Posts Tagged 'RIAA'

RIAA Backs Down and Out

Last month, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) admitted a massive defeat when they announced that they would no longer be pursuing individuals guilty of peer-to-peer file sharing. As they attempted to flex their corporate muscles in the dorm rooms of music lovers throughout the country, the RIAA completely ignored the fact that not only was the epidemic of file sharing actually a pandemic that they are virtually helpless to stop (and in reality could cost them more in legal fees than the fines bring in), but they also failed to take into account the fact that without significant portions of the proceeds going back to the artists, the musicians themselves wouldn’t back them. RIAA Screws Musicians, 3/18/08

Now, the RIAA, in the final throes of these legal actions, has dropped the ball once again. They claim on one hand to be for the artists, seeking revenue they have lost, but as already stated, they aren’t giving the artists any of that money. On the other hand, they claim that their actions are simply to publicize their fight against illegal file sharing. Ironic then that when the judge presiding over the latest hearing and trial brought against Boston University students stated that a live web feed of the proceedings would be allowed to be broadcast, the RIAA opposed it. If you’re seeking to strike fear into the hearts of illegal downloaders everywhere, by first announcing that you’re no longer going to be hunting them, and then actively trying to block a live video feed of the proceedings, you’re not really putting any teeth into those claims. And blocking the feed certainly doesn’t give you the publicity you were looking for.

When an entity as large as the RIAA produces a failure on the level that they have here with their pursuit of illegal downloaders, one can only laugh. They not only perpetuated the vision of them as too weak-willed to follow through on serious criminal lawsuits designed to halt illegal file sharing, but more importantly they painted the entire history of these proceedings as a joke that was never about files, never about artist revenue, and simply only about themselves. Maybe I’d have some sympathy for the failure of these suits if they were giving money to the artists or legitimately trying to work with file sharers to stop the process. But when the big bully on the playground expects you to give up your lunch money just because he’s bigger than you, I say make him make you give him that money. In the end, the RIAA, for all their posturing and face-value scare tactics, failed themselves and the musicians.

If you’d like to see just what an RIAA hearing looks like, you’re now enabled to have an inside look at the courtroom on January 22nd. But tune in… the RIAA might not have many more of these fights to wage. Click here for the Wired post and links to the video feed sites.

Musical Musings

With 2008 and all the music that came with it steadily speeding away in our rear view, I got to thinking a lot about what we did and didn’t see last year in the musical world, and what’s coming. When it comes down to it, 2008 was largely defined by some of the musical trends we saw, the continuing struggle over DRM and the ever growing attempts to market, brand and distribute music in ways that utilize multiple media and social platforms.

Musically, there was a greater push towards mash-ups (AmpLive Interview) and punk fueled Indie rock. Bands like Fall Out Boy and Bloc Party among many others kept driving guitars, sometimes melancholy lyrics and music that’s in your face in terms of pace at the forefront of the radio mainstream. Hip-Hop continued its usual pond-like trend: scum on the surface, beautiful water underneath with “artists” like T.I., T-Pain and Flo-rida topping the charts while rappers like Akrobatik, eLZhi and Black Milk continued struggling to boost their word of mouth. The line between Hip-Hop and Pop was continually blurred as radio Rap brought in more Rock and World music sounds into their songs.

We saw Kanye West rebound from a personally disastrous year to re-vamp his sound with 808s and Heartbreak, and we saw Guns ‘N Roses dig themselves out of a nearly 20 year grave to release the much anticipated Chinese Democracy album, something that many fans thought they’d never hear. Of course, most fans expected to hear either a new Eminem album (Relapse) or the long awaited and highly anticipated Detox album from Dr. Dre, and they got neither.

The DRM battle raged on in 2008, and in even just the beginning weeks of ’09 we’ve seen a nice movement in the area. For most of 2008, the IFPI (2) and the RIAA battled downloaders, both large and small, in court. Looking for lost compensation, they took to trial serial filesharers and spent massive amounts of time and money scaring college kids into settling out of court for fear of an expensive and punitive sentence against them. In the end, these efforts were largely useless, and in my mind, a joke, as they claimed to be fighting for the artists, while we all pretty much know how little the labels show the artists from individual song downloads.

The record industry spent months wringing their hands over lost profits and ways to control music that they long ago lost almost all control over. You have to wonder if, looking back now, they aren’t thinking of all their recent efforts as merely shutting the barn door after all the animals already escaped. And the change in tune has been brisk… Now, just two weeks into ’09, Apple has announced one of the broadest and most accessible withdrawals of DRM and price restructuring of MP3s in years. The four major labels have helped produce this movement, and it shows the increasing power of the consumers in the music marketplace. Once tied to hard copy formats like CDs with an average price table, consumers this year found diverse and creative ways to obtain their music, forcing the hand of the labels to recognize that DRM is not what the people want. How this lack of DRM will effect iPod sales or iTunes downloads remains to be seen. The launch of the App Store on iTunes also took music mobile with an incredible number of music related apps (and a few apps that are just plain incredible) designed for the iPhone.

The idea of Take Away shows and having artists perform live in unconventional venues took off. Nine Inch Nails picked up on Radiohead’s experiment with a free download format of an album, but they’ve taken it a step further now by offering over 400 GB of HD video footage from their concert tours up on torrent streams for fans to remix and create DVDs. This fan interaction has become tantamount to bands in the last year with MySpace including music, and a large number of acts going from conventional websites to social networking platforms.

And while these social networking sites and the bands that use them were beginning to become increasingly entwined, musicians were getting in the mix as well, literally. Late in 2008, MixMatchMusic officially opened its doors to musicians from all over the world to create, upload, collaborate and work with stems to broaden the ways people approach making music. With the DemoGod award at Demo ’08, a write-up in the San Francisco Chronicle and the ever-popular, this vision of worldwide musical collaboration and the power of mixing and matching steps closer to being a full-fledged reality. (MixMatchMusic)

So what’s next? With the DRM barriers falling, the new foundations of band and fan interaction being laid and Web 2.0 casting a wider net over the ‘net, music in 2009 could be anyone’s game. Personally, I’m just waiting for The Detox… And now a moment for the outstanding musicians we lost this year, Bo Diddley and LeRoi Moore, among others.

IFPI – Representing Themselves

In an interesting tidbit of musical news today, the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), has been caught with its hand in the same virtual cookie jar as the RIAA found itself a few weeks ago when it turned out none of the legal proceeds from lawsuits was ever actually going to the artist. In an attempt at a lawsuit on the ubiquitous BitTorrent site Pirate Bay, the IFPI attempted to include the Swedish rapper Max Peezay as someone who had been cheated out of his rightful profits. The lawsuit sought financial compensation to Peezay for his “stolen” music. Sounds like a recording industry union going to bat for an artist they represent, right? Wrong.

Turns out, IFPI doesn’t own or have any hold over any the rights to Peezay’s music, and Peezay, whose lyrics often support file sharing, never wanted to be included in a lawsuit targeting a file sharing site. In fact, he was never approached, nor asked about his desire for involvement, and has informed the IFPI of such, effectively eliminating him and their claim for $19,000 in lost revenue for his music from their $2.5M lawsuit. The best questions are these: considering the IFPI never asked Peezay if he wanted to be included, how many other artists are in the lawsuit against their will? If they are involved unknowingly, how can they remove themselves? And finally…the most important question to me…if IFPI claims Peezay lost $19,000 on illegal file sharing, and actually succeeded in recovering this money through the suit, how much of it would Peezay have ever actually seen in his bank account?

Industry execs wonder why the music business is turning to mixmatch methods of distribution and artists are looking at ways to be profitable without the man in the suit sitting in the skyscraper. How can they possibly wonder? They treat their artists like cattle, herding them into slaughter houses of record deals and online distribution lawsuits claiming it’s for the good of their client. Then they pretend to be shocked that the artist is upset when, left with the bloody carcass and grisly remains of their music career, their creativity and earning power is turned into nothing but ground beef for the labels to sell at a profit. The greatest hoax perpetuated by the major labels is that they’re actually paying the cows.

RIAA Screws Musicians!

In a news item that probably shouldn’t surprise us all that much given the recent history of the recording industry and their increasingly desperate attempts to control something that is spiraling quickly out of control, it turns out that the settlements the RIAA has collected from lawsuits with Napster and other file sharing communities have never made it to the artists. Over $400 million dollars, supposedly collected because the artists were losing revenue off of pirated material, has been horded or squandered by the powers that be. While we talk frequently about the diminishing rights of the artists, the new models of distribution and the idea that the record industry is changing rapidly, let us not forget that huge amounts of control still reside with the dinosaurs of the music industry who will do anything to make a buck, even if it’s robbing the exact same artists they claim their legal actions help. Thanks to the consumerist for the update

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