And Now, The Big Picture
I'm not sure, y'all, but there seems to be a conflict of interest here.
Die-hard Hart Foundation readers know that as of late, I've been
crusading about the file-sharing fiasco. And those who follow my
writings know my "pro-sharing, anti-RIAA"stance. And of course, you guys
are no dummies. You know the buzz. We know that RIAA is barking up the
wrong tree on this thing. They don't get it that sharing actually
promotes sales of CD's, despite the rip-off products they have been
forcing us to pay our hard-earned money for. It seems that the best CD's
you can buy are the ones put out by companies like Rhino Records or K-Tel.
You know, the midnight info-mercials that pop up during the late late
show, or between the Bow-Flex and the Popeil Chop-a-matic. Collections
by people you thought were long dead have popped out of nowhere of "The
Greatest Hits of...", and frighteningly, they are jam packed with
recognizable hits, all on one or two CD's, and cheap as hell.
But did you know that, currently, the record industry has begun using
the data that is generated by file-sharing activities to market their
music? Yup. By following the swap data and the net traffic, recording
labels can map out strategies for marketing specific artists for maximum
profitability. They make decisions based on consumer activity and
preference as opposed to, like, Billboard.
So what does this tell us? Well, mainly that the RIAA is suing people
for the RIAA, not the artists or the labels. The labels are sitting back
laughing their asses off, letting the RIAA do its thing while they in
turn analyze the data for themselves. Which basically makes the RIAA
look like a bunch of Gestapo-esque idiots.
Why? Consider this: the record industry is, of course, a business. And
as with any business, one of the most important aspects of development
is marketing and research. The industry, while it realizes that
downloading and sharing is in fact a violation of U. S. Copyright laws,
it actually depends somewhat on the data generated by that activity, so
in essence, they benefit. This data is vital in marketing and research.
So when the RIAA says that the industry is totally against this type of
activity, they're stretching. This fruitful research is derived from
behavior for which the industry otherwise shows no tolerance.
They have begun enlisting small companies and organizations, such as
Beverly Hills-based Big Champagne, to research and extract data from
file-sharing networks like Kazaa, Ares, Grokster and others (yes, there
ARE others!). Big C monitors how often its clients' artists appear in
searches or how often their songs are downloaded. One record company
exec said in a recent article by Associated Press that it wouldn't be
smart if they didn't follow what the swappers were doing. As a result,
it seems that maybe the industry may back down from their stance a very
little bit in its quest to sue the downloader.
Did you know that a recent scan by Big C indicated that rap star Eminem's
songs had been downloaded 8.6 million times in one day? Although I'm
not a big Eminem fan, I gotta say those numbers are damned impressive.
In years gone by, record execs waited weeks to get feedback, usually the
result of picking out random listeners and soliciting opinions based on
sound clips. After that came Soundscan, which tracked album sales by
electronic means. Recent years have given us MP3.com and Napster,
increasing the ability to track titles and consumer activity in real
Big C works something like this - every time time someone hits a sharing
site to get a song, the query is passed along a network. Big C simply
taps in and logs on like a regular user, then compiles a database using
the information it gathers. The labels use this information to determine
artist popularity, thus being able to route the right music in the
right format to the right people at the right time. So in fact, if the
RIAA puts a crimp in this method by squashing the activity, the labels
lose money. How long do you think they are going to stand for that?
My message here is simple:
1. Keep on swapping. This, despite all the legal implications, actually
helps the labels try to make a better product. That's one of the things
we wanted anyway, right?
2. Help out the networks. I know for a fact that for every 100 of you
folks out there swapping, at least 10 of you are tech-savvy, possessing
the skills and the knowledge to help the networks stay untouched by
constructing mirror sites. It is very hard to collapse a network which
is constantly rebuilding and relocating (get my drift?).
3. If you like the song, buy it. Currently, there are thousands out
there who purchase songs legitimately for 99c each, and don't regret it
at all. Their logic: buy a CD for $20 with two songs out of 15 that are
any good, or buy 12 songs of your own choice for $12. Uh, hello!? Is
there really anything to think about here?
Bottom line, believe it or not, we are in the midst of a great battle in
which we continue to gain ground. Despite appearances, the labels do
not fully support the RIAA's efforts to smash file-sharing activities
because it actually relies on the activities for themselves. Public
indifference and defiance will continue to erode the sting of the RIAA's
lawsuit threats. More and more of you will boycott CD's and adopt the
practice of downloading 99 cent songs.
Take full advantage of this alternative. It's cheap, it's legal, and
from what I can tell, it's even fun. But most of all, it knocks the wind
out of RIAA's sails!
P.S., Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at
Forest Pro Music!