Q: What is the most significant issue in the music industry that needs to be addressed, and how would you fix it?
A: I think that one of the most critical issues, right now, is Internet piracy and illegal file sharing. It’s literally killing the recording industry. Revenue from recorded music fell 52 percent from the year 2000 to 2010. The underlying cause is the mindset of the new, cyber-generation – the precept that says anything and everything on the Internet is free for the taking.
These people seem to think that they’re doing something cool and anarchic, some kind of Robin Hood thing. But what they’re actually doing is killing hundreds of American jobs, plus making it more difficult for new singers and songwriters to break into the business.
Think of the music business – and it is a business – as an inverted pyramid and at the point is the popular song. Resting on, and widening out from, that point is all the commerce that the popular song creates: thousands of jobs at radio stations, at record companies, CD pressing plants, recording studios, equipment storage and rehearsal facilities, trucking companies, sound and lighting companies, instrument manufacturers, electronics manufacturers, video production, photography, graphic design, management companies, booking agencies, publishing companies, accounting firms, law firms; jobs at music venues, vendors, security people, road crew, bus drivers, food services – the list goes on and on, and I haven’t even mentioned singers and songwriters, especially the ones who are still working two or three jobs to support themselves and their families.
Unfortunately, the only face of the music industry that most people ever see is manifested in the successful, wealthy artists who have high profiles. But, behind that are all these other people, thousands of them, who make it all happen.
And when the popular song becomes worthless, in fiscal terms, then the whole pyramid collapses – and that’s exactly what’s happening now. I wish that these people who are stealing music, or facilitating the theft of it on the Web, would stop and think about the bigger picture.
And that’s only a synopsis of the commercial picture. What effect all this theft is going to have on the future of art – whether it’s music, film, books, photography – is anybody’s guess, but it can’t be good.
In the future, there will be no artists – just “content providers.” Empires like Google, AOL, Yahoo and others have been built on distributing free content – other people’s copyrighted, creative or journalistic works – on the web, but these huge ISPs take no responsibility whatsoever.
They’re just neutral distributors, they say. But, to a great degree, they’re really a “fence” for stolen property. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 needs to be rewritten. It’s obsolete.