In 2004, CD sales rose and the RIAA, the music industry’s mouthpiece, claimed that all their anti-piracy efforts were paying off. Last year, sales fell by 3.5% and to what did the big music companies attribute the decline? You got it! Piracy. I guess all those lawsuits, shutting down Grokster, and all their scare tactics aren’t working as well as they thought.

As one opinion writer puts it, “The music industry really is as dumb as you think.”

She goes on to point out that there are many other reasons why people aren’t buying the product such as diverting recreational money to pay for gas and other necessities. Then there’s the issue of quality of product, or the lack thereof.

However, primarily the industry is shooting itself in the foot by hampering the legal downloading and sharing of music online, which still only accounts for 5% of all music sales. So, why are they so resistant to online music?

The obvious motivation behind the music industry’s fight against music trading on the internet is that it hoped to cash in on the new online music formats just as it had done with the move from records to tapes and then CDs. The pigopolists wanted you to buy entire music collections once again. The labels, however, didn’t come up with online stores quick enough and have spent the last few years trying to stop companies that did create such stores.

That’s true enough but I think there’s more going on here. The music industry’s primary audience (people a lot younger than me) has become very accustomed to picking and choosing. A growing part of the audience wants the option to buy only the tracks they like rather than take the whole pre-selected package. So, they find ways, legally or illegally, to make it happen.

Beyond that, however, I’m not so sure the industry’s motivation is actually have us “buy” the music anymore. The big companies would rather “rent” it, charging consumers each and every time they listen. That’s certainly the model that big video has been pushing (fortunately, rather unsuccessfully) with their “broadcast flag” concept.

It’s going to be another interesting year of big media trying to limit your fair use rights. If you’re interested in helping beat them back, drop on over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, get educated and join them in the defense.

Update (1/2): Boing Boing offers one more excellent example of the cluelessness of big media when it comes to “protecting” CDs. Talk about holding your customers in contempt!

riaa, fair use, eff