Posted on September 25, 2003 by

RIAA’s Dilemna

There is a whole generation of people entering the workforce out of University that don’t know a world without personal computers. They have had broadband access to the Internet since before they could do square roots. Napster was started while they were in high school, shut down before they graduated, and they’ve Kazaa’d their way through University.

These are the consumers that represent the RIAA’s target market.

Here’s the thing. You have an entire generation of people that have gotten used to using their PC as their music centre. They use their PC’s to download, store, sort and play their music. When they want to go out, they bring their portable MP3 player, no bigger or heavier than a matchbox, and listen away.

Colleges make a big show of trying to “educate” their students about the evils of piracy, but the learnings should be going in the other direction. Instead, the recording industry would have them go and take the bus to the mall to buy a piece of plastic containing their music.

They bring this plastic disk to their dorm and try to move the songs to their PC’s, to their MP3 players, and they can’t because of the new copy-protection. They want to bring the music with them, and they need a new device, about 3 times the size and weight of their MP3 players which burns through batteries about 3 times as fast. If you are going to make me carry this huge, heavy, power-sucking device, I should be able to hold about 19 hours of music on it, not a measly 74 minutes.

The legal services certainly don’t provide any respite either. iTunes only works on a Mac. Pressplay won’t work for Canadians. MusicMatch has a limited catalogue and probably doesn’t have the songs you are looking for.

And so this entire generation turns to breaking the law. Most of them know it’s illegal (not always) to pirate music through P2P networks, but they do it anyway, because the alternative is to find a time machine and go back 10 years. It’s not easy to forget that technology exists.

The last time so many otherwise law-abiding citizens broke the law was in the days of Prohibition. That didn’t last long. The laws were changed. We have witnessed a paradigm shift in the way the world thinks about music. It’s time for the business models to shift as well.