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We're only in it for the money

Nice overview of the RIAA's current suits against four students, including a simple explanation of file sharing.

This brings to mind something I've been thinking of lately. I've been a music fan for about 20 years now. I have spent a LOT of money over the years, though less now than I did when I lived with my parents ;) I have no problem spending money on music. However, I'm not interested in about 90% of what the music industry puts all their efforts into promoting. Of this weeks Billboard to 50 chart, I have 4 and there's one other that interests me. Just because I don't run out and buy the White Stripes "Elephant" doesn't mean I don't like music, it means that I don't like what's being marketed at me. There's at least a dozen albums that have come out this year or are due out soon that I have on my list to get, none of which will ever get any marketing dollars from the labels.

Now that we've established that I like music a lot, and am always interested in new music, let's look at the problem with the current approach to delivery. Physical delivery is passe. Frank Zappa was pushing this idea back in 1987 (as usual, way ahead of his time), and even outlined how Digital Restriction Management would work. If the labels would offer me the ability to download songs and to listen to them on whatever device I choose (the system I download it on, another computer in my house, portable MP3 player, burn to cd so I can listen in the car or at work, etc) then I'd sign up and spend even more of my money on music, quite likely. Elminate physical delivery completely and your costs drop significantly as well.

FZ noted that there will always be a need for record stores because music shopping is a social activity. So have bins full of display cards with the album cover and info and then have people go up to a machine at the front, punch in the album they want, and it burns them a copy with a nice label on it and they can print out the cover/liner notes/etc as well. Charge them a lower price than current retail (since you didn't have to manufacture/distribute and buy your CD blanks and cardstock in bulk still). Labels continue to make money (possibly more than before), people get their music (cheaper and easier) and record stores stay in business (though chains probably will suffer, since all stores will be able to access the same inventory at the same price, the higher quality of service and value adds you get at indy stores make them a more attractive destination). The only people getting hosed in this scenario (aside from the artists, who get screwed no matter what happens) are the distributors, but they can simply move into distributing other things that aren't being supplanted by digital versions.

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You can't always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.
- Frank Zappa


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