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Perspective, pings and other things relevant to our world

Hail to the Chief

March 24, 2010

Organizations representing the American creative community – such as actors, musicians, performers, composers, songwriters, music publishers, technicians and craftspeople, directors and their teams, and record and film companies (both large and small) – recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing appreciation for his recent remarks promoting the cultural and economic importance of intellectual property. Read the groups’ letter here

Bainwol's Music City Q&A

March 22, 2010

RIAA Chairman & CEO Mitch Bainwol recently sat down with Nashville paper The Tennessean to provide an in-depth view of current and emerging issues affecting the music industry. Check out the Q&A here.

AFL-CIO: IP Theft Kills Jobs

March 11, 2010

In the world of movies and music, what can often go overlooked are the hard-working Americans who labor behind the scenes. Each of these individuals contribute to the rich fabric of American culture, doing their part to create and perfect the films, shows and music that inspire and move us. These are also the individuals who predominantly feel the pains of intellectual property theft.

In that vein, this month the AFL-CIO Executive Council – on behalf of the entertainment unions and guilds affiliated with the AFL-CIO – unanimously adopted a statement that provides a detailed analysis of the impact of intellectual property theft on American workers. Titled “Piracy is a Danger to Entertainment Professionals,” we think it’s worth a read. Check out the release and statement here.

Nobody Stole The Pie

March 03, 2010

“A little bit, a little bit, a little bit won’t hurt.”

Industry analysts, executives, critics, and academics have been debating the impact of digital piracy for a decade.  During that period, the U.S. music industry fell from nearly $15 billion annually to $8.5 billion.  While a quickly growing digital market helped offset the decline in physical sales, and great strides were made constraining the growth in illegal P2P traffic, still roughly 4 out of 5 digital music downloads in the U.S. are via P2P and other unauthorized services.  Some pundits have ascribed the problems solely to the industry, but you would think by now there should be no doubt that the online theft of music has caused significant harm.

How wonderful that such intricate questions can be so artfully distilled in a classic children’s storybook!  For any of you that have not read it, “Nobody Stole the Pie” (by Sonia Levitin) tells the story of the town of Little Digby and its giant annual lollyberry pie.  When one year the celebrated pie is gone, all the townsfolk who had picked away at it bit by bit claim it was “Not I” who stole the pie.

According to SoundScan, the top 10 albums in 2009 sold a total of 21 million copies, and the top 10 tracks totaled 36 million paid downloads.  But the top 10 albums in 1999 totaled 55 million in sales.  Even with digital track sales factored in, those top sellers fell by more than 50%.  In the last 10 years, the major record labels’ direct employment in the United States fell from about 25,000 people in 1999 to less than 10,000 today – a drastic reduction of over 60% in people who enable the creation and development of new music.

In the music industry, it takes the investment of many peoples’ money, effort, and time to create the songs and albums we all get to choose from and enjoy.  Since most acts never even reach the breakeven point in sales, music labels need to operate like venture capitalists and count on the successes to subsidize the continued development of many artists and releases that may never break out of the red.  And it’s easy to ignore the harm being done when you’re only stealing one copy.  

Music companies continue to develop more ways for fans to enjoy their favorite artists and songs legitimately - and provide additional sources of revenue.  But when more music is obtained illegally, and less money is available to invest in finding, developing, and recording new artists, the resources available for the next round are diminished.  So if the investments dry up, and fewer new artists are able to be developed, will filesharers who stole bit by bit look at each other and say it was “Not I” who stole the pie?

Joshua P. Friedlander
VP Research
Recording Industry Association of America

Illegally Downloading A Charity Album?

March 02, 2010

On the heels of the encouraging news high that the “Hope for Haiti Now” charity album became the first all-digital record to top Billboard’s 200 music sales chart, we’ve also learned that there is a group of P2P users who are uploading and downloading the charity album illegally.    

As the “Reaching new lows – charity album piracy” post on James Gannon’s IP, Innovation and Culture blog notes, the album is now widely available on illicit BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and more.  The posting highlights a truly ugly side of P2P piracy – the undermining of humanitarian fundraising efforts via online theft of the “Hope for Haiti Now” compilation.  So much for the notion that illegal downloading (“sharing”) is an effort to help advance the plight of artists.

If fans really want to help, the album is available at a number of legal music sites like iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon MP3 and Napster.  All proceeds from album sales on those sites will go to charity.  And that album isn’t all.  Additionally there’s the “We Are the World 25 for Haiti" remake and charity single recorded by the a group of Artists for Haiti and executive producers Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, Paul Haggis and Wyclef Jean.  There’s also the “Download to Donate for Haiti” album by Music for Relief, a non-profit organization established by rock band Linkin Park in to help victims of natural disasters. “Download to Donate for Haiti” features a compilation of unreleased music by Linkin Park, Dave Matthews Band, Alanis Morissette, Slash, The All-American Rejects and others.  

We hope that fans will think twice about where they buy their music, but especially charity albums.  As always, check in at riaa.com for some of the more popular online music sources here.