Posted by: Lister | November 1, 2007

Free Music and the RIAA

David Rovics has an article on the music industry. He begins by mentioning an RIAA lawsuit against Jamie Thomas:

earlier this month a jury ordered Minnesota resident Jamie Thomas to pay $220,000 in damages to the RIAA for illegally sharing 24 files. Instead of paying 99 cents on iTunes, Thomas was ordered to pay $9,250 for each song.

That’s an insane fine.

Rovics has some arguments against the idea that small artists are being protected by such lawsuits.

Principles aside for the moment, on a purely practical level, the reality is that many independent artists, most definitely including myself, have benefitted from the phenomenon of the free MP3. Like others, the fact that I’m making a living at all at music — unlike the overwhelming majority of musicians – is largely attributable to the internet, and specifically to free downloads.

It’s not simple, and it’s fairly easy to hypothesize one thing or another and back it up with selective information. But overall, my experience has been that I sold a few thousand CD’s a year before the internet, and have continued to sell a few thousand CD’s a year after the internet. Gig offers and fans in far-off places have multiplied, however, and in so many of these cases it’s clear that they first heard my music on the internet, usually because someone they knew guided them to my website.

Every year, over 100,000 songs are downloaded for free from my website, and many more from many other websites where they are hosted in one form or another. This represents many times what CD sales could possibly have been for me without a major record contract, previous to the internet. My conclusion is that the free download phenomenon behaves more like radio airplay that I never would have had otherwise. And it’s international airplay that has led me to tours in countries around the world and gigs in remote corners of the US that resulted directly from someone telling someone else about songs of mine they could find online for free.

[…] The problem is, the RIAA doesn’t control the internet the way they control the commercial radio airwaves, and they know that the musical tastes of the people are broadening, and threatening their pop star system, threatening their profit margins.

I heard of Rovics from the free music-download site you can find linked in my other posts.



  1. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

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