Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RIAA needs to follow the example of other industries

By now, the RIAA's actions in its attempts to combat piracy is infamous. From suing individuals that they think have illegally downloaded content (even if it is blatantly obvious they never did) to trying to push ISP's into policing the Internet on their behalf. However, there are other IP industries that have moved on and followed the times, innovating to keep themselves current and up-to-date with the latest information age trends that demand content online. I am referring specifically to the movie and book publishing industries.

One of my fondest memories here in South Africa, was writing an article to a local IT publication, discussing how the latest movie titles can be bought at almost any street corner for about half what they cost in the stores, and that the best way that the movie industry could combat these pirates was to drop pricing and so make it unprofitable and too risky for these operators to continue. A few months later, genuine DVD titles in shops dropped from R300 each to a paltry R150 or thereabouts. Now, even if you went looking, the street-side vendors selling their pirated versions have all but vanished.

Combine this kind of pro-active approach to keeping your physical stock moving with online content-delivery platforms, and the amount of news I read about the movie industry losing out to pirates is so minimal its more like background noise.

Moving onto book publishers, ebooks could have been a real threat and could have resulted in publishers employing tactics similar to the RIAA. Instead, you can now buy ebooks online for a fraction of the price of physical books themselves. And developments like the iPhone and iPod Touch (amongst others) make consuming an ebook that much more pleasant. While devices like the Kindle by Amazon and now Barnes & Nobles own ebook reader also point to the book publishing worlds flowering digital transformation, I still think these large, expensive devices are ridiculous, but that is just a personal opinion.

The RIAA on the other hand seems convinced that the only way to continue in a world where people want their content digitally, is to deny them that and enforce draconian and, to be honest, ridiculous measures to preserve a business model that is so behind the times its laughable. People are already buying music online on a per track basis. The RIAA, and the companies it apparently attempts to protect, need to realise that the days of the "album" are nearly at an end. People want songs not epics. People do not want to be forced to buy a physical storage medium like a CD that contains 12 songs when they are only interested in 1.

Lastly, if the RIAA is not careful, they may find themselves defunct, along with the record companies they represent. With the explosion in online presence by artists and the ease with which anyone can publish content online, even music, recording studios that sign up artists as has traditionally been done, may no longer be necessary. Artists generate the majority of their own income by touring and royalties, not record sales. Record sales only help market the artist to a prospective audience and line the recording studios coffers. But when an artist has access to an all pervasive medium like the Internet as well as the multitude of portals to market their own content (YouTube, etc), they may realise they don't actually need a recording studio anymore. Artists may dictate to marketing agencies how they want their content promoted instead of the other way round.

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