Whether or not you agree with U2 manager Paul McGuinness's analysis on how to save the music industry might be beside the point, but it does serve as an opening into the discussion of if we really need to "protect" it in the first place.
If you're in radio, the current plan seems to be to avoid innovation and creative destruction at all costs by mandating an entire industry that you don't control or have any say over to install FM radio receivers in every single device that they oversee just so you can expand your market share and somehow cushion the blow of all the licensing fees that you have avoided paying for decades. Yet, every single music startup online has been nailed to the wall with such exuberant charges that they can barely afford to keep the monthly Internet and electric bills paid. In an alternative reality, had tech startups been able to circumvent those fees in the way that radio has maybe the social ecology of music culture online would have likely evolved to a point where the idea of listening to two talking boxes blab on about Paris Hilton's latest public screw up between two overly produced songs and three brain-dead commercials about banking and life insurance plans would have lost all public interest by now.
Don't even try to tell me that Pandora and Spotify are the best we can do. While they are amazing and needed services I'm unconvinced that they are the final designation in the evolution of our culture and the means through which fans will interact, discover, consume, and produce music. I haven't the slightest interest in saving radio by having some anti-consumer and government-lobbied FM radio receivers thrown into my phone at the expense of more useful features and the overall cost of the next mobile device I buy. Humor columnist Lore Sjöberg over at Wired has taken to this idea quite well by suggesting that we approach saving other industries with the same nonsensical approach and come up with ways of making sure that other legacy industries never have to adapt to new technological realities then lobby the government to enforce the life-saving mandates. At his best, Sjöberg argues that since the newspapers have had such troubles finding a business model that encourages consumers to pay for their content; they should consider an alternative strategy. Instead of succumbing to the societal and technological shifts that are eroding the profitability of their industry, company executives should lobby and attempt to get a bill passed that mandates Amazon and Apple to bundle a parakeet with every device. "This will create a groundswell of demand for newsprint with which to line the cages of the federally mandated house pets," writes Sjöberg. I don't know if you've ever owned a parakeet, but owning one would at the very least require everyone to get the Sunday edition.
Top Ten Government Mandates Needed To Save Us:
So, how might the record industry follow this insightful example, along with the one set by radio, and create their own anti-consumer countermeasures that would ensure the profitability of the major labels and the industry and greatly inconvenience anyone at the other end of their government-lobbied mandates?
- All Videogames Come Bundled With Top 40 Albums: The RIAA would like you to believe the number one threat to the profitability of the record and music industries is file-sharing, but I think there’s another industry that deserves a little attention. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sold ten million copies in the US alone. That money could’ve been spent on albums. Let’s lobby and make it so every videogame sold is bundled with Rihanna & Lady Gaga's latest album. Hey gamers, it’s only fair.
- iTunes & Amazon Can Only Sell Physical Albums: Think about it, digital singles are cannibalizing the sales of full and physical albums. If we could only get a bill passed that forces iTunes to sell only physical albums. Fans should be forced to enjoy music the way that artists intended it to be consumed and this whole idea of them having their personalized music experience needs to go away. I’m sick of fans thinking they can just cherry-pick the songs they want and never hear the other ten songs on the album. This bill needs to get passed now.
- MTV Must Play Music Videos During Mandated Hours: I am sick of all this reality TV junk and I bet you are too. Ever since they stopped playing our videos sales have fallen through the floor. Once we get The Hills off the air and Ke$ha’s new video back in solid rotation, fans will have no choice but to get back to watching our expensive productions. I bet we can even get Carson Daly back. Without him, no one wants to buy music anymore. To make sure our music is playing during prime hours the record industry must have jurisdiction over their programming.
- Music Downloaders Must Be Downgraded To Dial-Up: Screw this three strikes business, let’s just throw those evil pirates back to the stone-age and throttle every suspected pirate, as determined by our monitoring systems that we got installed on all 5 billion of net enabled devices, back to dial-up internet speeds. If they think they can steal our content then they can also wait 10 minutes for the email and Facebook to load. Who’s file-sharing my music now Mr. 28k connection? BAM!
- Big Towns Must Have Record Stores: Wide-spread file-sharing has decimated the profits of our record stores and forced them to close their doors. All those pirates on dial-up are going to need to buy music somewhere. I say we make it so there’s a government mandate that forces record stores to be placed across the street from Starbucks Coffee Shops in every town that has a population of over 250,000. In the event that there is already another Starbucks across the street from the other Starbucks, our record store will be placed to the left of the shop in question.
- Guitar Hero, One Real Guitar For Each Fake Controller: Seriously, who do these punk college students and videogame developers think they are? Interacting with music using plastic pieces of junk; these kids need to get a life and learn how to play real music, with real instruments. I’m convinced that the only way we can ensure profitability of GuitarCenter and make sure that these varmints don’t destroy our cultural history with their little white flippers and colored buttons is if we make it so every fake Guitar Hero controller comes with a real guitar too.
- The Music Blog Network & Pay Wall: All music blogs must be forced to join a subscriber network and be put behind a pay wall. If users want to read to their amateur content and get DRM encrypted, virus laden MP3 files, then, they must pay money to have access to that content. It’s only fair. They work hard to write about music and they are entitled to money if you want to read their blog. Also, with every single subscription to the music blog network users must also opt into a year’s worth of either Rolling Stone or Spin; it’s time they learn what real music journalism is and stop getting advice from talentless strangers, failed musicians, and their college dorm buddy who thinks he’s a hipster, but really isn’t.
- Resale Is Prohibited, No More Used CDs: Fans should not, I repeat, fans should not be able to buy music for half price at some local store run by a hippie. We need to put a stop to this and make it so the resale of albums is prohibited. To ensure that fans are receiving the optimum experience that we intended them to have we need mandate them to buy new CDs every time. For years, fans have been buying music from these places that smell like pot and incense sticks. They buy an album and they go home and all it does is skip because of how scratched it is. No more used CDs. Period. New music sounds better anyways.
- Ticket Sales Combined With Albums Sales: Fans already pay 20 different fees when they purchase a ticket to see live music so why not add a surcharge on there that they understand. The album fee. For every single show that a fan attends they will now be mandated to buy the album too. The artists work really hard on their records and live music should not be considered a substitute for professionally produced music.
- Home Recording & Music Production Is Outlawed: Those amateurs and indie musicians thought they were clever when they started producing music in their homes and not getting it mastered at a recording studio. With all those fly-by-night music schools that graduate sound engineers by the hundred we need to guarantee that those students, who paid good money, have jobs when they get out of college. This will also have the effect of making artists dependant of the major label system to fund the recording of their music and drastically increase the quality of all music in general. All that stuff on YouTube sounds terrible, let's fix that.