19 Mar, 2013

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MP3's and The Music Piracy Problem

Update at the bottom about the RIAA suing users sharing files

Update at the bottom about my recent visit to BuyMusic.Com

Update at the bottom linking to an article from Courtney Love of the band "Hole".

The listeners of music have been shouting for years that publishers no longer provide what they want - choice. Give back "choice" to the user, and I'll bet most users would be happy to spend money on music publisher output.

I'm always amused at the irony that the music publishing biz is all about putting into print things that (hopefully) people want to listen to. Isn't it sad that the same people/companies publishing music can't hear that the cry from the consumer is not "free music" but for "choice". Something that technology has now given us, but they still refuse to acknowledge. When it became clear that one song was available for near free vs. gambling $15-$20 away for a CD that contained that song and possibly a dozen bad others, the cost of that song just became the whole price of that CD. While one may argue that it's the present economy or technology, the end result is the same. Paying the price music publishers are requesting for CD's in too high. It has now become unacceptable buying practice in the eyes of most consumers.

One of the concepts behind pirating music is that it's all about the "cost" of obtaining the material. Make the cost of obtaining something through one channel cheaper than the cost of obtaining it through another channel and the cheaper channel wins - almost every time. Technology has given us that cheaper path. And, for obvious reasons, it's winning.

Adding fuel to the fire, the fact that the music publishers got caught red-handed fixing prices of CD's in recent years and that printing/manufacturing CD's has fallen to rock-bottom costs only strengthens the consumers argument that CD pricing has become simply a matter of gouging the users rather than delivering a product at a fair market value.

I say "almost" because there are examples where this may not be the case. I personally haven't purchased a refridgerator or car over the internet. I would prefer to go to a physical place ("brick and mortar" store front) to make such a transaction. I say "near" free, because it's not. People pay for internet access in one form or another. People pay for blank CD's. People must pay for the hard drive space it takes up in the cost of a newer, bigger hard drive. So the concept that the music is free is not necessarily true. It's just a heck of a lot cheaper per song than $20.

But in the case of music, I think most users when given the option of pirating vs. cheaply available music would GLADLY choose the cheaply available.

Where are the online music web-stores where we can pick up our MP3's for .50 or $1 each (of course on a sliding scale according to demand possibly - wouldn't that be clever?). *I* haven't seen one yet.

Why are the music companies force feeding $15-$20 CD's with lots of music we DON'T want on them that we can't return to the store once we've left the building with it versus putting up websites where we can download WHAT we want (and possibly sample other songs) for a price that's acceptable within the prices that electronic distribution brings to bear? With technology as is stands, a music publisher would be foolish not to offer content to technology savvy users a delivery method that makes the users happy. In the case of MP3's, this would be the form of a web site that allows us to create personalized logins that maintain a list of the songs we've purchased (in case our hard drive or OS crashes) for a price that's reasonable. My suggestion would be < $1 based on popularity/release date. I would stand to reason that most share my thoughts that $15 - $20 is too much to pay for something we may regret purchasing.

I think once a site like that was made well known and had appropriate effort put into it - AND WAS NOT another attempt at forcefeeding the user, it would be a huge success. If it was not, THEN the publishers would have reason to cry piracy. They need to step into the 21st century first and get hip with what technology has to offer which they haven't done yet. All they've done so far is whine.

Solutions to the problem? Again, I've already mentioned some idea of what the music publishers should do. Put up that website! Let's put this in easy to understand concepts.

  • Allow consumers to choose their desired music.
  • Give them the ability to sample potential tracks.
  • Customized logins that keep record of what customers have downloaded.
  • Keep privacy a premium.
  • Bulk Discount Pricing.
  • At a fair price.
  • My guess would be that the someone who finally comes up with a web site that fully caters to what the users want vs. what the music publishers want will win big. That may be a tricky balance to achieve as it seems the big wigs at the music industry seem to think we all have their income levels to spend on questionable/poor music. Not so.

    One might recommend they need an Economy 101 refresher in the area of "Supply and Demand".

    Lastly, something to consider: In past times when a merchant has tried to charge too much for a product, we've taken that product proverbialy dumped that tea into the harbor. P2P music sharing is such a predicament where the merchant needs to get with the times rather than using the government to make up for the merchants lack of business vision.

    UPDATE 2013-03-19: Music Piracy should not be a "concern for copyright holders"!!

    A new study from the Ministry of Innovation as posted on ARS Technica states that online digital piracy should not be a problem.

    Hmmmmmm! Check it out!

    UPDATE: RIAA Sues Campus File Sharing Users

    Ok, so the RIAA is now suing the users who host large caches of music files online. See this article about it. That's the RIAA's right to do so, I have no problem with that. I still stand by my opinion that it's not the problem of "free music" that the RIAA is fighting, but rather the freedom of choice that technology now gives the users that the Recording industry is refusing to embrace. Instead, the RIAA is now skillfully bludgening users with the might and power the Record Producers wield, but at the same time are blatenting ignoring the problem that forced them to pull out their bully-stick in the first place.

    What will happen now is music swapping will be pushed into the deep even further with caches being shared amongst known and verified users. Also possible is music sharing being pushed into the method of passing amongst users whole artists libraries on MP3 format DATA CD's.

    Problem solved? no.

    Here's some other excellent reading from the Recording Artist's point of view on Janis Ian's website.

    Go to BuyMusic.Com and download the latest music

    Ya, right! Hello? First thing I get is the following:
    Thank you for visiting BuyMusic.com.
    In order to take full advantage of BuyMusic.com's offerings you must be on a
    Windows Operating System using Internet Explorer version 5.0 or higher.
    I'm sorry, but if I want to buy music legally, I have to be on a WINDOWS OS SYSTEM?? Using Internet Exploder?? This is more of my point folks. Half-Baked attempts. That's all this is. HTML and SSL are standards. Why can't I shop with my non-IE browser on my non-windows system? Gee, I don't know. Guess I just can't shop at BuyMusic.Com.

    Courtney Love Speaks up about the Hypocrisy of the Music Pubs Crying Foul

    And you thought Courtney was just about good looks! (cough cough) Check out this rather well written article. Another interesting read: A Case For Piracy. Something I've been saying all along.

    My email to congressman Timothy Johnson

    I'm writing to you about the present debacle on the internet concerning music downloading and the huge panic it is causing amongst the RIAA and it's members. I know there is a lot of references on the internet talking about how wrong and disillusioned the RIAA presently is about the new technology that is supposedly hurting their industry. So I will keep my message short for your benefit. They are wrong. Technology gives users freedom of choice. For decades they have been force-feeding artist content to users how they want, when they want. Technology now gives the users freedom of choice. We can listen to songs of an old or new artist to assist our buying decisions. Presently, buying a CD (in any economy) is a pricy outlay of cash. One that I personally don't feel like gambling away. I use the word gambling because that's what it is. If I don't like the content, I can't return it. All the stores in my area have policies that prevent the return of opened digital materials. Artists in all ranks have glorified that free music availability has helped users determine their music is something worth buying. Encrypting will solve nothing, only cause headaches, violate "fair-use" laws and make none of the problem truly go away. The argument that CD sales are somehow proportional in any fashion to the levels of music being pirated is pure idiocy as every modern computer shipped with MacOS or Windows or even UNIX(!) comes with utilities to back up the system via CD-R or DVD-RAM or whatever. Being an IT consultant it's one of the suggestions I make to all my friends, family and users. Buy a CD-R drive. Backup your files. It's that easy. And they do. And they use lots of them. I would bet there it music on less than 1% of any of them for any individual user. I could go on and on, but I won't. You're probably getting a lot of this feedback from many sources. My point: The RIAA should stick to the methods of capitalism this country is founded on. If your product is behind the times, innovate or die on the vine. Don't cower behind legislation to protect companies from their own incompetence.

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