Back in 1999, I used Napster. I sampled music that my overseas online friends mentioned. I bought more CDs when using Napster than I’d ever bought before. The thing that sucked about Napster was not being able to purchase music directly.
Then the RIAA decided they wanted to shutdown Napster. I found this surprising, given the advertising/marketing potential of the system, although I could understand their concerns regarding piracy. However I came to have less and less sympathy for the music industry as it continued to willfully make things harder for itself in a rapidly changing market.
The music industry in it’s current form has outlived it’s usefulness and needs to be replaced with something practical and less bloated with self-serving practices and people. Napster was eight years ago. In eight years there has not been any decent development in the sale of online music. Apple tried and failed with iTunes. In usability it’s not bad, but that DRM is the kicker. No one wants to buy electronic files that don’t use the inherent abilities of digital formats; portability, storage size, file transfer without loss of quality. Native Americans understood the concept of digital signals far before digital equipment was available, yet the RIAA seems incapable of understanding the basic concepts and business opportunities of the digital long tail.
The mp3 format should have been a revolution in music. The small size of the file should have changed music distribution on a massive scale. Physical items which used to cost a lot of money to distribute, can now be distributed much cheaper, with the end user absorbing some of that cost via the download process (half the “shipping”).
The RIAA still actively supports a broken system. For those outside the US, I’m sure you know the pain of being a customer in another nation. Delayed releases, non-existant releases, lack of availability, unexplained higher costs for the same item. While there may be some explanation for this in regards to physical stock, there is no explanation for electronic music. Why does the music industry still have country-specific arms with different distribution for electronic music? This is just another layer of middle men, raking in money for doing absolutely nothing. For those of you with iPods, the pain is especially strong, as you know that song you really want is available in the US iTunes Music Store, but not in your own country.
There is still no centralised register of legally purchased music. I cannot provide to my insurance company, the details of my digital license history for all of my owned music. I still cannot purchase hard copy replacements of music I legally own. Digital is better than analogue. It can be tagged, aggregated, searched, sorted, catalogued, edited, copied without major data loss, exported, imported, etc.
So what can you do about it? – vote with your wallet and your attention, music blackout
Since the filed lawsuit against Napster (in 1999) I have bought no music at all from any label, independant or otherwise. I do not download any illegal music either. I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t buy ringtones and I don’t watch music videos. My iPod is pristine, never having held anything that’s not a podcast. Eight years later in 2007 and I am no longer a consumer of any music. I will not return to the consumer pool until this industry behaves responsibly and stops holding back technology and human civilization. The RIAA are the Luddites of the Information Revolution, putting their own interests before the rest of humanity, to protect an outdated cartel whose time is up.