Have I mentioned how much I hate the music industry? Because I really hate the music industry. They are destroying music, running their business like idiots, and then they blame their fans for their troubles. I've never downloaded an album I could have bought. I have bought albums because I had downloaded tracks, though. I'm not alone, either. Downloading has, at times, made me more motivated to be interested in music.
I'm lucky that my favorite band, R.E.M., is astonishingly downloader friendly. Although in this day and age that's really just being fan friendly. I'm amazed at what they do for their fans interested in their work, and it has managed to increase my interest in one the handful of acts I'm really interested in. A while back, they released an entire album online. Not new stuff, granted, but it was an album of remixes from their most recent album. A mixed bag, but it was just plain awesome that they did it. Even offered album art to download. They've also offered their explicit endorsement to a fan downloading site which fosters trading in bootlegs and B-Sides among their fans. They even got better when they recently offered access to ALL of their videos and some live video to boot. Yes, ALL of their music videos. How cool is that? I mean, this is a band known for their cutting edge and creative videos, and they've got it all there. This is an act doing things right. They've also got the clout to do that. Most artists are too busy being stuck in the disturbingly unfair contracts that are standard in the music biz. Any time the music companies claim they are doing things to protect the poor artists, they are lying. Its that simple. Did you know a musician whose music is sold online as a download is still charged in their royalties the cost of damaged CD's? Do you know how many pennies an artist receives from those low-overhead music downloads? Do you know the music companies aren't even bothering to PAY the artists for the download services they set up?
I recently bought an MP3 player. Well, okay, not really. Its one of those CD players that can play CD's burned with MP3's. A cool comparmise from a real MP3 player. But, it requires blank CDs, which I've started using a lot. I stocked up on them years ago when I first got a CD burner because they were dirt cheap. And I mean CHEAP. I got 250 blank CD's without paying a cent through really generous rebates. Now, I wouldn't expect that forever, but the regular price was still good. Now, they cost a ton. And why? Because they are secretly taxed and the proceeds go directly to the music companies. Its supposed to also go to artists, but guess who isn't paying the artists their share of these taxes? The tax is secret because its built into the retail price of the blank CD's, much like blank cassette tapes. The theory is that it is to pay for the music downloading that goes. But, you pay whether you use the CDs to back up files or to burn music. Doesn't matter. Everyone pays.
Which is pretty much when I stopped feeling remotely sorry for the music industry. Why shouldn't I steal music when I've already been fined just in case I steal music? Honestly, how am I supposed to think what I'm doing is wrong when I'll be punished for it whether I do it or not.
What's frustrating is that the companies are sitting on a goldmine in their back catalogs. This is stuff they aren't making a red cent on, but absurdly get to control. Dump all of that great old stuff on a site, charge a low monthly or yearly fee, and allow unlimited downloading. And don't handicap the files, either. Allow them to be used however the buyer pleases. Fair use is protected in the US, even if the music comapnies don't like it. I can tell you I'd sign up for that. I remember a Mama Cass special a while back (check my post from 9.20.2003) and I kept thinking that I'd love to hear more of her early folk stuff. But I'm no idiot. That stuff is non-existant on CD. I'd have loved to have been able to just jump online and download it. I can think of tons of stuff I'd love to have. Yes, it'd cost money to set up, but this is stuff they aren't earning a dime on that could definetly bring in some cash. Plus, it'd work to preserve culture, which ought to be an obligation of the Music Industry. But, as we've seen with the attacks on copyright limits, the entertainment biz doesn't much care about advancing the arts and sciences.
Ah, screw it. I know that this is vitriol. No solution, spleen-venting, but I feel better having screamed. Don't you?
(Major brownie points to anyone who can identify that without googling)