Current Weight: 196.5 – NPR vs RIAA

Part of my daily routine revolves around National Public RadioThis American Life gets me through many days of exercise, and I frequently rely on Morning Edition for news and information I wouldn’t otherwise hear. Both programs use the mixed media radio provides, mixing music, audio tracks from video, recorded sounds etc with the story to provide an almost immersive experience – something that attracts me so much my wife and I try to donate every fund drive. So you can see why, after reading in the Consumerist the RIAA has hiked the Internet radio royalty, I’m pissed. Without reading the actual royalty and what it applies to, I figure probably most podcasts are safe – most seem to feature or use either royalty-free or non-RIAA music. This hike, however, strikes the two things I like best about shows like This American Life – how it uses audio to weave a story, and it’s availability in the form of a podcast.

I have to admit, I’ve been pretty apathetic so far towards the RIAA and it’s practices. No more. I have been practicing researching what I consume – reading food labels, researching ingredients, learning proper portion sizes, controlling my spending. Now, I’ll add another item to that list – stop consuming music distributed by the RIAA.

First, I have to remember the RIAA isn’t an independent organization, it’s a trade group made of recording labels and other members of the recording industry. Most notably, RIAA’s members include EMI, Sony-BMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. Here’s a breakdown of just those four members’ shares of world music sales according to Nielsen SoundScan statistics as reported at wikipedia:

  • Universal Music Group: 31.71%
  • Sony-BMG: 25.61%
  • Warner Music Group: 15%
  • EMI: 9.55%

Between just those four members, the RIAA represents 82% of the world music market. Smells like collusion to me. Especially when they raise royalty rates charged to radio stations like NPR at the same time they petition judges to reduce the royalty rates given to artists.

How am I going to cut my consumption of RIAA-represented music? Each member of the Big Four labels is actually made of many smaller labels – for instance, Sony-BMG’s labels include Columbia and Epic, and Universal Music Group’s labels include Universal and Geffen. It would be pretty time-consuming to put together a comprehensive list of all the artists represented by the Big Four’s labels. Fortunately, it looks like someone else has done all the grunt work – the RIAA Radar looks like a great tool to research music before buying.

I’m realistic – I realize that in a world where music purchases are still driven by Top-40 type music, my own purchase choices aren’t going to put the Big Four out of business. However, this isn’t about sticking it to the man – it’s about controlling my own consumption based on my own values. Just like I chose to end my consumption of fast food and my consumption of Magic cards (a money drain), I am now choosing to end my own personal consumption of RIAA-backed music – contributing to such a corrupt organization goes against my own personal values.

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