In 1958, tape recording technology was available to the public for the first time. This was the first skirmish of the Music War, pitting the public, and their desire for total access to music, against the organized bureaucratic control of the music industry. Similar to a minor Bay of Pigs invasion, this effort was a failure and served only to establish that technology might eventually be a major factor helping the public interests in the war.
The public was offered additional music technologies over the next 52 and more years. These became like ground battle gear for a vast number of people but during this whole time, the markets were controlled by the Music Industry. They perceived that a credible business threat was emerging from the public on the popular flank. The Music Industry fought hard to prevent monetary losses due to public conveniences in this area. Recording tape machines established that improved technology was quickly becoming affordable to the public. The Music Industry realized that technology offered the public means to obtain significant convenience at the supposed risk to the Music Industry. Ironically, the Music Industry continued to reap exorbitant revenues and profits from the public. The cost of music to the public was held high and the earnings of the music artists were generally meager. Even as the Music Industry fought to suppress the public use of cassette recording tape, a massive amount of money flowed from the public into the Music Industry accounts. Artists fought to get reasonable compensation from the Music Industry as a secondary campaign in the Music War but with mixed results.
With the advent of Compact Disc, (CD), technology, the public was diverted into a battle area that proved to be a failure for them. It was a major business success for the Music Industry. Consumers willingly bought pre-recorded CDs of their favorite artists. Revenue flowed from the public to the Music Industry in amounts never imagined possible. In an effort to advance their cause, the public embraced CD technology as the final solution to the Music War. The Music Industry tolerated CDs since the ability to record music was denied to the public. Peace seemed quite possible since the public could achive many of their music objectives with CDs.
The regular person wanted to have a library of their favorite songs available for personal enjoyment. They thought that they should:
- control what they listened to
- financially support their favorite music artists
- have a large number of songs available to avoid undue repetition
- have convenient methods to enjoy music
- be able to obtain their music selections at a low cost
- reduce the control exerted on their lives by the big Music Industry
With the possible exception of the support of music artists, each of these public interests were seen as unacceptible threats to the Music Industry. They sought to quell public battle strength in each case. They directed their forces to counter the public. Emerging technologies were suppressed by the Music Industry whenever and however possible. A limited number of songs were released for public consumption. Competition in the music industry was de-emphasized, suppressed and hidden. When the public obtained their favorite material, they were also charged for songs that were of no interest to them. The Music Industry fought to retain control of the listening pleasure of the public. Despite the increase in efficiencies, the actual costs of music climbed over time.
The public versus Music Industry war has now entered the free online music download phase. This is now the most frenzied activity of the 52 year war. The public now uses extremely sophistocated technology, most of which originated in the computer industry, to advance their interests. Using online music download technology, the public can now control what they listen to. They have large personal libraries of songs. Their enjoyment of music is convenient and configured exactly as each person wants. They are able to obtain music at low cost, even free. The Music Industry has essentially lost control of the music for a large segment of society.
Given that the Music Industry management exhibits extremely archaic and predictable behavior to new trends, it may be that the Music War is turning in favor of the public. In response to the limitless freedoms enjoyed by the listening public, the Music Industry continues to flail at windmills. They take anyone they can to court in an attempt to extract funds from supposed pirates. Children, retired grandmothers, technical computer operators, all are targets for Music Industry court actions. Not content to attack perhaps 1/100 of 1% of the number of "violators", the Music Industry pleads to the courts in broad reaching cases. Increased copy protection, digital locking, enhanced copyright protection and (surprise) limits on new technology, are all plans brought before the courts by the Music Industry. As the cases wend through procedure, the public enjoys their music with wild abandon.
Unfortunately, as the public gains ground in the Music War, the artists creating the music are suffering. In order to avoid costs approaching usury, the public has, instead, embraced free music. Downloads are the rage in the 21st century. Once downloaded, copies to personal MP3 music players, computer hard disks and digital storage devices are typical. Music is shared between friend and even strangers. In all but a few of these activities, no money goes to the Music Industry nor to the artists and performers. A whole generation of musical talent now faces a very uncertain future.
The listening public can hardly be blamed for the latest economic casualties of this war. The Music Industry has been dealing with personal music delivery for 52 years. They have responded with incendiary tactics that have incensed the public. Now regular people believe that it is not immoral to download free music, copy the music anywhere, share it with friends and generally treat the intellectual property, (the songs), as assets belonging to the holder.
It may not be too late to wrap up the Music War of the past 52 years and solve the underlying issues for the betterment of all parties. People could be given new musical choices via technologies that already exist. Archival material, (such as 'lost' Beatle tracks, for example), can be delivered to devote followers of the artists. Unlimited libraries of top quality recordings can be made available to the public at low cost and at maximum conveniece to the listener. With access to this material in a safe, fast and reliable medium, who in the public would not want to pay reasonable charges, especially when it is clear that the artists share in the now lucrative listening market?
Unfortunately, the Music Industry remains firmly entrenched. Their wall calendars still read "1958" and aren't likely to be changed any time soon. Lawyers are lining up to assist the Music Industry as the war enters the second 52 year segment. The problem for society is that we don't know if the first 52 years of the Music War represents 90%, 50% or even 1% of the duration until Peace. With the battle lines being drawn in the courts today, the Music War could drag on indefinitely. Dinosaurs were rendered extinct by a comet impacting the Earth. Free music downloads may act like a comet to the Music Industry, but the Music Industry people are still busy donning their shiny aluminum foil hats as a response.