The world’s smallest fiddle may be playing for the record companies, but few are inclined to listen. The past fifteen years have shown the major record companies guilty of continually trying to reinforce the foundation of their sand castle, rather than recognizing its tenuous position and moving their base of operations to a starter mansion on Higher Ground.
A legion of tomes have been and will continue to be written about their failure to adapt to the changing marketplace brought on by the Internet, Napster, (not to mention their insistence on producing pablum). This will not add appreciably to that body of literature. However, it is worth highlighting the compounding problems facing these companies, and the similarities in their response to a little-known provision in a 1970’s-era copyright law that is poised to put yet another nail in the coffin of their increasingly obsolete business model.
As The New York Times reports, a series of recordings are about to fall under a provision that allows artists to reclaim the copyright of their recordings 35 years after the fact. Interestingly, this is a greater problem than it would have been in previous eras for the record companies because back catalog sales have been propping up increasingly dismal balance sheets. Now, as artists like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, The Eagles, and many others move to reclaim their copyright, history is repeating itself as the record companies continue to litigate and cling to the past rather than recognizing their need to retrench and move on. As this sort of willful ignorance continues to degrade the foundation of their sand castle, it is simply a matter of time before the tide sweeps in and washes away the vestiges of a once cash-flush industry that has taken on the appearance of Miss Havisham’s dress (after Courtney Love took it further than Dickens could have dreamed). Sadly, they appear doomed to the repeat the mistakes of their Napster past…even if they win the battle, their distraction will ultimately ensure that they lose the war they are unknowingly fighting.