Massive Layoffs Hit The RIAA: Maybe Focus On Building Business Rather Than Suing Customers Next Time?

from the just-a-thought dept

Details have been spilling out over the last few days that the RIAA has been making pretty massive cuts to staff. We already knew that EMI was cutting back on its support of the RIAA/IFPI, and it seems that with the rest of the RIAA’s major label supporters also having economic troubles, the writing is on the wall that the RIAA is about to go through a major transformation. I’m sure some will somehow “blame piracy” for this turn of events, but it’s hard to see how that’s even remotely the issue. The real issue is that the RIAA has basically managed to run one of the dumbest, most self-defeating strategies over the last decade. Rather than helping major record labels adjust to the changing market, it continually, repeatedly and publicly destroyed its own reputation and the reputation of the labels — each time shrinking their potential market by blaming the very people they should have been working to turn into customers. They may claim that they “had” to take this strategy because it’s what the labels wanted (and, indeed, that was Hilary Rosen’s excuse), but that’s ridiculous. It was evident to pretty much anyone who took the time to understand the issues back in the mid- to late-90s, that the internet represented an opportunity to those who embraced it. The RIAA’s decision to fight progress and its own customers at every turn has been nothing short of a complete disaster. That the group is now being gutted is the inevitable result of a poor strategy that could have easily been avoided.

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Companies: ifpi, riaa

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Comments on “Massive Layoffs Hit The RIAA: Maybe Focus On Building Business Rather Than Suing Customers Next Time?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The Moonlighting RIAA Band

With all the layoffs at the RIAA, I imagine some of the guys will start moonlighting as lounge singers. To get them started, here’s the first song to the tune of “I will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor:

At first I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking they would never let
Our plastic disc sales slide
but then Napster came along
And I had to find a way to make govn’ment cheese
And I regret
And I learned how to suck money using legaleese!

And so we’re stuck
The business has sank
I just sued my customers
And I have the legal system to thank
I should have made it competitive
I should have listened to customer woes
If I’d have known for just one second
They could force my doors to close

Go on now go
Get Hypnnotized
Just take the backcatalog now
‘Cause it’s no good in your eyes
I was the one who tried to condem
With a slice of DRM
Did you think I’d stumble?
Did you think I’d let that deal die?
Oh no, not I

I will survive
Oh, as long as I have DRM
I know I’ll stay alive
We’ve got all our bonus stock
I’ve got so much more to mock
And I’ll survive
I will survive, hey hey

Ima Fish (profile) says:

I’ve written about this before. The downturn in the music industry had and has nothing to do with file sharing and everything to do with the lack of exposure of quality music to music fans. It’s a simple fact that the vast majority of people will not buy music unless they first heard it and like it.

Radio consolidation lead to very narrow and very bland playlists. MTV stopped playing music. And the prices of CDs kept going up and up and up.

Instead of embracing new means of exposing their music to people, such as the original Napster, which was fantastic for such a task, and net radio, which played a much more broad range of music than broadcast radio. And instead fighting against the corporate takeover of broadcast radio. And instead of creating its own music channel. The RIAA and its members either buried their heads in the sand or did the opposite.

In business you either adapt or die. The music industry utterly failed at this and are paying the price.

Eric the Green says:

Re: Re:

I read your post previously, and couldn’t agree more. The labels and the RIAA should spend more time exposing people to music, and less time exposing them to lawsuits. MTV should actually have (gasp!) more music, and less Jackass and Punked. Web radio should be ubiquitous, and stations should pay no more than terrestrial radio stations.

Are the RIAA and the labels so stuck on getting paid for each and every ear that they can’t see the enormous value of the free marketing provided by radio, TV and the Internet? Don’t they see that they can grow their slice of the pie bigger, rather than trying to squeeze more from their existing, dwindling slice? Does obtaining an MBA involve becoming completely devoid of common sense, or is it just some mystical attraction between the RIAA (and their ilk) and brain-dead MBAs?

bigpicture says:

Re: Exposure

I totally agree, the music industry is about content exposure. Content exposure is ADVERTISING for music. They have shut down all those exposure channels including satellite radio.

I have not bought a CD in a long while because of their packaging strategy. One or two good songs and the rest is fill up crap. You can possibly listen to a whole CD before you buy, but in a music store environment?

I would buy individual songs on the internet if listening review was made easy. But I just don’t have the time to chase this particular content, (music) when access to all other types of content is made so easy.

So I take the music that I have already bought and reformat it to digital so I can play it on the device of my choice. According to the RIAA that is not “fair use” so screw them.

aikanae says:

Re: So Much Music, So Little Time

How can the music industry be sinking? There’s so much available I can’t keep track of it all – for the first time in 50 years! I have never seen it healthier and I doubt if it could be healthier since recording music began.

That’s the rub. Equating major labels (RIAA) with the music industry. They aren’t. If you just look at the number of independents winning Grammy’s today, the explosion of SXSW and that several online digital sales stores have done well (CD baby, Emusic) withOUT the involvement of major labels – then I’d say it’s major labels sinking, not the music industry.

This result was predictable. Not just for antagonizing customers with lawsuits (and usually the ones who tend to be highly influential) that made no sense (since when have college kids ever owned more than a handful of lp’s or cassettes – usually obtained through trades at a local used store – not what RIAA would count as “legitimate sales”), but many older stars owe their recent success on the fact their music was heard on line FIRST – Eric Clapton went through a big lull in sales before Napster. Same with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Ambrosia and Asia have dusted off and started touring. The big downloads on line were bands that were over 20 years old.

RIAA can’t even give Nickleback or Spears away for free.

The new model for the industry isn’t a handful of superstars making millions (each) and supporting the entire industry – it’s thousands – millions of individuals able to make a decent living in the music industry, giving it a sense of professionalism (v. eccentrics) and with the net, end of distribution problems.

The fact NIN and Radiohead had successful physical CD sales after releasing their albums online FIRST is proof that downloading is sampling.

The labels blew it. They could have benefitted by lower production and advertising costs. Fools.

Jeffrey A. Williams says:

Re: nonsense

None of our members will ever buy any music from
any artist that is a RIAA member of supporter and
neither will I. That’s about 300k no-sales at a


Spokesman for INEGroup LLA. – (Over 284k members/stakeholders strong!)
“Obedience of the law is the greatest freedom” –
Abraham Lincoln
“YES WE CAN!” Barack ( Berry ) Obama

“Credit should go with the performance of duty and not with what is
very often the accident of glory” – Theodore Roosevelt

“If the probability be called P; the injury, L; and the burden, B;
liability depends upon whether B is less than L multiplied by
P: i.e., whether B is less than PL.”
United States v. Carroll Towing (159 F.2d 169 [2d Cir. 1947]
Updated 1/26/04
CSO/DIR. Internet Network Eng. SR. Eng. Network data security IDNS.
div. of Information Network Eng. INEG. INC.
ABA member in good standing member ID 01257402 E-Mail
My Phone: 214-244-4827

Aikanae says:

Re: It's Not Time To Celebrate

Your right. The RIAA is not through yet – by a long shot. They intend to put pressure on ISP’s to filter and congress to adopt 3 strike laws; UK, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia are just a few countries already hit with these proposals and RIAA has been negotiating in the US to do the same. Comcast, Cox, At&T… It’s a matter of time.

A lot of this problem is that copyrights aren’t considered a public policy issue that allows the public to be represented or have a voice. Instead it is considered a trade issue, with the discussions taking place behind doors, internationally with content providers (RIAA, IPFI, MPAA, etc). Congress doesn’t vote on them. It’s debatable if Obama can negotiate the deals once they are in place.

PaulT (profile) says:

After I got over my initial doubts about people wanting to play music via digital media (mainly due to the clunkiness of early Public Enemy attempts), it was clearly an exciting prospect.

Music could be listen to anywhere at any time. People could carry their whole music collections around with them. Music could be bought at the touch of a button. Music would be unencumbered by the expense, bulk and scarcity of physical formats, increasing “shelf life” of music and removing national borders. Prices would go down, more bands would make money, people would be exposed to more music and reverse the trend of bland, lowest-common-denominator trash that dominated the airwaves….

Sadly, little of this came to pass when it should have. Instead of allowing people to carry their collections, the RIAA first attempted to ban such devices, then restricted them. Prices have not changed, apart from the a la carte system allowed by iTunes (which the RIAA had to be dragged into kicking & screaming anyway), and they have used “piracy” issues to shut down competing outlets to their bland trash and enforce borders ever closer.

Instead of embracing an unprecedented opportunity to sell and promote their wares, they have destroyed much of their own market. Artists are refusing to sign with them, customers are refusing to buy.

10 years ago, I didn’t care who published the music I buy. Now, it’s an RIAA-free policy. I’m sure there’s many who think like me.

Willy says:

They asked for this

I learned several years ago that the best way to get back at them is to simply d/l as much music as I can from UseNet. Servers are stored globally and US laws can’t reach/apply. Every download is another sly smirk aimed at them and there is nothing they can do about it. They will eventually sink in their own stupidity and perhaps this is the beginning of their end. Long live a.b.s.m.c-cd and their sister groups.

aikanae says:

Re: They asked for this

Most people are downloading from somewhere. That’s what the RIAA is claiming is lost sales. “How do you compete with free?” is RIAA’s moto – not that your sick of their cartel over music, don’t want to damage your computer with their DRM, or that you want a different file type or biterate or …. (fill in the blank).

I think a stronger message might be to skip paying RIAA – let’s see, bands earn $1 off every $10 album sold in ITunes. So send the band a $1. Eventually the band will figure out it’s better not to sign with RIAA too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: celebrating this

“To those of you celebrating this, just remember: the people who are responsible for all of this aren’t the ones losing their jobs.”

I have no sympathy at all for someone who would choose to work at this organization. There are no redeeming qualities of RIAA to justify taking a job as office staff, cleaning staff etc.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Bad Music = Bad Sales

I have not purchased any music at full retail price since about 1982. I do own several dozen record albums and CDs but all were either bought at discount stores or garage sales.

The music albums offered almost always have only one good song and the rest is filler. Also, when CDs where first offered they were being marketed as superior to phonograph records. That was a lie.

The music industry has done this to themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

godspeed RIAA

what other organization sues its customer and gets away with it? Next the cable companies will sue you for allowing your friends to come over and watch your TV? Or your ISP will sue you for allow your neighbors to use your wireless? I have not purchased music from any label that supports the RIAA in many years and will not become a paying customer again until they get a clue.

Galen says:

Re: godspeed RIAA

Actually, it is completely legal and reasonable for your cable company/DSL/FTTH provider, etc, to sue you or shut off your service for letting others use your internet connection. In every residential contract, you agree that the internet service you purchase is for you and your household (visiting guests and such also exempted) only. Most commercial contracts are the same, except they will have specific “re-leasing” exemptions depending on the business. This is also there to protect you, say, if someone uses your wireless for something very illegal.

Also, it’s highly unlikely that your cable company would sue you or letting your friends watch your TV, those guys are the biggest proponents of getting you to advertise for them, and your friends taking your recommendation on their service is like gold to them. That would never happen.

ChimpBush McHitlerBurton says:


Rest In Peace you blood sucking whores.

Here’s the deal: It ain’t about DRM, it surely ain’t about “piracy” and it ain’t about iTunes…

What it *is* about is this: Before the interwebs, artistic musical endeavor was scouted, exploited, broadcast, and packaged by the Cartels. What the Cartels never dreamed of was a world in which the artist could reach the “consumer” (as they call us) directly without going through the Cartels’ lower intestine of love.

“Wha?…”, they whine as the hammer blow comes down on their ill-gotten positions… “WTF??”

What the fuck? Here’s the fuck: The market is now chock-full of people finding their music through so many channels, it’s like a million holes in your dam. You are no longer the gatekeeper of all that is good, and you can no longer stand between artists and their audience…and that TOTALLY DILUTES YOUR MARKET SHARE!

Kiss the “biz” goodbye, RIIA. Kiss it goodbye Cartels.

Don’t get me wrong; there will always be a music business. It’s just that you won’t be running it anymore. It just won’t be “profitable” enough.

Oh yeah, suck my cock.


batch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Assuming this were a ploy to get bail out money, and it worked, they would be crucified by the public for using the money to continue suing and not changing their ways what so ever, which they would not.

Who wants to bet they began filing fewer lawsuits because they were costing too much? and changed tack to just try and get isps to continue on work that benefits them?

Frozen North says:

And then there were...

For those of us who believe in and fight for the future of the music. this was somewhat inevitable…and probably a similar fate awaits CRIA in Canada.
There has always been and still is a crying need for true advocacy for the music, its artists, creators and entrepreneurs. No better time to step up and be part of the future…

JB says:


…And so we see the next step as the RIAA innevitably joins the ranks of the horse carriage drivers, lamp oil manufacturers, ferry operators, and punchcard entry technicians.

Now if only incompetent managers would stop spending vast amounts of corporate money on bloated, sub-standard, and unstable products that are thousands of times more expensive than commercial competitors let alone superior open source alternatives, we could finally see IBM reach its long-overdue fate.

Let’s not forget it was IBM who conducted the study for the recording industry less than a year before Napster hit headlines, which concluded there was absolutely no interest anywhere for downloadable music.

Lori S says:

Pres Obama isn't with you

Since I’ve seen his name come up a couple of times in this discussion, I feel compelled to point out that President Obama is not anti-RIAA in any way. Quite the opposite — three of the top figures in the Obama Justice Department are lead lawyers for the RIAA — yes, including the lawyer who prosecuted Jammie Thomas. I frankly don’t know what the President has said on this issue — but actions speak louder than words, and appointing these three to key positions in Justice would seem to be a very intentional statement.

Perhaps that’s a reason why the RIAA is willing to fold on its current strategy, in addition to its recent success in getting ISPs to filter (under threat of lawsuit, of course). Obama is proving to be a big disappointment in this crucial area.

Another Planet says:

Re: Pres Obama isn't with you

Yes, it is initially disappointing to note the President’s appointees in this area… but this by itself doesn’t mean much and it is WAY TOO SOON to be drawing any conclusions based on this (which might be obvious to those who actually use their brains for thinking). President Obama is the hi-tech Prez and he obviously knows what’s going on in the digital world. The appointees do the President’s bidding, not the other way around. Who better to straighten out corruption than those who are intimate with the RIAA’s tactics?

futureboss says:

the internet is an open place

As someone who hires lots of people in the music distribution industry, I promise that if I ever get a resume of someone who has worked for the RIAA, MPAA, or any of the affiliates of these corrupt orgainzations, I will immediately reject the candidate. I’m otherwise an equal opportunity believer, but not when it comes to employees supporting an open loot by threats to children, students and homemakers.
Anyone that works for such companies is infected with this thick skin of indifference and I dont want such incompetent, callous, ethically bankrupt employees deciding the future of my business.
If you have RIAA/MPAA or any of these DRM friendly companies on your resume, please do not apply for a job with my company. That also includes Microsoft employees.

We’re NOT a “customer-friendly company” in the same way as these organizations are.
Thank you for your time.

jayjay says:

Pres Obama

So, then Another Planet, if it’s a good idea to put RIAA attorneys at the head of the Justice Department, how about putting David Duke in as Special Advisor on Race Relations? Or putting James Dobson of Focus on the Family as Birth Control Czar? Why don’t we bring back one of George Bush’s skeptics to deal with global warming?

What asinine reasoning. Speaking of “actually using your brain for thinking”….

Neil Fiertel says:

RIAA and its offspring and the death of serious music in Canada

Although the laws regarding downloads official and laissez faire are treated differently in Canada due to a tax on blank CDs, many things have damaged the music business. We had until the past few months a fine FM station that played classical music, concerts, opera and jazz as well as alternative music late at night but the morons that are now in charge of this station turned it into lounge music and worse..I am a taxpayer and this is one of the government stations and it frankly pisses me off so much that it is no longer on my radio choices..In fact, I no longer use the radio at all..They did a great job making certain that those in communities not served with cultural opportunities will never, ever hear classical music. It is criminal, stupid and serves no one but the friends of the Conservative Government of Canada who I presume had plenty to do with this shift. Oh, yes, they put the music that Iwould listen to on streaming broadband. Great..I will just connect my car up to a wifi whilst driving to work each day or walking around the house, I will carry about my laptop or maybe better, spend a thousand dollars to rig it up all over the house and workshop with a wireless network..OR I will just fill up my iPod with what I want..Yes..that is it..the iPod. Radio has been killed by the same morons who run RIAA..the same kind of mindset…only they have just crappy Canadian pop content to contend with. They kissed off my music entirely and in doing so has sapped any future Canadian influence on the world of serious music..To the Guillotines with them…well..sort of …they already are brainless.

Think says:


What do you get when you become infected with greed?

A few years ago, I used to buy an average of 50 CD’s and 10 DVD’s a year. We ALWAYS knew the labels were greedy and reaped huge profits, but we tolerated the greed.

Once the lawsuits started, I boycotted the entertainment industry. I will never again pay for entertainment. I’ve taught my kids the same lessons; although they taught me a few along the way too.

Ray Beckerman (profile) says:

Before we go off on Pres. Obama....

let’s give him a chance. The 2 guys he appointed to the 2nd and 3rd slots in the DOJ will be recused from dealing with any RIAA issues, and the jobs to which he appointed them are not copyright related jobs or policy making jobs. All he’s done is appoint a law school classmate to a high legal position, and that classmate’s partner to the position directly under him.

Bear in mind that the person he appointed to the FCC chairmanship is a strong advocate of net neutrality, something that is anathema to the content cartel.

This President shows every sign of being a strong leader, rather than a puppet of others, so let’s see what he does, rather than judge him by the identities of the underlings with whom he surrounds himself. If he is a strong leader, he will tell them what to do, not the other way around.

I promise you, if he does anything that looks untoward, I’ll be the first to jump all over him (unless of course Mr. Masnick beats me to the punch).

But for now, I say the jury’s still out on President Obama in terms of what type of leadership he will show in dealing with the content cartel.

no one special (user link) says:

spreading the wealth

yup same here, 2TB drive full of movies, and a 1TB drive for my music. stopped buying back in the 90’s. anyway i encourage and help out friends and family when i can to do the same. And for close friends and family i just tell them to buy the drives and i fill them up for them. if im felling extra generous ill set them up with some open source apps to get them going with a home made media center.

R. Miles says:

Not related to just the RIAA.

Artists want people to enjoy while distributors want pockets to line.

As long as these two conflict, there will always be tension regarding the product of the artist.

Of course, it doesn’t help when artists purposely sign with distributors as they are the ones in dire need of new business models.

Once a distributor gets involved, all hell breaks loose. Product prices skyrocket based on demand and restrictions are imposed to the consumer, even after a legal purchase.

The United States has no one to blame but itself. These companies who control distribution have set themselves up to fail with such ridiculous licensing fees, it wasn’t going to be long before the rest of the world catches on.

Now, distributors are being hit by this economic hardship, and yet, not a single one is budging on the way it does business. Instead of trying to change, it would rather inflate prices to make up for the loss.

Somewhere along the line, distributors have lost focus for the reason they exist. Honestly, I no longer feel sorry for them, but hope some read this message and learn to adapt rather than fail.

Lesson #1: When the cost of the product has been met, reduce the cost of the product.
Example: A song from the 70s shouldn’t cost $1. The song’s been paid for. It should now be free. This applies to movies, television, and books as well.

Lesson #2: Abolish restrictions.
No DRM. No region encoding. No takedown notices.
Let people copy the product. The more who view it, the more customers you obtain once you sell them products they want to buy. Consumers aren’t stupid. Quit treating them as though they’re thieves.

Lesson #3: Use the internet as a tool, not a platform to complain.
Distribution on the World Wide Web costs you damn near little. Place it once and let your CUSTOMERS help you distribute it (see Lesson #2). In fact, if it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t have purchased your products even though I could have obtained it for free.

Lesson #4: Lower licensing fees.
It’s appalling what you idiots charge others for a product use and you wonder why consumers are downloading for free? Think, you idiots. Think.

If you don’t follow the lessons above, you will fail. That’s a promise, and believe me, no one is going to miss you when you do fail.

As a paying consumer, I’m tired of paying prices for your stupidity. Since you won’t adapt, I will by getting my products from the internet, free of charge.

Your move now.

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