I never thought something like this would happen, but I have seen 3 articles today bashing the RIAA (and one doing so for the MPAA) for different reasons.
The first (Ray Beckerman, Recording Industry vs. The People) summarizes how the RIAA, to get a certain (relatively small, for the RIAA) sum of money back, spent at least 50 times that sum of money on legal fees alone. (They spent $20 million in legal fees to recover $0.4 million in probable lost revenue.)
Well, now we know that the money recovered probably isn't going towards the artists that the RIAA claims are harmed by music sharing.
Actually, on that note, the second article (Mike Masnick, TechDirt) talks about just that. Though the RIAA claims to speak for artists and musicians, the record labels make millions of dollars, while the artists themselves net absolutely no money. I won't go into the numbers here because the analysis in the original article is much more thorough anyway. What I will say is that when labels like Sony-BMG and industry groups like the RIAA claim that piracy hurts the industry, carefully consider who is actually hurt by lost sales (hint: not the artists).
There is a third article (Mike Masnick, TechDirt) that talks about related screwy accounting with MPAA revenue figures. Basically, film companies manage to claim losses on blockbuster movies because a lot of the supposed costs are actually the company paying a studio or themselves (as far as I understand). Thankfully, this can't last because a few companies are now losing lawsuits relating to these bogus claims of monetary losses. Hopefully a similar thing will happen with the record companies.
If you think all hope is lost for artists who can't possibly make a dime under the conventional system, follow the jump to read the solution.
A fourth article (Mike Masnick, TechDirt) details a plethora of cases in which musicians have bucked the traditional record labels and have created their own distribution methods. I had only heard (and written) about Jill Sobule, but all of the other musicians and companies described are equally intriguing (if not more so). The article describes what I talked about in that earlier post — she makes so much more money than artists in the conventional label system because she can directly connect with her fans and give them compelling reasons to buy whatever she sells. I strongly recommend reading through each case in the original article.
At least there is hope for prospective musicians. It's better now that there are so many positive examples of musicians making good money without needing to go through a traditional label.
(UPDATE: There's a Yahoo! Music story (Lyndsey Parker, Reality Rocks) on another case of a musician going around the record system to release music — this time it is Nick Perri's sister Christina Perri and her song "Jar of Hearts". The article, being from a more mainstream source, expresses surprise at the song's success in the charts without the support of a major record label. Of course, Ms. Perri probably knows better — she knows that she is currently netting much more money than she ever could under any major record label. So no, Ms. Parker, Ms. Perri is not likely to sign that dotted line any time soon.)