How the Recording Industry Missed the Boat

By Frost

The RIAA is in round two of there lawsuits against music downloaders in an attempt to stop music sharing on the net. Once again proving that they would rather hinder growth and advancement than to promote it. Here is what I mean…

The recording industry is fighting a battle to control the way we listen to and use music that we purchase. In my opinion they should have been the first ones to offer music downloads on the internet instead of fighting it tooth and nail. Consumers have shown that they want flexible ways of getting and listening to music. Why can’t we get a online music solution that is oriented to what consumers want as opposed to what the industry wants? Although the offerings for legitimate music downloads are getting better, it has been a slow process due to the restrictions in place by the recording industry.

As consumers we have been held hostage to the wants of the recording industry for a long time. Most of the large record companies and retailers recently settled a lawsuit for price fixing that was filed back in 2000. The suit basically spells out that since 1995 the major record companies used their market domination to impose a minimum retail price for all cd’s to combat the falling prices in discount stores such as Kmart and Wal-Mart. Didn’t it seem strange to you that when cd’s first came out they cost about $16.99 in the early to mid 80’s and in 2004 it is still basically the same price at most retailers? Even though the technology to produce cd’s has drastically dropped and is much more efficient twenty years later?

In any business you have to change with the times. An important part of staying in business is being able to anticipate your customer’s needs and produce products that will cater to them. Instead of trying to do this the recording industry is trying to keep us buying music the way they want us to. This is the same thing they did when recordable cassette tapes were coming out, the recording industry tried to keep these out of the consumer market claiming that cassette recorders and recordable cassette tapes would be the death of the music industry. It would seem that it was quite the contrary, since the music industry has grown substantially since then. Just like cassettes did not kill the music industry, digital music and the internet won’t either, but may make them have to change their business model. The recording industry likes the way things are now, it’s comfortable for them, so instead of trying to change with the times they are trying to prevent or slow the change with everything they have.

Some have said that perhaps the industry has tried to stifle music downloading because the big record companies will no longer be needed. Artists could sell directly to the public over the internet. This is true to a certain extent but if the recording companies anticipated this they could have started to transition their business to support the changing dynamic. There would still be a need for the clout of the record companies with all their money. Someone has to get artists’ records on the radio, get them interviews with major media outlets, produce videos, and what would be better for an artist than to be associated with a major labels’ website with all the traffic it generates. Bottom line record companies have money and it takes money to go platinum.

Others say that artists are worried that when people can buy music a la carte that they will not sell as much music. Let’s face it how many times have you bought an album because you heard one bangin song and it turned out to be the only bangin song on the album or maybe one of only two or three out of 14. On the flip side it might force artists to consider the quality of their work as opposed to the quantity.

I don’t condone downloading music illegally. I firmly believe that the artists should get paid for their creations and I understand that the record companies are in business to make money. But again with any business you have to not only change with the times, you have to anticipate them. If it was up to the recording industry there would be no way to put music on your computer let alone burn it or copy it to disc.

In the end it seems it was the recording industry’s lack of foresight and resistance to change that was a major cause of the music swapping phenomena. There will always be that small percentage of the population that will try to buck the system and swap music for free, but I say give consumers the flexibility that they want with digital music and sales will soar beyond expectations.

Your Hip Hop observer and enthusiast,