Saturday, October 18, 2008

750,000 Jobs? Music and Piracy.

Just came across this this morning. I'm in the music business, and I'm constantly irritated by the endless crap debates about piracy, and the toll it brings on "the industry." Truth be told, it DOES take a toll, and there ARE real issues presented by the fact that many people now expect to get music for free or next to free. But what really grates my cheese is the constant focus by industry execs on how to get people to stop consuming music in the way that they (the people) want to do it, and consume in the limited ways the industry execs would like them too. Lessig's famous view is that what people are going to do (at least in regards to technology) is mostly dependent on what the technology permits them to do, not what the laws are. Sadly, I doubt most music industry execs have ever cracked a Lessig book...

The bottom line is that a lot of people bitch about piracy and decling revenue trends instead of getting off their fat butts and coming up with new business ideas. (I'm proud that my own indie music company is always focused first and foremost on new and proactive approaches to music monetization). I have a lot more radical copyright ideas that probably don't jive with the majority of the music business...and I'm not going to get into that here....on to the point of the post!

In the "war on piracy" a central weapon is sympathy the entertainment industry can drum up not only for the poor starving artists and songwriters but also for the workers who in the entertainment industry who are being hurt financially as music industry revenues decline. In lobbying efforts, two numbers are frequently tossed around: that music piracy cost the US some 750,000 jobs and took some $200-250 billion out of the US economy. Those are not small numbers at all.

Ars Technica investigated, trying to trace the sources of both of those numbers. As one might expect (yes, I'm going to spoil a bit of the article) neither of them have solid basis. In particular, the 750,000 number, as best anyone can tell, seems to have come from a 1986 statement by the then Commerce Secretary. It has since persisted, zombie-like, to this day, with politicians, pundits, and industry types all using each other as sources in a ridiculous circular argument on how internet downloading of music is destroying the American way of life.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending piracy, but we all need to address that and other issues with clear headed, rational arguments, open minds, and creativity, NOT with Eisenhower-era relics frantically clutching on to cushy jobs, inflated egos, and absolute control over the music enviornment....all of which are slipping away, although the latter may be one of the most under-explored elements in the entire anti-major label arguments.

Ok, that's enough from me...

Here's the Ars Technica article. Enjoy!

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