RIAA: Fostering the Climate

EvolveSo I got to thinking about some of the stuff right here on this page. About the RIAA suing some woman over filesharing. About not feeling particularly engaged and/or appropriate when attending live shows. About performers who have been around for a hell of a long time and aren’t a long time gone. And I start thinking. . . .

Like what’s the situation with the RIAA, which says on its website about itself: “Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members’ creative and financial vitality. Its members are the record companies that comprise the most vibrant national music industry in the world.” Now, maybe I’m being nitpicky, but if I was the person who wrote that first quoted sentence, I suppose this sentence would have started: “Now, maybe he’s being nitpicky. . . .” Then, before the sentence is over, it goes from describing itself as an object to moving to the plural possessive (“our”). Maybe the RIAA’s case isn’t as solid as it might seem if its lawyers are as ept as its copywriters. And did they buy a new thesaurus?: “vitality. . . vibrant.” Va-va-voom!

Let’s think about that statement for a moment: “a business and legal climate that supports our members’ creative and financial vitality.” There’s something a little curious about that. The members that are being cited are music companies. Labels. At the risk of offending the proprietor of this site, I’m not so sure that corporations have “creative. . .vitality.” “Financial vitality,” ideally, but “creative”? Yes, as a matter of law, a corporation is, in effect, treated as an individual, but flesh-and-blood individuals are (or aren’t) creative, legal fictions aren’t. Note that there is a concern about the “business and legal climate” that is supposed to give rise to this creativity. What’s going to grow? Profits. Forget about a thousand flowers blooming. That’s got nothing to do with it. Then there’s the “most vibrant national music industry in the world.” Is that the echo of jackboots? Don’t get me wrong. I have a notion of how the game is played. A company goes into business because it wants to make money. If you pilfer from said company, then they’re going to come down on you like a ton of bricks. Doesn’t everyone know some poor bastard who, at one point in his (or her, which I guess would make that “bitch”) Wonder years, picked up a candy bar or something similarly not-expensive and slipped it into a pocket. . .and ended up in a room with the store manager and cops? Is a record company going to be any different? Is a whole group of record companies that are banded together to give rise to a “national music industry” going to be any kinder? Want to buy a bridge in Brooklyn?

Now to turn to Kristy Eldredge’s piece on walking away from live shows. Strikes me that among other reasons besides those she has for not being all that enchanted by attending shows has a little something to do with the “business and legal climate.” If we except the small shows in small venues by bands that are on small labels, then isn’t it likely that the music at these shows—big shows in big venues that are by bands that are on big labels (even if the label seems to be small, odds are that it is owned by a big company)—will be pro forma because it is being produced because of the need to address business and financial issues? Not that it isn’t enjoyable or interesting or moving or any of the rest. But let’s face it: the fundamental reason why the band or performer in question is able to be playing at that football stadium is because of the calculated ROI, pure and simple. Maybe we’d be doing ourselves favors by staying home.

Then the long-time performers. Here’s something to ask yourself: Is there a band that you loved when you were, say, 15 (note the implicit assumption that you aren’t 14 or younger) that you can listen to now with the same appreciation—nay, reverence—with which you once did? Or do you sort of get this sense that, well, once upon a time it was good, and it still isn’t all that bad, but. . .? The music is still the same. You aren’t. Which is why it is somewhat puzzling to me how performers who have been around a long time (or who have gone and then return) can continue to play music from their back pages and get embraced by their fans from days gone by. I can imagine little as audibly uncomfortable than, say, an evening listening to a band playing an entire show of music that was the music that I heard the band play when we were both a hell of a lot younger. It would be like one of those dreams wherein you realize that you’ve missed (or about to take a) test and you’re completely unprepared, anyway, even though you haven’t been in school for years. The music may be same as it ever was, but you aren’t. None of us are. And it isn’t because of the climate.

4 thoughts on “RIAA: Fostering the Climate”

  1. Good article – I’ve often felt that there is a window for a person to fall in love with a band. That window depends on lots of factors: age, living/working situation, heartbreak, etc., but once you’ve missed it you may never be able to get into them.

    After a while, even bands you once liked no longer apply to your life in the same way. I can listen to my favorite tracks, but that’s why I can’t listen to a lot of the albums I used to love all the way through anymore. Maybe it’s because my attention span has become so truncated in the last couple (!) of years, or maybe it’s because with mp3s and iPods it’s just better to put together your own mix.

    The live experience is different tho. I still love going to a great show, it’s loud enuf to keep my attention, and the engagement with the artist usually sucks me right back in. I love Gang of Four, but can’t really be bothered to listen to “Entertainment” all the way thru. I can’t get all the way through the new Strokes album in one sitting, but I didn’t want either of their shows to end last time I saw them.

    The RIAA sucks, they are a money-grubbing machine, blind to their customers’ wants and needs. They’ve convinced themselves they have to preserve their old business model because they can’t figure out a new one for today’s climate. I think it was a Michelob add that said, “Times change, and your tastes change, too.” Deal with it, everybody.

  2. I still love live shows, too. Except for that annoying jerk who gets drunk and shouts out “I love you Brendan” or “Freebird!”

    The most striking arrogance of the RIAA is that they actually believe they’re helping artists by going after file-sharers. All they’re really doing is creating antogonism between people who like music and the music industry.

    We’d all be wise to learn a little Copyleft. Or to realize that all of this is impermanent and nobody owns anything in a true sense. You still have to eat, but don’t act like you own something you don’t, Pharoah.

  3. O.k. Not to be an RIAA apologist, but since when has music, or any art for that matter, been “free”. It is, in fact, owned by the person who made it. Just like a painting or book, music is a creation of someones thoughts and ideas. I don’t see the media heralding art thieves or people who steal from Barnes and Noble. Sure, the record companies probobly take more than they should, by the artists also count on record sales and concert attendence in order to reach a certain level to where they can have more control over the creative and distribution process. Not all bands are content in wallowing in the underground being paid in beers.

    I’m not a huge fan of downloading either. In my opinion it only dilutes the music landscape. The more people that download “singles” instead of buying an album, the more the industry is driven by crappy bands who can make only one good song. Why invest in a band that can put together a catalogue when we can make a quick buck on a lesser band with one good song. If it’s the price that scares you, go to a used record store and pay $5 instead of $13. It also breeds a whole generation of “passive” music fans. I prefer the experience of “owning” a piece of the band by purchasing the album. I get the lyrics and liner notes and feel like a true music fan. Sure, you get your rotten apples from time to time but that’s the risk you take.

    The music is not yours, it’s not supposed to be free. The more you pilfer, the less quality music we will recieve.

    By the way, anyone want me to make them a copy of the Arctic Monkeys? It’s really good.

  4. dunno if you’re serious or a record exec or something, but either way you’re wrong. People who just download singles are the same people who woulda listened to them on the radio (which is only siongles, and nobody’s complaining about that ruining record sales). Shitty bands who can only make one good song have existed for a long time. If a band has more good material a lot of people who are exposed to the good song may actually go out and buy it – certainly more than would’ve if they hadn’t heard of them at all.

    Oh and btw, liner notes and lyrics are ok, but the music is what I’m listening to in my car or on my ipod onr cd player, and you’re crazy if you think that fluff is gonna drive the industry.

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