Janis Ian: "Don't sever a high-tech lifeline for musicians"

Recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Verizon must give the RIAA the name of a customer suspected — there is no evidence — of downloading “infringing” files. In an L.A. Times editorial, Janis Ian comments on the RIAA’s actions from the point of view of an average, successful recording artist.

The record companies say this decision will mean more money for musicians, but they have it backward. The downloaded music they’re shutting off actually creates sales by exposing artists to new fans. If this ruling stands, many smaller musicians will be hurt financially, and many will be pushed out of the music business altogether.

She also updates us on how downloading has helped her.

Thousands of people have downloaded my music since then — and they’re not trying to steal. They’re just looking for music they can no longer find on the tight playlists of their local radio stations. After I first posted downloadable music, my merchandise sales went up 300%. They’re still double what they were before the MP3s went online.

Not only does the RIAA continue to be more and more of a liability for artists and labels, but it’s also inspired unprecedented hatred in their customers. Can it be fixed before it destroys the industy it’s supposed to represent? Hilary Rosen is scheduled to depart at the end of this year, but there’s a good chance that she may just be parroting attitudes irrevocably ingrained into the organization. At some point, it’s easier just to start again from scratch.