SOURCEArtists blast record companies over lawsuits against downloaders
posted by HimAgain! on September 11, 2003 @ 12:38pm
Recording artists across the board think the music industry should find a way to work with the Internet instead of suing people who have downloaded music.
"They're protecting an archaic industry," said the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir.
"They should turn their attention to new models."
"This is not rocket science," said David Draiman of Disturbed, a hard-rock band with a platinum debut album on the charts. "Instead of spending all this money litigating against kids who are the people they're trying to sell things to in the first place, they have to learn how to effectively use the Internet."
After three consecutive years of double-digit sales losses, and having lost a court battle against file- sharing Web sites such as Kazaa and Morpheus, the Recording Industry Association of America -- the industry's lobbying arm -- trained its sights on ordinary fans who have downloaded music. On Monday, the RIAA filed suits against 261 civilians with more than 1,000 music files each on their computers, accusing them of copyright violations. The industry hopes the suits, which seek as much as $150,000 per violation, will deter computer users from engaging in what the record industry considers illegal file- swapping.
This unprecedented move brings home the industry's battle against Web downloads, which the record business blames for billion-dollar losses since the 1999 emergence of Napster, the South Bay startup the RIAA sued out of existence. The suits are expected to settle for as little as $3,000 each, but the news was greeted with derision by the very people the RIAA said they moved to protect, the musicians themselves.
"Lawsuits on 12-year-old kids for downloading music, duping a mother into paying a $2,000 settlement for her kid?" said rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy. "Those scare tactics are pure Gestapo."
"File sharing is a reality, and it would seem that the labels would do well to learn how to incorporate it into their business models somehow," said genre- busting DJ Moby in a post on his Web site. "Record companies suing 12-year-old girls for file sharing is kind of like horse-and-buggy operators suing Henry Ford."
Artists are feeling the downturn in sales, too. "My record royalties have dropped 80 percent since 1999," said Steve Miller, whose greatest hits album has been a perennial best-seller since its 1978 release. "To me, it's one of the weirdest things that's ever happened to me because people act like it's OK. "
Recording artists have watched their record royalties erode over the past few years ("My Van Halen royalties are history," said vocalist Sammy Hagar), but, in fact, few musicians earn the bulk of their income from record sales.
"Bruce Springsteen probably earned more in 10 nights at Meadowlands last month than in his entire recording career," said rocker Huey Lewis.
Many artists painted the record industry as a bloated, overstuffed giant with too many mouths to feed and too many middlemen to pay, selling an overpriced, often mediocre product.
"They have all these abnormal practices that keep driving the price up," said Gregg Rollie, founding member of Santana and Journey. "People think musicians make all that money, but it's not true. We make the smallest amount."
The RIAA did not initiate these lawsuits to defend artists' rights, the musicians say, but to protect corporate profits.
"For the artists, my ass," said Draiman. "I didn't ask them to protect me, and I don't want their protection."
Artists also see the opportunities for promotion the Internet offers. Most acts maintain Web sites, and virtually every one features some free downloads. Country Joe McDonald said he posts more than 50 tracks available for free downloads on his site, countryjoe.com.
"Who doesn't want to get paid for their work?" said Wayne Coyne of the indie-rock band Flaming Lips. "But I think it works to musicians' benefit for people to be able to occasionally listen to their music and, if they really like it, go out and buy it."
Many of the musicians pointed to the iTunes Store recently opened by Apple Computers that sells individual songs for 99 cents apiece to downloaders. As diverse a cross-section as Disturbed's Draiman, the Dead's Weir, Moby and the Flaming Lips' Coyne all endorsed the officially licensed site -- run, significantly, by a computer company, not a record label.
"Apple has the right idea with the I-store," said Disturbed's Draiman. "You'd think these conglomerates like AOL Time Warner would have easy ways of doing the same thing, with these mergers between record labels and Internet service providers."
Many other factors along with the Internet are having an impact on the industry's financial slump: the poor economy in general, computer CD burners, the high retail price, and mundane, uninteresting music.
"I don't know that there's any one factor behind the industry," said Coyne. "Maybe it's downloading, or maybe people just didn't feel like buying so many records. So Metallica makes $10 million instead of $20 million, who cares? To me, the sympathy is unwarranted. Some of this is just the hazard of doing business. It's the nature of the world. At the end of the day, it's just rock and roll. It isn't that big of a deal."
All agree that the Internet is here to stay and that downloading files will be an increasingly important delivery system for music, regardless of the music industry's lawsuits. "The focus of the industry needs to shift from Soundscan numbers to downloads," said Draiman. "It's the way of the future. You can smell it coming. Stop fighting it, because you can't."