Saturday, January 28, 2006

Nettwerk Records vs RIAA

As many of you know, the Music Megacorps in the US (represented by the RIAA) and around the world is suing their customers from the simple act of downloading music off the internet. An act that pretty much doesn't affect about 98% of the artists, and only affects the mega-corps that are the ones who make real money off of music. Now there are some socially responsible labels, and Canada's Nettwerk Records is one of them. It's home to artists like Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Chantal Kreviazuk, Conjure One, Delerium, Dieselboy, Erin McKeown, Jars of Clay, Kirsty Hawkshaw, Kristian Leontiou, MC Lars, Mediaeval Baebes, Neil Finn, Oh Susanna, Old Crow Medicine Show, Paul van Dyk, Po' Girl, Robert Post, Ron Sexsmith, Sarah McLachlan, Shelley Campbell, Sixpence None The Richer, Stereophonics, Swollen Members, Tara MacLean, The Devlins, The Finn Brothers, Tiesto, and Treble Charger, to name a few.

I am sure that you probably have at least a few of the artists in your music collection. I know I have a lot of them in mine.

Now Nettwerk doesn't agree with the Megacorps suing the fans of their artist...and have taken a stand. One victim of the Megacorps' agression, David Greubel of Arlington, Texas is being sued for downloading Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi". It seems that RIAA never asked Nettwerk's permission to sue on behalf of Avril, who they manage. So, they have said they will cover Mr.'s Greubel's legal costs in fighting the lawsuit! Needless to say, this has caused some controversy on both sides of the boarder in the music industry! As well it should!

When you sue your customers, chances are, they will no longer buy your product.
This is technically known as "Shooting yourself in the foot". Nettwerk, as a record label and management firm know that the sharing of music is *the prime* way that new artists are exposed to fans these days. With Much Music and MTV playing virtually no music videos, and no popular shows on regular stations playing them either, the music video is quickly becoming a dead medium. Add to that, FM radio sucks. They have anemic playlists, and seem to play everything they have in "heavy rotation", that is once every 4 hours, or more. Without Radio or TV, how will you become exposed to a new artist? Word of Mouth, mixed CDs that friends give you, and off the Internet. In fact, the Internet is the next pop medium for exposing new artists. These days where many albums are two or three good songs, and the rest is filler, who is going to risk $15-$30 on a CD before you hear the whole thing? The music buying public is *not that stupid*.

So rather than give the audience what it wants...good music, at a decent price, in formats that are useful with today's music playing technology, the Music Megacorps do the opposite. They are trying to make the customer buy shitty music, for too much, in formats that give them monopolistic control over the music.

The Music Megacorps are not alone in this...the Movie Industry is on the same road...and speaking of roads...

Have you noticed how GM, Ford and to a lesser extent, Chrysler are all having problems selling their cars? Guess what they are doing? They are trying to dictate what the customer should buy rather than finding out what the customer wants, and building that. The Japanese car companies *are* listening to their customers and building cars that the customer's want. That's why they are expanding, building new auto plants and generally eating US car company's lunch.

In the music business, iTunes is much like the Japanese Car Companies...they are giving customers what they want...and they are doing gangbuster business. The only annoyances with the service is the digital rights management (DRM) that Apple was forced to implement, because the Music Megacorps wouldn't work with Apple otherwise. If they didn't have to kiss the ass of the Music Megacorps, iTunes would be an almost perfect service. It's also that same monopolistic Music Megacorps that also cause the stupidity that causes the non-US versions of iTunes to have significantly less music than the US version. I remember hearing one person saying that an artist they like has only one album available on the Canadian iTunes store, but their whole catalog on the US. Sure, it's nice to be able to sell the same thing three or four times, but today we live in a global market...and one can buy stuff as easily from Hong Kong as you can from the next city over via the internet.

Nettwerk recognises this, and is out to protect their market by supporting their customers. A record company that cares about both it's customers and it's artists is a rare thing these days, and I highly recommend that you consider the music that they put out, and if you like it, buy it. Personally, I have about 20+ albums by Nettwerk artists, mainly Sarah McLachlan (Compete Catalog), Bare Naked Ladies (most), Delerium (just their newer stuff), and Mediaeval Baebes (one, which I can't find at the moment). Buy music by their artists off of services like iTunes. And let them know that you support them in their fight.

Farrell J. McGovern