Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I mean imeem

With all the news lately of the RIAA's McCarthyistic dragnet on file-sharing music fans, it seems some of the record companies have had a change of heart. The big four record labels are allowing imeem.com to stream their full catalogs of music online, supported by online advertising[1].



Since the recent conviction of Jammie Thomas, a 30 year old single mom, who was sued by the RIAA for $222,000 for 24 songs ($9250 per song!)[2] there's been a strong backlash against the RIAA. Example: websites like freejammie.com and boycott-riaa.com. One of the best sites, RIAAradar.com let's you search for music to find whether its RIAA-free or not.

The ongoing RIAA vindictiveness goes hand-in-hand with copyright concerns, but there's more than meets the eye when it comes to copyright protection. Newer ultra-restrictive terms not only infringe on the rights of users[3] but seem to hurt sales, as well. Retail giant Walmart recently demanded major record labels release their product in the MP3 format, free of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology[4], demonstrating how attempts by the record industry to protect their profits have backfired. A recent attempt to bring in a "Canadian DMCA" sparked a massive negative reaction from Canadians[5].

While the record companies continue to enjoy large profit margins, artists themselves are getting fed up with being starved out. They've formed the Recording Artists Coalition to fight the industry's claim that their songs are "works made for hire", effectively removing copyright interests from the artists and transferring those rights directly to the record labels[6]. And recently, Radiohead decided to make its latest album available as an online download under a pay-what-you-want-to scheme. And while there were plenty of folks who downloaded the album for free, the band still made out pretty well by all accounts. It's estimated the band got $8 on average for each sale. The average cut a recording artist would receive from a record label? About $1.30.

With online radio stations having been largely run out of business by recent copyright rulings that charge 10,000 times the going rate for online song broadcasts [7], some, like Whole Wheat Radio have turned to broadcasting only independent music.

Having gotten tired of mainstream music and the industry's deplorable treatment of artists and consumers a long time ago, I've been into independent and foreign artists for a while, and have found there's an incredible amount of fantastic music put out by relatively unknown artists... you just have to look a little harder for it. Now sites like RIAAradar and WholeWheatRadio are making it easier.

Maybe the recording industry finally figured out people hate them and are angry enough to stop buying their stuff. Maybe they've finally clued in, and maybe imeem.com is the result.

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