Friday, March 03, 2006


If you have tears, prepare to shed them worse than watching the bloke on Wednesday's Deal Or No Deal who only wanted to go to Australia and wound up with just a penny. Poor Larry Kenswil wants your sympathy because of all the "piethrowing" the music industry has to endure. All they want to do is sell James Blunt records, and they get in on all sides. (Kenswil, of course, is the president of Universal Music Group, so he's not entirely an innocent here.)

So, Larry, who are throwing pies?

Manufacturers are throwing pies, by... erm, inventing stuff, like mp3 players which can pick up satelite signals:

"It's a great example of how you can lose it all for everyone if you set out to gain an extra cent for yourself," said Kenswil.

Interesting that a boss of an RIAA music company should realise the dangers of that sort of behaviour. He oddly didn't quote the example of the music companies colluding to set CD prices artificially high, which caused consumers to lose massively. Or the way the record companies, desperate to try and cling on to its super-super-normal profits from physical sales bungled the first four or five years of digital music online and wound up having to spend desperately to try and catch up.

The telcos are also pie throwers:

The second group were the telcos, who Kenswil said might threaten to bring in tiered internet pricing. When we asked Larry about this later, he said he still wasn't sure how seriously to take the big telcos hints that they wanted to charge differential pricing. "We're probably neutral on net neutrality right now," he joked.

The music industry, it seems, isn't keen on the idea of internet access costing different sums for different consumers. This, of course, must be a different music industry from the one lobbying Apple to abandon its 'one price fits all' pricing structure for iTunes, then.

The worst pie-throwers, though, are the internets people - Kenswil calls them "utopians":

"It's the capitalism-is-evil crowd, the folks who want stuff for free - and you will find them on Slashdot," he said.

Kenswil quoted, to much appreciative laughter from the music industry audience, a Slashdot author called "albertpacino" for the saying that the music industry had "chosen to be blind about the issue."

Of course, this is standard big industry talk now - anyone who suggests that, say, Tesco really shouldn't be allowed to dig up parkland in Liverpool to extend a store is painted as being an anarchist extremist; and it's so much easier to paint all of Slashdot as being anti-everything when, of course, there are as many people (okay, some people) who are pro-capitalism and will argue the music industry case. It's possible that Kenswil isn't being deliberately misleading here - the music industry has never really understood what happens online, so it's as likely he's just ill-informed.

But Kenswil paid particular attention to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "zeropaid", and Downhill Battle Labs.

"One wonders if they haven't got anything better to do," mused the Universal executive.

"With all the crap going on in the world, is Sony BMG the worst corporation in the world? Is it worse than the spammers, or the people who write viruses on purpose?" he asked.

"A lot of this is just fund-raising demagoguery. All they're saying is send us the money. But when you ask them what do they think is going to happen to the industry - the answer is some amorphous 'we'll figure it out eventually'".

Well, since you ask about Sony-BMG, they might not be worse than people who write viruses, but they did install - without asking - irremoveable software which opened a massive security hole in people's PCs. If you rework his question as a metaphor, it's "is someone who goes round selling skeleton keys really as bad as someone who breaks into houses?"

And you'll note also the tacked on "on purpose", which is there to suggest that Sony-BMG put the malware on its machines and distributed by accident.

One further question, Keswil: with all the crap going on in the world, are a few kids downloading Barney The Dinosaur theme tunes really all that bad?