punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

CD Pet Peeves

Hang on folks, it's another long one...

I have this CD player. It's a Samsung, I think, and I got it shortly after I got my very first CD: Hednigarna's "Trae" (a gift from my cousin Sven, and I HIGHLY recommend it, it's a blend of techno with folk music). I was still poor back then, but I got a fairly nice CD Player from an "OPEN DISPLAY" discount shelf... I forget where. It has a remote and everything.

I have used it maybe less than a few dozen times. It sits in my den now, hooked up to a stereo I also haven't used in a while (certainly not since I have moved). Is this because I don't listen to CD's? No, I have a fairly large collection; I have several hundred, which I think is a lot, but compared to some of my friends who have whole walls dedicated to their collections, is a piddling chump collection. So what do I play them on? My computer, of course. In fact, the very day I got a CD-ROM with my computer, I stopped using the stereo CD player.

Which leads me to a pet peeve. Some companies like to take advantage of their computer users, and when you load the CD-ROM into your computer, software boots, and in some cases, tries to install on your system. I have three CD's I can think of like that: Aqua's "Aquarius," "The Best of Joan Jett," and today, I ran into another one: Bjork's "Selmasongs" (a soundtrack to the film, in which she starred and pretty much annoyed everyone involved on the set). In a lot of cases, these CDs are fairly old, and want to install things like QuickTime 3.0, a primitive version of Shockwave, or even worse, their own proprietary software which changes your web browser bookmarks, and even your CD player program! Most of these things won't work on Windows 2000 or XP anymore, and the certainly don't work on Linux. I mean, thank goodness (!), but the biggest problem is that CD playing software won't recognize the CD as an audio CD, and in a few cases, renders the CD unplayable. WinAMP and XMMS can play it if you load the CD and go "Play CD: E" (or whatever), but other CD players don't have that option. What a pain! I have also head that older non-computer CD players can't play these CDs, either. You can get around that by ripping the songs off of them, and then burning your own audio CD without the software. This is what I justify as "fair use by owner."

Which gets to another peeve where I think the RIAA is full of crap. The Recording Industry Association of America is a monopoly of the five biggest record companies in the world. These companies are Universal, Sony, Warner Brothers, EMI Records, and BMG Music. If you've ever purchased a prerecorded cassette tape or CD, there's a 99% chance it was released by one of these five companies under one of their hundreds of recording/producing sub-labels. They are an entirely self-governing body, answering to no one, yet set some of the rules which manipulates artists and music fans alike. If anything, they are mostly responsible for some of the crap music you are forced to listen to (but in fairness, also almost every good artist you have ever liked). The RIAA is a greedy, profit-driven board of directors with nothing but self-interest driving their whims.

The RIAA will do anything, either with money or lobbyists, to get what they want. They are very powerful, and nothing can stop them. Until recently. The Internet started to change all of that. We've all heard of file-sharing, and how it is piracy and yatta yatta. It's true, you are taking copyrighted material, and publishing it for free. But so was radio. And TV. Until recently, the CD was a saving grace, because the RIAA could always claim CDs were of unparalleled quality, you couldn't tape them on cassette and get the same quality. With computers, now you can. That's why they turned their heads and did what they could to stop this from happening.

Now, in my case, I am pretty honest. The file trading is responsible for most of my CDs I bought. Why? Before this, I didn't buy CDs because I didn't know if the CD was any good or not. I almost never experimented to try a new artist because most of them suck, and I didn't want to spend $16.99 on that risk. But when I started getting mp3's, I could find the artists I liked, and went out and bought the CD because I didn't want to lose these songs I liked in my next hard drive crash. CDs are still great to have. But yeah, I am sure there are a ton of people who won't go buy the CDs. I can't help that. But I resent the RIAA trying to come up with encryption scheme that will render my CD unplayable, just because they are greedy.

The RIAA is also panicking because their greed-heavy model is at risk. See, when they sign up an artist, they control the music and promotion. They can literally make or break a star, based on how much money they think they'll get. Think about it: fame by money versus fame by accomplishment. That's not right. This doesn't favor the artist, because they won't take risk on new styles. This doesn't favor the fan, because the RIAA controls what the fan hears on the radio, MTV, and what's up in the record stores. Think your local Sam Goody makes those promo posters? Nope. The recording label does.

Now let's think of a different model. Suppose we have a musician, let's call him "Iceland Bill." Iceland Bill is a guy, in Iceland, who plays a mean guitar with hypnotic trance music as a back drop. Not exactly mainstream. He's got a small following, and thanks to the Internet, some guy in Kansas, who would have never even heard of him before, is now listening to his music. Iceland Bill has some of his .ogg files on his site, and some P2P sites have more of his songs. The guy in Kansas buys the CD, either from Iceland Bill directly (I did that once, got "The Bubbleflies" delivered right from Iceland), or from a local distributor.

The RIAA would stand up here and say, "But Mr. Kansas could then rip and upload all the songs off the CD, and then no one would EVER buy the CD." That's not always true. Sure, I bet it will happen, at least the totally ripping and uploading part. But Iceland Bill will have a loyal following, and he will sell CDs. The RIAA will also point out that Iceland Bill will never become rich. This is also true. Iceland Bill probably can't quit his day job at the local fishmonger. But I know a LOT of local musicians. They aren't rich either. That doesn't mean they are any less spectacular as an artist. See, in my model, people become artists for artist's sake. The essential Bohemian model for artistry. Some artists eventually will be able to make a living as artists, either by a grant, or some fans in Kansas pay for a plane ticket to fly there so he can play live (at anime conventions, we do this a LOT with artists and voiceover people). There will still be agents, distributors, and recording companies. But it won't be this huge, dominating, money-heavy system. The control of the music will be in the hands of the artists and fans. If an artist is selling stuff people don't like, no one will buy it. Artists won't become artists just for the money, kind of like writers (but we have our own, if even similar, demons in the industry).

The RIAA will lose. You can't stop filesharing, because if laws stopped anything, you'd think people would stop killing each other or drinking and driving (and that's FAR worse than filesharing). If a CD can be played, it can be ripped. And the more expensive they make things to "compensate" (that is, stay as rich as they are), they less people will buy their stuff. They are fighting a losing battle. They will try and pass laws, but you know, the great thing about being in the US is there is only so much crap us citizens will take from the government. The RIAA is trying to prevent "criminal activity" (piracy) by declaring we're all guilty, we're all pirates, and so they will treat us like unmanageable children in order to keep their wealth. They don't give a hoot about the people who buy their CDs or the artists who make them as long as we keep buying whatever they produce. They will eventually make it so complicated to play one of their CDs, that people will stop buying them. There is no way to win at this system. They will have to bend or risk breaking.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000155.html
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