This week Muxtape shut down indefinitely due to conflicts with the RIAA. Muxtape is a simple service that allowed users to upload music and make mixtapes that were easily sharable. It was a great way to find new music, and by only allowing users to stream mp3s, many purchased music they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Users knew that the site was in jeopardy of being shut down due to obvious copyright conflicts, but its death is not going to help record sales. It’s an interesting issue that is not as black or white as either side makes it out to be. The music industry, and consumers, would benefit from understanding two realities:
1) If a musician doesn’t blow off their label, fans shouldn’t either.
2) A compromise needs to be reached that will work in favor of labels, bands, and fans. This is achievable with a basic approach.
Addressing the first issue:
Sure, bands have other ways of making money, like touring, and yes, they don’t make as much money from their record sales as they should. At the same time, though, consumers need to understand that no one is forcing bands to sign into this marriage. Labels invest time and money into their artists, and without their marketing, the band might have remained under your radar. If there is a band that you really like, there is no excuse for not buying their music, other than not wanting to cough up the money (like other art forms which are nearly impossible to steal, i.e. paintings).
Which leads to issue two:
The RIAA’s refusal to let listeners hear full songs before purchasing them is like an art gallery only allowing a buyer to see a third of a painting. People are forced to make up their minds after listening to a short preview of a song or hearing it once on the radio. To me, that seems like an unreasonable expectation.
A compromise needs to be found.
For example, imagine if a site like Muxtape allowed you to stream one-hundred songs in their entirety for every one song you purchased digitally via an iTunes or Amazon affiliate link. Users could fully utilize the service of Muxtape with a reasonable assumption that they will really like at least 1 out of 100 songs that they previewed. If they didn’t like any of the songs, would Muxtape really be a valuable service for them anyway?
A process like this would guarantee revenue for the music industry, a music store, and Muxtape–as well as satisfy users’ needs. There will be users out there who complain and say that they like to buy a physical album, but hey, that’s all part of the compromise–look at it as a small (.89-.99) fee for a great service.
Instead of taking an approach like this, the RIAA tries to cut off these useful services like Muxtape and Pandora, which won’t help promote music at all, and is a lose/lose for everyone. It also leads to more piracy. I don’t expect the RIAA to understand this concept, because after all, that isn’t really their job. However, musicians and record labels must take more of an initiative before they allow the RIAA’s practices to bury their music.
With a little forward thinking, it doesn’t have to be good vs. evil.