Demonoid Aftermath: An Open Letter to the CRIA

Opinion

In the aftermath of the recent demonoid turmoil, "A former music buyer" posted an open letter to the CRIA - an impressive summary of what's wrong with the music industry and how they alienate their customers. The RIAA and the CRIA have to rethink their business models, closing down p2p sites does not solve the problem.

To Whom It May Concern at the CRIA:

I have been an avid music collector for many years, and have approximately 1000 CD’s in my collection, not counting albums that I have purchased over the internet and own only digital copies of. I purchase approximately 30-40 new CDs per year. However, thanks to your recent decision to block Canadian users from accessing Demonoid, I have decided that I cannot continue to support this backwards, dysfunctional industry with my money any longer, and as such, I do not plan on purchasing music ever again if it means that one penny goes to your organization.

I listen to heavy metal music, a form of music that “the industry” stopped supporting many years ago, so I have a hard time feeling any sympathy. Sites such as Demonoid have done far more to promote the music I love than your organization or the industry in general has ever done. I can find out about new artists and new releases from artists that are never promoted. I can listen to music from artists that have never been played on the radio, will never be shown on MuchMusic or MTV, and never have a review or even mention of their new album written about in the local newspaper. From listening to this music, I can make an informed decision if I wish to purchase the album or not, as I am not going to gamble $15-20 on something that I haven’t heard anything off of before.

25 years ago, I primarily learned about music from friends who dubbed a copy onto a cassette tape, where I could listen to it and make a decision if I wanted to buy the tape for myself. Now, many years removed from school, my “gang” of friends to share music with has shifted from cassette tapes and the school cafeteria to sharing mp3′s online. I listen to some things that I don’t like, and consequently, I don’t buy those albums. What I do like, I buy, or at least I used to, before your decision intended to stop me from hearing new music.

The industry cries that record sales are down, and blames this all on internet downloading. I won’t be so naïve as to say that internet downloading has no impact on the sales. Downloading has certainly stopped me from making the stupid purchases where I heard one single that I liked and bought an entire album only to find out that the rest of the songs are crap, and the CD sits collecting dust on my shelf. But for every CD that I didn’t buy based on those premises, there are 2 or 3 other CDs that I did buy because I heard of them for the first time on a site like Demonoid.

In the meantime, the music industry itself needs to recognize that they are to blame for sagging record sales. For years, they have been marketing recycled crap, and people are getting tired of it. On the odd occasion that something fresh and new accidentally slips through and gets radio play, the music industry immediately signs a seemingly infinite number of clone bands that makes the “new, fresh” sound boring almost instantly. It seems the music industry doesn’t even care about making or promoting good music any more. Instead, they market a young, pretty face that can dance provocatively and lip-synch well, and push this on the radio stations to play while getting the tabloids to print large pictures of their breasts. If bands like AC/DC or Motorhead were to emerge today, they would never be successful; not because of poor record sales due to downloading, but due to the fact that they’re ugly so the record company wouldn’t promote them, if they picked them up at all. In the meantime, they’re falling all over themselves to promote Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or any teenage tramp that can be airbrushed to look sexy.

The record labels cry about downloading cutting into the profits of the sales of albums. They put out “greatest hits” albums by 20-year olds with 2 or 3 albums under their belts, released with one new track to try and sucker the fans that already have both albums into spending another $20 for one new song, or re-releasing a 3-month old album with a “previously unreleased bonus track”. Then they can’t understand why people aren’t buying them, and cry foul that people are downloading the one new song instead.

I know not only the record companies are crying. Artists that have been around long enough to have enough clout to get a cut of the record sales are concerned about their cut, like Metallica that also clamor that “downloading is evil”, and then go on to sell over 9 million copies of their last album instead of 9.1 million. Boo hoo. Meanwhile, many younger, smaller artists favor downloading, because they know it’s the only way that people will get to hear the music and in turn come out to see their shows, because the record label sure as hell isn’t promoting them. But they can’t say that out loud, can they? If they do, guess which band is going to get dropped by the label?

So tell me, what does the CRIA do to promote metal? Oh, right, you’ve got a link to the top 50 “metal” albums in Canada, which after a quick glance at the top ten this week includes punk acts like Dropkick Murphys, Finger Eleven, and Billy Talent, and rock acts like Nickelback and Queen, but very little that resembles heavy metal. (Perhaps you should ask the Celtic punk band, Dropkick Murphys, what they think of being labeled as “metal”.)

And also tell me, without Demonoid, where would I have found out about bands like Evile or Dublin Death Patrol and made a decision to purchase their album online (because no record store that I have found in Canada carries either one). And god forbid the CRIA would care about the promotion of Canadian talent, such as longtime recording artist Annihilator, which released one of the better albums of 2007. However, I have yet to see their new album sold in any store in Canada, including HMV’s flagship store on Yonge Street in Toronto, and I ultimately had to buy a copy from a UK website. Considering the only place I had heard about this album was having downloaded it from Demonoid, do you really expect anyone to make this kind of effort to buy an album without ever having heard it?

The record labels and CRIA have gone to great lengths to tell us that downloading and sharing music is killing the music industry. Open your eyes and you will see that the music industry dinosaur has already been killing itself for years, and by resisting technology rather than embracing it and using it to their advantage. “Oh, but they have,” you try to insist, pointing to the sites devoted to selling music in mp3 format online. I notice that most of the metal bands I am interested in are still not available through these services. I also notice that buying an entire album ends up costing as much, if not more, than if I went to buy it in the store, even though there are no longer costs of materials or shipping that have to be paid for, and once again, I fail to come up with any sympathy for the music industry. I hope the music industry does die, because I know that music itself will not die so with the corrupt aspects of the industry gone, only then might music once again flourish.

Sincerely,

A former music buyer

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