It has now been over a month since the Recording Industry Association of America did the unthinkable and filed lawsuits against over 250 Internet file-sharers, including adults, college students, and even a few preteens (take that for downloading the new Good Charlotte album!). The aftermath has been appalling; even private, liberal institutions such as UM are for the first time putting up firewalls on campus in an effort to deter students (and the university itself) from breaking the law.
These measures are extreme but deemed necessary. The RIAA, which represents major music conglomerates like Sony, has pointed out a 14% drop in CD sales annually from 1999 to 2002. Their reasoning is that music downloads are giving potential customers a loophole around ever having to spend money on a CD again.
How convenient that they’ve decided to blame the drop in CD sales on the people who buy the CDs in the first place.
How convenient that they’ve forgotten the product they’re selling, a compact disc which costs pennies to make and nickels to ship, often finds its way to our hands at $17.99 a pop. That’s a lot of laundry money for a college student.
But let’s blame it on the fans. Follow the lead of Lars Ulrich, the disgruntled Metallica drummer who says it’s not Metallica’s fault that their album sales have dropped. It’s the fans. It has nothing to do with the fact that “Load,” “Re-load,” and “S&M (Symphony and Metallica)” were garbage, recycled garbage, and recycled garbage with orchestral accompaniment, respectively.
But don’t worry about Metallica. The recording industry really does care about you, the consumer. They’ve even put together flashy television programming like ABC’s American Idol, a show that gives everybody in America the chance to choose the recording industry’s next unadulterated, star. It’s a good thing Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson aren’t watered-down talent or anything.
This isn’t to say there is no good talent out there. It’s just saying that when there is actually something good out there, we buy it. You don’t see Norah Jones or Outkast complaining about their CD sales being affected, because they aren’t. Even some groups like Dispatch consider the advent of Internet file-sharing a Godsend.
The real problem is that the industry is pushing all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. Kelly Osbourne? Is she here for any reason other than her last name and cover of a Madonna song? Avril Lavigne? Wasn’t she a Canadian country singer?
So, be careful, RIAA, because you are alienating the very people who allow you to exist in the first place. Next time you blame the fans, why don’t you ask yourselves why they should be rooting for you.
Ben Minkus can be contacted at Boopalee@aol.com.