How Much Do You Value Music?

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Last week, Mitch Bainwol, the CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or the RIAA, and Cary Sherman, its President, wrote an opinion piece for Inside Higher Ed, a magazine for those working in academia. The piece was an attempt to explain why the RIAA continued its steady stream of litigation against college students for the illegal downloading of music.

In the article, Bainwol and Sherman explained the various ways they've tried to appeal to students to curb illegal downloading. They justified their lawsuits as a last resort, telling universities that the students had been given alternative options and fair warning before the lawsuits were issued.

The RIAA has done its job informing the public about illegal downloading. But in many ways, they have failed terribly. Illegal downloading is at an all time high and I'm certain serving lawsuits to music loving college student is not the solution. Over a billion tracks are now freely traded every month on the Internet here in America, according to Big Champagne, the Internet-monitoring service. There seems to be a huge disconnect between the record industry and the illegal down loaders.

The Internet has exponentially changed how most businesses operate, why should the record business be any different? If so many people want to get their music from open, digital systems like BitTorrent and Gnutella, perhaps the record industry should change its model of selling and distributing music.

But before anything shifts, there’s still important dialogue needed. The industry has relied too long on research companies to analyze digital downloading. What happens when the labels speak to the down loaders themselves?

KCRW reaches into the population of Los Angeles, and through the Internet, to places far beyond. Statistically, there have to be plenty of folks listening right now, who are comfortable downloading their music illegally. I want to ask those people, why? Is it simply the notion of getting something for free? Or an act of convenience? Has Digital Rights Management or other limiting code on music files forced this action and if so, how has it affected you? Or is it a political act against a company or group of companies? Are you still willing to buy music and if so, has your downloading affected how much music you buy?

Whatever the reasons, I want to understand, without judgments. There is a real problem in the record industry and we’re only just beginning to see the effects. If a positive experience is to result, solutions should include all the passionate voices of those who love music.

So now is your opportunity to speak your truth. Please feel free to write me at, I'll gather the results and report anonymously on the findings in the next few weeks.

All correspondence will be treated as confidential.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.