Major Label Madness



Today, the Tuesday Tunesfest is pleased to bring you a fabulous rant from Bob Lefsetz. He is known as a music industry legend, and has been distributing his industry rants via email for quite some time now. They are also published at VH1, Rhino, CelebrityAccess, and elsewhere (I wish they were all archived in one place).

Santa Monica-based Lefsetz is famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth. He addresses issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

He gave me his permission top post the following. If you’ve enjoyed my own perspectives on the music industry, I am sure you will love Lefsetz:

"We’re being duped.  The RIAA keeps saying it’s saving the MUSIC when really all its label members are interested in is saving THEMSELVES!

It’s out of control.  Irrelevant of the Grokster decision.  These billion dollar companies with their high-priced lobbyists have infected the media and the minds of the public to the detriment of ART!  What’s worse, they’ve convinced the musicians signed to their labels of the validity of their position, which is equivalent to slaves standing up for plantation owners.

I don’t know about you, but I believe in MUSIC, not LABELS!

Look at what’s happening in the radio sphere.  Terrestrial’s tanking. Both in value and listenership.  But, when the station owners lobby for further curtailing of satellite radio, when they carp and complain, we LAUGH!  Because we’ve lived through Clear Channelization.  We’ve actually LISTENED to the radio.  So, why is it that the LABELS get a pass?  Do we have to wait, under the mirage of getting musicians paid, until they eviscerate all new models of music distribution?  Because that’s what they’re trying to do.  The labels carp all day long about P2P, about burning.  Instead of looking at the MOTIVATION, they’re just looking at the COST!  Most products in the marketplace people don’t  want AT ANY PRICE!  You can’t GIVE THEM AWAY!  But, people love music so much, they’re willing to infect their computers with spyware, they’re willing to spend hours, just to GET IT!  Do you really think the only reason they want it is because it’s free?  And if an appropriate price was charged demand would dry up?  NO, if a fair toll was exacted, people would pay for online music, and the market would burgeon.  But, concomitant with this musicians would only need major labels if they wanted to be the new Britney, since they could get paid in the new system, they wouldn’t need the major label as distributor/enforcer/collector!!

So, even though the majors would make a ton more if they AUTHORIZED new distribution models, they’re stifling them.  For fear of losing market share.  And Don Henley and the other apologists take their position, even though these artists are being raped by the labels themselves, which don’t pay the proper royalties on time and want to pay the same percentage for online distribution as for physical, even though there are no manufacturing and essentially no distribution costs.

This is about money, not art.  This is about corporations bullying Americans using tools the public can’t afford to keep the truth from becoming well known.  HISTORY is contrary to the labels’ position, but in this topsy-turvy world we live in ensuring that the past reigns is somehow seen as GOOD!  I mean the labels would have threatened Gutenberg into submission and labeled Eli Whitney a traitor to cotton-pickers.  I mean this befits a nation that no longer believes in science, that doesn’t believe global warming has been proven.  Let’s stop all progress RIGHT NOW to benefit a handful.

New models would pay huge dividends to old copyright holders.  But, their future dominance would not be ensured.  They’d have to think, strategize, EXECUTE rather than sit back and rake it in.  The major labels are Smith Corona, they don’t want the personal computer to gain a toehold, for fear their typewriter business will be EVISCERATED!

Music is something created by PEOPLE, not corporations.  MUSIC will survive whatever happens in the Supreme Court, whatever bullshit story the major labels foist upon us.  But, will the populace be exposed to this music?  Will they get a chance to be enriched by melodies not authorized by men in three thousand dollar suits who are more worried about whether the "singer" is cute enough to be on TV than whether the track sends the listener on a mental journey?  THAT’S the question.  We’re not fighting over who’s getting paid, we’re fighting over the distribution of one of life’s major forces to the broadest segment of the public possible.

Please take off your blinders.  The goal of the major labels is not to enrich your life, is not to get the most music in the hands of the most people.  Rather, the labels are just interested in making money, and controlling a future wherein this continues to happen.

Music has a right to exist forevermore.  Sony BMG, Warner, EMI and Universal do not."


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  1. commented on Jun 21

    Bob Lefsetz on the Music Business

    Barry Ritholtz published Bob Lefsetz’s comments on the state of the music industry:”We’re being duped. The RIAA keeps saying it’s saving the MUSIC when really all its label members are interested in is saving THEMSELVES! It’s out of control. Irrelevant…

  2. sump commented on Jun 22

    There is no question that independant music will survive and thrive. The underground can tweak technology far more than the “ownership society” can control it. What record companies and conservatives are lobbying for is the development of an outlaw counter culture. The most they can hope for is to protect their domain and masses a few years, but the innovation wil be in the minority, it will be elsewhere, at some point it will sweep in and from it will develop the new system. Very likely the old guard will have squandered so much on foolish schemes and keeping personal accounts full that it will be forced to let go of it’s assets at discount prices.

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