Open Letter to Music Industry Executives

I’m writing this open letter to the executives all of the big record companies. Hello big time executives. You don’t know me, and in all probability, you never will. Who am I? I’m what your marketing people call “a demographic.” I a single male, in my forties, who has “disposable income.” And several times over the past eighteen months, I have used some of that disposable income to buy CD’s, which have been put there, in the shopping mall music shops, by your companies. Now let’s be up front about this; I am very well aware that I am not as much of a “desirable demographic” as a high school age teen, or college age person. I don’t spend a heck of a lot of my available time hanging out at malls. But I do have money to spend, and I do buy CD’s.

Now executives, we get to the good part of this letter: I have used the CD’s I have paid for, to make MP3 files of the songs I really want to hear. I have done this, using Apple Computer’s “iTunes” application, and Cassady and Greene’s “Sound Jam”. I have close to twenty hours of music, and I rarely use a regular, “non-computer” sound system to listen to music any more. A great joy of mine is listening to music while I am working, or playing, at a computer. With MP3 files, and the software applications to control them, I listen to those pieces of music I want to hear, I make playlists, and basically, I enjoy myself. And let me state now, with emphasis, that I do not share these files with anyone else. You read that correctly, I have never used the “Napster” service, or any of the other music file sharing services. I have never copied any of my MP3 files to a blank CD, or any other kind of storage media. The CD’s I have bought and paid for, are for my own personal use, and I do not apologize for this. I believe that if you want to listen to the music of your favorite musical artist, you should pay for it, as you are supposed to.

This brings me to the main point of this letter. I have learned that the music industry has developed technology which will make it impossible for me, and others like me, to enjoy music while using a computer. You executives who manage and control the industry, have developed this technology, apparently under a shroud of secrecy. According to the information which has become available as of today, August 24th, 2001, this technology makes it impossible for programs which handle the conversion from CD to MP3 format to work, or, it renders the resulting sound quality unusable. It has further been learned, through legitimate news sources, that you are testing this technology, mostly in the European market. I would like to say that, as a buyer of CD’s, this stinks.

Executives, I can understand your concerns. You must protect your profits, your employees, and perhaps most importantly, the livelihoods, of the various artists without whom, you would not have an industry in the first place. The Napster service surely caused your industry to suffer somewhat. Whether or not the government was right to regulate them is not something I will address here. What I will address is simply this: To prevent people who buy your CD’s for legitimate, fair use, from encoding them to MP3 files, is simply wrong. And it will not help solve your problem. In fact, should you proceed with this technology, It will hurt your companies profits even worse than any unauthorized sharing has done thus far.

You see, record company executives, if it is no longer possible for me to make MP3 files, so I may listen to music under my own control while I am using a computer, then there will be no reason for me to purchase any more CD’s. Now, do you understand, music company executives? Myself, and a lot of others, will simply stop spending any portion of our disposable incomes on CD’s, since there will be no way to enjoy them. We will no longer have the ability to make playlists, or listen to the songs we want. Somehow, this seems like a massive step backward. Now I know that if you are reading this at all, you may be thinking, “He’s only one, and we have millions more”. That is where you are wrong. There are a lot of people who are reacting the same way as I am, with the revelation of this information.

What do I suggest? Well, I would suggest that you not proceed with this plan to make encoding from CD’s to MP3’s impossible. As I stated above, if you do proceed, you will lose my business. I should explain that until MP3 technology became commonly available, I had not set foot in a shopping mall record shop for several years. So, you see, I’m not kidding when I say you will lose my business. and I’m not kidding when I say there a lot of others who think and feel the way I do. I would suggest that you seek another solution.

Let me close with this: While I have been writing this open letter, I have been encoding, and listening to, a CD I bought earlier this week. What is it? It’s “The Best of the Moody Blues”. I’ve encoded the entire CD. The MP3 files will be there, when I use my computer tomorrow, and the next day. The CD itself will remain in the “jewel case”, and it will be used again, but it will be “fair use”. It will not be copied and given away to anyone else. But, if I knew this CD had been rigged to prevent my encoding it, I would have not purchased it. I would have kept the money in my wallet, and simply lived without it.

Have I made myself understood, music industry executives?

Bruce Black

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