Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution
Subject:   OK in theory, but...
Date:   2003-02-02 20:11:44
From:   anonymous2
It seems that this article, although well thought-out in the book arena, doesn't apply straight across to the music arena.

Please consider:

1. As simple as it may seem, the vehicle is what's important here.

The book reader reads a book. The book itself is a part of the equation. The paper and ink. Online downloads of Palm-based books are minimal in the industry, let alone downloads of stolen e-books. A book reader reads on his lap, on the couch, the bus, the train, in the bathtub, etc. Note no outcry by Random House, no complaint about the destruction of book buying as we know it. And yet many books I buy, new hardbacks by major publishers, cost more than the CD's I buy. I just spent $27 on a book on Saturday, but about $20 for a CD on Friday.

In contrast, the mp3 "thief" downloads an mp3 top 100 hit and immediately drops it into an mp3 player or an mp3 list on their PC. This is the vehicle, electronic media. No one cares about the magic of sitting in a hi-fi listening room and enjoying a symphony on LP. That's a different day and age. It's about wanting the latest hit on their mp3 player. Although people who are a part of an older generation feel that they would of course never steal if given the choice, this isn't relevant to many young people who are "stealing" mp3's. They don't feel like they're stealing. "What?" you say, "that's ridiculous!" Not really. Look into it, ask around. It's reality.

The bulk of mp3 theft is in the late-teen to early 30's age group and they don't feel it's theft. They aren't waiting for a CD to come down to a reasonable price when they'll jump back on the bandwagon and buy once more. They have been pulling down movies, video games, and music from peer-to-peer networks for years now on high-speed networks.

I can tell you from the inside, Hollywood is pale-faced about the development of high-speed networks world-wide. Why? Because of the vehicle. Again, it's not a book, it's a medium that's translated electronically by it's nature. And once speed is no longer a factor, Hollywood is well-aware that a certain chunk of theater viewers will be lost to downloaded movies, burned onto DVD's, shown on home theater systems that now cost less than a grand to enjoy sometimes better quality than the local theater chain.

2. Numbers don't lie.

Look at the numbers from the sales of top-100 singles and albums (2 different categories) from 10 years ago versus today. Heck, even a year ago versus 10 years ago. You will be staggered if you understand economics and what these numbers represent in an irreversible trend. Yes, there's always going to be room for a local band to drum up a regional following and sell a dozen records to their fans. (Say, 5,000 records or so.) But the "industry" in the news is the CD project that sells 100,000 records, a million records, or even more. This is what's caught up in an irreversible downward trend. That is the industry that's dying and will not be saved through another distribution network. There's nothing wrong with a band and their small following, it's great. It's culture at its finest. But to assert those principles apply to the music "industry" misses what the industry actually is.

3. But you're making our point...if we just make a quality product and offer it for a reasonable price online or in the record store, we will see sales come back up.

Actually, that's proving very un-true. The hopes of the industry have recently rested upon various versions of inexpensive mp3 download sites. All kinds of sliding scales, memberships, and per-download fees have all failed. Again, not talking about the "indies," rather the majors. To that end, large industry giants have recently come out and voiced a need to figure out the "new" way to capture what's called "non-traditional marketing." But they've yet to find the magic pill.

4. Whether we like it or not, it's big news in our culture and it is what it is.

We have for decades been using a particular distribution system for CD's and movies, which is why it's such big news that they're failing. It's akin to if all of the sudden our large grocery stores are all losing money and getting ready to go out of business. Their CEO's are all over the news talking about people stealing their wares and effectively shutting their doors. Sure, we can bring up how special it will be to go back to old-time farmer's markets, that kind of idea is very popular to espouse. But it has nothing to do with our large supermarkets shutting down, if farmer's markets were going to take the business of a supermarket, they would have already, but they're very different and not filling that need.

No, this analogy isn't perfect, it's meant to paint a basic picture. But this is the kind of business catastrophe that would make big news and cause people to wonder what's going on with the grocery "industry." So we wonder about the music industry.

I mean no disrespect, I just want to provide some facts that may sway the discussion toward a more informed take on the commercial music industry, which is greatly different than the commercial book industry.