- The recording industry says downloading music from the Internet is ruining our business, destroying sales and costing artists such as me money.
Costing me money?
I don’t pretend to be an expert on intellectual property law, but I do know one thing: If a record executive says he will make me more money, I’d immediately protect my wallet.
Still, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is now in federal court trying to gain new powers to personally target Internet users in lawsuits for trading music files online. In a motion filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the RIAA is demanding that an Internet service provider, Verizon, turn over the name and contact information of one of its Internet subscribers who, the RIAA claims, might have unauthorized copies of songs on a home computer.
Attacking your own customers because they want to learn more about your products is a bizarre business strategy, one the music industry cannot afford to continue. Yet the RIAA effectively destroyed Napster on such grounds, and now it is using the same crazy logic to take on Internet service providers and even privacy rights.
The RIAA’s claim that the industry and artists are hurt by free downloading is nonsense. Consider my experience: I’m a recording artist who has sold multiple platinum records since the 1960s. My site, janisian.com, began offering free downloads in July. About a thousand people per day have downloaded my music, most of them people who had never heard of me and never bought my CDs.
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On the first day I posted downloadable music, my merchandise sales tripled, and they have stayed that way ever since. I’m not about to become a zillionaire as a result, but I am making more money. At a time when radio playlists are tighter and any kind of exposure is hard to come by, 365,000 copies of my work now will be heard. Even if only 3% of those people come to concerts or buy my CDs, I’ve gained about 10,000 new fans this year.
That’s how artists become successful: exposure. Without exposure, no one comes to shows, and no one buys CDs. After 37 years as a recording artist, when people write to tell me that they came to my concert because they downloaded a song and got curious, I am thrilled.
Who’s really hurt by free downloads? The executives at major labels who twiddled their thumbs for years while company after company begged them to set up ”micropayment” protocols and to license material for Internet-download sales.
Many artists now benefit greatly from the free-download systems the RIAA seeks to destroy. These musicians, especially those without a major-label contract, can reach millions of new listeners with a downloadable song, enticing music fans to buy a CD or come to a concert of an artist they would have otherwise missed.
The RIAA and the entrenched music industry argue that free downloads are threats. The music industry had exactly the same response to the advent of reel-to-reel home tape recorders, cassettes, DATs, minidiscs, VCRs, music videos, MTV and a host of other products and services.
I am not advocating indiscriminate downloading without the artist’s permission. Copyright protection is vital. But I do object to the industry spin that it is doing all this to protect artists. It is not protecting us; it is protecting itself.
I hope the court rejects the efforts of the music industry to assault the Internet and the music fans who use it. Speaking as an artist, I want us to work together — industry leaders, musicians, songwriters and consumers — to make technology work for all of us.