Memo From the RIAA: Legal Action Is First Step to Legal Listening

Guest Blog: The best strategy is all about providing fans with convenient access to music in legal, affordable ways

We appreciate the views put forth by Michael Stroud in his column titled “Memo to the RIAA: You’re Suing the Wrong Party for Piracy."

His observations about the music industry’s lawsuits against end users instead of the online businesses themselves are well-taken, although Mr. Stroud seems to forget the Napsters of old — Grokster, Aimster, Kazaa, Morpheus, LimeWire and others — that have either shuttered or gone legal due to favorable court rulings for the music industry. But we can agree with his overall view that the best strategy is all about providing fans with convenient access to music in legal, affordable ways. 

The thing is? We have. And we are. Look around the digital marketplace and you’ll see a wide variety of innovative, licensed services that give fans access to music when they want it, where they want and how they want it, all with a “fixed monthly cost,” as Mr. Stroud suggested.

Revenues from digital services like Spotify, MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody, Napster and the like now comprise more than 50 percent of our total revenues, and we’re proud to be one of the only content industries with that distinct characteristic. Seven out of the top 10 most followed Twitter users are artists, and five of the top six most viewed YouTube videos of all time are music videos. Music is in everyone’s DNA, and it’s showing.

Now having said all that, we’re an industry that’s half the size it was a decade ago, both in dollars and in jobs. We don’t claim piracy to be the only catalyst for that decline, but it was the primary driver behind it.

But we weren’t flying blind. We undertook the end user lawsuit campaign knowing it would not be popular but with the full realization and understanding that in order for this aforementioned thriving legal marketplace to happen, a good dose of enforcement needed to take place so fans knew the wrong and right ways to get music online. The vast majority of end users took responsibility for their illegal actions.

Unfortunately there were a small few who did not, despite our many settlement offers and a clear fact pattern that spoke to massive theft and untold damages. To be sure, we’d much rather be done with the outstanding cases so we can focus our energy on telling fans about the exciting new things happening in the marketplace today. But it is too important not to let bad legal precedent that weakens creators’ rights be the result of these cases.

There are some who prefer to recycle criticisms of our past and apply them to today’s industry. But to use an old phrase, that dog don’t hunt. We’re a much different looking industry than we were a decade ago.

Sure, we still want fans to enjoy music legally to help support music creators and the legitimate music marketplace. That will never change. But what that means has changed now that fans have more than 500 licensed services in the global marketplace to choose from today.

In short, we’ve gotten the memo, Mr. Stroud.