Shooting Yourself In The Foot

I’ve seen a number of postings on a variety of weblogs about the latest craptastic idea that is infesting the collective brain cell of the RIAA.  I’m not likely to download music, and I’m even less likely to run some unknown EXE file like “SILENCE” that RIAA is working on (this one will erase all the music files on a computer).

If something like this were to somehow get onto my system, I’d be extremely pissed.  Why?  Because all of my music files were fully paid for by me (all 4736 of them).  I’ve only ever downloaded one song from an MP3 site, and the only reason I did it was that I was a fan of that band and I wanted their new single which wasn’t yet available to purchase.  I had the CD preordered, so it wasn’t like they were losing a sale.

I understand their worry about widespread downloading.  However, I’m strongly of the opinion that a little private sharing actually helps music sales, at least among people like me.  But the RIAA’s heavy-handed tactics are in serious danger of alienating the people like me, who are their serious customers.  I currently own 366 CDs, and I buy 20 to 30 per year.  But I do have to admit that I’m tired of getting CDs just for a couple of songs.  What I want is an online service that lets me buy the songs I like (which is why I’m watching the Apple offering, although it’ll have to come to the PC before I have anything to do with it—and it’d be preferable for me if they had a Linux client, although I can live without it).  However, it must be unencumbered by silly DRM schemes.  I’m perfectly willing to pay for my music, but I am most decidedly not willing to pay for the priviledge of being treated as a potential criminal.

If they’d put together a service where I could get high-quality MP3s (or any other open format)  that I could use as I see fit (i.e. on my computer, in the truck’s MP3 player, etc), I might actually buy more music.  As an example, there are a number of pieces on SomaFM’s Secret Agent Lounge stream that I’d buy if they were available individually.  But I am not as inclined to buy a whole CD from these artists, as I haven’t heard of most of them before.  However, I would be inclined to purchase a few of their other songs to try them out. 

Of course, the RIAA is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this model, because it means they won’t be able to pass off a bunch of crap mixed in with a few good songs and charge $15 to $17 for it.  It means that the end-user (I hate the word ‘consumer’) will get to pick and choose based on their tastes.  Ultimately, it may have the potential to make the music industry stronger, but only if the music industry gets ahead of the curve.  If they fight too much, they will lose their core customers through alienation.

Electronic distribution of music is a train that is leaving the the station.  The RIAA has a choice: be on the train or under it.


  1. Jeff Medcalf says:

    I really like Apple’s service.  It’s easier than LimeWire, cheaper than buying random albums to check out an artist, and at least some money theoretically gets back to the artists.  (Actually, it’s too easy, and I fear what my invoices will end up looking like.  This will probably double my spending on music.)

    The DRM doesn’t bother me, because it’s terribly reasonable.  I can play the songs on three computers, and if I take it to a fourth, I just type in my password, and that computer can now play it (with one of the others dropping off).  I can burn the song to CD as many times as I want, and I could then re-rip that as an MP3 if I wanted to (since it burns an audio CD, and the AAC quality is higher than MP3, so no sound loss).  In fact, as far as I can tell, the DRM is so weak that it had to be there just to assuage the music companies’ insecurities, because it doesn’t impose any real restrictions on me that I can tell.

  2. Interesting.  What I’d really like to see then is a car MP3 player that can also play AAC.  Right now I have an MP3 player that can read MP3s (and WMAs) from CD-Rs or CD-RWs.  Of course, it sounds like some sort of authorization is required, so that might make it difficult (although I think there may be ways to make it work).