A View From The Handbasket

Sunday, October 09, 2005
The smell of fear
Posted by neros_fiddle at 4:10 PM
Shifting gears a little bit, let's talk about how batshit crazy the music industry is. Beset by rampant digital piracy on one side and by an increasingly balkanized fan base on the other, the majors have gone into full-bore survival mode, like a starving animal rabidly leaping on anything that remotely resembles food.

One of the few bright spots in recent years has been iTunes, which has sold millions of legal downloads for a buck apiece. However, instead of seeing a growing market that should be nurtured, the industry sees an opportunity to squeeze somebody (anybody) for more money. They've been pressuring Steve Jobs to raise prices, and Jobs responded by publicly calling them "greedy." (Jobs, no fool, knows that the public would probably side with Osama bin Laden against the music industry and he's safe as milk openly criticizing them.)

The industry's response?

[Warner Music Group CEO Edgar] Bronfman said the music industry should not have to use its content to promote the sale of digital music devices for Apple or anyone else, and not truly share in the profits.

"We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don't have a share of iPod's revenue," he said. "We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only."

Yes, you read that correctly. Not only does Warner want more money out of iTunes customers (who seem to be one of the few blocs of enthusiastic legal music consumers out there), they also want a cut of iPod sales.

This is, not to belabor the point, batshit crazy. An iPod is what allows people to buy Warner's products, much like a CD player or a set of speakers. Only an insane businessman would want to make the cost of entry to his market higher. (Not to mention the incredible overreach. It would be like Budweiser demanding a cut of a bar's Buffalo wing sales.)

Not content to wildly overreach with one of the outlets providing them with valuable exposure and marketing, Warner also has their sights set on Google:

So if you type in "Madonna"—a Warner act—at the Google Video site (now in its test phase), and the results are accompanied by ads, Warner wants a share of those ad dollars as well as payment for any Madonna videos that are streamed or sold.

Rabid, drooling, starving, insane. A weeks-starved hyena would be calmer.

Essentially, what they are saying is that if you want to make money promoting the music industry's products, you'd better provide a kickback off *all* of your revenue sources, well beyond simply paying royalties on the industry's content.

Between this, ongoing RIAA lawsuits of downloaders (which often comically target the wrong people), and annoying their few remaining paying customers (CD copy protection, ugly ever-larger back-cover FBI warnings, multiple rip-off releases squeezing fans who want the one exclusive track on the new $25 CD/DVD combo package that came out a month after the $15 CD release) the industry is expending an awful lot of effort trying to shake down the very people who they need on their side.

Which is, well, sort of crazy.

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