By Jerry Del Colliano
The lobby group that carries the record labels’ water has not only never been able to stop music piracy, it is helping piracy to grow.
How you ask?
By suing consumers to make an example out of them.
It’s not nice to steal from artists and rights holders or from your friendly neighborhood record label conglomerate.
For almost as long as music piracy has existed, the labels through the RIAA, have been suing the pants off of all sorts of innocent people – some even alive, some even above the age of ten.
This legal strategy seems more important to label execs than trying to figure out a real digital plan for the music business going forward. Before this piece ends, I am going to strike at the heart of why suing is failing and offer a better alternative that has a chance of working.
First, the news.
RIAA is not happy that the millions of dollars it won in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset trial have been reduced – by the judge of all people – to just $54,000. At least someone in that courtroom was sane.
Judge Michael Davis found that Thomas-Rasset wasn’t acting for profit when she shared 24 tracks on Kazaa. Therefore, she shouldn’t pay more than $2,250 per incident that is three times the statutory minimum of $750.
So, the RIAA is responding by seeking an appeal.
Lost in all of this is the bad publicity that this case and cases like it are giving the music business. In reality, you have a judge saying music is worth less than the initial finding. How can that be good?
Less is actually less in the music business even if less is more at the John Hogan radio household.
It’s not that the RIAA didn’t try a few cute PR tricks like offering to settle with the defiant Thomas-Rasset if she would just donate $25,000 to a charity for poor musicians.
Hey, that’s nice but when does a record label ever do anything for musicians – like give them a fair deal or even donate money to their charity?
Let’s be blunt here – the labels are the ones who put the musicians in the poorhouse in the first place.
All this brinksmanship drives the value of music down to — well, zero.
Far more file sharing is going on today than buying at the iTunes store.
Far more viewing of music videos for free over and over on YouTube is occurring than adequate compensation for the musicians charity – or as I call it, the record business.
Meanwhile, perhaps you’ve seen that the Warner Records brain-trust (and I use those words loosely) is pulling its music from legal streaming sites.
Now that’s just idiotic because these sites such as Spotify have yet to prove anything to anyone. It’s like killing a dead man.
Add to that the record industry’s holy war against radio even while radio is quite capable of killing itself, which proves that new taxes to radio stations can’t help those starving musicians the labels always talk about.
No realistic plan to allow file sharing as a means of music discovery. Even while there is plenty of evidence that the more consumers share music, the more they buy. Sorry, labels.
No plan for streaming services and Apple is going to offer one soon. That’s why it bought Lala for its streaming technology.
No plan to stop making a fool out of itself by trying to sue consumers. It isn’t working and won’t work. Now the RIAA has a judge that has devalued music after the RIAA won the case. When is victory not good enough? When the record industry wins a lawsuit.
No plan to monetize video.
No plan for the iPad which in spite of naysayers who are not young consumers will change everything once again.
No plan to reinvent the CD for those who want them – and last time I checked Lady GaGa was selling a load of CDs – not singles, CDs!
I’ve worked with young people in the university setting and have recommended many times that the music industry take some advice – things I’ve noted about the next generation.
1. You ought to get out and meet them. They are nice people. Love music. Look at them as unpaid record promoters (you don’t even have to offer health care). You make the music. They will use their social networks to promote it. When they become fans, they buy something.
2. Get over the notion that ISPs will someday charge consumers for access to all the music ever made for $5 a month. Ain’t gonna happen. What is going to happen is that Apple will likely come along and offer a monthly plan to iPod and iPad users so they can stream music from the cloud above – that is, all the music they want, whenever and wherever they want it without having to wait for a download. As much as the labels will hate this, no ISP can pull off what I believe Apple will.
3. Get over yourself. Steve Jobs had you at “hello, I’m here to help stop illegal file sharing from Napster”. Now you don’t get to get rid of him. Apple is the new universal (should I make that a capital “U”?).
4. Don’t try to tax radio stations. Go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and get on your knees and pray that the radio industry survives in some form or another. It is in your best interest.
5. Loosen the grip on webcasters and podcasters regarding royalty fees – again, the more music is shared, the more consumers buy. The only people who don’t know this are record execs probably because they don’t get out of courtrooms long enough to observe consumer behavior or read research.
6. And finally, charge 5 cents per tune and make everything available in bulk for sale from you. Just like text messaging did — build the addiction. Then, offer a $20 per month plan. You see, you have to get consumers not worrying about micropayments for songs and when they realize they are addicted and Promises in Malibu doesn’t have a solution, you will. A blanket plan. But you can’t sell a monthly plan before you change behavior. Think texting. Mobile carriers couldn’t get the almost mandatory monthly $20 texting fee until consumers realized they were going broke texting.
There you have it.
My plan – updated and offered again.
I’m under no misconception that the labels will listen to any good ideas that would get them beyond the CD and suing consumers.
That is why a year from today should I revisit the topic, I will once again have to start with the labels’ obsession over catching music pirates instead of their urgent need to put these music pirates to work spreading the word about new acts on their social networks.