I can't quit you, RIAA

I'm giving up my "boycott" of RIAA-controlled music. There's a lot of reasons for this change of heart:

  • The RIAA has distribution deals with just about every label out there. If you're looking at discs in Borders, WalMart, Barnes and Noble, or Best Buy, there's a good chance that record passed through some channel run by a RIAA supplier. Much like boycotting dairy suppliers means you can't eat practically anything in a modern society, boycotting RIAA music means you have fewer options available to you.
  • I've broken it anyway. There's several albums that I've made rare exceptions to obtain. The new Rush album, a Metal sampler, Thelonious Monk... and likely ones that I thought were RIAA-free, but were likely not. So, I'm already a hypocrite, which appears to be the death of all principled arguments.
  • Some labels are getting it. My open letter to Roadrunner Records drew thoughtful response from the person who handles their mail-bag. It's clear that the RIAA is an association of record labels, and while some people "get it", others in higher places are working against that will. Some labels may never get it (Sony, what the hell is your problem?)
  • Labels are renouncing DRM. Amazon's MP3 store is a perfect example of labels getting the new model. We'll see how long it lasts, but having DRM-free music is a good thing. eMusic is another great way to get some awesome music, and one day I'll check them out.
  • Who am I really hurting? Ultimately, the artists are the ones who suffer any loss from me not purchasing their CDs. It's a corrupt model, but quite simply their the last in the food chain to get paid. If the album sales dry up, the label still recoups it's costs one way or another.

This doesn't mean I'll be stopping my purchases with smart labels like Magnatune or Positron Records, nor will my preferences with non-RIAA labels be diminished; I'm no less an advocate of their business model than before. I still think the Creative Commons is the way to go for music, and I fully support artists who chose to license their music under this model. I'm instead softening my stance a little in response to an industry that appears to be realizing that the old model isn't working, and a new model needs to take hold. As more and more RIAA lawsuits go by the wayside, we will hopefully see a return to sanity. Think of this as a truce, not a treaty.

And to you, the public, who think that just because the RIAA is evil and the artists aren't getting paid, ergo I should steal music: please stop. Just because the RIAA is evil doesn't mean you have carte blanche to steal music. If you download something you like, buy the album if you can. Music costs money to make, and good music should be rewarded with album sales, not mindless downloading. The people at Borders who didn't buy an album and decided to download it instead need to get their priorities straightened out.

Is this a case of a junkie coming back to his addiction after years of being clean? Perhaps. I'd like to think of it as rewarding some good behavior on the part of the industry.