Thursday, June 22, 2006

Most Record Labels Are Dumb Like Wood

Gotta love the record industry's ability to regularly come up with new ways to shoot itself in the foot, then continue blowing toes off one after the other.

BAGeL Radio receives dozens of CDs each week from record companies, radio promotion companies hired by record companies, and bands themselves. It is a dream come true for someone who, at one point in his life, had to restrict the number of times per week he was allowed to shop at Amoeba. Sometimes the CDs are crap. Sometimes the CDs are completely out-of-genre (someone sent me Jewel, for crying out loud). Sometimes the CDs are pretty OK. Occassionally they are great, and those are the ones that get added to rotation.

Well, there's one more category of CDs, those that are 'protected' by Digital Rights Management (DRM) software. These clever tools are what prevented people from making copies of their VHS versions of THE COTTON CLUB. Until hackers found ways around it. Later, the DVD versions of THE COTTON CLUB were 'protected' from piracy by DRM technology. Until hackers found ways around it. Now in the age of digital downloads, the music industry is trying it out on CDs. Hackers have found their way around it but, sadly, I am not a hacker.

(Sidebar: Shawn Fanning, who opened the Pandora's Box of file sharing when he invented Napster, now heads a company working on next-generation DRM software).

The DRM I run into on these promo CDs is made by a company called Macrovision. When these CDs are encoded directly into a digital library (iTunes, Windows Media Player, whathaveyou) -- the recording is destroyed by regular intermittent noise added by Macrovision. This is all well and good, except for the fact that they are sending these CDs to internet radio stations. Hello! We need to encode the songs to add them to our libraries so that they can be added to rotation!

Sure, there are other ways to do it, like run an RCA-out from the CD player into the computer, but that is time-consuming because the copying takes place in real-time (the length of the CD = the length of recording time) and a pain in the ass. Sitting here with 40 new CDs on my desk you think I'm going to take the time to try to circumvent the DRM, or even bother listening on a CD player when I know I won't be able to broadcast it anyway?

No, instead, I put them in a pile. When I hear some horrible lie spewed by Michelle Malkin, or some hatespeech from Ann Coulter, or some ignorant chest thumping from Bill O'Reilly, or some dissembling directly from the Bush Administration, I access that pile and take out my aggressions on those Macrovision-protected CDs by smashing them to bits.

Sometimes this saddens me, because the CD contains music by a band that I like (The Raveonettes and Mission of Burma come readily to mind). It's not the bands' fault their record label is dumb like wood and unable to grasp the realities of the digital age. It is their fault for signing/staying with such backward-assed companies, though.

Get out of your contracts, artists. Hire a lawyer and a manager you can trust, take out a loan, and hit the road. Do It Yourself. Even if your efforts fail, at least it was your best effort, as opposed to the 'effort' of some paleolithic record label who pissed away more money on glossy videos and out-moded media-buys than sales of your record could ever possibly recoup.

99.9% of you will be happier and will see at least some of the fruits of your labors, even if you never go gold. DIY, folks, D.I.Y. Unless you prefer to be sloppily and repeatedly raped in which case, sign on the dotted line....................................

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