Same old song and dance


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Wired is running an article about the turnaround in music sales occurring in the U.S. recording industry, with sales rising 9.1 percent in just the first three months of the year over the same period in 2003:

“In 2001, sales were down 3 percent. The next year, sales dropped 11 percent. Last year, until September, sales were down 8.5 percent, but the pickup in sales at the end of the year narrowed the total decline for 2003 to less than 4 percent.

The burgeoning online music market accounted for the sale of more than 25 million tracks between January and March, eclipsing the 19.2 million tracks purchased in the last six months of 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan.”

The RIAA will no doubt be praising itself for its efforts against file-sharers as being the reason for the turnabout, all the while using that to justify their litigation all the more. And to some degree I'll even go along with the fact that their campaign was indeed successful in raising awareness that file-sharing is theft. In the early days of Napster and with so many peers engaging in peer-to-peer file-sharing, peer pressure to participate was surely enough for many to turn a blind eye to the moral implications of their actions.

“Stealing is wrong. But biting the hand that feeds you is both wrong and stupid.”

As I've said here before, if the recording industry had spent their time and energy creating a viable preview and delivery system, like that of Apple's iTunes Music Store, instead of price-fixing, litigating, and otherwise acting unawares to the changing market around them—it is unlikely there would have been any drop in sales at all, and file-sharing would be moot.

The recording industry needs to offer products and services that consumers want to purchase or they will find other ways of obtaining what they want. It's just that simple.

As for me, having been a DJ for many years, I've purchased thousands of CDs and vinyl records at their inflated retail prices only to turn around and promote those artists and labels by playing them in clubs and other venues. The recording industry owes me, big time. So, when I'm interested in finding some new music, I think nothing of logging onto the file-sharing networks, or Apple's iTunes Music Store, to do a little “browsing” first. Then, if I really like the song or artist, I'll make the purchase: Just this week I picked up Coldplay's “Live 2003” combination CD/DVD. Long-gone are the days when I purchased a shrink-wrapped CD only to get it home and become disappointed with it. Never again.

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