July 30, 2007
It’s a marriage made in heaven. But, as usual, the Recording Industry Association of America, infamously known as the RIAA, is taking that marriage straight to hell.
I’m talking of course about Internet radio, the perfect platform for distribution of creative expression around the world, one offered at a low cost that made conventional radio a thing of the past. A mere decade ago, if you were looking for a radio station that rotated anything except mainstream Top 40 playlists, you were left out in the cold. Well, as far as radio was concerned, that is. Fans of pioneering P2P sites likes Napster kept everyone else well-fed on a steady diet of easily downloadable music catered specifically to their tastes, which they then plugged into any number of players for even easier listening. But those looking not to download but only to listen to something different than what they could have on increasingly consolidated standard radio networks didn’t have much of an alternative.
But that was before Internet radio went supernova. As more and more web-savvy publishers started building their own sites and playing whatever they felt like playing–even a nonstop rotation of Christmas tunes–mainstream radio, and the music industry along with it, went belly up with irrelevance.
The question begged to be answered: Why should listeners be straitjacketed into formats they want nothing to do with, when they could log on to any indie webcast, like the thousands that could be found on Live365 and similar netcasters, and listen to exactly what they were looking for? Better yet, why would they ever buy a CD again, when not only is it a precious waste of plastic and paper, but altogether narrow compared to the massive playlists they can beam directly to their stereos from their iPods or other portable players? Why, in the end, would they ever go back to the major labels and mainstream radio at all?
Here’s an easy answer: Because they are forced to. That has been the modus operandi of the RIAA ever since they nailed Napster to the wall. Their next target, dear listener, is you, and they’ve spent no shortage of millions to convince you that, rather than a passive user and promoter of entertainment, you are a criminal worthy of prosecution. As the popular blog Recording Industry vs. the People puts it, the RIAA’s strategy is nothing less than to “monopolize digital music by redefining copyright law, through the commencement of tens of thousands of extortionate lawsuits against ordinary working people.”