RIAA And The Definition Of Insanity… With Just A Hint Of Sanity From EMI

from the banging-your-head-on-the-wall dept

Someone (the internet credits both Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein) once said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again — and expecting different results.” At some point, can we simply declare the RIAA insane and be done with it? At the very least, they’re causing me to bang my head against the wall. For years we’ve been pointing out business models involving free music that don’t need require the RIAA to sue everyone. For years, we’ve been highlighting the very basic economics for why these business models will almost certainly take over the industry. And, now that we’re starting to see some serious traction among bands adopting these models (without RIAA help), we’ve even explained why the RIAA should still have an important place within this model. Even when the RIAA scores a minor courtroom victory (after many, many losses), and the result is that more people are feeling sorry for the woman found guilty, due to the insanely high fees the court put on her. In other words, nearly everything the industry has done has backfired and made things worse. And how does the RIAA respond? By saying it needs to keep doing the same thing over and over again. The spokesman for the RIAA calls their activities “tough love” but hasn’t anyone pointed out to them that what they’re doing has not worked and has only made the situation worse? For all of their suing activities, more file sharing than ever is going on… and more and more musicians are opting out of the RIAA mill to craft much more consumer friendly business models. Yet, the RIAA insists that suing people, creating more sympathetic martyrs, and pissing off legitimate customers left and right is the strategy they need to take? It’s insanity.

But… wait. Just as I was finishing this post, reader Eric Samson writes in to let us know that EMI’s new bosses may finally be adding some sanity back to the process. EMI was bought out by a private equity firm recently, and the CEO of that firm apparently took the Radiohead story as a reason to email the folks at EMI and tell them to pay attention. Specifically, he said that it’s “a wake-up call which we should all welcome and respond to with creativity and energy” and that the industry “has for too long been dependent on how many CDs can be sold” and finally, that the industry has screwed up: “rather than embracing digitalisation and the opportunities it brings for promotion of product and distribution through multiple channels, the industry has stuck its head in the sand.” Amazing. It only took someone from totally outside the industry to buy one of the major labels and tell its executives the obvious for them to hear it. Now, let’s see if EMI can convince the RIAA, who supposedly represents EMI (among many others) that perhaps suing everyone and fighting the inevitable tide isn’t such a great idea.

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Comments on “RIAA And The Definition Of Insanity… With Just A Hint Of Sanity From EMI”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: no this could be good.

I second that.

It looks like the only way they will change their course
is to see someone else making a profit. They are much too
risk-averse to make the first step themselves.

I thought a computer company getting into the business
of selling a portable music player and reselling digitized
music would do it.

Looks like they haven’t gotten the message yet and that
EMI is going to get volunteered to be the guinea pig.

Rob Blatt (user link) says:

I think the only way that EMI could make a serious difference in this fight would be to pull out of the RIAA. EMI appears to be the one company of the four members of the RIAA that seems to be attempting to embrace technology to help distribute music rather than use technology to hinder distribution.

Unfortunately for the listeners, the groups that have recently “defected” could be considered fringe by the mainstream. Radiohead never really wanted to play by the rules and Trent Reznor was always doing his own thing. I applaud their attempts to get away from the old model, but we need many many more mainstream groups to follow suit in order to make a real impact.

It’s bands and artists with a ravenous fanbase that can make these kinds of moves. Artists that need to advertise in order to get the message out that they have new music or a new tour coming around will almost always rely on their record label to do the heavy lifting for them because their fans need to be pushed, they don’t feel a pull (to use a bad e-mail metaphor)

Russ Stebbins says:

Losing it

Actually, of the thousands of letters and cases, the Thomas case is the first and only one to reach a verdict.

And one interesting thought I noticed in an article, the RIAA may not have much choice but to sue an ‘infringer’ because of their fiduciary responsibilities. Based on their current business plan, they have to ‘protect’ their clients interests by minimizing spoilage. It may not be working, but they don’t have anything better. It is a matter of not doing something well as much as doing something, instead of nothing.

Now if you change the question, and come up with a different business plan that maximizes exposures, the need to sue your best customers goes away.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Losing it

Now if you change the question, and come up with a different business plan that maximizes exposures, the need to sue your best customers goes away.

Yeah, we’ve only been pointing out those business models for about a decade. And for it, we just get attacked by the RIAA members for wanting stuff for “free.” So, I’m sorry, but the idea that the RIAA still needs to do this until there’s another business model out there is ridiculous. The business models are there.

Anonymous Coward says:

The RIAA is like any other large corporation. They see the future, and know what will need to be done. However, they will continue down their current path until all blood has been squeezed from the stone. It’s the same in the pertroleum, movie, auto, and even governments. They will only change as a last resort. Now, if Cd sales drop another 95% perhaps they will realize that change is needed. Until consumer pressure on these entities is massive there will be no change.

2 cents thrown into pot

Ray Jay A. says:

About the RIAA..........

The entire recording industry has changed from the grooved record days and yet, the RIAA continues its self-denial, and self-destructive behavior. They’re winning battles, but losing the war. Quite simply, the RIAA, as it currently exists, has outlived its purpose. They should take a que from what’s become of the unions in the United States. Trying to stop personal recording and sharing songs is not going to stop, nor slow down. Perhaps the RIAA does realize this and is embracing the “old school ways” to sue in order to recoup financially what they refuse to do by embracing new technology. Since it’s obvious that the RIAA does not appear to want to alter its stance, then the industry they represent should demand it.

maths (user link) says:

Administration of Last Rites

Guy Hands of EMI said “Rather than embracing digitalization and the opportunities it brings for promotion of product and distribution through multiple channels, the industry has stuck its head in the sand.” If these words were spoken in 2000 by a head of a major label, I would have applauded it, but 7-8 years after they crucified Napster, mp3.com and bludgeoned all manner of digital developments, it recalls regret and lost opportunities expressed by a terminally ill patient during an administration of last rites. This sentiment was further echoed by Ian Rogers, the new head of Yahoo Music who said, “How much opportunity have we lost in those 8 years?…If the licensing labels (who) offer their content to Yahoo put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo invest any more money in consumer inconvenience”
One by one, everyone seems to be pulling the plug on the major labels, and at some point soon, a mercy killing of the majors might be in order to save the rest of the industry the pain wrought by these age old methods. More details at http://www.music2dot0.com/archives/58 in a piece entitled “Breaking Free From Major Label Excess & Ignorance”

Bruce Williams (profile) says:


The RIAA still claims to control 95% of the music distribution in the US! Gimme a break. They havn’t controlled the market since P2P came out.

The day of their monopoly is over, they just can’t let it go and wishing for the good old days of predictably wallowng in the bucks won’t bring them back.

They are joined by a few mega-wealthy rock stars, who want us to forget the vast majority of musicians barely got by even in the “good old days”.

Instead of 70,000 fans in a stadium for four guys, I see people in clubs everywhere spending their money giving the average musician a living.

Not a bad change, if you ask me

Rogue Gallart says:

RIAA And The Definition Of Insanity

In the conversation of fees… let’s look back at the days when Compact Discs where 20- 24 dollars. We look now at the downloading aspect and it has changed but less quality of music. We can also look at theft with companies such as Tower Records that charged these insane prices and people paid for it. Hence why Tower records no longer exists. In the end what we pay is for the value of music. These days it is normally 3 songs at best on a CD that are good. I do see that artists want to put out a quality product. So in response to the RIAA and its definition of sanity… well, lets worry about quality and not quantity.

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