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Elevator Version of Music Industry Threat History

In the late 1990s, the music industry became threatened as never before by a new technology -- the ability to quickly and cheaply share music over the internet. People who give each other music are called "pirates", are pursued by the FBI, and are occasionally made an example of by being fined obscene amounts of money for the revenue they have single-handedly "lost".

But this has happened before -- and each time, the industry has adapted and expanded as a result.

In the late 1960s, the music industry was threatened as never before by a new technology: the cassette tape. People were making cassette collections of their favorite songs and giving them to each other for free without paying royalties to the copyright owners. This obviously represented a terrible loss of income which would soon destroy the business.

After much fussing and fighting, some concessions were made here and there and all was well once again. The music industry soon realized that most copying was for fun, not profit -- small-time, petty criminals making tapes to give their friends – which, it turns out, is actually a really good way for music to promote itself. Music sales soared, and everyone was happy.

But wait, there's more!

In the 1930s, the music industry was threatened as never before by a new technology: radio. Why would anyone buy music, said the industry mavens, if they can hear it for free on the radio? This will ruin us!

Harsh words were exchanged, and a boycott ensued: radio would play only works in the public domain. Radio listeners became familiar with low-budget classical music and the works of Stephen Foster.

A new licensing agency, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) was created in response to this situation. BMI offered better rates and an open-door policy, versus ASCAP's monopolistic control-oriented gatekeeper approach. (Sound familiar?)

At some point ASCAP realized that playing a song on the air did not, in fact, represent a lost sale; it represented advertising of that song. There were no "lost sales". By 1957, in fact, radio airplay was the key driver of sales and a prime factor in the expansion of the music industry... and everyone was happy.

But wait, there's still more!

Back in the early 1900s, the music industry was threatened as never before by a new technology: the audio recording. Why would anyone go to concerts, or buy sheet music, if they could listen to music in the comfort of their own homes? The music industry is doomed!


I think you get the idea. The industry sees opportunity as threat, and fights that opportunity to its own detriment and everyone else's until it finally becomes clear that this is both silly and pointless.

still working on this