Monday, March 24, 2008

The RIAA Can Suck on This! (UPDATED!)

I know, it's really been over a year since my last post (PunkVoter updates more frequently than I do, for fuck's sake). There's a lot of shit I could bitch about -- the Democratic congress (I'm as disappointed as everyone else, though not surprised), the presidential elections -- but I'll just assume you've been reading Time magazine and that I have nothing really unique to offer to these conversations.

Something that has been on my mind, however, and that I may have some unique insight about is the current discussion of file sharing, digital downloads, piracy and copy protection. The RIAA are a bunch of prehistoric fuckers, kicking and screaming against progress.

See, while Epitaph is releasing Pennywise's new album in Europe, here in the US MySpace Records is handling it. But this isn't Pennywise selling out a'la Anti-Flag -- it's kinda the contrary. MySpace Records will offer up the album as a free digital download via a Textango promotion. Anyone who adds Textango's profile as a friend on MySpace will get access to the songs. This is Pennywise's way of experimenting with a free digital distribution model, similar to what Tim Armstrong, Radiohead, Saul Williams and Nine Inch Nails have done.

I have especially respected Trent Reznor's ethics over the years. In a transitional couple of decades where most artists have been like Metallica (resist digital music altogether) or Gene Simmons (sue pirates' faces off) and have taken a lazy, marketing-oriented attitude to music in new media (video games, online), Reznor has respected and participated constructively in the transition. Composing original music for video games and experimenting with contract structures and digital distribution schemes that don't fuck the user should be commended. He's one of the very few artists who aren't acting out of self preservation, recognize the need of an inevitable new paradigm and are actively trying to find one. The most feasible of these new paradigms don't involve labels at all -- they involve 21st century web-boosted-productivity making the self-production, self-promotion and self-distrobution of music hyper-accessible.

The future will bring the near-mechanization of our everyday activities (ATMs and self-checkout stands are only the beginning), and all music production, promotion and distribution will probably fall upon the artist. Music will be free and unrestricted to the user and at least partially ad-supported depending on the context, much like most forms of media we enjoy. Touring could play a much bigger role, refocusing on actual talent over marketability.

Not too long ago, a girl busted my balls at work about music piracy. Guaranteed she worked in the music industry. Guaran-fucking-teed. When I wrote for SLUG Magazine I interacted with the hipster fucks who are fighting against piracy, and contrary to a certain NOFX song, they don't all work for the Big 5. They try and say that piracy hurts indies too, but that's bullshit -- it hurts indie labels because it hurts labels, period. It doesn't hurt indie artists because piracy doesn't hurt artists -- it hurts labels. I've never met an anti-piracy person who wasn't acting 100% out of self-interest, or hadn't been scared shitless by the RIAA and MPAA's propaganda and lawsuits.

We're a generation that feels as entitled to music as any of our other ad-supported forms of free media, such as the internet and television. And Audacity, MySpace and YouTube have really made labels obsolete for production, promotion and distribution.

(UPDATES: I finally got around to reading this great BusinessWeek article about a single mom who not only got her bullshit RIAA suit thrown out, but is now counter-suing them. Not a long article, definitely worth a read.

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