Surprise! The music industry lies!

And they do it with research.

Check the “media center” tab on the Music First Coalition website and you’ll see a glaring example of this.

This is the front organization for the labels and the RIAA in their war on Radio.

The lie is a quotation from a study called “Don’t Play it Again Sam: Radio Play, Record Sales, and Property Rights,” and it’s published by an academic at the University of Texas. But not just any academic, it’s the one heading up something called the “Center for the Analysis of Property Rights and Innovation” which sounds very much like a magnet for support dollars from big media rights-holders.

In the paper itself (which you can download here) I find no indication of who financed or supported the effort, but the interests involved are clear, and nowhere is the term “consumer” in the name of the sponsoring organization. Where there’s smoke, the saying goes, there’s usually fire.

Here’s the questionable quotation, featured prominently on Music First’s site:

Radio does not have the positive impact on record sales normally attributed to it. Instead, it appears to have an economically important negative impact, implying that overall radio listening is more of a substitute for the purchase of sound recordings than it is a compliment.

Got that?

Radio doesn’t sell music, say the labels.

The same labels that advertise in your trades, support your live shows, beg you to play their tunes, call you every single week, wine and dine you, debate your music research, monitor your adds, and – on occasion – offer the stray illegal bribe.

Those labels.

This fundamental conceit aside, there are numerous fatal problems with this study. First and most important, the researcher lumps ALL music formats together. That is, he assumes an Oldies fan or a Classic Rock fan is the same as a CHR or Hip Hop or Alternative fan. Everybody in radio and everybody in music knows that the average Oldies and Classic Rock fan doesn’t buy music. But this analyst foolishly makes no such distinction. And in so doing, he squashes the obvious positive impact on the music industry caused by those formats which traffic in new music. This is a very stupid mistake, and the fact that the music industry is showcasing it should humiliate them to no end.

Second, statistically speaking, “correlation is not causation.” That is, just because some radio fans don’t buy music doesn’t mean it’s because they listen to the radio. It could simply mean they have purchased all the music they like and don’t buy what they hate. This is why, for example, the format’s called “Oldies” and not “Newies.” But instead of noting this, the author of the study draws an implication which suits the presumed sponsors of the study rather than the truth.

Third, even if we accept the conclusion that some radio listeners don’t buy music and further accept that radio satisfies whatever need they have, the author of the study doesn’t acknowledge the tangible difference between the stealing of music via P2P and the fact that radio stations do indeed already pay considerable license fees to play the music industry’s content on the public airwaves. This notion that radio is getting something for nothing is downright offensive.

So perhaps the music industry can do itself a favor and remove the ridiculous citation for this deeply flawed study from its website before it embarrasses itself any further.

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