Battles of the music industry (feat. LSE and Radiohead’s Godrich)

by ninameetscafe

“Can you give examples of when your academic work butted heads with industry interests? What should we keep in mind about all of the theory we learn now, if we’re heading back into industry after?”

That was my question to the several Global Media and Comms professors at a panel during our pre-term “retreat” last weekend in Windsor. My classmates and I were being told of LSE’s institutional focus on theory for the first year (deeper practicality and applicability held for year two), and the cloud hanging over my head sounded like: “any relevance to the non-school world?”

Well, the answer came booming all this week through the industry talks, think-tank events, involvement with the City of London and, most surprisingly, the discovery that my professors are directly upsetting prominent music biz figures. They mentioned this only briefly last weekend in response to my question, and it all sounded oddly familiar – something about controversial research about peer-to-peer file sharing, the music industry overplaying piracy claims, etc… Hm, it vaguely recalled the five months of mornings I spent tracking the news around music streaming and piracy for one of my clients in the music industry. I had no inkling of that world six months ago, until I was sort of thrown into the middle of it, six months ago.

But this past Tuesday, I read that the Nigel Godrich, producer of Radiohead (and anti-Spotify spokesperson alongside Thom Yorke), is very upset about LSE Prof. Binchun Meng‘s latest report. It qualifies claims made by music industry leaders about the damage filesharing inflicts on revenues in their lobby for tighter copyright law.

I’m basically getting the answer I wanted last weekend. This is what academia-industry war looks like. A few hours ago, in fact, Godrich posted this colorful blog response to the LSE report. It’s strange to think that  about six days ago, my peers and I were wilting in our chairs after a whole day of panels and lectures, listening to my LSE and USC professors explain how industry people get all fired up in opposition to academic data that opposes them, and it’s just a difficult reality. Less than week later, I’m reading Godrich saying, “The intellectuals at the London School of Economics are trying to evangelise these ideals but appear to have no real grasp on the actual situations to which they are referring.” (And hoo are those harsh words.)

It seems there’s an increasing number of studies happening in Europe on the music industry: how musicians’ livelihoods are hurt or not by streaming radio/on-demand music services, if those services exacerbate or eradicate digital piracy, and if digital piracy/file sharing is an act that needs stamping out or an evolution of media that needs to be accepted by industry. It all boggles my mind because there are so many opposing, authoritative voices and data I don’t think I have the resources to judge. Yet. Maybe I’ll get there. Someday. (Maybe I can ask my professor if she needs an assistant?!)

A couple of summaries:

Neutral-positive: TorrentFreak
Negative: Sydney Morning Herald

The legislation LSE is calling the government to revise:

Legislative document