Feb 03, 2009, 04:03AM

Stop Suing Teenagers

News from the RIAA has been grim, and it's only a matter of time before a change in leadership at the major labels. An open letter to whoever takes over.

Capitol.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Photo of the Capitol Records building by Meltwater

Dear Sir or Madam:

Congratulations! You must be reading this on your first official day "in office." How thrilling! Hope and Change and all that. That's you!

After your industry posted the worst decline in record sales since 2001, they kicked the last guy to the curb. And now that curb belongs to you. That's right—you get the curb and the building, the assistants and the middle management, the platinum plaques and the master tracks. Everything the light touches is your kingdom.

Let's be honest—you don't have much time to get comfortable. Those croissants won't marmalade themselves for very long, if you know what I mean. The board wants to see some results; your big artists might not be yours next week; your young bride/new beau needs something to brag about at the gym.

The kids these days, with their LimeWires and their 200 Gigaflex Hard Drives filled with your music—it's enough to make you want to hire someone to go around and teach them all a lesson. With a belt. Look into that.

Sorry, I was just kidding. But we do need to get "real" about this whole file-sharing nonsense. Let me give you some "action items" for you to delegate:

Stop Suing Teenagers
I'm sure you've heard this advice already. In fact, you and the rest of the head honchos already said you'd swear off the legal stuff. And yet there you are, doodling in the back of a courtroom while a kid who isn't old enough to get a good lap dance is being pummeled by your new lawyer friends for a flat million for stealing seven songs.

What's the fine these days for shoplifting a seven-song EP? Banned for life at Amoeba Records? Forced to dust off the KISS box sets? It sure as hell isn't a million dollars. I know, I know—it isn't the same thing. Actual stealing is far, far worse.

Start Advertising on Torrent Sites
Sites like The Pirate Bay or Mininova aren't making any more money than your label is from torrenting. That is to say, no money. These sites get their revenue from banner ads for softcore webcam porn and unfunny t-shirts.

So, take a cue from The Godfather and keep those enemies close—take out your own ads on their search pages. There's only one question: what do you advertise?

Adopt a New Strategy: Guilt
That's right, you're going to be offloading good old-fashioned guilt to those guileless youths. Here's what you do: generate targeted ads that change based on search input to torrent sites.

Online advertisements are so specialized now; they can sell me an escort in every town in America. Ads know I need to go back to school, they know I've recently been to Vegas, and they know I actually have a soft spot for unfunny t-shirts. It probably won't take that much R&D to figure out how to send Radiohead ads to the people searching for Radiohead and *NSync ads to the people searching for *NSync.

And what to put on the ads? Publish the most sincere photographs you can find of all your artists and include a single message: "Don't steal my music."

I guarantee that it'll be a lot tougher to download that Beyoncé discography when there's a banner ad mere pixels away. Guilt: it works.



  • I don't think guilt trips would work. I mean, that's why we don't listen to our mothers anymore, right? The problem isn't that the RIAA is suing people, it's that they're not suing ENOUGH people. So few people get caught that the rest of us feel like we can do whatever we want. Think about it this way: if it got out that you could shoplift your local electronics store and only have about a 0.0001% chance of ever getting caught, would you do it? Yes! But would you do it if the chances if you getting caught were 50/50? No way. That's why we don't shoplift; and that's also why we do steal music.

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  • Yeah, I hate to break it to you Forest, but they are no longer suing individuals for downloading. http://www.engadget.com/2008/12/19/riaa-finds-its-soul-will-stop-suing-individuals-for-music-pirac/ A google search of "RIAA Stops Suing" yields many, many more. While that really doesn't take away from the rest of your article, the whole suing bit is actually old news.

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  • Yes. To reiterate dtdowntown's point, this already happened. On an unrelated note, EVERYONE VOTE FOR OBAMA.

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  • Which, coincidentally, already happened, too.

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  • That's the thing - they haven't stopped yet. In the article, I was referring specifically to a case that just began hearings last week - more than a year after that Engagdet article. And if you don't believe me, the hearings are televised: http://www.boingboing.net/2009/01/29/eff-to-judge-lets-we.html

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