Apr. 18, 2002
Dear Hilary Rosen and Co.,
I've been thinking a lot lately about the financial woes of the music industry, particularly the fall of retail sales in college towns. You and your co-horts blame Napster and other file-swapping services, but I think you're skipping a few important factors here.
First of all, the music that your industry rewards and supports is almost universally crappy. You gave a Grammy to Train and that ridiculous cover of "Lady Marmalade." But that's sort of a given, so I'm not going to draw out this point too far. It is worth noting, though. If your product's quality has fallen, then the consumers aren't going to be as interested in purchasing it as they once were. It's the way it goes.
Which brings me to the second point - there is a recession going on and many, many people are being laid off. When you're living off unemployment, you're not going to be dropping money on luxuries like CDs. Especially when your industry is still charging $17.95 on something that costs about $1.25 to make. When it's a choice between lunch and a CD, most people are gonna choose lunch.
Except college students, which brings me to my final point. They may have poor priorities, when it comes to spending money, but they're probably less well off than they were a few years ago. Tuition is up, aid is down and jobs are paying less and companies just aren't hiring as many kids these days. State agencies are cutting money, and student jobs are one of the first things to go. College kids may buy CDs instead of food or their books, but they're not going to trade their educations for "Hybrid Theory."
I'm not going to get into the abhorrent DMCA or the terrible contracts or the awful way your industry treats musicians. But I really think you and your colleagues should think hard -- really hard -- about why music sales are down before you go blaming Napster and young kids.