The Music Lover's Manifesto:
Why buying CD’s hurts the musician and supports tyranny.
The music industry is in turmoil. The rise and fall of Napster has unearthed the ugly
nature of the record labels and their congressional lobbying group, the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA). Since the successful annihilation of Napster the
corporate record labels have begun bombarding us with propaganda against other file
sharing services. Once we understand just why the music industry is afraid of the Internet,
it becomes clear that the industry is not fighting against piracy. It is, in fact, desperately
fighting to maintain the financial wealth it garners from the exploitation of musicians.
Despite the industry’s PR campaign about lost revenue, a simple look at the SoundScan
numbers during Napster's lifetime reveals a steady increase in album sales (this fact can be
found on the RIAA’s own website, under "Market Data"). CD sales continued to increase
even when the economy started to sour, and this increase continued until near the instant
that Napster went offline. In effect, Napster was one of the best things to happen to music
in a long time—and this makes perfect sense: the more music people were exposed to, the
more music people wanted to buy. The music industry also appeared to have the perfect
marketing tool in that they wouldn't have to do any marketing—the good artists would
sell themselves. And as far as piracy was concerned, Napster was perfect in that regard,
as well. The simple fact that it was peer to peer meant that it was virtually impossible to
download a complete album of any consistent quality. Every track was recorded from a
different source, different bit rate, different audio levels, etc., making downloading a
complete album that resembled the quality of a purchased one extremely difficult.
So, given that Napster improved album sales and could have been a great marketing tool,
why were the corporate labels so eager to shut it down? The answer is simple: they saw it
as a threat to theircontrol over the musicians. We must begin to look at this from the
perspective of the highest people in the industry—the Tommy Mattolla's (who has recently
been forced out of his power seat), the Clive Davis's, etc. These are intelligent and
powerful men, and they make millions of dollars on the musicians they exploit. And
without this system of exploitation, their power and unlimited wealth would come to an
Here is how the exploitation works. When an artist first signs to a major label, visions of
millions of dollars and thousands of screaming fans allow them to sign their freedom away
on a dotted line. A typical contract goes something like this: the artist forever loses all
copyright and control over any music recorded during the length of the contract; the artist
loses the final say over what songs end up on the album; the artist loses the right to say
what his music can and can't be used for (e.g., suddenly, the artist’s most cherished song
can be used to sell long distance, or SUV’s); and, finally, the musician signs away these
rights to future recordings. But the most telling piece of freedom the artist loses is when
hesigns away the ownership to his own name. That thing that makes a band a band,
makes a rapper a rapper, even an individual an individual, now belongs to the record label.
Recall that Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol precisely because
Warner Bros. owned his name.
To the label, the artist is no more then a servant who is there to do it’s bidding and to
generate massive amounts of capital. In return, the label grants the artist a tiny cut of the
wealth that he produces. When indentured servitude was a common part of life, the
masters would sometimes allow their servants to go out into the world and work for
wages, then the cruel owner (having done no work) would take all of the servant’s
earnings as his own, possibly giving the servant a few cents for his long labor. This is the
relationship of the artist to the major label. By being able to work away from his owner,
the servant feels almost like a free man, and the artist enjoys the same false sense of
freedom. The artist is able to do many things that makes him feel free, but these are just
allowances provided by the master label. The artist can do drugs, swear, get arrested,
etc., and the label says nothing—in fact, these things are encouraged because they provide
free marketing. But until the artist completes his contract with the label he is still merely
In exchange for giving the label all these things, the artist gets in return a lump sum
ranging from $100,000 to millions of dollars—which the artist has to pay back—to cover
studio costs, manager fees, etc., and the label grants royalties from the sale of the album.
These royalties are calculated in "price points" and typically amount to about 9¢ per
album. Now, this deal seems pretty bad: the artist has signed away all the rights to his
music, the ownership of his name, and, indeed, his freedom—in exchange fora loan and a
few cents from each CD sold.Why would an artist agree to this? The answer is simple:
choosing not to sign to the major label is in essence choosing not to be heard.
Historically, the selling of records was a complex venture. It took visionaries to predict
what would and would not be popular. It took record company promotion people who
had personal relationships with local DJ's to get a song played on the radio, and even then
there was little guarantee. But, recently, the music moguls have found that the secret to
making popular music is to simply maintain complete control of all the mainstream access
the public has to new music. And unholy unions with the two major outlets of music—the
radio and MTV—have accomplished just this.
In the last couple of years, the corporate labels have rejoiced because they no longer have
to struggle with any local radio stations across the country for airtime; they now only have
to deal with one corporation: Clear Channel Worldwide. Clear Channel began its take
over of the radio waves in 1999. Since then, it has acquired nearly 1,500 popular radio
stations worldwide. No longer are radio DJs in control of what music is played on the
radio, it is the corporate executives in Clear Channel's corporate headquarters, located in
Austin, TX, (the ones receiving huge kickbacks from the major labels) who control it. All
one has to do is look at the 'press room' of the Clear Channel website to understand the
horrifying corporate nature of music today. In a recent interview with Fortune magazine
Clear Channel's founder and CEO, Lowry Mays (who was originally an investment banker
before joining the radio business), states, "We're not in the business of providing news and
information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in
the business of selling our customers products." Fraternity brothers who studied together
at business school—not people who actually care about music—are now in charge of what
gets played on the radio.
This is why the peer-to-peer revolution has the industry so terrified—and is also the
reason they have fought so strongly to quash Internet radio. Suddenly, this new
technology makes it possible for any musician, not just the ones signed to the corporate
big wigs, to be heard by millions of people. The relationships the big wigs have been
nurturing with Clear Channel and MTV have started to lose their value. The corporate
labels (Bertelsmann, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros., EMI) have decided to fight peer-topeer
technology with all their might. First off, they use the RIAA, which is the
congressional lobbying group whose only purpose is to fightfor the interests of these five
labels. The RIAA has absolutely no vested interest in the rights of the artist; its sole
purpose is to perpetuate the current system of exploitation. This group used the millions
of dollars it received from the labels to fight Napster in court, and, of course, their millions
of dollars won against the small Internet company.
Distorting its legal victory into a moral one, the RIAA began a campaign against Internet
file sharing in which they labeled such activities "piracy," therebyaccusing the majority of
its costumers of being thieves. It was precisely when this campaign began that CD sales
began to drop.
If Napster was good for CD sales and helped get musicians heard, why would so many
artists speak out against it? For the same reason that a servant would try to protect his
master when his master was in danger: their livelihood is caught up in the slave system.
Artists who are already established fear the collapse of the major label system because
they worry that without it, they will suddenly lose the prestige and wealth they continue to
accumulate. It is the fear of the unknown that causes artists to stand up for their cruel
masters. It is also possible that these artists who stand up in favor of tyranny may not
even realize they are doing so, they may actually believe the rhetoric that the industry has
We must now realize that the corporate labels and their lap dog lobby group will do
anything in their power to keep this old system of servitude in place, and they have LOTS
of power—billions of dollars—and they also have congressmen who will do their bidding.
But in order for them to keep their power, they rely on us.Every time we buy a CD we
are supporting tyranny.We must stop. We must stand by the musicians that we love—
we can free them. The RIAA wants to guilt us into continuing to buy CD’s with the
audacious claim that if we don't, we are hurting the artists. In reality, however, the
opposite is true. There are many ways we can continue to support the musicians without
financially supporting the corporate campaign against us. Consider this: if we download
an album or copy it from a friend, and then mail the musician five dollars, that would be as
much as 50 times what that musician would make if we spent $18 for the CD! It’s up to
us. We have the power to stop tyranny and all we have to do isstop buying CDs.
-In the interest of freedom, this document may be freely distributed, published, sold,
quoted, posted, e-mailed, performed, etc.
-Get involved. Below you will find links to source articles. Please read them and understand that
this issue is much larger then the RIAA’s claim of piracy. The last page of this document contains
a flyer that can be passed out or posted, should you care enough to get involved.
Hurts mega corporations, not musicians.
The five major labels (Sony, Universal, BMG, Warner Bros, EMI) would like us to believe that file
sharing steals from musicians. Wrong! It is actually the major labels who steal from the musicians!
What you need to know about Major Label recording contracts:
1.Typical royalties paid to the artist come out to about 10¢ per album sold.
2.The artist loses ALL COPYRIGHT OWNERSHIP to his/her music.
3.All recording, production, mastering, and music video production costs COME OUT OF THE
4.The label has total control over what the music is used for. The label is free to license anything they
own to whoever they want. (Think about it next time you hear that classic song on an S.U.V.
What you need to know about Clear Channel:
1. Owns the majority of radio stations in the U.S. (over 1500).
2. Receives huge payments from the 5 major labels to play major label owned music.
3. Has direct ties to the Bush administration and actively censors artists who do not support their rightwing
politics. (I.e. Clear Channel has stopped playing the Dixie Chicks)
Why would an artist sign to a major label?
1. Without the major label's connection to Clear Channel the artist has NO CHANCE OF EVER
BEING PLAYED ON THE RADIO.
2. Without the major label's connection to MTV the artist has little chance of ever getting a video
3. Often the artist is wooed to the label by a large advance (sometimes in the millions of dollars), but
the artist has to pay this money back to the label.
File sharing Facts:
1. File sharing gives equal exposure to ALL musicians regardless of corporate sponsorship.
2. CD sales rose steadily until AFTER Napster was taken offline (check SoundScan numbers)—CD
sales only began to drop once the labels began calling the majority of their customers thieves.
3. The major labels began to reduce the number of releases BEFORE the Napster hearings—EVEN
THOUGH CD SALES WERE RISING.
4. Independent artists are currently SELLING BETTER THEN EVER BEFORE.
Why the major labels are so scared of file sharing.
Because the labels know that the only thing they can offer new artists is the chance to be heard on Clear
Channel and seen on MTV. File sharing allows any artist to be heard by potentially millions of people,
this has the corporate labels terrified. They are willing to go to any lengths to stop us from hearing
independent artists. Recently the RIAA has sued a Michigan Tech student for sharing music with other
students. The total amount in damages the RIAA sought from this single student was a whooping 97
billion dollars! (the case was eventually settled out of court)
Every time you buy a CD you are supporting a system that exploits musicians and
STEALS their intellectual property. Stop funding the persecution of fellow
students! Stop giving money to huge corporations who take 99% of the money that
rightly belongs to the musician! If you want to support musicians, consider
downloading or copying their album and mailing them 5 dollars (that's fifty times
what they would make if you paid 18$ for it!).