Counting Crap

Came across this article from Charlie Gillingham of the band “Counting Crows. Unlike most musicians, Charlie has a background in the software business. Unfortunately, his commentary, while well-written, only tells half the story, and seems to be a diatribe aimed primarily at Microsoft and the Personal Computing Industry. Since his article did not allow comments, I have posted my rebuttal here…

People spend less on recorded music than they used to. The average person spends only $22.53 on CDs or records or iTunes out of every $10,000.00 they spend. Back in 1994 they spent $37.21. That’s a drop of almost forty percent. The difference comes to around eight billion dollars a year.

Ten years ago, the home entertainment system consisted of Cable TV, VCR and music. Since then, other options have appeared and Cable TV has gone up massively in price. Oh, and the average household income has not gone up by much. Bottom line, we’re spending a lot more, not less, on entertainment, but it’s spread more thinly. You’re competing against Pay-Per-View, DVD, DVR, Computer/Console/Handheld gaming, cellphones. Simply put, music is simply not as important as it once was (when is the last time you just sat and listened to music?).

There has been heavy consolidation and downsizing in the music business since the middle 90s. Historic labels like Def Jam and Motown have been shut down. A huge number of people were laid off as label after label disappeared. Retail record stores have been steadily closing their doors for the last ten years, culminating with the demise of Tower Records this last summer.

Hands up all those industries that have not been affected by downsizing and offshoring? Cry me a bleedin’ river…

In fact, the only place where no one is stealing music is from the iTunes Store. iTunes has excellent top-to-bottom DRM (digital rights management). You can’t steal music from it.

Who told you that? Repeat after me: “If someone wants to steal music badly enough, they will.” Paradoxically, DRM may actually be preventing people from using iTunes. I have personal experience of this; my wife has an iPod. It was given to her, and she loves it. And yet she uses it exclusively for playing MP3s – we have never purchased anything from iTunes, and have no plans to do so. Why? DRM. Your point again, Charlie?

Maybe we could talk Steve Jobs into giving away iPods for free so that we could sell more music, rather than Steve Jobs trying to talk us into giving music away for free so that he can sell more iPods.

For most people, virtual goods have little or no value. An iPod is tangible; music is ephemeral. And let us not forget that your friends in the music industry take between 85% and 95% (they won’t say how much) of iTunes sales, so Mr. Jobs may actually be losing money on the music – and you want him to give the hardware away as well?

There is a conflict of interest between computer/software industry and the recording industry. They want to make computers indispensable to everyone and music is part of that.

But a very small part. The personal Computer industry was getting along quite nicely before music came along; Playing music is very much a secondary function of computers. They can survive without the music industry quite nicely.

I don’t think it’s right to cast the music business as the bad guy here. It’s a little more like David and Goliath — the recording industry is worth a little over 12 billion, whereas the combined personal computing industries are probably worth trillions.

I disagree. On the one hand you talk about how computer hardware has fallen in price, but fail to point out that the music industry kicks screams and wails at any attempt to cut the price of music, in spite of offshoring, virtualizing and economies of scale. I contest that the Computer Industry really doesn’t need the music industry as much as the music industry needs them.

Microsoft wants to make money selling you Windows Media Player so you can listen to free music. I want to make money selling you August and Everything After. Consumers would rather keep their money and have everything for free. Are you starting to get it? It’s really all about the money. That’s it. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Absolute Rubbish. Most grown-ups are not interested in “free music”. And if they were, certain Russian sites selling cut-price music would not be able to survive. I do not mind paying for music, but as long as the Recording Industry insists on keeping the price high and wrapping it in DRM I simply will not buy.

I’ll say it again: it’s about the money. Everyone wants the money — the record business, the computer business and yes even you, the consumers. I don’t think the record executives are even the greediest people in the game, despite what most people think. We’re accustomed to thinking of them as vipers and confidence men, but I don’t think that’s really fair. The ones I have met are mostly just people who love music and want to be close to it.

Yeah, but who is suing tomorrow’s customers? Game, set and match.

Now Reading: More than Enough, by Dave Ramsey

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