green with grammy disgust

As I sat watching the 44th Annual Grammy Awards I started to get queasy. Not at John Stewart‘s feeble attempt at humor or the sight of the Backstreet Boys, but by Michael Green, President and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who used his bully pulpit to exploit the rut that the music industry is facing. Here’s what he had to say:

“Good evening, and on behalf of the Academy, we hope you are enjoying the 44th Annual GRAMMY Awards. Perhaps at no other time in our history have people so passionately turned to music for comfort, solace and sweet celebration, and this year’s Life Achievement and Trustees Award honorees are indelible reminders of the power of music.

“You’re tuned in tonight because you are passionate about music, you’re fans of these great artists. That very special connection between the fan and the artist is an historically important partnership, one which enriches and entertains the public, motivating and sustaining the creator. In recent years, industry consolidation combined with the unbridled advance of the Internet has created a disturbing disconnect in our relationship, and trends say it promises to get worse.

“No question the most insidious virus in our midst is the illegal downloading of music on the Net. It goes by many names and its apologists offer a myriad of excuses. This illegal file-sharing and ripping of music files is pervasive, out of control and oh so criminal. Many of the nominees here tonight, especially the new, less-established artists, are in immediate danger of being marginalized out of our business. Ripping is stealing their livelihood one digital file at a time, leaving their musical dreams haplessly snared in this world wide web of theft and indifference.

“You’ve seen glimpses of kids backstage working on computers throughout the evening and are probably wondering what they’re doing. Well, we asked three college-age students to spend two days with us and download as many music files as possible from easily accessible web sites. Please say hello to Numair, Stephanie and Ed. In just a couple of days they have downloaded nearly 6,000 songs. That’s three kids, folks. Now multiply that by millions of students and other computer users and the problem comes into sharp focus. Songwriters, singers, musicians, labels, publishers – the entire music food chain is at serious risk. The RIAA estimates that – now listen to this – an astounding 3.6 billion songs are illegally downloaded every month.

“This problem won’t be solved in short order. It’s going to require education, leadership from Washington and true diligence to help our fans – that would be you – to embrace this life and death issue and support our artistic community by only downloading your music from legal web sites. That will ensure that our artists reach even higher and, deservedly, get paid for their inspired work.”

If you werenít moved to wretch by this unpalatable spewing of self-interested propaganda, perhaps you should stop reading now. Iím about to make some sense and educate people a little, as opposed to trying to scare them with your-favorite-artist-is-going-to-be-living-out-of-a-box-if-you-donít-quit-sharing-music bullshit. Michael Green, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Yes, I tuned into the Grammys because I am a fan of music, though for the record [sic], most of the music that I saw and heard tonight sucks, but I’ll stay on-topic.

Yes, the illegal copying and downloading of music has had an impact on the music industry. The reason that this will get much worse is not because more people will follow suit, but because the music industry, YOUR industry, cannot move at the speed of the technology. While you sit in your board meetings and speak on your panels, kids are ten steps ahead of you and anything you can think of. Furthermore, the five major distributors (Sony, Universal, Warner Brothers, BMG and EMI) are working independent of one another. Companies such as Microsoft and Real are partnering with individual companies on consumer unfriendly solutions instead of working on an industry standard for music subscription services. Itís making a terrible first impression, and you know what they say about the first impressionÖ

CD prices are on on the rise. Not to toot my own horn here, but I’ve run a record company. I know how much it costs to manufacture a CD and so do a lot of other people. During a time of declining sales it’s not wise to raise prices, especially not when unemployment is on the rise, nevermind [sic] the economic state that our country is in.

Many of the new and developing artists are marginalized out of the industry without music piracy. I’d like to see some figures that compare the number of new artists dropped by their label after the first release five years ago with the number of them being dropped today. I could be wrong, but I’m going to guess that the difference is minor.

The ripping and sharing of music is not stealing their livelihood, it’s helping it by exposing people to artists that aren’t getting radio play, aren’t appearing on MTV and aren’t being marketed properly by the labels. If I had a dollar for every time someone emailed me and said they went out and bought a CD because they liked what they downloaded from my web site I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d have a lot of dollars.

I’m not so naive to think that everyone is downloading music and then going out and buying the CD, but why not mention the benefits of free music on the Internet. Yes, I believe artists should be paid for music, some more than others, but again, I’ll stay on-topic.

3.6 billion songs are being downloaded every month, you say? I’d say there’s a business in there somewhere! Trouble is, you can’t figure out how to turn it into one. Tell you what, I will give you the answer. I’m quite certain that if these three simple steps are followed, you may just see a decline in music piracy and an increase in music sales. Listen carefully and read slowly.

First of all, lower the prices of CDs. How about instead of $18.98 for a new CD, consumers pay $13.98 for a CD.

Second, give consumers a place they can go on the Internet, or even in record stores, where they can download any song they want, from any label, at any time, to any device with a single transaction and I bet you people will pay for the service.

Finally, stop spending money and time working against music piracy. Work with it. It will always be there no matter what you do. Give a few free tracks of that new artist away for free. I’ve certainly discovered some great music on the Internet that I might not have bought if it weren’t for music piracy.

Oh, and one other thing, I think that saying this is a “life or death issue” is a little dramatic, don’t you. Come on, admit it.

Yes, there are other topics I did not touch on. If you want more, let me know and Iíll be happy to discuss.

Published by


  1. jonathan Avatar

    i couldnt have said it better myself.
    spreadin the word

  2. JD Stone Avatar
    JD Stone

    Here we go: I am a near-graduate of the Boston Univeristy School of Communication. I am supposed to support media and be critical of it at the same time. Last night, well, last night was one of those times where I wish something did not work, somewhere. Yeah, it sounds vague but I feel helpless when it comes to award shows. Sounds fucked coming from a ranter and writer like myself, but it’s very true. I felt like heading out to the local indie bar in Brighton, Mass. and just feeling a plastic cup of Lite with a couple kids with the usual indie gear (no need to stereotype, sorry). America is so bent on giving itself awards. I don’t understand it. And it’s not just the music industry. It’s everywhere, macro to micro. America thrives on the worthless awards it gives itself. We are the genius of self-publishing, the news seems to start and end here…on this soil. What does that say to me? Who the hell knows. I do my own thing, I try and not listen to commercial radio, media my father helped make bland, but hey , put me through college.

    So, Mr. Grammy Man was whining heir soir…no fucking joke…I expected to hear about that kind of shit today, at some time. I have no strong opinion on the matter because I produce original material myself and I would sound like a complete hypocrite. I burn CDs when I feel like it, usually on a friend’s PC. I also usually pass the CD around to my other friends, give it away…now. That way I spread the wealth without it being wealth, gah! That made no sense. Bottom line, I pay for my music. I like it. I can afford it. For those who can’t, do what you have to do. Just don’t go spending music money on bad films…that pisses me off even worse, the film industry…don’t get me started.

    In other news: Kill your muse as soon as possible. They regenerate!

    …to anyone…listen to Mr. Barrish, he’s got one hell of an opinion. Well educated.

  3. colby Avatar


  4. brad Avatar

    JD – When I start the cheerleading squad, you will captain.

  5. JD Stone Avatar
    JD Stone

    Une Autre Fois: I’m in the car this morning with my father on my way to Boston and I am telling him about my opinions on the Grammy situation. He says, and I paraphrase, that the recording industry needs an awards show, an act of recognition for the artists, so that it can commemorate the talent.///Nonsense///

    Is that the way life is? No fucking Chewbacca Way! If…you know what, this is bullshit. I can’t believe that I need to get into this kind of mess. Should I not be happy with my musical taste, my favorite tunes. I write poetry every day, almost every day for the past two years. I am getting better. ____

  6. shayna Avatar

    i’m sure no one needs the help in finding it, but they’re one of the best.

  7. Noah Avatar

    What really sucks about the music industry to me is how they pretend to actually give a damn about the music or what it means to its consumers. They get up and BS as long as we bend over and pay for their merchandise so they can make money and somehow still manage to underpay starting artists.

    But the minute you take 1 dollar away from them their true colors come out and they’re seen for the greedy, unmoved, oppressive corporation they are. And they used the Grammys, of all things! They didn’t even want to spend the money to start a public campaign. I didn’t see one poor person in that room.

    Doesn’t it make you want to scream? When you look around and see nothing but corporations doing and saying anything to put you more in debt? Of course they have to be against free music. God forbid they look at anything but the bottom line. Even MTV has because a corporate whore. Remember when they actually used to allow ugly people on MTV if they had something to say?

  8. brad Avatar

    Noah – Actually, there are a lot of people in the music industry that give a shit. Yeah, the pay is good and they get free stuff and all that, but make no mistake, there are people that give a shit.

    For the artists’ sake, we should bend over and pay for it. That doesn’t mean bend over and take it in the ass on prices, but I’m all for paying for good music. There’s nothing wrong with it.

    This isn’t an argument about money, not directly. The problem is, as I stated in my original post, that the music industry moves too slow and they move out of fear. What do they fear? They fear that people will get the idea that they don’t have to pay for music. Unfortunately, there are a lot of those people out there, but artists should be paid for their work. I don’t care about the Backstreet Boys, but I care if they get paid.

    One of the problems is that many people don’t understand how much money it takes to put out a record. Furthermore, there are so very few that get the money that goes with the fame. It has something to do with unfair cotractual obligations that the labels ask of artists, but it also has to do with the fact that labels are businesses. They must make money in order to survive. Deal with it. It’s a fact.

    Same goes for MTV, but you know what? If it weren’t for the MTV that there is today, there would be no M | 2 for the rest of us who enjoy watching videos and like music. Again, MTV did what they had to do to survive. Do I watch MTV? No way, but I enjoy M | 2 and VH-1 on occassion and I’m glad they’re around.

  9. brad Avatar

    JD – I may let you be the cheerleader, but the spokesperson slot will be filled by someone that doesn’t spout bullshit about their sexcapades as it relates (which in this case it does not) to the Grammys.

    It’s nice to be recognized for talent and the Grammy voters are all industry people. Peers. Do I think they recognize all the great talent out there? Nope. They barely scrape the surface, but I certainly don’t see anything wrong with recognizing great talent. It’s all opinion, and let’s just pause for a moment and appreciate the right to express our opinion…

  10. Noah Avatar

    I agree, and there are many of us out there who use the internet just as we speculate it should be used in relation to music–we download a track or two, and if we like it, we buy the CD. I care if the musician gets paid. But if the record industry supports the internet and the possibilities it offers in bringing music to the listener, they’ll still lose money, even if only in the near-term. Like you say, the don’t have vision. They just see the initial bottom line.

  11. JD Stone Avatar
    JD Stone


    It has nothing to do with sex.

    I can’t be successful every time, can I?


  12. JD Stone Avatar
    JD Stone

    I’m actually pretty tired of the argument on CD burning and such. But I guess it is the future.

    I’m just pissed b/c I don’t have a T3 or DSL…I’m 56k man, all the way.

    ///my proverbial thrashing about behind my eyes
    ///sends the heels of critics on my trail
    ///mends the wheel but burns the veil
    ///brides need not proceed if I am to escapade;
    ///according to some I am a weaklink and a fiend
    ///for the nether regions and the burn
    ///this is what can be done when the wrong turn
    ///tears the tunic from your friend
    ///and you see that skin is really line by line
    ///inch on flake and all the music in the world
    ///fails at the sight of cacophony.
    ///I hear it in voices that tell me down
    ///that heal the cartilage of bad verse.

    —-you know, maybe this is a good time to banish me from posting.


  13. shiteeka Avatar

    hey, this was great, brad. smart, smart, brad. you should email this shite to mr. green, dude! as for the grammys: ew. schlock, but it’s only a microcosm. i was watching (till i wasn’t) thinking to myself, “now, where’s a nice, healthy old-fashioned terrorist attack when you need one?”

    i could just see missy-thing labelle’s sequins and guazy wrap flying all over the place, sha-kweezy and shakira and nene furtito, all those deeply, passionate, gifted, gifted ho’s just blowing and spurting all over over the place in a mass of hysteria and gore unmatched heretofore in Grammy history. Give Mr. Green something to flip a booby over, no? Plus, it’d give the almighty Bush dynasty more fuel for their unbridled fire to wipe out and bomb every last mu’fucker who, well, who really just doesn’t have white honky skin and a weenie!

    btw, i never said any of this and i will deny it if pressed. also, make sure and get your butts over to the intersection of highland and melrose (the northeast corner) to see the brilliant billboard erected (hehe) about how self-serving and politically homogenized the oscars are – brilliant, i say.

    maybe brad can take a picture for all you lovely souls who live elsewhere. ok, i’m out, gonna go download some new kasweeka tracks on the da net- she’s hot– very street meets white ho meets birth defect moment (she was born without vocal cords, can you believe it?)