RIAA – How Irrelevant Can You Get?

I’m going to explain the recording industry for you folks.  Follow along and see if you kids can keep up.  Let’s pretend for a few minutes that you’re a musician.  You bust your butt gigging, playing all over town and one day some guy walks up to you and says, “Hi!  I’m with (fill in name of record company here), and we’d really like to sign you to a recording contract.”  Well, you get all excited and you sign your deal with the devil. 

The devil says “Come to my recording studio and we’ll cut the record.”  Once you get there, they’ve got the studio lined up, the producer, and a few other people to “help you” make your record.  If you ask about how much is going to cost, you get told, as is standard in the recording industry that “it will come out of the profits.”  Then you cut your album and “you have to promote it”.  If you ask how much that’s going to cost…you guessed it kids, “it comes out of the profits”.  Now that you have to market your album, you have to go on tour.  That means a bus, lights, roadies, stage, sound equipment, etc.  If you ask how much that’s going to cost…you guessed it kids, “it comes out of the profits”.

While you’re on tour, you need to have T-shirts, posters, bumper sticker, etc.  You also need to have hot dogs, twinkies, beer, and cokes for people to consume during the concert.  If you ask how much that’s going to cost…you guessed it kids, “it comes out of the profits”.  By the time they’re through pulling all the costs out of “the profits”, there usually aren’t any profits left, which means all that the artist gets is what ever they get as a signing bonus.  Not the advance – the signing bonus – since the advance comes “out of the profits”, too.

The way that this works out is that if you’re lucky, the artist on any given album might see 1 or 2 cents of the $16.99 you pay for CD of music at Wal-Mart.  Given that the Internet is the ideal distribution medium for music, I’d rather just go to the artists web site and buy the songs directly from them.  Then the artist would get the whole $16.99 for the album instead of $0.02.  But you see, the RIAA can’t allow that because in that $16.97 lies their profit margins.  Without them, it’s a brave new world for digital music. 

Why do you and I have to pay a third party middleman to broker the transaction for nothing more than a song?  Worse yet, we are required to continue to pay this middleman who threatens to sue both the consumer and the musician when we try to cut him out of the transaction.  If the artist tries to sell their songs on the website the RIAA will try to sue them for contract violations.  If you and I try to download the music, we get sued.  The only reason for this is that it leaves the big, fat RIAA profit margin intact. 

The RIAA complains that their sales are down and points an accusing finger at “piracy”.  I’d like to take a moment to dispel that myth.  When Napster was operating at it’s peak, music sales were up 20% without the RIAA doing any additional marketing.  Viral, word-of-mouth would spread quickly about new bands and good new interesting music.  People were buying CD’s because they’d get a taste of some stuff and like it.  Then they’d go to the store, find the artist and buy some stuff.  Now, there’s no place to share that isn’t full of viruses, worms, trojans, fake files, etc.  No more free marketing RIAA – you pretty much litigated the goose that laid the golden egg out of existence. 

Compounding the problem is that the RIAA is key in determining what gets pushed to the public.  Frankly, I think that they’ve lost the pulse.  We don’t care about Brittany Spears, although my husband was caught peering at her photos when she got snapped sans the undies. For some reason, the music industry has decided to cater to 14 year old girls.  Why?  I don’t really know. When’s the last time you saw a 14 year old that had more than $20 of disposable income at any given moment?  If you have no money, how are you supposed to buy a CD?  Yet, this is the market segment that they’ve chosen to pursue almost to the exclusion of all else. Hmmm…wonder why their not selling much. 

Then there’s the complaint that they’re losing money.  I don’t recall which magazine it appeared in, but it was a music-related rag.  It might even have been Rolling Stone, but don’t make me swear to that.  They pulled a random sampling of 1000 RIAA represented artists and did an audit.  Out of the 1000 bands and artists contracts that got audited 900+ were underpaid.  The amounts ranged from a few cents to six figures.  A few of the artists had been paid properly and only 3 were overpaid.  The overages maxed out at less $1000.  Now, if you’re not in business of ripping people off, why are so many of them paid even less than the meager amounts that their contracts allow?

Furthermore, all we’re doing, by continuing to buy records, is to promote an industry that lobbies for legistation to keep their dinosaur business model afloat.  These are people who you can thank for the DMCA (Digital Millineum Copyright Act), DRM (Digital Rights Managment), etc.  Instead of finding a way to work with the internet, they’d like to shut the whole thing down.  It is for this reason that I’m saying that RIAA stands for “Rip-off Industry Assholes & Abusers”.

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One thought on “RIAA – How Irrelevant Can You Get?

  1. Your blog here is very insightful and well written, and I applaud you for that. However, the RIAA is not out to get the musicians, or to dick over the consumer. They are there to prevent the outright theft of the products musicians create. Piracy is not limited to the internet, in fact, around $300 million worth of street piracy was reported in 2006. I don’t care how much money someone may make, $300 million is still a lot of money. What some people do not understand is the investment record companies have to put into every band they sign. It’s not a simple matter of “sign, record, distribute, promote.” It is a complex accounting process that requires thousands of different parameters to be scrutinized. As for the marketing to 14 year old girls. Parents in this era of American history have been known to spoil their children to keep them from whining. It’s a sad fact, but it is painfully obvious. The record industry is doing the same thing with young teens that McDonald’s is doing with children: marketing to them, hoping their parents will give in and buy them what they want. It’s not a sleazy business tactic, it’s just business. By the way, the average price of a CD was a hair over $14 in 2006, not the $16.99 you said in the blog. Also, that money is used to pay the retailer, advertisers, and everyone invloved in the production of the album. The artists also see more than just 1 or 2 cents from each sale, a majority of the contracts have royalty clauses stating that the artist will receive about 8-10% from each record sold. Although this was a very well written argument against the RIAA, I urge you to check your facts against credible sources before posting such blatant propaganda. Voice your opinion, just make sure your facts are corrent so as not to sound like a fool.

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