"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" Readers respond to Jack Brown's "Mexico's Music Business Meltdown."


[Read the story.]

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!

Forgive me but the music industry’s woes are their own. The industry has been setting its pricing based on what they want to make, not on what the marketplace is willing to pay. When you have pricing gaps that are $9 (which is dirt cheap compared to what labels are charging here) for a legal copy and $0.80 for an illegal copy, it should tell you something about the record company’s pricing structure. Maybe they should make better decisions than to pay Mariah Carey $28 million for absolutely nothing (other than to get out of their contract).

The recording industry’s business model has been to monopolize an artist’s output and charge whatever they like (since you couldn’t get the product anywhere else) and then bribe and control (you can call it anything you like, I’m just using words that describe what it really is) all the outlets for general broadcast of music. First, with the advent of the Internet the available outlets have exploded and with the consolidation of the broadcast media the cost of bribery has skyrocketed. Very bad news for the labels.

The days of economic profits for the music industry are over. No longer will the labels be able to spend whatever they like and pass the bill on to the customer. They will have to start acting like a real business where they have to keep a sharp eye on what they spend because the real world is telling them that they are already charging way too much. If they charged $4 a CD instead of $9, they’d probably sell a whole lot more CDs.

It would also be helpful if the industry didn’t sell crap. Commercial CDs are pressed, not burnt. As my daughter will tell you, she’s never had one of our burnt CDs go bad but a commercial CD will go tits up at the drop of a scratch. Thank God for CD burners.

And finally, can you name any other industry where people expect to make money over and over again from the same product? For example, an airplane company invests billions in developing a new airplane. It is an intellectual and creative burst of incredible proportions. The company will amortize that cost of that burst over X number of airplanes. When they arrive at X+1 airplanes, they stop amortizing. The recording industry, on the other hand, wants to charge that amortization ad infinitum. The marketplace is telling them they won’t pay for it.

– Jeffrey P. Harrison

It always amazes me how a premise can be stretched to an illogical extreme.

You’re transplanting a third-world mentality on American attitudes and standards.

Most certainly there are (and there always will be) a certain segment of the population with contempt towards copyrights — that’s why it was invented in the first place.

But in America and Europe, where a CD does not cost a week’s wages; and where one does not have to choose between the purchase of music and food for a week, the assertion that music piracy will be the demise of the record industry is false.

First of all, shrewd marketing can do a lot to deflect any damage. It’s time record executives become creative, and offer extras with a CD purchase that cannot be found anywhere else. A limited-edition poster or artist’s renderings/prints would add a lot of perceived value, as would a DVD featurette of studio outtakes or the artist at work, or even a video performance. That is the least the music industry can do for loyal fans.

Lastly, the perception that burning has made a dent in the profits of the music industry in the United States and other developed countries is a farce, and has yet to be proven.

Americans are consumers at heart, and just like some people will go to see a movie and purchase the DVD, and still watch the cable broadcast; so it is that most people who burn CD’s end up purchasing the “store copy” if merely for aesthetic value.

I know that every book I’ve borrowed and liked has resulted in the purchase of everything by the author, and the same goes for burned CD’s.

– Valda Didier

Jack Brown’s article on music piracy in Mexico makes the same old assumptions that the recording industry wants made. The author quotes a recording executive who says, “Apart from the economic questions, there’s something the authorities are just starting to get, which is the damage to the musical culture of Mexico … Now there isn’t creation of new talents, new figures of music. The Mexican musical tradition is being lost.”

The assumption here is that the musical culture of Mexico (or any country, for that matter) is nearly synonymous what the recording industry is developing. Without the recording industry, there is no Mexican musical culture.

To quote my grandmother, Hogwash!

Here’s another interpretation: The musical culture of Mexico has been artificially stifled by the business-motivated decisions of a small cache of recording executives. If it can’t make money, it isn’t “culture.”

Mexican music was made for generations before a recording industry existed. It will continue if a recording industry goes away. Artists made a living before the recording industry … they’ll find a way to make a living if it goes away. They may not all be rich, but they’ll find a way to make a living like the rest of us.

– Frank LaFone

They still don’t get it.

The people who are hurt by piracy are those providing a service, the distribution, production and promotion of music. However in the new world these three things are no longer needed.

In a world where I can download a song and burn it myself, I don’t need distribution and production. When I can explore and find what I like myself, I don’t need promotion.

The three main reasons to have record companies are obsolete.

Artists themselves simply need to approach the new system with open arms. Ask for micropayments for music, and allow downloads from your own site. Tour. You can still make money.

As for the record companies? They are a dying industry, no longer needed, and should be allowed to go the way of the lamplighters. Just because an industry is dying, doesn’t mean we have to save it. It is inefficient and overly expensive. Let it die, and let music be free to find its own place in the new world. Serious artists with more on their mind than making millions will still make a living, and will still make good money. Bands in it only for the glory and insane monetary rewards may not get all they used to. Is anyone really sad about that?

– Jolard

Here you have a whole black-market industry, with entrepreneurs using dozens of burners to manufacture CDs and then offer them for sale, and Jack Brown can’t tell the difference between that and file sharers? This market could be controlled by rather obvious enforcement means. But file-sharers don’t make money on their shares, and, despite the best efforts of the RIAA, will not be erased from the market, only out-competed. Sell a good CD for five or six bucks, or an enhanced disk for $10, and your market is safe.

– Jim Hassinger

Jack Brown writes: “[the music industry] haven’t really followed up with the other, get-cheap, half. If they do, it’s going to be hard times for American rock stars.”


The music industry has been a bloated, greedy, self-serving maw for entirely too long, and the first layer of flab that ought to be flensed from the armature are the lawyers. Lawyers don’t create content, or “product.” They do things like this instead.

And, frankly, the established stars don’t have a thing to worry about, it’s the folks who are trying to be the Next Big Thing that would suffer — who are the labels more willing to screw over, Madonna [or Mariah or Celine or Lars] or some unknown?


It’s time that the record industry took a look at itself honestly — sales are down because they’re offering fewer titles of less-compelling music with higher prices than any time in recent memory. If you offer a lousy product at an unappealing price, people will stay away in droves.

Mr. Brown said it himself — much of the “pirated” music is local — product that was probably getting short shrift from the labels to begin with.

Ultimately, the artists may be getting paid less, but are being heard more.

– Rafe Brox

This is a great article with respect to the alarming breakdown of the Mexican music industry and what this portends for the U.S. In the sense that pirating will mean the end of an industry full of good, hardworking people, this is sad.

However, I was surprised at the implication that piracy will mean the end of musical tradition for Mexico or any other culture. I think the opposite is true. That’s the good part about the music industry’s possible fall.

Music was here long before record companies existed and will be here long after these companies close their doors. The music industry stagnates musical development by focusing on a few artists and styles. Artists focus on popularity and money instead of their art. So, I won’t lose much sleep if U.S. record sales go down by 50 percent tomorrow.

I know that artists have to eat like the rest of us, but I don’t believe they have to be rich. Let the music industry move from a product base to a service base. That is, let the artists make money from appearances, not selling copies of their work. All artists can distribute their music on the Internet for free, as many are doing now. This scenario would put both the record company execs and the music pirates out of business. It’s a win-win for all music lovers.

– Keita Broadwater

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>