The Null Device

RIP Recording Racket

If this WIRED Magazine article is right, the recording industry as we know it will be dead much sooner than we expect, and it's not just the Napatistas nickel-and-diming them to death with their MP3 sharing programs: new technology is democratising music production and distribution and making it easier for artists to be independent of major labels, while the labels are still stuck in a business model which assumes that they have the whip hand, the major labels are owned by a handful of gigantic corporations and dominated by conservative bean-counters concerned with short-term risk minimisation, and even if they got their choice of draconian new copyright laws with severe penalties for violation from the government (most of whom don't particularly like the degenerate hot-tubbing filthmongers in the recording industry anyway), it'd be too late.

If the majors collapse, or are reduced to a shadow of their former selves, that could be good. It could mean less homogeneity, clearing the deadwood and allowing a new diversity to flourish. Then again, that's sort of what happened with the rise of grunge in the early 90s, or so The Sell-In suggests, and it ultimately got assimilated into the system. Chances are, the cycle would repeat itself; though hopefully, the next time around, with artists having more autonomy, the system would look more like book publishing (where authors retain their copyrights and have more control) rather than the pimplike racket of the recording industry (where the legal "author" of a piece of music is the multinational corporation who lent (that's right, lent; it all comes out of the artist's share of royalties) the artist the money to get it recorded, and contracts give companies draconian levels of control over the artists' careers). The present system is riddled with scams and systemic corruption (a throwback to the days when the nascent recording industry was dominated by organised crime), and it's about time for a change.

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