Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Earache is not in the RIAA. We don't sue downloaders.

Question: I was browsing around the RIAA's website and I was rather alarmed to see that Earache is listed as a member of the RIAA. I'd hate to think that smaller independent record labels are joining them. Are you really an RIAA member? From:

Answer: I've never signed my label up to the RIAA because 1) Earache's main base and HQ is here in the UK and RIAA is a US-based Record Biz organisation, plus more importantly, I don't agree with the RIAA's stance on taking downloaders to court, and sueing ordinary people for millions of dollars. It's a legal farce and when people like Jammie Thomas are sued for $1.92 Million for down/uploading/sharing 24 songs, you can be certain it's not done in my name.

For the record though, I do agree with the concept of © Copyright in general and I have no problem protecting the label's catalogue of rights, for instance against the cheap bootleggers which plague the scene, or large companies which use our music without asking. In short, am I against individuals who download a few songs? No. Companies engaged in wholesale stealing? Absolutely.

I just checked and we're not on the list- See RIAA member shitlist HERE

The list of members is quite alarming, it seems to have grown tenfold since the last time I looked, and even includes many well known smallish Indie labels and even tons of bands so small, you would'nt expect them to even really care either way. Are Dropkick Murphys really that fussed? I doubt it.

I think I know what is happening- The 4 (or maybe 3 by the time you read this) major labels are the ones who founded the Recording Industry Association of America, this was an organisation which, quite naturally, was formed to protect their interests.

It seems to me like they have artifically boosted their membership numbers - presumably to lend weight and credence to their legal arguments in court- by including every sub-label, every partially owned label, every distributed label and maybe even every licensed band or track which has ever come their way, as "members".

Since the 1940's the original physical music industry has always been about 'lists'. Everything from the weekly charts to label catalogues have been dutifully collated and listed,because without such care and attention to detail, the industry would have collapsed long ago.

In recent years the whole industry has been digitised and now exists as millions of music files held in huge data werehouses, all tagged with artist, track name, writer, copyright info etc- this is known as the 'meta-data'. Many labels of a certain size and prominence are affiliated with one of the majors in some ways. Earache's meta-data exists within EMI's computers as they do our distro in USA, but crucially EMI don't own the recordings, or any part of this label, actually.

This new, database-driven Music industry 2.0 means that the major labels and the world's leading music websites, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft,Google, Napster, Spotify etc can and do exchange each others meta-data as a trivial exercise, in order to mine it for analytical purposes.

It's not sinister, its just the modern day version of what the industry has been naturally pre-disposed to, and doing for years. But I reckon its the ease of swapping such lists which means errors and exceptions can accumulate, without an actual human doing any checking of the facts. This explains how tiny bands can end up on an RIAA membership list.

People would be suprised how much of everyday modern life is now in the hands of these digital gatekeepers who control access to the golden databases. Your whole life and purchasing history is undoubtedly contained within one already. But they are not always accurate- that's how you get dead people being still sent voting cards making them eligible to vote or the absurd case of 8 year old Mickey Hicks appearing on the FBI Terrorist watch list.


Anonymous said...

Not exactly on topic, but I found it interesting you should mention the likelihood of there only being 3 majors soon - I've said for the last year that if it wasn't for The Beatles, Pink Floyd and NOW albums, EMI would've been sunk long ago (I presume you were referring to them anyway - I work as a buyer in the industry and find them to be the hardest to work with out of all the majors).

They've lost the rights to a lot of big artists recently (Peter Gabriel and Paul McCartney's back catalogues most recently I seem to remember), and now there's issues rights on downloading Pink Floyd stuff - they just seem to be completely shagged.

Anyway, trying to get it somewhat back ON topic, the RIAA is ridiculous. Illegal downloading will never be completely stamped out in this day and age - sure there can be new laws bought in and new regulations, but if people want to do it - they'll always find a way around it. Unfortunately, from my perspective at least, there's a large percentage of folk who wouldn't pay for any sort of entertainment media - be it music, DVDs, movies or games - why pay when you have it for free via broadband and a modded console? I think this is what needs to be addressed for the industries to keep on top of things - as for how... yeah - answers on a postcard.

Brett said...

Earache's been put back on the list.

Ryan Page said...

Just as a general rule, assume the RIAA lies. I had a post on a forum about how relapse was on there, but they aren't even associated with them, but one of their old distributers is. The problem is that the smaller labels can ask them to take their name of it, but the RIAA is a cartel of huge labels, and there's not a lot they can do. It's total bullshit.