Critical Backlash: Why We Need OiNK

What a thing to wake up to. Alright, RIAA, think about it for five seconds:

FACT: Like Napster before it, OiNK’s database was the most comprehensive, convenient, high-quality source of digital music on the Internet. And if you build it, they will come – the site has thousands upon thousands of users, every one a music lover looking for a great way to find albums new and old. Also like Napster before it, the industry has chosen to completely blow a tremendous opportunity by destroying an obviously successful system rather than simply figuring out a way to monetize it and rake in profits.

FACT: There is no one-stop location on the Internet where you can pay $10 and download a 192+ kbps DRM-free MP3 of any album you want – which you can do on OiNK for free. Essentially, the music industry is asking consumers to ignore the gentleman in the street handing out fresh Hebrew National hot dogs (delicious, amirite) and pretending that the gross chunks of meat that’ve been simmering in 7-Eleven all week are just as good! Why should anyone pay for an inferior product when what they actually want is just sitting there?

FACT: DRM-laden music doesn’t work. Subscription services don’t work. Why? The same people who buy the most music are also its biggest promoters, making tapes or burning CDs for their friends and now, passing around MP3s. If you can’t do this, it’s no fun – how can you convince your friend to go to a show with you? Music is communal. Sites like OiNK are the ultimate example of this. Which leads to…

FACT: Career sales trump one-hit-wonders. Touring and merch trumps album sales. How does this happen? AWARENESS. How do people become aware of bands in a way that inclines them to make a connection and develop loyalty in the iPod era? I’ll let you guys figure that one out, but it’s not happening on MTV or ClearChannel-owned radio stations.

FACT: A download is not a lost sale. The kids with the most MP3s are hoarding them because they can, not because they’re trying to save money on paying for CDs. No one is ever going to go out and buy 5-10 albums a week, but that’s about how many a good chunk of us download.

FACT: Promotion costs money. Record companies routinely lose tons of cash on bands that sell 100k and call it a career. During the late ’90s heyday, they could offset this with the Backstreet Boys, but that was never going to last.

FACT: Promoting your album by letting people listen to it online so they can go out and buy it or see you on tour, and letting buzz build organically through word of mouth? FREE.

FACT: The audience that pirates albums is often a totally different market than the one that still buys CDs. Downloading is never going to cannibalize CD sales – they’re two seperate entities, and the industry should be supplying quality products to both markets, not constraining one while the other dies a miserable death.

In short, fellas, the industry is moving in a direction where bands are going to pull a Radiohead and just sell the shit themselves because the industry seems unwilling or incapable of doing the absolute bare minimum of offering their entire catalogs in a quality file format at a reasonable place in a one-stop shop.

Update: Because there’s been some confusion about my intentions with this post, I’ll make them perfectly clear: I’m not condoning piracy or even promoting OiNK, really. What I’m saying is, the lack of a legitimate, legal service with the same quality, ease and variety of OiNK is a huge, gaping hole in the music business right now and if anyone wants to make money on a recording ever again, you guys had better fill it the hell up.

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