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Music Media

Feature:The Empire Strikes Back 253

The music industry claims to be re-taking control of the distribution of digital music, after battering by MP3's, rogue bands selling music directly on the Net, the posting of of music files online and on-line audio sites with vast archives and libraries.

Don't bet on it.

The music industry claims to be beating back the Mp3 revolution and regaining control of the sale and distribution of music.

In recent weeks, music industry executives have begun telling the media that they are moving out of the piracy era back into a more "legitimate" - that is to say outrageously monopolistic -- marketplace.

Translation: The Revolution is Over.

But saying so doesn't make it so. Music traffic on websites, ICQ and Hotline, and via private e-mail, suggests this is a fairy tale spun for the benefit of gullible journalists and middle-class consumers.

Five major record labels - Sony, Universal, Warner, BMC and EMI - dominate the $40 billion global music business, outside of the country of Colombia perhaps the world's largest cartel. They control 85 per cent of recorded music sales in the United States.

In recent years, these labels have been caught completely off guard by the Mp3-led Net-based music revolution that permitted music lovers and consumers to acquire for free the music they wanted rather than the expensive CD's the record companies decided they should buy. The companies have also panicked at bands selling music directly over the Net, and on-line audio sites carrying ever bigger archives and libraries.

At first, the industry responded with bluster, confusion and its hallmark greed.

But the Empire has now struck back. The labels have gone to war against free digital music, lobbying colleges to shut down free music sites, threatening legal action against pirate websites, and using their music libraries and stars as weapons to persuade high-tech companies to cooperate with efforts to encrypt and control the digital distribution of music. They say they're winning.

"Eighteen months ago, people in the tech community told me I was crazy to think we could develop an on-line music business" that protects copyright, Hilary B. Rosen of the Recording Industry of America told the New York Times this week. Another music industry analyst said last week that the five major labels had come together re-assert control of cyberspace, banding together for their "collective good."

Whatever takes control of digital distribution, assuming anyone can, you can bet that the collective good of the record companies isn't the same as yours.

Industry executives claim the their recently-adopted Secure Digital Music Initiative, in which recording, technology and consumer electronic companies agreed to standards for protecting music copyrights in on-line music sales, will turn the tide.

In addition to bombarding free music websites with "cease-and-desist" letters from lawyers, shutting down 2,000 of them, according to the record companies, the music companies have spent more than $1 million on a campaign enlisting colleges to join the crackdown and persuade students not to trade pirated music. The companies say more than 200 schools have pledged to try and stop students from using campus computers or Net connections to copy recordings.

The industry is scrambling to clamp down on free online music before fall, when the major labels will begin putting their libraries online. It wants protection in place for the Christmas shopping season, when portable digital players are expected to sell through the roof.

The record companies strategy is clear enough. If the middle-class consumers pouring online get into the habit of buying music on the Web and listening to it on digital players, the companies hope they can break the cycle of free and shared music developed by kids - especially geek and college kids - in the past several years.

It isn't clear whether these industry claims are true or not.

But the reality of music distribution online suggests they aren't. The trading of songs via ICQ and Hotline and e-mail attachments, according to anybody's personal observation, and to music-loving geeks, is continuing to explode.

"That's complete BS," said one Boston geek of the industry's claims. "I've gotten 200 MP3's in the past week. You could shut down 2,000 music sites, and you wouldn't put a dent in the traffic. Not only are there thousands, but they can simply re-form and re-name themselves. The morph, form different nodes. Letters from lawyers are a joke."

And 200 colleges is a fraction of the country's schools. Nor is it clear how deeply the colleges want to get involved in policing campus websites and Net connections, a loser of a mission if ever there was one.

A Chicago music lover e-mailed me that goes on one of the messaging boards nightly where he uses "click-referrals," -- spotters online get a small amount of money - about 25 cents - to steer music buyers to websites where they can get music for little money or for free. [I went on a half-dozen Sunday night]. Countless Web sites were operating openly, along with plenty of individual traders, and all were blissfully unaware of any music industry crackdown.

"Some of the hot places are the messaging boards," e-mailed JE, who ran a free music-trading site until a few months ago. "There are millions of people in ICQ and Hotlines and those guys [the record companies] are nuts if they think they're going to stop this with a few letters and some bullshit propaganda campaigns to colleges. The idea that the websites have vanished is utterly bogus."

The battle between music lovers and the recording industry has enormous economic and political significance for other businesses and institutions.

The core issues are really choice and price, and whether individuals can take back some creative power and influence for the mega-corporations that now control American culture, from music to broadcasting to publishing. Before Mp3's, people had no option but to buy CD's, which invariably include songs they didn't want as well as songs they did. The big labels have also exerted a near total monopoly on the development of new artists, a practice the online distribution of music has also shattered.

In the United States, the five labels sell $14 billion worth of music every year. Small wonder kids rebelled and began downloading the music they wanted.

The industry hasn't responded by offering music lovers greater choice - cheaper recorders, more artists, say, or customized CD's sold in smaller, less expensive units. They're reacted mostly by working to preserve their greedy monopoly.

The MP3, like the TV zapper, has turned out to be an intensely political bit of technology. Zappers and switchers permitted TV watchers to take control of their sets back from the three networks that monopolized TV programming for half-a-century. People could make choices about what they wanted to watch, and were no longer forced to choose from the tepid offerings of three networks.

MP3's have done the same for people who listen to music. For the television and music industries -- and for many other businesses to come -- things won't ever be the same, not matter how many press releases come pouring out of corporate offices.

This is an issue many people online feel passionately about. The music companies aren't fighting to preserve artistic control of intellectual property, as they claim, but their monopoly over a fantastically lucrative -- and monopolistic -- chunk of pop culture. Logically, the ability to music listeners to record and distribute music digitally seems far ahead of the means to encrypt and control it. The industry claims that after the initial shock caused by the spread of free music digitally, it's regained the upper hand.

Don't buy it. Their propaganda is a lot more effective than their technology. These myopic pronouncements suggest the record companies haven't yet gotten the real import of interactive technologies like the zapper and the MP3: people are used to participation and choice. And they aren't like to give either up.

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The Empire Strikes Back

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    One interesting phenomenon is that MP3 sites are quite seasonal. I speak from experience. Since the students have left for the summer, a major source of these sites left with them. When they return in a month or two, you'll find a suge in the number of sites.

    I wonder if these companies are observing the effect of a confounding cause...

    If there are far fewer sites today than just a little less than a year ago, I say the cause is more likely the weather, not the efforts of these companies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone seen their opinions on sites like, who are distributing perfecly legal mp3's? Or Rykodisc, who IIRC, are just selling their stuff in mp3?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, the artists lose temporarily; the music business architecture (and plenty of others) will eventually be smashed by the ability to trivially copy something digital. But the market changes all the time; this time it's just forced and fast. Rest assured that all musicians will not go broke forever. Another business model is guaranteed to take its place, and to survive, it will have to be able to coexist with the environment. Simple evolution - environment changes, you change or die, and something else is always looking to take your place.

    Heh, mental picture: RIAA is a dinosaur, MP3 is a mammal ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Apart from the small fraction of a percent of the musicians who have 'Made it' and are making millions off their music, most musicians should welcome the MP3 revolution as it can offer them a much larger audience, people who otherwise would never have heard their music. Small local bands invariably do some of the best music and I'd far rather listen to that than the insipid tripe on the radio or in music stores these days. Small musicians should welcome the larger audience and the larger audience should welcome their music.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Even if the major labels do keep control over the majority of the popular talent, their format does not protect against *re-recording*. Simply put, the format is naked when it comes out of someone's matter how they encrypt it. A computer has to play a song...and at that point, another application could capture the data from the soundcard and store it to file where it can then be compressed into MP3.
    So as long as I have my trusty wav recorder, no form of audio encryption will ever prevent MP3 redistribution.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's a special internal secret in the music indusry: how to continue sodomizing the consumer with $15.99 CDs that cost less than a dollar (with packaging) to manufacture? And continue to cheat the artists they have signed? Easy!

    SDMI (pronounced "sodomy")! It will preserve the monoploy and ensure total artistic and financial control for years to come! Oops! The cat's out of the bag!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yeah, CDs when they came out in the 80's were overpriced, but they were supposed to come down to be cheaper than tapes once everyone adopted the format and the early adopters paid for the R&D. Well... guess what.... the record companies found out that people will pay a lot for music they like and can't get any other way, and they got greedy off the profits. The price of CDs kept falling, we can see this because in the past few years, CD-Rs which cost more than a pressed CD, has gone from $10/cd down to about $1/cd. I don't even want to think what Sony pays for a pressed CD. They see their cash cow being slain by the mp3 and they are scared. Believe it, they are scared. Their way of life is about to change forever. Just assume for a minute that an established artist like the Beastie Boys fulfills their contract, then decides to offer their latest songs on mp3, cutting out the record company completely? What if everyone follows suit?

    The record companies are trying to push SDMI on Mom and Pop who probably don't know a damn thing about where to find mp3s, but they will also be disillusioned when they find out they accidently deleted their song they "bought" or that they can't listen to it anywhere but the PC they downloaded it to (because they lack the knowledge to transfer it anywhere else). The record companies really need to buy a clue and realize what's going on. The profits they have enjoyed for the past 10 years are gone. The control they had over the marketplace is gone. The sooner they realize this, the better off they will be. I don't mind paying for a CD, and in fact, I'd rather have something tangible to display on my shelf, and some pretty cover art to go along with it. But I won't pay $18 for that privledge. CDs have reached a price where they are no longer affordable. For now, I'll download what I want and delete it when I'm tired of it. If I really really like it (I don't want to delete it), I'll go buy it. I don't mind that. But, I'd buy a lot more if they would sell them at a reasonable price.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 09, 1999 @06:17AM (#1810666)
    Like the TV remote-control, MP3 technology gives people choice. Of course, the bulk of people don't want choice - they want convenience. And who can blame them? If we all exercised personal judgement and choice in every area of our lives, we'd have no time for anything but deciding what we want. For any given person, there are maybe two or three areas about which they care sufficiently much that they actually want to exercise those choices.

    In other words, even if the music industry's legal apparatus does NOTHING to stop "piracy", the majority of people will STILL buy CD's in record stores, simply because it's less time and effort intensive than downloading MP3's or burning copies of discs.

    Industry experts were worried for a long time that sales of VCR's and TV's with remotes would axe commercial revenues for TV. Did they? No: they just increased sales in the home video department - of movies which people would have no trouble copying illegally.

    Even if the entire world miraculously came to its senses and scaled back copy-"rights" for creators, there would probably STILL be a booming market for the music industry to package and sell works by consumers' favourite artists in attractive boxes, gathered together in a convenient store.
  • Did anybody teach you that gouging is worse?
  • Just because a mic cost $10k doesn't mean the end result is going to be 'professional'. I've heard recordings done on $100 microphones, using some guys basement and an old cheap reel-to-reel, which I would definitely consider 'professional'.

    A 'professional' is someone who gets the job done, no matter what tools are available. No matter what.

    A 'pompous bastard' is someone who whines about not having the most expensive tools available, who blames poor results on 'cheap gear', and who also calls something 'not professional' if it didn't cost loads and loads of money to make.
  • Um, isn't that what singles are for??
  • Posted by viperx2:

    Well, my opinion is that MP3s and MDs are both MUCH better sounding than CD's. I am an audiophile, and I mostly use expensive headphones to test music, seeing as how I can't afford expensive speakers. I find that expensive headphones give you a clearer sound with no "road noise" or anything else. Some may say that this is the wrong way, but I don't care. I can certinly hear the difference between analog and digital recordings off of my MD player, and with the MP3 player (sonique 1.05), I can hear the difference in variable encoding, and pure 128 encoding. Personally, I think that DACs on MP3s and MDs are MUCH better than the old CD format. As far as I can tell, usually cds are converted, then amped to a certin degree from the analog signal, where as an MD or an MP3 is pure digital until it hits the speakers/headphones. Everyone tells me that they can "hear" the .05% loss in sound, but even if I can't I can cerinly hear the better quality in the 99.95%. The bass is clearer, the highs are sharper, and everything sounds more realistic.

    In the early days of MP3, I heard the wierd, decoding sounds of MP3s as well, and I can still hear it in older versions of WinAMP, but not in sonique, and not with variable encoding rates.

    Sorry, but I have to totaly disagree with you here that bought CD's sound better than MP3s.

    NOW, in responce to the packaging of CD's, I sometimes buy CDs that I download because I want the case pictures, and to free up 70MB on the hard drive. I can understand it, but the wave of the future is web site like covers, and MP3 music to download.

    Personally, I hope that a "record" company starts online, and distributes singles from albumns free, then you can buy the albumn for very litte, becuase of no packaging, and no manufacturing. This is one time when the corperate assmonkeys must bow down to the monster of technology.

  • Posted by viperx2:

    Niether of the options you have presented make any sense.

    Price of a CD that isn't brand new and on promo discount:
    That's 18.35 after the government gets thier 8%
    ok, so basicly 17$ for music
    17$ - 1$ for the artist, and .01 to make the CD is still 15.98 for the record company! Lets say that 5 bucks of that (ha ha ha) goes to advertizing to sell MORE cds (yeah right). That gives the record company 10 bucks per CD. This just isn't right.

    Here's the deal in my mind. Online record companies. This makes perfect sense. 5$ per "albumn", artist gets 2.50$, the "comany" gets 2.50 to maintian the site, maybe some illegal trading, but that is happening anyway with CDs, and bam! Sony is out of the music buisness, and all musicians are happy. Hell, with NET TV comming, we could all watch homegrown Videos on or something. In other words, music can be free!

    What I don't understand about all this is WHY are the record companies making such a fuss about this when for YEARS people have been making tapes of anything and everything that is music. What's up with that? Well, eventually they had to narrow it down to people that sold these cassettes. Even SONY makes these blank cassettes for people to COPY! Ok, now we have CD burners.... MP3s... Umm... Digital? I guess that is the key... digital never gets bad.

    If you are a musician, why not embrace the MP3 addiction people have and USE it. Start an online record company with everything an enthusist needs! Have you ever noticed that record companies sell the same albumn a few months later with B-sides on it to make more money? Come on! With an MP3 site, you could logon with a user ID, and download the B-Sides for free! Or a small added fee. This makes total sense, I am sorry to all the people apposed.

    As far as illegal trading goes, YES! It will happen! It will happen till the end of time! but who wouldn't support thier favorite artist by sending them 5$ for a CD, that is less than a THIRD of what we pay now.

  • Posted by viperx2:

    Ummm... I'm sorry, but if you really want to play MP3's wherever you go, you don't need diamond to make one for you. The way the world is changing, it looks to me like more and more tech skills are going to be required, and fewer and fewer survival skills. I have friends that are building car and portable MP3 players, right now. So... if sony wants to do something as stupid as restrict the use of RIOs to some other format, hey, whatever. Our Netsocity will crack it. Our engineers will have a mod chip in days. Hell, our engineers will add 128MB of RAM to a RIO, then mod it. Sorry, but any change to software or hardware is simply an act of futility.

    The only thing they can really do is scare tactics with college kids, and others. Making examples out of people. That is what will happen. But it won't change anything. A few people will be held... sure. I hope I am not one of them.

  • Posted by viperx2:

    I'm sorry, but as I stated before, hardware can always be changed. And if you aren't that crazy about soldering, just watch the web for black market portable MP3 players with much better technology than the corperate players. Sorry, but they have unleashed the beast, and this time, we are the beast.

  • Posted by viperx2:

    I totaly agree. Even with MiniDisk players you can record only once in digital. Right? Wrong. There are probably 10 black market md recording breakers. They work fine. Another option is hacked hardware, or software to get what you want.

    Look at the facts:

    1. There are hundreds of options, and millions of people trying to crack whatever the RIAA does.

    2. Whatever the RIAA does will be seen as stupid and tyranical to the general populous.
    (please don't mind my spelling :)

    3. What is that I hear? Rebellion? It seems that everyone with a computer is willing to rebel against something. How many car hackers have you ever heard of? Or maybe stove hackers? trying to get that slow car faster, or make that over cook hotter, or whatever. They just don't exist, or are being held as heros! But with computers they are hunted by "the man." Rebellion is the RIAA's worst nightmare.

    That is just the way things are. Sorry RIAA, but we are rebelling, and you are the target! Millions of people's target. Do something smart, nothing at all.

    1. Elitism. While Slashdot is not uniformly as technical as some of the readers (Alan Cox, Tom Christiansen, and Bruce Perens all read Slashdot and I won't claim to be as skilled or as knowledgable as them :), it seems oriented towards a more technical audience. It has not, in the past, been a forum for informing people not already interested in the material it covers. It has also not, in the past, been a place as technically inclined as Freshmeat [].
    2. As for Jon's ability to get to the root of complex problems, I sometimes disagree. He has a knack for simplifying complex issues, but I don't always feel that he simplifies them accurately; he has and seemingly always has had an agenda behind his writing, and it appears to influence his writing. Whether I disagree or agree with the apparent agenda is a non-issue; in fact I agree and disagree about evenly.
    3. Slashdot, in the past, has not catered to people trying to learn what the Internet is. It has largely catered to people around the same level technically as Rob Malda, and the other editors have influenced this. However, it feels like Jon Katz' contributions are a good bit afield of the others'.
    There is a place for teaching people more; embracing the analog world, as you said. And there is a place for people, fully comfortable with the digital world, to sit down, BS, and be comfortable without trying to explain every second word. For the former, [] and [] and a host of other sites of varying repute and quality exist. For the latter, it seems that KernelNotes [], Freshmeat [], and Slashdot are the only general sites.

    Why is it so unreasonable that Slashdot not be all things to all people?
  • Where in my post did I say I didn't buy CDs? Where did I say I copy CDs when I want music instead of purchasing a packaged version? Nowhere, that's where, and that you jumped to the conclusion for the sake of an "artists rights" crusade underminds all of your argument. None of your points apply to me; they're all misguided attacks. Please, next time you feel the urge to piss on someone, aim away from your own legs.

    I think $15 is way too much for a disc when it only costs $0.08 to produce, a few cents to transport, a few cents to stock, a dollar goes to the artists, and $13.50 goes to the record companies. It's called capitalism; they sell it and it's my choice to buy it or not. I don't approve of these high prices so I don't pay them. That doesn't mean I'm a criminal or haven't bought CDs in the past. I've been known to buy used CDs, and I'll buy CDs worth the money for the packaging and convenience.

    Get your head on straight.
  • by sterwill ( 972 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @08:07AM (#1810677) Homepage
    There you go, pulling out the old broken anlogies. There is nothing in common between copying a stream of bits and taking a Mercedes. One is a duplication of an abstract pattern of bits, one is the physical removal of matter. When you take the Mercedes, it's gone. The previous owner doesn't have one to use. When you copy a stream of bits, everyone else who has their own copy has lost nothing. The pattern is just as functional as ever for all users.

    I think it was an older article on Slashdot which prompted this notion, but I can't find a source, so I'll rephrase it:

    For millennia humans have invented regulations, rules, and contracts to carefully partition and limit precious, rare material resources. It was the everyman's dream that natural gas, steel, water, trees, earth, and food was plentiful and limitless, but the Earth has limits to its size and composition. Humans rationed what they had.

    It's now, at the end of the second recorded millennium, that information is the key to the advancement of society. It is just now that we have a resource, information, which is inherently limitless! We, as a civilization, have evolved to thrive on a resource we can never run out of, and can be easily shared with every other inhabitant of our culture.

    And, unfortunately, a group of people exist to return us to the bronze age by devising new artificial and arbitrary rules to limit this information.

    This is the saddest part. Information doesn't "want" to be free; it is free. It's the humans who aren't prepared to deal with this.
  • I sat down the other day and counted- there are at least 5 radio stations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area on which you can hear Alanis Morriset (KS95, KQRS92, Cities-97, Zone-105, and now Point-104). This is good if you happen to be Alanis Morriset. If you're not, it just makes it that much harder for your music to be heard.

    Note that I'm not picking on Alanis here- I'm just using her as an example. The playlists of pretty much all radio stations is limited to a small handfull of national bands the music industry backs, and maybe a local artist or two. It's hard for a small band like Six Mile Bridge ( (plug plug :) to gain any sort of national radio exposure.

    This is where MP-3s will come in. Consider for the moment the advantage of a small band releasing some of it's tracks for free- and go "if you like this, come buy our CD/MP-3/Cassettes!". Open-source music as loss-leader for the musicians.

    The bands who do this won't make as much money as Alanis or Madonna- but it'll make it easier for them to garner a national following and sell to a slightly smaller percentage of a much larger market. Which would mean the difference between the musicians being able to make a comfortable living doing what they want to do, rather than having to flip burgers to pay the rent.

    Oh, and more real choice in our music selection, rather than just what radio dial position we want to listen to Alanis on.
  • How come every fucking moron quotes the price of the media not the price to produce?

    As I understand it, the artist is expected to pay for the production out of the ~10% royalty on the sales of the CDs. Where'd the other ~90% of the money go?

    As a programmer, I guess I should charge everyone $1 for my custom work

    If you were a professional musician, that's about what you'd get for your custom work, $1 per CD.

  • A couple of weeks ago I went to the Glastonbury festival [], where it always strikes me: there are some *really good* unsigned bands. Sure, there are plenty of *bad* unsigned bands, but there are also plenty of bad *signed* bands too.

    MP3 gives these bands a chance to distributed their work without involving big record companies, and although it will take time, I'm hoping that this will become a mainstream source of legitimate music. I don't really approve of leeching commercial CDs onto MP3, because it paints MP3 as "just" a means to piracy.

    One reason it's easy to find music you like on CD, is that there is a huge infastructure of magazines, radio shows, web sites etc all dedicated to reviewing and publicising new music. At the moment legit MP3s are not a part of that system.

    There's a certain class of radio DJ, who I'll call the "independent DJ" - the BBC's John Peel is one of them, I'm sure there are plenty in the US - who choose their own playlists, and get sent dozens of recordings every week from which they choose what to play; I really hope that these people discover MP3 as a medium, so that instead of saying "That was Foo and you can get the CD from Bar records, 117 suburban street, Leeds", they'll say "That one isn't available on CD, but the site with the MP3 is linked from this show's website". It'll happen. Eventually.

    And when that happens, I'm pretty sure that many of the bands *I* want to listen to, won't even *want* to sign to a record company.
  • Katz researched a subject he found important, and reported on it in an informative manner. Sure, most of us already knew most of what was in the report, but there are still a few people who didn't know what's going down and still a few facts/ideas I didn't know about it. Personally, I hadn't considered the Christmas race for electronic media players.

    As for the middle class consumers, yes the class of people who download free(speech) music and pirated music is the same class of people who are shelling out their sheep-money to the RIAA. Middle class consumers--that's a big class.

  • by Mars Saxman ( 1745 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @10:42AM (#1810682) Homepage
    The law has very little to do with morality. A law changes when it becomes more expensive to maintain the law than to change or drop it. Either the enforcement is abandoned and the law forgotten (so-called "blue laws"), or citizens openly flout the law and it is eventually changed (remember the 55 mph U.S. speed limit?).

    The 1995 situation with respect to music distribution and record-label monopoly power is founded on copyright law. The record companies are not about to get together and change that law to our favour, and I'd be really surprised if the U.S. congress breaks their tradition of putting big companies' interests first. If we want music in Y2K to look different than 1995, copyright law must change - and we will have to change it ourselves.

    One could make a good case for mp3 "piracy" as a legitimate form of civil disobedience. There's a long tradition of deliberately breaking bad laws in order to demonstrate their absurdity. Modern copyright law is certainly absurd; it's unenforceable and often meaningless.

    "Piracy" assumes that current copyright law is valid and should be maintained. I do not agree with this assumption.

  • While I know that it is very common for the writing community to eschew the pedestrian "topic" or "plot" in favor of prose sent jumping through hoops, I have little tolerance for it.

    I am interested in reading "news for nerds" or original cxontent that provides new information or greater insight into a topic. Since none of these needs of mine were satisfied from this article, I had to ask what the point of Jon Katz's newest attempt at self-promotion (aka "article") was. Isn't this whole thing supposed to be about "Stuff that Matters"?

  • First of all, did we really need an entire Jon Katz article to tell us that the RIA trying to crack down on MP3? What's wrong? Was it a slow news day or something? Is there some reason why Jon Katz is so much more qualified to write this stuff than Rob Malda?

    Secondly, much as I think that MP3's are great and the recording industry is fairly evil, why does Jon Katz mince words? Let's face it-- the crackdown is against pirated music being distributed over the 'net. The lawsuit against Rio was BS, surely-- a blatant crackdown against MP3 itself-- but forcibly shutting down many music sites amounts to cracking down on pirated music. Technically, there's really nothing wrong with doing so. That's why they're called _illegal_ copies. So, impotent as this "crackdown" is, why doesn't Katz just call the sites with "free music" what they are? Sites with "pirated" music.

    Also, I would bet pretty heavily that most of the people trading and downloading this "free music" are part of the same "middle class consumers" that Katz simultaneously criticizes as tools of the recording industry.

  • I've often thought that a good use of the ID tag fields at the end of an MP3 file would be to have something like the following attached to the music: "If you like this or other songs by this artist, send $1US or 1 beer to POB 88, Sometown USA 98765-1234." Sorta like shareware for music; voluntary, friendly, and likely to generate a small but steady income.

    Then again, I like the idea of GPL music, with the artist making money on promotions, live performances, and personal association. If Mozart were alive today, I'd pay $$ to see him conduct, rather than listen to a free/pirated rip of the Obscuranian National Orchestra performing his tunes off some LaserLight brand cd.
  • My first suggestion would be one way of getting such stage-shy acts some income. While I'm sure someone brighter than I will come along with a more profitable solution, the idea that you can trust the consumer and still make some money is very appealing to me.

    Direct mail, when it works well, entices people to voluntarily respond 3-5% of the time, and supports a multi-billion dollar industry even with the expenses of paper printing, snail mail, and physical promo products. When used for evil, the knowledge of this industry results in spam. It just seems to me that when used for good, free distribution of real product over a much lower-overhead medium can generate income for artists.

    The problem is simply how to connect the consumer to the artist. Usage-based systems (like DIVX and SDMI)? Ugh. Encrypted music through greedy pig recording company middlemen? Double-ugh. As ugly as it seems, voluntary direct micropayment seems the least distasteful option. Until someone embeds an URL to their "Pay me a buck for this song" e-commerce site in their MP3-ID, I'll gladly paste some stamps on a beer and mail it to a POB.
  • The roar of SDMI's death emanates directly from the pipes of loud-ass motorcycles all across the US.

    Today I picked up a copy of Cycle World magazine, and on page 84, I read a full-page article on how the Rio is an excellent solution to (a) magnetic tank bags damaging cassette tapes, and (b) cd players skipping from the vibration of the bike. (Disclaimer: Although I did once stuff some earbuds into the lining of my helmet just like a zillion other people, I don't advocate anyone else doing it.)

    Discussion of MP3 piracy controversy? Not a word. Suggestions about SDMI? Nope. Any hint that there's anything in the world that would dethrone MP3? Nah. The worst thing they could say about the product was that it doesn't come with software for the Mac. Given that MP3 already has this kind of fully-immersed mainstream exposure, SDMI has as much chance of displacing MP3 as I do of fighting off a cruise missle with a stick.
  • I sorta hate to toot my own horn here, but I've known that the music industry isn't winning all along. My nice little website Puremp3 [] has been gaining members form the outset, and now that it is easier for sites to apply via a keen web interface, I've been getting 10-20 new members a day. At this rate, I'll hit 1000 sites by the end of the year easily.

    Even if the companies behind SDMI and music protection get their way and alot of the colleges start cracking down on mp3s, it will stil go on. About all that colleges can do is scan the Samba shares for mp3s or anon ftps within their IP block(s), and then pull the connections. As a college student that's seen this happen to many students before, it's not that big a deal. You get a visit from a network guy who verifies that the directory you were sharing isn't shared, and might delete the mp3s in that directory. Other than that, they aren't allowed to do anything else.

    Most of the people who do these visits use mp3 themselves, so it realy isn't in their best interest to delete the mp3s. The sites are usually back up on a non-standard port or private ftp within a matter of days, if not hours. The IT departments in most colleges don't have the resources to do an all-out MP3 crackdown.

    Bottom Line: There's a /VERY/ slim chance that anything will stop MP3 in the near-future.
  • The MP3, like the TV zapper, has turned out to be an intensely political bit of technology. Zappers and switchers permitted TV watchers to take control of their sets back from the three networks that monopolized TV programming for half-a-century. People could make choices about what they wanted to watch, and were no longer forced to choose from the tepid offerings of three networks.

    I'm having trouble seeing the "intensely political" benefit of the remote control. Before I had one, I could take back control of my TV set from the three major networks by getting off my ass, walking to the TV, and changing the channel. I could take even more control by turning the thing off.

    Now that I have a remote control, I can take back control of my TV set from the three major networks by remaining on my ass.

    Have we become so sedentary as a society that the ability to stay on our asses is an intensely political victory?

    I look forward to reading Katz's celebratory column when technology finally gives us the ability to Web surf on the toilet.

  • Whatever it is, it revolutionized society as we
    know it, and is as cool as mp3s.

    Is he talking about IR remote control? "Intensely
    political"?!!? That's the stupidest thing I've
    heard all morning. Granted, I've only been up 5
    minutes, but I think it will be today's winner

    PGP is more intensely political than the 'TV
    zapper', puts REAL freedom in the hands of
    the citizen, and actually has people that
    oppose it. Was there and wave of industry
    FUD against remote control?!?!

    Cmon Katz, you're staying up too late
    to write this stuff.

  • No, this has nothing to do with raw materials, rationing, or anything else. It has to do with artists getting what they deserve. As it is, they get hardly anything from their work.

    If you like the music, show your support and buy the stupid CD for a lousy $15 and quit yer whining. The artists will stop making it (or at least, the label will stop selling it) if it isn't profitable. That's called capitalism.

    bottom line, whenever a product which a company is trying to sell becomes available elsewhere for free, it threatens their bottom line. So you really can't blame them. That's called capitalism. An artist *needs* a label because there's no other way to get their music to a mass audience (obscure websites and little blurbs on don't cut it). And the labels will go away if the profits go away.

    Get real, cheapskate. Buy the CD (my collection nears 200..) and get over it.

    My $ .02
  • Heh. I should know better than to try and parse HTML correctly when I'm ranting.

    Baptist Death Ray on

    Baptist Death Ray on

    Chris Wright
    the Baptist Death Ray
  • It's just not possible for every musician out there to tour. For example, I have never been able to find musicians who were willing to put in the kind of commitment it would take to be an actual "real live" band. (It's a shame b/c it would be a killer live act).

    Some musicians are purely solo acts or studio bands and would be really boring on stage. Is there some reason they should be denied an income if their music is still geniuinely good?

  • that's the standard artist cut -- 7 cents per CD sold. And out of THAT cut comes all the costs of manufacturing and distribution, paying off the studio engineers, paying off the band manager and promoter, and paying for touring costs.

    If you really think that's a pretty hefty chunk of a $15 CD, the dollar is a lot stronger where you live than where I live.
  • It would have to be more than $1.99, b/c w/a CD burner you wouldn't be able to create the volume that makes CDs so cheap, but it would still be significantly cheaper than what you'd pay now.
  • by brennanw ( 5761 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @06:50AM (#1810696) Homepage Journal

    John Katz is correct in his assertion that the RIAA (the organization that represents the major labels) is trying desperately to take control of music distribution over the internet. He is also correct in implying that the MP3 music format is part of a revolution that could, if we play our cards right, topple over the stranglehold that the "big 5" have had on music distribution in the United States and all over the world.

    Where he is entirely wrong, however, is in the assertion that the sites the RIAA are targeting are in any way associated with this new revolution.

    Pirate music sites are nothing new, have been nothing new, and will be nothing new. Nothing that they do will ever have any appreciable affect on the music industry, and anyone who believes so is just buying into the RIAA's propaganda. The RIAA likes to use pirate sites as their straw man because they can't touch the real threat: the musicians and web sites that post MP3s of music that are 100% legal.

    As a musician who posts his music on the internet in the MP3 format, I am much more of a threat to the RIAA than a ripped & encoded pirated copy of anything put out by Nine Inch Nails.

    Sure, NIN is a lot more popular and well known than the Baptist Death Ray. Sure, NIN is sought after and will be downloaded more than the Baptist Death Ray. But the Baptist Death Ray and other artists with similar beliefs are setting up a dangerous precident: that it's OK for the artist, not a record label, to decide who is allowed to download what music. And that the artist, not the record label, can take full responsibility of his/her product.

    Of course, the RIAA can't force musicians to go to labels, can't force musicians to relinquish their rights to their music, so they claim they are trying to protect their artists from piracy. Bull. They are trying to protect the industry from the Baptist Death Ray, Bruce Satinover, Mickey Dean and his Talking Guitar, MadelynIris, and every other musician who wilingly, of their own volition, and more importantly legally releases their music in the MP3 format for free download and distribution.

    The RIAA has been targeting sites of pirated music and forcing the site maintainers to shut them down. Whoopee. What they can't do, and what will really bring them down if this takes off, is make me and my comerades-in-arms stop releasing music under the MP3 format.

    Chris Wright
    the Baptist Death Ray

    Baptist Death Ray on []

    Baptist Death Ray on []

  • Record albums (LPs, maybe you've seen one) were more expensive than cassettes, because cassettes were more easily worn out.

    Digitally recorded vinyl albums (late 70s, early 80s) were for the audiophile, and cost more than the usual analog recordings, because of the (some think) superior sound quality.

    So when CDs came out, here you had something with digital rather than analog sound, and that will outlast a vinyl album. So people were willing to pay more.

    Nowadays, of course, the actual CD costs less than $1 U.S. So it's hard to say why the big record labels ratchet up the prices, other than greed.

  • Cost breakdown here, on the question of how can CD "clubs" sell for a low price: CD Club FAQ: Ethical Issues []. It does not, however, get down as far as exactly how much the artist gets, or how big a cut goes to producers, the label execs. But interesting as much as it does analyze.

  • hmm... that kind of reminds me of the record changer, if any of you guys are old enought to remember what they do.

    Basically, around the late 1970's record changers became unpopuluar (people were afraid they damaged the records and were sonically inferior to regular one disc players), yet I still own one of them and use it daily. The fact that you can not buy record changers anymore stop me from listening to one record after another on the changer, no.

    The same thing with mp3s. All current hardware can play Mp3s, and it will be able to do so in the futuire (umm.. xmms-0.91 or later should continue working fine on my LinuxPPC R5 system (even 2 years from now), as long as I don't break it's depencies).

    I can see that possibly hardware might have disablable Mp3 players, but on computers, their will always be hacks to get around other programs that might try to block the output from Mp3s.

    So how do record from SDMI file to Mp3. Simple. You just copy the analog output of SDMI to your digital recorder. You feed that sound into Mp3 encoder... Yes their is a slight loss of sound quality, but if you use monster gold plated cable, it should be barely audiable if audiable at all.

    What about analog watermarking?

    From what I have read analog watermarking is total bullshit. Nobody is going to buy recording that have the sound quality audibly degraded just to keep the RIAA happy. People will rather fall back to Tapes and CDs to rip before using that DVD-Audio and SDIA.

    What if DVD-Audio is a success with all it's anti-copy stuff?:

    You got to be kidding. The first Audio-DVDs are two track with a higher sampling rate / frequency response. Maybe that will improve your dog's hearing of the music or that die hard audiofile that has a sound proofed room with dead slience, but for most people, no. Some DVD-Audio formats, actually degrade the sound, by adding analog (audiable) encyrption stuff.

    Mulitchannel DVD-Audio discs. Hmm.. for one they are not comming out tommrow. Another problem with multichannel DVD's is they will not help out recordings recorded in stereo (skip the cheesey surrond effects, please!) Another problem, is most people's stereos are still only two channels, and going to 5.1 channels is expensive. Multichannel DVDs are looking, at least for now to be another RIAA pipe dream.
  • For most volume CD's, the cost of producing the contents of the CD is fairly small per CD, I'd imagine.


  • You're talking past each other here.

    Stealing is stealing - and it's wrong.

    Of course.

    But, the real issue is whether copying bits ever constitutes theft. When I buy a hard-disk, I physically own all of the bits on that drive. Is it theft if I change their states such that they correspond to the music of a given song?

    Besides, see the other posts on here by actual musicians who welcome the arrival of cheap redistribution outside of the shadow of the recording industry. If it were stealing, who would you be stealing from if the artists themselves are happy to let you have it?


  • I actually thought about this a few days ago, also
    being a musician and wondering how MP3's are
    affecting musicians. As far as I know, I think
    most bands make most of their money doing tours
    and that sort of thing, while most of the money
    from CD sales doesn't go to the band. It seems
    logical to me that in the near future a band could
    do quite well by just releasing recorded music for
    free as MP3's and then making their money entirely
    from tours and performances. I think record
    labels are more concerned about becoming obsolete in a few years than losing money from the piracy that is going on today. Just my two cents...
  • I dunno, the DVD folks did a great job of making something which is playable completely unsecurable. If DVD were less secure, we'd have a player for Linux. We don't. Guess why?
  • Just had to call you out on a point. You can record audio at 44.1khz and 16bits in stereo all you want. It's not professionally produced. Or did you really use that $10,000 microphone and the $15,000.00 effects processor, etc.... in a 250,000 acoustically perfect room? Didn't think so.
  • the legal responsibilities of the executives of a company are to their shareholders. You can be thrown in jail for violating this. Check your facts.
  • Check ASCAP, BMI, and Harry Fox's webpages for information on artist reimbursement.
  • Unfortunately I can't shed any tears for you here. You didn't take any of the financial risk, so why should you reap any of the financial gain? There are plenty of artists/novelists out there. If you get your book published, you're going in knowing what's going on. $50,000 is more than you had when you started. But how the hell do you think you're going to print, market, distribute, and sell 100,000 copies of your own book? Therefore unless you market it some other way, out of your pocket, then you're not taking any financial risk. Sure, you're the "talent", but there's plenty of talent running around. If you want to sell it, you've got to be a salesman. And these companies are.
  • It didn't "work out" that people "prefer to buy the movie", this was designed. VHS was forced on an unwitting consumer market due to its built-in limitations on copying. VHS degrades *greatly* with each successive copy. One can make about 3 levels of generation while leaving the tape somewhat viewable. Betamax, on the other hand, has all of the same features as VHS and two further enhancements: 1: better image resolution/quality, 2: can make many more generations of copies. Is it really any wonder why we have VHS?
  • "They" might have this take on things.

    The evil empire doesn't care which artist you spend money on. Everything is relative, so most folks wont decrease their spending on music if the quality is poor, because most folks don't know any better.


  • The core issues are really choice and price, and whether individuals can take back some creative power and influence for the mega-corporations that now control American culture, from music to broadcasting to publishing.

    I guess I'd better sell my stock, 'cuz I'm an owner of those evil mega-corporations. I guess I'd better stop choosing to use their products and services... it's the people who define culture, and the same people who own corporations. If we chose not to pay for their stuff, they would have to sell something else, or go out of business.

    In the United States, the five labels sell $14 billion worth of music every year. Small wonder kids rebelled and began downloading the music they wanted.

    Sounds more like people with $14 billion dollars bought the music they wanted. People getting what they want makes other people want to rebel? I don't understand this line of thought. Perhaps the intermediary logics are missing.

    Zappers and switchers permitted TV watchers to take control of their sets back from the three networks that monopolized TV programming for half-a-century. People could make choices about what they wanted to watch, and were no longer forced to choose from the tepid offerings of three networks.

    Please. Until entertainment industry executives break into my house and force me even to buy a television, much less watch it all of the time, the idea that people don't have a choice is a joke.

    You have a choice not to watch TV. Or to watch only public TV. Or not to own a TV. Or to change the channel. (And unless by "zapper" you mean "free cable or digital broadcasting", your point is silly anyway.)

    As for the rest, there have been garage bands making tapes and CDs and what-have-you for decades. The real revolution is just a means of communication.

    QDMerge [] -- data + templates = documents.

  • Anyway, it's painfully obvious when so many great artists released all of their best material in near obscurity for the last 20 years that there is something wrong with the monopoly.. er... system. Death to your evil mega-corporation.

    The only thing that is obvious (and I use the term ironically) is that equating artistry and beauty and talent with commercial success is a mistake. How many people suffer from the illusion that the big record companies spend so much money on marketing to promote great artists?

    How many people suffer from the illusion that Sony executives are going to shut down and confiscate my computer because I have written and recorded songs and I distribute them in MP3 format? I have no contract with Sony. They have no legal right to do so. Nice monopoly.

    Otherwise one might have to conclude that those awful "When ______ Attack!" specials on the US FOX network have some artistic merit.

    How naive. You only get one vote; I suppose you're happy with the political system too? What? You never vote? Sorry.

    In a capitalistic, market-driven system, I have as many votes as I have dollars to spend on entertainment from the Giant Five. (and that's a very small amount, as I am generally unwilling to finance such pablum)

    In the boardroom, I have as many votes as I have voting-shares of stock.

    You're right -- blame the people who don't vote, or who don't care what they support. Or who do. I don't care.

    Just don't expect me to believe that there are very many conspiracies out there that don't focus mainly on money.

    QDMerge [] -- data + templates = documents.
  • As our local paper put it: it's not so much piracy as it is mutiny.

  • Oh, man, I just *love* to answer some of these "music industry" letters!

    I'll come right out and say it: quality and the "music Industry" have nothing to do with each other. Quality comes from the soul. If they have it, that means someone sold it to them.

    'nuff said.
  • That's very commendable of you, but you'd probably be better off finding out the address of the artist and sending them a check. They sure as Hell ain't being supported by the record company.

    Oh--I'm sorry. I guess a *couple* of them are. The ones they want to *milk for everything they can get.*
  • Actually, I'm kind of hoping things will turn out this way: When people realize their *art* is easy to distribute via the Net, they'll be *encouraged* to once again *learn* how to read music and play an instrument. Because people will *hear* what they do, even if they don't have the skill to get around the music industry. Remember, music is becoming a "lost art" *because* people don't want to have to *deal* with managers, record distributors, record companies, recording studios that want you IN AND OUT AS FAST AS POSSIBLE, and all the other *drek* that comes with trying to show people your talent. Look, the only people who seem to get anywhere with music these days are those who want to grab that gold ring on the end of the stick attached to their forehead. That doesn't leave much room for people who just want to make music, does it? Because the only way you can get that gold ring is to cater to the LARGEST AUDIENCE YOU CAN POSSIBLY GET, and art be damned. I read a book long ago called Against the American Grain by Dwight MacDonald, (now out of print,) in which he refers to this phenomenon as "masscult." Pander to "the masses" so you can fill your auditoriums and pockets, by trying to FIGURE OUT what they want ahead of time, then GIVE IT TO THEM, as MANY OF THEM AS POSSIBLE. Don't bother to try and develop your own art, then see how many people are interested.

    I'm hoping that ubiquitous distribution of freely-available music will start to change this. Maybe musicians who would otherwise not bother because of a limited audience, will now realize they can get samples of their works out there, where anyone can see them and take copies. Then, when that happens, the good ones will get the shows, the concerts, the auditoriums, and the small venues based on the VALUE OF THEIR ART, *not* on the results of some stupid surveys and PR campaigns.

    When that day comes, I might be more inclined to check out new music. Because I'll know people are once again putting their soul into it.
  • Very good point. And that's why all you people out there pirating copies of record-company fare should do this:

    (1) stop pirating, and also stop buying the CD's.
    (2) get out there and do your *own* music.
    (3) get together with musicians who want to get their music *heard* but don't want to deal with record companies and their crap
    (4) Go to their clubs, concerts, invite them to your parties, get copies of their mp3's and *listen* to their music.

    It's time to do that. Music isn't something you use for wallpaper, or to fill that void of silence while you study. As long as you continue to believe that it *is* for those purposes, these problems will continue to plague you. When you ride a bus or walk the street, use that Rio to listen to some *art*, not some ripped-off Sony cd.
  • I walked into one of those chain "record" stores at the mall last weekend. I hardly ever do this since they rarely carry any music that I'd consider listening to but there was a mildly interesting CD that I wanted to check out. Seeing that the average price for CDs has gotten into the $18-$19 range I turned around and walked out.

    I guess I'll go back to ordering through Wayside [cuneiformrecords]. I'll save tons-o-money and find the music I enjoy all at the same time.

  • What I expect to see is more and more independent bands using the internet in place of radio to get themselves known. All it will take is one real breakthrough artist to become huge by publishing mp3s on the web and selling cds by direct mailorder. Then every radio station will start scouring the web for the "next one".

    And the thing is, rather than using this as a way to get themselves a deal with a major label, the band can just continue on as they are. Maybe cdnow will start making copies of the cd and selling them, so the band doesn't have to do it all themselves. I doubt mp3 will ever kill cds, but it might change the way we buy them, and it will certainly change how the profits are divided.

    Using Microsoft software is like having unprotect sex.

  • Huzzah to the author who wrote this reply, that the world is not required to provide witless gimps with their intellectual property for zero compensation!

    What will be interesting is that RIAA has to know that FUD ain't going to cut it for very long with an Internet crowd, and that they will be forced to fall back to their next line of defense, the artists they've already signed, and the network of radio stations, concert promoters, ad execs, and the like. I predict that RIAA will pressure these vassals to refuse air time to Internet-only artists, and try to lock them out of 'traditional' forums, even more so than they already do by controlling the marketplace.

    The big argument that RIAA and their lapdogs will soon put forth is that they have all the marketable acts, and the no-name bands who are trying to self-publish aren't worth listening to. So it becomes of vital importance that several Internet-only artists get enough attention and sales that RIAA is forced to deal with them on the artist's terms.

    I also agree that the implications of technologies such as MP3, Linux, the Open Source model, and the publishing power of the Internet will cascade from market segment to market segment. This really is the Information Age, baby, and you better be looking at how your business is going to be a part of it.

  • Notice how many artists are fighting mp3's.

    And, conversely, notice how many arstists have voiced decisive support for MP3. Very few. In fact, if I were an artist faced with the prospect of support a medium which could mean that I get paid for very little of what I do, I don't know that I'd be very excited about it.

    It's also possible that individual artists aren't fighting MP3s because the RIAA is doing it for them - besides...why should they? In many cases, they don't even own the music they produce.

    MP3's are the shareware/freeware of the music world

    Ha. In many cases, certainly not by the artist's choice. This decision is often made by some punk who has imbued him/herself with the authority to assert ownership of something they clearly do not own. I think there's a word for this....yeah...theft.

  • I guess's probably the same 80% who cheat on tests, too, or the 55% of these cheaters who don't think there's anything wrong with it.

    The logic here is inescapable: "this costs more than I think I should have to pay, so I'm just going to take it."
  • How come every fucking moron quotes the price of the media not the price to produce? As an amatur (ie., I don't get paid for what I do), I have a studio worth several thousand $$$s. Decent studio time is at a premium ($75 an hour last I recorded outside of my home...mostly because I didn't have a Bosendorfer at my fingertips...the rental of that was extra even though it is a studio fixture). As a programmer, I guess I should charge everyone $1 for my custom work as thats all it costs for the media I give over in the final project.

    BTW complaining about the RIAA ripping off the artists and then ripping MP3s as a protest is just stealing from the same source as the RIAA is stealing from.
  • "A Mercedes-Benz is ridiculously over-priced, so by your thinking its cool to just bust in to the dealers lot and take as many as I want?"

    Be careful of this analogy because it easily falls apart. When you steal a Mercedes from the dealer then the dealer can no longer sell that car. You have done much more than deprive him of a potential sale... you've also deprived him of the goods he is selling.

    I will say this one more time: "Physical property _cannot_ be compared to intellectual property." Period. End of story.

    Does that make it right to steal someone elses intellectual property? That's a topic for another debate.

    The only way to compare with your analogy would be if you could make an exact duplicate of a Mercedes-Benz for free without costing the owner a dime. Would that be bad? Maybe. Would Mercedes-Benz still be able to get away with charging so much for a car? Probably not.

    They would have to sell service instead of product.

    "Create something yourself some time and you'll understand."

    I have but I don't. Personally, I don't create music to sell it. I create it because I enjoy it. That is my right. Don't assume that anyone that creates something for themselves will automatically agree with you.

    All generalizations are wrong. Err... except that one?
  • Nuf said.
  • Buy a $50 shrinkwrapped box and as a bonus get an OS -- FREE!!
  • I wrote this on a local mailing list sometime ago, I think it's relevant to this:

    My guess is that the record companies are going to change. if they will not they will die. This will not take place in the immediate timeframe, but in a space of, five- ten years. definitely. The analogy I an thinking of is what happened with the music sheet printing industry..

    Before recorded media was common place (phonographs) the biggest music industry players ware printing companies who made sheet music for musicians. a lot of people had pianos and other musical instruments so they used to by the latest music as sheets of paper with the staff notes.. (singles..) and books of their favorite composers work (albums..) with recorded media it took some time, but eventually the printed music industry has become irrelevant in relation to the recorded
    media industry. The interesting thing is that the music did become more accessible as a result: you didn't have to know how to read notes and play the piano/violin/whatever to enjoy music, you could just by the new record stick it in your phonograph and enjoy.

    The MP3 revolution (basicly electronic distribution revolution of which the MP3 is the killer application) is doing the same in a roundabout way. it's not making music more accesible to consumers. It's making the CHOICE of music more accessible to consumers : more musicians can release music then ever before since it's cheaper and more convenient to do so via the traditional routes (via record company).
    Artist are free to do the kind of music they want to do with out pressure of record companies to make music which is "easy to sell". everyone wins. especially the consumer: again: in a free market the key is choice!

  • by eshefer ( 12336 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @08:26AM (#1810729) Homepage Journal
    wrong. AFAIK most musicians LOOSE money from record deals.

    The useal deal is that the artists gets an advance to produce a recording, from the record company. He pays it back from the money he profits from the record sales - that is HIS CUT OF THE PROFITS! arround 10%.

    care to do the math again?

  • The motivation behind the excersising of a right (in this case, the right to protect intellectual propert) does not invalidate that right.

    I don't need to prove to anyone that I am using my right to privacy for the "collective good." I don't need to prove that I am using my right to free speech for the "collective good." I may be using my privacy to stockpile plans for the overthrow of the government, and I may be using my right to private free speech to convince others to help me implement that plan. But I still have both of those rights until it is proven that I have committed a crime.

    Katz argues that record companies should not have the right to their intellectual property because they charge too much for us to use that property. I think $4 is too much for Katz's last book and he's charging even more for it than that. If I printed up my own copy and started selling it for $1 or giving it away, I'm still committing a crime.

    outside of the country of Colombia perhaps the world's largest cartel. They control 85 per cent of recorded music sales in the United States.

    Why not say the same thing about the car industry? I think that Chevy is too much, but there aren't enough choices. There are a lot of industries that have five companies or less which make up 85% of the market share. Are all of these industries controlled by cartels? The fact that these companies act in unison to protect their intellectual property does not make that action illegal.

    If they act in unison to fix prices, that is illegal.

    But even if they fix prices and terrorize small children and fail to understand geek culture and torment nuns with spitballs and run prostitution rings and charge too much for music and charge too much for Brittney Spears posters and won't post those naked pictures of Brittney which we know they have...

    ...this doesn't mean you can get a Korn cd free.

    Their intellectual property rights remain intact.
  • musicians never make the majority of money on CD sales themselves, especially the non-huge musicians.

    Even the non-huge musicians make infinitely more money off a CD than they do off a pirated MP3.

    You may want to check my math on that. I've been out of college for a few years.
  • I don't know anything about the record industry...

    ...but authors of fiction books generally get 6% of paperback cover price and 8% of hardcover sales price.

    So roughly $0.30 and $1.60 respectively.

    In the record industry I believe there are minimum sales numbers which must be met before the artist begins to see royalties. But how the hell would I know.
  • But he doesn't actually LOOSE (sic) money. If your understanding is correct and an artist is paid a $1000 advance and he only receives $4.50 in royalties ( 10% of 3 cd's at $15 each), then he still makes $4.50.

    Now if he spent his $1000 on cheap whoresex and now he doesn't have it to pay back, then he may think he lost money, but his net gain is still $4.50.

    This is the same as the book publishing industry. An advance is just that: advance payment in anticipation of money that will be earned.
  • I gladly fork over $10 under the Street Performer Protocol [] to the first functional SDMI converter/stripper which successfully (and reliably) output MP3 files. I wish I had the technical know-how to make it happen myself, but... Anyone with me?
  • >Guess why?

    Well, I don't completely disagree with you, although I must say that one of the reasons we don't have a player is the encoder H/W card manufacturers aren't giving out specs, and nobody really cares about software decoding. Not enough people to come out with a player, anyway.

    Kinda like video card manufacturers...
  • The Mercedes point was that stealing is wrong. If someone owns something, they are free to charge what they like for it. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

    Stealing is stealing - and it's wrong.

    I'm sure that all of you who proclaim that the world owes you a living are either:

    a) Kids


    b) Unsuccessful and bitter.

    Do you think a computer consultant is worth $220 an hour?

    Some companies charge that anyway - regardless of what you think.

    The only valid arguement that we, the consumer, can make is that the record companies hold a monopoly and hold back competition. This is difficult to do though, since artists sign on with one record company. Kind of hard to have competition if only one company can legally sell the music. Ironic isn't it?

    To justify yourselves by saying things like 'well, they still have a copy too', is immature and shows a lack of respect and education.

    The kids will eventually grow up. That's not a problem. 20 bucks is lots of money to everyone at one point. The rest of you are simple thieves.
  • "(DIVX) died because DVD proponents were effectively able to educate the populace about..."


    Educate the populace.... hehehehehehehehe...

    Sure... then maybe we'll get Beta's and Mac's back... then people will only buy reliable automobiles and quit getting mad in traffic.

    Oh, and then all the thieves will stop stealing...

    Educate the populace... hahahahaha....

    Ohhhh, my tummy....
  • Here's my idea as a musician:

    Musicians band together to form regional website co-ops. The musicians get 90% of profit (after cd & packaging and on-site ads and distribution costs), unlike (which gets 50%, a still outrageous cut). 10% goes to people (musicians or lackeys) running the site.

    I'm convinced that something like this will eliminate most of the majors, and regional indies can make deals with the co-op for wide-area and international distribution.
  • Ok all, there's lots of good comments here, but one thing missing... links to places to get *legal* MP3s!

    GoodNoise [] - I like this place, they have some free mp3s, plus mp3s at $1/song or $10 for an entire album. They even are set up so if your download is interuppted, you can still go and get the music. They have some good artists, including my personal fave, They Might Be Giants. [] - I haven't really used this place much, they have a *ton* of mp3s available for download free, but last I checked it was kind've hard to find out who was good and who isn't, this may have improved now though.

    Also, if you're an artist, check out D.A.M. (Digital Automatic Music) System [] . They give you 50% of the sales from CDs! With a non-exclusive contract! I don't make music myself, but this sounds like a really great deal to me.

  • The point is that artists see only pennies from every CD that's sold in their name-There are only two reasons for the sale of CD's-So Sony, Virgin, et al can make money, and so us, the consumers, can find out about, and like a particular artist.

    The latter is the greater benefit for the artist. If you like an artist, there's a good chance that you'll go see them in concert, buy their t-shirts, etc...That's where the artists make their real money. Dissimation of their music leads to real profits for them. Tom Petty tried to do it, so did Alanis and the beastie boys. They see shit for money from the CD sales, but they rake it in with their live performances...No middle man to take 90% of the profit.

    It's the record companies that are scared of MP3...not the artists...

    //Logged out. Connection reset by beer.
  • I'm curious... If I pay about $20 (w/ tax) for a CD in the store, how much does the artist get? I figure the store gets about half, the recording company most of what's left.

    The companies tell you that they need big markups since 4 out of 5 records never turn a profit (recording, distribution, marketing costs, etc.) I can now record CD-quality sound at home on my PC and distribute it, so this argument goes away.

    My mother used to make dresses, get paid about 25c to sew one. She could buy them ex-factory, at cost, for about $5-10, and they sold in stores for about $50-100. The Internet revolution for S/W, music, etc is the elimination of the middlemen.

    Does anybody have some real numbers on where the money goes? Would an artist be better off selling individual MP3s for 25c a song?
  • Yeah, but.

    The music industry's efforts to control content through strong arming hi-fi hardware companies (or by *being* hi-fi equipment companies) are doomed to failure because...

    The hi-fi industry is just as doomed as the record industry. Computers are going to replace everything except amps, headphones, and speakers. Everything else will be software running on portable general-purpose computers.

    And guess who controls software...

    Sony is scared all right, but not half as scared as they should be.

  • Jon Katz's writings do appear in a number of other places; he's a professional writer. That's why he has a Time-magazine writing style, and why he makes parallels to popular media.

    Personally, I don't mind the writing style, because his articles aren't technical. (Actually, this particular one had a bit of a flamish/rantish technical edge to it, and he ditched the MS ActiveISO.)

    But if he's using slashdot as an editorial mechanism, why should we be upset? He's asking us for a harsh review of his ideas before they go to mainstream readers who aren't as aware of these issues. Isn't that a Good Thing?


  • by blkwolf ( 18520 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @07:50AM (#1810744) Homepage
    >It's also possible that individual artists aren't >fighting MP3s because the RIAA is doing it for >them - besides...why should they? In many cases, >they don't even own the music they produce.

    Because until now it wasn't technically feasible to produce and distribute your own music. If you wanted to make it big as an artist you "had" to sign up with a major record label and in doing so sign away most of your rights to your own current and future music for the term of the contract.

    Considering the $12 - $20 cost for a CD the artist usually makes as little as 1 to 10% of that, so unless you release more than a couple gold album's you can still easily starve as a music artist.

    So an artist faced with the prospect of supporting a medium which could be they not only get paid very little for what they do, but also lose all control of their final artwork, also lock them into artistic slavery for the next 3,5,7 years compared to a medium that might mean they get paid very little for what they do but they have total and complete control of their product "do I release my first album for free, do I charge .01 cent per download or even $1 per download, do I release some sample tracks and charge for the rest? etc"

    Finally the artist has a choice in how, what or who they want to distribute their music.

    If RIAA was only fighting piracy that's one thing, but they are trying to fight any technoligy that would release control to the artists (who needs Sony when I can record my own album stick it on a web site and charge 40 cents per song, if 1 song becomes a major hits and gets 2million downloads I just made buku bucks), and also independent distributors. Right now it would be nothing for someone to desinge a really high quality web site that would allow artists to distribute their music thru your system for a very nominal % based on downloads and no "you'll distribute all your music threw me and I own all rights to it contracts" yet watch how fast RIAAA or similiar agencys and labels try to shut you down.

  • It really *is* as simple as 'theft is theft'. If it's copyrighted, and you don't follow the originators EULA (superceded by govermnet regulations of course, as in the 'fair use' act), you are stealing. Please live with it, because the other option is a world where there is no reason to create anything.

    Giggle. Trust me, money isn't the only reason to do things. I'll happily forgo all the crap thats created to make money (Titanic, Backstreet Boys, Jurassic Park) for REAL art thats made out of love.

    If money is all that you will create for, I, for one, would hate to see what you create.
  • Your example is one of an ego driven artist then, instead of one driven by greed.

    I, for one, would be glad if my ideas spread the planet. I don't care that anybody knows that they are mine. I don't care if some other self-centered, ego-maniacal, attention-craving maggot claims that its "his" idea. If its a good idea, knowing that somebody else can use it and make their life better is all i need.

    Remember, _I_ can still use my original idea for my own gain as well.

    This is why information is different from a material good. You can't stop its spread, so stop trying. Find another way to make a living than depending on government handouts/welfare via copyright/IP/patent law, because if you dont, you will find yourself on the street in short order.
  • Such a device would just 3 times as expensive and probably have lower sound quality than a similar unencrypted one. All the while it offers nothing to consumers who choose to buy encrypted over unencrypted. Sounds like divx to me...
  • And I can't wait. They can still make money with MP3, just like Red Hat and others can make money with a "free" OS like Linux. They will just have to change their tactics. I think this whole thing will be better for us, and the artists.

    Can you say paradigm shift?

    That is exactly what the industry needs to do to start making money from this. Embrace the change, make some adjustments and the money will start to roll in.
  • Alternatively, if there's a CD with a few songs you like, send money to the artist directly for each MP3 you store. And don't redistribute them indiscriminately.

    That's what I'd do.
  • I mean really, of course you're going to lie, cheat, and fight against anything that you see as taking money away from your pockets.

    They can see the beginning of the end this Christmas season. As Jon says, those Rio's and other MP3 players will fly off the shelves this year. This is gonna be one of those times when the music industry is going to have to make what we want, not what they want to shove down our throats.

    And I can't wait. They can still make money with MP3, just like Red Hat and others can make money with a "free" OS like Linux. They will just have to change their tactics. I think this whole thing will be better for us, and the artists.

  • by Icculus ( 33027 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @07:42AM (#1810772)
    Basically, the only people to benefit from Music piracy are people who copy - individually, individual gain from somebody elses work. This surely flies in the face of causes such as Free Software or Open Source? Becuase in this situation, the originator suffers - sucky eh?

    I think this may have been brought up before with regards to software "piracy", but just because someone pirates a song/album does not necessarily mean that someone is losing out. This does not legitimize piracy, but claiming that it is inherently harmful to "the originator" is not correct. In fact, it could be beneficial to the originator. Say I get an MP3 from someone, I like the sound of it and buy the entire CD.

    To address your point about free software... Every time you boot up your linux machine you're benefiting from someone else's work (at no cost to you, for that matter). Furthermore, you're allowed to distribute unlimited copies without compensating the originator. The only difference (besides that whole against-the-law stuff) is that artists (or more specifically, the record label) generally don't give their permission for you to do so without compensating them.
  • I don't know about the rest of you all, but I actually have bought more CD's since I started collecting MP3's. Generally it goes that I'll hear one or two good songs, off the CD, and then decide that I want to buy the album to support the artist.
  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @07:17AM (#1810800)
    MP3 discussions always lead to two issues: price and piracy.

    "Protect our intellectual property!", screams the recording industry.

    "Stop ripping us of with overpriced recordings!", replies the Annoyed Consumer.

    The interesting thing is... it can actually happen this way. I've seen it. Granted... not in the US. The law does not allow for it.

    I spent some time in Saudi Arabia a few years back. There's nothing like a shoping trip at the local Saudi mall and/or shopping district to give you an "Old World Bizzare" kind of feel. One of the interesting things was that the Saudis (at least at that time - this is changing as I understand it) did not recognize International copyrights. As you can imagine, this lead to stores who's main traffic were copied software and music tapes.

    The tapes were cheap. They came in all genres of music. And they often included "extra tracks" of that artist's music, or perhapse a simular artist. The recording quality was OK, but the tape itself and its packaging were inexpesively done.

    While these "pirate" stores were common, the amazing thing was to see stores selling "legitimate" recordings too (sometimes at the same store). The label-produced recordings were more expensive, but I noted that they weren't MUCH more expensive. And the big selling point? Quality. The legitimate tapes were better quality in both recording as well as materials.

    Quality production and a competative price allowed intellectual property holders to sell their wares even in a marketplace that allowed copies of those same products to be sold cheaper.

    Now... this isn't to say that intelectual property laws are wrong. I'm certainly not advocating dropping these laws and spawning a "legitimate" piracy industry. Instead, I think the interesting thing to note was that legitimate products CAN sell against cheap knock-offs IF the legitimate version offers additional value.

    In our case, a cheaper CD may remove the economical insentive to overlook convenience, quality, and legality lacking in pirated music. It's worked elsewhere.

  • Don't forget #5 - Jon has more exaggerated, totally unresearched BS to spout, like the fact that big labels form "outside of the country of Colombia perhaps the world's largest cartel." I guess Jonny hasn't heard of OPEC (that would be the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Mr. Katz) and the like. I hate big labels as much as (or more than) anyone else, but I can't stand it when people make idiotic statements like the above. It only makes it appear like the anti-label movement is populated by a bunch of drooling, semi-literate simians.

    DIVX, for example, didn't die because people made impassioned speeches about the Machiavellian schemes and machinations of Big Brother. It died because DVD proponents were effectively able to educate the populace about how DIVX was likely to be a poor economic choice in the long run, and because they were also able to illustrate how the resting of format control in the hands of one company and law firm could be detrimental to consumer choice.

    Check your facts, make rational statements, and above all else, embrace the truth. These are all the weapons we need, if we marshall them properly. Zealotry and stupidity do not help the cause.
  • Sometimes I wonder what the intended audience of the Jon Katz pieces is. This one, and some (most?) others, seem as if they are directed towards some other less technical forum. Does he submit his articles to other places? Does he use slashdot as an editorial mechanism before submitting his articles to other places? I also wonder if he always makes parallels to popular media in his commentaries (e.g. Star Wars, Buffy). "The various Linux distros, like the characters on Gilligan's Island, all have their own individual characteristics."
  • So a cassette costs how much to make? About $3 from last i heard. And a blank cd costs anywhere from $.50 to $1. How are they getting away with a $18.99 cd and a $12.99 cassette when the cds are cheaper to manufacture? Why do we put up with this?? Oh wait, we don't. At least not much.

    The cd's are more popular than cassettes and therefore they can charge more in good capitalist ethic. The royalties they give the actual artist are a pittance for all but the highest sold artists.

    That they think that their new format for music and/or legal action against mp3 sites is just not realistic. Free music for the taking, and they think they can police the net for *mp3, HA!

    This is the downfall of the music monopoly.

    I see the future of music being that the artist sells either albums or mp3s off of a site like [] or off of their direct website.

    However, in defense of what the music industry is doing right now... We are all stealing property by downloading mp3s that we don't own the cds for. This hurts the artists, the record companies, and us as consumers by raising the prices for the albums we do buy.

    I'll admit, I trade mp3s, my friends do, business partners trade with me for songs, it's everywhere. I try to make it a point to buy cd's that i really like, but with the massive amounts of music out there for the taking, who can say no to free music?

    We are all at fault who have a mp3 collection, but i'd suggest buying music when you can to support artists, especially good independent ones. Sure i don't buy all the music i have an mp3 for, but i do still buy cds.

    Support the cause, buy Linux apps/games, buy Music from online vendors, help development.

  • With the ridiculous prices of CD's nowadays, is it any wonder that mp3's are booming? I was at the local Tower Records this past Monday for the first time in about a year, and I don't plan on going back for another year. Their regular price for CD's is $18.99! Typically the CD's are about 45 - 50 minutes long, which translates out to a rip off. Why buy a CD when you can just get the one or two songs you want off the net? Small wonder artists are starting to put their songs on the net. With the high prices no one buys the CD's and so the labels keep upping the price. It's a vicious loop with the artists and customers getting screwed. I laugh at the thought of the labels shutting down illegal music sites. 2000 sites shut down to date is a mere blip. Hardly noticeable at all. Good luck major record labels! You're screwing yourself!
  • I hope I'm not wrong, but:

    According to what I've been reading, it's SDMI players, not MP3 players, that'll be rolling off Wal-mart's shelves this Christmas. Diamond Multimedia has announced that they'll support means to suppress piracy (if only to stave off lawsuits). The five record companies have untold gobs of money to spend, and they are fighting for their stock-holding lives right now. They're cleverly going straight to the colleges to try and stamp out the enlightenment going on. Watch out for the record industry, 'cause I have a feeling they're going to give Mp3 a run for it's money (or lack of it).

    Remember, people are tech-stupid. They'll shell out for "Easier Digital Music".

  • by mong ( 64682 ) on Friday July 09, 1999 @06:28AM (#1810833) Homepage
    The Music Industry differs a bit from the software industry. The actual musicians get but a small cut of profits, the rest goes to the companies coffers.

    I'm all for avoiding getting ripped off, but I kinda feel for the Artists.

    I'm pretty happy to use "free" Microsoft products - well, as happy as one can be when using MS stuff! But I always feel a little guilty if I copy a song.

    Yes, we're being ripped off, yes CD's are overpriced, yes... erm, yes - the phone went... I've forgot. But if we could somehow get lower prices and ensure the artist gets a fair cut, then I'd be happy.

    I'm completely hypocritical in saying this (in respect of my HD contents), but Piracy is theft.

    I dunno what to say to justify my saying this, but... Don't be sitting there, smugly grinning, knowing you have 1000's of MP3s on your system. Instead, sit there, safe in the knowledge that the big companies are ripping of you, me, the artists, the vendors. Everyone.

    Basically, the only people to benefit from Music piracy are people who copy - individually, individual gain from somebody elses work. This surely flies in the face of causes such as Free Software or Open Source? Becuase in this situation, the originator suffers - sucky eh?

    And yes, I am a musician... kinda shows huh?

    Mong. Apologising for his disjointed argument.

    * Paul Madley ...Student, Artist, Techie - Geek *
  • I wholeheartedly agree that CD prices are too high. Several years ago, I could have gone to a store like Lechmere or Nobody Beats the Wiz in my hometown of (sm)Albany, NY and paid 12 or 13 dollars for mainstream new releases. Both of those stores have since gone out of business. I was talking to my dad not long after both stores were empty and he said that as a result of those two stores leaving, all the other music stores in town hiked their prices back up. It costs less to make a cd than it does to make a cassette yet we get charged twice the price? I can't stand that. As another comment in this thread says, check Best Buy or buy used discs. Go to Newbury Comics instead of Tower Records (lower prices and a better selection). Look for coupons in the paper (Newbury Comics usually runs on in the sunday comics for like three bucks off any regularly priced disc).

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers. - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in "Oath of Fealty"