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Music News

In what is turning into a regular Sound Opinions segment:“The Recording Industry vs. The Consumer,”Jim and Greg turn this week to a news item coming out of Oregon. Earlier this year the RIAA filed a lawsuit accusing 17 unnamed suspected University of Oregon students of illegally sharing music. The suspects are identified only by an Internet address, and industry lawyers have demanded that the university identify them. Previously when the RIAA has done this, universities cooperated. But the University of Oregon's response has been quite remarkable. UO officials are refusing to identify the students without an investigation, saying that this would compromise their privacy and property rights. Oregon's Attorney General has backed the school and is accusing the RIAA of bullying. Jim and Greg speak to Tony Green, a reporter at the Oregonian, about what is fast becoming a contentious battle.

While they may not be effective, the record industry lawsuits are an attempt to maintain ground in an ever-changing landscape. The next two stories speak to this music industry flux. Universal, the top music label, has ordered its artists to take full tracks off of their MySpace pages. While MySpace was once viewed as a great promotional tool, it's now been added to the list of digital distribution enemies. Therefore, commercial successes like Colbie Caillat are having to remove content from their sites and explain the issue to hungry fans. This move might have been a response to losses Universal experienced last quarter. They're also laying off a number of top and mid-level executives, and Vivendi, the company that owns the label, has announced plans to acquire video game publisher Activision. Activision produces Guitar Hero, the game that has proven to be more successful than any music release this year.

Another area the music industry is struggling with is commercial radio. With an increasing number of alternatives to radio including internet radio and the iPod, broadcast radio listenership has been gradually diminishing over the past few years. In an effort to maintain listeners, program directors are actually choosing to play fewer songs, more times. New York Times reporter Jeff Leeds explains that commercial radio stations are oddly choosing to keep the listeners they've got, rather than get new ones. The most recent example of this strategy is the tremendous amount of airpla{artist: y given to OneRepublic's hit single "Apologize." The Timbaland} produced track recently broke the record for the most plays of a song on the nation's Top 40 stations in a single week. It was played almost 11,000 times in one single week and was heard by more than 70 million listeners.

Go to episode 106

Music News

The RIAA sues people with such frequency that Jim and Greg aren't always able to keep up. But, when one defendant, Tanya Andersen of Oregon, not only won her case, but forced the Recording Industry to pay up, Jim and Greg took notice. After being sued for copyright infringement, Anderson undertook the long battle of defending herself, followed by a countersuit against the RIAA. Now a year after being ordered to pay for her court bills, the RIAA has finally paid up, with interest.

Campaign ads have been making a lot of headlines recently, and as Jim notes, with those ads comes the inevitable music-related lawsuit. The musician this time around is Jackson Browne. The famously liberal singer/songwriter is suing both Republican candidate John McCain, as well as the Republican National Committee for copyright infringement. The song "Running On Empty" was featured in a campaign ad that mocks Barack Obama's energy conservation plans. Browne is not only seeking financial damages, but also an apology. Since Browne's political leanings are so well-documented, Jim and Greg are concerned about any politician that hasn't mastered the art of Google.

Next up Jim and Greg honor music producer Jerry Wexler, who died recently at the age of 91. Wexler helped put Atlantic Records on the map. While Atlantic colleague Ahmet Ertegun was the shiny face of the label, Wexler was the behind-the-scenes mover and shaker according to Greg. Jim adds that he was one of the last of a generation of“men with ears,”meaning that Wexler's ability to find and foster talent was an art in itself. Perhaps Wexler's greatest find was Aretha Franklin. He helped the singer really shine on tracks like "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)."

Go to episode 143