21 Apr 2001 @ 3:59 PM 


bq. Sorry if this isn’t 100% coherent. I just realized I’ve got thoughts about the RIAA, Napster and other music-related things spread out across too many sites to follow. Here’s a relatively complete posting of what I think about the whole mess.

Those silly silly people running the music "industry" (like there are factories and stuff?) just can’t figure out how to not blow themselves up. Napster offered them 200 million dollars per year for the next 5 years, if the RIAA would just not try to destroy Napster, and maybe even try to play nice with them.

The RIAA, being the old greybeards they are, couldn’t bring themselves to approve such a scheme, so they’ll probably end up winning the court battle and shutting Napster down. Of course, since Fanning and Co. have a deal with BMG records, they’ll stick around as the front end for ONE record company’s electronic distribution system.

Meanwhile, the other companies in the RIAA are working on their own systems, which they’ll probably screw up royally. Anyone else remember the awesome Personics systems from the 80s? You could go to a record store kiosk, choose your personal favorite songs from the playlist, and have a cassette created with only music you wanted, with a nice laser-printed jacket and labels. The record companies made royalties, and the consumer got a product they truly wanted. Of course, the industry let that system die from lack of attention, and it was too late anyway, with the CD revolution in full swing.

This past week, the RIAA started going after OpenNap servers, which are equivalent to Napster, but without any company to sue. Next, I’m sure they’ll attempt to sue the users of Gnutella, who are individuals operating out of their own homes. This is basically the music companies suing their own customers. I wonder how they justify that business model.

Really should have made that deal with Napster, RIAA. It was the best chance of getting any money at all without suing your own customers. This should be an entertaining year.

Just saw the RIAA representative talking outside the courtroom on CNN. She really sounds petulant. Of course, Napster can stop people from trading songs based on a simple filter. But, you willfully ignorant twit, that doesn’t mean people will not just rename files with funky characters to get around the filters. Here, try this example: Prinse n da rebolushun - Boyz und Girlz.mp3 would slip right by the filtering system, but would still be a pirated song. The latest info says the Napster folks will be using "fingerprinting" technology to check on songs regardless of filename. So, if I rip a song at 192kbps, is that the same fingerprint as someone who ripped it at 64kbps or one of the VBR algorithms?

Of course, the RIAA also claims they had a horrible 39% decline in CD sales last year, but it was actually a 39% decline in CD single sales. Um, who buys CD singles anyhow, especially with the ability to preview individual tracks at CDnow, Amazon, or Tower Records stores? Slashdot had a great story that tore apart the RIAA numbers.

Oh, and Courtney Love, after how record companies screw artists, is suing her record company for the indentured servitude forced on her, as with any other artist. But, she can afford to make noise about it. Cool.

According to this article, many car CD players will refuse to play new copy-protected CDs, as will all "multimedia PC" systems. So, let’s assume I’ve got my big Altec Lansing subwoofer hooked up to my PC, and it’s the only CD player I own (not really, but many of my friends in the army only have their PCs to play CDs on, to save space). Now, I can’t play any new CDs on this machine, because I MIGHT copy them? Well, I can’t even listen to them "wherever I like" so I’m not going to buy them either.

If I put this CD in my new RioVolt MP3/CD player (the only CD player in my car), will it cease to function? Now, I’ve got a portable CD player (RioVolt) that can’t play audio CDs of the new style, I’ve got a home audio system (MPC) that can’t play the new CDs. And, this somehow does NOT infringe on fair use?

I know plenty of college students and soldiers that don’t buy stereos, because they have computers. These happen to be the ages that buy the majority of popular music as well. I imagine the RIAA is not so smart on this one.

OK, here is MY EXPERIENCE with MP3s. I can’t possibly speak for everyone, but this is me. I am 30 years old, I was a soldier for 12 years, and I have been a computer geek since I was 10. I listen to MP3s, mainly from Usenet postings of unreleased albums. If I like the album, I buy the CD.

As an example, when the last "No Doubt" album was released, I was at the store on the first day of issue, so I could buy one. Three weeks earlier, I would never have imagined I would buy it, but it was a damned good set of songs. If I had not sampled it via Usenet, I would not have bought the CD. Seriously.

Another example is Metallica. Except for a track here and there, I’ve never been a huge Metallica fan. I grabbed about 3 or 4 tracks from the S&M album off Usenet, and then bought the double-CD set. Even Metallica has made money from MP3s.

If the RIAA would consider MP3s to be advertising, or radio-like, they may have a chance to make money off them. So far, the digital distribution schemes seem to involve charging as much or more for the privelige of downloading the tracks, rather than going to the store and getting cover art and a jewel case. Personally, I’d be very inclined to use an industry-approved download system, if they guaranteed quality-of-service (not an option with the P2P systems obviously), and if they charged LESS than the physical CD.

As it is now, I tend to listen to music from internet radio stations, check out random tracks from Usenet or Gnutella, and buy CDs from CDNow.

I buy a lot of CDs, and I burn many of them to MP3 format to listen to in my MP3/CD player, so I can have 10 or 12 hours of music on one disc. Makes those cross-country car drives much nicer.

So, don’t paint everyone with the same brush, but realize that at least some of us are really not just out to be thieves. YMMV

After a conversation with an old friend today, I revisited Gnutella. There’s a program called BearShare that acts as a frontend for Gnutella, and allows searches to be performed without the pain of a few months ago. Just played with BearShare tonight, looking for common and obscure tunes, including some George Carlin and Bill Cosby tracks. Great selection, which indicates that all the publicity that CNN et al have given Napster has raised awareness of such things to the point that Gnutella is actually useful finally. They have definitely hit the critical mass needed to be a decent search tool.

Even better, the RIAA can now only sue individuals, cuz there’s no server. So, the record companies are going to take their own customers to court? Hehe

As of the middle of April 2001, many (maybe even most) radio stations that stream their signal on the internet are silent. The AFTRA is demanding 300% more money for the stations’ sending audio outside their broadcast area. I don’t get how that makes sense, and it was obvious to anyone that the only result that such a threat would have is the complete shutdown of those streams, meaning that AFTRA members don’t make any money from them anyhow. I’d think you’d negotiate from a position that seemed at least close to reasonable? More here.

It’s not completely new, but I know not everyone reads and pays attention to the latest news from techno-geek lands like Salon and /. Anyway, there’s a new music distribution format that the RIAA (motto: we’re not an evil entity, but we play one on TV) actually likes for a change: Dataplay.

Basically, the DataPlay disks are 500 megabyte CD-R disks that are downsized to a miniscule 1-inch wide platter. BUT, what the RIAA wants to do with them is to put not 500 megabytes of actual CD-DA audio on them, but 500 megabytes of compressed audio, with most of it encrypted when you buy it. Say you buy the latest Madonna album on DataPlay disks (let’s call them DP for short :)). It may well include the Immaculate Collection on it as well as Like a Virgin. But, you can’t hear those other albums until you pay the label for them. You connect the DP to your computer, and send an electronic funds transfer to Warner Bros. In seconds, your DP has had a few more bytes written to it, and now you can listen to all three of those albums, from a disk the size of a quarter. Pretty neat, in my opinion. Obviously, with compressed music you get some lower sound quality, but not enough to hurt sales. After all, MP3 is amazingly popular, and you can fit about 8 albums in 500 megs with that format.

Here’s the deal, though: chicken and egg. When CDs replaced LPs (don’t complain, the vinyl record is as near dead as makes no difference), they had the benefit of being smaller and better-sounding, with no pops or hisses or crackles. They are also, of course, much more durable than vinyl. Although many don’t take care of their CDs very well, if you remember to put them back in their jewel cases instead of using them like coasters, they should last much longer than vinyl would under normal usage. Where are the players for the DP disks? If you look at the DP site, it seems that all the players are portables, and most are made in Korea (whatever that means).

So, is the rationale here that we would use CDs at home, and then burn our own DPs with 5-6 albums on them for our portable use? The RIAA makes money on the blank DPs, I’m guessing, just as they do on blank DAT tapes (a great format that the RIAA nearly killed 15 years ago). (They must, if the disks are going to cost 5-12 bucks each for blanks. Of course, remember when CD-R disks were that expensive?) Sounds good to the RIAA, and maybe it will even work out ok for consumers, so long as we can burn whatever we want to the DPs and not need permission for each file, etc. I’d hate to be strangled by Windows Media Player (wimp) or the abominable SDMI when I just wanted to take my entire Concrete Blonde collection on one disk when I went for a bike ride. Perhaps this is an idea whose time never quite came, and is long since past?

Keep an eye on the DataPlay format, it may turn out to have better legs than MiniDisc and DCC (anyone besides me remember that one?)

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 09 Aug 2005 @ 09:41 PM

Categories: Music, Random Thoughts


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