The last nail in the music industry's coffin

Musicians, critics and crazy people alike have claimed the end is near for the music industry. But perhaps the clearest sign of its impending demise is when Jim Urie, president and CEO of Universal Music Group Distribution, mass e-mails a desperate plea to anyone and everyone somehow connected to the music world, including yours truly.

If that’s not enough of a blaring sign of impending doom, Urie’s e-mail cements things quite nicely:

Dear LEOR ,

I’ve received hundreds of e-mails enthusiastically reacting to my “call to action” at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention last month.  The music business is facing huge challenges from piracy and theft. Never before in American history has an entire industry been so decimated by illegal behavior.  Yet the government has not responded in a meaningful way to help us address this crisis.  My call to action is for all of us to become more aggressive in lobbying our government, more outspoken in drawing attention to the problems caused by piracy and more actively engaged.  We cannot win this fight alone.

Governments outside the U.S. are legislating, regulating and playing a prominent role in discussions with ISPs (Internet Service Providers).  Sales have dramatically improved in these countries.  How is it that the U.S. – with the most successful music community in the world – is not keeping up with places like South Korea, France, the UK and New Zealand?

As I said in my speech, I hope that the industry can negotiate a voluntary deal with the ISPs. We need our government representatives to encourage this.  But whether or not we reach a deal with the ISPs, our government needs to know that we’ve got a piracy problem and we need real solutions.  To accomplish this, our government needs to hear from all of us, so they know that their constituents are out here.  Join me in calling on our elected officials to fight piracy.  Please help by forwarding this email to your colleagues, friends– everyone who loves music.  And consider enlisting your entire company to help in this fight.  Then by clicking on the link below a message will be sent to your representatives in Washington.  Help us launch a viral campaign to cut off access to the online sites that are used to steal our music, our property and our jobs.  It only takes a second but it can make a tremendous impact.

Click HERE.

Please help us by forwarding this link.

Jim Urie

So, despite every detail of how the old methods of music distribution should be abandoned and that we should celebrate innovation within the world of music publishing, the CEO of UMGD is defiantly pressing his industry further towards doom with destructive policies.

An industry kept afloat by consumers should listen to consumers instead of punishing those who have already felt spurned by the industry. Urie began his email saying he received “hundreds of e-mails enthusiastically reacting to my ‘call to action.'” Unfortunately for Urie, the music industry was never reliant upon hundreds of music listeners and consumers. There are millions of people who listen to music, and with every illegal download comes another person who can’t get behind an industry stuck in the past.

Music Rights Now is a misnomer: What Urie and his associates are asking is, if anything, a violation of individual rights. The notion that ISPs should somehow be forced to provide consumer information to an industry is laughable. The idea that members of the government should be dragged into the picture is more tragic than anything. It’s as if the music industry has realized it’s obsolescence and is asking the government to bail them out.

Whether or not people downloading music is illegal or not is an aside in this conversation, partly because Urie and co. aren’t even paying attention to the conversation at hand: That being, music lovers are plain fed up with the way the industry works. And this Luddite action is a sign that the industry is flailing in the water without ever having tried to grab a hold of a raft that didn’t look like the old, cash-cow of a boat.

Perhaps an American industry has never been decimated by illegal behavior quite like the music industry. But, other industries have died off due to innovation, new technologies and a general change in cultural attitudes. I can’t imagine being forced to ride a horse and buggy everywhere because the horse coach industry deemed steam-powered trains a bad thing because it was negatively affecting them. So why should we all have to suffer because of one industry’s inability to adapt?


10 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    What gets me is that everyone seems to be pointing their finger at the record industry and no one is giving solutions, or rather a permanent solution as to what the music industry of the future should look like!

    What is happening now is millions lost in illegal downloads. I personally have over 2000 cd’s and probably around 150 vinyl records. All of witch I paid good money for.

    I’m a musician who supports a world that HAS a music industry. I know that it’s not perfect, and that it has changed from the days of making GOOD music with people in charge who love music to a whole other money making corporate giant. But not every label is like that.

    I think people have gotten used to stealing music because you can’t see who you’re stealing from. There’s nothing tangible for them to feel guilty for, and with musicians and critics alike damning the industry it’s given people free reign to steal music.

    I’m all for progress and change don’t get me wrong. Don’t forget that at the end of the day, anyone who owns a label, or any business for that matter, wants to make money off of it. And bands want to be paid well too. We’ve got to find that medium.

    Whatever that may be.

    Corey Allan Hawkins

  2. Leor Galil #

    Hey Corey,

    I hear ya. I actually continue to purchase CDs, mp3s and a spare vinyl or two here and there. And yes, people in the industry need to support themselves, as do the musicians. But, spending large amounts of money on court cases attacking consumers or trying to convince the government to get ISPs to agree to what are basically their demands is hardly fixing the industry, nor is it really repairing the damage.

    I agree, everyone’s saying what isn’t happening and not providing solutions. But perhaps that conversation would stop once the industry’s endless cycle of attack on the consumer comes to a halt.

  3. esaeger #

    I got that one too. After deleting it as the ravings of a mentalcase, I got to thinking about how ASCAP and BMI could suck royalties out of downloading/net-radio sites somehow, but that’s probably not the answer he’s looking for. I imagine Pandora gets hefty ASCAP/BMI bills.

    It’s an impossible situation, unless hardware (iPhones, PCs, etc) manufacturers do agree to wire over info about the music user to the label. Ie, the label adds code to each song that tells the label all the who/what/where info and they catch pirates that way, hopefully without assessing insanely high fines, like more along the lines of misdemeanor shoplifting.

    The industry does have to band together, narky as that sounds. People have no problem whining about DRM and things, but God forbid their beloved Band of Horses or whoever doesn’t get paid.

    On the other hand, maybe the industry as an industry is indeed dead. More and more albums will be made in bedrooms and in studios on bands’ own dimes. Who that hurts, though, are studio-worthy bands with great songs who don’t have the capital to put out a few tunes. And the consumer will suffer, more and more being denied the experience of a tight, great band with a livable studio budget, like Minus the Bear, who with their last album proved that organics can easily trump electronics in the right hands.

    Bottom line is that fans can’t have it both ways. You can’t have million-dollar productions without costs being profitably recouped. It’s groovy and rebellious and all that we’re in the computer age, but sorry, ProTools is a pathetic replacement for Jaco Pastiorius.

  4. ford #

    I haven’t had a chance to read the opinion yet, but I’m pretty sure the Google vs. Viacom decision this week cuts pretty deeply into his hopes. ISPs aren’t going to have to make affirmative efforts, and that’s a good thing, from a chilled speech perspective.

  5. jake brodsky #

    So when the automobile was invented, did buggy manufacturers assert themselves to keep those new fangled contraptions off the road?

    The problem is that the music distribution industry does not know how to make money in this new market. Most musicians do not make much money selling their music through these channels. They make money with performances.

    The music distribution industry refuses to address these issues head on. They took advantage of generations of musicians and lead us to some pretty uncreative uniform best selling crap.

    It ends here. People are walking away from these moguls because they can. Taxing the ISP will just make it happen faster.

  6. 6

    Mr. Galil,

    The music industry is just fine in the broad sense that musicians are making and selling music in various forms, as they have for thousands of years. The people who are in trouble are people who market music in the form of albums. For the last half of a century, the big profits have been in releasing an album with a dozen songs, only one or two of which are any good, most not even that (with a few exception like the Beatles who would release two sides of greats songs). People bought these albums for the one or two song that they heard on a top 40 station and hope that the rest were not just junk. THAT industry is dying. Musicians and music will also be in demand.

    “The kids are alright”

  7. Leor Galil #

    The music industry is just fine in the broad sense that musicians are making and selling music in various forms, as they have for thousands of years.”

    Sure, but when I meant music industry, I meant the industry of producing a marketable product. Musicians haven’t been “selling” music for thousands of years, they’ve been performing for thousands of years. It wasn’t until we were able to capture sound and produce something that could turn it into a physical product did an actual industry come about.

    And I’ve got to disagree that there are a few individuals or bands that were able to produce “two sides of good songs.” Even talking about music in terms of “sides” seems out of date, even with the “vinyl resurgence.” Forget the Beatles, there’s plenty of great music being produced today!

  8. jcalton #

    I’m perfectly willing to believe that when Jim Urie, CEO of the largest record label in the world, gave a speech about protecting the profits of record labels and traditional music retailers at a convention for traditional music retailers, the crowd went wild.

    It’s rather self-congratulating of himself to assume that same fervor would apply to everyone affiliated with the music biz.

  9. 9

    Mr. Galil,

    I think perhaps that you misread my posting. The crisis in the music industry is the fact that a lot of folks got fat making piles of money off of the 12 song album format, whether vinyl, eight-track, or CD (yes I am that old). Piracy aside, in the brave new world of the electronic format, there are very few folks who are willing to pay to buy 12 songs as a package, people want to pick and choose the singles that they want. The single song release was once the norm (in the days of the 78 rpm 12″ disc and the 45 rpm 7″ disc) and all that is happening is that the music market is simply returning to that pre-1960 norm. The crisis is that this is a less profitable (not non-profitable, just less profitable) environment. The music industry wants to keep selling “albums”, the proverbial “package deal”, and has yet to recognize that fewer and fewer people are willing to buy albums.

    So my point was that this is crisis for the people who package and market music, they just need to get over themselves. On the other hand, most musicians do not survive on sales of recorded music, hence the closing comment.

  10. pjenkins #

    Two words…fashion industry. No copyright protection ever, rampant ripoffs of original products, and yet fashion thrives in this day and age. The problem with the music industry today is that it refuses to adapt to the changing times. Several different marketing models have already shown promise.

    Radiohead gave away their most recent album and made a pile of money under a “pay what you think you should” model. iTunes set the bar with the $0.99 single-song download. I think a great strategy for up-and-coming bands would be to digitally distribute albums for free as promotional material and make up the slack by touring.

    The bottom line is, copyright laws were never needed to protect music. People make music for the sake of making music. They have so for centuries and will do so until we become extinct.

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