Letters

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


Salon Staff
June 13, 2003 11:30PM (UTC)

[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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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."

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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.

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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?

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-- 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."

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Bullshit.

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?

Precisely.

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


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