Why Does the Music Industry Seem to Hate Fairness?

Is it just me or does the music industry really, really hate fairness? For years now, we've been hearing about labels trying to limit what we can access on digital stores and musicians holding out on offering their tracks because of the so-called "unfairness" across the Web.You remember it, right? Apple for years was trying to bring certain record labels into the iTunes fold, but they continued to fight it. And when The Beatles finally (finally!) came to iTunes, it was as if the prior several years spent waiting for the band's catalog wasn't necessary.[Image credit: Freimut]

Now, we're dealing with a similar issue. Musicians and record labels are teaming up to battle music-streaming providers, like Pandora and Spotify, that want to see their royalty rates cut to match those offered to radio stations. Sounds fair, right? Both industries are playing the same music, and yet, the companies that are online are paying more for the right to offer the tracks to customers. Pandora, among others, wants to level the playing field.

Of course, musicians and the record labels disagree. Rather than cut Pandora's pricing, they say, all prices should be brought up to those charged to music-streaming companies. That way, the music industry makes out and those of us who want to consumer content are forced to deal with whining music providers that will in some way try to past that cost on to us.

At what point will the music industry realize that battling the digital world won't work? For years, we heard that digital downloads through peer-to-peer networks would amount to nothing. Napster proved the labels wrong. And when so-called "legitimate" services like iTunes arose, the labels thought they were getting too little for their product and decided to stick with discs. Do me a favor and try to find a CD worth buying today. Hard, huh?

[aquote]Once again the music industry chose the wrong side for the dumb hope it will raise more cash[/aquote]

Now, we're dealing with streaming. And once again, the music industry has decided to choose the wrong side of history for the hope – the dumb hope – that it will help it raise more cash.

The fact is, fairness is what makes record labels and musicians more money. The more fair the companies are to streaming providers or digital-services companies, the greater their chances of being successful. That's why betting on iTunes has turned out to be a good idea. That's also why betting on Pandora should top their lists.

Consumers respond well to companies that actually want to be nice to those service providers they support. Believe it or not, a relationship between record labels and consumers works both ways. And the sooner the music industry tries to give as much as it wants to take, the sooner it can unleash the real value of the entertainment it provides.

So, can we put aside our differences and be fair? Radio stations shouldn't be charged less than companies like Pandora, and that streaming provider's rates should be cut. That will result in more usage, more consumers, and yes, more cash for the music industry.

Simple logic and math goes a long way.