A new book by a UT Arlington assistant professor reveals how large corporations exploited new technologies to maintain their stranglehold on the music industry.
David Arditi, an assistant professor in Interdisciplinary Studies, wrote "iTake-Over: The Recording Industry in the Digital Era," published by R&L Publishers. It will hit shelves Dec. 5.
"The industry pushed for and got tougher copyright laws passed in the 1990s that hurt the very people those laws purport to help, the musicians," Arditi said. "Those laws compromise the broader public good, which has traditionally depended on the fair use doctrine. Later those laws became the foundation to change the recording industry in the digital era."
Arditi said those laws preceded a "piracy panic" narrative that equated file sharing with property theft. This narrative was used to create an environment that created public discontent toward file sharing.
"Record labels tried to demonize file sharing but file sharing has been around forever," Arditi said. "People have always copied music, but has every copy been for profit? The answer is no."
The book analyzes how the music industry is faring financially today. Arditi enumerates how major music labels have thrived since going digital mainly because of reduced production and distribution costs, and steady gains in digital music sales.
Richard Strasser, director of the Music Industry Leadership Program at Northeastern University, said Arditi's book is well timed.
"The book examines the spurious relationship between digital downloads and the proposed end of the commercial recording industry," Strasser wrote in a review of the book. "During this period record labels executives, their representatives and the general media foretold demise of recorded music with the development of mp3 file format."
Timothy Luke, a political science professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, said Arditi's book reassesses the technological, social, legal and cultural transformations from 1995 to 2010 in the recorded music business. He said the book looks at the music industry's transition from packaged physical commodity sales to mostly digital downloads and streaming services.
"This insightful analysis challenges the conventional wisdom by showing how fully digital production and distribution systems more deeply entrenched, rather than somehow undermined, the industrial clout of these businesses," Luke said.
Another major point Arditi makes in the book is the non-transparency of the recording industry.
"Major labels don't share their financial records," Arditi said. "They report what is shipped to stores, not sales, and hide their revenues and profits under the larger corporate umbrella. This allows labels to claim that they are hemorrhaging revenue."
And Arditi said just the opposite has happened. He said large music companies have experienced more profit since they transitioned to digital music.
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