This is What is Wrong with the Music Industry

We all know the music industry is a mess … I offer no advice other than don’t assume I am a criminal. According to Universal CEO Doug Morris us iPod and non-Zune owners are thieves, “These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it’s time to get paid for it.” Jeez, talk about loving your customers. I don’t steal music hard as it may be to believe … I know all to well the deep dark corner I have painted myself in as it relates to DRM trapped music. At the end of the day I feel ok with it only because it is legal, easy, and the right thing to do. The fact that Microsoft is handing Universal a piece of the action every time someone buys a Zune seems to make stealing music ok. UMG is expected to receive more than $1 for each $250 device … Just a bit screwed up and could set a dangerous precedent.

Once upon a time I made software (and I guess given what ETS does I still do in many ways) and I never wanted people to just rip it off. I got a paycheck every month that was supported in part by the sales of this software. Sometimes we’d find out that a company would purchase a license and then put the software across the organization … that always made us feel terrible. I never would come out and say “all computers are repositories for stolen software and we all know it!” Doug, here’s the deal, if the music you produced didn’t suck so bad more people would see value in it … I think the whole industry is a disaster, but I love music and it is a part of who I am so I am going to continue to show up at the party.

Like my good friends the Grateful Dead say, “Law come to get you if you don’t walk right.” Assuming I am criminal makes me feel bad.

5 thoughts on “This is What is Wrong with the Music Industry


    Exactly. The music industry just doesn’t get it. It thinks that just because it doesn’t produce any music without running it past a user group to get approval, it knows marketing. The industry is awful at it. Note the falling sales. Your comment on the general sucking-like-a-Hoover state of music is part of it. Creating clones of artists and not developing artists for the long haul is short-term gain at the cost of long-term benefit. After a while, people get the craps of 1,000 Blink 182s (even the most slack-jawed TRL viewer) and then they tune out until something new comes along.

    This inability to recognize true trends and remain creative extends beyond foisting countless whiny emo bands and lurches into media technology. Hey, Doug, take a walk around Penn State. Those kids with the white wire coming of their ears are not pre-med students wearing futuristic stethoscopes. They are your audience. I don’t care if James Hetfield felt Napster was starving him to death several years ago, the trend is the trend. Instead of complaining, compete. Instead of insulting, innovate.

    To quote Hetfield and his Metallica buds, “Nothing Else Matters.”

  2. Of course, it’s also possible that we don’t need the Big Labels anymore. There’s a movement here in Canada where the indy musicians are able to get their music out there without selling souls to some LA executives. is an amazing example of this – only playing music from small bands. It started out as a podcast, but evolved into a full-blown channel on the Sirius satellite network. We only need the Big Labels as long as we decide to need them. There are better ways, without reinforcing their blatant and evil monopolies.

  3. I just don’t understand why it is the way it is. I guess I am just too simple minded to think that good music can just happen. I think about my friend Steve Hopkins and his music … now that is good stuff. I can’t go to the iTunes Store to buy it, but it is available online.

    I think the RIAA and the labels have gone down a path that even they would regret (getting them to admit that would be impossible). I don’t think any sound business would want to cast their customers as criminals, but I am constantly amazed at how short sighted people are. Time will tell how it all shakes out, but I am more than a little pissed that I am considered evil just because I own an iPod by people that I BUY music from. Jeez, that was actually a word in both bold and in all caps.

  4. The Big Labels basically had an arms race in an effort to grab up available talent. The whole part about giving 6 figure advances to secure artists is just plain crazy. They “had” to gamble big in the hopes that some of these artists would become big. But, most didn’t, so all of that advanced cash meant artists get screwed until they pay it back out of album profits. Completely broken, and can’t scale. Their solution to problems was to throw money at them. Then, anyone that wasn’t willingly giving them money to cover that was labeled a thief. Same thing with MPAA – movies now costing $300M , there’s no margin of error. No ability to take risks without jeapordizing careers. Risk taking has been drummed out of the large companies, with only the indy producers able to do anything worth paying attention to.

  5. tim.o’reilly said it best,
    “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than copyright infringement …”
    i suspect that the same is true of composers/musicians.

    btw… if even a portion of the musiclovingworld is like me, they probably own around 500 discs of obsolete vinyl and around 200+ discs of nearly.obsolete polycarbonate … the LAST thing i need, is new music from some american.idol.wannabee.

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