Mark Slater’s Weblog

Musings about work, life, and all things in between

Radiohead and the RIAA

Radiohead - In LEGO
Image by woordenaar via Flickr

i am a huge music lover. i spend hours and hours a week – whether on a plane or working on a spreadsheet or at the gym discovering, sharing and listening to music. I have been a highly interested spectator to the industry over the last decade, and i have strong opinions about artist rights, and the internet at large.

so it came as no surprise that i stumbled upon this article this morning claiming that Radiohead are taking the stand against the RIAA. To be sure, the internet has disintermediated large swaths of the music value chain and it is still not clear to me how the artist community replaces its revenue stream. I personally think that the industry is going through permanent and tectonic change.

What i do know is that the organization known as the RIAA is a parasite. they neither represent the true interests of the artist nor those of the industry at large – they are litigating an extinct business model, they are suing their own customers (name another industry doing this) and they need to go away.

the future of music lies in discovery, sharing and experiencing using a new set of tools. the future has no place for them as distribution – the very business they monopolized and exploited for several decades – has imploded and no longer can be controlled.

Update: Just received this gem – worth a watch if you have the time

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Last.Fm, the RIAA and Techcrunch

Sunday i woke to find an article written by Eric Schonfeld about an apparent mix up with U2’s latest album due for release at the beginning of March. A copy apparently found its way on to Bittorrent and went racing across the web unchecked. the story gets really interesting when more rumors start to circulate about the RIAA allegedly requesting ‘scrobbling’ data from Last FM.

Scrobbling for those that dont know – is a neat little plug-in that sits in the background of your music player and records (meta) what you are listening to – passing this information to its web applications, where you can share your listening habits with others. Additionally, the web app can make reccomendations of similar music resulting from its analysis of your listening habits.

An unintended outcome of this relationship between you and last.fm, is that they can see what  you are listening to. If it happens to be a u2 track that has not yet been released, and this type of information falls in to the hands of the RIAA, well – not good.

What is also not good is that this has made tracks around the web – and inspite of what i believe is the ‘strong denial’ of the release of any data to the RIAA  by stakeholders at Last.fm, the story continues to mushroom with users beginning to seriously consider un-installing the plug in. This would be deadly for Last.fm as the plug in is the anchor of their service and frankly their value – a value last measured by their sale to CBS for an utterly mind boggling $282 million

If this user erosion gains traction – as it most easily can – an unintended consequence of frictionless business models is the ease of churn – and the data reportedly was NOT handed over – then the media nad the bloggers have succeeded in damaging a business becuase they have alerted the consumer to the ‘possibility’ of such action in the future. Which leads us to the facebook fracas last week over their attempts to change the TOC.

Net, Net here is – if you are contributing to the web – as people are doing now in unprecedented numbers – you might want to think long and hard about what it is your are giving away for free, and what the consequences may well be of this.

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