The Digital Music Revolution

By Jon Newton 1/20/05

The snowman cometh - in the shape of the Big Four record label’s IFPI (International Federation of Phonographic Industries)

The PR / faux police agency has a certain panache lacked by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), its brother agency in the US.

The former has a brutal Mafia feel to it whereas the latter’s style is that of a practiced and successful confidence trickster - smooth and oily. And its latest con – that there’s a healthy online corporate music market - is being swallowed whole by the mainstream media.

The Olympus m:robe MR-500i Digital Music/Video Player is available on Amazon

Downloads Show Impact of Digital Music Revolution, says The Scotsman in the UK. Legal music downloads 'take off', BBC News Online, Global Digital Music Market Booms in 2004, Forbes, Online Music Stores Break Into Mainstream, Reuters, Millions join download revolution, This is London, UK. And so on, ad nauseum.

And it's all complete and utter nonsense based on a single report from one Big Music-owned organization now run by former UMG boss John Kennedy.

Here are the four principal elements to the IFPI’s first outright con of 2005:

Legal music sites quadrupled to over 230 in 2004

A major misrepresentation. There’s only one site, to all intents and purposes. And that’s Apple’s iTunes. The other 229 corporate music ‘services’ are what and where? But even if there were 230, their significance would pale absolutely against what’s happening in the real world of online music.

Available music catalogue has doubled in 12 months to 1 million songs

One million songs? From the jam-packed music catalogues dating back decades and controlled by the Big Four, EMI (UK), UMG (France) Warner (US) and Sony BMG (Japan, Germany)? One million is a tiny fraction of what could, and should, be available through the corporate sites touted by the IFPI. Nor does the organization point out that the songs that are available are lossy, heavily compressed mp3s, not original CD tracks. And they’re being peddled, on average, at a shocking dollar a download where they should be 10 or 20 cents at the most. On the other hand, online music fans are flocking in their hundreds of millions to the independent sites where endless catalogues of brand-new songs from brand-new artists, not to mention the increasing numbers of established artists, are sold or given away free. The people who are listening to the music would gladly pay for Big Music’s offerings. They’re just not willing to be ripped off as they’ve been for the last four or five decades in the offline world where the music industry sees customers as mindless 'consumers' who'll buy whatever is dished out.

Paid-for downloads up more than tenfold to over 200 million

The implication here is the 230 sites are doing gang-buster business. They’re not. The 200 million tracks waved by the IFPI are 99.9% iTunes sales, and they've accumulated since the site went up the year before last. These 'sales' don't amount to a hill of beans compared to what's happening on the p2p networks. The number of people logged on simultaneously at any minute of any day grew to nearly 10 million in April 2004, a 30% increase from the same period a year earlier, says an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study. And upwards of one billion songs are moving computer-to-computer every month, says p2p research firm Big Champagne, which provided stats for the OECD's Information Technology Outlook, 2004.

Consumer attitudes more favourable to buying music online

This is an outright lie. The members of the Big Four record cartel members are trying, and failing miserably, to sue people who share music online into buying their cookie-cutter ‘product’. So far, they’ve sued 7,706 ordinary people - next door neighbours. Mothers, fathers, children, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, university students and pupils at elementary schools characterized as hardened criminals - with the active help of the mainstream press. Nor does 'sued' mean 'convicted'. Not one of these cases has been to court for the simple reason those sued can't afford to take on Big Music with its bottomless pockets and legions of expert lawyers. Moreover, these people are sharing music, not selling it in black-markets around the world, unlike organized criminal counterfeiters and duplicators who have become almost as wealthy as the labels, selling the easily copied CDs and DVDs the recording industry mindlessly churns out in the billions. The victims of Big Music's untrammelled greed would willingly pay for reasonably priced downloads.

In the meanwhile, Digital music now 'easier to buy than steal,' says ABC Online, Australia in a headline from a member of the supposedly objective press.

It also seems IFPI and RIAA are now inter-changeable.

A BBC story has Kennedy stating the IFPI, rather than the RIAA, has launched 7,000 legal actions against "illegal uploaders" including "students, teachers, a nurse, a managing director and computer engineers".


The Olympus m:robe MR-500i Digital Music/Video Player is available on Amazon

Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.


Other MP3 stories:

The Digital Media Winners of 2004
The Digital Media Losers of 2004

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