From my daily perusal of the ‘tubes, I came across a bit from TorrentFreak about how Radiohead is going to testify on behalf of alleged music pirate and threat-to-the-integrity-of-the-industry Joel Tenenbaum (Kyle and I touched on this story back in podcast #5). If you’re interested in the ongoing struggle of The RIAA vs The World, this is a good one to follow, as the case has gone much farther in court than most.
This marks another occasion where Radiohead is coming down on the side of the 21st century music consumer. They made big headlines back in 2007 when they released ‘In Rainbows’ online, allowing purchasers to name their own price (you could opt to pay as little as zero monies). The band is also one of the more prominent names in the Featured Artists Colaition, a lobby group that says they’ve tired of the RIAA speaking and acting on their behalf.
I think it’s great to get the artists themselves involved in this debate. There seems to be a lot of energy spent wondering whose best interest the parties in question really have in mind. Hearing from the creators of the music we are “sharing” goes a long way to settling that.
However, I also look at the list of artists in the coalition and I see a lot of names that have made a lot of money making records. That is not to say that they are right or wrong, or that their efforts are misguided. I just feel like it’s easy to say “I can give my music away,” or, “I’ll release this myself, directly to my fans,” when you have a fan base that numbers in the millions and you’ve already completed a record deal that had the backing of a major label. Would a struggling artist you’ve never heard of that is trying like hell to get their music exposed to a larger audience be as quick to denigrate the larger Industry– the very vehicle by which artists have historically made their way onto the airwaves and into our ever-evolving music players?
Maybe they would, and that’s the question. Every traditional method that we’ve had for consuming media is currently being challenged by the speed and ease of exchange that we can get on the Internet. For creators of music, film, and literature, the Internet has the potential to serve as a new, direct-to-consumer vehicle for disseminating their work. This is not a stunning revelation by any means, as there are examples of how this could play out all over the web right now. The current question is whether this direct-to-consumer method will overcome our traditional business models and become THE mainstream path for artists to share their work. This Tenenbaum case will probably serve as a landmark ruling in one direction or the other.
What I would love to see from the Featured Artists Coalition is not just a voice for the artists in this debate– I would like to see the ones that have made millions in albums, concerts, and merchandise lift up those whose voices are not yet relevant to the larger audience. I would like to see this group be at the forefront of innovation for new methods to get creative works into the hands of consumers. Clearly, there are structures in place. Like so many things, it comes down to, yes, financial backing, but also the will of those who CAN be agents of change to do it.