What Do the RIAA and My Dog Have in Common?

They are both a walking bad decision.

riaaLucky sees the pantry- he immediately roots around for a loaf of bread to eat.  He notices some Amdro on an ant mound- yum…tasty.  At any given time, he has four or five bad ideas working simultaneously.

The RIAA sees the record label cartel begin to weaken- it immediately begins carpet bombing the resistance, and takes out a lot of customers, both wholesale and retail, in the process.

Techdirt led me to a very interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times.  In an op-ed piece by a couple of guys who used to own a record store – you know, the kind you actually drive to and browse- the following good points are made.

First, “The album, or collection of songs – the de facto way to buy pop music for the last 40 years – is suddenly looking old-fashioned. And the record store itself is going the way of the shoehorn.”

As a deep tracks sort of guy, this is the single worst thing that has happened to the music industry since someone decided to make Barbara Streisand a star.  I don’t want studio enhanced dribble from some eye candy media creation.  I won’t good albums full of good music, made by people who can actually write songs and play instruments.

Today’s music business is The Monkees writ large.

Another truth, “By continuing their campaign to eliminate the comparatively unprofitable CD single, raising list prices on album-length CDs to $18 or $19 and promoting artists like the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears – whose strength was single songs, not albums. The result was a lot of unhappy customers, who blamed retailers like us for the dearth of singles and the high prices.”

Putting a couple of good songs on a record along with some filler and tossing it out the door has been a favorite trick of the record labels for as long as I have been buying records.  Back in the late 60s and 70s, we knew what acts could be counted on for a solid record and which ones couldn’t.  If there was a song on one of the latter records you wanted, you could either buy the single, record it off the radio or borrow your buddy’s copy and record it to a cassette.

Amazon (actually CD Now, but who remembers them?) landed the first blow to the traditional record store.  Most people can wait a couple of days for a CD, so online buying makes a lot of sense.  I will not buy a DRM infested song, yet I have not been in a record store in years.  I just click a button at Amazon and 2 days later the CD shows up at my door.

Then iTunes and others landed a blow to both the traditional record store and Amazon, by selling songs a la carte.  While I have a philosophical objection to DRM, to our kids DRM is just as normal as album covers and liner notes were to us.  They happily download the songs they want- DRM or not.  Going to Amazon and buying a CD is as strange and unlikely to them as downloading the latest Hannah Montana song is to me.

The world changed.

The RIAA then made it worse by trying to change it back.  From the artice:

Labels delivered the death blow to the record store as we know it by getting in bed with soulless chain stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart. These “big boxes” were given exclusive tracks to put on new CDs and, to add insult to injury, they could sell them for less than our wholesale cost. They didn’t care if they didn’t make any money on CD sales. Because, ideally, the person who came in to get the new Eagles release with exclusive bonus material would also decide to pick up a high-speed blender that frappeed.

The RIAA tried to stuff the cat back into the bag, and all it accomplished was to put a lot music store owners and a lot of passionate music fans out of business.

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