Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other?

The UK music industry is losing billions in CD sales every year due to the illegal downloading of music by some 6 million broadband users, according to an article today in the Telegraph. It’s prompted Virgin Media to join forces with music industry trade group the BPI to institute a crackdown “which could see dozens of customers sent warning letters.”  Geoff Taylor, BPI CEO, was quoted as saying, “This is not the time for ISPs to delay further. Government clearly shares the creative community’s frustration at the failure of ISPs to take action.”

Let me take you through that logic as it is understood by the music industry. First, they acknowledge that music sales are way down. Next, they point to the fact that music sales started to plummet when the Internet became popular in the late 1990s. (Because clearly the Internet was devised to allow illegal music downloads.) Since ISPs allow customers to connect to the Internet, government needs to regulate the ISPs. As argued by the BPI and Virgin Media, stopping illegal downloads by dozens of customers will bring back music sales. This argument is insane, ludicrous and severely questions the intelligence of anyone who articulates it.

If there is, in fact, some merit to it, then let’s go straight to the source — have governments regulate the production of microprocessors. Without microprocessors you cannot have a computer, without a computer you cannot connect to the Internet and ruin the music business. If you have read any of my previous posts on this topic, you know I have taken to task U2’s manager and UK ISPs, not to mention writing a bitterly sarcastic, Swift-like proposal to disconnect the Internet to save music.

The music industry suffers from the delusion that illegal downloads are the cause of their evaporating business. The simple truth is that those of us living in the 21st century do not need the music industry. Promotion, distribution and sales can be done without them – look at the Radiohead experiment from last year and sites like MySpace Music.

Everyone on the planet besides those antiquated souls that work for the music industry sees that the market has changed. Why are organizations like the BPI and Virgin Media looking for the UK government to save their business? Instead of using your time to trying to force regulation, here’s a novel thought — produce a product that has value and see what happens.