As an avid consumer of music I love having access to a huge selection of new music at my fingertips. I buy CDs, support artists and spread the word about stuff I like.
I hardly ever listen to terrestrial radio any more (if I wanted to listen to inane egos talking I'd spent time at political meetings), and satellite radio while ad free sadly isn't host free (and has a pretty limited play list).
Which means I had to search out a better solution to find new music. For me that solution for the last few months has been Pandora - 24/7 streaming with playlists customized based on my preferences. All killers, no fillers, and while I'm a happy user of the free ad supported service (visuals in browser, not audio) I'm going to become a subscriber as soon as my home network is setup following our move - Pandora works with the SlimDevices Squeezebox and Transporter players ;)
While I'm a fan of the music, I'm not necessarily a big fan of the record companies. They (through the RIAA) seem to have been using some very dubious means to try and shore up a business model who's time was past back in Edisons day but continued through the on-going instances of payola through to the whittling away of fair use in place of lawsuits. It doesn't help the artists, it doesn't help culture and it sure doesn't help the consumers. Restricting choice and artificially shaping a market is not a sustainable model, but sadly some very powerful companies can pay a lot for some very effective lobbying and the government of the day plays along.
Recently however the RIAA has managed to get something passed that shows how little they care about long term sustainability and how focused they are on short term revenue. In a move that restricts the ability of internet broadcasters to deliver music to users in a fair and equitable manner they have pushed for a huge increase in royalties. Specifically targeting online delivery services (such as Pandora, Live365, Yahoo! music etc) the fees will rise 149% from the 2005 level by 2010, as well as imposing minimum contract amounts for all broadcasters. The fee increases for terrestrial and satellite radio are nowhere near these levels - and, unlike internet broadcasters, well their reach and business model.
I fail to see how punishing a fledgling industry which actively promotes your product - exposure leads to sales after all - is a good business decision.
The amount of money the average consumer spends on music hasn't changed much in the last 10 years. Despite bogus protests piracy hasn't brought the house down, iTunes, Urge, Connect etc (you use the service your media player recommends as long as it's good enough) and CDs (provided they don't infect you with DRM malware) in the stores are still the de facto choice for all but a few technically savvy user - so finding new effective ways to expose people to more choice at a reasonable cost seems like a really smart move.
This increase has the potential to hurt everyone. At the simplest level I'll lose a great music service that's introduced me to the bands and record labels behind the last 3 CDs I bought. At a higher level it hints at a much less rich musical soundscape for the future.
Normally I don't encourage people to go write to their politicians but I suggest you read Tims posts and take action before it's too late... While it won't save the planet or stop people starving it's about standing up for a better world!
Oh, and whle you're at it, check out how Gizmondo are going with their RIAA boycott, and progress at SaveOurInternetRadio. There's a lot of alternate music out there...