The Null Device

The turd in a can again

An article looking at why the recording industry hates web radio, and wants to wipe it out with prohibitive royalty rates. It comes down to the classic 'turd-in-a-can' business model: it's cheaper to manufacture Britneys and Limp Bizkits ("blockbuster artists" as they're known) than to provide quality and variety; if there's a varied music ecology, consumers expect to find music to cater to their varying tastes, and the recording racket can't sell everyone the same homogeneous rubbish. So, it makes perfect business sense to do their best to kill off the ecology, close off alternative channels and ensure that consumers are a captive audience conditioned to accept that there's no alternative to what Clear Channel is playing.
The smoking gun comes from testimony of an RIAA-backed economist who told the government fee panel that a dramatic shakeout in Webcasting is "inevitable and desirable because it will bring about market consolidation."

Once they cut off the alternatives, the consumer will have no choice but to buy the turd in the can and tell himself that that's what he wanted. Or so the theory goes; of course, people could just stop buying records altogether, even when their Microsoft Trusted PCs don't allow them to listen to anything they haven't paid for, resulting in the recording racket collapsing, dying in the scorched wasteland it has created. (via Techdirt)

There are 6 comments on "The turd in a can again":

Posted by: Paulo http:// Mon Jul 8 14:46:28 2002

And isn't it ironic that this article is appearing in MSNBC, of all places?

Posted by: Jimbob Mon Jul 8 23:54:57 2002

If there was a real, defined effort to wipe out "alternative" content going on, wouldn't we see that reflected in stopping support for other forms of media, ie. community/college radio? As far as I know, community radio stations like 3D Radio here in Adelaide are still being sent new releases by the big record companies. Besides which, the diversity of music offered to the market (by both majors and minors) is greater now than at any time previously.

I'm not trying to defend major labels or anything, but I think it's more of a case of fear of the unknown, and rallying for increased income, than any conspiracy to destroy independent talent.

Posted by: acb Tue Jul 9 07:07:57 2002

The RIAA cannot afford to openly declare war on alternative stations; they'd sue, and even if they got steamrolled in courts, lawmakers would notice and be less sympathetic. However, using their casting vote (as it were) to help along the process of "market consolidation" won't attract so much attention. After all, they're just stopping those web pirates from ripping them off, right?

As for giversity being greater now than ever before, do you have anything to back that up? I've seen comments from many figures saying the exact opposite; that the consolidation of the recording industry in the 90s (15 companies became 5) and of radio (Clear Channel in the US) has produced a bland, sterile market.

Posted by: Jimbob Tue Jul 9 13:25:18 2002

Maybe I'm biased to be living NOW and not THEN, but you know, you get the impression that, in the 60s for instance, there were The Beatles and there were The Stones. There was no such thing as an "alternative" or "indie" scene, there was no where near the diversity of musical styles. There were not thousands of minor labels putting out underground stuff - just more majors (who have since consolidated into MAJOR majors). You don't get an entire population of a city coming out to see the touring pop stars like in those days - you'll get get a shopping mall appearance at the most. Look at the way recording studios were run in the 60s, ie. Motown, where recording "artists" were designed, had songs written for them, had their images controlled just as much as today, if not more. People complain about the industry wanting to create a stream of N-Sync / Britney to generate mass income, and that's true, but it's been that way since the 40s!

Certainly the corporations controlling the music industry are more con

Posted by: Jimbob Tue Jul 9 13:26:08 2002

...solidated than ever before, but I don't think the actual music that's OUT there has ever been as diverse as it is at the moment.

Posted by: acb Tue Jul 9 16:33:55 2002

It depends where you're looking from. If you're a kid in an outer suburb without a credit card, your choices are a lot more limited than if you, say, live in the inner city. The furthest out you'll go is major-label "alternative" that ends up in the local megastore, and perhaps the odd more outré release that gets there by accident (I remember the Knox City JB Hi-Fi well...), and unless you buy things at random, the only new music you hear is on radio. Even if you're lucky enough to have good indie radio (as Melbourne does in spades), there's a limit to how many programs will fit in a week, and which subgenres, scenes, etc., will be represented. Webcasting has no such limits.

Mind you, outside of major cities with indie scenes, it's even worse; other than commercial rubbish, the only choice is either making frequent excursions to somewhere civilised, getting the hell out of dodge for good, or MP3 sharing/web radio.

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