January 23, 2004

Music Rant

Posted by shonk at 12:04 AM in Music | TrackBack

A response to those who think the intellectual property status quo must be maintained to ensure the continued existence of recorded music (sleep-deprived version):

Studio music won’t die. It will just change. Look at the popularity of the iTunes Music Store. People are buying stuff there in droves (and at a lower sound quality than is available on CDs) because the iTMS is much more flexible and cost-effective. Most albums have one or two good songs and the rest is crap. So why plunk down $15 dollars for the album when you can buy the two good songs for $2 at iTMS?

On that note, filesharing never would have left the fringes if CDs weren’t so outrageously expensive. The RIAA, which succesfully sued Best Buy (I think) in the early 90s for selling CDs for $7 a pop, used its muscle to keep CD prices artificially high, which made them lots of money for a few years until it had the unintended consequence of making filesharing much more attractive. Shades of CAFE and airbag laws actually raising mortality, if you ask me.

The simple fact of the matter is, artists and labels who adapt to the new realities of the marketplace will thrive and continue to make and sell music, whereas dinosaurs who cling to the notion that the passage of some new law or the vigorous enforcement of some existing law will make things go back to how they used to be will go bankrupt.

Hey, when the automobile was introduced, it meant hard times for those wagon-wheel manufacturers who refused to accept the fact that cars were the wave of the future. But that’s not to say there wasn’t a hell of a lot of money to be made in the transportation sector.


"So why plunk down $15 dollars for the album when you can buy the two good songs for $2 at iTMS?"

Why plunk down $2 for two good songs, or in the somewhat longer run $100 for 100 songs, when you can download 10,000 songs for free today?

Posted by: John T. Kennedy at January 23, 2004 02:36 PM

JTK, that's a valid point if and only if you don't care which 10,000 songs you get--it's not necessarliy easy if you're looking for something in particular.

Also, do you really think anyone can download 10,000 songs in a day? High-quality (128k) .mp3 files run about a meg a minute, the average pop song is about 3 minutes long. That comes to almost 30 GB of data. You got a pipe that fat? I don't.

People will continue to make money by generating "IP", i.e. works of authorship, but they probably won't be able to make that money by selling the "IP" itself. For musicians, that means touring. If they don't wanna tour, hey, cry me a fucking river, I don't want to go to my job either.

Posted by: Virginia Warren at January 23, 2004 05:37 PM

...and yet the American car industry now survives not on its openness to innovation, but rather more or less exclusively on the xenophobia of its customers, now that SUVs are essentially a product of universal manufacture.

Posted by: Curt at January 23, 2004 09:48 PM


In the absence of IP there is no reason why all the tunes you could get at iTMS wouldn't appear almost instanly for free on the net. All you'll need to find what you want is a search engine. People are momentarily worried about IP enorcement but that will change soon and iTMS will have no market to speak of.

You'd be able to download whatever you wanted faster than you could listen to it.

Posted by: John T. Kennedy at January 23, 2004 11:32 PM

There's no doubt that the business models need to change to accomodate the changes in technology. Maybe, soon, nobody will be able to sell "IP" ever again--but that does not mean that there will be no way to make money generating "IP". Look at Open Source software.

JTK, I know you know that "IP" in its current form is a fairly modern invention, just like public schools and modern police. I think that American IP law violates individual rights. I cannot think of a way that "IP" in anything like its current form could possibly be enforced without violating individual rights. This may be a failure of imagination on my part. I am not at all convinced that "IP" is property. I don't see any way "IP" can be derived from the right to life.

Posted by: Virginia Warren at January 24, 2004 04:41 PM