Thursday, October 29, 2009

 A Rant in response to the music industry's digital debacle

There has never has been a satisfactory solution to the crisis of pirated music. The market place has adapted with models that fall into either blanket licensed sites or .99 cent download platforms for individual songs.
The one element constantly overlooked in all arguments is that theft will always exist. In order to move forward with legal ways to obtain music, we must acknowledge that people will ALWAYS STEAL .It doesn't matter if it is music, movies, or software. Piracy is here to stay in one form or another. That must first be accepted. 
Banks protect their money. Labels and artists must protect their property. The Featured Artists Coalition has attempted to do this as a lobbying group. What the agreed upon consequences for file sharing, is the fish flopping on the table ad infinitum. This was attempted in the UK with no one agreeing on a strategy.
The industry and artists alike must agree on how to offer an incentive for downloaded material versus pirated. Indies bands such as The Autumn Film offer free downloads of material in an unmixed raw form. Using free downloads as a marketing tool, musicians can tap into an audience unfamiliar with their music. Unmixed , raw material or portions of an album given free to potential and existing fans is smart advertising. They encourage consumers to buy a finished product that includes album artwork, lyrics, and liner notes. These type of extras are incentives that have resurrected vinyl. Aside from the cheaper price, buyers ,in some cases, are given coupons to digitally download what they purchased on vinyl.
Shouldn't this model work on the major artists or labels sight? Perhaps upping the ante through technology would be key.

It has long been the thinking that encryption should protect a product from being illegal copied or downloaded. What if encryption served a better purpose by refusing to upload on the Web? Couldn't this be encoded in browsers for copyright material just as it is on sites such as Myspace? It would put the problem of leaked material from being put out on the web to bed. Leaked material will kill the momentum of an artist's work.
Here's a link to the actual post.
  The music industry will send the wrong message if it forces an array of buyers into submission by fear. I agree but people need to be convicted and suffer consequences if they break the law. Tracking someone after they commit such a crime with a warning is being proposed. Permanently banned from the Internet  is one proposal or a limited access. Users could check email and not much of anything else. Should the digital world be any different as the real one? I can steal a cd from a store knowing I could get caught and there are consequences. If I buy it , the perk is I don't go to jail . Technology has advanced in shoplifting deterrents. Detectors and electronic tags are common place-downloading shouldn't be any different. In the downloading scheme, if I can't upload files, as in some technological encryption mentioned above, and share them then neither can anyone else. There would be a control on the flow , the dissemination of an artists or label's property.
 If people conform to the flow , they could receive free downloads approved by the band or label in a promotional sense. The incentive to buy later would be not only out of interest but also because of the added material. The artwork, the lyrics, liner notes, and maybe discounts toward future purchases.
 What is of the up most importance, is survival of music as an industry. No industry =no good music. If everyone can't quit their day job and can't afford to tour then soon they wont be able to produce music,buy instruments, or create any type of merchandise. The resurgence of vinyl is a welcoming trend of people enjoying a product that engages appreciation with added material. The information available on an actual record will mean more than the twenty songs downloaded for free during a month trial membership on a blanket licensed site. This is where digital music needs to be competitive. Artists and labels have to be able to control the flow and be protected under the law as every citizen is.

The blanket license sites, those that ask members to pay a subscription fee, work for music industry labels and organizations like ASCAP. Royalties can be tracked and a product can be sold-just not to it's full profitable price. The initial investments made by a label to develop artists and fund them with an advance of capital couldn't totally be covered by this blanket. No pun intended. Nor would it cover the studio time, payment of engineers or producers. It is a band aid.
These sites also won't pacify the empty pockets of artists who rely on revenue generated by peripheral products such as t-shirts, posters, and tour profits. Music just can't be free. What kind of music will be available if no one can quit their day job? What kind of product would we end up with? Would it be as worthy as the Jaco Pastorius album that features Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea on it? What caliber of musicians would be in Count Basie Orchestra if they had to flip burgers or frame houses during the day to afford their instruments? Pink Floyd wouldn't be able to afford the oscillator used in Ummagumma or Dark Side of the Moon and Elvis Presley would've kept driving trucks. 

Label sites may offer a remastered album, but comparing Best Buy prices to Capitol Records, for example, Best Buy is a dollar cheaper. So for every unit sold through someone else they lose a dollar on each album. The opportunity for maximum return on an album is to sell them song by song, but who would pay for that when they can buy the whole album cheaper or pirate it for free ? The slope collapses from theft.
 Some artists state they feel a closer connection to their audience through file sharing. I am perplexed how you will feel closer to someone stealing from you. Especially if you are not an established artist?
 At what cost are we willing to pay to keep music as a viable industry? Control schemes must be put into place. Websites such as bitTorrent must be prosecuted. Otherwise how will the lost revenue be recouped? Making music products more expensive and passing on the loss to consumers will only drive them away. Technology must address the issue it created without destroying its convenience. We have progressed too  far to take a step back.
 Google recently has begun a campaign to be the search authority for music. The new search function will offer full play back of up to three songs. Afterwards,  one can hear a thirty second playback. It will also include album artwork. Whether this move by Google , the Ubersearch God, will save the music industry is debatable. This is a step into the right direction. Most pirating sites don't offer any type of sampling and this avenue , aside from places like Amazon, will be similar to Pandora in giving recommendations based upon user choice. Myspace, immeem, Lala, and Rhapsody are jumping on the ride as the legitimate sites for purchase. Will this redirect the traffic of Ipod users or those that usually go to pirated sites? The incentive may be the plethora of music easily accessible through a Google format. The incentive may lead to more legitimate music sales but what stops that listener from listening to the songs for free and then downloading them for free somewhere else? Ultimately it will come down to drawing a line in the sand. There must be a stance taken or the trend of pirated music will continue to spread. Even Nicolas Sarkozy was recently caught allegedly pirating a DVD and the jacket cover.
 The closure must come from encryption. If you can't upload it you can't let someone else download it. Labels and artists must control the flow and pirating sites are illegal. What is left to debate? If I want someone to hear my music there is my own personal site or myspace. If I want to offer free material to  download  I can control that. I cant control sites that allow people to file share or upload to a server. Laws can control pirating only if it is done worldwide. If Sweden allows it then the problem isn't solved. If it is desirable enough to pirate it is worthy enough to protect.