Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Silly idea #1: Sue all filesharers

Apparently Gene Simmons has been telling media types that the music industry was "asleep at the wheel" and that the current state of the music industry is down to a failure to sue... "every fresh-faced college kid who downloaded material". Oh dear!

I read about his solution to the music industry's woes on Rock Radio's website (see Simmons: Sue All Filesharers). He seems to think that criminalising the people who were most likely to spend money on your product was the best hope for the music industry. The numbers reported though don't even begin to make sense. The Rock Radio sites says:
Statistics suggest that trade body the RIAA spent $16million chasing 20,000 people through the courts, resulting in recovery of $391,000. If that were scaled across the 60million P2P users in the US, they would have to spend $48billion and retrieve just $1.1billion.
What ever you think of Kiss' ability to make music, it is undeniable that they know how to make money! Surely a businessman like Mr Simmons can see that this is not a sensible or sustainable way to conduct your business? The music industry may be losing money due to illegal filesharing but is the solution to throw money away while perusing "fresh-faced college kids" through the courts?

Now don't get me wrong, people should not be illegally downloading and sharing music. Taking music without paying for it is not right. While I don't agree 100% with the statement credited to Gene in the article that he... "doesn’t believe the industry should be fooled into thinking filesharers are anything but thieves.", my problem is with the use of the word "filesharers" because filesharing in itself is not necessarily a bad thing; it depends what you are sharing. I don't particularly have a problem with the word "thieves". Downloading music that you should have to pay for, but not paying for it, is not a victimless crime and the excuse that the music industry makes too much money and so it is OK to rip them off is no excuse at all.

So what do I think? I think the music industry would have had less of a problem if they had woken up to what was happening and given people a legal, relatively cheap, way of accessing music electronically when it became clear that there was a market for obtaining music by download instead by CD. Instead, they sued, criminalised and tried to bully people into doing things the way the industry wanted it done.

There are some signs of improvement: iTunes and similar download services are making them bucketloads of money and there seems to be some recognition that giving away music for free can bring returns in the long term (see for example many of the tracks in my Free Download Friday posts). But it would be good to see more effort going into new revenue generating models such as sponsorship, subscription and advertising. Unfortunately, rants like the one from Mr Simmons suggests that at least some parts of the music industry are clinging to old ways; alternating between imitating headless chickens and ostriches with their heads in the sand.

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