I selected some of my favorite passages from the excellent text by Rob Sheridan:
When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide.
If you have read it already, you can enjoy it again. If you haven’t yet, hope these passages stimulate you to click the link above and read the full text, definitely recommended!
They had a chance to move forward, to evolve with technology and address the changing needs of consumers – and they didn’t. Instead, they panicked – they showed their hand as power-hungry dinosaurs, and they started to demonize their own customers, the people whose love of music had given them massive profits for decades.
Newspapers are a good example: It used to be that people read newspapers to get the news. That was the distribution method, and newspaper companies controlled it. You paid for a newspaper, and you got your news, that’s how it worked. Until the internet came along, and a new generation of innovative people created websites, and suddenly anyone could distribute information, and they could distribute it faster, better, more efficiently, and for free. Obviously this hurt the newspaper industry, but there was nothing they could do about it, because they didn’t own the information itself – only the distribution method. Their only choice was to innovate and find ways to compete in a new marketplace.
lobbies and fear
But shady political maneuvers and scare tactics are all the RIAA and other anti-piracy groups have left, because people who download music illegally now number in the hundreds of millions, and they can’t sue everyone.
In this sense, Oink was not only an absolute paradise for music fans, but it was unquestionably the most complete and most efficient music distribution model the world has ever known.
majors’s lost chance
If the music industry had found a way to capitalize on the power, devotion, and innovation of its own fans the way Oink did, it would be thriving right now instead of withering.
Here’s an interesting aside: The RIAA loves to complain about music pirates leaking albums onto the internet before they’re released in stores – painting the leakers as vicious pirates dead set on attacking their enemy, the music industry. But you know where music leaks from? From the fucking source, of course – the labels!
Through sites like Oink, the amount and variety of music I listen to has skyrocketed, opening me up to hundreds of artists I never would have experienced otherwise. I’m now fans of their music, and I may not have bought their CDs, but I would have never bought their CD anyway, because I would have never heard of them!
But it’s not so much that they shut Oink down that boils my blood, it’s the fucking bullshit propaganda they put out there. If the industry tried to have some kind of compassion – if they said, “we understand that these are just music fans trying to listen to as much music as they can, but we have to protect our assets, and we’re working on an industry-wide solution to accommodate the changing needs of music fans”…
The press release says: “This was not a case of friends sharing music for pleasure.” Wh – what?? That’s EXACTLY what it was!
Radiohead was “experimenting,” releasing a low-quality MP3 version of an album only to punish the fans who paid for it by later releasing a full-quality CD version with extra tracks.
Radiohead was moving in the right direction, but if they really want to start a revolution, they need to place the “pay-what-you-want” digital album on the same content and quality level as the “pay-what-we-want” physical album.
Until the walls finally come down, we’re in what will inevitably be looked back on as a very awkward, chaotic period in music history – fans are being arrested for sharing the music they love, and many artists are left helpless, unable to experiment with new business models because they’re locked into record contracts with backwards-thinking labels.