If Labels Dragged Their Feet with The Internet,
Then Who Did Not?

By Moses Avalon

As you read this I am flying from LA to Denmark for the SPOT Music Festival. It’s like SXSW for Europe. If anyone on the list this is going to be there, give a shout.

I apologize for the lack of editing on this, but I’m writing on the go.


I’ve posted some of your rather intelligent and diverse responses below, but one thing I wanted to respond to was for those of you who said, things like, “You’re right Moses, but at the end of the day labels did wait too long,” or were “too slow” to respond to the internet. Or some such suggestion.

What is “too long” or “too slow?” Compared to what? Sure it’s easy in hindsight to say they should have reacted faster. It someone is pointing a gun at you and you say, “I know you won’t shoot me, it’s illegal and you’ll go to jail” and they back down, you look cool. If they shoot you then everyone says, “See you should have moved out of the way.”

Label lawyers KNEW the Napster lawyers. And Label lawyers KNEW that Napster lawyers KNEW that what their client was doing was illegal. Labels made the logical assumption that Napster would play ball. No one could have anticipated that Napster’s execs (most of whom were under 30) would simply ignore the advise of their own lawyers and break the law. It’s not something anyone can anticipate. And even if you can. Are you suggesting that labels SHOULD do business with criminals?

Those of you who think that the music business should have just rolled over is basically like saying banks should make deals with thieves since the thieves will find a way to steel money and losing hundreds of millions is better then maybe losing tens of billions.

Find me one business man who thinks like that

So, in order for “too long” to have any real meaning we have to give it a comparison to other industries and how they embraced technology’s provisions:

Did labels wait as long as car manufactures to start producing energy efficient vehicles. No.

How about toy companies? Did they wait as long as they did to stop using lead? No.

Did they wait as long as the banking industry to jump on the tech bandwagon? No my branch still uses IBMs. And on-line banking came YEARS after personal computers.

I could go on and on, but the point is in 1999 labels had begun to embrace the internet, probably more so than most industries and for sure, more so than any other major entertainment based company in the US. Those who disagree I invite them to show me proof. You can’t. But I can prove the opposite. I can prove that record companies where meeting with people and hearing proposals and doing their own R&D as early as 1995.


So, what should majors have done; changed everything about the way they do business just because some techies who knew nothing about how the 1999 record business worked says they should change? Did the car, toy or energy business do that?

And if they say no, then what? The tech industry holds them up at virtual gun point?

Is this the standard we’re defending and want to embrace for our economy. If so, then every time a tech guru says “jump,” we will all say “How high?” We’ll do everything THEY want, the way THEY want it because if we don’t they will zap us with their geek mojo.

It’s high-tech blackmail.

Every industry tries to protect the standard it spent time building. We are no different. The tech industry wanted us to change. We said we’ll do it, but on our schedule. They said screw you. That’s it in a nutshell.

Oh, PS: in case you missed it, Handleman’s out. More fat trimmed from the steak.


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