14 October 2012

The Music Industry is Dying

A California district court has ruled that it's definitely still not okay to steal from people in the music industry, even if they're just lowly music publishers. Judge George H. Wu served LiveUniverse.com and its owner, MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, with a $6.6 million default judgment on Tuesday for posting the lyrics to 528 songs, including TLC's "Waterfalls," without permission on multiple websites owned by the company. This should come as a surprise to music consumers because who knew that posting lyrics online was illegal? Certainly not the hundreds of sites that do it regularly.

Ross Charap, a lawyer representing the publishers, told Ars Technica on Thursday that the suit was filed in order to persuade more sites to adhere to licensing requirements. And although the plaintiffs—Peermusic, Bug Music, and Warner Chappell Music—originally hoped to "persuade" potential violators by winning $100,000 per song from Greenspan, the judge reduced the punishment to $12,500 to avoid disproportionate damages. [Source.]

Healthy industries don’t generally spend a lot of time suing those who provide non-competitive complementary services to their customer base, yet this is exactly what we find the music industry doing.  Posting lyrics online does not generally dissuade potential customers from buying music (if I had to guess, I would bet that reading lyrics is generally a post-consumption event that generally enhances the listening experience).  In fact, lyrics aren’t even substitute goods.  Thus, the only reason to sue lyric providers is to get money from them directly; it is not to prevent the cannibalization of sales.

As such, this act is befitting an industry in desperation, and surely forebodes its demise.  Between the internet, the general growth of technology, and the ever-decreasing costs and ever-decreasing barriers to producing quality music, it would seem that the megalithic corporate-based music industry is not long for this world.  To which I say good riddance.


  1. If we left it up to the music industry, many quality acts would NEVER be discovered, let alone known...

  2. Very interesting post. I myself am wondering what the future of the music industry will bring as the business end catches up to the technology. One the one hand, barriers to publication will go down allowing for more musicians to produce and popularize their music. OTOH, there seems to be no way to make money from one's music anymore except to play gigs or write background music for other media.

  3. @MarkyMark- Yep. It's generally more profitable to pander.

    @Anon.- My guess is that the number of bands in existence will decline, and a good number of them will exist more as hobbies than careers. I feel pretty certain that at this point enough music exists to ensure that discovering previously unknown old bands will serve as a substitute for new bands, especially given the some of the cyclicism of the industry.

  4. I think it's correct to speculate that music will probably exist more as a hobby than as a career, but I don't think the number of bands/musicians will decline. The ultimate goal of becoming a musician isn't necessarily to get rich (though few would object) but to attract women. And the collapse of music as an industry will not prevent musicians from getting popular and picking up groupies at live events.

  5. @A- perhaps you're right on the attracting women angle, but again this is still subject to the consequences of market saturation. If all men can play guitar, then there is no advantage to any man playing guitar. Thus, one will have to not only be able to play in a band, but also have some degree of success with said band in order to pick up women.

    Also, I believe it was Bob Lefsetz who noted a while ago that music is no longer the cheap ticket to tons of sex that it once was. Adam Levine also echoed these sentiments in an interview , though I do not know how true they are, since I suspect that the lead singer of one of America's more popular bands would have quite a bit of access to women. Bur as long as the perception is that that music --> women, then your assertion that music will grow as a hobby should be generally correct.