In a recent interview with a USA Today reporter, Hilary Rosen, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said, in reaction to a line of questioning related to the nullification of Napster through the efforts of that group, “Consumers want to know their access to music is going to give them the most choice, the best value and connection with their artists.”
Let’s break that down.
I’m not precisely sure what “connection with their artists” means. I always figured that this was the sort of thing that Tiger Beat—er—Rolling Stone provides. To say nothing of posters, T-shirts, bath towels, hats, and the other objectifying objects of today’s musical professional.
As for “choice,” I think that this is one area that the Internet certainly provides an advantage, but one that is curiously enervated. Look what’s happened to small record stores. Actually, you’d have a tough time looking, because they have, by and large, disappeared. Their economic model is being crushed by the likes of Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. While those big stores once offered a variety of product, of late it is clear that only the “hits” are stocked. Try to find something that was released the week before last and you’re probably out of luck. The reason why the small record outlets have all but vanished is simple to understand. The majority of music consumers buy hit records (which explains why they are “hits”). The big stores not only have other product lines to help contribute to profitability (from irons to audio players to big screen TVs), but they are also able to secure large quantities of hit discs: Buy in bulk and cut a better deal. So the small guys who remain have an exceedingly tough time of it, being largely sustained by GloNo-friendly customers. But before long, many of them will be empty storefronts—or Starbuck’s outlets. And with their passing, choice. Which then leads to a search for the non-hit on the ‘Net. Which may be efficient, but isn’t there something to be said for the physical act of discovery of the obscure in the stacks, something far more satisfying than the mere tap-tap-tap on the keyboard?
Finally, the “best value.” How many people—be they consumers or even recording artists—associate “value” with the way that the recording companies provide product” Whereas the CD format once provided new economies for consumers, it seems that the only economies of interest are related to economies of scale, as the injection molding machines run 24/7, chunking out still another N’Sync, Britney, _______________ (fill in the blank) hit-maker. Prices creep ever-upward with determination.
Who is well served by the status quo? Only those who assure that it remains so.