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Necessity Is the Mother of Invention!
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-07-23
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"Necessity is the Mother of Invention!" Thus could one describe Michael Jackson's alternative path to RIAA lawsuits and threats of imprisonment from Congress. "I am speechless about the idea of putting music fans in jail for downloading music. It is wrong to illegally download, but the answer cannot be jail."

Clearly, the music industry faces enormous challenges as consumers and technology have rewritten the rules of the game. Thus the necessity to act tough and reign consumers back in through the law. But even were the industry successful in stemming the file sharing/CD burning phenomena, this is not likely to result in a commensurate rise in the music industry's fortunes. Remember that according to The NPD Group, the steepest decline in music purchases is not among file swapping teenagers but law-abiding consumers 36 in age and over, which constitute 45% of CD sales. This points to a more structural problem for which legislation will be insufficient.

In order for the music industry to join other entertainment sectors such as film and video games, they must learn, as those sectors did, to innovate in a manner to meet consumers changing expectations. Not only will radical innovation, as much at the business level as with technology, significantly expand the music industry's potential market, it will have the additional benefit of providing a true alternative to illicit file sharing. This is not to say that copyright owners should not protect and financially benefit from the value of their works, but it must be done intelligently. Consumers have shown that they have a far greater hunger for music than is reflected in Soundscan figures. Tapping into that underground market demands new ideas, new models and a new user experience, not more lawyers and technophobic legislation. As Michael reminds us: "It is the fans that drive the success of the music business; I wish this would not be forgotten."


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