So this is the best the music industry can do? Face to face with extinction, the biz and its advocacy group, the Canadian Recording Industry Association, have launched www.keepmusiccoming.com.
It's aimed at teens, those most responsible for file-sharing and downloading, and tries to educate kids on the value of music.
Using a mix of hectoring (artists starve while you burn!), hysteria (file-sharing sites can infect your computer with noxious viruses!) and fear-mongering (chat rooms on file-sharing sites are dangerous!), the site hammers away at the point that music costs something and downloading is bad.
At best, this seems like a fumbling response to a legitimate issue. At worst -- particularly in its attempts to appeal to "the kids" with faux hipster language (Be A Playa) -- it's embarrassing.
www.keepmusiccoming.com arrives with the full support of the major record labels and some of their stars. Artists like Remy Shand, K-OS and the Barenaked Ladies are interviewed about the importance of music to them; interestingly, all these established artists describe music's value in spiritual, not monetary terms.
Other articles detail the perilous state of the music industry. The unspoken point, seen in the site's name, is that if downloading continues, music will simply cease to exist.
The move is understandable, particularly as record labels continue to suffer in the wake of digital downloading.
But for all its flashy design, www.keepmusiccoming.com seems like it was cobbled together via focus groups. It fails to answer fans' disillusionment with the industry and the reasons why they'd want to do an end run around it by bootlegging.
The music biz has been notoriously slow to respond to the popularity of sites like KaZaA and Napster with a legitimate alternative. Industry-approved sites like www.pressplay.com are as limited as KaZaA is wide open in its choice of music, and the glory days when labels could force a fan to buy a complete CD for the three good songs he or she wanted are long gone.
In a sense, www.keepmusiccoming.com is as ineffectual as recent industry initiatives like extra-value CDs, whose meaningless DVD supplements are supposed to entice fans to buy the CD rather than download the cuts they want. Creating a site that demonizes the technology we now take for granted does little to combat the reasons why that technology is popular in the first place.
You want to inform kids about how the music industry operates? Explain to them why CDs cost $20 and precisely where that money goes.
It's a crucial part of the discussion that's missing, one picked up by the very people the site is attempting to appeal to. The most interesting posts on the site's discussion board are those taking issue with the assumption that artists themselves are the ones suffering from downloading.
One poster quotes Tom Petty and Steve Albini to suggest that bands are better served by supporting their live shows than by funding the middleman. It's the kind of frank discussion sites like this could use more of. email@example.com