Bumblefoot interview

Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK)
Project Title: A new arena of artistic endeavor: How are key stakeholders in the music industry responding to technological change?
Name of the Researcher or Project Consultant: Mark Richardson

1. It is almost a decade since the RIAA began litigation against the Napster file sharing service in 1999. Do you feel there was there initially a sense of reluctance to respond to the initial signs of change?

All the RIAA did by attacking Napster was start an unnecessary war that they could never win, and would never end. It was the stupidest move – they killed their savior. Instead of embracing the pioneer of the new world, they were threatened. And in the end, they hurt themselves. Artists are still making music, people are still getting their music, but the music industry excluded themselves. GOOD RIDDANCE.

2. Digital Rights Management has been utilized with some success to protect copyrighted material such as audio files, however, due to the expense associated with it, is no longer utilized with commercial CD releases. To what extent can DRM be an effective preventative measure against piracy?

You can’t stop the temptation and will of people to seek the most convenient way of getting what they want. People want their music – if you want people to stop taking something without paying the guy who made it, find a way to get it to the people that’s more convenient than stealing it. I have no idea what that method is, or if it will ever exist.

As a kid, I’d make cassette copies of my albums and friend’s albums I didn’t buy. Cassettes were more convenient. And making cassettes of your friends’ albums was the “illegal downloading” of the 70s/80s. Here’s the thing – if I liked it THAT much, I’d buy it. If not, nobody lost a sale by my making a cassette copy, because I wasn’t going to buy it anyway. But if by having their music in my life I grew to become a fan of that band, they’d get future concert ticket sales, along with a T-shirt and tourbook, and poster sales, album sales, and the possibility of more potential fans coming out of the people who borrowed my cassettes or got cassette copies of the albums I owned.

Today, it’s all in the artists’ face. The artist sees the torrents, reads the forums, and is face-to-face with it. Expect a passionate reaction from artists, and understand it – they’re watching it happen through this soundproof window they can’t reach you through. And once something hits the internet, you can’t stop it. That’s what the internet is – a window you can’t open and a door you can’t close.

3. The scope of intellectual property laws have been reviewed in order to control the distribution of electronic media. Is legislation the answer, or are more effective technical solutions necessary to deal with change?

If we’re talking about piracy issues, laws don’t matter much. Laws are only relevant to the people who follow the law. You can make all the new laws you want, they all mean nothing to people that don’t follow the law. If the legal method of getting your music is more convenient, you won’t have as many people going through the trouble of doing it illegally.

4. Though the Internet has changed the current music industry distribution model, it represents an opportunity in terms of promotion. Is there currently scope for future innovation for artists to promote themselves via the internet?

The internet has freed the artist - they no longer have to enslave themselves to the industry as the only means of getting their music to the masses. The internet has allowed us to clear the obstacles and get to what matters – the artist, the fan, and strengthening the connection between the two.

5. Can the impact of the internet on the music industry be regarded as a generally positive or negative phenomenon?

Nothing’s perfect – we lose album art but gain a website. We lose sound quality, but can fit our entire music collection in our pocket. Not perfect, but definitely positive – the gains are greater than the losses.