Saturday, February 3, 2007

QotW3: Pleasing Both Sides...?

Record labels are tyrants whose sole aim is to suck money from music fans. Pirates are simply rebels risking their lives and sacrificing their time to make the people's lives better by sneaking rice and meat, expensive commodities, to them for free. Unable to have any precise method of pinpointing the culprits, the tyrants close their eyes and fling their axes out – whoever happens to be standing where it lands get it hard. Life sucks, but the peasants are getting smarter, and a rebellion seems to be brewing hot and fast...

Whether the above analogy provides a biased or unbiased view of the situation between the major record labels and the common folk today is debatable. That, however, was the point of view I got from reading the articles related to this tricky little issue of copyright and piracy. Equally tricky though is the question of finding a solution that would please both sides – a win-win situation. But when the primary objective of this game is profit, can both parties really gain, or must one lose?

Music fans want easy and cheap access to their favorite bands’ songs. The advent, though, of P2P and file sharing technologies where the only major investment is time (even then multi-tasking allows one to do five different things while the P2P program searches in the background, and ten more while it downloads), may make it a little hard to lure the fans back to paying for their music, however nominal or arguably reasonable the fee. Record labels on the other hand, want to maximize their profits, not reward their artists. They have tried working with companies to introduce MP3 download sites like the iTunes Music Store, offering cheap MP3 files without the usual frills of covers and liner notes, but compared to the 5 billion files shared over Kazaa every month, the 100 million downloads iTunes managed to score in its first 15 months of operation (von Lohmann, 2004) is dishearteningly measly, and confirms the hypothesis at the beginning of this paragraph that given the candy of free music, fans would rather stick to that over the iced water that are cheap MP3s.

Some bloggers, in discussing this issue, have suggested purposely setting up a record company which offer artists a better portion of profits and steal all the big names over (Baude, 2003). That would require a lot of goodwill and money from a few people, but it would certainly help artists should they choose to boycott big name labels for exploiting them and the music industry. We know that a lot of bands who have not been totally blinded by the money retain their musicianship’s integrity that the fans, especially in the heavier side of the rock/metal scene, so respect. When two DJs came under fire from the record companies for remixing Green Day’s American Idiot album ‘with music from a variety of other artists including Aerosmith and Eminem’, ‘Green Day came out publicly to say they were flattered by the album, and liked it’ (Catapult, 2005). This is a stark example of artists’ current dissatisfaction with record companies. Thus by choosing labels whose primary focus is to fulfill the wants of music fans, artists can have their fair share of profits for their hard work and dedication, the label will earn either because of the number of bands defecting to their side, or from the exponential leap in album sales, and fans of course can get their music at a cheaper, more affordable and reasonable price. This is quite a one-sided solution in favour of the music fans, but the underhand tactics with which the record companies try to make profits and more profits frankly does not leave the desire for much negotiation.

Another solution which would be fairer to the record companies would involve them slashing the prices of online MP3 files by 1) doing away with CD production (or producing limited copies) and 2) selling the files directly from their websites, without a middleman such as Apple, Creative and Soundbuzz. Doing away with CD production and eliminating the middlemen will greatly reduce unnecessary costs that the record labels would eventually push to the consumers as part of product costs anyway. With these two measures I predict a possible cut in prices of 50%, if not more, effectively creating a significant gap between CD prices and MP3 files online. This would make music fans feel more like they are paying to support their artists’ work, instead of feeding the record companies.

I must admit that as a consumer myself, I suspect I am quite strongly biased whether I like it or not towards the consumer point of view. All I can say to the record companies, as objectively as I can be, is that if in their quest for profits they are not willing to let off on the exorbitant prices, there is a new generation of indignant music fans waiting to take over the music scene. You guys should do some re-thinking before you go out of business.


(2005, May 23). Remix culture: a rights nightmare. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from Catapult (ABC Online) Web site:

von Lohmann, F. (2004, Sept 9). Is Suing Your Customers a Good Idea?. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from Web site:

Baude, W. (2003, Sept 13). Are Music Companies Evil? or The Founding of Baude Records. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from Crescat Sententia Web site:


Kevin said...

With music-focused social networks such as MySpace, it seems possible to cut out the middleman (record labels) and to make music so affordable, it'd be a waste of time to download music from shady p2p sources (facing legal action, viruses, malware, etc). Good idea on cost cutting, since lower prices might attract more legitimate buyers, though there are other possible alternatives to copyright we can still explore (e.g. creative commons). Full grades!

Renhao said...

(^.^)v alright man!... thanks!