IT’S THE END of the year, so we thought we’d issue a fourth quarter report on what we’ve accomplished since launching Downhill Battle at the end of August. Among the highlights of this quarter was having RIAA spokesperson Jonathan Lamy say about us, "It’s an uphill battle for these folks to offer anything worthwhile." Is this really the best they can do? Seriously Jonathan, you’re getting paid for this, put some heart into it. We do better PR than that for free. Anyway, take a look at our quarterly report:
Archive for December, 2003
THE RIAA GOT a Christmas present last week: on Tuesday the Department of Justice stopped an investigation into anti-competitive practices by the major labels (specifically, favoring label-affiliated online music services over others when it came to licensing music). Slashdot has a good thread on it here.
It’s clear that the decision to end the investigation isn’t the result of some conspiracy, or corruption in the halls of justice; it’s just that by the time the DOJ investigation really got rolling, the "pay-for-downloads" market had changed so radically that the whole thing had ceased to make sense.
Of course the monstrous oligopoly still exists: 5 companies control 85% of the market and, with very few exceptions, nobody else can get their music on the radio. But the corporations move fast and the monopoly-cops move slow. By the time the DOJ arrives on the scene, the damage has already been done and the real problem is someplace else.
Payola was made illegal, so the majors now do it through independent promoters. They got busted for price fixing, paid a fine (the fine was big but less than they made from elevated prices) and, still, price fixing continued. But where the DOJ will always fail, the public is succeeding. Every kid on Kazaa is a trust-buster, every time someone burns a major label CD for a friend, they help bring more competition, fairness, and artistic freedom to the music business. And whether or not you personally support filesharing or CD burning, it’s never been more clear that paying for major label music is unethical. We can all help fight the monopoly by closing our wallets to the major labels and opening them to independent music.
-Almost ten years ago, Maximum Rock and Roll devoted an entire epic issue to the ways that the major labels were manipulating bands and assimilating punk rock. Holmes just made a new flyer based on the cover of that issue, but carrying an important update: now we can do something about the problem.
-We also have a new half-page handout (it’s half-page, the l-o-n-g way) that’s good for shows, outside stores, and any other gatherings.
-Aross sent in a flyer photo from Bangkok: tuk-tuk. As always, all the Downhill Battle flyers can be found at and printed from the flyer page, where you can also check out photos of the flyers in exotic locations.
THE RULING YESTERDAY against the RIAA is a big victory for online privacy. The major record labels (EMI, Sony, Warner, Universal, BMG) say that they’ll continue the lawsuits, but it will be more difficult and much more costly. Specifically, the ruling means that they need to go through a judge to obtain someone’s identity, instead of running their own law enforcement operation. Shockingly, the major labels have yet to take us up on our demand that they give the ill-gotten money back to families– we suspect that they’re waiting to make that announcement on Christmas morning in a heartwarming reconciliation with their former customers (the major labels are renown for their gentle touch).
A series of updates:
-News site p2pnet.net was hit yesterday in part of a large scale hacker attack that apparently affected a number of other websites, including NASA. All the p2pnet web files and archives were deleted, but they should be back up and running very soon. More here.
-Nice flyer photo from RT in Burlington, Ontario (Canada). I can’t decide what I like best about this picture: the flames, the slogan above the flyer, or the horse in the corner. RT makes a good point that, "even those of us who live outside the jurisdiction of the RIAA are affected by the greed of huge record companies." He’s right: the major record labels use the RIAA as a front for their dirty tricks, but it’s the major labels themselves that are the real problem.
-A clever video that details the record industry’s fiendish behavior is now circulating on filesharing networks. It’s called "RIAAmafia" — try searching for it.
-There’s an interesting interview with the Goo-Goo Dolls on fansforpeace.org. Myshele Goldberg was nice enough to edit it for Downhill Battle readers to focus more on music industry issues. Read the interview.
-As we’ve noted before, Downhill Battle now has a friendster account, so if you use it, why not be our friend and make us friends with your friends. The email is: friendster|at|downhillbattle.org.
THIS COULD BE ENDGAME. A federal appeals court has just ruled that the RIAA can’t force internet service providers to turn over the names of suspected filesharers (NYTimes article). And if the RIAA can’t get the names, they can’t file suits.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of people who have already fallen victim to these illegal subpoenas. They’ve had to pay thousands of dollars each to settle suits or to avoid having a suit filed against them. Downhill Battle is starting a campaign today to demand that the major record labels return all of the money that they have extorted from families and individuals.
UPDATE: We have just issued a press release calling for the RIAA to return all settlement money. Read the release (pdf).
SADDLE CREEK RECORDS out of Omaha Nebraska is everything an independent label should be, period.
Robb Nansel runs it:
“Resisting corporate radio, media, and record labels has always been important to Saddle Creek. The way those entities work is fundamentally flawed – it doesn’t promote art, creativity, or anything promising to culture as it should exist.”
Our interview with Robb is the second in a series of conversations about filesharing and the future of music with big-deal independent musicians and labels. Read it now.
You can also listen to songs from all the Saddle Creek artists in our music player:
IF YOU WANT TO WIN, you gotta hit them from all sides at once. With that in mind, here’s a warm holiday message from Downhill Battle: whatacrappypresent.com
(big shout out to josh at crisishost.com for saving us at the last minute when we were trying to get this up)
p.s. we’ve been getting so many hits on that site that we’ve had some flakiness on the images, but things are working again for the moment.
OUR FRIEND DAVE ALLEN from OEbase.com has just set us up with this great music player, the perfect thing to listen to while you’re checking out our site, plotting the destruction of the major label monopoly, or sitting around reading a book.
We’re super-psyched about the player. Take it for a spin:
Dave was in the band Gang of Four (a big deal, check out the song “Damaged Goods”), and he got in touch with us a couple months ago. Holmes got to meet up with him when he was out in Portland, OR. OEbase looks like a classy online music store, but it’s much cooler than that: if you’re an unsigned band you can send them your material and if they like it they’ll sell it on consignment. They’ve got good taste, which makes the site a whole lot more useful– you can find good stuff just browsing around, which usually isn’t the case online.
All the music in the Downhill Battle player is from independent-label
or unsigned bands. So if you hear something you like, you can buy it right in the player (just to be clear: Downhill Battle does not make any money off this, but we’re always looking for ways to support independent music and cool business models). We haven’t got to whittling down the “Downhill Battle Picks” yet, but we’ll be working on that over the next few days.
IN LESS THAN A WEEK, we’ve sent out our entire batch of major label warning stickers, and even more people are printing out their own. Don’t worry about supply, we have more labels arriving in a couple days and this time we placed a bigger order so now they’re cheaper too.
We’ve also heard from two separate people that are doing their own runs of thousands of labels— awesome. If you’ve been out stickering, drop us a line and tell us how it’s going. If you don’t have any labels yet, get some.
Today, we have a new feature called "The Reasons". It’s a rundown of why it’s so important to get rid of the major record labels and what can change when they’re gone. The most important thing to remember is that these aren’t far-off, lofty dreams— the major labels are already on the brink. Hopefully this provides some motivation to push them over the edge. Take a look.
IT’S SHOWTIME. Thanks to RIAA Radar, anyone who’s thinking of buying music can do a simple search to see whether their money goes. But it’s more than just a handy tool: RIAA radar invites the question “Why should I care where my music money goes?” And the more people learn about the music industry, the more obvious the need for fundamental change.
Now Downhill Battle is taking this consumer awareness campaign off the internet and into the record stores. We’ve teamed up with RIAA Radar to make two awesome stickers. Here’s one:
We’re taking them into stores and plastering major label CDs you can get some of your own. Hit the “big box” stores, Walmart, Target, Best Buy–mom and pop record stores don’t matter much to the major labels, and there are other good reasons to keep them around. Go for the season’s top releases (that’s where the majors make their money). Bring some friends– these guerilla labeling missions are fun and they’re a good way to get other people interested in issue. And as always, if you want to take pictures, we’ll post them here.
Get some stickers and check out the photo log of our own post-Thanksgiving labeling adventure. We call this project RIAA Information Awareness Activism (RIAA). (note the pseudo-recursive acronym appropriation)
WE’RE BACK FROM MIAMI. The protest was positive in that we talked to a lot of people about Downhill Battle, the music industry, and the FTAA and there was a good turnout in general. We brought down a batch of CD-Rs that we made which were full of articles and info about this site (sort of a super flyer). We handed them out to 100 lucky folks and we also had a bunch of regular flyers for backup. The downside of the protest was that the police were in typical over-reaction mode, pepper spraying protestors, hitting them with sticks, and shooting them with plastic and rubber bullets (often in the face). The police actions were entirely unprovoked; very unnecessary and very frustrating.
After Thanksgiving, it’s officially the start of the holiday shopping season. As we’ve noted before, this is a crucial time for the major labels to try to bounce back and a crucial time for us to get the word out about why buying major label music is bad for artists, music, and the public. We got things off to a good start on Friday; we’ll be telling you all about tomorrow, so stay tuned.
By the way, Downhill Battle is now on Friendster, so if you are too, then you should make us your friendster. You can also help spread the word by introducing us to your friends. Our email there is friendster|at|downhillbattle.org.