So what can you and I do to help usher in the brave new world? The beauty of Oink was how fans willingly and hyper-efficiently took on distribution roles that traditionally have cost labels millions of dollars. Music lovers have shown that they're much more willing to put time and effort into music than they are money. It's time to show artists that there's no limit to what an energized online fanbase can accomplish, and all they'll ever ask for in return is more music. And it's time to show the labels that they missed a huge opportunity by not embracing these opportunities when they had the chance.
1. Stop buying music from major labels. Period. The only way to force change is to hit the labels where it hurts - their profits. The major labels are like Terry Schiavo right now - they're on life support, drooling in a coma, while white-haired guys in suits try and change the laws to keep them alive. But any rational person can see that it's too late, and it's time to pull out the feeding tube. In this case, the feeding tube is your money. Find out which labels are members/supporters of the RIAA and similar copyright enforcement groups, and don't support them in any way. The RIAA Radar is a great tool to help you with this. Don't buy CDs, don't buy iTunes downloads, don't buy from Amazon, etc. Steal the music you want that's on the major labels. It's easy, and despite the RIAA's scare tactics, it can be done safely - especially if more and more people are doing it. Send letters to those labels, and to the RIAA, explaining very calmly and professionally that you will no longer be supporting their business, because of their bullish scare tactics towards music fans, and their inability to present a forward-thinking digital distribution solution. Tell them you believe their business model is outdated and the days of companies owning artists' music are over. Make it very clear that you will continue to support the artists directly in other ways, and make it VERY clear that your decision has come about as a direct result of the record company's actions and inactions regarding digital music.
2. Support artists directly. If a band you like is stuck on a major label, there are tons of ways you can support them without actually buying their CD. Tell everyone you know about them - start a fansite if you're really passionate. Go to their shows when they're in town, and buy t-shirts and other merchandise. Here's a little secret: Anything a band sells that does not have music on it is outside the reach of the record label, and monetarily supports the artist more than buying a CD ever would. T-shirts, posters, hats, keychains, stickers, etc. Send the band a letter telling them that you're no longer going to be purchasing their music, but you will be listening to it, and you will be spreading the word and supporting them in other ways. Tell them you've made this decision because you're trying to force change within the industry, and you no longer support record labels with RIAA affiliations who own the music of their artists.
If you like bands who are releasing music on open, non-RIAA indie labels, buy their albums! You'll support the band you like, and you'll support hard-working, passionate people at small, forward-thinking music labels. If you like bands who are completely independent and are releasing music on their own, support them as much as possible! Pay for their music, buy their merchandise, tell all your friends about them and help promote them online - prove that a network of passionate fans is the best promotion a band can ask for.
3. Get the message out. Get this message out to as many people as you can - spread the word on your blog or your MySpace, and more importantly, tell your friends at work, or your family members, people who might not be as tuned into the internet as you are. Teach them how to use torrents, show them where to go to get music for free. Show them how to support artists while starving the labels, and who they should and shouldn't be supporting.
4. Get political. The fast-track to ending all this nonsense is changing intellectual property laws. The RIAA lobbies politicians to manipulate copyright laws for their own interests, so voters need to lobby politicians for the peoples' interests. Contact your local representatives and senators. Tell them politely and articulately that you believe copyright laws no longer reflect the interests of the people, and you will not vote for them if they support the interests of the RIAA. Encourage them to draft legislation that helps change the outdated laws and disproportionate penalties the RIAA champions. Contact information for state representatives can be found here, and contact information for senators can be found here. You can email them, but calling on the phone or writing them actual letters is always more effective.
Tonight, with Oink gone, I find myself wondering where I'll go now to discover new music. All the other options - particularly the legal ones - seem depressing by comparison. I wonder how long it will be before everyone can legally experience the type of music nirvana Oink users became accustomed to? I'm not too worried - something even better will rise out of Oink's ashes, and the RIAA will respond with more lawsuits, and the cycle will repeat itself over and over until the industry has finally bled itself to death. And then everything will be able to change, and it will be in the hands of musicians and fans and a new generation of entrepreneurs to decide how the new record business is going to work. Whether you agree with it or not, it's fact. It's inevitable - because the determination of fans to share music is much, much stronger than the determination of corporations to stop it.
"When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide." Demonbaby: Wednesday, October 24, 2007