Recently, we have become unvoluntary witnesses or victims of some of the shady characters roaming the so-called music business. I say “so-called”, because I initially understand business as a two-way street, where two parties negotiate mutually acceptable terms on a common item or service of interest: The artist and their “artefact” music in this case. However, from everything we’ve seen in past decades, this road has often been a one-way one, in that the labels would find ways of binding the artist into contracts, which denied them their artistic freedom and often resulted in substantial monetary losses. The bottomline of this situation being: Once an artist signed a contract, he was pretty much at the fairly unlimited disposal of his or her label’s business policies. In clear speak: Once you signed a contract with a major label, they pretty much OWN everything you come up with during the time frame the contract runs (and often even beyond that, see the recent merchandise and sell-out after Michael Jackson’s passing).
In more recent years, we often heard about the downfall of the established music industry, where they lament on copyright infringement issues being committed by peer-to-peer filesharing services like Limewire or Napster to name just two prominent ones. However, despite the ever-growing evidence of audiences embracing the availability of new technologies like the iPod or streaming music and modified consumption habits to go with that, we have not seen TO THIS DAY any new business model reflecting the changed customers’s needs – not from the recording industry that is! It was Apple in 2003 and their launch of the iTunes Music Store, which almost instantly became THE cornerstone of legal online music file sharing. While much can be said about how user-friendly a Digital Rights Management system actually is, you have to give credit to the fact that so far this seems to be the only effective way of respecting copyrights – which the established music industry seems so adamantly concerned with. However, users still weren’t all satisfied with the clumsy DRM that binds a downloaded file to the machine it was downloaded from and a limited number of further devices and copies the music can be played from. Hence, FairPlay emerged:
Without going into the nitty-gritty of useage and permissions scenarios having been discussed between the established music (or film) industry and tech companies like Apple and others, in a nutshell, users simply don’t want to be bothered with legal issues, boiling down to saying “Fine, say what I owe you, I’ll pay and after that, I’ll do with my music what the hell I please” – and this usually pertains to PERSONAL use – I think it’s fairly safe to trust the average listener in that regard. With this being said – again, Apple seem to be at the verge of introducing a new service, that seems better suited to reflect a simple “pay and forget“-model (there was talk somewhere else that this new service might take yet another listening scenario into account in the long run, which is: Online streaming music – now, how do we capitalize on that? So far, I haven’t seen too many good ideas being brought to the table… the recently introduced Performance Rights Act has already found wide criticism as to falling short of the real issues)
So: Rather than sit back and lament – as the established industry have been resorting to in DECADES – some will always prefer DOING SOMETHING over COMPLAINING – and come up with solutions to the challenges being pushed in front of them.
So, what can YOU – the audience, our most valuable allies do in order to support your favorite artist? Well, for one – always BUY their music, that’s a good start. Next – make sure, your artist becomes or stays in HIGH DEMAND, by spreading the word and requesting your artist to come to your town to perform (http://www.ilike.com/artist/Brian+O’Neal, click “Come to my town” on the right). As far as the recent Washington D.C. debacle is concerned: Yes, granted – that was a mess. But the mess was not created by your favorite artist, but rather the fact that the so-called promoter didn’t do their job – not in a professional manner anyway. Last, but not least: Embrace and choose from the WEALTH of really talented independent artists being around and working hard at stayin on top of their art (http://www.wagtiradio.com/). LISTEN to them, REQUEST them on radio, spread the word, buy their concert tickets and CDs! Because in the long run, we – the artists – only got you, the audience for us to actually get by. And you, the audience, have a historically unparalleled window of opportunity for CHOICE – USE THAT OPPORTUNITY and let the business reps know who YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO!
wesbound, May 2010