The British media has been covering heavily the the news that the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Virgin Media have sent its first batch of threatening-yet-polite letters to some of its customers. The move seems to have backfired a bit, as inevitably a disgruntled student has come out claiming that the letter was sent to the wrong person. Will McGree (20), is accused of downloading Amy Winehouse, which from his worried tone seems to be a much more insulting claim than being directly accused of "stealing" music. This latest campaign is part of the new strategy by the music industry to curb infringement (previous coverage of Virgin's letter campaign here).
I have to say that I do not get the music industry. One minute they are complaining how digital technologies and digital downloads are destroying their livelihood, and the next they start claiming that things are going well, and the challenges are being met. This should come as no surprise, after all, the BPI has to send a message to the public that their precious artists are an endangered species, while they must also send a message to investors and shareholders to reassure them of future profits. The fact is that the very same BPI has now released a new set of figures which demonstrates that alternative business models and digital downloads are proving to be an excellent source of income, while providing evidence that CD sales have not slumped as they often complain.
So, here is my set of recommendations to the BPI. I do not know why, I'm just feeling a bit generous today (and they are not likely to read this, are they?):
- Get your message straight. Is the digital environment good or bad? Are you suffering or profiting?
- Ditch DRM. Even those who seem willing to buy into the whole "stealing music" propaganda do not like DRM. In fact, I think that it is the most important stumbling block for further growth of digital music.
- Sending letters to customers is a bad business idea. They will switch to another competitor who does not send letters.
- Give Broken Records a contract.
(Further discussion at the IPKat, but I disagree entirely with their take on it).
Update: Becky Hogge speaks out on the subject in Friction.tv.