A Tale about Dinosaurs, Meteorites and Music

The year is 2009. A recent invention has blurred the borders between countries. The so-called "Internet" was recently released and allows people from all over the world to communicate, to share information, and to exchange data.

While many big companies still see the Internet as some fad that will surely soon go away, some smaller companies embraced the opportunities that the Internet offers. Companies like YouTube or Dailymotion emerged and allow people to share Videos that they have created themselves.

People are happy, because this new "Web 2.0" gives ordinary people like me and you the opportunity to create content and to actually share it with other people. While this leads to a lot of sub-par quality content, this new freedom also gave birth to some high quality or otherwise excellent content. This Web 2.0 grew and pospered, and everyone was happy.

Everyone? No, a small percent of people were not happy. Those people, let's call them "Major Music Company Managers" or MMCMs for short could not cope with this new freedom. You have to understand their point of view: They were born and raised in a world where the border of a country was a wall, impassable for all but the most wealthy and important people. When the MMCMs grew up, they learned that their products needed separate licensing in every country and preferably for every occasion. They learned that in order to maximize Shareholder value and Profit, they needed to make licensing complex and expensive. And who can really critisize them? Weren't we all told that creating content is reserved for the elite of our society? Wouldn't it be total chaos and anarchy if the mob would get the power to create content?

But the MMCMs realized that they would need henchmen to make sure that only the Elite gets access to their content. Of course, they needed to make sure that the mob can sip from their fountain of high class content, but at the same time they need to protect it from the very same mob. So they made sure to have local authorities, and so they went and instituted the RIAA in the US, the GEMA in Germany and many other similar henchmen companies.

You have to understand that these MMCMs and dinosaurs and that they are unable to evolve. So when this new Web 2.0 thing came up, they did not know how to react, they were never trained to do so. They are used to act and control, not to react and collaborate. So while they do see the meteorite that will make them extinct, they are not realizing it. Instead, they fell back to their primary instinct, the habits that all humans share: Hunt, kill and devour their prey.

If they would be able to evolve, they could see the opportunities that are suddenly open to them. The mob is suddenly creating it's own content, and it's not just some fad that will go away. User-created content may not make the high-budget content go away completely, but it has successfully established a market share that is too big to ignore. But the most important gotcha: User-Created content is on the Internet, and the Internet knows no country borders (except maybe the Great Firewall of China, some Parts of Germany, and some other third world countries that are ruled through oppression).

The MMCMs could have embraced the opportunity just like the common mob did. They could have taken the chance to allow easy and painless world-wide licensing of their content, and they could offer fair pricing and clear legal conditions. They could get advertising not only for free - they could actually have people advertise their content AND get paid by them for it.

Unfortunately, they decided to go down the road to extinction. Instead of trying to find out how they could profit and evolve, they instead decided to cut off the mob from their content. They stopped producing Audio CDs and instead started to offer weird Data CDs that somehow resembly Audio CDs. They decided to offer their music on the internet, but only for rent, not for sale. And they decided to sue people in an attempt to convince people to not advertise their content anymore. They call it "protecting their assets", and again: It's hard to criticise them for it if you just keep in mind that they are primal creatures from a different era.

But, there is hope. Others have seen the inability to evolve as well, and decided to breed a new race of music licensing people. The Web 2.0 gave birth to Creative Commons, to Magnatune, to Opsound and to many more. The Web gave birth to more advanced ways to make sure the mob gains legal access to music, and it also allows musicians to get paid properly. The dinosaurs may still have a bit of an advantage because of their existing back catalogue, but if they stay unable to evolve and work together with us common people rather than beging against us, they will become extinct within this or the next generation.

A loss? Not more that the loss of Mammoths or Bluebucks.

TLDR Version: Dear major record companies, please stop being idiots and finally create the foundation for fair and easy worldwide licensing, or at least stop crying about how bad the economy is, because the economy is perfectly fine, the problem is you. Thank you.

PS: Save some Love is quite cool, I think I'll license it.