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Monopolies are Bad for Markets

LAST THURSDAY, the Webcaster Alliance filed a lawsuit against the five major labels, and their mouthpiece the RIAA, for anti-competitive royalty pricing that might destroy web radio. Everyone should show support and, if you can, give some money. They need it, they’re going up against a monopoly.

Monopolies are bad for markets and bad for the common good: they distort prices and incentives, suppress new ideas, and manipulate everyone they do business with. That’s the point of having a monopoly, or in the record companies’ case a cartel– everyone is forced to play by your rules and you can take as big a cut as you want. People keep pointing out to us that Apple couldn’t have started a music service without the major labels. They’re right: Apple wanted to sell music online, so they had to accept the record cartel’s terms. But by accepting their terms, Apple became complicit in their system.

This isn’t the first time the major labels have been sued. But lawsuits can’t always break up entrenched monopolies (remember when the Justice Department broke up Microsoft’s monopoly?)– sometimes the only way to kill a monopoly is to stop buying their stuff. But the public is usually powerless in these situations; we depend on the monopoly’s product and don’t have other options. It was always that way for the music industry, but it just changed. Filesharing and CD burning actually give us a way to end the major label monopoly. This never happens! That’s what’s so exciting: if we stop buying their CDs for just a few years, the cartel will vanish and the music business can grow into a real economy where musicians are in control.


A LOT OF PEOPLE have been telling us that they’re already putting up flyers, which is awesome— we got this from the Assistant Director of a major American art museum(!!)

“printing flyers as I write. Jeepers, I probably shouldn’t be doing this from work.”

That got us psyched and this week we want to go big with the flyers. Cities, small towns, America, other countries, streets, dorms, jobs. And definitely send a picture of your handiwork. Also, if you use wheatpaste, your flyer will stay up til next summer.

Barcode flyer – from DX. Hot.
Resources Page – the music industry’s ugly past and beautiful future.
Great new flyers – from Goofy and MCW.


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