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The Almighty Buck

Musicians vs. RIAA At USA Today 615

Posted by Hemos
from the the-battle-lines-grow-deeper dept.
An anonymous reader writes "USA Today has an article about the growing friction between recording artists and the 5 major labels which make up the RIAA. Many issues are covered, including copyright reform, fraudulent accounting on the part of record labels, and how selling a quarter million albums can leave you owing your label $14,000."
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Musicians vs. RIAA At USA Today

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  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Levine (22596) <levineNO@SPAMgoatse.cx> on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:15AM (#4265457) Homepage
    So, if the musicians don't like them, and we don't like them... why do they still exist?

    levine
    • Because... (Score:4, Funny)

      by gfxguy (98788) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:21AM (#4265500)
      Non-musicians, like Brittany Spears, are the ones selling millions of records to people NOT like us.

      • Re:Because... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:58AM (#4266209)
        And there you highlight the problem. The big five music industry only want to sell, sell, at the expense of the original intent.

        I see it here in Europe when they do star talent search. What do they look for? A voice, looks and dance ability. Gee whiz when did music become voice looks and dance ability? I always thought music was the ability of the artist to create something that we enjoy listening to. And if the show is good, well more power to you.

        The other problem with people like Brittany Spears is that those are the people where we "steal" music in the form of napster. With talent though, most people I know will actually buy the content since they think they are actually getting value.
    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:23AM (#4265521) Homepage
      That's a wildly stuipid question. It's because they have unfair control of the market. Come on now, I would figure that most people that read slashdot can understand monopoly.

      And since they also control and finance their own bands, and control the content, and distribution and sales, and on and on. I'm sure you get the picture, they exist because yes they do control it. And they will continue controling it until the average consumer(not us) realize that this isn't good. Or we can convince the goverment that these guy are out to hurt us.

      • by CrazyDwarf (529428)
        I'm not really a big music fan (only listen to it on my way to/from work.) My wife, on the other hand is an avid fan of several bands. She has told me of several that have made their own records under their own label, and built from that to making records for other bands under those labels. Those bands, incidentally, are also big supporters of operations like napster.

        Unfortunately, most sheep (er, consumers) don't care about the politics or anything because they're not told to. They're just told to go buy such and such's album because it is cool. You don't want to be different, do you? :-)
    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rader (40041) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:25AM (#4265536) Homepage
      Maybe it's just taking the artists longer to figure out what's going on. And definately a while to figure out what to do about it.

      It's like being screwed by your landlord. You know you don't like it. You should leave. But where will you live?

      It should be interesting as these multi-year contracts start to run out, and artists start to look for other solutions. (Unfortunately there aren't any other great solutions. Most of the good ones lack any real marketing) With sales not increasing, and artists speaking up, the Big-5 might actually have to do something.

      Or maybe not. I'm sure there's always another "Korn" willing to sign their lives away for fame.
      • by SirSlud (67381)
        > It should be interesting as these multi-year contracts start to run out

        I believe one of the problems in the industry is that multi-year deals are actually kind of out of flavour. Labels used to look for career musicians. Now they rent you for an album; if you sell, you might get one more album. Rince, lather, repeat.

        That is to say that we might not have to wait that long ..
        • by aronc (258501) on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:12AM (#4265901)
          I believe one of the problems in the industry is that multi-year deals are actually kind of out of flavour. Labels used to look for career musicians. Now they rent you for an album; if you sell, you might get one more album. Rince, lather, repeat.

          Read the article.. it's actually much worse than 'multi-year' right now. It's multi-[b]album[/b]. You sign to do say, 6 albums. If you don't sell well they can shelve you. No studio time, no advertising, nada. And you can't go anywhere else until you give them 5 more "releasable" albums. The company, of course, is the sole arbiter of what is "releasable" or not. Joan Osborn, after her first hit "What if God Was One of US", turned in two complete and finished albums both of which were rejected by the labels. That means she spent nearly 3 years working, owes them money on it, and of course the label still owns those songs even though they don't want them.

          Yeah, they might not release any more albums after the first. They might just "rent" you for an album. But they make damn sure the contract keeps you out of anyone elses hands for the duration just in case.
          • Non-compete agreements signed by software developers have been held invalid/unenforceable if they leave former employees unable to practice their profession. Why isn't the same thing happening in the recording industry?
      • by jc42 (318812) on Monday September 16, 2002 @02:36PM (#4268014) Homepage Journal
        > You know you don't like it. You should leave. But where will you live?

        When I faced this question a few decades ago, I did what a few thousand other young musicians with good math grades did: I went into computers. In particular, I got mixed up with communications software. We've spent the past quarter century building the recording industry's coffin.

        If you think I'm kidding, ask a few "internet" programmers. You'll have a lot of trouble finding even one who isn't an amateur musician. Given the choice of a living making music, most of them would have jumped at it. But that choice wasn't available to us. So we built another kind of communication system.

        This wasn't an accident. In high school, I understood full well that I'd have to be a total idiot (or an addicted gambler, which amounts to the same thing) to go into music as a profession. Only the owners of the recording companies made any money then and now. The top-selling bands couldn't live off their royalties.

        And if you think the development of RIAA-killing software is an accident, go to the usenet archives and google for the topic. You'll find lots of discussion of how and why this was going to put music (and other information) back in the hands of the people who create it.

        We haven't won yet. The political system and the courts could still take it all away from us and hand control of the Internet to the fat cats. But we will have tried.

        The main battle now, actually, is to prevent the growing stranglehold on the "last mile" by the merged cable/phone companies. The best chance there is for all of you to go out and buy lots of wireless hardware. If we get the Net redundantly connected this way, there's no way they will be able to block the data path between artists and audience.

        And look seriously at using IPv6. The commercial gang hasn't noticed it yet. It provides a great arena for unmoderated development. It includes encryption at the packet level, so they can't track what you're doing. By the time they wake up and try to take control, we can have a "distribution" system that they can't kill.

        • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:3, Informative)

          by torpor (458)
          When I faced this question a few decades ago, I did what a few thousand other young musicians with good math grades did: I went into computers. In particular, I got mixed up with communications software. We've spent the past quarter century building the recording industry's coffin.



          Hey, I'm in a similar position - only instead of communication (well, I did do a lot of Internet work in the 90's...) I now work for Access Music, making: musical instruments.

          (See www.access-music.de for details...)

          I can guarantee you, my industry (musical instruments) has no desire whatsoever to see DMCA implemented in our devices, anywhere. The moment the RIAA starts coming onto our turf, there will be some *serious* upheavals, thats for sure...

          As a hardcore geek, I've been running from the RIAA for the last 3 years. I have no interest whatsoever in pandering to their will, and neither do any of the musical instrument mfr's I know of ... well, maybe the soft-synth guys like the RIAA ideas, but only because they're being raped by piracy... something we don't have to contend with, with the Virus series...
    • Fear the Parrot! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gunnk (463227) <gunnk@NoSpAm.mail.fpg.unc.edu> on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:33AM (#4265605) Homepage
      If Jimmy Buffett has his way (and looks like he is attracting some takers), the RIAA has more to fear from J.B. than from P2P. Check out this article [sfgate.com] on Buffett leading the charge against the big labels. With CD's cheap and easy to make, the RIAA and the big labels that make it up are going to have a harder and harder time justifying their existence. They can keep blaming P2P, but they'd better wake up to the fact that they can't keep treating their artists and customers like dirt -- the artists and customers CAN and WILL get together with or without them. I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore -- from Fruitcakes by J.B.
      • by AvitarX (172628)
        CD's are dirt cheap to make, and what really shocks me about the price is two things.
        The first is that tapes still cost less then CD's, with very small quantities made, and a cost increase to the companies that is almost an order of magnitude.
        The second is that cheap DVD's are cheaper the cheap CDs. Why the hell are old movies in the bargin bin 2 for 10 dollors, and semi old ones 10 to dollors each.
        I got Blazing Saddles for 8.99. A CD from that era would still cost me 14.00 at the same store.
        Why? is the MPAA really that much easier to deal with then the RIAA?
      • Re:Fear the Parrot! (Score:3, Informative)

        by daoine (123140)
        I think this is just about the coolest thing ever -- the Boston Globe recently ran an article [boston.com] about this too, which has some of Buffett's comments about the label. I really like the point that he makes: artists are responsible for their own careers. Mailboat isn't going to spend any money on promotion or touring, that's all up to the artist. It takes the risk out of the running the label -- they aren't going to front any money to help you succeed, they're just going to print the CDs. For anyone with a following, this is clearly the way to go -- I'll be interested to see if no-name bands can succeed as well though, because the label won't play games with the radio.
        • by SerpentMage (13390)
          Maybe this will bring back artists in the old way. You know, you play at the local bars, then at local events, etc. And with each play you get bigger and more popular. All the while getting a following.

          What is bad with girl bands, boy bands, Brittany type artists is that the initial step is missing. They clump together a bunch of no talents and then throw them on the stage to perform like circus acts. And they do this with new acts every year. This way the no-talents will not get too pushy with the labels. And the labels can keep the profits up because they can give a "once in a lifetime" offer for stardom!
    • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, once stated that the record business is the only industry in which the bank still owns the house after the mortgage is paid.

      bingo!

      -- james
    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tmark (230091)
      Moreover, if they're really getting shafted like they think they are, why doesn't such a glittering roster of blue-chip stars get together and finance their own record company, where they can control things ? SURELY, together they could do something like Spielberg/Katzenberg/Geffen did when those guys cut out their middlemen ?

      It does make one wonder. We're not talking about dime-store independent artists here.

      • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by RazzleFrog (537054)
        Probably because they are under 7 or 8 album (read lifetime) contracts and their older music is being held hostage by the record companies (both the recordings and the songs themselves).

        It could also be because these musicians don't nearly have the selling power of the pop-crap that has infected today's music scene and the pop-crap musicians aren't yet motivated to leave the labels.
    • by cornice (9801)
      From the Slashdot article...

      5 major labels which make up the RIAA

      RIAA exists to further the interests (as they perceive them anyway) of the 5 major record labels that created it. The odd thing is that the record labels would rather legislate and sue themselves into further power and existance rather than deliver any sort of value to the customer. It seem to be a loosing strategy to me.

    • by AntiNorm (155641)
      So, if the musicians don't like them, and we don't like them... why do they still exist?

      Because the politicians like them. After all, they provide some pretty large campaign contributions.
  • Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:17AM (#4265477) Journal
    Take a look at P.Diddy (or whatever the hell he calls himself), he's sold millions upon millions of CDs, and yet he was dropped by his label for spending more money than he was making. Lavish demands... I agree the RIAA is evil, but these artists aren't that much less evil themselves... Especially the POP/RAP superstars... they are insane when it comes to their spending habits...
    • Re:Easy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zenasprime (207132)
      I think that is a small percentage of the musician population. Most musicians have second jobs and drive to their gigs in big ugly, dented up vans. We only see the Lavish "rockstar" musicians because those are the one that the Industry want to push. :)

      z(p)

      http://www.zenapolae.com
      • Re:Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pyite (140350) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:28AM (#4265561)
        Short anecdote: This June, I'm driving to Connecticut from Jersey in ridiculous rain. I stop at a Mobil gas station and go inside to get a coffee. It's dark, rainy, etc. I walk up to the door and look at the guy leaving as I'm going in. I go, "Mike?" He says, "Yup" and walks away. It happened to be Mike Gordon (coincidently look at my sig) from Phish, driving himself somewhere in a ragged T-Shirt and jeans. Now, here's a band that has untold gobs of money and yet still drive themselves around and don't really care what they look like. Here's also a band that gives away its music to any who would want to hear it. This is the kind of band the RIAA is scared of because they don't act greedy like the RIAA themselves.
        • Re:Easy (Score:4, Funny)

          by Rader (40041) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:33AM (#4265606) Homepage
          Cool that he didn't bother giving you the time of day
          • Re:Easy (Score:2, Insightful)

            by RazzleFrog (537054)
            I liken it to how I am when I am on my way out the door and somebody grabs me to ask a question. Sometimes people just want to live their lives. The other day I met Nigel from the Discovery channel in Central Park. He actually came up to me and my friend and asked directions. I acknowledged knowing who he was, told him I enjoy his show, and gave him directions. Famous people don't mind being acknowledged and complimented but they do have lives to live.
    • Well Greed is in every indrustry. And some people get more corupt with fame. But there are also a lot of good artest out there as well.
  • RIAA = obsolete (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Its a shame the RIAA won't accept its fate. Just like the typewriter gave way to the computer, they are steadily becomming obsolete. Artists will find ways to distribute their music cheaper and to a larger audience through the internet.

    I hope that legislation doesn't allow a big dying industry to survive longer than it should.. it impedes both artists and consumers from moving forward and finding the best way for musicians (not the associated industry) to succeed.
    • I hope that legislation doesn't allow a big dying industry to survive longer than it should..

      Considering that legislation is being bought and new laws supporting the Big-5 keep coming out, it doesn't look like your wish is working.
  • by OrangeSpyderMan (589635) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:22AM (#4265509)
    An interesting article by all means. Perhaps the time has come for all artists, new upcomers or old timers, to seek an alternative distribution model. I have often thought, considering the very slim royalties most performers receive from CD sales, that simply selling tunes direct to the customer on a website could put the power back where it belongs - in the hands of the people who have the talent.
    • Even with a web presence, it is very difficult to sell anything on the internet. One must constantly be selling themselves and their product at every step. For the musician, this requires getting out and doing shows. Small shows are relatively easy to come by, but larger venues are not. What musicians need to to work together to promote themselves and others that they feel promote their style of music. In otherwords, it requires a lot of hard work and ass kissing, which might not be something most people are willing to do. However it is possible, the Offspring are evidence to that. Unfortunately, most musicians suffer from "rockstar" syndrome, and do not want to work and instead only think about the trappings that stardom will give them rather then producing music that moves people.

      z(p)

      http://www.zenapolae.com --- our independent record label
    • The problem with that is, I like CD's, I like records, I already buy from the artists and indie labels.
      I'm not going to pay money for the bands MP3's or ogg's.
      I want a physical object. I don't want a CD-R, I want an actual physical disc of some sort.
      I enjoy the artwork on the CD's/Records.
      I don't enjoy the sound quality of MP3.

      Above and beyond that, you can't get rich and famous from selling songs off of a website. You need people to promote you, to put you all over the place, etc. Why does this matter? Because many people get into the business to make money! Yes that's right, most of the acts on major labels who make money want to keep it that way.

      Yeah, sorry about the rant, I'm just a little tired.

      --xPhase

  • You know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GearheadX (414240) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:22AM (#4265512)
    In the modern business environment, with folks looking for corporations to decapitate and place heads on pikes so that they look busy, the RIAA's games just *might* get them into trouble...
    • I wish that were likely in this case, but I don't think it is. The corporations whose officers are getting their heads put on pikes (one of my favorite images ;) are those that are screwing the shareholders by reporting false profits, not those that are screwing the customers by overcharging for crap product. As long as the RIAA's member companies make money by shocing pablum down teenagers' throats, everybody* will be happy.

      *"Everybody" being defined here as the shareholders, who own the government, which is the only body legally empowered to put people's heads on pikes.
  • Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lothar+0 (444996) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:23AM (#4265519) Homepage
    Though accused of conniving tactics behind the scenes, Rosen publicly extends an olive branch to detractors. "I'm glad the artists are organizing," she says. "It's good for the industry. We want to resolve our disagreements and move on to other critical matters, especially piracy. We're on the same side in 99% of the issues.

    But isn't your piracy of their talent 99% of the problem?
  • by floppy ears (470810) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:24AM (#4265528) Homepage
    Labels sidestep payola laws by hiring independent promoters to lobby and compensate radio stations for playing certain records. Opponents say this quasi-legal system stifles creativity and limits diversity.

    The Clear Channel / Payola problem is one of the most serious issues in the music industry today. It is one of the primary causes of the crap that's coming out of the major labels.

    If you haven't read it, you should check out Salon's great series [salon.com] on this issue.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:26AM (#4265541)

    Michael Jackson's recent high-profile leap onto the bandwagon was met with skepticism. In rallying support for his financial grievances against Sony Music, he asserted, "If you fight for me, you're fighting for all black people."



    Sorry, I may have missed something. Why the link between Michael Jackson and black people?



    • The probelm with Michael Jackson is that he's a hypocrite: he is obviously ashamed of his African American origins, yet, when it suits him, he calls upon the support of his black brethren.

      The hypocricy of this act is so blatant that I wonder how could Jackson even look into the mirror afterwards.

      • I wonder how could Jackson even look into the mirror afterwards.

        Because he IS the "Man in the Mirror"!


        lol
      • Re:Michael Jackson (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:02AM (#4265817)
        I think the real hypocrisy lies in the fact that his label went to bat for him when MTV refused to play black artists in the early 80's. They threatened to pull all of their videos if they didn't play his. Of course, at the same time, this shows that the labels can and do have too much influence over what does and does not get played, and if it had not been getting played because it sucked (as opposed to a racial issue), there'd be a very big problem with the label doing that.
    • Michael Jackson is a special case.

      He was born a poor black boy, and he'll die a rich white woman.
  • by AtariKee (455870) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:29AM (#4265570)
    "Miles Copeland, chairman of Ark 21 Records, predicts that passage could significantly harm 'the entire music business because of the very visible complaining by a few successful recording artists. If the mega artists succeed with this effort, I feel strongly that it would be at the expense of those artists who have not made it yet.'"

    This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it might be bad to an executive like Copeland, who relies on sub-talented "artists" like Britney Spears to generate income for that new yacht. But this actually be the wakeup call needed to actually *develop* new artists, rather than toss them out there like so many Big Macs for huge immediate profits.

    The whole industry needs an enema, and I am very happy to see some *real* artists starting to voice their concerns. There may be hope after all :)
  • by Herbmaster (1486) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:30AM (#4265577)

    You can read the original piece by the brilliant Steve Albini here [negativland.com], and probably lots of other places [google.com]. Thanks to some slashdot comment I read last week but have since lost.

  • by daoine (123140) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (3101hdaurom)> on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:31AM (#4265583)
    Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, once stated that the record business is the only industry in which the bank still owns the house after the mortgage is paid.

    I never thought of it like this before, but that's really what happens. What's worse - there's nothing more frustrating than a band changing labels -- the old label still owns all the band's old music, which unfortunately means that they take some pretty good stuff and stick it in a basement somewhere. This is where Janis Ian's suggestion of letting artist re-release their out-of-print stuff would really be of use. Of course, that would require the RIAA to give up some control...

  • Leann Rimes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:31AM (#4265586)
    Boy, did she get screwed.

    First, her parents signed her up with Curb Records for TEN albums when she was 12. She grossed over $300,000,000 for Curb Records. That's right, a third of a billion dollars.

    When her parents got divorced, her mom got to ride horses with the WalMart heirs, her dad lives in luxury, and Leann has enough to buy herself a used car.

    There are laws that are supposed to protect child stars from getting fucked like this. There isn't a single honest judge to enforce them, though. Leann is suing her dad, her label, and probably her mother, agents, and promoters. It's the judges that will do her in.
    • There are laws that are supposed to protect child stars from getting fucked like this. There isn't a single honest judge to enforce them, though. Leann is suing her dad, her label, and probably her mother, agents, and promoters. It's the judges that will do her in.

      ITYM Lawyers. That's the only part of this little food chain that's guaranteed any dosh.
  • source of bad music? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jeffy124 (453342)
    the article says that labels tend to contract 6-8 albums for an artist to produce. I wonder if this is a source of the poor music that has been coming out in recent years. Some artists may simply have one or two hits at the start of their career, getting the attention the labels, thus signing the artist. Then it turns out that the artist, having to roll out that many albums, does not have the talent in them to come up with enough good tunes that people want, leading to a decline in CD sales. All the one-hit-wonders are the ones getting signed by the big labels before the realization that they are one-hit-wonders.
    • One of the things to consider is that these contracts also limit the artist from changing at all. They have to play the same kind of music and still produce hits. They can't change styles, or replace members with someone who sounds different, or change the instrumentation of the band, or change the sound of the lead singer ... all these things can really stifle creativity.

      Imagine if Vincent van Gogh got stuck in a contract where he had to produce 6-8 paintings but all of them had to look and feel just like Starry Night. The guy probably would have become depressed and killed himself.

    • Record companies exist to milk every ounce of talent out of people before casting them to the wayside. A one hit wonder is not a loss to a record company, a no hit wonder is. One hit wonders and megastar bands are both money makers. A record contract works like this:

      Record company Scheiße Records sends out scouts to find up and coming bands. A scout comes back with this new find from Orange County in California. Scheiße writes up a contract that has several provisions in it. The first is the band signs over all rights to their music to Scheiße with royalties paid to them from distribution (record sales, radio airplay, miscellenous things with their band name on it they license to sell) in return. There's also a provision in there saying the band is contracted for X number of records which is usually an insanely large number all things considered. Then there are things like promotion of the record which entails tours and other such stuff.

      The kicker is the small print, besides the record company owning your work and thus having you by the balls, they include what are called recoupables. The record company recoups all expenses involved in your contract. Everything from production cost of your CDs to the studio time of your recording sessions to your new guitar is taken out of your bottom line. The record company can't lose money on you even if you only have a single hit ever because everything they shell out comes back to them, usually with a bit of interest.

      A record companies doesn't care if you don't have the talent to produce 6 albums. They usually set the number exceedingly high so a band faults on their contract bot having enough creative energy to produce that much work. Like I said, they don't lose money on one hit wonders. If you're that band you come out with the sore ass because your portion of the money made is being picked at by all the expenses you incurred. Poor music is just a result of a record exec needing a quick fix for a couple quarters so they can gouge radio stations and the CD buying public wanting their craptacular album. One hit wonders are all part of the scam in fact. Without them a record company would have lean periods between the Nivanas, Pearl Jams, and Aerosmiths rearing their musical heads.
  • Pay back Bo Diddley! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rader (40041) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:36AM (#4265630) Homepage
    ...Soul legend Sam Moore and other artists are suing record companies and the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds (a separate entity from the union) for pension benefits. Atlantic, which has sold Moore's music since 1967, never deposited a nickel into his pension because of convoluted formulas tied to royalties. Not surprisingly, labels are balking at paying roughly 20,000 artists up to 30 years of back pension and health benefits.....

    I wonder if this includes the artists who died penniless. (Back pension to the widowed families)

    What would be nice is if they could reverse the law that lets the Big-5 keep the copyrights forever. Retrieval of copyrights back to the family of deseased artists could be a form of income for them.

    Although it's possible the Big-5 think of these as revenue for themselves, the fact is, they sit on them without re-releasing songs because it's not "profitable" to them. These families have smaller overhead, and it could be profitable for THEM.
    • This concept of "out-of-print" has always amazed me. I can not count how many times I've wanted to buy an album or song only to have my efforts thwarted by those three depressing words.

      Of course, times change, and so do old justifications. I'll posit that "out-of-print" is as obsolete as 8-track tapes and that the RIAA are sitting there hording the art instead of looking into other revenue streams. This allows them to blame new technologies like P2P and home CD burning for lost sales.

      Put simply, there is no reason why anything has to be "out-of-print" now, and certainly no reason why the record labels should get away with sitting on their asses for the last 4-5 years complaining that their business model is now in jeopardy due to the acts of "ingrates, thieves and college students". They could have had a working system online by now whose sole purpose would be to dole out "out-of-print" tunes for $0.99 to $1.99 a pop (allowing you to mix and match them on a custom CD). The overhead for such a system is minimal compared to the outlay of capital they have paid on lawyers over that same time frame.

      This outlines the RIAA's motives, quite nicely, of course. Last person on the "proirity-totem-poll" is you and me. A few steps up is "the musician", whomever that may be. Above that? Every other link in the music distribution chain.

      I've said this once and I'll say it again: the name of the game here is "evolve or die", and the RIAA has refused to "evolve" so now it's time to do our best to kill them off. Everyone on all sides of the equation (artists, producers, and listeners) need to think about looking into other alternatives for our music enjoyment. It will be hard, but in the long run, it may be better than what we currently have.

  • by schon (31600) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:39AM (#4265653)
    OK, accepting the old razor about ascribing actions to ignorance instead of malice, I have to wonder why Hilary Rosen is head of the RIAA, when she's so woefully clueless about the business.

    In particular, is this gem:

    "While the record company could keep an artist under the old contract, they never do," RIAA chief Hilary Rosen says.

    Uhm, yeah.

    Tell that to Tom Petty.

    Or John Fogerty.

    Or Prince.

    Or many others.

    I'm sure they'll get a good bellylaugh out of it.
  • Now is the time to start up a new company that fosters digital distribution.

    I think there would be enough prominant artists getting involved (investing and performing) that a large popularity could be created rather quickly without even trying very hard.

    I'm sure a lot of the digital distribution means would require some sane consideration that really hasn't been considered deeply, however, as most of our thought is simply "get away from RIAA." So while we're thinking of running away from RIAA, we're forgetting to think about where we run to.

    Now is the time to consider that and make a move.

    People will jump on the opportunity to download a 56k quality version for free and probably will buy the 128k version if they like it. Selling digital music might turn a pretty penny without much of the publishing costs.

    *I* haven't thought this through but I'm sure there are many who have some really good ideas right off they top of their more experienced and thoughtful heads. But if the strength, numbers and influence of the artists protesting the RIAA's tactics, then it's high-time that competition to the RIAA is formed. Anyone else a little weary of hearing complaints without solutions?
  • by jukal (523582) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:42AM (#4265671) Journal
    have you ever read the "freedom of speech [riaa.org]" page at RIAA [riaa.org].

    I find this rather sarcastic:

    In difficult times, it is easier and quicker to look for handy scapegoats than to search for viable solutions. Banning certain kinds of music is not the answer. RIAA continues to fight hard on both federal and state levels to block well intentioned, but seriously misguided, efforts.

    But banning certain kinds of delivery mechanisms is the answer? That seems like a well intentioned, but seriously misguided effort. Instead, they should maybe search for a more viable solution.

  • The greater evil (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rader (40041)
    .....Though accused of conniving tactics behind the scenes, Rosen publicly extends an olive branch to detractors. "I'm glad the artists are organizing," she says. "It's good for the industry. We want to resolve our disagreements and move on to other critical matters, especially piracy. We're on the same side in 99% of the issues....

    Oh great. That will be the solution. Blame the pirates for all their problems. Yet another act of misdirection.

    I feel that this will all get settled over one small addition to the contracts (like limiting their indentured servant status to "only" 7 years) and then it'll be business as usual. (Basically buying more legislation so that in a few years we're at a pay-per-play market)
  • Copyright reform (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tmark (230091) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:46AM (#4265697)
    Interesting how 'copyright reform' gets thrown into the excerpt of the original post, when the real issue of copyright reform referenced in the source article has NOTHING to do with the kind of copyright/IP issues that are normally argued about here. A regular reader might assume that these artists share more with the P2P/IP sympathies that characterize much of the opinion on this site than they actually do.

    Yes, they're arguing with the RIAA about copyrights, but these artists are striving to reassert their OWN ownership over copyright, and you can bet that the majority of them will seek to protect their copyrights as vociferously and aggressively as they can.
  • by Vodak (119225) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:46AM (#4265700)
    "It's about profit, profit and more profit that always comes at a cost of principles. The predicament the record industry finds itself in is of its own making. They've alienated consumers and artists, and whether the rights movement succeeds, the house will fall under its own weight."

    Welcome to capitalism.
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:47AM (#4265703) Journal
    "We're on the threshold of a whole new system," says Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. "The time where accountants decide what music people hear is coming to an end. Accountants may be good at numbers, but they have terrible taste in music. I don't know how I'm going to get paid, but I'd rather go out into the brave new world than live with dinosaurs that are far too big for their boots."

    Someone UNDERSTOOD something Richards SAID!?

    He talks like Prince writes.
    • Maaaannn Keith never said any full sentences before like without a bit of ummmm y'know dramatic pauses... it just doesn't like come across the same without y'know the red eyes and the clearly like drugged up effect mannn

      Like he's been stoned for like his whole career more or less mannnn

      So it should be:- The time where accountants like decide what music people hear (pause) is coming to an end. Accountants may be good at numbers (wry smile at having remembered that, and thinks about pun with "we're going to do an old number now, one we used to do in the sixties" and worries for a while hence another pause), but they have terrible taste in music mannnn. (close and open eyes, see redness) I don't know how I'm going to get paid like, but like I'd rather go out into the brave new world (pause) than live with dinosaurs that are far too big for their boots...

  • by tmark (230091) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:48AM (#4265711)
    I'd rather go out into the brave new world than live with dinosaurs that are far too big for their boots.

    Anyone else get a laugh out of the fact that Keith Richards is derisively calling anyone a dinosaur ??
  • An idea... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aerojad (594561)
    The price of CDs themselves is way too outrageous. In many cases, the cd isn't worth the 20 dollars you have to fork over to buy it with. Somewhere, some place down the line, someone is making a fat profit on these cds. Does it really cost that much money to get a plastic case, a little booklet, and maybe a bit of paint on a cd? In this mass-producing-touch-of-a-button world? Say the most expensive CDs would only cost 9 or 10 dollars. Sales would surge since you could buy double as many disks. I for one would love to buy more cds, espically if they cost less. Sure you can find cds that are that price already online, or maybe in the bargin bin of your local Best Buy, but I mean major new releases. Don't you think more copies would fly off the shelf if the new pop hit cd came out at $9.99 instead of $18.99 in your local mall? Sell 10,000 copies at a lower price, and make more than you would if you sold 5,000 copies at a higher price. Of course from the industry's point of view, if you can sell 10,000 copies... sell 10,000 copies at the highest price possible. Got to get that gold plated Lexus, after all.
    • Re:An idea... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by paulbd (118132) on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:16AM (#4265933) Homepage

      whatever the record company is making from the sale of a CD, you can be sure that only a very small fraction of its costs are related to producing the CD itself. marketing, office staff, physical distribution, office costs, studio time, lost money on flops, ... the list goes on.

      i'm not justifying any particular price for a CD, but demanding that because a CD is cheap to make means that recorded music sold in CD format should be sold for very little is incredibly naive. the price of the product is not just the price of making the final disc.

      i'm also curious at the level of complaint about this particular consumer item, when exactly the same concerns and cost/price relationship exists for most other things that we buy, particularly clothes. i don't hear many people (especially on slashdot) talking this way about t-shirts and shoes, which cost very, very little to make but sell for at least as much as a CD.
  • Many issues are covered, including copyright reform, fraudulent accounting on the part of record labels, and how selling a quarter million albums can leave you owing your label $14,000."

    Meanwhile, at the bottom of the article page, it says "Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. -- Alexander Pope"

    very fitting.

    See, this is why i don't buy anything from the RIAA anymore, aside from the fact that I don't want my money going to fund copyright laws that I don't want. If i want to hear them bad enough, I'll go see them when they come to town, if I hear about it, since I don't listen to the radio...but thats what band websites are for.
  • Tactful wording. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by altgrr (593057) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:50AM (#4265732)
    "And these renegotiated deals don't tend to tack on a lot of extra albums or dramatically increase the artist's obligation"

    Which is to say that they could tend to tack on a few extra albums or moderately increase the artist's obligation, in addition to tacking on a lot of extra albums and/or dramatically increasing the artist's obligation in a smaller proportion of cases.

    What it comes down to is this: If they're conning the artists who have been in the business a long time, they're hardly going to tell it to USA Today straight, are they?
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 @ g m ail.com> on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:51AM (#4265733) Homepage
    "Industry studies point out that for every hit the business scores, it loses $6.3 million on albums that tank. Fewer than 5% of signed artists deliver a hit."

    That's not the artists' fault, so don't make them pay for the labels' poor decisions. It's the fault of the labels for signing every jackass garage band it 'discovers' to multi-album contracts.

    Perhaps they'd lose less money (and maybe make some?) if their tastes and qualifications were a little more discriminating.

    • by altgrr (593057)
      Or, to put it more bluntly, stop overpromoting sh!t. IMHO, it'd work a lot better if they were banned from subsidising and promoting any tracks, and just let the radio stations decide what they want to play, while releasing the track simultaneously to radio stations and the public, so Joe Public doesn't get fed up of every new track before it's even released.
  • "They face challenges from increasingly vocal performers.."

    Well duh! Hello! They're performers, they're supposed to be vocal, or instrumental or something. I bet the writer was saving that one up for years.

  • I feel for the artists--especially the ones who have a steady following and are great musicians but get dropped because they don't appeal to the "MTV generation". But it's our own fault. We rely too much on radio and TV to influence our tastes and who we listen to. I once thought there was a big, untapped resource of music-lovers who really want to hear the stuff that's not on the radio--people who want only quality musicianship and a unique sound, but things like jazz (the only truly American music form) and classical have never been big sellers, even with the older demographic.

    Face it, most people want to hear the stuff that's on the radio-- over-produced, simplistic, commercialized goo, and we can't stand if it's not a singable tune. That's why only 5% of the artists have a hit-- because the record companies know they can't make money unless they find a musician who happens to fit that (very rare) formula. Even if they do sign an innovative group or individual, they know hardly anyone will buy the record, because they know we have horrible taste, or that we, for whatever reason, are less likely to buy it.

    I work at a music store, and 99% of the requests I get are for musicians who they heard on the radio or TV. People want to be hand-fed good music, then complain when it's not good. The record companies are only trying to feed the customer what they seem to want, which is not necessarily good music.

  • by droopus (33472) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:58AM (#4265792)
    I was a record producer for fifteen years and got out of the business because it simply sickened me. Here's an example:

    Artists are paid a points royalty on sale of master recordings (while songwriters are paid publishing royalties on the sales of songs). 15% (15 points) is quite a good royalty for a new band, or even one with a hit under their belt.

    But does that mean 15 points off all sales? Nope.

    It means 15% of 90% of the worldwide gross. Why 90%?

    Because in the 1940's (when the label business models we hate so much were established) lacquer records were still sold and many of them broke in shipment. A 10% "breakage allowance" was standard.

    It still is. CDs don't break. But the labels, almost without exception, skim 10% off the top for "breakage" before even getting to recoupment. If IBM skimmed 10% off their earnings before issuing dividends the Board would be crucified. But music labels? No problem!

    As for recoupment, the example given in the USA Today article is tame. I won't mention the name, but there is a band who has sold millions, for each of their more than five albums. But each time, video costs, recording costs, marketing/promotion costs, plane fares (for huge label entourages), hotel bills (for these same label execs) were all paid for by the band.

    Sum total? They sold 35 million records and still OWE the label over 2 million dollars.

    The system was devised in the 40's and has no place in the 21st Century. Hilary Rosen can whine all she wants, but the labels are truly in serious trouble due to their religious adherence to these ancient business models.
  • by Rader (40041) on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:01AM (#4265814) Homepage
    ...Wayne Kramer, founder of punk's seminal MC5, felt some empathy for embattled record execs after he established his label, MuscleTone, last year.

    "I have a new respect for how hard it is to run a label, and I know record companies lose money on most bands," Kramer says....


    What the hell? True, I'm not an ex-punk band leader or label maker, but not being able to sell bad music in a 10 block radius shouldn't be a gauge.

    Maybe some type of co-op is needed. A huge number of artists get together, and with power in numbers (and dollars) able to procure the cheapest marketing, distribution, and processing they can get for their dollars. Figure out the costs, and that's what you charge the artist to put out a new record. Profits can go to the artist, with maybe a small percentage going to the investment of the co-op. Merchandise, touring/concerts, part of the working equation. Make rMTv channel (r=real) to play their own videos. Crack into the radio stations market to play their own music only.

    *sigh* Probably impossible to do with the monopoly in place.

    But then again, maybe it has been done, and the RIAA = the co-op.
  • by vsavatar (196370) on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:02AM (#4265823)
    While intentionally not paying royalties is obviously fraudulent accounting. The traditional system of applying overhead to jobs also needs to be eliminated because they're charging artists for idle time that's not the artists' fault, but the fault of the Labels. Take recording for instance. If a recording studio applies overhead based on the estimated number of studio hours they think they'll incur throughout the year, the overhead cost will be more per studio hour than if the studio applied overhead based on capacity of recording hours available which is the way it should be done. Artists should only have to pay for the time, labor, and materials it takes to produce their own albums, not the studio's idle time because they can't get enough business. While this will result in underapplied overhead for the studio and an increase in cost of sales, that's not the artists' fault and it shouldn't be their problem. The Labels and the studios need to find a way to bring their actual recording hours closer to capacity to get their profit margin back rather than overcharging the artists for it which is, unfortunately, still legal in the USA. This is why an album can sell 250,000 copies and still leave an artist owing money, because they're sticking it to them by overapplying overhead.
  • The Baffler article by Stevel Albini that was referenced in USA Today is available here [arancidamoeba.com]. The $-14,000 is not really relevant, it's the difference from a $250,000 advance.


    The income statement is a little hard to follow. For one thing, it doesn't have proper indenting for sub-items, so it's hard to tell which things should really be added up.


    For those who think it's okay for bands to make nothing on recordings since they make all their money on tours--this band lost money on tours, which is typical, from what I understand.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here's a shocker: Hilary is on a salary of $1.4 million a year, with all travel, clothing, food and personal incidentals added as expenses, plus three "business" residences.Total comp package: about 2.7 million a year. Jack Valenti gets at least 1.5 million more. A YEAR.

    And you wonder why she is so tencious about ideas which any sane person would laugh at?

    Because she only cares about what most people care about: their own asses. If the music industry no longer has a need for the RIAA, what else could she possibly be qualified for?
  • by e2d2 (115622) on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:12AM (#4265907)
    "In the past 20 years, an industry that was led by visionaries and music lovers has become dominated by accountants, financial analysts and people who can't think ahead more than 90 days."

    Sounds a lot like the software industry
  • It is clearly time for change. When artists have such slave-like contracts - low pay and few rights - there is no wonder talented, smart people stay out of the recording industry.
  • by Lysol (11150) on Monday September 16, 2002 @10:54AM (#4266188)
    For the better part of my 20's, I was in 'the industry'. Either in a band trying to crack it or livin the poor musician lifestyle with most of my friends being either musicians or in 'the industry'.

    The Stevel Albini blurb is an excellent read. If you're not a Hootie or Britney or Korn type (even korn being huge is weird) they you're either 100% screwed or you're never gonna make it or you're gonn land on an indie or start your own label.

    Me, I tried the start your own label after 'not making it'. 'The industry' is not anything remotely to do with bringin artistic capabilities to the listening public. It is 100% about 'product', how to get that 'product' into the hands of as many people as possible and what the next 'hit' is gonna be. When 'the industry' says it loses $6mil on most acts, big fucking deal, it's your own fault. Because:
    - they've completely run all the mom and pop record stores outta biz = no loyal fanbase at a word of mouth price = $3mil for radio (ugh, clear channel) & mtv promotions = Accountant: 'shit, we couldn't clear out the other 10mil units of Susie Johnson cuz people are sick of her already.' CEO: 'scerew her then. alright, dump the cd's in some poor country and jack up the fees 10% on the next 10 new acts'.
    - recording an album in a pro studio is horrendiously expensive ($5k for a guy to come in a tune the room is pretty fucked up)
    - they sign shitty cookie cutter bands! any orginality, forget it.
    - Jim Lawer charges $500/hr. John CEO makes 10x more than Jim.

    This being said, I would vomit profusely like a posessed demon and kill myself if it wasn't for many of the real musicians and labels. Look at Fugazi and Dischord. That is it!. They live the music, they do well and they don't fuck eveyone ever and drive away at the end of the day to their mansion on the hill and preach all this rhetoric shit like Rosen does.

    Once you get back to the real deal about music, which is (and I don't give one rats ass what Kid Rock says - yah, lets see what he thinks in 10 years when he's been milked dry and tossed aside) that it's art and expression. Period!

    Sure, you can make money at it, but 'the industry' is soooo lopsided right now that the RIAA/Rosen claims make me laugh. This stuff all ties in also with the MPAA and p2p (duh!) and DRM. These groups have been stifling artists rights for some time and now their only recourse, after 'the people' as in we, have spoken, is to go after us. Threatening to pass legislation to get 'copyrighted' material off our computers if need be!

    What you can do:
    1. Don't buy trash crap from Britney and the like
    2. Smash your MTV (they're literally nothing but a delivery vehicle for the big 5, period!)
    3. Get into your local scene. This is where the best stuff always is. And if there isn't one, make one!
    4. If you find you have a p2p song that's been 'doctored' remove it. This will keep the good stuff flowin and the rage against the machine growin.

    So, there is stuff we can do. We just have to get off our asses and do it. Or, lay down with the wolves...
  • The Last DJ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by matthewd (59896) on Monday September 16, 2002 @11:28AM (#4266442)
    A couple of weeks ago I got an email advertising Tom Petty's new single, "The Last DJ", mentioned in this article. Although I'm not even a casual fan, I checked it out anyway... Definately worth a listen for anyone opposed to the Clear Clannel-ification of radio and the trend towards pay-per-play. Hard to beleive his label let him put this song on the CD let alone promote it as his first single!

    It seems the streaming version is gone but you might be able to request it at a local rock & roll station.

    "The Last DJ"

    Well you can't turn him into a company man
    You can't turn him into a whore
    And the boys upstairs just don't understand anymore
    Well the top brass don't like him talking so much
    And he won't play what they want to play
    And he don?t want to change what don't need to change

    CHORUS:
    There goes the last DJ
    Who plays what he wants to play
    And says what he wants to say
    Hey hey hey
    And there goes your freedom of choice
    There goes the last human voice
    There goes the last DJ

    While some folks said you gotta hang him so high
    Cause you just can't do what he did
    There's some things you just can't put in the minds of the kids
    As we celebrate mediocrity
    Our boys upstairs want to see
    How much you want to pay for what you used to get for free

    CHORUS

    Well he got in a station down in Mexico
    And sometimes it'll kind of come in
    And I'll bust a move and remember how it was back then

    CHORUS

  • by gsfprez (27403) on Monday September 16, 2002 @12:18PM (#4266841)
    1. the riaa.

    they are nothing but the scribes who are bitching at their own demise as they see the newer technology of the printing press making them obsolete. there have already been too many words written to describe the uselessness of their existance now.. i won't go over it again.

    2. musicians with not enough talent to make a living.

    shitty bands and guys that can't play their own instrument - whatever it may be - cannot draw an audience will not be able to survive without riaa companies. They don't get word of mouth. they don't get props on indie web radio. i know some of these guys. they are close friends. they have day jobs and they play for fun. that's completely legit and i'm all for that. in other words - they are you and me... guys who need to stop thinking that they are rock stars and get real fscking jobs.

    3. songwriters.

    i'm not impressed with songwriters. i've read enough web pages with the rantings of college students that can qualify as lyrics... if you can really write lyrics - get with a real good musician and split the income from the shows or cd revenues. songwriting does not merit an entire industry or copyright infrasructre to support them. They need to get real fscking jobs like the shitty bands, you, and me.

    the winners?

    you and me can just get back to enjoying music, taking it with us, and not worrying about the copyright gestapo DoSing my DSL line, or throwing me in jail because i didn't have the right key to play the wrong music.
  • by Gallowglass (22346) on Monday September 16, 2002 @12:19PM (#4266851)
    They could publish their own CDs. As an inspiring example, there is a Canadian musician by the name of Loreena McKenitt (an "eclectic Celtic" harpist) who started off playing in malls and now runs her own publishing outfit [quinlanroad.com]. She has sold almost ten million CDs without the help of any recording company.

    So, who needs the RIAA?

    I saw a documentary on the TV about her a year or two ago. As I recall, she said, "Once I realized how much it actually cost to produce a CD as to what the sale price was, I though I'd be an idiot to give away all that money." (This is not a direct quote from Ms. McKennit, just a vague recollection filtered through my cerebellum.)

    The documentary showed her Quinlan Road offices [quinlanroad.com] where she employ 3 or 5 people.

    The downside of this, of course, is you have to be able to run a business, and we all have some musician buddies to whom this does not apply! :-)
  • ESD Works? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Schnapple (262314) <tomkidd@v[ ]exas.com ['iat' in gap]> on Monday September 16, 2002 @12:44PM (#4267091) Homepage
    Alright, so a few years back Wizards of the Coast bought TSR, makers of D&D, saving D&D from death at the hands of the nearly-dead TSR. As a result they had ~25 years of D&D, AD&D, etc. stuff at their disposal. Obviously this was too much stuff to put into print and since most of it was outdated (old rule sets) it didn't make sense to put these materials back out. However, it seemed like a crime to let it all rot, so WotC decided to scan them into PDF's and make them Electronic Software Downloads for purchase, a few bucks each

    The interesting part to me, as near as I can tell, is that despite being easily available, these aren't available for download everywhere like MP3's are. Various reasons for this including the populatity level of the material, but I think the #1 reason was that, since people bought these things and then downloaded them, they're less likely to share them. "Buy your own!" is the idea. How dumb is it to buy something online and then let everyone else have it for free. People are more likely to share things they download for free.

    My point is this: a different distribution method for music - in this case letting people pay for unrestricted downloads (i.e., no DRM, let people burn it) would work. People wouldn't give them to other people, they'd let them go download their own. Dvorak [pcmag.com] had a brilliant editorial on this - with no manufacutring/retail/shipping fees you let the people pay for the rights to distribute the stuff themselves and you wind up with more money for both execs and artists.

  • by dtabraha (557054) on Monday September 16, 2002 @12:51PM (#4267167) Homepage Journal
    Great article.
    The RAC has a good web site: http://www.recordingartistscoalition.com/ [recordinga...lition.com]

    Would you still share music illegally if the artist was getting the money directly?
    I think the biggest reason that a lot of people laugh off issues about music sharing is because we all know that the people complaining about music theft are the company fat cats, not the starving artists. The individual artist really isn't that affected when people share their music.

    Check the numbers.

    The RIAA lists around 800 recording companies as members. There are probably around 1,000 artists per recording company.

    Say Billy BadGuy hooks up with his 50 friends, each of which has 200 CDs that they have all ripped.
    By some magical twist of fate, no two people have the same CD, so we have a total of 10,000 different CDs that exist on the network to be illegally shared.

    (10,000 CDs * $16) / 800 recording companies = $200 per company

    Realistically there are probably only about 20 recording companies that likely produced the majority of those CDs.

    (10,000 CDs * $16) / 20 real recording companies = $8,000 per company

    On the artists side of the fence, if we assume that we have 10,000 different artists:

    (10,000 CDs * $16) / 10,000 artists = $16 per artist

    Realistically there are probably a few repeats, let's say 1/4 of the CDs are paired up with one other from the same artist. That means that 2,500 CDs belong to 1,250 artists, and the remaining 7,500 CDs belong to 7,500 artists.

    (2,500 CDs * $16) / 1,250 artists = $32 per artist (for 1,250 artists)

    (10,000 CDs * $16) / 8,750 artists = ~$18.29 per artist (average for artists)

    Pair all of this up with the average number of (signed) artists in the world:

    (7,500 artists + 1,250 popular artists) / 800,000 artists = 0.0109375

    That means that 1 percent of the artists are paying about $18 per 50 geeks sharing files, with the majority of them paying only $16.

    Now to poke at the RIAA's numbers some. They reported that they lost around 600 million dollars from 2000 to 2001 because of illegal file sharing. Using our above example:

    $600,000,000 lost / (10,000 CDs * $16) = 3,750 occurrences

    That means that the above example of 50 people with 200 unique CDs would have to have been repeated (uniquely) almost 3,750 times in order for the RIAA's posted losses to be correct.

    3,750 cases * 51 people per case = 191,250 unique naughty people

    (How many users are on SlashDot?)
    On top of that, their numbers would fail again if any one of the almost 200,000 people bought any CDs based on what they heard on these networks.

    Now any monkey with a keyboard should be able to sit here with these numbers and crunch out some figures, but in 99 out of 100 calculations, you're going to see this:

    Recording Artists + Recording Companies = RIAA Monopoly

    Besides all our fun number crunching, the article had some pretty good points.

    "Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, once stated that the record business is the only industry in which the bank still owns the house after the mortgage is paid."

    Not only do they still own the house, they can kick you out of it, sell it, and keep all the money.
    Then when you try to buy a new house with a different bank, they sue your ass!

    "...virtually all contracts renegotiated after a hit album added terms favoring the artist..."

    Well that's a no-brainer. Think of it as a poor man with a $5,000 house that the bank is trying to repossess. All of a sudden he wins the lotto and has $500,000,000. You can bet that bank will be a lot nicer, hoping he will keep all of his money in their bank accounts.

    "Artists know record companies are giving blood, sweat and millions of dollars to help them realize their dreams."

    Wonderfully vague statement that should be fun to pick apart.
    They neglect to mention that the blood they give is being sucked out of all the other artists that they've screwed over, and that the dreams they are realizing are for their own billion dollar mansions in La Hoya.

    Artists know record companies have been screwing people out of their dreams for years.
    To make another parallel, imagine that you want to buy a car so that you can go to work and make some money. So you go to your local GM dealer and find out that you have to pay them a bunch of money over a few years for the car. Ok that's not too bad, but wait...
    • You have to agree to buy another 5 cars from GM over the next 10 years?
    • You're not allowed to buy a car from any other manufacturer or they can sue you??
    • You can't get any warranty that the car won't break down even driving it off the lot???
    • You're not even allowed to test drive the car????

    It's not surprising that independent artists end up happily riding horses for most of their career. Sure you might not be able to get on the expressway, but if your ass hurts from too much riding at least you can get off of the horse.

    "You have record companies bought and sold on the strength of copyrights created by artists who sign away all rights in perpetuity to a faceless corporation."

    Who knew Don Henley was so eloquent?

  • by SlashDotterX (608955) on Monday September 16, 2002 @01:00PM (#4267257)
    I read the article in question, and I've heard before the arguments that the major recording labels regularly withhold as much as 40% of artists royalties, but there were 3 things in this article that really leaped off the page for me...

    "Not surprisingly, labels are balking at paying roughly 20,000 artists up to 30 years of back pension and health benefits." ...this may sound a bit like heresy, but I reluctantly agree. Recording artists are *not* employees. They are not paid a wage. They don't get paid by the hour. What they have is purely a contractual arrangment of service for renumeration. It's up to *them* to put away a portion of their earnings for retirement JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE who is self-employed. End of story here...

    "...earning $710,000 for the label. The band, after repaying expenses ranging from recording fees and video budgets to catering, wardrobe and tour bus costs, is left $14,000 in the hole on royalties." ...maybe if the *execs* weren't swanning about in limos and helicopters like they insist their artists do to maintain their "Image", there might just be a few more bucks left over after the whole recording/tour shebang is over. No?...

    "They've alienated consumers and artists." ...boy o' boy, they sure have. And when they are not giving the artists what they want (i.e. a fair go), and they are not giving the consumers what they want (i.e. a *viable* purchasing and fair-use alternative), then I see any number of sites doing similar to what Prince is doing, and acting as the middle-man for downloading their music, becoming all the more common.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.

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