Monday, 26 April 2004

Blame Canada? An American would have to find it first

It's great to see that Canada is finally putting themselves on the map. Unbending in their ways, Canadian law has made it legal to download and share music via P2P services. This must be infuriating that ragtag bunch of annoying lobbyists called the RIAA. Their Canadian comrades, the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association), have done everything to get the Canadian government to outlaw the evil P2P sharing system, but the legislation that's in place to make it legal is down to the CRIA.

Ironic losers.

Here's the 411. Back a few years ago, the CRIA realised that musicians were losing money to CD and tape copying. They therefore lobbied for the government to put a surcharge (or levy or the so-called "copy tax") on recordable media - including tapes, CDs, and flash memory and hard drives used in audio devices like the iPod. The effect of this? You're already paying to be a criminal, might as well act like one.

Aside: The problem with this? Most of the money from the levy goes to big-league artists like Bryan Adams and Celine Dion who really don't need it. Fringe artists who don't sell a lot and would benefit from this kinda cash don't really get a look in.

In a recent Canadian ruling, a judge went on to state: "I cannot see a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service."

A similar argument was made about Sony's Betamax machine in the early 80s. It wasn't a source of piracy then, and the inevitable source of revenue from home video (be it Beta, VHS, LD, or DVD) placed a shed load of money into the coffers of the entertainment industry that can't seem to see further into the future than next week.

Glad to see that one piece of dire legislation is putting the knife into the potential for another.

Monday, 5 April 2004

Downloads a-go-go

"Is downloading really bad?" Today the Guardian got in on the debate, publishing a harrowingly badly-written article on whether or not the record industry is right in their prosecution of the hand that feeds them.

Quoting again the Harvard report that rather scatalogically makes the point that downloading ain't all bad, the report also pulls in quotes from industry types like Dave Rowntree, drummer for Blur and spokesman for some acronymed group noone can remember.

It's good to see that people aren't swallowing the crap pill the BPI is shovelling down our throats, and are actually fighting their claims. The only fear I still have is for the used record store. A march down Berwick Street in Soho is like a march down death row. They're not dead yet, but the final meal can't be too far behind.

Cheap Downloads

Not that I condone wasting money on DRM-infested MP3s, but if you are into that kinda thing, it seems upstart Wippit are throwing the first punch in what looks like a very mucky price war.

These files have generally been selling for around 99c (60p) in the US - via sites like iTunes' iShop. In the UK, the conventional wisdom has been to replace the 'c' with a 'p', thus harvesting almost 100 of your British pence for 60p's worth of digital file.

Enter Wippit.

Never the strongest or most widely known product - certainly not up there with Napster or Coke (who run They have lit the flames of a price war by charging folk 29p per file.

Is this good? Time will tell. For every forward thinking initiative in the music world, there's some pigheaded curmudgeon in charge of something he shouldn't be who's intent on making sure nothing productive ever gets done.

In some ways, I hope this works out well. In others, I doubt I'd ever pay for a downloadable file like this, because of the DRM infection and the fact that they're putting my favourite haunts out of business. How exactly do you buy a used album this way?

"Long way from home"

Ah Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Never my favourite 80s band - that would be Duran Duran - I do have a real soft spot in my heart for the scouse five-piece that imploded after two wildly different albums.

Thus it was really nice to see VH1's recent Bands Reunited series focus an episode on getting Mark, Ped, Holly, Paul and Nash back together again for a chat and hopefully a tinker on the old instruments.

That the performance didn't happen was an absolute shame. The look on over-eager Paul Rutherford's face near the end of the show said it all - abject disappointment. This is a man who dropped everything and flew half way round the world to take part in the VH1 episode.

One thing from this episode, you wouldn't believe how old the guys look now. Most are balding and/or greying and look ripe for what middle age has to offer. Compare to contemporaries like Spandau or Duran or even the Petties, who have obviously gotten older but not so extremely.

I realise it could be something to do with the Frankies having been out of the limelight for 17 years and being frozen forever in the collective consciousness in their mid-20s, but it was a bit jarring to say the least.

Even with claims of extreme manipulation from their record label ZTT, the episode has influenced me to have a Frankie day on the old CD player.

Rage hard indeed!

Thursday, 1 April 2004

EMI scapegoating

What fortuitous times we live in. EMI announced yesterday that they're cutting loads of underperforming acts and chopping staff across the board. The reason? Internet piracy. What dross.

As recently pointed out, file sharing has had absolutely no tangible impact on CD sales. For one thing a lot of the material downloaded simply wouldn't have been purchased by the downloader to begin with, so where's the lost income?

I can remember back in the heady days of Napster playing the game of "Download the cheesiest song from the 80s". This is potentially a P2P-only game as I would never have forked over even 1p to buy a copy of Spagna's 'Call Me' or any of the other groan-inducers we used to while away the quiet times in the office.

Not to hark on again, but these labels really only have themselves to blame. The MP3 format has been around for almost a decade, PCs capable of sound have been around almost as long and the forces of alternate media (i.e. alternative places to spend your money) have been around as long as music. Books, the cinema, console gaimg, increasingly Sky packages and (recently) DVDs.

You can only cut the pie so many ways and to make it sweet enough to eat. The music industry seems to be sitting on their laurels, releasing utter crap and not really appealing to the music fans, and their slice of the cake justifiably seems to taste more bitter these days.

EMI, your days may be numbered, but you saw the writing on the wall and refused to act. Don't blame the general public for your lack of foresight.