An Alternate History: If the RIAA Was Innovative

From the What-Might-Have-Been Dept. at TechDirt.  This is good.

1999: Realizing the inevitable, the RIAA convinces member labels to set up all-you-can eat buffets. All music available as DRM-free downloads, $5/mo. 100M of storage, additionally available for increased monthly fee. The RIAA uses superior marketing muscle to “drown out” competing “free” alternatives, insists people should only download from “legitimate” sources to ensure data integrity and security. It recommends the gradual reduction in the production, marketing, storage and sales of CDs, vinyl and tape, keeping only a small reserve capacity*.

2000: RIAA negotiates a small increase in financial support from labels’ substantial savings from physical media reductions to create the Online Strategy Group (OSG), hiring engineers, programmers, technologists, musicologists and a futurist or two. The OSG’s first suggestion is FoM, Future of Music, which the RIAA incorporates, initially to handle the growing subscription business.

2001: On OSG’s advice, the RIAA convinces member labels to cross-offer artists by genre in sites with fun names like, “”, “”, “”, “”, etc. A marginally increased monthly fee ($1 more for each sub-site) gets download access and membership in forums, discounts on t-shirts, tickets, posters, etc. FoM takes over all revenue-generating ventures and negotiates equitable profit-sharing deals with the labels and reaches out to independent artists. FoM buys Creative and, with help from the OSG brain-trust, designs and sells a fantastically popular line of MP3 players.

Read the rest here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “An Alternate History: If the RIAA Was Innovative

  • September 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    That's a good read.

    Too bad the RIAA did none of those things. Instead, they spent the early part of the 2000's with their fingers in their ears and eyes closed, while yelling really loud.

    They then spent the next few years suing music fans en masse, pretty much ruining any sort of goodwill that was left.

    They are finally doing some of the things they should have been doing almost 15 years ago. But their industry has been reduced to a fraction of its former glory, and in their traditional form, they now offer bands & music customers very little value.


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