An enormous amount of potential as well as an enormous amount of controversy is associated with the new age of recorded music and especially regarding how the new digital technology pertains to artist’s royalties and corporate profits. The problem is basically one of free-access and the debate over file-sharing and free downloading which has been raging for many years now. With new products like the I-phone further establishing digital access and portability at the top-tier of consumer demand, the controversy regarding corporate and artist royalties and issues of copyright promises to extend far into the future.
The I-phone is represented in a recent ad as almost as a natural force of nature — and implies that those who have not experienced its capacities are, in fact, living a lesser-life; (I-pod, 2007) in fact the new age of music is upon us regardless of whether the next turn in technology will expand or restrict access for consumers. The overall problem can be broken into two sub-problems 1) file sharing by consumers which results in royalty “losses” for the corporate or artist’s interests and 2) the issue of fan-made “remixes” of artist’s material which may result in a radical alteration of what the artist originally intended.
In order for both issues to be addressed simultaneously it will be necessary to adopt some form of free file-sharing which is not wholly free, and which we will presently discuss. Proposal My proposal is that all major-label record companies include the option of a limited number of file-share downloads which are available for those who purchase a specific number of products and/or pay a fee to access this service.
What this means is that each major label would post the music on their label online and allow free downloads of a portion of their catalog while leaving the hottest newest releases or niche market products in a state of buy-only. Simultaneously, the labels could offer on online “DJ” or radio service which should function similarly to the Yahoo online Jukebox or other similar sites. The free access of samples of the record labels’ catalog would also be a form of music sharing but not file sharing as the files could be heard on-site but not downloaded.
Opposing Views The new-wave of technology has not only made it harder for headline artists to ensure that their due royalties are paid to them for their music, but it has made it much more difficult for big-name artists to ensure that anyone is even listening to their music at all. The idea that small-time musicians and even un-signed musicians and bands can attract downloads as well as those acts and bands which are backed by huge corporations. The new environment is a dual “challenge to music industry players[…]
First, with so much music available, the greatest threat to big record companies is not that listeners will consume their music illegally but that they will consume, whether legally or illegally, someone else’s music entirely” (Drew, 2005; p. 543) which may be the most exciting promise of all from a consumer’s perspective. Research sources indicate that the radical evolution has just begun and will have far-flung consequences that can’t be presently predicted.
One authoritative source, “Edgar Bronfman Jr., the head of Universal, the world’s biggest music company,”(Mann, 2000; p. 39) said the following regarding the future of the entertainment industries: “a few clicks of your mouse will make it possible for you to summon every book ever written in any language, every movie ever made, every television show ever produced, and every piece of music ever recorded. ” In this vast intellectual commons nothing will ever again be out of print or impossible to find; every scrap of human culture transcribed, no matter how obscure or commercially unsuccessful, will be available to all.
” (Mann, 2000; p. 39) Of course to Bronfman and others like him with a vested interest in the consumption of entertainment products, particularly music, the new technologies are viewed as an evil threat. This threat is financial in nature: “the thought of such systems spreading to films, videos, books, and magazines has riveted the attention of artists, writers, and producers” (Mann, 2000; p. 40) all of whom are, obviously, looking to preserve and extend their lucrative financial holdings into the new age.
It would be impossible to completely shut-down file sharing of music online or to completely stop online music piracy. However, a similar situation existed and still exists for movies, television shows, and video games all of which can be illegally recorded and shared as well as “ripped” without due pay to the companies and artists who produced them. By adopting new approaches to free-share options, record companies and artists might at least begin to recover some of the lost revenue base they have experienced as consumers migrate to illegal sites for file downloads.
Anonymous. “I-phone advertisement,” archived You-Tube; accessed 11-26-07 ; http://youtube. com/watch? v=FLxB4pHH_GY Mann, Charles C. “Heavenly Jukebox: Rampant Music Piracy May Hurt Musicians Less Than They Fear. the Real Threat – to Listeners and, Conceivably, Democracy Itself – Is the Music Industry’s Reaction to It”; The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 286, September 2000. p. 39+ Drew, Rob. “Mixed Blessings: The Commercial Mix and the Future of Music Aggregation;” Popular Music and Society, Vol. 28, 2005. p. 533+