Have you ever patronized a bar to see a local band consisting of your friends and colleagues? How many times have you sat and listened to a relative unknown sing covers of your favorite songs, with a sprinkling of some originals? Well, it looks like those days may be on the way out if the record industry has their say.
Over the last three years we have all heard repeatedly about the steps the music industry has taken to curb illegal music downloads, but it seems their greed knows no boundaries. In a recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle, a tavern owner was forced to stop featuring live music due to lawsuits filed by ASCAP. The lawsuits held the tavern owner responsible for unauthorized covers of ASCAP copyrighted music by local musicians who were playing in the bar. These bands obviously played the music in homage to their favorite artists, and to showcase their own musical talents, but "spies" from record companies and ASCAP were placed in the crowd and subsequently filed two lawsuits against the owner of the tavern in less than a year. Rather than dealing with these lawsuits, the bar was forced to retire the live music in favor of a jukebox or silence.
The record industry has now made a crusade to formally crush the spirit of what was responsible for its growth over the last 50 years. From Sinatra to Nirvana, the Grateful Dead to the Spice Girls, the fans are what have always driven the industry to be successful. Internet Music sharing was always an extension of this, where fans could share the music of their favorite artists and try to spread the word. This community of fans always resulted in an increased fan base, increased sales and revenue and generally positive feelings. Dave Matthews has made a living off this type of sharing within a community. Phish, The Dead, and even acts like Prince and Alicia Keys have been successful due to word of mouth and a community sharing information and music.
The reason the record industry is so hard-pressed to remain profitable is not because the community is cheating, but because the quality of the music is poor.
In the last few years there have been a handful of acts that have sold well beyond the industry's expectations. Linkin Park, 50 Cent and a number of other acts have been successful in spite of the online file-sharing community. I would argue that they have been successful as a result of this community by spreading their songs to areas and audiences that might not have heard them before due to the singular voice of modern radio conglomerates and the singular vision of MTV and VH1. These acts were supported by their fans, utilized the Internet to spread their music and to foster the community at hand. The product was good. The community was strong, and the sales were high.
By now venturing outside of the Internet and into the local pub to subvert the community by creating a tense situation every time a local band plays a cover of "All Along The Watchtower" or "Evenflow," the industry has proven its distance and lack of compassion for the same people that were responsible for its growth and excitement. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
The article goes on to tell how there is indeed a license that can be purchased for $700 a year to avoid these types of lawsuits, but you would think that after the first lawsuit that ASCAP would have explained this to the tavern owner. They didn't.
Eventually this is going to get worse, and the industry is going to create even more tension between the industry and its fans. Coming from me, a person who still buys at least 1-2 physical CDs per week, this is not a good thing. The industry is making it harder and harder for me to support the artists they are trying to create.
What are your thoughts?