Friday, June 16, 2006

What to watch for

The major american pirate-hunter organization, the RI*A, have not only started to crack down on home videos where music is playing in the background, they have also found a number of "piracy hotspots" that they will now presumably raze and level to protect their earnings. These hotspots are Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, San Diego and San Francisco. If you live in one of these cities, you are scum and hereby warned. Bulldozers will appear when you least expect them.
On their home page the courageous vampire hunters publish a list of things to watch for when buying music. Let us see...
  • Remember the Adage “You Get What You Pay For”: Even if you are hoping to get your favorite albums at a discount, new or used, extremely low prices might indicate pirated product.
This means "It SHOULD be expensive, and inexpensive music is suspect". The punk movement made a point of releasing cheap records that the fans could afford. NOT the corporate punk bands, of course (see reason above), but the small independent bands. The idea that something inexpensive has to be wrong is perverted on so many levels that I nearly cringe as I see it.
  • Watch for Compilations that are “Too Good to Be True": Many pirates make illegal "dream compilation" CDs, comprised of songs by numerous artists on different record labels.
The very thought that record labels could cooperate to give customers what they want is completely alien to the RI*A. This viewpoint is rather antisocial, but I refrain from using the word "psychopathic". Damn, I wrote "refrain". This probably makes me a pirate...
  • Read the Label: If the true name and address of the manufacturer are not shown, it is most likely not legitimate product. These products often do not contain a bar code. Furthermore, if the record label listed is a company you’ve never heard of, that should be another warning sign.
There should be three large record companies and anything coming from a non-infamous company is probably illegal. "True name" is an interesting concept, considering what some record companies are named. How about "Stiff little fingers" for instance? Sound like a real company to you?
Scanning and pasting on a bar code on the artwork is so simple compared to actually mastering a CD that any time a barcode is missing you can bet it has been omitted on purpose. A barcode is not a thing of beauty, and a cover artist pleased with his work would probably not foul it by pasting a barcode on it. So if something has a barcode, it's probably a result of corporate greed overruling artistic expression.
  • Look for Suspicious Packaging: Carefully look over the packaging and beware of products that do not look genuine. Packages with misspelled words, blurry graphics, weak or bad color should all raise red flags. Inferior quality print work on the disc surface or slip sleeve cover, as well as the lack of original artwork and/or missing label, publisher, and distributor logos on discs and packaging, are usually clear indicators that the product is pirated. CDs with loose or no shrink wrap, or cheaply made insert cards, often without liner notes or multiple folds, are probably not legitimate product.
Back to the punks again. Punk record covers were more often than not assembled from newspaper clippings, photocopied on dirt-cheap equipment and folded by the band members themselves. The result did not look professional, so we can safely assume these musicians were in fact crooks stealing money from the major labels. A wonder they were not outlawed. Well, the Sex Pistols were of course banned from airplay, and US punk clubs were raided by police more often than not but no actual law was passed against people performing music without paying 80% to major corporations. This is just about the only law they have not managed to pass. Yet.
Shrink wrap is another fine angle - a wrapped disc cannot be played in the store to check out what the band sounds like. This means that all your choices (your "favourites" as they helpfully state it in point #1) are based on big media input. That means MTV (famous for "MTV Cribs", "Fabulous life of various assh*les" and "Pimp my ride" and other highly musical entertainment). If not MTV, then Clear Ch*nnel, owners of several thousand radio stations broadcasting the same pap all around the world. If all you listen to is top-twenty hits, chances are you are not listening to your favourite music since you have never had any choice to begin with.
  • Watch for Product Being Sold in Unusual Places: CDs sold in non-traditional venues, like flea markets or street corners, are probably not legitimate.
Buying used CD:s is not yet illegal either, but subtle hints have been made that it will be outlawed in time. Nintendo made an attempt to make resale of their cartridges illegal, and if they had not been laughed out of court you bet the recording industry would have been next in line.
Street vendors of used CD:s beware! Your days of callously robbing the industry are numbered.
Ten years ago buying music at gas stations was uncommon here. Now a huge percentage of record sales are made as people pay for the gas and see something interesting in a bin. The (knee)jerk response of the recording industry was probably to ban gasoline, because a gas station was an unusual venue...
  • Trust your ear: The sound quality of pirate CDs is often poor or inconsistent.
The musical qualities of various boy bands and other "studio frankenstein" projects leave lots to be desired too. Anyone remember a 90:s one-hit-wonder called "the New R*dicals"? He, it was just one guy, had a hit based on a bizarre half-yodel reminiscent of the Cr*nberries. It had novelty factor that faded the sixth time you played the song. In those days "M" in MTV stood for "Music" and they plugged it for weeks.
I could have murdered the suit that OK:d that record. This goes for tons of no-talent rap as well. Really, guys, if all you have to say is "I have a big penis and I like to shoot people", by all means hit the streets and walk around with no pants and shoot bypassers at random. Just don't force us to listen to you yap about it in boring monotones.


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