As rumored, RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol is officially leaving to run the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers representing the nation's largest automakers. The press and music fans have not always been kind to Bainwol who led the RIAA through much of the industry downturn and thousands of file-sharing lawsuits. Here is the full text of his goodbye letter to the music industry:
It's my time to say so long. I will miss you guys.
It's a bittersweet moment for me. On the one hand, I'm thrilled about my new gig. I'll be running the leading trade group for the automobile manufacturing industry. Like music, cars are pretty cool. I also truly believe that this sector, like music yet for different reasons, is central to our economy and way of life.
And I'm ready for a new adventure. A leadership challenge in such a significant industry was too compelling to resist.
On the other hand, as you all know so very well, the music industry is special. I loved my eight years. I came in a stranger - described in the paper as the least hip guy in the world - and leave with a profound respect for creativity, a genuine love of music, comfort going to work unshaven and in jeans (I'll miss this!) and enriched by the many wonderful relationships Susan and I forged during this chapter of our lives. And, maybe - just maybe - even a touch hip.
I also feel great about where WE stand - as a community.
First, the chaos of distrust and paranoia that once characterized industry relations has given way to a new and healthier season of mutual respect and commitment to common purpose. Sometimes we fight - that's normal of course - but for the most part it's civil, honest and grounded in a valid belief we all share that our interests are fundamentally aligned. This summit is ground zero of a healthier music family - and I simply want to say thanks to each of you for the leadership you exhibit every day.
Second, I believe 2011 is the year music historians will highlight as our turnaround. We are regaining our mojo and are on a bit of a roll, even if some of us - understandably - are tentative and reluctant to celebrate the apparent pivot in our fortunes. While the story isn't complete, I do think we are seeing a fundamental shift in our landscape. Consider:
- LimeWire is shut down and while some users are migrating to Frostwire and other illegal options, more are not. The number of Americans engaged in illegal music consumption fell from roughly 30 million in May of 2010 to about 24 million in May of this year, a noteworthy 20% reduction. The battle isn't over, but finally, we have momentum and we are winning.
- Back in '03 and '04, more Americans used the Internet to engage in illegal consumption than legal consumption of music. As of this summer, due to massive growth in legal streaming, the success of Internet radio and the maturation of iTunes, legal consumption hit 120 million, a 5 to 1 audience advantage over illegal consumption. The Internet is no longer cannibalizing our future; it's enabling it.
- We have made profound progress, as a community, in the fight to make the Internet a place of order rather than chaos, where legitimate players work together to encourage legal activity and suppress illegal activity. The recent deal with the ISPs, negotiated so ably by Cary, Steve and Vicky, is perhaps the most vivid example. That said, we are seeing progress and I believe we will see considerably more progress in the months ahead, on the part of other intermediaries like payment processors and advertisers. The Administration and the Hill, in a bipartisan and unified fashion, have made clear to legitimate players in the Internet space that responsibility to be good actors does not end when commerce moves from physical to digital.
- New buckets of revenue are beginning to demonstrate material value, especially performance royalties. The very nature of radio is transforming; the listener hours owned by terrestrial over-the-air will continue to decline as the combination of satellite and webcasting (including simulcasting) will establish powerful revenue streams, for recordings, reaching a billion dollars within five or six years and conceivably doubling in ten to twelve.
- The SoundScan numbers through July show greater unit resiliency than I think many of us expected. Digital albums in particular are doing very well - up almost 20% - while the physical fall (-5%) is less sharp than anticipated. Net net, finally, we're up 4%.
- And, of course, the market experimentation we've hoped for with significant players is showing huge progress. Between Apple's iCloud, Spotify and other great emerging services, fans are going to be able to access and enjoy music in powerful new ways that can only strengthen our collective future.
I could go on and on, but this email is long enough already. Suffice it to say that working together, we've set the table for a prosperous future for music. I've never been more optimistic.
So, thanks for your courtesies over the years, your leadership, your passion for music and most of all, the warm friendship we've enjoyed together.
All the very best,
(Editor: Some formatting added for clarity)
What letter would you send to Mitch in return?