So has the Internet been the best or the worst of things for the music industry? Some musicians, like Camper Van Beethoven’s David Lowery, argue the latter; while some technologists, like BitTorrent’s Bram Cohen think the former. And this all important question – the real impact of the Internet economy on both musicians and music consumers – is one that I asked Cary Sherman, the Washington DC based CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), when we Skyped yesterday.
Sherman, of course, isn’t the most popular fellow on the Internet. But, as is so often the case with controversial public figures, the actual guy turns out to be more interesting than the way he is often parodied. Yes, the RIAA CEO told me, there is a close connection between the dramatic fall in the industry’s revenue and the rise of illegal file sharing – an economic collapse he describes as “enormous” and “devastating”. And yet Sherman acknowledged to me that the contemporary industry has to give music consumers “what they want”. This can’t, of course, be free music – but must, he recognized, incorporate the stunning innovations of today’s digital economy.
This is the first part of a two part interview with Sherman. Tomorrow, he answers a number of your tweeted questions, including one about his controversial NYTimes op-ed from earlier this month about Wikipedia and Google.