Wednesday, August 03, 2005


We're interested in the spin put on the latest bunch of stats released by RIAA-led international music body the IFPI: "Music buyers are growing older". Interesting, that, as apart from being obviously true (can you think of anyone who is getting younger?) it's one way of interpreting the fact that now 55% of all music worldwide is bought by people over 30 - you could equally argue that older people are buying more music than they used to. But that sounds a bit positive, and doesn't fit the RIAA's need to project itself as leading an industry in perpetual crisis.

Why is this figure in any way remarkable, anyway? The industry pumps more and more into flogging back catalogue each year - and let's face it, your average fifteen year-old isn't exactly going to be rushing out to buy a Best of Michael Jackson or a Pink Floyd remaster; the average age of the population in developed countries is getting higher year-on-year; the old attitude that you did new music until you hit your twenties has been pretty much wiped away over the last couple of decades. The news that the industry no longer relies on fickle teens is a tremendous indication of the health and maturity of the commercial music industry.

It could, of course, do with a little more diversity:

Universal is still the world's biggest recording company with a 25.5% share of the global market. Sony BMG is next with a 21.5% share, followed by EMI at 13.4%.

And we can be proud of ourselves in the UK:

With an average 2.9 albums bought by every man, woman and child, per capita album sales are higher in the UK than in any other country in the world.

And yet, of course, the BPI is pressing ahead with legal action against five people who, it claims, are uploading music to the net. The BPI is, of course, thrilled with itself:

The announcement comes amid clear indications that the record industry is turning the tide on illegal filesharing.

Interesting that they chose the word "tide" - something which flows out, then flows back again. We're not quite sure what these indications actually are, since the last couple of months has seen more activity on the p2p networks, but we're glad they're happy, anyway.

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said, "Music fans are increasingly tuning into legal download sites for the choice, value and convenience they offer. But we cannot let illegal filesharers off the hook. They are undermining the legal services, they are damaging music and they are breaking the law."

Hang about a moment... for years the record industry has been moaning that the p2p networks had to be closed because "you can't compete with free"; now, it seems, they've finally realised that, actually, you can, by offering convenience and range. If only they'd listened to us five years ago...

Civil proceedings are being issued today against five individuals who between them made 8,906 songs available for millions of people around the world to download without permission.

An interesting choice of word, there - "permission". The BPI wants us to ask before we download anything. Music may only be heard with the direct permission of the big labels.

The BPI will claim compensation and costs on behalf of its member record companies whose music has been uploaded on to peer-to-peer networks without permission.

There it is again - "permission". It makes a change from the "stealing" metaphor they usually work with, but then in a courtroom you can't actually play hard and loose with words in that way; at least something good has come out of the court case - the BPI has finally had to admit that filesharing isn't about theft.

BPI General Counsel Geoff Taylor said, “So far 60 UK internet users have settled legal claims against them for illegal filesharing, paying up to £6,500 in compensation. We have tried to agree fair settlements, but if people refuse to deal with the evidence against them, then the law must take its course. That's why we have had no choice but to take these five individuals to the High Court. We will be seeking an injunction and full damages for the losses they have caused, in addition to the considerable legal costs we are incurring as a result of their illegal activity."

Curiously, they did have a choice, of course - it's not like there's a force of action that they cannot resist. Unless Taylor means that the RIAA is making them do it, but we can't believe that the BPI is a lapdog doing what the US cartel wants. We can't.

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