Letters - An Artist, A Record Store Owner, and A Music Fan Offer Their Two Cents

Record Store Owners Caught in Middle

First off, my name is Chris and Iím an independent music retailer just north of Atlanta. Iíve been visiting MP3 Newswire rather frequently the past year trying to keep up with the digital music scene since it obviously can affect my livelihood. After reading some of your articles I can appreciate how youíd like to see digital music readily available for everyone and used as a tool to promote music in the same way radio does.

Unfortunately, itís not that simple. With radio, we get to sample the music, but when the song is over, weíre left with nothing but the desire to hear that song again. Thatís promoting music and spurring sells. However, with the mp3, thereís no need to buy the cdÖthe song is accessible to you. Why would you want to leave the house and pay for something you already have? is the mindset of the customers I once had who now own computers with cd burners.

I canít tell you how many old faces I come across in public and when I ask him where they have been, they just smile and tell me they got a burner, or have a friend who burns cdís for them. Thereís no defense for that. What am I gonna tell them? ďNo, donít spend fifty cents on the blank cd when you can buy the real thing from me for $20.Ē

The truth is that music piracy is affecting music sales and if some changes arenít made, Iíll give it ten years before we see a new market for music purchasing. Is that the direction we want to get into? I canít answer that, but I do know that for you, or anyone to come out and say that music downloading helps sales is foolish. Donít believe me? Get in the trenches and see for yourself. Perhaps people need to realize that the artists and labels arenít the only ones who suffer from downloadable music. My plateís getting emptier each year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Chris Maniscalco

New Business Models Will Replace Old.

The record industry is perfectly aware that the great majority of downloaders use this to try before they buy, a sane idea given the price of music CDs. They do NOT need to be convinced of this. Just because statements are used for propaganda purposes doesn't mean that anybody either in or out of RIAA labels actually BELIEVES them. What the people IN the business do believe is that downloading not controlled by them MUST END or they will personally be out of jobs. So since they can't get consumers to go along, they're going to the Feds to enshrine their business models in law.

The idea that "if record labels only understood that MP3 downloads on P2P/Internet Radio networks reduce promotional costs" is false and dangerous to the new music community.

Their attacks on P2P and Internet Radio are based on the fact that there is no barrier to entry for an independent artist, that "just anybody" can upload to P2P and "just anybody" can submit a track to an Internet radio station. They do not want *any* channels likely to be used by a listener to exist that they do not completely control. Otherwise, the listener might buy from an indie artist instead of one who makes them money.

So the argument that "My interpretation of Charneski's data and the prior research of others supports the conclusion that Online downloads have promotional effects akin to radio, making it a powerful venue to push, not hurt, record sales. That is the opportunity being missed here." doesn't represent potential opportunity to them, it represents the end of their business model and the chance to take up honest work.

At this point, an artist can build a complete online music / band merchandise store without the help of a major recording label very inexpensively and with the right choice of vendors, the only up front cost is going to be buying UPC barcodes.

ALL a major record label can offer a musician is the chance to get her tunes to the public and brick and mortar distribution, and working capital at a ruinous cost. For artists who are not already well-known to the public, Internet and gig distribution makes a lot more sense, and they can make a few bucks instead of a few cents per disk by doing it this way.

Record labels need to be in a position to tell a musician "You make a living with us or not at all."

A musician with access to Internet Radio and P2P for promotional channels can afford to respond with rude laughter and have a better chance of making a good living from music than anybody who signs with a major label and doesn't become a superstar. A musician whose only chance to get access to the public is via Clear Channel and Infinity will get that exposure via RIAA company payoffs to "independent promoters" pushing radio station add lists or not at all.

The differences between MP3 download distributors and the record industry are irreconcilable short of a massive change to the record industry business model which requires a steady stream of platinum from their artists to survive, and we're about a year away from the last bit of critical technology required to make that possible (terabyte media in CD/DVD size disks) even if anybody working for major labels today was intelligent enough to understand that there are alternative ways for them to make money and coexist with modern technology.

I expect the old record companies to be replaced with new ones built around the new technologies, and they'll be delighted if musicians who work with them "only" sell 10K copies a year. The new companies will be actively promoting MP3 (they'll *need* lower promotional costs) and using it to push the old ones into history.


Vow to Never Buy a CD Again.

I read your article saying that people who download music also buy records. That may be true for the moment but things are changing. The only reason a teen w/ a computer will buy a cd is b/c they don't have a way to take the music w/ them. Once these teens get enough money for a mp3 player (say a nomad) they won't buy cd's very often.

How do I know? I was once a teen who spent tons of money on cd's when the cd was new. Now I am a 31 year old adult who vows never to buy a cd again. Why? A couple of reasons: 1) CD's have not dropped in price as was promised when the format first came out and thus I feel no guilt when downloading. 2) I can afford all the mp3 players I need (my car stereo plays mp3 and I have a portable) 3) If my entire collection is lost or stolen I can download it at no cost (hell it only takes a few hours to set up the search list and leave the computer running while I go to work).

As todays teens get older they will do the same thing. If nothing is done (and I hope it isn't) the record industry will crumble and other industries will be affected. Already we see playstations being sold on ebay that can play copied games. As dvd recorders become cheaper people will simply rent then burn thier favorite movies (the tech for downloading a movie simply isn't good enough to make it worth my time).

Thanks for reading,




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