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Music Media

Music and the Internet Reprise 325

Posted by michael
from the play-it-again-janis dept.
Paul M. writes "Janis Ian, nominated for nine Grammys since 1967, writes, "RIAA's claim that the industry and artists are hurt by free downloading is nonsense." She wants the industry, artists, and consumers to work together 'to make technology work for all of us', something I've advocated all along. Record companies were to provide a means for exposure; now that the Internet provides near-universal exposure at comparatively no cost, the record companies' utility has expired." Janis' interview makes for good reading as well.
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Music and the Internet Reprise

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  • by peterb (13831) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:39AM (#4513062) Homepage Journal

    I still have a Janis Ian vinyl 45 of "At Seventeen..."

    Memo to self: rip this to MP3 later this week, release new "At Seventeen (hardcore Phunked-up remix)"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:41AM (#4513090)
    to give Janis Ian her own icon and group here on /.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:42AM (#4513101)
    More concerts and less CDs. What, the "R" in RIAA stands for "recording"? Well too bad for them then.
  • by jaymzter (452402) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:43AM (#4513107) Homepage
    the record companies' utility has expired

    Mod her up + Insightful
  • by elmegil (12001) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:43AM (#4513110) Homepage Journal
    So, I guess all I have to do in order to get a submission finally accepted is resubmit a rehash of something that already made the front page half a dozen times then.

    Don't get me wrong, I dig Janis Ian and her stand on this issue, but geez, can't we find some news that's actually NEW?

    • Re:Agaaain? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Asprin (545477) <gsarnold@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:50AM (#4513189) Homepage Journal

      So, I guess all I have to do in order to get a submission finally accepted is resubmit a rehash of something that already made the front page half a dozen times then.

      Don't get me wrong, I dig Janis Ian and her stand on this issue, but geez, can't we find some news that's actually NEW?

      Again, this article is newsworthy NOT BECAUSE OF THE CONTENT (with which you and I are both already ridiculously familiar), but BECAUSE OF WHERE THE CONTENT APPEARS.

      Maybe the wind blows up where you live, but my mother-in-law reads the USA Today, not /.

      • Re:Agaaain? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by elmegil (12001)
        Might have made sense for the editor or submitter to POINT THAT OUT then, don't ya think? Because GOD KNOWS that Janice Ian quated saying the same things again is not something I really am going to bother go checking all the links on, just in case it's something new.
    • Re:Agaaain? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jglow (525234)
      I agree. She doesn't express any new ideas on the subject.. but it is nice to see someone who's "been there, done that" to step up against te RIAA. She makes some good points, too.

      "That's how artists become successful: exposure. Without exposure, no one comes to shows, and no one buys CDs. After 37 years as a recording artist, when people write to tell me that they came to my concert because they downloaded a song and got curious, I am thrilled."

      That's how I am. Sure, I might not buy CDs that I download, but I sure as hell do support the artist by buying merch, going to shows and telling my friends about how good a certain band is.
    • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:35PM (#4513598) Journal

      Don't get me wrong, I dig Janis Ian and her stand on this issue, but geez, can't we find some news that's actually NEW?

      First, let me state that I, too, agree with Ian and her position. But every time I see something about her speaking out against the RIAA and state of music industry today I'm wondering if anyone else in the industry is speaking out as well or is it just her? I'm guessing the reason she's in the news so much about this issue is that she's the most vocal but does anyone know if anyone else is making any noise about this too? Honestly, I'm not sure how much of an influence Janis Ian has among everyday people today. If some big name person (read: talentless but popular contemporary act) were to start making some of these same points, perhaps someone other than the faithful would start listening.

      Again, I'm not slamming Janis Ian or slashdot for posting this. I'm just wondering if anyone is adding their voice to hers. Because, if not, I'm afraid it's not going to do much good.

      GMD

  • by TheGreenGoogler (618700) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:43AM (#4513114) Journal
    Be sure to visit Boycott-RIAA [boycott-riaa.com] for further coverage of this and all issues anti-RIAA (Not that there are any /.'ers against the fine institution of the RIAA, but link provided just in case ;)
  • If I download a song, the RIAA hasn't lost anything. I've just gained it. Copyright laws should only be applied against publishers, not members of the public.
  • Question... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaptainAlbert (162776) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:46AM (#4513145) Homepage
    I remember reading about the music industry from "insiders" before Napster et al. The story about six years ago went thus:

    "Record companies lose money on CDs. Recorded music has not turned a profit for a long time. The real money is made from concert tickets and merchandising."

    I'd be interested to know what happened to this story and the people who used to tell it. Sounds to me like it's every bit as relevant today. But the RIAA don't want anyone to hear it, because now it has a scapegoat for its members' lousy market performances.

    Ho hum.
    • Re:Question... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:03PM (#4513319) Journal
      > "Record companies lose money on CDs. Recorded music has not turned a profit for a long time. The real money is made from concert tickets and merchandising."

      You have that backwards. This is about the artists, not the record companies.

      Artists are the ones who lose money on CDs, and make it up on tour selling T-shirts.

      The "record companies" make a killing selling a 0.02$ plastic disc for 20 bucks, after all the content was provided by the artist. Their only expenses are production and promotion.
      • Re:Question... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GooberToo (74388) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:22PM (#4513471)
        Their only expenses are production and promotion.

        Which the artists typically have to cover. This is one of the reasons why they are considered the last stand for slavery! The RIAA usually gets nothing but a free ride.

        Imagine this. You sign a 5-disc license with someone. You're first disc sales great. You make another disc. They don't like it. You still owe 3 more discs AND now you're out all the money it took to record/produce it. Now, you're stuck. You can't sale or even attempt to make you're money back as they own the rights to the disc. They won't sale you're latest and all the money you made on the first disc is now spent and down the drain in living and making the second disc. What do you do? Make a third disc? You don't have any money. Okay, so now they front you the money with horrible terms (ownership rights to the previously made disc and you still owe them four more) because they have all the leverage.

        You're screwed!

        Yes, the RIAA is past its time just like the buggy whip! They are corrupt and no longer serve any purpose.
        • Re:Question... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Lendrick (314723) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:57PM (#4513800) Homepage Journal
          Their only expenses are production and promotion.

          Which the artists typically have to cover. This is one of the reasons why they are considered the last stand for slavery! The RIAA usually gets nothing but a free ride.


          Only if the artist makes it big. Generally, the cost of promoting an artist isn't equalled by the revenue that the artist brings in... Hence, the recording company usually takes the loss.

          But then again, perhaps they're promoting the wrong way. Rather than paying big bucks to Clear Channel to get their music on the radio, they *could*, say, release music for free over the internet, thus skipping the radio payola entirely and keeping more CD sale money to themselves.

          My qestion is this: Is the radio payola so much that it would make up for the loss of having less people buy their music? People who download entire albums are probably less likely to purchase the CD than someone who hears a couple songs over the radio.
          • Re:Question... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by GooberToo (74388) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @02:07PM (#4514515)
            Only if the artist makes it big. Generally, the cost of promoting an artist isn't equalled by the revenue that the artist brings in... Hence, the recording company usually takes the loss.

            This would be like me, being a developer, being asked to pay for ALL my development efforts on a product which they tell me they need. Then, after I deliver it, they tell me that I'm going to have to eat it because they spent too much money advertising it and that they are not even going to bother selling it. The flip side of this is, they are taking very little risk and ride freely on the tails of any returns. Furthermore, their fees and any front money get reimbursed before they turn over any money to the bands. This means bands can still take a loss on a record while the RIAA still made money. Again, their downside is always protected. Again, they have ALL the control, little to no risk, and nothing but money.

            Wish I knew of any other business that worked like that so I can get a free ride too. In fact, if artists had any business smarts, the first time the RIAA offered someone a deal like that they be laughed out of the room...just as any other industry would do. It's insane! I guess if you're hungry enough, you'll eat just about anything given to you. :(

        • Any time PartyA and PartyB are in a joint venture, and PartyA's expenses are covered by PartyB's share of the profit, *and* there is no reasonable recourse for PartyB to protest...

          PartyA has no incentive whatsoever to keep its expenses down. In fact, the best situation for PartyA comes when expenses are really high.

          It works for government contractors, and for the RIAA.

          At this point, I'm going to put forth the supposition that it really does cost close to $10.00 per CD to fill that music store. I'm going to posit that they're really not making obscene profits selling a $0.25 worth of plastic for $16.00. (The gross margin markup from $10.00 to $16.00 is reasonable, IIUC.)

          Instead, I'm going to suggest that the cost situation is all out of line, and they're bleeding expenses at every single turn. If computers were produced and promoted as efficiently as CDs, they'd cost somewhere between a car and a condo.

          IMHO, we need a visible campaign. Since you mentioned "buggy whip" I'll suggest an idea my brother and I talked about this past weekend:
          We need to sell buggy-whips for cars, or at the very least buggy-whip bumper stickers. The tech sector is suffering enough without the RIAA dumping on us. (...like a drowning person climbing on his rescuer.)
    • Strangely enough, I remember this as well. I think it might have been in relation to the whole TicketMaster mess around that time. Don't quote me on that, but I'd be [i]very[/i] interested to find that quote.
    • Re:Question... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crashnbur (127738)
      One story [mp3.com] in particular that I read about four years, which was similar to this but good enough to earmark, went thus:
      ...the vast majority of music revenues are built around the "pay before you can listen" model in which customers have to buy a CD or cassette before they can hear a song. The Internet makes possible a wealth of new revenue models in which free music can play a significant role...

      This article essentially represents how I feel about the industry today. Sure, it isn't entirely accurate and the theories aren't laws unless they work in the real world... But in theory, it looks good.

    • Re:Question... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Moekandu (300763)
      They lied.

      Record companies make money from CD's. Hell, the profit margins are ridiculous compared to many other industries. Pressing a CD is $0.20, the jewel case is $0.05, and the printing may be as high as a dollar. Recording costs? Travel expenses? Venue fees? Those get charged back to the artists. It's the artists that lose money.

      Moekandu

      "It is a sad time when a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs."
    • Re:Question... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by the_rev_matt (239420)
      I ran several record stores in the early 90's. Artists at that time (and likely still) make pretty much jack on album sales. They get an advance from the label, and giving the "creative accounting" of the labels, that advance seems to take FOREVER to get paid off (artists don't see a penny in royalties until the advance is paid off).

      Example: in 1992(?) when "Epic" had been on the charts for months and Faith No More had been in heavy rotation for almost a year, they still had to borrow money from friends and family to buy groceries and several of them still lived with their parents in order to save money.

      The money for artists come from merchandising (which is why labels so often now require artists to sign over their merch rights as well to get a deal) and touring (which monies labels are trying to steal as well).

      Labels are useful for boy bands and Britney Wannabes and that's it. Any other artist will do much better going indie.

  • by I Want GNU! (556631) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:47AM (#4513156) Homepage
    Reggae pioneer and Grammy award winner Jimmy Cliff [jimmycliff.com], famous for his starring role in cult movie classic The Harder They Come [imdb.com] and several hit songs, has recently released his entire newest album online for free download at his website [jimmycliff.com]. You can listen to the music by downloading People Music Media from the site, a P2P application that streams the music to you. It's great that famous artists are finally developing new music distribution schemes and revenue making models for the Information Age! Perhaps the RIAA [riaa.org] could take a few notes from him...

    And I just downloaded the album last night, it is amazing. (-:
    • corrections (Score:4, Informative)

      by I Want GNU! (556631) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:49AM (#4513181) Homepage
      It doesn't stream, it downloads the album in a protected albx format. It doesn't let you burn to CD but you can listen to it all you want on your computer and again, it's free (as in beer). He could theoretically release the whole thing in OGG or MP3 format but since people could copy and burn the CD easily and legally then it might hurt album sales, which I think we can understand him not wanting to do. Still, this is an amazing step!


    • "I can see clearly now my money's gone"
  • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:47AM (#4513159) Homepage
    The core problem here is that the RIAA (and MPAA if you want to go there also) leadership is not comprised of reasonable people. They're busy breathing heavily into paper bags over Internet File Sharing and are unwilling to consider any options other than locking up music as tightly as they can, prosecuting everyone they can get their hands on, and lobbying congress for more laws.

    This is a textbook example of incompetent leadership in business - management is religeously inflexibile and lives in a complete state of denial while steadily circling the drain.

    If the music industry wants to survive they need some fresh blood at the top because all of the laws and lawsuits in the world won't solve their problems, in fact, they will only make them worse...
    • .....because all of the laws and lawsuits in the world won't solve their problems, in fact, they will only make them worse...

      Unfortunately, we have yet to see about that.

    • I somewhat agree with this point, but you also have to consider the flipside, which is that many music "traders" want nothing less than completel access not only to rip music to their PC, but to download and trade it freely, without any restrictions at all. When the RIAA has thought about doing encrypted downloads, they were pretty much universally blasted because they wouldn't play on every OS and that people couldn't use them however they wanted (as in trading on Kazaa, etc). Unfortunately, when the RIAA has made moves toward the middle (such as encrypted downloads), the "music traders" have been there to twart them at every turn by breaking their encryption, which just shows to the RIAA that they can't do it without the music being available for free (which is bad for them). I find it amazing people are praising Jimmy Cliff for releasing an encrypted download that you can't burn to cd, trade, or play on some OSes, yet the RIAA was lambasted for the exact same thing. Both extremes aren't playing with a full deck, and unfortunately, most of us are caught in the middle.
  • by M3wThr33 (310489) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:48AM (#4513162) Homepage
    When technology goes past current methods of revenue, we must stifle the technology, rather then letting go of what made us money previously, just like movie previews on VHS tapes, because consumers certainly appreciate being held back.
  • Not entirely true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Faggot (614416) <choads@gay.PERIODcom minus punct> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:49AM (#4513183) Homepage
    now that the Internet provides near-universal exposure at comparatively no cost, the record companies' utility has expired.

    I don't agree.

    An anecdote some people here may share: back when I started surfing the web in 1995, websites were a lot easier to find. Back then, I'd happen upon more cool sites than I do now. These days, there is just so much of the web available that you need to use a portal/weblog/etc just to get there.

    Internet-distributed music falls victim to the same problem. Sure, anyone can get it anytime anywhere, but what good is that if no one will find it? Record companies provide valuable services to musicians: distribution, promotion, sending CDs to radio stations, booking, etc. To discount all these just because there are some greedy record companies is foolish and immature. The Internet is not the final answer for musicians.

    That said, I am very glad that someone in Finland can download my band's mp3s anytime.
    • I definitely agree with the points you've made here. But without writing a story of feature length, which would have required too much effort for the potential of rejection, I just wanted to be as general as I could. Excellent points!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:05PM (#4513336)
      but what good is that if no one will find it?

      Sure, if you had to sift through ALL the music out there on your own, you would be lucky to find a fraction of the good stuff that makes it to your ears today. However, you don't need the RIAA or their recording companies to do that.

      A perfect analogy is news. Frankly there is too much of it. Because you posted on slashdot, I'll assume, that like myself, you let this site do some of your filtering for you. In the web world there is always competition for eyeballs, and those with the best merit will survive. (e.g., Slashdot.)

      In a world where music is available from millions of direct download sources on terms dictated by the artists, I don't find it too far fetched to think that a website or two will spring up to fill the void left by the recording company talent agents that refused to logon.
    • Not entirely false (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Codex The Sloth (93427) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:10PM (#4513379)
      Record companies provide valuable services to musicians: distribution, promotion, sending CDs to radio stations, booking, etc. To discount all these just because there are some greedy record companies is foolish and immature. The Internet is not the final answer for musicians.

      These were once valuable services but they are decreasingly so... Distribution is (obviously) no longer a problem -- this is traditionally where the music companies have had a stranglehold. Promotion is really the only value add they have but the value here is highly debatable. Sure someone has to sift through a bunch of crap but how good a job do they do? If you never hear any of the ones they reject, what makes you think they aren't good (ok, probably a bunch of them are crap...). Wouldn't a moderation system where music listeners (who don't have a vested interest in an artist) rate music work just as well, if not better?
    • However in any free-competitive market, if there is a need for a service, then that service will be created.

      The service you describe as being needed is a way for you to find good music.

      I'm sure there are web sites, radio stations, online radio stations, music magazines that could fill this void, if only they were allowed a level playing field.

      Combining music and computers is great. You can compile databases of genres and their descriptions. Reference artists and albums to these genres. Build a database of artists you currently like, and reference this info to new artists you hopefully would like. I've seen similar things with movies.
    • Memepool.com, obscurestore.com, slashdot.com,
      the list goes on.

      How do you use the net? you search for stuff- chances are you will find a place where you agree with what is being said more often than not. And in the meme-propagating world that is the Internet if something is quality it will spread like wildfire.

      Instead of being bombarded with big money commercials you get testimonials. You go to the Onion's AV room and you read some reviews, you respect the reviewer, and when s/he later on says "This is the Next big thing" you weight the opinion not on how much hype you have heard about it, but on the integrity of the source.

      Its like the zoo.pl stuff at slashdot- you like what someone has to say, you make 'em your friend.

      It's what people have been doing for years before there was advertisement.
    • by jrst (467762) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:19PM (#4513448)
      It is true if you change the playing field, which is the point of the article.

      RIAA+Labels = Promotion + Distribution + Obstructionism

      Internet = RIAA+Labels - Distribution - Obstructionism

      What's left is promotion. So how do other industries deal with promotion? They use "adverising" or "PR" firms. But those firms don't (and shouldn't) get a lock on the intellectual property associated with the product just for promoting it.

      The functions of promotion and distribution will not disappear, but their implementation in the form of the RIAA and labels can, and should, be replaced.

      The power to make the change is in the hands of artists. Artists could set up their own alternative to the RIAA and labels at any time. Why haven't they? The technology is a no-brainer.

      No, this doesn't address physical CD distribution. But look at the context of this discussion, the debate, and the industry's cry for action against piracy--it all centers around the Internet. That's where the solution needs to start.

      Obviously a replacement wouldn't address the back catalogs controlled by the labels. However, once a viable alternative is in place, the labels would probably be much more amenable to rational negotiation.

      In short:
      1. Construct a viable alternative; then
      2. Bring the RIAA & Labels to the table; then
      3. Negotiate acces to the back catalogs.

      Anything else is wishful thinking--and whining--and requires the largesse of the RIAA and the labels (good luck).
    • by Reziac (43301)
      Erm.. if no one can find it, where do all these loose MP3s come from?? :)

      Seriously, I find unknown (at least to me) and independent artists by tripping over whatever looked interesting in an FTP listing (having searched most generically for "MP3") or via some MP3 search portal -- which you can't avoid finding from even the most cursory Google search. I don't HAVE radio access, so if it's not on the net, I never hear it.

      I'd think a DMOZ category (sorted by genre) would be a good place to start.

    • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:51PM (#4513738)
      An anecdote some people here may share: back when I started surfing the web in 1995, websites were a lot easier to find. Back then, I'd happen upon more cool sites than I do now. These days, there is just so much of the web available that you need to use a portal/weblog/etc just to get there.

      I think you'd also agree that what was a cool site back then probably wouldn't get you to stick around today. Almost every site had to win out on content back then, but there was so much novelty to the www at the time that any content at all was good enough for some page views. Now it's more about relevance and depth of content, rather than whether or not you can find any content.

      Internet-distributed music falls victim to the same problem. Sure, anyone can get it anytime anywhere, but what good is that if no one will find it?

      Most of the music I listen to isn't on RIAA labels and doesn't get airplay. How do I find it? Word of mouth, (non-RIAA) record label websites, band websites, genre-specific websites, and so on. I find far more music by making my way through various websites than any other way, because very little of the music I listen to has many other ways of getting out there. Sure, I can find a lot of it in smaller record stores, but I don't even know to look for it unless I've heard of it. Once I've found a band I'd like to hear, it's pretty simple with P2P systems to listen to a couple of songs to decide whether or not I want the CD. The only real problem is that even the P2P systems don't have a lot of obscure music, it's all relative to the number of people that listen to the music and have the knowledge to put the MP3s up for download.

      Record companies provide valuable services to musicians: distribution, promotion, sending CDs to radio stations, booking, etc. To discount all these just because there are some greedy record companies is foolish and immature. The Internet is not the final answer for musicians.

      Yet the record companies bill the musicians for all of those services at prices that the record companies determine. The artists also rarely have many choices about how their CDs are distributed in the first place if they sign up with a major label. The RIAA has sewn up the airwaves with a pay-to-get-played system that keeps smaller labels and DJ choices from getting aired, so now they're trying to do the same to the internet. The record companies own the distribution and promotion channels that they bill their artists to use, and if you go through any company that isn't part of the RIAA you will definitely not have access to that level of distribution and promotion, because the smaller companies can't even contract the same distributers and promoters for most of their artists (and especially in distribution even when they can their stuff gets pushed out only when the major label stuff has cleared the lines, rather than in normal production orders where first on the line is first out or the one that pays more for rush order gets a slight bump).

      If the RIAA's members didn't own the entire production line, it really wouldn't be that big of a deal for most artists to get most of those things done for themselves. At best they'd need some initial investment (or a loan) to get a run of CDs pressed, and in many cases people are doing this anyway just to get a major label contract.
    • by Quixadhal (45024)
      I agree that the internet (in every way) suffers from the secretary problem... how to find exactly what you want in the huge ocean of media. However, if it weren't for the threats and bullying activities of the RIAA, well known portals and internet radio stations would exist to track these things down.

      Imagine a radio station where what's played is really decided by the listeners (votes, rankings, directly viewable data) instead of some marketing numbers dreamed up by people high on crack? Easy to do with icecast, an sql database of music data, and a few php scripts -- once the pesky RIAA people die off.

      If you STILL want to buy into the dream that the RIAA helps musicians promote/book/etc... how do I find your album? I'm willing to bet that if I walk down to my local music store, there's at best a 50/50 chance they'll know who you are, and usually only if one of the employees listens to your stuff. OTOH, if you were played on an internet radio station, I would know who you were if I ever heard it (unlike airwave radio, internet radio always provides the data while you're listening), and if I knew your name I could look you up via google (or a more specialized search engine). How is the RIAA going to help me buy your stuff? They'll put up a few posters in places I don't go... great.

      The RIAA *could* have been at the forefront of this. They *could* have leapt in with both feet and helped develop and mature the ideas of streaming audio and compressed formats. Instead, they tried to have them declared witchcraft and are being burned by their own fires.
  • by bl968 (190792) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:52AM (#4513211) Journal
    The RIAA is not interested in anything that empowers the artist or the consumer unless they are the sole source for it. While free downloading is infinitely better publicity and promotion for bands it provides little benefits in return to the recording industry. They can not charge the artist or bands for the free distribution of their material on the net as they do with off net promotion. They can not report their ever increasing profits to their share holders. It is going to take a redefinition of the consumers and artists rights by Congress before the recording industries strangle hold on the music business is relaxed even a tiny bit. I am generally against legislated solutions however in this case it may be our only hope.
  • Nice, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:52AM (#4513214)
    ...her 9 Grammys hardly qualify her as an expert in this area. They qualify her as a musician but it doesn't mean she has some great insight into the business end of the industry.

    Now, if she had started and run a successful indie label then I'd take her comments more seriously. Good that the submitter found a way to plug his writings though.
    • Re:Nice, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:03PM (#4513322)
      On the first day I posted downloadable music, my merchandise sales tripled, and they have stayed that way ever since. I'm not about to become a zillionaire as a result, but I am making more money.

      What more qualifications does she need?

    • Re:Nice, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by teamhasnoi (554944) <teamhasnoi@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:19PM (#4513449) Homepage Journal
      The fact she's been around long enough to win 9 Grammys AND afford to continue to write, record, and play means that she obviously has SOME business sense.

      Why does she need to have a label to be taken seriously? It doesn't take an idiot to get screwed in the biz. The odds are so stacked in the industry's favor that you might as well be a farmer. She has managed to stay alive in a business that eats artists for lunch, and craps 'content' or product or whatever the flavor of the week is.

      BTW... The Stones, Bowie, and McCartney are all examples of musicians who are excellent businessmen. I think they may have won a talent show award or something, too.

    • Go read the other material on Janis Ian's site (it's not all anti-RIAA rants). She's really got her shit together across the board, and if her writing is any indication, has a very good grasp of business principles.

      Considering the number of flakes in the business, you're right to be suspicious, but Janis' own writings proved the quality of her insights to me (even when I don't agree with her).

  • Representative Gurm Dorbson of North Carolina recently wrote This piece [timecube.com] on how world hunger should be eliminated, something I've [dougmoon.com] advocated All [compearth.com] Along.

    *cough*.
  • Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rooked_One (591287) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:56AM (#4513255) Journal
    Its about time theres a song writer to whom's high priced lawyers havn't brainwashed into thinking they are getting ripped off.
    I know I bought metallica albums before their napster crusade, but I flat our refuse to now.

    And what about cd's that you've either gotten lost or stolen, or broken even? I think you should be entitled to download the song if its availiable. After all, why not? I'm sure I wasn't the only one really ticked off when I bought that one blind melon album and found all the songs except for the one that they played on the radio all the time (you remember, allllll I can say is that my life is pretty plain *breum brah brerum* I like watching the pluddles gather rain*).

    And don't forget the main issue here. EXPOSURE. Time to take away the strangle hold a couple of stuffed shirts think about what is "good music." I stopped buying music all in all not long ago, but when I did stop, the last couple albums I bought were from those labels that were created by the songwriter. Ok, so *maybe* I didn't pay for that kid rock cd, but how long could you really listen to that one for? :) Anyways, back to my point that the little guys really benifit from this. If i'm listening to an mp3 stream and hear a really jazzin song that i've never heard of the artist before, I might buy it.

    Otherwise, they would have just ended up in the fatcat's rejection bin.
    • I know I bought metallica albums before their napster crusade, but I flat our refuse to now.

      So, Lars & co. should have just sat back while their unfinished tracks were being distributed en masse?

      The item that caused the "Napster Crusade", which Metallica was only the first to notice, was the distribution of unfinished songs as MP3s, against the artist's wishes.

      This is the equivalent of buggy alpha code being given to anyone who wants it even when the coders know it's faulty.

      I was a Metallica fan before Napster, and I remain a fan after Napster. And the band has even got samples of their entire song library online for sampling... http://www.metallica.com/

      I'd say they've done an OK job in finding a happy medium between "digital is bad" and "here, have access to everything I ever record, even the bad things."
  • Stupid statement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @11:58AM (#4513264) Homepage Journal

    Record companies were to provide a means for exposure; now that the Internet provides near-universal exposure at comparatively no cost, the record companies' utility has expired.

    That's just idiotic. In fact it's the opposite -- because every idiot who owns a guitar can put up a web site, the good bands are drowned by even more noise that we've seen in the past.

    I'm sure there are innumerable good bands who put up a web site expecting the flood of CD orders to come charging in -- and then are bitterly disappointed when people don't magically show up.

    The fact is, good musicians just aren't that rare. The ones that become extremely popular happen because of combination of luck -- and promotion. The way to get noticed is still to play local clubs hoping that you get good word of mouth. And if that happens, hope that a national promoter (duh) promotes you nationally. Just opening a web site and hoping is not going to cut it.

    Or to put it another way, somehow you have to rise above the noise. What makes you unique by just putting up a web site? And even if you did become as popular as a big group, exactly how are you going to produce those million CDs? Can you say "record distributor deal"?

    [P.S. This is my 2500th comment on this account. That's not including the 400+ on my old account, though, or miscellaneous A/C posts. And yes, I manage to distribute my wisdom while still having a life! Boy it's great to be me. :)]

    • That's just idiotic...because every idiot who owns a guitar can put up a web site, the good bands are drowned by even more noise that we've seen in the past.

      That's not idiotic, that's a necessary part of life, especially in a capitalist world (which this ultimately is). Preferences are just that, preferences, and for every "trash" band or song out there, there is someone who likes it or it wouldn't be there.

      Darwin's idea of evolution suggests that "only the strong survive". In today's world, there are a lot of survivors, but only the strongest break through to mainstream or otherwise profitable success.

      You're ultimately right. Good musicians aern't that rare, and as the Internet speeds up and offers more, it won't be difficult to find something that's worth listening to (or reading, or seeing, etc.). Sure, some artists are better than others and still won't receive the credit they deserve because the Internet is so massive that equal opportunity exposure is impossible (emphasizes because I think it's a good quote, heh), but that doesn't make what I said previously "idiotic". The record companies' utility has expired, or it is at least winding down.

      Obviously I had no room to elaborate in an introductory blurb... If it were a feature article, I would have covered it better. :-)

      • Sure, some artists are better than others and still won't receive the credit they deserve because the Internet is so massive that equal opportunity exposure is impossible [...], but that doesn't make what I said previously "idiotic". The record companies' utility has expired, or it is at least winding down.

        OK, maybe not idiotic, just wrong. :)

        You contradicted yourself in the same paragraph. On the one hand you say that "equal opportunity exposure is impossible". Then you go on to say that a business that help artists achieve exposure are obsolete! That's the primary business of the record companies: promotion and exposure. Sure, manufacturing and distribution is big part, too, but the reason someone signs with a record company is for the promotion.

        The Internet helps bypass the record industry with distribution and manufacturing to some extent, but it does very little in promoting.

    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:39PM (#4513624)
      Or to put it another way, somehow you have to rise above the noise.

      There has to be some system to select the best artists. Today we have one system, but it requires the artists sign over the vast majority of their earnings to a cartel.

      That cartel arose because of the characteristics of mid 20th century media technology (i.e., the cheapest and most effecitve way to distribute music was plastic disks and plastic tape).

      Now that technology has advanced, it might be possible to create a better system. Maybe something along the lines of EBay. It's still a cartel or "natural monopoly", but at least anybody could participate without signing away all their rights, and the system might only skim 15% or so. The best music could be determined by customers' moderation points.

      I know there have been many attempts at this kind of thing, but none have yet hit the critical mass needed to stamp out the old cartel. One big reason for this is that almost all of the current popular artists are locked into long term exclusive contracts. The old cartel thus perpetuates itself even though it could be replaced by an alternative that would be more efficient for both artists and consumers.

    • And even if you did become as popular as a big group, exactly how are you going to produce those million CDs?

      It should be noted that you need far, far less success to make the same amount of money on your own. But if you did suddenly need one million CDs pressed, I think you'd be in a pretty good position to negotiate a good deal.

      Devon

  • I want my MTV.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chefren (17219) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:00PM (#4513289)
    Small artists which do not get screen-time on MTV or air-time on popular radio stations have no other way to let people "try before you buy" than the Internet. Some [telarc.com] recording companies provide samples of music from the albums they publish, but an artist should have the right to do this him/herself if the record company doesn't. I know of only one [discipline...mobile.com] record company where the artists own the copyright to their own work. DGM only functions as a recording and publishing company, they don't buy intellectual property. Arthur Brown [godofhellfire.co.uk] made a record which sold 5 million copies in three months and never got anything for it. Somehow I don't buy it when the big recording companies say they work for the artists. They are in fact only working for artists that sell millions and then only to rip them off completely.
  • by BigDaddyJ (38640) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:09PM (#4513372)
    Check out the full article at http://www.janisian.com/article-internet_debacle.h tml [janisian.com]. It's a lot more useful (and interesting!) than the USA Today snippet.

    --bdj

  • by kenp2002 (545495) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:09PM (#4513373) Homepage Journal
    The following is a rant about Action versus talk, not a rant about the Music industry. Please keep children away from this rant, it is contagious.

    ---Begin Pre-Luch Time Rant--

    Am I the only on sick of hearing about Janis? Great, wonderful that Janis is speaking about rights and all that bull; so does Bono for animal rights your point? Sitting around bitching about why things are the way they are does NOTHING. The question Janis is what are YOU going to DO besides sit and lecture? We know what the problem is Janis (Doctor Scott, Brad, ROCKY!) we have heard this over and over again. Why not try something that few people understand. Instead of bitching and whining and being all "Touchy-Feely" and sympathetic with your fans, why not OFFER SOME CONCRETE SOLUTIONS! I am sick of hearing whiny maggots from the music industry, BOTH SIDES, sitting say A is bad and B is bad when neither of them can do the following SIMPLE things:

    A: Define the problem
    B: Offer concrete evidence on the fact the problem is real
    C: Offer SOLUTIONS that work in the real world.

    This nonsense with the music industry is pissing me off. With nuclear powers facing off, people dying from murderers, war looming, and all sorts of bad things that go bump in the night you think these whiny commies would get a clue and realized if they had stuck with capitalism they could have simply used the old law of supply and demand to stop this (Most are, it's called bootleg MP3s). People are sick of the record industry and all they do is whine and talk and talk and talk. If EVERY person that hated the RIAA gave $10 to a general fund they would have 4 times the disposable income that the RIAA has. The RIAA would have to dip into profits (creating debt) to battle YOUR $1!! That is a vicious cycle if you have a few brain cells left. If every person that didn't vote in a presidential election gave $1 every month how many millions of dollars would you have? Can't spare a $1 a month? Bullshit. All I see is entitlement lazy assholes with too much free time that CHOOSE not to get organized and actually do something about their problems because they're too busy whining about shit instead of doing something about the shit they see.

    There is the problem and I'll say it again:
    I see is entitlement lazy assholes with too much free time that CHOOSE not to get organized and actually do something about their problems because they're too busy whining about shit instead of doing something about the shit they see.

    I contribute a whole whopping $5 buck to my candidates and political party each month. Why don't you? Because you're too damn busy whining! Why is it every time some singer start crying about a cause it becomes profound? How many fucking lemmings post on this board?

    The fundamental problem of 90% of problems is your too god damn busy talking to DO something.

    There are no corrupt politicians, they WORK HARD for the people that elected them, too bad you did elect them. You were too busy whining.

    You have become lazy and CHOOSE not to defend you freedom with your vote. You must PARTICIPATE in the political system, if you don't be surprised if they don't listen.

    Now, like so many, you lemming behind some famous person without doing the 3 simple things:

    A: Define the problem
    B: Offer concrete evidence on the fact the problem is real
    C: Offer SOLUTIONS that work in the real world.

    The problem isn't the RIAA buying politicians. It fails a typical logic test. The ROOT problem is the fact we are not being active in politics. I am reminded of a simple poster I saw at a police station. There on the poster is an inmate lifting weights. The poster asks," He's getting stronger, are you?" Well the companies are pushing hard in politics, did you forget how to compete? You have to pusher HARDER than the competition. I am sad to see that the American spirit on competition has been replaced by lazy, whiney, bitchy, slackers who have to rally around a musician instead of their own ideals.

    I have a great SOLUTION, go buy Sony Stock and vote the fuckers off the board and put your own people in there. Oh wait, that would be too easy. Who would have thought that you have to work hard in order to win.

    Can't afford it? Yes you can, first form an ethical investment firm in your local area and RAISE MONEY to battle bullshit like this; SHUT UP AND DO SOMETHING!!! ARG!!!

    --- End Pre-Lunch Rant---

    I'm sure I'll feel better after lunch, please take my rant as just that, a rant. I might have drifted into a blind range of madness and babbled about gold fish or something but I had to get it off my chest, that's why I like Slashdot, it's a great place to vent rational and irrational statements. Later
    • The problem... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by crashnbur (127738)
      ...is that it is extremely rare for any mind on its own to contain all the answers. I'm not God. Are you? (-:

      That is why we share little bits of arguments in this way. I share one view, you share another, the rest of the world (potentially) shares billions of others, and somewhere down the line the best solution is realized, pursued, and achieved.

      The political philosopher John Stuart Mill said it best in his essay On Libety in 1859:

      Though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.
    • I mean The Internet Debacle [janisian.com], the one that started this whole thing off. Read the Fallout [janisian.com] article next. Janis does offer a realistic, practical way forward for both media companies and "consumers" (i.e. you). This is where it starts, here at the coalface: if you expect to cause direct changes at boardroom level, you will need the financial resources of Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner to get any real results at this time. Realistically.

      Personally, I'm almost weaned off the major labels, by chance, since most of my favourie artists are also going independent. I think Britney's or Eminem's albums should come with a government health warning: "Purchasing this major label album may be detrimental to the health of music and music lovers worldwide".

      You may have some valid points in your rant, but, like many here, I tend to switch off when the personal insults start appearing. We don't need this, do we?

  • Record companies would still be useful down the road as publicists. After all, do any of us believe that Brittany made it this big on talent alone? They help certain artists onto the public radar (deserving or no).

    The problem is that record companies are no longer the only mode of production and distribution. That means that they can't make artists into indentured servants. They would still be able to make money, just not all the money.
  • Nonsense ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tmark (230091) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:10PM (#4513380)
    RIAA's claim that the industry and artists are hurt by free downloading is nonsense. Record companies were to provide a means for exposure; now that the Internet provides near-universal exposure at comparatively no cost, the record companies' utility has expired.

    The above is nonsense.

    The record companies don't care about "free downloading" per se. They care about free downloading of content owned by their members. BIG difference. Any war the record companies are waging upon filesharing is the result of the obvious fact that most of the music available on these networks belongs to RIAA members and the equally obvious fact that a significant amount of downloads are being done by people who don't have "fair-use" license of this content.

    As for whether or not record companies serve a function, bands have been putting out their music for sale and download on the Net for years now, and there have been but a handful of modest success stories. I defy anyone to name more than 5 such bands, recognizable to an average guy on the street, who still maintain independence from traditional music distribution channels.

    I am certain that if you were to survey the MP3 collections ("legal" and "shared" alike) of all Slashdot users (not just a perverse few), we would discover that the vast majority of MP3s are of artists signed to RIAA member companies. And I would bet you that these infinitely self-motivated musicians and bands will continue to be signed to said companies, because they serve thema function, just like these musicians and bands will continue to pay for artists.
  • Industry lies. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rip!ey (599235) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:10PM (#4513383)
    I am not advocating indiscriminate downloading without the artist's permission. Copyright protection is vital. But I do object to the industry spin that it is doing all this to protect artists. It is not protecting us; it is protecting itself.

    I see a very common theme appearing these days.

    Neither the artists nor the consumers want the RIAA and record companies to have the absurd power that they currently have (which they seek to strengthen and extend).

    A /. poster said it best (can't remember who). It's not about destroying on-line distribution. It's about destroying the early competition so that the industry can move in afterwards and take it all for themselves.
    • Re:Industry lies. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Reziac (43301) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:42PM (#4513656) Homepage Journal
      I said that (several times). It's not about online anything, it's about controlling access and entry points, so NO ONE can horn in on the RIAA's *control* over the profit pipeline. After all, if you distribute your music over the net, or sell your locally-pressed CDs via Amazon or CDBaby, the RIAA doesn't make a cent off your work. This Will Never Do!!

      If the net were the *original* way of distributing music, and CDs were the newfangled method used by unsigned artists, we'd instead see the RIAA trying to shut down the manufacture of CD-related items.

      Oh, wait...

  • A Sidenote... (Score:3, Informative)

    by crashnbur (127738) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:14PM (#4513414)
    If you scroll down past the (ugly) header, the meat of Tony Fletcher's iJamming article/feature [ijamming.net] is entertaining and insightful. It was published in March 2002 in response to Michael Greene's speech at the Grammy's.

    He slams Greene, record labels, and the industry in general and promotes the best interests of artists and consumers. His points are laid out cleanly in numbered paragraphs with bold "headline" statements, which makes it easy to skip the ideas with which you may disagree or of which you've heard too much of, and simply get to the stuff you want to read.

    It's a very good article, but Fletcher misses the point a little when he says:

    Selling albums is no longer the only way for artists to make money. They have other options - publishing, touring, merchandising, soundtrack commissions, TV commercials, Djing or other public appearances, sponsorship

    Correction: Selling albums was never the only way for artists to make money.

  • by waxmop (195319) <waxmop@@@overlook...homelinux...net> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:15PM (#4513422)

    from the article:

    I am not advocating indiscriminate downloading without the artist's permission. Copyright protection is vital.

    Janis Ian recognizes that the artist has the right to choose what happens with her output. This often gets overlooked in all the RIAA-bashing around here.

    If the artist doesn't want to allow sharing, then that's her choice.

  • by Doomrat (615771) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:15PM (#4513423) Homepage
    ..is that it gives all the new wave of (pop) nu-metal & alternative bands who claim to be "all about the music" a kick in the pants when they start complaining about losing money. "Yeah man, we is da hardcore, we is all about the music. But the money is nice too."
  • by azadrozny (576352) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:24PM (#4513485)
    It is very true that the ability to copy and freely distribute music, movies, etc. has the ability to very seriously hurt the industry under their *current* business model. However I don't understand why the RIAA is so resistant to changing the model. I guess they feel it is easier to keep the old system than to learn or create a new one.

    There has to be a way for them to make money off of all this. Sure, there will always be someone trying to rip off your work, but companies like M$ have seemed to adapt very well. Who would have though 10 years ago that local and national newspapers could give away free electronic copies of their content and still make money. There has to be a way to make this work for the entertainment industry.

    This is just like saying that your market is ready to buy your products, but you are unwilling to sell.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:25PM (#4513503)
    that the only reason the music industry worked so hard to close down Napster was not really because people were exchanging copyrighted music - people have been doing that since the inception of magnetic tape, no, the real reason is because suddenly, overnight, there was a music distributor with millions of subscribers that they (the music industry) didn't control, and this distributor (Napster) was actually promoting independant bands. THAT'S THE REAL REASON.
    Notice that the record companies BOUGHT Napster? Now you'll be forced to feed on the sludge THEY decide to feed you.
    Suckers. All inflamed with this intellectual-property jazz when it's ALL about dollars & cents.
  • by matman (71405) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:31PM (#4513561)
    That's a bit of bull shit. It could be said that they already have near universal exposure since they all have telephone numbers. Having your music on the Internet does not make people notice you; marketing is still a very important utility that the record companies still provide.

    Personally, I'm exposed to music primarily through my friends, but also listen to radio shows and sometimes music TV stations. I find that when I find a single that I like, I download it, and don't pay for it. However, when I find an artist who is really neat, I'll buy their CD, even if it costs 30 dollars or so. I find the

    Here's what I think applies to most consumers of music:

    o If they like an artist's work, they'll shell out cash
    o If they are checking out artists (sampling their music), they will pay a few cents per song, but the cost of managing the transaction would be prohibitive (not necessarily financially, but in a pain in the ass sense)
    o If they want a single, they'll pay about a dollar, but the cost of such a transaction is still probably prohibitive.

    So, realistically, fans will shell out cash, but people who are casual listeners will only shell out cash if there is no pain in the ass factor. If record companies can make music available at a low cost (money) and reduce the pain in the ass factor to below the GNUTella/Kazaa level (good download speeds, good quality, etc), people will pay.

    We already have laws to deal with copyright violation. We don't need more laws (we didn't need the DMCA). If they sued a few thousand joe downloaders (and of course settled out of court for a few hundred bucks each), people would hear about it and be afraid of using kazaa. Lots of kids (warez kiddies) would still use it, but their parents would be afraid and give them shit. At least, that's what mine would have done (and did, when I was 15, and trading warez, perhaps?)
  • Marteting power (Score:2, Interesting)

    by m0i (192134)
    RIAA has an incredible marketing power; they are not that affraid of the Internet, but every little extra dollar is a win, so why not trying to keep it under control as well?
    So far I find CD sales to perform quite well given the economic situation, so people still buy CDs, begin to learn the shortcomings of mp3 and free downloads (quality, broken, etc). Make no mistake, eventually CD will disappear, but certainly not before a few years at best.
    And for the whiners against RIAA: try to convince consumers to vote with their cash, instead of blaming a service you can choose not to buy from.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:44PM (#4513667) Homepage
    If you want to have CDs made in moderate volume, they're cheap. $1,485 for 1000 CDs [oasiscd.com], with jewel box, art on the disk itself, liner, shrinkwrap, barcode, etc. They even put your product on Amazon.

    Airplay, though, in the Clear Channel era, is the problem. What's needed are some popular webcast channels of non-RIAA material.

  • Not True....Yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lux Interior (151795) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:45PM (#4513681)
    Full disclosure: I am actually an employee of a fairly prominent record label, and one that belongs to the RIAA.

    I've been loving Janis Ian's campaign against the recording industry-- in my opinion, her micro-distribution technique is one of a very few viable new options for artists to pursue, and it's a great thing besides. I just thing she's a little bit early in declaring the end of labels' useful lives.

    Let's look for a minute at why labels exist. Not every artist needs a label, either now or fifteen years ago. Performers ONLY "need" a record deal when what they need to do takes more time, money, and expertise than they and their friends/agents/managers/assistants can give them. If you have a record that's doing well locally, you can sell out the Iota, the Mercury Lounge, the Corn Exchange, or Viper Room, and you are happy at that level, you probably don't need a record deal. Doing it Janis' way is perfect, and in fact waaay preferable to having a deal with a large label.

    Where labels are handy--still-- is when you start to grow beyond your borders. Do you want national distribution? International distribution? Has your record done well on local radio, and you feel like it could have a nice run nationally? Are you spending more time putting together mail-order packages than you are writing songs? You could probably use a label to help you with these tasks. Labels are better at marketing on a large scale, better at getting traditional radio play (and NOT NECESSARILY POP RADIO), better at getting press, and better at setting up and managing distribution on a large scale-- not to mention labels can help you get your music licensed into films/tv-- many artists make most their money that way rather than through traditional album-sales channels. This is what they're FOR-- they have the bankroll and the contacts-- the shady business practices of certain elements notwithstanding.

    It's a rough time for the music industry, and things are going to change rapidly. I just want to make sure that I speak my piece to my fellow slashdotters. Labels are not, and have never been, for everybody, and they probably shouldn't go away altogether (not least because I like what I do, and I work with great, GREAT music). I sincerely hope that more musicians are successful with Janis Ian-styled strategies, because it will have the very beneficial side effect of killing off those parts of the music industry who are least able to adapt.

  • by beaverfever (584714) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:46PM (#4513688) Homepage
    First of all, it is worth pointing out that the real money in music is from royalty payments (ask Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, or any other writer who has been weasled out of their writing royalties). Concerts ain't going to make you rich, unless perhaps you are a stadium act; concerts are promotion/exposure. Relevant to that point, not all musicians/bands write their own music, so without royalty payments writers have no means of income.

    Janis Ian has made a point in her piece "That's how artists become successful: exposure. Without exposure, no one comes to shows, and no one buys CDs" and the usual line heard from pro-napster people is that the internet/downloading provides exposure, when in fact it does not; it provides a means of access, and that doesn't mean any more people will be exposed to your music than if you were not on the internet. The job of record companies is exposure and distribution (and they do tend to shaft artists for these services), but exposure and distribution are/were not impossible without record companies, even back before the Internet. Does anyone remember independant labels? A lot of those were set up by musicians looking to do the grunt work themselves. Ask the Barenaked Ladies about that.

    I wonder if Janis Ian is aware of the differences between her version of "downloadable music" and that of the general internet community; yes, Janis has files for download on her site, but certainly not her entire catalogue, and I question the quality of the files she has available. Again, offering a few songs for download is a great idea and has worked for her, but would she be willing to give away high-quality mp3s of every recording she has ever made? That is what Napster/P2P music sharing is about, and it is about doing so with or without the consent of the writer, the performer, or the producer.

    Yes, I agree that the music industry as a whole has to change its business model, and there are a lot of jerks involved in the industry, but saying that there is nothing wrong with free access to every and any recording is just stupid.

    I write this as a person whose line of work is in a creative industry, and I have been a serious musician in the past, so I have an inside opinion of the issues. I'm a little surprised that the free download idea is so popular around /. when (I would guess) there are so many programmers reading this who (I would guess again) get paid for ideas/concepts that come out of their head. Music, painting, movies or code - it's all creative and people need to be paid for it.

  • by ccalvert (126669) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @12:50PM (#4513731) Homepage
    To me, it's very simple. Any artist who is any good should be able to go in the studio, start the tapes rolling, and record the CD in 60 minutes, a few hours max, then walk out and go home. Someone then turns the music into MP3 or even some proprietary format that can't easily be copied, and sells the output on the net for $3 or $4 max per album.

    The total cost of that kind of distribution should be at most a few thousand dollars. If the artist is really good, they will sell tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of copies, and make a fortune.

    You say that's not realistic? But many of the great albums were in fact recorded exactly that way. Most of the classic Miles Davis, Charles Mingus or T. Monk albums were recorded in one or two takes. The early Beatle's albums, which still sell like crazy, were little more than recordings of the group playing live in the studio. Classic Bob Dylan albums like Blonde on Blonde, Positively Fourth Street or Planet Waves were also basically live recordings with just one or two takes per song.

    When the Beatles recorded Sgt Peppers they started this trend toward albums that took a long time and cost huge sums to make. But everyone forgets that they were a huge success before they decided to make that album, and their success was based on what amounted to live recordings in the studio.

    So the solution is simple. What are the arguments against it?

    You could argue that not everyone has a computer and a good connection to the internet. But if major artists started releasing their albums on the Internet for $3 a pop, then believe me, there would all of a sudden be a lot of people signing up for ADSL, cable, etc. And the profits would go up, and connections would work.

    And lots of people would make lots of money. Sure the record companies would lose out. But computer people, and artists, both old and new, would make a lot more than they are making now.

    The answer is simple: record albums cheaply, and distribute them on the net for virtually no cost. The only losers would be the record companies and no talent acts that need hours of time in the studio in order to sound decent. Everybody else would gain.

    This solution is so obvious that it makes one wonder why it's not happening. The reasoning it's not happening? Because the politicians who control the market are in the direct pay of established corporations. It's not capitalism, it's cronyism. Or more simply, corruption.

    A good musician, like Michael Brecker, Joshua Redmon, or Joni Mitchell sounds great when recorded live. They don't need expensive studio time. A major talent like Neil Young, Leonard Cohen or Ani DiFranco sounds just as good live as they do in the studio. Just go in the studio, do your thing, and sell it on the net cheaply. Then all the controversy would end, and a lot of corrupt people would have to get new jobs.

    - Charlie
    • Congratulations (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pope (17780)
      You've just eliminated some of the best albums from the last 30 years, by handpicking a couple of great performers and saying everyone should do what they do.

      That's not a solution at all, it's selective prejudice, like trying to tell me that LINUX is the one true solution to all out computing needs, neglecting that the vast majority of computer users aren't geeks and don't want to be.

      Nice try, though.
  • by danrees (557289) <dan@@@dwrees...co...uk> on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:28PM (#4514066) Homepage
    On a related note, Hilary Rosen (chief executive of the RIAA) is debating in proposition at the Oxford Union [oxford-union.org] tomorrow evening, with the motion 'This House believes that "the free music mentality is a hreat to the future of music.' [oxford-union.org].

    Get there early to get a chance to speak from the floor!
  • by dremel (304553) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @01:59PM (#4514426) Homepage
    1. Post your band's mp3 to music.slashdot.org (with the appropriate icon)
    2. Music-listening community mods your music up or down (+1 rockin', -1 trite/repetative)
    3. Community members who surf at +5 see/hear your stuff
    4. Profit
  • by no_opinion (148098) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @02:03PM (#4514476)
    Anyone who thinks the music companies have outlived their usefulness does not understand one of their primary roles. Granted, their distribution services may become obsolete, but that is not the only thing they do.

    One of the critical functions of the majors is to provide "venture capital" for musicians. To make it big, most artists still need a good amount of money to hire big name producers, have videos made, get physical media (CDs) made and widely distributed, get main stream marketing, etc., etc. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is the rule.

    The majors invest money in artists and they make money off the back-end from CD sales just like VCs invest in start-ups and make money from stock sales. Both groups use the "portfolio approach" since one big success can pay for a number of less popular investments. Both groups expect big return on investment and, not surprisingly, both groups are disliked.

    Regardless of how popular the majors are (or are not), artists will always want up-front investment so they can afford the services of top tier music professionals and get mass market advertising. The current majors may not survive, but I don't see this fundamental need for initial investment going away so there will always be music companies to fill this role.
  • by sielwolf (246764) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @02:05PM (#4514494) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to see some more opinions on the subject instead of the /. darling that Janis Ian has become.

    May I suggest Peanut Butter Wolf, DJ and founder of the seminal underground hip-hop label Stones Throw Records [stonesthrow.com]?

    PBW on the Stones Throw website:
    As an artist myself, I have the artists help decide how much money to spend on promoting their records. We all split the profits after expenses, so it makes sense that we collectively decide how much to spend on promotion. This includes video budget, advertising, radio promotion, video promotion, street teams, snippet tapes, stickers, flats, posters, 8x10 glossies, etc.


    Now to me he sounds like the perfect person to talk to about managing an artist's career from the ground up with no support of major labels. Again from Stones Throw:
    As executive producer, I don't put out what I think the people will like, I put out what I like. This has worked for me so far, and if it stops working for me, it will be the end of Stones Throw as a label. I've passed on some artists that I knew would sell a lot of units because I didn't like the songs. That sounds like a bad business move and from a purely financial standpoint it is one, but profit isn't the only thing that drives my label. If money were my sole motivation, I'd be rich by now because so far I've attained everything I've put my mind to.


    I mean, doesn't this sound like somebody with some perspective? Especially since he doesn't have 9 Grammys and a Top 40 hit?
  • the deal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DustyCase (619304) on Wednesday October 23, 2002 @02:56PM (#4515057)
    The real problem is the tie-in between the major labels and the recording industry. If you aren't a major label act you don't get played on 90% of the radio stations in the USA. Monopolists such as Clear Channel have too much wrapped up in their monopoly to waste airtime on music, they need product. The money in radio is selling advertising, and that money goes to pay licensing fees. The money in music is made in product distribution and sales, and that money goes to record executives. The record companies churn out product, the radio stations play it, it sells ads for the station, and the music on the radio functions primarily as advertising for the record companies. It is insidious. ONLY the consumer can make a dent in this cycle. Pepsi can't sell 200 kinds of soft drink, consumers wouldn't know what to do. They want 4 types of soft drink. Similarly, major labels can't make their required profit with hundreds of artists (brands) on the shelf. They need three or four, and spin off subsidiary labels to deal with their Diet, Caffeinated, Clear, All Natural, or other product lines. It isn't called show BUSINESS by accident. Consumers who have an FM radio in 99% of their homes and cars get as much Major Label product advertising as they can stand. They go into a record store, freeze like opossums in the headlights, and go for Aerosmith! Hey, they were OK 25 years ago, why not go right back to old dependable CocaCola? The Stones have made 1.5 BILLION in the past 8 years by adapting a "branding" approach. Teens are being conditioned to accept the teat of the RIAA via Modern Rock Radio. It ain't modern, and it ain't rock, it's ads, ads, ads. The majority of consumers have been brainwashed into thinking that FM Hits are the creme de la creme, and can't take the time to ferret out good music. Streaming net radio, free downloads, alternate distribution... it all hits the RIAA right in the bread basket. The consumer's response (IMO) shoould be "Hard Cheese, bud, get off my back".

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov

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