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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!




B. K.


P.S., Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at

Forest Pro Music!