by Scott MX Turner
This is what it's come to: A 12-year-old girl in New York was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America, those asswipes, for fileswapping / filesharing / downloading.
The mighty mouthpiece of megacorporate music. Hey, I like that alluring alliteration, so much so I'm gonna upper case it. Those Asswipes, The Mighty Mouthpiece of Megacorporate Music ... suing a 12-year-old for acquiring "If You're Happy And Your Know It, Clap Your Hands" without paying for it.
A fucking campfire song.
As you know, Those Asswipes are suing hundreds of filesharers throughout the land in the belief that free downloads are killing music.
Those Asswipes are on a nostalgia trip, just like the rest of us. They're reliving the good old days of "home taping is killing music," "radio broadcasts
are killing music," "recorded music is killing music" and "sheet music is
They're so cute!
Especially since it's music that's killing music.
More precisely, the music biz that's killing music.
Here's why sales are down so badly that Universal has reduced suggested retail
prices by a whopping 30%:
1) CDs are obscenely overpriced;
2) The music biz promotes increasingly smaller numbers of acts of increasingly worse quality;
3) CDs are obscenely overpriced;
4) The biz capriciously switched formats, from vinyl to digital, and now has to lie in the cold and soulless bed it made;
5) CDs are obscenely overpriced;
6) Said format change has reduced fans' appreciation and need for artwork, making downloads a less unattractive alternative;
7) CDs are obscenely overpriced;
8) Politically and culturally conservative Clear Channel is locking up radio stations nationwide, rendering radio itself a wasteland of Lee Greenwood anthems
and Timberlakeian pop drivel...the opposite of "limitless possibilities."
9) CDs are obscenely overpriced.
Since I subtly got you thinking about the retail price of today's compact disc,
let's have a little look, a little see...
For indie artists like myself, a CD costs $1-2 to manufacture on an order of 1,000 discs - the standard order for most bands issuing their own releases.
The larger the pressing order, the cheaper the discs. Indie bands have learned
what the major labels haven't: You don't need to blow million$ to make a great album.
Obviously, the Megacorporate Music Labels get much larger bulk discounts on the
manufacturing end. They just refuse to pass the savings on to you.
And obviously, Megacorporate Music Labels spend more on one artist's in-store posters than most indie bands make in a year.
They're entitled to the discounts - they do press a lotta discs. But not the
immoral expenditures keeping their publicity juggernauts afloat.
Unlike P. Diddy and Sir Elton, indie bands don't generally put a gun to their labels head for overwrought videos, Courvoisier and Lear jets. More to the point, indie labels can't afford it. Major labels should urge spoiled brat superstars to experiment with anatomically impossible solo sex acts, and instead divert the money to signing good bands, getting 'em out on the road, and really bringing down the price of CDs.
Sticking to the basics means better music at cheaper prices.
The Megacorporate Music Labels haven't learned that one just yet, even though
screams of "ohmyfuckingGodwe'redoomed!!!" can be heard coursing through the
hallways at Bertelsman, AOL Time Warner, Sony, Universal and their megamates.
Now that the expected bumper crop of the analog-to-digital forced march - everyone buying the CD version of Dark Side Of The Moon to replace their vinyl copy - has waned, the big labels are running on fumes. Weirdly, they're only starting to learn how to use the Internet to make money. The biz is like your old, grouchy Uncle Fred, the one who never gets it and won't take anyone's advice.
Then again, how weird can it be when you're dealing with people who couldn't
predict the utter ease of counterfeiting and bootlegging digital releases?
As for radio - the free downloading of choice in the '70s, '80s and '90s, thanks to blank cassettes - the Clear Channels are making sure that less, and less imaginative, bands are coming to the forefront. Very few commercial channels are freeform these days. Not the hippie freeform playlists of 20-minute live tracks, but rather djs being allowed to think for themselves ... having the freedom to choose tracks they believe in.
The last remaining bastion of alternative radio, smallpower college stations, are under attack from the FCC, local religious groups, conservative on-campus student organizations, and funding cuts at universities across the land. The
FCC periodically makes noise about repealing college stations' exemptions and forcing commercial-standards compliance they can't possibly meet.
Know this: the battle over downloading is the same as any other socio/political/economic struggle in the world today, a war between the haves and the have-nots.
The haves, represented by Those Asswipes,
Here's how most musicians make money these days: live dates, touring and selling merchandise. Record sales are the primary source of income for a small
percentage of musicians.
How could they be? The average pre-taxed take for major label musicians on their album sales is 3 to 7 cents on the dollar. If you're in the MetallicaLLCoolJ stratosphere, you're making a lot of money from cds. If you're on any of the lower levels, you simply use cds as portal to earning a living.
Those Asswipes and the Megacorporate Music Biz are gonna have to change their way of thinking, buying, selling and promoting. If they wanna stay in business, they're gonna have to sell cds at fair value prices, prices that support a
decent salary for working musicians (whose pay scale must be increased) and trim the fat from label heads and superstar artists (whose pay scales must be slashed). The more radical idea - that times have changed and recorded music now plays a support role to live music, not vice versa - must be embraced, and music labels need to make the shift. It doesn't mean layoffs, it just means learning new modes and skill sets.
And what of the kids? Those sweeties who spend their campus days searching for
WiFi hotspots to download music? Are they part of an evil cabal to deprive us musicians the right to earn a living? Do they truly hate Metallica and Dr. Dre
and - no! - Those Asswipes? Are they ... are they ... un-American in their refusal to embrace free-market capitalism?
Probably not, since many support bands whose music they download by purchasing
t-shirts, concert tickets, books and magazines with their heroes on the cover.
A lot of 'em end up buying the albums anyway.
People who download become music fans. Or they already are, and want to expand
their horizons. In other words, just the kind of informed consumer Those Asswipes fear. Because the more access music fans have to music, the more
support they give to musicians. Downloaders don't sit in front of their computers, gleefully rubbing their hands and churlishly celebrating depriving musicians of a salary. Rather, they're trying to remain music fans in the face of overpriced cds of limited choice.
And that's terrifying to a business controlled by Those Asswipes, their megacorporate clients, and the Clear Channels of the world.
Musicians should be paid a fair wage. We shouldn't have to nickel-and-dime with club owners and record labels who, without us, wouldn't have a pot to piss in. There need to be more organizations like the old Noise Action Coalition, which worked hard to fuse labor activism with the New York downtown scene in order to earn fair pay for musicians on both fronts.
The thing is, downloading and filesharing ultimately aren't about who gets paid, but rather, about new models for the distribution of culture. That, and our
increasing independence from the old models, which have stood for exploitation of music workers and condescension toward music buyers.
And if that makes you happy and you know it, clap your hands.