Alternative History

A couple of days after reading about the RIAA having its budget cut, I left a comment on this story, which was the genesis for the following:

An Alternative (Recent) History of the RIAA

1999: Realizing the inevitable, the RIAA convinces member labels to set up all-you-can eat buffets. All music available as DRM-free downloads, $5/mo. 100M of storage, additional available for increased monthly fee. The RIAA uses superior marketing muscle to "drown out" competing "free" alternatives, insists people should only download from "legitimate" sources to ensure data integrity and security. It recommends the gradual reduction in the production, marketing, storage and sales of CDs, vinyl and tape, keeping only a small reserve capacity*.

2000: RIAA negotiates a small increase in financial support from labels' substantial savings from physical media reductions to create the Online Strategy Group (OSG), hiring engineers, programmers, technologists, musicologists and a futurist or two. The OSG's first suggestion is FoM, Future of Music, which the RIAA Incorporates, initially to handle the growing subscription business.

2001: On OSG advice, the RIAA convinces member labels to cross-offer artists by genre in sites with fun names like, "soultology.com", "hitsnmisses.com", "netrockstar.com", "eargasm.com", etc. Marginally increased monthly fee ($1 more for each sub-site) gets download access and membership in forums, discounts on t-shirts, tickets, posters, etc. FoM takes over all revenue-generating ventures and negotiates equitable profit-sharing deals with the labels and reaches out to independent artists. FoM buys Creative and with help from the OSG brain-trust, designs and sells a fantastically popular line of MP3 players.

2002: Capitalizing on the psychology of "sharers", OSG introduces memberships that encourage people to find and upload obscure and out-of-print audio. Uploaders compete for discounted memberships, back-stage passes, artist access and the most important prizes: minor fame, street-cred and a custom avatar. The RIAA creates work-arounds for copyright issues removing limits on fan's abilities to upload, modify and share work.

2003 - 2005: Recognizing the growth of social media, the OSG introduces groups and messaging. Higher-access users get expanded pages on OSG sites and are encouraged to rate and critique music. OSG makes available interaction with music journalists, holds contests for album & t-shirt art, gives prizes for mashups with highest votes by the communities. The OSG makes "Locker" space available, 1G free, $1/mo for each additional gigabyte. OSG introduces "Rip Me" - user puts a factory CD in the computer drive tray, and is given the option to rip/upload tracks or have recording company copies put in his/her locker. (Subsequent attempts to upload the same CD from another computer is allowed with a minimum new subscription)

2006 - 2010: FoM buys Pandora, iTunes, YouTube, RIM, Turntable.fm, Facebook and controlling interest in Sirius. OSG helps FoM branch the Blackberry, creating the "Rockberry", a consumer-oriented "mobile media sharing device". OSG solicits auditions from all musicians everywhere, showcases the best on YouTube. FoM makes record profits from tours, downloads, streams, hardware, music licensing and merchandise. Cary Sherman becomes fifth richest man in the US.

2011: *FoM introduces choice "retro" vinyl, CD and tape catalogue for hipsters worldwide. OSG and RIAA move into "palatial" FoM office campus in Los Angeles, work begins on 30-story FoM tower in Manhattan.