TRUSTED SOURCES: How Facts Get In The Way Of A Great “Dying Music Biz" News Story.

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I think I’ve really let down my readers.

How could I, the Duke of de-bunking, the Secretary of scam-outers, miss the biggest scam that allows most other scams to proceed? Well, all I can say is, sometimes you don’t see the forest through the trees. Focusing on the minutia we can forget the bigger issues that lay at the foundation of our vulnerability.

What am I talking about? The news. Is the news a scam? Well, when it’s agenda-driven PR disguised as news the answer is, yes. And when certain news articles are so well positioned with such a biased message that they can effect the choices you make in your career and the way you think about the future of music, then yes, you’re on my turf and I’m gonna bite back.

The scam of the day is a term used in journalism, “Trusted Source.” A news story relies on “facts” to build its point of view. Journalists are not required to be experts in anything except gathering facts and so, Trusted Sources give journalists the ability to write with authority. It’s for this reason that journalists have a love/hate relationship with many of their sources. They need the cooperation of the very people they are vetting.


The standard and practice for journalism used to be two independent Trusted Sources to confirm a single fact. Blogging, which is not technically journalism, but editorial/commentary, has no standard. And why should they? As you’ll read in a moment, even the New York Times, the “paper of record” doesn’t seem to care about facts when it comes to our industry. So why should gadflys, opinionists, bloggers and bloggests.

These days you can not go a single week without exposure to a story about the “dying music biz.” They are often backed by statistics like, “10% drop in sales this year,” “30% drop since 2004” etc, etc. Where are writers getting their “facts” from? Would it surprise you to find out that almost ALL MUSIC BIZ “facts” that you read about in today’s main-stream news come from just three Trusted Sources AND that all of these sources have a vested interest in misrepresentation of these facts?

No, it probably does not surprise you, but I think we need to put a spotlight on these Trusted Sources so that you can decide for yourself if they are worth trusting.

Indeed, I too have an agenda. My agenda is that with this article we put a bit of pressure on those singing the perils of the music business when reporting. Maybe, then we can get them to be a bit less complacent when assuming “facts”

Let’s drill down.


A large percentage of the music biz Armageddon articles use Wikipedia as a Trusted Source for music biz data.

I have not done exhaustive surveys to confirm this “fact” as it would take years, but it’s not hard to see that it’s true because of the hyper links embedded in their blogs. (Anyone who can build a webpage can find them.) Here it is:

What does Wiki say? “The downward trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future… this dramatic decline in revenue has caused large scale layoffs inside the industry, driven music retailers out of business (such as Tower Records) and forced record companies, record producers, studios, recording engineers and musicians to seek new business models.”


I could spend about 100 pages de-bunking just about every word of what Wiki has above, but that will have to wait for another article (or series of them.)

So where does Wikipedia get this “”downward trend” information? The link above uses only ONE source: Forrester Research. Who is Forrester Research? A market research firm whose clients are the tech-industry. They purchased Jupiter Communication in 2008. Jupiter was one of the first high-level internet research firms. Their clients are almost exclusively Silicon Valleyites..

To keep the Valley-people happy and keep their fees flowing, the god Forrester needs to please is the one that wants to hear that content companies are losing ground both legally and in public support. The net result, they hope, is that record companies yield and just give away all their content to create a “greater consumer experience.”

No record company, film/TV production company that I know of supports or hires Forrester Research to analyze their market data. (If I’m wrong on this I’d like to see proof or at least some form of testimony to the contrary.)

So in essence, although they do not see themselves in this position, Forrester has become a Ministry of Information/propaganda agent of the tech industry’s war on copyright holders. With Forrester as a Trusted Source content companies will always come off looking like luddite a-holes.

So much for the Wiki-source.


Many a main-stream journalist likes to mine data from the website of the conservative periodical, The Economist as a Trusted Source. The Economist has a high-income earning demographic. Most of their readership are investors and for the past ten years most of their readers have been investing in… tech stocks!!

Why this connection is not obvious to the writers who trust them as a source of “objective” data is a mystery. The articles about technology have out-paced all other subjects in The Economist’s archives, and not surprisingly so has tech related ad-revenue. So where does The Economist get their information? Get ready for this…

The Economist gets its statistics from the IFPI and the RIAA. (The IFPI is the international version of the RIAA.)

If you’ve been on the Moses Supposes list for more than a year you know I’ve already written exhaustively about why one can not use the RIAA as a Trusted Source of un-biased record biz statistics. The short version is because they define “sales” as units shipped, not units actually passed through the entire retail process.

While it might seem that there is direct correlation between the two, there really isn’t, as was revealed in a much re-printed article I did a couple of years back. In it, SoundScan reported that sales were up while the RIAA reported that sales were down– for the same time period.

(Google “RIAA soundscan sales moses avalon” for roughly 3000 hits of this eye-opening article or just read it off of MusicDish directly. And for a review of why I don’t use the RIAA or the IFPI as a Trusted Source for “sales” data, go here. or watch this video below.)


Interestingly enough, The Economist only likes to take RIAA/IFPI data that deals with “declining sales” but it prefers to ignore the RIAA’s articles about artists’ rights. The net result is very one-sided reporting to an audience of people who enjoy learning about ISP market cap and prefer to ignore the plight of authors.

Shame on you Economist. You purport to be such fine journalists. But the real shame is upon those who use them as a Trusted Source and pass it off as “news.”


A recent NY Times piece really got me boiling. Using data from all the usual Trusted Sources it tells the story of bands going the indi route and forgoing major labels.

While on the surface it suggests that bands are doing fine going this route, what it’s really saying is that majors are lost and have their heads up their asses to the point where they can’t even get bands to sign with them anymore.

Of course this is far from the truth. While signings have gone down as a result of the economy, the number of submissions hasn’t. (Roughly 10,000 a year per major.) Meanwhile, any single major sells more units than all indies combined. (Except EMI, which is barley a major anymore.)

Regardless, this article makes all the people who invested in (floundering) tech companies feel good about the deluge of litigation from the RIAA against their pet stocks and it coddles the companies buying the lion’s share of the Times’ advertising– computer and IT companies.

Great propaganda piece:


So, since everyone trusts the RIAA/IFPI, where do they get their information? Not sure. We hope record companies report to them honestly, but they are not legally required to tell them the truth. Only what they want the public to know. Why would they want the public to think that the industry is in bad shape? Lots of great reasons that I’ve covered in other articles. Even Wikipedia doubts their veracity. And if Wiki says it…

I hope that this article helps everyone who invests emotionally in these doom-and-gloom pieces to realize that they are not reading first rate journalism, but merely commentary on the opinions of people with an agenda—mostly the RIAA/tech-industry agenda.

Reporting from the front so you don’t take it in the rear,

Moses Avalon