824) on Monday March 31, 2008 @02:28AM (#22918414) Homepage
    Where do you get this misinformation? Rich Internet Applications Anonymous loves downloads. Can't get enough of them. http://riaa.buzztown.org/ [buzztown.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iNaya (1049686)
      How is this a troll? It's not even trying to offend anyone. Actually it was slightly funny.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sm62704 (957197)
        Slightly? No, this is "slightly" funny.

        Dr Crusher: A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says "why the long face?"

        Funnyer - the horse says "my head hurts, I just walked into a bar" (that one comes from some slashdot guy)

        Whereas the visage of a dead Sony BMG, dead RIAA, Dead DRM and all of us laughing at their funerals as their cocaine-soaked executives weep is absolutely hilarious.

        It seems that the 21st century uselessness of this 21st century phenomena is becoming apparent to all. Bye bye buggy whip manu
  • by The Ancients (626689) on Monday March 31, 2008 @02:34AM (#22918430) Homepage

    I wrote a (very) short piece [mothership.co.nz] on this a while ago, in response to an article on El' Reg.

    Again, looking at the list of 'discoveries' there, and at the reasons given here, it's hard to believe that the industry hasn't already fallen over in a big screaming heap. The only thing propping it up thus far are multi-album recording contracts, and their McDonald's inspired ability to foist very average fair on to the average user.

    In the last couple of years with GarageBand etc providing the ability for anyone to make reasonable music at home, the iTunes Music Store and it's ilk providing the ability for almost anyone to publish their work, and social networking sites providing the marketing (often viral), it's time these commercial dinosaurs went the way of their reptilian cousins did millions of years ago.

    • by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Monday March 31, 2008 @02:39AM (#22918454)

      From the tomes of Slashdot's quote at the bottom of the article on this one:

      Your wise men don't know how it feels To be thick as a brick. -- Jethro Tull, "Thick As A Brick"

      I thought it was quite accurate.

      The recording industry are just a bunch of puffed out suits beating their own chests in response to the threat of something surpassing them. They'll get bored eventually.

      • by R2.0 (532027) on Monday March 31, 2008 @08:55AM (#22920056)
        "The recording industry are just a bunch of puffed out suits beating their own chests in response to the threat of something surpassing them. They'll get bored eventually."

        No, they won't. Their livelihood is threatened, and no one gets "bored" in the face of rapid loss of income. It's definitely going to get worse before it gets better.
    • by Niten (201835) on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:12AM (#22918590)

      it's time these commercial dinosaurs went the way of their reptilian cousins did millions of years ago.

      I think you're missing the subtle distinction between "evolve and grow feathers" and "get tarred and feathered".

    • by QuantumFTL (197300) <justin.wickNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:18AM (#22918612)

      The only thing propping it up thus far are multi-album recording contracts.
      A friend of mine moved to LA and recently got his band signed to a record label. He contends that the major factor propping them up at the moment is ringtones, of all things.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2008 @07:50AM (#22919718)
        Yeah, don't know about the US but song ringtones are huge in the UK mostly due to teenage girls who feel the need to have shitty R&B playing at all times. (Including on public transport, yay.) A few years ago some tune (by Girls Aloud or the Sugababes?) had the dubious honour of being the first to sell more copies as a ringtone than a single, and this trend has continued.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sm62704 (957197)
          But the one thing that makes the ringtones have any value at all is the song behind the ringtone, or rather, the famousness of the song behind the ring tone.

          If the labels ever lose their monopoly on radio airplay they'll finally get the death we've all been waiting for. Unfortunately we're going to need ONE non-college radio station to get the ball rolling, like KSHE started FM rock radio.

          You can see now why they wanted internet radio dead, having all those usarious fees heaped on it.
    • by baboo_jackal (1021741) on Monday March 31, 2008 @04:25AM (#22918958)

      The only thing propping it up thus far are multi-album recording contracts, and their McDonald's inspired ability to foist very average fair on to the average user. ... In the last couple of years with GarageBand etc providing the ability for anyone to make reasonable music at home

      Sweet. I can't wait until my car radio has 10,000 stations and I have to wade through them all to try to find something that doesn't suck.

      You know, I think that the increase of accessibility of both creators and consumers of music is a Good Thing. That the internet is providing the medium for this free exchange is also a Good Thing. I also think that the efforts of the "dinosaurs" to prevent everyone from figuring out the baseline reality of the music industry in it's current state (i.e., completely free exchange) is Pretty Stupid.

      But... Dammit. Let's not get too overzealous in our condemnation of the value the Music Industry provides. They historically provided, out of economic necessity, whatever music was (subjectively) "the best."

      In order to do that, they had to try to figure out what artists would appeal to the largest number of people in order to maximize their profits. It wasn't an Evil Conspiracy to prevent your buddy's shitty band from "making it big."

      Imagine a world without Evil Corporations providing that service - listening to the radio in your car suddenly becomes like a Google search for not-crap, every time you try to use it. You can say all the mean things about people who actually *enjoy* top-40 radio you want, but that doesn't change the simple fact that more people would rather listen to Britney Spears than ObscureCollegeBand.

      Now, while I may or may not prefer Britney Spears to ToePhunkGrooveMaster 3000, I definitely do *not* have the time or inclination to wade through the previous 2,999 iterations of their crap to find something I like. I want someone else to do that for me.

      I mean, I compose music, myself. I know what I like. I have an extremely eclectic taste in music, and I appreciate the ability to pursue that taste. But sometimes I just like being able to turn on the radio without having to hope that Zach Braff will swoop down from the heavens and "change my life" by making me listen to The Shins. Sometimes, Britney will do. And so I think there's a place for those Subjective Gatekeepers in the world. (just as soon as they can give up the financial reins, and figure out what value it is they *actually* provide).
      • by nihongomanabu (1123631) on Monday March 31, 2008 @04:48AM (#22919050)
        You're right in that a service was provided by these gatekeepers, but now that archaic corporate model needs to change. There will still be gatekeepers, but the new gatekeepers will be bloggers and other online communities that promote music they've heard and appreciate. People who then in turn like the music being promoted from one source, or "gatekeeper" will come back to them for further recommendations.

        Some of my favorite bands have never been on the radio. I've heard about them through friends or through reading online. This new promotion style will more closely mirror this "organic" model of promotion.
        • by Yetihehe (971185)
          Just like with jamendo perhaps?
        • by Jarik_Tentsu (1065748) on Monday March 31, 2008 @06:35AM (#22919430)

          There will still be gatekeepers, but the new gatekeepers will be bloggers and other online communities that promote music they've heard and appreciate.
          I think a good example is the trance DJ, Armin Van Buuren. He mixes the weekly 2-hour trance mixes called "A State of Trance" which has tens of thousands, more likely even hundreds of thousands of downloads.

          It's played on proper radio stations, but is also available free online from many, many places at around 192kbps. He becomes the 'gatekeeper' almost - putting together good selections of recent music that the audience can be exposed to - some of it is obscure, some of it are big trance releases, but in either case, it's one source where the public can filter through all the crap and freely be given a good choice of music.

          Could this be a potentially good model for other things as well? Podcasts and radio shows becoming the next big thing - played both on real radio and available online? A State of Trance is a model that really, really works well - I wonder if things like this can be expanded to other genres...though, obviously certain genres and types of music - like post-rock concept albums, or really unique Progressive Metal bands, might suffer from the inability to be juxtaposed with other music.

          ~Jarik
          • by monxrtr (1105563) on Monday March 31, 2008 @10:19AM (#22920778)
            Yes, we are the cusp of Disc Jockey Super Competition. DJs used to be the Gatekeepers. But that role faded fast when Clear Channel owns the bulk of Top 40 radio stations across the USA, and the same set lists play on repeat 90% of the time for 90% of the big market big stations.

            You go out to a dance club, and hear music you have no idea who the artists are. That will change. And there will be new money and new fame for new talent, for new different artists and new different gatekeepers.

            Those pushing Payola music will have their clocks cleaned by those pushing new raw talent not inhibited by restrictive play lists. Sure, some Payola music is good, but some of it is just old model artificial scarcity pushing of tired formulaic drivel.

            I never understood why information in the music industry is so far in the dark ages. It's not at all easy to even know the name of the artists and songs which are playing on the radio. How many times have you heard a good song and it takes listener effort to discover who the artist is? You see tons of internet threads asking for help finding the artist/song with "...lyrics...".
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              It's all in the chosen metaphor... gatekeeper. Bouncer.

              Jailer.

              Instead of being guides leading you through the jungle, the established players want to restrict who actually can have contact with you. Thus the desire to keep the listener, the consumer as ignorant as possible so that they can maintain their Authority. The more information you have, the less you need them to play gatekeeper.
        • by Ollabelle (980205) on Monday March 31, 2008 @08:07AM (#22919766)
          No, I believe the new Gatekeepers will be the ISP's who will throttle and promote various websites in an internet version of Payola. Net Neutrality will be neutral in name only.
        • by plover (150551) * on Monday March 31, 2008 @08:25AM (#22919878) Homepage Journal
          The problem is not "will I be able to find a good gatekeeper whose musical tastes I agree with", but one specific to FM radio and publicly broadcast music. There are simply a limited and finite number of frequencies available, and these reach many more people daily than the average Shoutcast stream. Highly specialized tastes in music target a tiny audience, but radio is broadcast to hundreds of thousands of diverse listeners, and has to appeal to a broader audience.

          The radio audience is definitely different -- in many ways, they're more "captive." They're on their way to work in their cars, or agreeing on a shared radio station at the dentist's office, or playing a radio at an impromptu picnic. Frequently they're mobile, which for most citizens still means "no internet", or at least not enough with the bandwidth to play music.

          In a car, that doesn't matter as much. iPods and podcasts can give that measure of control to people who think that choice of music is important. But most people don't care about their music enough to mess around with podcasts -- the "pop" or "country" station is good enough to meet their need for an auditory background during their commute. And for many people, the DJ with the morning news becomes a personal friend. Again, podcasts lack that touch unless you're extremely diligent with syncing your iPod every morning moments before heading out the door. (That's still way too much effort for the average listener.)

          iPods also fail miserably in the case of crowds joined for reasons other than music appreciation. I promise you that there isn't enough music on my nephew's iPod that I could sit through for 30 seconds. (Actually, that's true for all the music choices of my nephews and nieces, and most of my siblings-in-law.) I'd likely sabotage the damn thing before the end of the first George Strait song. Similarly, my collection of electronica and trance would be nothing but noise to him. A "classic rock" station may be bland enough as to not offend either of us, but neither of us may have any classic rock on our iPods. So where do you find a classic rock station at the beach, or on a picnic, or in a car? The answer today is still broadcast radio.

          Perhaps in this new world the role of gatekeeper doesn't have to be a hand-picked RIAA payola jockey, but there are only a handful of frequencies to fill, and the public still wants "generic bland" music readily available. How are those few gatekeepers/DJs selected? Who identifies the DJs for the mass markets?

        • by R2.0 (532027) on Monday March 31, 2008 @09:00AM (#22920094)
          "There will still be gatekeepers, but the new gatekeepers will be bloggers and other online communities that promote music they've heard and appreciate."

          Oh, well, that's a relief - for a minute there I thought the gatekeepers were going to be self important blowhards with little taste and no style.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dpilot (134227)
          Don't think of it as gatekeeper for a moment, but as travel agent. What do you want to hear, and how do you get it?

          There are 2 such travel agents I can think of at the moment, with my limited experience - CD Baby and Pandora. CD Baby does small off-label artists, but they have a "sounds like" search that lets you put in major artists and find Indie music in the same vein. Then you can sample tracks and purchase, if desired. I haven't actually used Pandora, but according to friends it does "the Amazon th
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Well, I'm sitting here right now listening to Youssou N'Dour's latest album - 'Rokku Mi Rokka', which hasn't been promoted at all in the UK (he's Senegalese, and spends what he doesn't need on various projects in Africa).

        None of the Subjective Gatekeepers have led me to this music - it's my own choice to buy the CD and support the artist.

        I don't personally mind having to have my own 'not crap' filter - I can tell within 10 seconds or so whether a piece of music is being played well, and my tastes run from G

      • by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Monday March 31, 2008 @05:00AM (#22919102) Homepage Journal
        In fact, there has always been a sort of uneasy truce between those two groups. In the beginning of the relationship, the music publishers cried bloody murder about radio stations playing their songs for free, since there was no legal requirement then to cover a case like that. Then, once a royalty system was finally in place, some studios realised that "air time" had a positive effect on sales, and payola was born. Today, there exists an equilibrium due to cartels on the publishing side and on the broadcasting side, and companies like Clear Channel ruling over a publisher-friendly airwave monopoly.

        That's why I prefer internet "radio" when at home, listening to streams that friends make for friends. I don't want a gatekeeper to keep me from being flooded, I prefer a guide to help me to navigate on my own. Making it all about gatekeepers twists the argument, hides the fact that the self-appointed gatekeepers want to control all traffic, and aspire to be not merely bouncers but also jailers.

        But hey, if you want to defend your employers, go right ahead. Just don't denigrate the fact that I prefer to listen outside of the prison they have prepared for me.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by edumacator (910819)

        I definitely do *not* have the time or inclination to wade through the previous 2,999 iterations of their crap to find something I like. I want someone else to do that for me.

        I don't think this is really going to be a problem if the big labels go away. It would have been fifteen years ago, but the internet is set up to take their place as music taste sifters. I'm sure there would be plenty start ups to fill the void. I can imagine a thousand different services that would help filter the crap for you. In f

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pipatron (966506)
        Then you tune in to the "super ultimate pop radio channel", what's to difficult with that? Most web radios are not obscure. I listen to a couple of different music styles, and there are great web radios for each and every one of them, obscure or not. It sounds like you have to dial a knob and pick up the frequencies. Naturally you just select what kind of music you currently want to listen to, and pick out one of the radio channels left from a menu.
      • by sm62704 (957197) on Monday March 31, 2008 @09:27AM (#22920318) Journal
        They historically provided, out of economic necessity, whatever music was (subjectively) "the best."

        You're wrong.

        When I was a teenager I walked into a record store and the most amazing music was playing. Song after song. I asked the sales clerk who it was. "A new band, Led Zeppelin". I bought the album right then and there.

        The critics panned them and they never got any airplay; at least until non-critics and non-radio people found them.

        My crazy friend Tom Egbert called me up one day after school. "Man, you GOT to hear this album! It ROCKS!" He was right: the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced kicked ass! He never got any airplay, either.

        The Yardbirds never got airplay. We all found out about them from the local bands covering their songs. Meanwhile when you turned on the radio you got what they called "bubblegum pop". Yummie yummie yummie I got love in my tummy" - pure dreck, not unlike what you hear on the radio today, very similar to the kind of absolute crap put out by the likes of Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys.

        My oldest daughter is mentally handicapped. She likes the rap they play on the radio. My youngest (just turned 21) otoh is "gifted". She listened to punk and ska - and you didn't hear either of those genres on the radio (and never have outside the college stations).

        In short, the major labels and the radio stations they bribe with their cocaine payola never had a fucking clue what young people want, and still don't.

        to the radio in your car suddenly becomes like a Google search for not-crap, every time you try to use it.

        It's like that now, and always has been. Thank God and technology for CD changers.

        Sometimes, Britney will do.

        No, Britney will NOT do. Britney is a talentless bimbo. John Lee Hooker will do (he never got airplay either). Led Zeppelin will do. Tchaikovsky will do. Merl Haggard will do. Bob Marley will do. The Pietasters will do. The Dead Kennedys will do.

        Britney spears will NOT do. The Backstreet Boys will NOT do.

        You would have loved The Archies. Sorry dude but you have no musical taste whatever.
      • I can't wait until my car radio has 10,000 stations and I have to wade through them all to try to find something that doesn't suck.

        I too wish to pay someone to limit my choices. I find the vast array of products and services available to us here in the free market economies to be frightening and confusing. I really need someone to tell me what to wear, what kind of car to drive, what to eat, what kind of people are attractive, and generally what sort of lifestyle to adopt. Should I be gay? Wave a large American flag? Wear all black and mope a lot? I have no idea, and the thought of getting it wrong frightens me.

        Unfortunately, when I l

      • And so I think there's a place for those Subjective Gatekeepers in the world. (just as soon as they can give up the financial reins, and figure out what value it is they *actually* provide).

        I think you've hit on perhaps the key point in all this.

        The big labels became what they were because of the "rules" of the music business - it took corporate money and muscle to create and distribute high-end music. They grew to fill a need, and became rich doing so.

        Thanks to modern information technology, though, the r

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gordonjcp (186804)
      In the last couple of years with GarageBand etc providing the ability for anyone to make reasonable music at home

      It's even cheaper than that. The cost barrier to entry is effectively *nothing*, now. Go round your area on bin night. It's fairly likely that eventually you'll find a PC lying on the pavement to be picked up by the bin men. Take it home, nuke and pave, and stick Ubuntu Studio or similar on it. There you go, you can make music. Maybe not as quickly or easily as people using expensive paid-
  • once upon a time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 31, 2008 @02:38AM (#22918444) Homepage Journal
    a few spaniards got on some boats, and with some fancy new technology, subdued entire noble ancient civilizations in central and south america

    technological progress was not fair to the aztec and incan nobility. you wonder what they thought when they looked upon the gun, the horse, the metal armor, the smallpox. well, if you work for the riaa or a major label, you know more of what it is like to be on the losing side of technological progress like perhaps no other class of people in the western hemisphere right now

    so here's to you, music label suit

    heres to your vanishing jobs, to the jobs of blacksmiths, to the jobs of chimney sweeps, to the jobs of telegraph operators, to the jobs of steam ship engineer

    to the dustbin of history with all of it

    please no banging on your coffin while we nail it shut. thanks
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Nullav (1053766)
      Smallpox was a technological advance?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DMUTPeregrine (612791)
        The use of smallpox as a biological weapon was. While other diseases had been used as bioweapons before (catapulting corpses killed via the black death in seiges, for example) the absence of immunity to smallpox among native Americans made it very effective. Also, the natives hadn't used biological weaponry.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by El Yanqui (1111145)

        Smallpox was a technological advance?


        It was more advanced than tinypox.
    • by Cordath (581672) on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:39AM (#22918720)
      The Spanish conquest of the Americas is often overly dramatized. In all instances I am aware of, it was *not* Spanish technology that carried the day.

      Takes the Aztec's for example. Many story tellers will spin a glorious yarn about the siege of Tenochtitlan. Most of those will be glad to talk about how Moctezuma revered Cortés as a god. Most will also completely gloss over the fact that the Spaniards were only a small percentage of the force that laid siege to Tenochtitlan. The Aztec's were not very popular amongst their neighbors, so when Cortés marched on Tenochtitlan the Aztec's enemies came in droves to capitalize on a change to take them down. The Inca's were smack in the middle of a civil war over succession when the Spaniards arrived on the scene, and by pure luck, managed to kidnap the heir apparent. (They held him hostage for gold and then executed him.) Their timing was fortuitous, to say the least. However, the capture of Cuzco was the real fall of Peru, and by that time the Spanish had again picked up indigenous allies to fight for them.

      Finally, there is the Mayans. If you watched Apocalypto then you probably got the impression that the Maya were living in big cities and making a mess of things when the Spaniards showed up and conqured/saved them. Nope. They had abandoned their cities centuries before. Even with their civilization an echo of its former glory, the Maya put up more resistance against the Europeans than, perhaps, any other indigenous people in the america's. Unlike the Aztec's and Incas, there was no single Mayan center which could be attacked and neutralized. The Maya were spread out in some of the densest, nastiest, most brutal jungle on Earth. The Spaniards would capture one town and move on to the next only to find that they had to recapture the previous town all over again the next time they went past it. It took centuries to subdue just a *portion* of the Mayan population.

      Now, it would seem that we're way off topic, but we can draw some pretty interesting parallels actually. RIAA is a centralized body, much like the Inca or Aztecs. All it would take is for one major record label to withdraw their support to RIAA and that would be their end. Likewise, a change to copyright law could doom all the labels overnight. Music pirates, on the other hand, are by their very nature decentralized. You can squash as many individuals with lawsuits as you want, but the P2P network lives on. Finding those individuals and gathering enough evidence to bring a lawsuit that has a chance of winning if they don't cave and settle is also not an easy task. They are like the Maya. Hard to find, difficult to suppress, and resilient. If RIAA and the labels somehow managed to keep going as they are now, it would take centuries to bring piracy to and end at best.

      Anyways, I'm at the point where I just want easy access to good music. If the labels brought back Oink in all it's glory at $30/month I'd be their first customer. If they insist that I have to spend $10 an album for lossy DRM'd tracks on iTunes or $15 for a CD, neither of which net the artist more than $0.15, then no deal.

      The way I see it, there is an answer to music distribution. Say that somebody created a private torrent tracker site where the members paid a monthly access fee. Artists could seed their music on this torrent site and be paid a percentage of the gross according to how much their stuff is downloaded. No middlemen. No record companies. Just the artists and the torrent site. Potentially, artists could make a lot more money than they are now. However, there are problems. Perhaps the stickiest is that little issue of critical mass. If a handful of independents got together and did this, they'd fail miserably. Such a site would need a *massive* catalog to get off the ground. It would have to include a very large number of artists from day 1. Still, it is a beautiful dream.
      • by S3D (745318) on Monday March 31, 2008 @04:13AM (#22918890)

        The Spanish conquest of the Americas is often overly dramatized. In all instances I am aware of, it was *not* Spanish technology that carried the day.
        Arn't you forgetting something ? How Spaniards got into Americas in the first place ? Anyway I'd heartily recommend "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond to understand the situation better.
        • by aproposofwhat (1019098) on Monday March 31, 2008 @05:08AM (#22919136)
          I've read 'Guns, Germs and Steel', and found it interesting and insightful.

          GP, however, gives a perspective on the campaign that wasn't addressed by Diamond - I'd hesitate to dismiss his post out of hand.

          Yes, there were benefits from the posession of technology by the Spanish, but the indigenous people weren't rolled over quite as easily as popular history reports - indeed, there are still indigenous peoples in South America that are still resisting 'civilisation'.

      • In all instances I am aware of, it was *not* Spanish technology that carried the day.

        Dude, you need to get your thinking process checked.

        There are always several factors to any significant historic event. You can't let that cloud your mind so much that you become unable to recognize the real trends. If Cortes or Pizarro hadn't been successful then the next guy would have, or the next guy. Eventually Aztecs and Incas would have been conquered. The only theoretical alternative is that they too gain technology
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2008 @04:58AM (#22919096)
        Soribada. A P2P network you pay a few bucks a month for membership. Korea. Files authorized to be distributed by the program are tagged with a special code in the file and only files tagged as such will be recognized by the program. Except that, MP3s flow like water and most artists in Korea have signed on so the catalog is chock full of almost every major Korean artist... Most of it lossy (but high-quality) MP3 but some are FLAC and APE files...
      • by Mantaar (1139339) on Monday March 31, 2008 @05:24AM (#22919196) Homepage

        The way I see it, there is an answer to music distribution. Say that somebody created a private torrent tracker site where the members paid a monthly access fee. Artists could seed their music on this torrent site and be paid a percentage of the gross according to how much their stuff is downloaded. No middlemen. No record companies. Just the artists and the torrent site. Potentially, artists could make a lot more money than they are now. However, there are problems. Perhaps the stickiest is that little issue of critical mass. If a handful of independents got together and did this, they'd fail miserably. Such a site would need a *massive* catalog to get off the ground. It would have to include a very large number of artists from day 1. Still, it is a beautiful dream.

        First of all, let me tell you that I agree with you in almost all points regarding the recording industries and found your explanations about the indigenous people of America really interesting - however, there's a slight problem in your last paragraph, I highlighted it.

        It's not that easy. I'm an artist myself - I'd love to create content just like that, seed it on The Pirate Bay, announce it on last.fm and thus get people to listen to my music (since I'm major in a CS-related subject, I don't even care that much about the money - I'll have job some day... hopefully). But boy is it hard.

        When you have a deal with record company it's not just the money you - as an artist - get out of them. Friends of mine have a really successful band - one of their singles peeked the German charts at 4 - and I'm really jealous... not about the publicity they're getting, but about their possibilities. See, to make a record it's not like the only thing you need is a guitar. You need a place to rehearse with your band. You need a good studio to record what you have rehearsed over the past weeks/months/years. The studio's not empty: you need a professional sound engineer, you need someone to master you records, mix everything... You also need a producer - or at least, it's better if you have one. Let's make a comparison: when you write a novel, the publishing house - before publishing - hire an editor to proof read what you've written. Because you missed out on some stuff, for sure. It's just goddamn impossible to be perfect (sic!). You need someone objective, and who's closer to the audience. That's what the producer is good for. He'll have totally new ideas, he'll have suggestions and most of all: he's likely to have a lot more experience than you have. You'll need that.
        My friends have all that, because they have a record deal. I don't have that, so I have to stick with my NI external sound card, my laptop, my (bass) guitar, microphones, and the hydrogen drum computer. I've not recorded anything in months, because it takes at least a day to prepare all this, nevermind making a good recording. And then mixing it! Don't tell me you can do that by yourself in Audacity or Ardour. You can't. Mixing a record is a hard job and it really takes quite some experience to do it properly.

        Now, I see record labels as some sort of governments: you (the artist/the people) pay them (your share of your copyrights/taxes) and you're getting the infrastructure in return (studios, sound engineers, whatnot/streets, police, judicial system). You're also getting PR out of the record labels. So they are useful to the artists, even in their current form. Not every band can have a genius among them, or several ones, to assume the different roles of the guys the label will provide you with. And who the fuck wants all musicians to be singer-songwriters, because that's the only music that's easy to just do all by yourself?? We'd have a whole cult of Jack Johnsons! What a nightmare...

        Now, I'm not telling you "respect the record companies, they help the artists". Not at all. They're bitches, most of them. They are capitalists, most of them. And thus we artists hate them, for being capitalists and c

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by andphi (899406)
          quoth the parent: "Let's make a comparison: when you write a novel, the publishing house - before publishing - hire an editor to proof read what you've written. Because you missed out on some stuff, for sure. It's just goddamn impossible to be perfect (sic!). You need someone objective, and who's closer to the audience. That's what the producer is good for. He'll have totally new ideas, he'll have suggestions and most of all: he's likely to have a lot more experience than you have. You'll need that."

          I like
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Reziac (43301) *
          I don't know about elsewhere, but in Los Angeles there's already a pocket industry of small producers, who do the job for a flat fee of somewhere around $10k including all necessary studio stuff (tho I've heard rates as low as $1k, and a friend of mine will do it at cost just to get his name on the final product).

      • by sm62704 (957197)
        Takes the Aztec's for example.

        Can't, the Spaniards already took it. [angryflower.com]

        Oh, that's not what you meant? Then why did you say it?

        The Aztec's were not very popular amongst their neighbors

        You're probably right, if their stuff was valuable their neighbors would have taken it instead of the Spaniards. The Astecs were probably illiterates who didn't know how, why, or when to use an apostrophe. No wonder they were conquered.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by simontek2 (523795)
      to the jobs of blacksmiths, to the jobs of chimney sweeps, to the jobs of telegraph operators, to the jobs of steam ship engineer

      Umm those jobs still exist. I know a lot of blacksmiths, know a few Chimney sweeps. well no telegraph, but I do know atleast 2 steam ship operators.
    • exaggerated.

      Yeah yeah, I know, we've all by now heard a one-hit wonder who was NOT signed by a label. (Like the "Chocolate Rain" guy, who probably will go down for the most overplayed 3 notes in history. Choc-late Raaaaaain...) The thing is, when we buy (or listen to, ya dirty scallywags) music, who do we overwhelmingly choose? The same old Britstreet Boy , the same old Sir 50 Snoopenem, the same-old Avrilguilera. For every play, download, or purchase that the long tail Code Monkey type songs get, the
  • is that the record companies can't find a decent license to distribute music for free...

    Or maybe it is their desire to eat 2 square meals a day... with some caviar ... and maybe wine...

    Cheers!
  • Dear RIAA, (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ethan Allison (904983) <slashdot@neonstream.us> on Monday March 31, 2008 @02:42AM (#22918478) Homepage
    We win. You lose. Hugs and kisses, Everyone
  • while file sharing is doing a great deal of harm to the RIAA, they do still act as a filter, keeping some of the crap down, and marketing what is less crappy.

    once there is a system set up that lets users filter content that is as effective as the lables, then they will be really screwed.

    imagine an i-slashdot-tunes music service where everyone submits their tunes, people listen, rank and rate them.

    i would love to rate songs as being '+1: inspiring' or "-1: disco"
    • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:19AM (#22918622)

      once there is a system set up that lets users filter content that is as effective as the lables, then they will be really screwed.

      One already exists in the format of a moderation system. Take a look at slashdot for a reasonable approximation of how such a system might work. Applying it to music should be no big leap.

    • I wrote about it in 2003 [goingware.com]. It downloads tracks from websites like mine, where artists have placed free and legal music downloads. You rate the tracks, then it compares your ratings to those of the other users, and as time progresses becomes more and more successful at automatically picking out tracks that you'll like.

    • by dave1791 (315728)
      there ya go...

      Write up a ten slide marketing spin, grab the VC and get yourself bought out by Google while Web 2.0 is still the meme du jour!
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      RIAA, they do still act as a filter, keeping some of the crap down

      Crap like John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, none of whom got airplay in theur day (let alone whole genres like Raggae, Skla, and punk), while great music like the Backstreet Boys, the Archies ('60s version of the Backstreet Boys on the radio while Zeppelin wasn't), and Britney Spears get airplay?

      Where do you get this stupid idea that the RIAA keeps the crap out and lets the good stuff through? It looks like the exact o
  • Reminds me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _Hellfire_ (170113) on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:15AM (#22918604) Homepage
    "...not what a corporation or media outlet decides we should want."

    I never thought one could get pithy one-liners from a video game, but I think the GTA writers had the nail hit on the head with one of the radio station's advertisements (I think it was from Liberty City):

    "We tell you what's good! Then play it 'till you like it!"

    I think that sums up the Label's business methods quite succinctly.
    • by CSMatt (1175471)
      Seems to sum up the content industry as a whole quite succinctly.

      Go ahead and throw most over-marketed software in that analogy as well.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pandrijeczko (588093)
      I think that sums up the Label's business methods quite succinctly.

      But on the basis that that method of music playing actually works, it also says a lot about the sheep-like mentality of the listenership.

      No matter how much something is hyped, no-one forces you to buy it.

  • You know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CSMatt (1175471) on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:23AM (#22918658)
    I originally thought that the whole reason the RIAA hated P2P was not because of money but because of a lack of control. Namely, the lack of an ability to measure success and popularity. Because the systems are inherently decentralized, they could no longer figure out what the latest "trends" were in music and so they no longer had any way to know what artists to sign and what music was profitable.

    But then I found out about Big Champagne, and that much more reasonable rationale for their fight against the Internet went right out the window.
  • And it's the same with software. Microsoft, in particular, is very annoyed that it will lose control over the desktop market, because, like the RIAA and the RIAA's constituent members, control assures profit. So Microsoft, like the people in the record labels, are going to need to learn a new way to make money. Free Open Source Software will not mean the end of Microsoft and Magnatune will not mean the end of the RIAA; but in both cases, Microsoft and the RIAA will lose their strangeholds on those respec
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:42AM (#22918742)
    I am in no way defending the RIAA or the major record companies but, looking at this purely from the perspective of a music enthusiast, I personally have no problem with the way things currently are with music distribution. I have more than enough good music to listen to and to go buy in the future, so please take this post as an observation rather than any gripes I might have with the music industry.

    Firstly, I'm pretty happy with the price of CDs. Because I research my music well and, yes, I do use BitTorrent and Usenet to preview any albums I intend to buy that I cannot hear otherwise, I always buy a CD that I know will be good before I buy it. And then I source it online as cheaply as possible, usually below £10. That means I'm never disappointed by any CD and, before anyone accuses me of doing anything wrong, I own over 1200 of them.

    Secondly, I do listen to some modern music but generally I listen to (mainly British) hard rock, rock, psychedelia and blues from the late sixties to the present day. Currently, a lot of this stuff is enjoying a resurgence - not only are existing popular albums being expanded & remastered (for example the back catalogues of Jethro Tull, Yes, Black Sabbath, etc.) but also a lot of very obscure albums from the late sixties and early seventies are being released onto CD for the first time. Currently, I am totally spoilt for choice as to what to buy next and I think the record companies a doing a pretty good job with this.

    Thirdly, I'm sure there are a lot of good independent artists out there but, in my mind, whether the big four record companies are there or not won't change a thing for them. Okay, so the record companies are too narrow-minded and money-orientated to give these artists recording contracts but either way, they are still faced with the problem of self-promotion and getting people to their web sites to buy their music. And in my own view, I'm more than happy to listen to some of these artists and buy a CD of theirs - but there's no way, I'm afraid, that I am going to pay for downloadable music. The fact is, I like my music in the best quality I can afford on a reasonable hifi and compressed downnloads don't do it for me.

    Fourthly, the younger generation may have a hankering for downloadable music but please do not confuse this with them having a discerning music taste. The fact is that they are the "now" generation with short attention spans and a complete lack of interest in putting any effort into anything. The fact that the charts are filled with plastic manufactured music shows that the majority will buy anything that is put in front of them purely because it is deemed fashionable and is easy to obtain. Anyone who believes these same people will go searching the the Internet for new independent artists rather than just going to iTunes for the latest fad music has no understanding of the way marketing and hype works on the minds of the younger generation.

    Yes, the major record labels are killing their own industry because they're not interested in anything new but the latest Leona Lewis clone. Personally, I don't care, there's a huge back catalogue of older stuff to go out and listen to which I suggest the "discerning youth" should also go and explore a little rather than whining about modern music.

    But downloadable music is also contributing to that death because it's turning music into a disposable commodity - don't like it any more? Then just wipe your iPod's hard drive and start again...

    • by CSMatt (1175471)

      Fourthly, the younger generation may have a hankering for downloadable music but please do not confuse this with them having a discerning music taste. The fact is that they are the "now" generation with short attention spans and a complete lack of interest in putting any effort into anything. The fact that the charts are filled with plastic manufactured music shows that the majority will buy anything that is put in front of them purely because it is deemed fashionable and is easy to obtain. Anyone who believes these same people will go searching the the Internet for new independent artists rather than just going to iTunes for the latest fad music has no understanding of the way marketing and hype works on the minds of the younger generation.

      Very true. Even today I can't bring myself to search around for new music out of fear that it will suck and because I'm used to it always being brought to me, yet I don't think twice when I fire up a Google search to find answers to, well, almost everything.

      Yes, the major record labels are killing their own industry because they're not interested in anything new but the latest Leona Lewis clone. Personally, I don't care, there's a huge back catalogue of older stuff to go out and listen to which I suggest the "discerning youth" should also go and explore a little rather than whining about modern music.

      I can assure you that these youth have filled their computers with a vast array of music. I haven't bothered to do so, but I know many "discerning youth" who have libraries both thick and diverse.

      But downloadable music is also contributing to that death because it's turning music into a disposable commodity - don't like it any more? Then just wipe your iPod's hard drive and start again...

      Music has always been marketed as a "disposable commo

    • And then I source it online as cheaply as possible, usually below £10.

      In case you guys don't believe it: yes, we pay $20 for a music CD, and think it's cheap. Amazing, isn't it?

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      I am in no way defending the RIAA or the major record companies but, looking at this purely from the perspective of a music enthusiast, I personally have no problem with the way things currently are with music distribution. I have more than enough good music to listen to and to go buy in the future, so please take this post as an observation rather than any gripes I might have with the music industry.

      Firstly, I'm pretty happy with the price of CDs. Because I research my music well and, yes, I do use BitTorrent and Usenet to preview any albums I intend to buy that I cannot hear otherwise, I always buy a CD that I know will be good before I buy it. And then I source it online as cheaply as possible, usually below £10. That means I'm never disappointed by any CD and, before anyone accuses me of doing anything wrong, I own over 1200 of them.

      That doesn't mean anything the RIAA would still sue you if you use bittorrent to sample albums.
      Its been seen time and time again that the RIAA don't care who they sue, much less whether they are innocent.

      ~Dan

  • There's two clear reasons the RIAA hates the internet:
    1. Digital forms of storage mean that they can't recharge for the same product on a different media every fifteen years - the revolving door business model of vinyl to tape to CD etc.

    2. People can create without them. The labels have cooked up a good racket making themselves a necessary part of the distribution process. Online, anyone can get their work out to an unlimited number of people.

    The only thing that will bring the RIAA into the late 20th cen
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Monday March 31, 2008 @03:57AM (#22918794) Homepage Journal
    They're not afraid so much of losing CD sales to downloaders - they're afraid of being cut out of the business entirely.

    I'm working on changing careers into music. But I'm not trying to get signed with a label; I've got my own damn label [oggfrog.com], thank you. I've got a business license, resale license, fictitious business name statement, checking account and everything for Ogg Frog.

    For a few hundred dollars - a grand tops - a solo artist can purchase digital recording gear that puts the best of what the Beatles had back in the 60's to shame.

    Any Slashdotter here who wants a free CD [geometricvisions.com] of my album - autographed! - just email your postal address to support@oggfrog.com [mailto] My first batch goes out in the mail Thursday.

    I've given away almost two thousand so far. my manifesto [geometricvisions.com] explains why I'm doing this.

    You could really help me out if you shared my music over the Internet.

  • Just 2 notes. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Monday March 31, 2008 @05:17AM (#22919160)
    1. "Some argue that we need subjective gatekeepers as filters. "

    We ourselves are our own filters. Some simple statistics about what others are enjoying would be enough to get a "big" picture. This argument shows no support for Record Labels, or any other "filters for hire".

    2. "Hopefully access to all of this new music will inspire us, make us think and open doors and minds to new experiences we choose, not what a corporation or media outlet decides we should want."

    You should be doing this already. Record Labels may decide what to sell, but you still have to buy it. You are free to pay the guy on the street an extra 20 bucks for his home made album if you like his music that much. You are also free to offer to become his agent and charge him the going rate if you think he is worth 10 million dollars.

    I know this is knit-picking but I thought these angles deserved some light.

  • by gsslay (807818) on Monday March 31, 2008 @07:55AM (#22919730)

    We, the 'masses,' now have access to create, distribute, discover, promote, share and listen to any music.
    I always thought that the main problem the RIAA had with downloaders was their reluctance to perform the first part of that process; (the "create") and their preference for copying someone else's work. But I guess that's the hard part, isn't it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sm62704 (957197)
      I always thought that the main problem the RIAA had with downloaders was their reluctance to perform the first part of that process

      Then you thought wrong. For every major label artist there are a thousand local bands, these days all of whom have CDs full of original music and quite a few (my friend Joe Frew, for example) who have told the labels to go fuck themselves when they were flashed one of the insulting contracts they wave in musicians' faces.
  • by AioKits (1235070) on Monday March 31, 2008 @09:28AM (#22920326)
    I'm going to try and not give off a tone of 'holier than thou' with this, but I have not listened, truly listened, to radio in about a decade. When things started becoming Clear Channel I noticed another change becoming more pronounced: More advertising. Sometimes it felt like ten minutes of music with 20 minutes of adverts. Since where I lived the only stations that didn't sound like you were trying to reach Alpha Squad with a WW2 radio were Clear Channel owned, it ment they pretty much had your ears by the balls. What ten minutes of music I was allowed to hear was the newest 'hot new song from X!' that was played at least once an hour. I just stopped listening to radio then. The gatekeepers which I had pretty much trusted since childhood to introduce me to new music failed.

    Around that time I started discovering Napster and 'other' means by which to find new music. A friend goes "Hey man! Check out X by this band, their lead guitar kicks ass!" or "Pick up a song or two by Y, they have a female lead and her voice will make you cream your pants!" and I will most likely try it on their recommendation... My friends are the new gatekeepers and I am probably one of theirs. Now I listen to a lot of bands I probably would have never found it if weren't for listening to friends or just trying something new I see off of a Napsteresque style program. Whenever possible, I try to buy the CD from the band themselves, and if I really like them, buy t-shirts and the like. (I am not sure who they are with now, but I still love Nightwish.)

    Does anyone know of any good metal band with a female lead vocal? Just askin...
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday March 31, 2008 @09:39AM (#22920436)
    The Recording Labels used to provide four services to the artists and public:

    1. Production. They would hook up artists with the equipment to produce professional sounding albums. A few decades back, this equipment was pricey so the artists could only dream about having access to it outside of a recording contract. Nowadays, though, you can buy equivalents to most of the equipment off the shelf for around $1,000 or so. You might not get a "100% professional" sound, but you'll get an album that sounds professional enough for 90% of the listening public. So a recording label isn't really needed for this anymore.

    2. Distribution. If you wanted your album to get on the radio and in the stores, you needed contacts. This meant that you needed the recording label to contact the right people for you and set up the distribution channels. With digital distribution, though, any artist can upload their own music to their own website and instantly be their own distributer. If they want to parter with someone else, they can use a service like eMusic, iTunes, or Amie Street to distribute their music. They give up some of their revenue to do this, but not nearly as much as the recording label would take. A contract with a major label is no longer needed for this.

    3. Filtering. Also could be called Separating the Diamonds from the Coals. Traditionally, the labels would promote the good music and filter out all of the bad stuff. With the Internet, the "bad stuff" problem grows exponentially since anyone can put their awful attempts at making music online. However, services like Amie Street are already coming up with ways of letting users themselves act as filters. (Amie Street's model increases the price the more people buy the song, to a maximum of 98 cents. So a bad song won't rise in price much, but a good song will rise in price quickly.) There's also an argument to be made that the traditional labels have failed in this service recently by releasing so many bad albums and so many bad artists.

    4. Promotion. The labels would market new artists to get their names out and encourage people to buy their albums and attend their concerts. While Internet marketing and word of mouth might be nice, this is the only area that I can see a future for the labels. I think that they will eventually change into glorified marketing firms. Of course, their reduced roles will mean that a lot of fat will be trimmed from their organizations. It will also mean that they will have to accept less control over artists. I predict that, eventually, they won't seize the copyrights of the artist. Instead, they will enter into deals with artists to get a cut of album sales. (A much smaller cut than they currently get.) Artists will also be free to leave labels at any time if they are unsatisfied with their performance without worrying that all of their old music is "tied up" in the old label. I think that our grandchildren will grow up with music promoted by record labels, but will look at us oddly when we describe the power that record labels exerted over artists when we were their age.
  • by kimvette (919543) on Monday March 31, 2008 @11:59AM (#22921942) Homepage Journal
    Regarding "Independent" labels, see the following two URLs:

    Some of your friends may already be this fucked:

    http://www.arancidamoeba.com/mrr/ [arancidamoeba.com]

    Who owns who(m):

    http://www.arancidamoeba.com/mrr/whoownswho.html [arancidamoeba.com]

    Your favorite label may not be independent at all, but a shell company of one of the major labels.

    There is good reason the RIAA members want to outlaw P2P networks, or if they can't squelch it, get the ISPs to pony up a levy to them; they are rapidly losing control of the music industry; it is quickly becoming a direct creator-to-customer venue, where a truly independent band can make a very good living playing small, intimate clubs - and can maintain more creative control over their work, without having to settle for a tiny percentage of their sales. They don't have to worry about appealing teenyboppers and having a manufactured, socially-engineered sound and rely on sex-themed promotions to sell their work. They can produce their best work, engage in long jams on gigs, and make a very good living selling not only their studio productions, but recordings right off the sound board (hope they have a good sound engineer, see below). Labels don't want bands that can sell a couple hundred thousand units and gain popularity over time; they want a major, earworm-inducing syrupy-sounding bubblegum band that they can heavily market through kids' shows and magazines and have a major hit to make some quick money, and who cares if the "artist" ends up a train wreck in 4-5 years and no one wants to hear them any more? They'll just hire some other skank or boy band and sell a new image. No big deal on the record companies' part. What we end up with is crap on the radio and getting innundated from all directions with these personalities, until they burn out.

    Bands with staying power are usually the ones who started small, and gained popularity over time, due to contemplative lyrics, experimental sounds, or simply having GREAT talent. Bands like that have been Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Phish, and even No Doubt (Gwen's sucky solo work notwithstanding - without the rest of the band she SUCKS). Members of some of them (Pink Floyd and Phish notably) have bemoaned having lost "intimacy" with their fans in the big stadiums (that's what much of Wish You Were Here and The Wall were about) and the "evils" of the music industry. Think the big labels as they exist (or wants to exist) will ever produce another Pink Floyd, another Queen, or another Led Zeppelin? No; the way those bands start out don't appeal to the masses right off; long experimental jams, studio pieces that are "too long" for radio play, sounds that are just "too different," and in some cases focusing SOLELY on the music, and not so much on the personalities - or if they do make it, people will be only familiar with short, poppy-sounding pieces, and will probably never hear the less-played but far superior back tracks.

    There is a plus to big labels: they generally have VERY good sound engineers; that is something lacking in smaller venues. It's one thing to know how components interconnect, it's another thing entirely setting it up to enhance the band's sound and not detract from it. A lot of sound guys in small venues SUCK - I've been at several shows friends' bands performed at where I had to go to the sound guy to tell him to fix something, or SHOW the idiot how to fix it, and at one I even had to move a mike because he had no clue what to do. However in gaining access to good engineers and good equipment, you often have to go with big labels, and end up in debt to them.

    Tagged: someofyourfriendsmayalreadybethisfucked

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