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March 13, 2004

Steal this Music

George Michael made headlines this week for his statement that he'd made enough money and was, from this point forward, going to distribute his music for free on the Internet. At the same time, Korn released a video called "Y'all want a single" that shows the band trashing a record store. The video is punctuated with statistics about the music business - "Hit songs on Top 40 are often repeated over 100 times per week" and "Two radio conglomerates control 42% of listeners." Courtney Love seemed to think that file-swapping is okay, as long as she gets her bank from the record company. (Okay, Courtney's rambling powers of deduction are questionable on a good day. Still.)

There are two things going on here. One is the ongoing battle between the record execs and the artists. (Everyone has seen I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, the Wilco movie, right?) The other, and the part that is more interesting to me, the consumer, has to do with distribution and getting music to the people. Word has it that the real money for artists comes from ticket sales, not record sales - and the way to get people to your shows is to let them hear your music. Copy protection, which is supposed to keep me from sending you .wma versions of that excellent GangStarr remix of Lovesick, is inexact and sometimes makes it impossible for me to play the CD in my computer. If said CD is from the wrong side of the Atlantic, I may not be able to play it at all, on my CD player, in my computer, in my car, anywhere.

I'm pretty sure the music industry is still standing on the pier watching the boat get smaller and smaller. If I hear something interesting on the radio, I go online to find it. And more and more often, I can download it directly from the artist's site, without paying a nickel. If I like what I hear, more often than not, I GO BUY THE ALBUM. And if I play it for you and you like it, sure, you might rip a copy, but you could also be with me when I GO SEE THE ARTIST PERFORM.(Services like iTunes are cool, but only when I already know what I want - they're not that effective in exposing us to new music.)

Maybe the record companies have chosen to go after the file sharers because artists are increasingly cutting them out of the loop. After all, it's not Robbie Williams who's dragging teenagers in to court, it's the RIAA.

I don't really have concise conclusion. But I do have a high speed connection, an MP3 player, and a pretty open mind when it comes to music. I also have a little more allowance money than your average teenager.
Musicians, more and more, totally get it. But is anyone in music marketing listening? Hello?

Posted by pam at March 13, 2004 12:45 AM | TrackBack
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