Commentary Technology

Continued RIAA Villainy

The record labels just never seem to give up. Time and again, they have thrown their weight around to suck as much money out of their customers as they can, completely disregarding anything that resembles decency and ethics.

RIAA’s Earned Reputation

I can think of no other industry that holds its consumers in such general contempt as the recording industry (except, perhaps, the oil industry whose executives hold our very planet in contempt).

In fact, let’s take a stroll down memory lane:

This is but a small sampling of the RIAA and music labels stepping on others’ feet, and all but one of these links is from this year! Again, the only explanation is that they hold their customers in absolute contempt.

The Latest Offense

Now, record executives aren’t just being disrespectful to their source of income (read: you and me). They are now claiming too much profit is making its way to the hands of recording artists trough new avenues of distribution such as iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and cell phone ring-tones.

The IGN article states it well:

“At best the RIAA is kicking artists when they’re down via this action, and at worst has fully revealed that despite repeated claims that artists need to be protected from piracy, the organization is very much the tool of the major labels and publishers who have famously never really cared about the artists in the first place.”

Growing Irrelevancy

Middlemen – that is all the record labels are. They are to music what Dunder Mifflin is to paper. They take stuff others created, package it up, overcharge for it, and then take the lion’s share of profit for themselves. Again, except for the oil industry, can you think of another industry so willing to alienate all around them for the sake of profits?

Unfortunately, the record labels are slowly becoming irrelevant, and they know it. However, instead of evolving with the times and redefining their roles in the marketplace, the big labels are merely throwing their collective weight around, trying to cash in on as much as they can before the axe falls.

What would be great is if major online music retailers like Yahoo! Music, iTunes, Urge, and Zune Marketplace would allow artists to submit tracks and albums directly, bypassing the publishers entirely. The problem with this, of course, is that the artists still rely on the music labels to provide studios and equipment to record with. Also, the studios often own the copyright to an artists work rather than the artist him-/herself, and there may be no quick solution for these issue.

Regardless, the RIAA has become a dinosaur that has become both carnivorous and cannibalistic in its attempts to maintain a stranglehold on its profits. These executive don’t care about the artists they represent, nor do they care about the consumers that purchase their product. If the record labels and the RIAA continue their reign of terror, it won’t be long until artists and consumers start looking for ways to eliminate them from the equation entirely.

Commentary Technology

So Much To Say

“Open up my head and let me out.” Do I have that song quote right? I’m a bit to sleepy at the moment to go look it up. Quite a bit has been going on lately, and I haven’t had much time to post about any of it.

One of the more interesting tidbits lately has been some quotes attributed to Edgar Bronfman, Jr. of Warner Music Group where he attacks Apple’s fixed pricing structure in the iTunes Music Store, and he claims right to a chunk of Apple’s profit margins on the iPod because people buy the iPod to carry music they distribute. Interesting thoughts – however, I think this guy is only managing to confirm Steve Jobs comments about “greedy” record executives.

First, let’s look at the pricing structure controversy. I agree with Mr. Bronfman completely on this. Charging $0.99 for every song is unfair. Prices should cap at $0.99/song for premium songs, and perhaps we can set a basement price of $0.49 for less popular material with prices in between the two limits for various material. That sound fair, right? Oh, you want to charge more for the popular tunes, even in 128 kbps encoding. Yeah, that’s just greedy.

(By the way, I know Apple is responsible for the encoding quality of the songs downloaded from the iTunes Music Store, but I do think is should still be a factor in the price. If they start supporting 256 kbps or more, then we’ll talk.)

Now let’s examine the second point: The record labels deserve a cut of iPod sales. If we follow this reasoning, every publisher or developer that creates titles for the Macintosh deserve a percentage of every computer Apple sells. The same goes for Miscrosoft and Windows software. After all, who would buy a computer that runs no software? Every network and production studio should get a cut of every television sold. Every radio station should get a cut of every stereo sold. Every web site should get kickback from internet subscriptions.

I’m sorry, record labels are not special and do not deserve special treatment. They deserve no cut of the iPod pie any more than I deserve a cut of AOL’s profits. Verdict: Greed.

I love music. I love listening to a wide variety of music from Bach to Bob Dylan, the Beatles to Dave Matthews to Philip Glass. However, it’s sad to see the powers over such a worthwhile medium are so much more concerned with lining their pockets thatn they are the fair treatment of the consumers that support them. Then again, that really is one of the biggest weaknesses of the United States in general: “My money before your welfare.”

I know Apple has its own agenda, and it may be playing cards that just make the record labels take the bad PR when iTunes Music Store prices rise, but I hope Steve Jobs rakes people like Mr. Bronfram across as many coals as he can before relenting. There, end soap box rant.

Wow, I actually started this post feeling all calm and serene, and now I’m all in a huff. That means I don’t even want to start addressing these other comments from our (edit: sorry, Finland’s) beloved record industry! ; )