As I write this, I’m listening to an eclectic mix of Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, The Foofighters and David Sanborn all of which are being pumped through randomly via my Zune. Just a few years ago, I would have been concerned about receiving a legal notice in the mail or the FBI breaking down my door for illegally downloading a three and a half minute song, but thanks to Amazon, iTunes and the Zune Store, I can listen to anything artist I want legally for a small fee.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are always touting how their products are on the cutting edge of technology. Musicians now sing and perform in Dolby Surround sound and High Definition while movies like the upcoming A Christmas Carol and Avatar use motion-capture and state-of-the-art 3D technology to enhance our theater experience. But what happens after we leave the concert or theater and want to listen or watch again?
That is where the RIAA and MPAA are drastically behind the times; they have been, and, unless something changes soon, they will always be behind the curve. The story of the RIAA's almost laughable failure to stay ahead of the retail game has been put into book form by Steve Knopper in his work Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. Our friends at Collider point story at The Hollywood Reporter stating the HBO has hired Playwright Victoria Stewart (Hardball) to script the adaption of Knopper’s book for an HBO original film.
The book follows the record industry’s inability or unwillingness to change with the times starting back with the fall of disco in the 70’s to the introduction of CDs in the 80’s and 90’s and their fight with Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer networks that they associate with the falling CD sales in the 2000’s. It sounds like a very interesting read and I plan on checking it out this week.
There aren’t any actors associated with this project but knowing the high standards HBO has for its original films, I can’t see them hiring just anyone to star. Of course, I don’t doubt that anti-piracy bands like U2, Pearl Jam and Metellica will be all over the news protesting this movie. There is also no word on whether the movie will just be a dramatic re-telling of events leading up to today’s digital situation or more of a film that laughs at the RIAA. Time will tell.
The RIAA really took the wrong approach to piracy a few years back when it began suing “nobodies” in the online piracy world. Instead of going after the people that burn CDs and sell them for profit in foreign countries, they thought that millions of dollars would be better spent forcing grandmothers and college students to pony up thousands of dollars in legal bills and fines to prove their point.
I think the absurdity of the situation can best be summed up by the Weird Al Yankovic song “Don’t Download this Song” where he says “It doesn't matter if you're a grandma or a seven year old girl, They'll treat you like the evil hard-bitten criminal scum you are”
The RIAA didn’t stop anyone from downloading music; they increased it. As my best friend in junior high said after I ripped my pants in front of a bunch of girls trying to impress them by doing a back flip, “Smooth move Ex-Lax!” Sure, the industry put a damper on it for a while but eventually they stopped chasing and beating up on the little guys (read: their customers) and moved on to what they should have been doing the entire time – figuring out a way to offer the music we want in the format we desire.
Just like when you are driving on the interstate and you come up on a cop, everyone slows down to the speed limit until the officer gets off the road and then it’s back to “pedal on the metal” time. Same thing applies here.
The old saying “If you can’t beat them; join them” is fitting because once the RIAA started focusing on offering music online for a fee, music sales jumped to an all-time high. Instead of buying a $15 CD with 4 songs I want on it, I can just buy the 4 songs for $4 (which is still too high IMHO), but at least now consumers have a viable legal option to acquire music legally in the format they want.
Do you think a story like this is worthy of being made or better left as something for the history books?
No debut date or title for the HBO original film.