The InsiderOne Daily Report
Tuesday, May 29, 2001
The Bullies Are At It Again
InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: The big music companies think they can dominate the Internet by acting like bullies that is, by suing anything that crosses their path when they can argue it's infringing on their precious copyrights. As you probably learned on May 24, Aimster and Launch Media are the latest targets of lawsuits filed in federal court in New York City by major music companies or their lobbying group. Charging copyright violations, the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) sued Aimster, a file-sharing service vaguely similar to Napster (but in fact different in a number of fundamental ways). Meanwhile, a number of entertainment companies, including Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group, Sony Corp.'s Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Group PLC's Capitol Records and Bertelsmann AG's BMG Entertainment, filed suit against Launch Media Inc., claiming that Launch's customizable Internet radio stations, known as Launchcast, violate the companies' copyrights. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next few months we read about one of the Big Five purchasing Launch; they'll probably try to sue Aimster into the ground, since they can't figure out how to make money off a file-sharing service. It's tired, I know, but these companies really do act like dinosaurs, hip deep in quicksand, lashing their huge tails at anything within reach, snarling ferociously at the critters evolving and multiplying before their very eyes. Perhaps if the record companies could instead focus on creating some kind of new "music-plus" digital thing that people really wanted, they wouldn't have to worry about the Napsters and Aimsters of the world. There used to be something "special" about a vinyl record album and its 12-inch by 12-inch cover. The record album had magic cassette tapes never had. I think there's a strong argument that the CD is precious, when the cover art and liner notes and all are done right. People want them. If you really love the artist, a burned CD isn't enough. In the past two years millions of people downloaded songs, partly because of the novelty factor and, I believe, partly because the Big Five and Metallica created an "us vs. them" mentality that made downloading MP3 files super cool. It's way too soon to know, however, whether the new music fans are content with a hard drive full of song files and an MP3 player they can load the songs onto. Maybe yes, maybe no. Cool albums often have cool cover art. The album is a work of visual and audio art, and you want the whole package. What about some kind of virtual audio and visual package? I can imagine a virtual album that includes striking animated liner notes and album art as well as the music, one you use a truly dope player to experience, with either a hi-res flat monitor or earphone/glasses that provide a virtual screen. If the music was infectious and you had an amazing experience with the real deal, and if the price was right, people would pay. It might mean charging $5 for an album, instead of nearly $20. It might mean that the Big Five wouldn't net as much as they do now. It might mean that the multi-million-dollar salaries of label presidents would become a thing of the past.
The InsiderOne Daily Report appears weekdays at 9 AM PST, except when it doesn't.
Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.