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  Spoon's Audio Guide: Music Industry

If the music industry could be characterised as a person, it would be:

  • A Control Freak: (controlling artists, outlets, radios, customers through DRM),
  • Paranoid: Instead of embracing the new digital era, instead views it as the enemy. Sony even sued it's self! because of this...

The music industry bands together and has a collective mouthpiece / legislator the RIAA. Through the RIAA they prosecute old ladies for file sharing (even though said old lady has never seen a computer), buy new laws (DCMA), influence international relations (Russia's joining of to the WTO).

Rather than list all the nasty business the RIAA enters into, we will add a little humour by parodying the music industry as characters from the Mister Men series of books.

Introducing: The Music Industry as Mr Greedy:
enough is never enough, more, more, more...
Introducing: Sony as Mr Tickle:
tickling starts out enjoyable, but becomes unpleasant

1920 to 1970

Mr Greedy's job was to sign music artists and sell their music. Mr Greedy supplied his musical goods on Records, all was well in Mr Greedy's world, but less so for artists. They signed to a slaves contract, most contracts enslave an artist until 3 albums are produced, it is in the artists best interest to get off the contract (which they might not see anything from, despite having multi-million album sales...).

Consider this invented contract to gain an insight:

Sign up as a domestic cleaner, 5 years minimum contract and $200,000 per year. Sounds truly excellent, one million $ over 5 years!, except after the first year I deduct $195,000 from your salary, to cover your costs (went on a nice Ferrari, for me, not you, after all I have to drive around to promote your cleaning abilities). After the first year, despite being doing an excellent cleaning job, you have not seen any return and want to break away...to the courts...except they will not help, the remaining 4 years have to be served. Modern day slavery.

1970 to 1980

Sony created a revolution, consumer tape recorders and Walkmans, Walkmans and Sony were fun and hip. Mr Greedy cried foul, anyone could record records onto tape and share the tape around, to Mr Greedy control was slipping away: this tape machine was the devils machine and will bring about the destruction of the whole industry, millions will be out of work.

A court case brought by Mr Greedy's cousin (movies) against video recorders, they were ruled legal. Mr Greedy was stuck with tape recorders.

1980 to 1990

Introducing: Audio CD as Mr Happy:
your small disc, saves constant rewinding, such joy

The proposed end of the world never happened because of tapes, ironically Mr Greedy made more money, albums were bought on Record and Tapes, by the same person, double the money!!

Mr Greedy had a greedy inspiration when he first saw Audio CD: CDs are cheaper to make than tapes or records, yet lets charge 2x more for a CD. Everyone will buy the same discs again, in CD format, life thought Mr Greedy, could not get any better. Mr Greedy became, very large and powerful. 

1990 to 2000

Introducing: Computer as Mr Clever:
as time goes on you get cleverer and cleverer
Introducing: Portable mp3 Player as Mr Brave:
like tapes before a revolution in personal audio

Four devastating innovations clouded Mr Greedy's world:

  • CD drives appeared on computers,
  • mp3 an audio compression,
  • Portable mp3 player,
  • The Internet

CD drives initially read only, expensive, slow, but the potential was there to record the CD digitally onto computer. Drives evolved fast, 2x speed, 4x then writers. Like tapes before them, CD-R would destroy Mr Greedy's world, or so he said. People and courts were not so believing this time, except for the few sad countries which levied taxes which went straight into Mr Greedy's pocket for any CD-R sold, regardless if used for audio or not...Mr Greedy is indeed very powerful.

Beavering away in their German institute, Fraunhofer invented technology which made audio files manageable on computers. 10:1 compression with passable quality, now computers could store and playback audio. Audio files of around 1 to 2 MB were just able to uploaded and downloaded by the slow modems of the time. The stage was set for a revolution.

Portable mp3 players, Rio was one of the first manufacturers (MPMan were the first) and felt the full force of the Greedy's anger, were taken to court for contributory copyright infringement, despite the fact the Rio 300 at the time was a one way street, it could not share audio. The courts ruled in Rios favour (another loss for Greedy), but the case damaged Rio financially. For years portable players were limited to being read only.

Were was hip Sony? surely a company of their innovative past would embrace this digital revolution?, no their mp3 players were not even mp3 players, rather they played ATRAC their own proprietary format. The software for uploading to said players was lambasted by users (would force users to re-rip CDs after a period of time, to make sure the original CD had not been sold, I kid you not!). This treating their customers as potential thieves would raise its head again later...Why the change at Sony? Sony had grown and encompassed Sony Music Entertainment, one Sony division created that, a division in the company and made sure Sony would not create a Walkman equivalent mp3 player.

The Internet connected people, promoted the free flow of ideas and information. Mr Greedy does not like the words free, connected & flow, in-fact he does not like the internet at all. Born of the internet came Napster, appearing from no-where, Napster was an over-night hit, first with students then the world, trading in these new mp3 files. Despite not selling anything, or making any money, Napster was valued in the 100's of Millions, such was the innovation. Napster set music free in many senses of the word, free as in freely available without cost, free from its media (CD).

2000 onwards

Mr Greedy lashes out...


Mr Greedy wanted to put end to the union of CDs and Computers

mp3 player    
That was until a Mr Mp3 visited Mr Computers house for a party, this party had lots and lots of games, one was called 'Pass the Mp3', a certain Mr Internet was very, very good at this game. Mr Greedy peered into one of Mr Computer's windows, he saw 'Pass the Mp3', and decided he could spoil the party if only he could keep Mr Mp3 locked inside Mr Computers house.

Mr Greedy went home, he was angry, very, very angry, would he still be able to make huge piles of money?, Mr Greedy decided he needed something to put an end to Mr Computers party, he got together with his greedy buddies, the idea was to employ a Mr Copy-Protection to put special marking codes on the music CDs, Mr Copy-Protection had the potential to seriously hamper, and possibly put an end to Mr Computers party. Alas, this was not to be, for Mr Greedy and his buddies would not stop quarrelling amongst themselves, they simply could not agree on exactly how Mr Copy-Protection would be employed.

It has not all been bad news for Mr Greedy, no sir, for Mr Greedy has had a hand in the creation of Stand-Alone-CD-Recorders. These devices plug into your Hi-Fi and enable CD's to be created without the need of Mr Computers help, however all is not as it first seems. Stand-Alone-CD-R's will not record onto normal CD-R disks, they only record onto special Consumer-Audio-CD-R's, and Mr Greedy has placed a special Greedy tax onto these discs, which goes straight into his pocket. What is this greedy tax called? it is 'refund to Mr Greedy of the expected loss from illegal copying', this tax is truly obsurd when you discover that Stand-Alone-CD-R's will not copy commercial audio CD's. Mr Greedy truly is a very naughty person.

  Just when Mr Greedy thought things could not get any worse, Mr Napster started a new Taxi firm, Mr Napster is able to deliver thousands and thousands of people to Mr Computers party, all these people are able to partake in 'Pass the Mp3', how is he able to do this? Mr Greedy did a little detective work....it turns out that Mr Napster's Taxis are free of charge, well, well Mr Greedy was not going to stand for any of this.
Mr Greedy calls together his greedy buddies, they all get together to come up with a plan...Why not create our own taxi firm?, shouts one of the greedies, we could charge a little for the trip and still make plenty of money, just not as much as before. This plan does not go down very well with the rest of the greedies, who are far too greedy to even consider it, so it is decided the best plan is to try to force Mr Napster out of town......  

A Light Hearted Look at Music Industry Pt. 2

Much has changed..., the village has been over run with taxi firms, all has changed too for Mr Napster. Once the king of the road Mr Napster has been under constant attack from the greedies, as such he only has a few really old cabs that no one wants to use because they now have to work under tight rules, but other firms are doing booming business. Some of these taxi firms operate on a house to house basis, from no central base, Mr Greedy is unable to find them, let alone stop them!

Mr Greedy and his greedy friends have been hard at work, and after much head scratching they have created something fiendish - a CD that will play on normal HiFi's, but when CD calls at Mr Computers house it is unable to play! Fantastic, at last Mr Greedy can sleep safe and sound at night, safe in the knowledge all music falls under his tight control, well not exactly...what Mr Greedy fails to realize is that he is actually making it much worse for himself, for the people who want to take CD around to Mr Computers house are the nice people who have actually given Mr Greedy bags of money for said CD, they might want to transfer CD onto Mr Rio. When they find they cannot, they will I am sure, find Mr Internet and one of the many taxi firms to get a copy of the music they already own. The next time they are in one of Mr Greedies shops they might just stop to think and decide it is better to not bother giving Mr Greedy a bag of money for something that is far worse they can get from Mr Internet. Mr Greedy should be congratulated, for this is such a stupid plan.

Talking about Mr Rio he has lots and lots for Rio-esq friends now, some of these friends are relatives of Mr Greedy, ironic as Mr Greedy tried so hard to stop what his own family now embraces. If there is money to be made, you can count on Mr Greedy to be sniffing around the action.

So what of the future? Mr Greedy want to keep his music under lock and key, even if you were to give Mr Greedy a bag of cash, he want to control exactly how-where-and-when you can listen to his music, this is the complete opposite to what the people of the village want, the majority are fine upstanding citizens who are quite happy to give my greedy cash for his stuff, but they do not want to be told how-where-and-when they can listen to it, imagine buying a car and being told you can only drive it from here to there and nowhere else. Unfortunately it would seem the sheriff of the village is on Mr Greedies side, why you ask? because Mr Greedy is all powerful with his Greedy friends, in this village money = power.

 To be continued......


sony rootkit

sueing old ladies...

ipod generation, drm free

internet radio, hike in fees