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Are Artists and Record Companies Giving Up the Fight Against On-Line Piracy?

It’s certainly not news that the music recording industry is losing tons of money to on-line piracy where would-be consumers can just download songs for free and rather than having to pay for them by buying CD’s. What may be more significant and newsworthy is the recent fact that major record labels, artists and even the Recording Industry Association of America have more or less conceded to the notion that they are helpless in enforcing laws that will punish pirates and stem on-line piracy.

They seem to have faced the fact that no matter how much record labels and artists want to stop on-line piracy, they can’t do it because the law is simply unenforceable. It has been almost a decade since Napster and the internet have tortured the music industry, and the music industry has so far fought a losing battle. Maybe it is time for the music and recording industries to finally accept the sad fact that as long as the internet exists, on-line piracy will be a given and cannot be stopped.

Rather they must take steps that will ensure that they get what is due to them by making money apart from selling CD’s. But what steps and measures are these artists and record labels making to make money in the face of on-line piracy? This question will addressed by two articles that are discussed in this essay. Adam Clair’s article “Musicians Embracing Needed Revolution” talks about the different creative ways artists have been coming up with in order to source more money and to entice more people to buy their CD’s.

One popular practice is adding memorabilia or designing attractive CD packaging to entice buyers to purchase the CD rather than download it for free on-line because there is something valuable in the CD package that they can’t get from downloading on-line. There is a value-added to the CD than just the music stored in it that can easily be downloaded into the computer. Bands like ofMontreal have included free T-shirts, lanterns, and wall decals with their CD’s and have experienced success in selling more CD’s.

One controversial practice that had people accusing ofMontreal of “selling out” however is licensing their songs to establishments like Outback Steakhouse, T-Mobile and Comcast (Clair 1). However they redeemed themselves by staging a big-budget live concert complete with props and costumes, an experience fans would not likely get from downloading songs. Other artists have even taken stranger and more creative routes by offering personal services such as doing laundry and joining in band practices as being done by John Freese a former drummer of Nine Inch Nails and Devo among others.

And still other artists have simply relied on begging and soliciting donations from fans. Jill Sobule created a web site to solicit money for the production of her next record and offering fans that donated with prizes such as free downloads of the album, free t-shirts, and even a chance to sing on the album. More surprisingly, she was able to raise her desired $75,000 in less than two months. And this is from a singer whose last hit was way back in 1995 with a single entitled “I Kissed a Girl”.

So obviously, there are many other ways musicians and recording artists can take in order to recoup the revenues they are losing to on-line piracy. I don’t think artists who are genuinely musicians are concerned as much as record executives about losing profits to on-line piracy. The artists are able to reach a wider audience and can go as far as the ends of the globe, something that CD’s were not able to do. If an artist is genuine, he will not likely care about money as long as he is able to live comfortably and be able to express his music freely.

There is also the tendency for artists to depend more on revenues from doing live shows and concerts rather than CD’s which gives both artist and audience to interact with each other and gives the audience a more unique experience than just listening to a CD. The second article is written by Seth Mnookin entitled “Universal’s CEO Once Called iPod Users Thieves. Now He’s Giving Songs Away” and deals with the on-going problems faced by Doug Morris CEO of Universal Music Group with dealing with the on-line piracy problem.

It deals with the problem of on-line piracy from the point of view of Record Companies by following one of the most prominent record executives and describes the measures they are taking to earn more money despite the losses accumulating from the drop in CD sales due to on-line piracy. Mr. Morris has been one of the industries’ most vocal proponents against on-line music even going so far as to call MP3 players “repositories for stolen music” and pulling company content off Yahoo websites and taking legal action against MySpace and YouTube for hosting music videos.

So it is surprising to hear the lately Mr. Morris has seemed to take a more amicable and cooperative stand with the internet by allowing online retailers such as Amazon. com to sell unprotected MP3’s of Universal songs without the controversial Digital-Rights-Management software. Record companies have been taking steps to diversify their revenue streams by going into other forms of businesses that will support the sagging CD sales.

Rio Caraeff, VP of Universal Music’s Digital Strategy envisions that the company will need to transform from a product-based business into a services-based business by further commercializing into ringtones, subscription services, and other deals with mobile service providers. Universal Records has had great success in making money off selling songs to be used as “mastertones” – high-quality ringtones made directly from original song recordings by popular artists such as Akon and 50 Cent.

Universal Records is also experimenting with subscription-based plans that charge customers a fixed monthly fee for access to unlimited music from a music label. But what is most surprising of all is the move to sell songs which are DRM-free at Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and other online retailers. The fact that these songs are DRM-free will make them available for being duplicated and therefore pirated and distributed widely fro free.

However, rather than as a sign of acceptance of the inevitability of on-line piracy, this may simply be an effort by the company and other record companies to undermine the success of iTunes and to limit the influence of iTunes on the music industry (Mnookin 3). Record companies, as opposed to artists, are generally more concerned with making money and selling more records rather than helping the artist get his music out to his audience.

They traditionally have had a very myopic point of view and are more concerned with next month’s or quarters sales figures and profit and loss reports rather than looking for a long-term solution to the problems of on-line piracy. Based on the two articles we can see that the artists have been having more success in dealing with the problems of on-line piracy than the recording companies mainly because they are coming from the point of view of the artist whose main aim is to make music and get the music to as wide an audience as possible.

The record companies’ main aim is simply to sell as much records as possible and make as much money as possible. And so the artist more easily contented as long as she is able to make her music and to live and subsist on it. We, as consumers, have always had a tendency to see the record companies as the enemy and are evil greedy money-making machines who only want to take advantage of artists and milk them of money. But Mr.

Morris has a point when he said: “People never really understand what’s happening to artists…Is it correct that people share their music, fill up these devices with music they haven’t paid for? If you had Coca-Cola coming through the faucet in your kitchen, how much would you be willing to pay for Coca-Cola?… That’s what happened to the record business. ” What will happen to recording companies and artists? Will they suffer the fate of dinosaurs and slowly disappear off the face of the earth because of on-line piracy? Only time will tell.

What we do know for a fact is that as long as man has that passion for music, as long as artists continue to seek to express themselves in the form of music and as long as people desire to connect to themselves and to others through the universal medium of music, music will always thrive and be a part of our lives no matter what other technological advancements may come our way. Works Cited: Clair, Adam. Musicians Embracing Needed Revolution. The Daily Collegian Online. March 31, 2009. Mnookin, Seth. Universal’s CEO Once Called iPod Users Thieves. Now He’s Giving Songs Away. Wired Magazine Issue 15. 12. November 27, 2007

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