Open Letter to RIAA
I"d like to offer my sincere congratulations on your recent court victory over the song-sharing website, AudioGalaxy. Enjoy your win in this battle, because you"ve already lost the war. The genie is out of the bottle, as they say, and it will not be stopped.
Seven years ago, when the recording industry could have embraced the new medium called the Internet and adapted to its new technology, it chose not to. Now, your industry is paying the price, and will keep paying and paying and paying.
We, the people who truly love music and musicians, aren"t buying the line that song sharing is hurting your artists. In truth, we believe that the recording industry as it stands today is far more adept at hurting artists than we could ever be. Moreover, individual record companies, as well as the industry in general, have done so time after time.
History is littered with examples. In 1987, when Warner Brothers Records had one of its highest-grossing years ever, it celebrated by releasing the contracts of Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, and Loudon Wainwright III(father of Rufus Wainwright), among other very accomplished (yet older) musicians. These artists were certainly high caliber; Bonnie Raitt alone went on to win 7 Grammies 3 years later.
The excellent English band XTC had to go on strike for 7 years against Virgin Records, just to get released from a contract that kept them impoverished throughout their entire career. Ironically, they gave their new music away to fans during this time, yet had to support themselves with delivery work.
The R&B group TLC is the best-selling female band in recording history. However, in 1995 they had to file bankruptcy; even when their album, CrazySexyCool, was number one on the charts, sold 11 million copies, and had three hit singles. Before TLC, The Supremes had the honor of being the best-selling female band of all time; yet Florence Wilson, a founding member, could not support herself on her royalties, dying at the age of 46 on welfare.
The list goes on and on. While some artists simply make bad business decisions, most artists left in poverty are victims of ruthless contracts. Of particular note are the hundreds of Blues and R&B artists who labored in the mid twentieth century under recording contracts so draconian that many were forced to leave music altogether in order to support themselves. This problem is so pandemic that there is actually a charity just for these musicians (http://www.rhythm-n-blues.org).
Some musical performers want to become as rich and famous as Britney Spears, but most do not. Most musicians just want to be able to support themselves by doing what they love, perhaps raise a family, and hopefully have enough money to keep themselves and their family safe and secure. Considering the tremendous value their music adds to the world, these artists should expect at least that much.
We, the true lovers of music and musicians, expect that too. We don"t want the artists that we love to not have control over their creative output, we don"t want them to live in poverty, and we want them to be well rewarded for all that they have given us.
File sharing must seem like vicious anarchy to you. In truth it is; it"s chaotic, imperfect, and very effective. Certainly, most among us simply want free music, but a dedicated few want something more. We want to cripple the recording industry, and free the musicians that have been kept on their knees for too long. File sharing certainly is anarchy, but I believe it"s also an anarchistic revolution.
Why do we want to cripple you fine folks? You"ve kept some of our most beloved musicians in abject poverty. You"ve kept the price of compact discs artificially high. You have flooded the market with hundreds of one-hit wonders that have sloppy, lazy, so-called albums; yet you expect us to buy those albums for one hot song. You have voluntarily chosen to censor the work of your own musicians, or stigmatize them through the use of PMRC labels. You sign starry-eyed youths and award them fat advances, then recoup more than 100 percent of the cost of producing their first album from their profit, often leaving the artist broke and enslaved (this is called sharecropping). In other words, we want to cripple you because don"t mind to crippling us, or the artists we love.
The artists who are truly dedicated to their craft are going to land on their feet, because they are going to find a way to support themselves through their art By Any Means Necessary; history definitely proves this. Many have already figured out that they can sell their music directly to the public via the Internet. Aimee Mann, Janis Ian, Michael Penn, and Public Enemy are already doing this. Aimee Mann herself has said that she has made more money from the first album she sold on the Internet than all of her previous albums combined.
Several small, passionate, record companies who actually care about their artists recognized that AudioGalaxy, as one of the largest and most comprehensive file-sharing website in North America (if not the world), could be an excellent promotional opportunity. They wisely cooperated with AudioGalaxy by authorizing the use of select songs, thereby insuring a much larger audience than they could have garnered by using traditional methods of promotion. These musicians now have solid fan bases and bright futures.
More and more artists are going to realize that file sharing is not the enemy. Many artists themselves use websites like AudioGalaxy to find new music or old favorites ? perhaps because they can"t afford to buy the CDs either. As the recording industry litigates itself into obsolescence, more and more musicians are going to recognize the tremendous potential the Internet has for gaining a worldwide audience. In time, more and more artists are going to prosper from the very thing you"re fighting to crush today, and true music fans all over the world will rejoice.
As for you, the major recording companies with bloated middle management and colossal arrogance, I advise you to find something else to do. The mere possession of an MBA is no longer going to guarantee you security in the recording industry. Perhaps you should consider another industry, like tobacco.
Nina Eliza *********
Music Lover, Revolutionary