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The RIAA, ISPs, File Sharers & Slumping Music Sales

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I recently read an article on FoxNews.com about the RIAA pushing ISPs to cut off Internet access to their customers if they are accused of “illegal” file sharing three times. Note that I wrote accused of illegal file sharing, not proven to have illegally shared files. Scary.

Article link: http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,510283,00.html

Since the days when Napster changed the way music is distributed online, the music industry has been trying its damnedest to un-ring that bell. Sorry folks, Pandora’s Box has been opened and you can no longer keep that much of a stranglehold on music. The music industry has never been about the music. It’s always been about controlling how that music was marketed and distributed and those days are long gone. Instead of adapting to this new frontier in the late 1990s and continuing to earn revenue, they chose to ignore the Internet distribution model and tried to sue Napster out of business. That only lead to the birth of other file sharing services such as Lime Wire, Gnutella, Bear Share, and many others.

The music industry response to the many different file sharing services was to start suing individuals for obscenely large amounts of money for the relatively few songs found on individual hard drives. Most people can’t afford the legal services required to go up against such a huge entity (which is exactly what they counted on) so they would settle out of court for amounts much less than the original number bust still grossly disproportional to the cost of a physical CD. Nice way to generate revenue when CD sales slump. That lasted longer than it should have. An individual finally fought the case instead of settling so they are now changing strategies again to try and maintain their outdated business model. This is where the ISPs come in. ISPs in most markets stand to lose customers if they cut them off so it is my hope that they will tell the RIAA where to go and how to get there. Common sense would dictate that since most markets have competition that this would be a no-brainer but we can already see where common sense has lead this issue.

I am of the opinion that music sales are down for two reasons. (1) The price of a CD is not proportional to the costs associated with its production. The music industry promised when CDs were first introduced that the cost would go down once they “recovered their costs” from introducing the format. When people started replacing their entire 8-track/record/cassette collections, it was a windfall that the industry expected to last forever. It had to taper off at some point. They still haven’t adjusted that model. (2) People in general are not interested in “cookie-cutter” type of music. When was the last time an act got discovered and got the publicity they used to? Now, the industry prefers to churn out acts that fit a specific mold designed to generate as much revenue as it quickly can. You seldom see new acts last more than one or two albums before they’re written off by the industry.

OK, I’ve said my piece. Feel free to debate and provide feedback in the comments below. I expect that you will be civil with your comments.

Disclaimer: (1) I am not telling you that I think it’s OK for you to download music without paying for it. It costs real money to write, record and distribute music. That’s worth something. (2) There are those who will never pay for music now that it’s so readily available online. There’s nothing you can do or say that will change their position.

Updated: April 6, 2009 — 10:42 AM
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