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LEFSETZ LETTER: Don Henley – Just who is the enemy here?

Just who is the enemy here? Is the problem really Grokster, et al, or the MAJOR LABELS?

OF COURSE Grokster, et al, are duplicitous scumbags. But they only exist because of the heinous ineptitude of the major labels.

Bertelsmann wanted to legitimize the illegal Napster, BUT NO, as John Belushi would say on SNL, rather than COLLECT MONEY, and spread the gospel of great music to more people than ever, the major label pricks decided not only to refuse to play ball, but to SUE Bertelsmann and the backers of Napster. And, if they ever do get any dough, do you think they'll share it with YOU, the ARTISTS?? They haven't so far. They collected from a bunch of companies, and it just went to their bottom line. THESE are the people you're in bed with, THESE are the people you're respecting? These same people who won't even change management/talent agent laws in California?

Don, you won't find a bigger fan of your music than me. I'm listening to it right now. But maybe it's time for you to listen to your own tracks. This IS the end of the innocence. The major label system is collapsing NOT because of piracy, but because it doesn't serve the public interest. Rather than distribute your music far and wide, they're just looking to fatten their coffers. Hell, a great deal of your work is owned by the Warner Music Group, a company that can't even get its ACCOUNTING certified. I'd look to THEM for justice. And look to the public to be behind you and give you their money. All this crap about the public ripping artists off… PEOPLE LOVE the artists. Hell, look at Eagles grosses. They'll pay for online music if you just LET THEM!

The reason we don't want the Grokster decision overturned is it will FORCE the major labels to play ball, to finally move into the Internet age. And don't tell me the iTunes Music Store is about the Internet age. That's just CD economics ported to computers, but WORSE! Consumers get less, they can do less with it, and the label makes less money, because it USED to be people were buying albums, not individual tracks. But, if you allowed people to buy MANY tracks at a low aliquot per song price, THEN more money would be generated, and would trickle down to your level.

If Grokster isn't overturned, the major labels will be FORCED to finally license P2P. They just won't be able to justify leaving all that money on the table anymore. Yup, for five years they've only been SPENDING money on specious lawsuits, when they could have been COLLECTING, for you and your artist peeps.

That's the goal of Net music. To have more people owning more music. Are you against THAT Don? Isn't that the artistic paradigm?

And how can you defend a system that buried your 2000 album, "Inside Job". Without any radio play or video play for elder artists, they can't get their new work exposed. The ONLY way to get this stuff exposed is via the Net. Don't you WANT many more people to hear your music? And, maybe they'll all pay less per track, but you'll make more, because the pie is so big.

Or are you one of those people who want the door shut behind you. Just because YOU made it in the heyday of FM radio, should today's acts that can't get arrested on radio be forbidden from having their stuff exposed? Yup, they can finally compete with the majors, get their stuff out there, but somehow YOU want to work against a new paradigm, centralizing control in a major label cartel that is ANYTHING but artist friendly.

Let's be clear. You SHOULD be paid for your work. But Verizon offered to pay a fee for each one of its broadband subscribers and the RIAA said this was DISINGENUOUS?? What is it, even major Telcos are against the artist? Does the Recording Artists' Coalition really have that much of a persecution complex?

I believe what we have here is a lack of education. An ignorance with regard to the issues.

I believe that you've never used P2P services. Certainly not on a regular basis.

I used to be like you. They were stealing music, Napster should be SHUT DOWN! But then I USED the service. And all I could say was this was GREAT, it MUST be legalized. I believe if YOU used P2P services, you'd feel the same way.

Don, let's take music and the music business back from the scumbags.

Hopefully you can make new Eagles music and release it on the Web WITHOUT a major label, and GET PAID TOO!

And we don't want Grokster and the other scumbags to get rich either.

Let's license at the ISP level. Or issue individual trading licenses, Let's NOT let Grokster, et al, collect any of the money. Let them collect from ads at best. But THAT'S not gonna last, because the medium of choice is now BitTorrent, which is ad FREE!

The music sustains, the scumbags fall by the wayside.

Get money from the ISPs and divvy it up a la ASCAP or BMI. Or do the same with licenses. And, THEN you can sue everybody without a license, kind of like a speeding ticket, but GIVE PEOPLE AN OPTION TO PAY!

I too am an artist. I used to distribute my work on paper. But as a result of new technologies, I now reach TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE, a great multiple of what I was able to achieve in print. Furthermore, I now make more MONEY! Sure, the subscriptions are free, but people are begging to pay me money to use my stuff on their Websites, to have me appear at their conferences.

I'm not saying you should give the music away and make it on the ancillaries. I'm saying once you embrace new technology, all KINDS of possibilities crop up. And you end up making MORE money. Just ask the movie companies who fought, AND LOST, the Betamax case.

Of course the future is scary. But because it frightens you and is unclear you're going to stop all PROGRESS?

And believe me, that's what the overturning of Grokster will do.

Don't forget, the RIAA is the same organization that fought to make the Rio illegal. If they'd succeeded, there'd be no iPod. And, I get e-mail CONSTANTLY, from teens to adults, telling me that their iPods are their most VALUED POSSESSIONS, the best gadgets they've ever owned. And this isn't because they look cool, but because they allow you to take your music EVERYWHERE!

How great is THAT?

Do you want to be part of this gravy train, or do you want to DENY IT?

Do you want to throw in with your fans, or the LABELS, who don't pay you your royalties, who are your mortal enemy?

Don, I think the fact that "Inside Job" stalled in the marketplace is criminal. I believe if your target audience had just HEARD IT, they would have embraced it, it would have sold millions of copies.

Alas, other than the ballad "Taking You Home", there was almost no exposure.

But there was a lot of exposure in my world.

I played "Inside Job" incessantly.

And when I got my iPod, I ripped my favorite tracks so I could take them EVERYWHERE!

Although I love "For My Wedding", I'm most enamored of the rockers. And my favorite rocker, my favorite track on the album, is the very last, "My Thanksgiving". They just don't make music like this anymore. Rock, with great changes, and meaningful lyrics.

And as I listen to the song on headphones now, certain words resonate. Most particularly, the following:

"And have you noticed that an angry man
Can only get so far
Until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be
With the way things are"

I hear you Don. Creators should be paid for their work.

But you can't think in the abstract. We must live in the world that exists, the one outside our front doors, the one in our basements, on the Internet.

Even if Grokster IS overturned, it won't stop file-trading.

The public has discovered a new way to acquire music, and they're RABID, they're DEVOURING IT!

Rather than lamenting that they're not doing it the old way, doesn't it behoove rightsholders to accept the new landscape, and make it work to their ADVANTAGE?

Think about it. Acquiring music no longer requires a trip to the record store. With present systems, you can sample before buying. You acquire more music, because it's so much more readily available. And you HEAR about more music because of the word of mouth on steroids e-mail.

This is an artist and fan's DREAM!

The major labels don't like it because it puts the indies on an equal footing with them, but there's NO PROBLEM for the ARTIST! In the parlance of the youngsters, it's ALL GOOD!

Let's work together Don. To get the major labels to free music from its shackles. Let everybody acquire a great quantity of the richest art form extant for a low price. When cell phones were expensive, nobody had them, but now that the price has come down, EVERYBODY'S got one! Same logic in music. If you lower the price, EVERYBODY has music, and instead of just a few million buying the occasional CD, there's more money for EVERYBODY!

Don, you've been sold a bill of goods. You've been scared by ignorant people with no knowledge of technology. You can jump ship, you can switch sides. You can be an agent of change as opposed to restriction. We NEED YOU! Instead of standing in the way of progress, AID IT!

Or just sit by as people rip you off year after year without getting paid. Hell, there are laws against spam. Check your inbox lately? How well is THAT working?

About as well as a ban of P2P services will.

Contact Bob Lefsetz | View Lefsetz Letter Archives

NOTE: The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinion of CelebrityAccess, Encore or its employees.