Do record labels get off on being withholding?
I'm a huge fan of Vampire Weekend and The National. I have seen Vampire Weekend perform twice already, and The National's Boxer was on permanent repeat in my apartment for several months a few years ago. Both bands recently released critically-acclaimed new material: Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City came out on May 14th, and The National's Trouble Will Find Me on May 21st.
I'm also a huge fan of Spotify and have been a Premium subscriber since the service first arrived in the US in July of 2011. This means that I have paid approximately $220 to the company in less than two years. To put that figure in perspective, the average iTunes user spends only $40 per year—and that includes all digital content (apps, books, movies, etc.), not just music. I'm spending three times as much per year for music alone.
So I was disappointed to discover that both of these albums are currently unavailable on Spotify, Rdio, Google Play Music All Access, Rhapsody, Deezer, MOG, or any other streaming services. Do record labels get off on being withholding? Perhaps this leaked transcript contains some answers…
*SECRET RIAA MEETING, OCTOBER 2012*
Cary Sherman: "Thanks for coming, guys. Streaming really seems to be taking off. We've seen piracy drop across the board in markets where Spotify and Rdio have launched, and we're receiving the same 70% cut from these services that we do from Apple and our other digital partners. But as all of you know, we have a proud tradition of consistently making a series of horrible, near-fatal decisions when it comes to technology. So, with that, I'd like to open up the floor for ideas on how we can screw this up. Yes, Colin, go ahead."
Colin Finkelstein: "What if we made a device that uses, what's it called, UBS? Is it UBS when you plug it into a little hole on the side of a computer? It's not? But when I say 'computer' is that the right word that kids are saying? But not UBS? What is it then? USB? OK, USB. So what if we make a device that people can plug in that, you know, gives them a little electrical shock every time they listen to a song on a streaming service. Just a little one. And they can't use the service unless it is connected."
Cary Sherman: "Great idea. That could work. Maybe a separate adapter for phones, too? Anyone else? Remember, we are looking for literally the only way that we can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and make these new legal services look worse than piracy right when they are starting to gain some traction. Think about how fun the past decade has been! Think of all of the layoffs in our industry, the slow withering of our once unassailable power, and that sinking feeling deep within our hearts that we all adore as the latest monthly figures are processed. Come on, let's really get right outside of the box here. Are we trying to go out of business, or not? Well then make me believe you! Other thoughts? OK, I see Scott's hand up over there."
Scott Borchetta: "What if we started to withhold some of our most popular releases? Not all of them, and not all of the time; we should only do it occasionally so that it is as confusing as possible. That way these early streaming adopters, these people who are currently giving us more money for music than they ever have before in their entire lives, will feel frustrated and annoyed. Ideally they will stop recommending streaming services to their friends, and those same friends will continue stealing from us indefinitely. We should start with Taylor Swift's new album."
Cary Sherman: "Fucking brilliant, Scott. It's passive-aggressive, out of touch, short-sighted, and cowardly. Absolutely perfect."
*STANDING OVATION, as Scott blushes ever so slightly*