Once upon a time, the labels ruled the kingdom unchallenged. Transparency was a dirty word as the labels’ hid from their artists how much money came in and how much money they are entitled to, while at the same time, they charged the consumers high prices.
As time went on, there was talk of unrest over the high prices charged. Talks of revolution started to happen in colleges and universities. Then from out of nowhere, a young, revolutionary upstart called Napster rose up in defiance. It wasn’t long until the people adopted Napster as their means to access the vast archives of the labels and what seemed like overnight, the history of the world’s musical output was at the fingertips of the people. Sharing became prominent. Scarcity was replaced by abundance and cultures flourished. Countries and cities that had no recording industry suddenly had thriving musical scenes.
Napster showed the powerful labels how the people of the world really want to consume their product. Tunes were free and previously overpriced albums with few good tracks became unlocked for the masses to share and enjoy. And the labels had lost control because they did not give the people what they wanted.
But the labels didn’t take this defiance too lightly.
There was no way the labels would step down from their thrones and give away their position of power. There was no way the labels would allow the people to dictate terms to them. Along with Messer’s Ulrich and others, the labels went to war against the people. It was bloody and messy. Relationships strained and the labels, artists and industry would never be the same. The law played its dirty green hand and showed the world that it was never about the law but about the people who had the capacity to pay. Copyright infringers got punishments more severe than murderers and drug dealers.
With a lot of money at stake, the labels had their friends in the High Courts of the Lands pass motions to restrict Napster. But it was too late. The cultural movement Napster started would not be put to rest. A fire was lit and the people responded in the millions as they flocked to AudioGalaxy, Kazaa and Limewire. The labels responded to these uprisings via the courts.
Then from the ashes of defiance, in the country of Valhalla, “the one who has stood defiantly” set sail into “The Pirate Bay”. The sharing of culture and the expansion of the public domain became a new belief system. Political parties formed with the same ideology.
In between the nuclear litigation against the defiant entities, the record labels screamed black and blue to the politicians to pass laws to protect their bottom lines. The politicians always responded by writing laws. But the people now had a powerful voice. With the rise of the Internet, demonstrations went from the streets into the cyber age.
Then an offer came from a technology company and a man called Steve Jobs. The iPod needed a digital store and Steve Jobs dragged the record labels into the digital world. EMI had the foresight and signed first, while Sony and Universal held out until the last-minute. But the labels wanted digital rights on each mp3 and suddenly, people who legally purchased music were punished. DRM actually restricted what people could do with music they purchased legally. One label even put DRM onto legally purchased CD’s and infected the computers of the users.
While the record labels tried to protect their business models with laws and DRM, musicians started to be business people, investing in start-ups and what not. And then they signed their souls to the corporation for a pay-day while the people changed from ownership to listens.
Artists and the labels had to reset their goals. Instead of trying to get people to purchase their product, their main goal became to get someone to listen. But the industry still wants sales, especially first week sales. And that’s the problem with the industry. Not Spotify, not piracy. So much money is spent on marketing that fails to deliver anything worth paying attention to.
If the artist (along with their record label) can’t get the consumer on their side, they’re doomed. The recording industry is living proof of an industry that had to change the way they offer their music to suit what the consumers wanted. It started with iTunes and then it went to streaming. However there are labels and acts who believe otherwise, still embracing the old model instead of embracing the new.