Illegal Music Downloading Isn't What's Killing the Music Industry. Greed Is.
OK so, I decided to finally throw my two cents into the fray on this topic since I keep hearing a lot of bitching these days about how illegal music downloading is killing music and all that shit. 

I should preface this article with the fact that I have, by most people’s standards, a ridiculously huge collection of CD’s and LP’s (somewhere around 2000) and I myself personally prefer having a physical copy of an album.  I think it sounds better for one, and I really like the packaging, the artwork, reading the lyrics and all of that shit that got me into music in the first place.  I also pirate music (have since Napster) and frankly I don’t feel one bit bad about doing it.  If I really like the album, and I can actually get it, I will buy it eventually.  If I don’t like it that much, I probably never would’ve bought it in the first place even if file sharing didn’t exist. 

Today I saw the following article on Blabbermouth:
"Vocalist Randy Blythe of Richmond, Virginia metallers LAMB OF GOD has posted a lengthy rant on his Twitter account about the current state of the music industry following today's announcement that MARILYN MANSON's new album, "Born Villlain", debuted at position No. 10 on The Billboard 200 chart with first-week U.S. sales of just 38,000 copies.

Blythe's rant in its entirety follows below (edited for clarity):

“So Marilyn Manson's new record debuted at #10 [with] just over [38,000] sold, including iTunes. He released it independently on his own record. This is a guy with 3 platinum records, 3 gold, 5 top 10 debuts including two NUMBER ONE RECORDS in the U.S. He also has a HUGE CULT FOLLOWING.

"A #10 record? 38,000 sold first week for arguably one of the biggest 'underground'-type acts? IT'S FUCKING PATHETIC. The industry is DYING.

"All the people who argue about not feeding the record labels, the corporate machine, etc., about how artists should just release their albums THEMSELVES and THE FANS, THE REAL UNDERGROUND FANS will back them to support the artists? There is your fucking answer.

"I don't listen to [Marilyn Manson], but dude has cred for making his own artistic choices. He hasn't released a record in 3 years and his fans, his HUGE-ASS FAN BASE, could only chart 38,000 records? That's fucked up. MARILYN MANSON is a MUCH LARGER BAND than LAMB OF GOD, and we outsold him by over 10,000 first week. Not because we have gotten bigger, but because we had a label, a promotional machine behind us. So so much for the 'release it yourself and we will support the artist and not the greedy corporate label pigs' theory. Amazing.

"Marilyn Manson is rich as fuck and this won't put him in the poorhouse by any means, but if a huge-ass rock star like him can only sell 38,000 records first week, RELEASING IT HIMSELF, then how are the bands putting out their FIRST record when nobody knows who they are supposed to survive?

"Don't cry for me, Argentina — I can tour 'till the cows come home and pay my bills.
But I feel sorry for the young bands.

"Good luck, guys and gals — yer gonna need it.

"'Support the artists, not the labels…' GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE.

"Anyway, the whole point of that was not to draw comparisons to my band's and MARILYN MANSON's quality of music (thanks for the compliments y'all, haha), differences in styles, who is more popular, etc. — I'm just saying that when a 'underground' music star THAT BIG sells THAT LITTLE amount, it shows me that things will only get harder for younger bands as the labels sink further and further into disrepair.

"There's solid underground labels with ethical owners (I am friends with some of them) who do this thing for the love of MUSIC, TO GET IT OUT THERE, AND TO HELP YOUNG BANDS — but if truly (comparatively) no one is buying records, even from the independents, then eventually no one will be there to help the younger bands get where they need to be.

"I have a good life. I'm smart with my $, and I don't 'live large' (i.e. STUPIDLY) — don't need to, and I don't want to. I have a solid career as long as I want it. So I ain't worried about ME — I'll be FINE — but I do worry for those young bands. Because I LOVE the younger bands that KICK MY ASS and make me feel OLD and feel like I BETTER step my game up OR ELSE. I just want those bands to have a goddamned chance at making it, same chance I had. Someone has got to sing the new songs, and somehow those songs NEED TO BE HEARD.



OK, so first of all, to directly address this ridiculous rant I think Mr. Blythe needs to get his facts straight.  First, and foremost:  Marilyn Manson is NOT an “underground” artist.  I love this sentence right here: “I'm just saying that when an 'underground' music star THAT BIG”.  I’m pretty sure that’s what they call an oxymoron there bud.  When you have hit singles within the top 10 of the billboard chart I’m afraid you are not an underground artist.  When I see Marilyn Manson singles on Much Music Big Shiny Tunes compilations (yes I am dating myself terribly here, I know), you are not an underground artist.  When you are able to perform in stadiums and huge festivals around the world you are not an underground artist.  You are fucking huge and you are fucking mainstream.  Kinda like another “underground" artist you may have heard of by the name of Lamb of God, who shall know officially be crowned Lamb of Derp.

Secondly, he says the album only sold 38,000 records opening week including iTunes.  I assume then that is only including purchasing the album as an entirety off of iTunes.  I hate to break it to you, and the rest of the business, but people who buy music off of iTunes do not purchase albums, they purchase hit singles.  No one gives a fuck about listening to albums anymore.  Heck most people in the current generation have the attention span of a fucking chipmunk and can’t do anything for more than 2 minutes at a time.  Heck half of the people I know can’t even listen to a whole song without changing it to something else, much less an album clocking in at nearly 70 minutes in length.  Especially in the case of this particular album because frankly, I didn’t think it was all that good.  Since people can get it before hand by downloading and in this case actually I think they even streamed it in its entirety (legally I might add) prior to release, they’re going to know it too and probably aren’t going to spend their money on something that is merely passé.  They’ll get the single and maybe a couple of other tracks and move on to the next thing.

These people are not going to slap down the ridiculous money iTunes is charging for a digital copy of an album (paying essentially the same price for a compressed digital copy as you would for the actual CD is ass rape plain and simple), they’ll pay a couple bucks here and there for a quick fix of whatever they're told is a hit and whatever is popular or they’ll just say “fuck it, the album was meh anyway, I’ll just download it”.  Judging by the success of an artist by full album sales is a thing of the past.  No amount of bitching by the music industry or the artists is going to change that.  No amount of lawsuits filed against people who just want to listen to some music (instead of spending that money fighting REAL crime) and who don’t have hundreds to thousands of dollars a month to spend on CD’s is going to change that.  Even if all piracy ceased to exist I seriously doubt you would see a significant increase in CD sales.  Wanna know why?  It’s because nobody fucking listens to CD’s anymore.  Everyone listens to iPods or mp3 players because it’s more convenient and most people don’t give a fuck how good it sounds and are lazy sacks who couldn’t be bothered shopping for music if it means exerting more effort than a couple of mouse clicks (the future of Wall-E is starting to look like a pretty plausible future indeed).

If you want to blame someone for the death of the music industry I think you might also want to consider directing some of that toward Apple.  Without iPod, compressed music (such as mp3’s) would not have become the go to way to get and consume music.  The peer to peer revolution that Napster started wouldn’t have gone very far if you had to listen to all of your music on your computer or know how to convert it into an audio CD and burn it to disc.  Notice how even when Napster was reigning supreme you didn’t hear the industry bitching about terrible record sales and music stores were most definitely not shutting their doors even when they had millions and millions of users. 

Digital music files are popular because iPods (and their ilk) are convenient, small, you can take it anywhere, put most people’s entire music collection into a single device and it’s designed to be easy for fucking idiots.   And fucking idiots with a fast food mentality for everything in life (which these devices cater to perfectly) make up the majority of the music consuming populace I’m afraid to say.  If they didn’t I don’t think you’d be seeing artists like Nicki Manaj, Lil’ Wayne, Ke$ha, Katy Perry, David Guetta and the rest of this current generation of auto-tuned, talentless, completely assembled and marketed as product, bullshit burning up the charts now would you.

Speaking of Napster, here’s the kicker.  The music industry had their chance to change right at the start of all of this.  Napster offered the big labels over $1 billion to cover the supposed loss of revenue and a continuous stream of ad revenue going forward if they would get on board.  Heck, they could’ve even worked out a royalties tax for ISP’s to apply to their billing structure like they have on recordable media here in Canada that could be used to pay the artists.  I think most people wouldn’t mind a tiny hike in their monthly service bills if it meant they could share all the music they wanted every month.  If not that, then a low monthly flat rate per month to use the service and you get unlimited access. They could’ve been making money without even needing to pay for manufacturing a physical product.  Even the advertising and marketing costs basically took care of themselves on the network since it basically takes radio and everything else out of the picture. 

You’d have one, massive global music service that everyone and their dog would join and you’d never have to worry about not being able to find what you want, or an album going out of print and everyone would still be getting paid.  You’d immediately be able to look into where artists were the most popular when booking tours to ensure the best possible attendance, you could even announce them over the service because it was also a chatting IRC service.  All for a cost of zero because the beauty of a service like Napster is that the users are the ones putting the content on it and forming the communities within it.  Maybe some of those bigwig execs and rock stars would only be able to snort coke off of prostitute’s asses every second day, but I think that’s a sacrifice they could probably live with.  And if not, well, it’s probably better than facing bankruptcy now isn’t it.

But that wasn’t good enough because they couldn’t crank you over $20 for a piece of plastic worth about 5 cents and dictate to you what should and shouldn’t be popular by restricting the supply of music by artists who don’t fit into what the industry’s current version of “cool” is being marketed as.  You know what?  Even if they didn’t want to work with Napster, or if they wanted to make it into some pay service, or even if they wanted to make their own competing services, if they’d have all woken up and smelled the fucking coffee and immediately cut the price of every CD to $5 or less, I seriously doubt illegal downloading would’ve grown into the current juggernaut it has become.  People download music for a few simple reasons, and I think we can all agree that the vast overpricing of physical media is probably at the top of that list.  If I could buy any CD for $5 or less, why would I even bother with downloading it?  I got such a huge laugh when Universal music finally announced that all new releases would be priced at $10.99, about 5 years too fucking late.  Idiots.

The industry, and because of the old shit roles down here scenario, now the artists, are all just butt-hurt that their tired old dinosaur business model is coming crashing down around them and they were too stupid to change when they should’ve, ten years ago.  Frankly, I suspect it’s now too late.  You have way too many competing music services (all of them inferior to what Napster was and what the illegal sites are now) and frankly, greed is once again making paying for digital music an unattractive option for most people.  Frankly, I will NEVER pay for a digital file.  You are paying for 1’s and 0’s and nothing more.  It’s a copy, and frankly an inferior one.  I realize you could say the same for any medium when compared to the source tapes, but here, if your computer hard drive shits the bed, no more music.  You lose your iPod.  Too bad, so sad.  If I’m gonna pay for something, I want to hold it in my hand.  You don’t pay for TV shows by the show, you pay for the delivery service, the networks make their money from ad revenue (sound familiar) and we’re already doing that with ISP’s, so sorry, fuck you.

The other thing that always annoys me about this bitching about illegal downloading is that every opponent to it automatically assumes each download is equivalent to one sale lost.  I hate to break it to you guys, but that is simply not the case.  Not with music, and not with movies.  As I said in my preface to this article: I often download music and if I like the album and it is available to purchase I will usually do that because I want to have the whole experience of better sound, the artwork, lyrics, etc.  If the album is mediocre, I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.  Shit I sometimes even still blind buy music because it features artists who I know care about their craft or even if it’s on a reputable label, which is becoming rarer and rarer these days outside of the TRUE underground, which does not include Roadrunner records, Century Media or even Earache these days, sorry Randy. 

Prior to Napster, I was very selective about my purchases.  I took the opportunity to listen to them in the music store or at a friend's house before buying them; I’d read up on the artists, look at the artwork, read reviews and get other people’s opinions (that have similar taste) to make an informed choice with my limited funds.   I’m doing the exact same thing now; it’s just much more convenient since all of the middle men have been cut out.  If anything, my exposure to a much wider range of different artists and genres has actually been a benefit to the artists because I go to far more live shows than I would have in the past.

Speaking of which, one thing I hear artists bitch about is how they have to tour so much more now to make money.  Y’know what?  Suck it up princess.  You wanna be a rich ass rock star, and not work a regular shit job like the rest of us?  You gotta tour.  Frankly since Napster I have noticed a HUGE increase in the number of high profile artists I have seen come through my city and the surrounding area.  Everything from club shows all the way up to the stadium.  I bet half of those bands wouldn’t have even spit in the direction of Saskatoon if they could’ve sat in their mansions collecting royalty checks from CD sales.  And they sell A LOT of 40 dollar T-shirts at those shows.  I get it, if the fat cat labels go bankrupt, there’ll be no one to fund the big tours and that will be a shame.  Not many people who didn’t already amass a large personal fortune can afford to back a national or international stadium tour.  I will miss it I admit, but don’t put your blame on the little guys who just want to hear some tunes and maybe, you know, pay the bills and eat and stuff too.  Blame the fucking millionaires and billionaires who are absolutely unwilling to simply make a little less money every year for the good of all.

The thing is, I've seen a lot of really underground bands tour through here and Saskatoon is a looooooong way from home for these guys, so it doesn't make touring impossible, artists might just have to save up their money, team up with other artists, not stay in 5 star hotels eating caviar and fucking 10,000 dollar an hour hookers and I suspect music touring will still march forward. So I don't even buy into the whole "if labels die so will tours" guilt trip.

Here’s a perfect example of music industry greed.  Say you get signed to a label like Sony (they own a shit load of other labels too, so if you sign with one of them, like Roadrunner say, you are signed with Sony).  First off, despite their recent losses due to steep competition in many of the markets Sony competes in, Sony is still a fucking HUGE corporation in which music sales only make up a tiny fraction.  You’d think a monster company like that would want to try and get their new acquisition set up nicely and help them get established.  But here’s how they “help” you.  In the contract you sign, you also agree to record your album at a Sony approved studio.  Too bad that studio costs $3000 an hour and we haven’t even talked paying the engineers, the mixers, the producer, etc yet.  Rick Rubin apparently makes about 6 million dollars a year to produce records and allow me to share with you what that is apparently paying for:

Corey Taylor of Slipknot: “Now, there are some people who would love for me to just be [politically correct] and toe the party line, which is, basically, [to say] 'You know, working with Rick Rubin was a very enriching experience. He is truly a great mind. . .' Let me give you the fucking truth of it. Rick Rubin showed up for 45 minutes a week. Yeah. Rick Rubin would then, during that 45 minutes, lay on a couch, have a mic brought in next to his face so he wouldn't have to fucking move. I swear to God. And then he would be, like, 'Play it for me.' The engineer would play it. And he had shades on the whole time. Never mind the fact that there is no sun in the room — it's all dark. You just look like an asshole at that point. And he would just stroke his huge beard and try and get as much food out of it as he could. And he would go, 'Play it again.' And then he'd be, like, 'Stop! Do that over.' And he had an assistant who was seven feet tall. He had that disease where you can't grow hair on your body, so he was just bald. He looked like Mr. Clean's neurotic cousin. But he basically ran Rick Rubin's life — like, he was just fucking on it, on it, on it, on it. About half way through our precious 45 minutes, he would bring in this plate of shit. I assume it was food. It was bluish green. It smelled like someone had just plunged a fucking toilet somewhere. And he would eat it as fast as he could — just get it in there, all over himself. Which is, when you're working, so wonderful to look at . . . I will say this: I respect what Rick Rubin has done, I respect the work that he has done in the past to get to where he is now. But… this is a huge but… this is a J.Lo-sized 'but...' I will say this: The Rick Rubin of today is a thin, thin, thin shadow of the Rick Rubin that he was. He is overrated, he is overpaid, and I will never work with him again as long as I fucking live.” Do I think Corey Taylor is the definitive expert on music producers? No. Do I think what he's saying is probably pretty goddamn close to exactly what happend? Yes. Do I think Rick Rubin is an exception in the industry? Not likely.

And apparently this is the guy who Columbia records hired because he is going to “save” the music business. Right.

Anyway, this new up and coming band obviously cannot afford this, but the label is so nice, they’ll just lend you the money and you can pay them back when your new album becomes huge, it’s no big deal.  We’ll just dip into all of the money from your CD sales, from your merchandise sales and anything else you might pull in some revenue from.  Then the label doesn’t do a fucking thing to market the album since that too would cost a shit ton of money, and guess what?  The album doesn’t sell very well the first week, and this band who thought they’d finally “made it” in the music business now has to file for bankruptcy and go back to serving fast food for a living because they dropped out of school to play in a band and the label just dropped them and handed them a bill a fucking mile long. 

Is this the fan’s fault who downloaded these guys’ mp3s instead of buying the CD?  Sorry music business and sorry artists but greed has, and will, continue to kill the music industry.  Maybe if it didn’t cost a million dollars to record music, and lets all be honest here, it DOES NOT cost that much to make a well produced album in these modern digital times, bands wouldn’t have to sell hundreds of thousands of albums in the first week.  That’s the other thing too, it’s the first week.  Last I checked, not everyone who listens to music has their finger on the pulse of release dates, some people might not buy an album until years later.  So Randy Blythe declaring this Marilyn Manson album a sales failure and all that might be jumping the gun a bit.  Maybe it doesn’t sell as crazily as expected the first week, but then it turns out the album is a grower and positive grass roots word of mouth results in tens of thousands more sales over the next year.  Was it a failure then?  Are music pirates really fucking over the music business that badly?

There is no stopping file sharing.  Every site or peer to peer program that gets taken down, more will simply spring up to take their place.  Did prohibition stop people from drinking?  Do traffic laws stop people from speeding?  Do drug laws stop people from taking drugs?  No.  It’s time to evolve.  Sit down together with the tech industry and come up with an online music delivery service that will work in this new era.  And guess what, maybe people are going to have to temper their expectations a little with how badly they can rip off the average Joe.  Sorry, that cash cow has passed, the average Joe already figured out how to break your racket.  Welcome to real world where selling copies of a recording is no longer going to allow you to live like a king.  Randy’s last comment “Someone has got to sing the new songs, and somehow those songs NEED TO BE HEARDis just idiotic.  People will still sing new songs, people will still hear them (easier than ever before in fact with the internet), but maybe people won’t be able to make billions of dollars selling them.  Maybe that’s a good thing so people can start making music about art instead of making product for profit and calling it music.

I'm so fucking sick of reading these articles about how illegal downloading of music is killing the music industry. The music industry commited suicide a decade ago when they didn't jump on Napster's offer like flies on shit. I hear the definition of insanity is as follows: do something and see a result, continue to do the same thing and expect a different result. It don't work that way.


UPDATE May 26th, 2012

So I had to laugh when I saw this:

"LAMB OF GOD Frontman Quits Twitter, Calls It 'A Gigantic Waste Of Time' - May 21, 2012

Vocalist Randy Blythe of Richmond, Virginia metallers LAMB OF GOD has deleted his Twitter account. In his final tweet, which was re-tweeted by the band's official Twitter account, he wrote, "After a few short hours of no Twitter on my phone, I feel much better. Although I believe social networking can be used in a positive manner, I also believe it is, for the most part, a gigantic waste of time. Especially for me. It doesn't hurt that it's kinda addictive, and I certainly have that aspect of my personality. So peace, I'm fucking outta here. If you see someone on Twitter or Facebook claiming to be me, don't believe them, because I've never had Facebook and in about three minutes I won't have Twitter. So it was nice to meet some of y'all. I wish you well. Now I'm gonna go read a good book."

In a January 2012 interview with, Blythe spoke about his feelling on Twitter in detail, explaining, "A friend of mine told me about Twitter when it first started. A woman who lives here in Richmond, and she was like, 'You gotta get one of these things. It's Twitter, it's micro-blogging, it's a blog post in 140 characters or less.' And I'm like, 'Well, that sounds really stupid,' because what can you say in 140 characters or less? And I tend to be long-winded, as several of my Twitter posts illustrate. But I just started it, kind of on a lark, really. And as I continued doing it, people started following me and I started noticing its potential and its downside as a communication tool. As its potential for talking to a fan base, it really is unparalleled because it's an immediate response to a question from a fan or whatever. And it's not like you have to e-mail them and you can answer questions all day long. . . And I saw it as an instant communication medium with the fans. But also I began to see it in a way to de-mystify the whole 'rock stars are like these bizarre entity' type of things because I really don't feel like a rock star. I'm just a dude with a regular band and I think the perception of myself and the members of my band by our fans is very erroneous about our day-to-day lives. So I engage people on Twitter about different topics that don't deal with my band for the most part. I'm not foolish enough to state that all these people are following me because they think I'm Einstein or something. But it's a way for me to kind of talk to them on almost a one-to-one basis."

He added, "As I said, I saw the potential for it to be a great communication tool. There's also a huge downside: number 1, speaking face-to-face with a person communicates what you're trying to say in the manner you say it far more efficiently than typing 140 characters. Nuances of speech are just lost and sarcasm is pretty much, unless you just make it so wrenchingly, blatantly obvious, it's just lost in Twitter. . . And the other thing with me with Twitter is I actually like engaging people and discussing topics that interest me and might make someone's head turn a little bit. They might think a little bit after arguing with me — I love arguing as well. And I do that quite a bit. And that's another thing, it's funny, a lot of people on the Twitter are like, 'How can you argue with your fucking fans?' And I'm like, 'I'm not Mr. Heavy Metal Robot. You don't just press a button and say, 'Rock on, dude.'' If I want to say something, I'm gonna say it. And you're a human being, you have a brain, if you disagree, you and I should talk and hash it out. And Twitter is kind of good for that. And with that being said, I have something now approaching something like 24,000 followers, that's a whole lot of people to discuss with. So it can get kind of hectic and I waste too much time on it sometimes. But it is pretty useful.""

Coincidence that this news comes rather quickly after I post my article above ragging on Mr Blythe? Likely. Is it still fucking hilarious? Absolutely!