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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Music Man

SteveAudio has produced his long-awaited tome on the history of recorded media and the state of technology and the music business, and it's fantastic. Sez Steve:
As far back as '97, while I worked at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, the record companies were in a dither about downloading. There existed, for a brief time, a joing effort by the 5 (at the time) major labels called The Madison Project, so called because the meetings to initiate the project were held at Sony Record's Madison Ave. offices. The 5 were EMI/Capitol, Sony, BMG, Universal, & Warner Bros. They discusse many ideas to counter "free downloading," including copy protection, watermarking of files, value-added fee based downloads, etc. But reality intervened. Mergers occured, alliances were broken, and all moved on.

Apple has been quite successful with iTunes, a service I feel has established the benchmark for the downloading paradigm, at least in the first round of the struggle. And after much legal wrangling, Napster has emerged somewhat respectable, although much more tame. But the battles aren't over.

Record companies still haven't figured out how to combat illegal downloading. Will they succeed? I doubt it. The 18th amendment didn't stop people from drinking. And while they try to wrap their corporate minds around the idea, the world flows on around them. We have a generation of kids who feel that they are entitled to take anything they want, thus ripping CDs and uploading them for file sharing. Of course, if you tried to take their PlayStation from them using the same logic, they'd freak.

We also have a generation of label execs who want their 7 figure salaries to remain status quo. And we have a group of self congratulating lawyers acting as talent scouts who continue to sign talentless acts to labels. While I worked at Capitol Studios, the head of the label, who was quasi-famous for having grudgingly signed Nirvana while he was at Geffen, spent years pouring money down the drain, and into his own pockets, and at the end, had only Everclear to show for his effort. Well, and a big house in Brentwood, and a golden parachute.
The recording industry is a dinosaur, so entrenched in feeding its own ego it has failed miserably to come to terms with both rapidly changing technologies and an evolving marketplace. Steve's post highlights many of the reasons why, and talks about how the music is suffering as a result. Highly recommended.