Archive for the 'MPAA/RIAA' Category

Sundance

I’ve previously talked about movie theaters and what not and how there is something lost in them these days.  Well today, I went for a walk in one of the local malls called Hilldale Mall. The Hilldale has always been an interesting town in Madison. It is one of four indoor malls in town, and the most downtown mall in the city (though I think University Mall will be indoors too after it is rebuilt in the next couple of years and that is downtown on campus so will be closer to the Capitol). In addition to this downtownness, the mall has always had ritzier stores than the other malls, being the only place in town that you can find a Macy’s (I realize this isn’t exactly the ritziest place, but it is much ritzier than the Boston Store or J.C. Penny’s). Yet the mall has always been rather rundown with a cracked and decrepid facade and parking lot.

Well that was true until recently. The last three years has seen a major redevelopment for Hilldale mall. They have moved out the world famous brat fest from their parking lot every summer in order to tear up their front parking lot and replace it with condos, a parking ramp, and several new stores and restaurants. And they also have forced out some of their older tenants like the China Buffet and Hilldale Theater in favor of some newer places, such as the Sundance Theater.

The Hilldale Theater was one of two solely indpendent theaters in the Madison area (there are a few that play indie flicks in addition to the mainstream stuff but only two that just do indie). The place was old, really old. I think they had two theaters, one of which was huge, probably seating around 150-200 people. I’ve been there a couple of times, but never really enjoyed going. They must have had a deal with the other indie theater because the two theaters rarely overlapped movies, one had 2-3, the other had 4-6 totally unrelated movies. So you pretty much had to go. The insides were run down, they had stale popcorn, and I swear they didn’t even accept credit cards. It was a pretty crappy place and I’m sure this was one reason that the mall wanted to get rid of them. The other is that I think they wanted everything closer and the theater was located out in a corner of the parking lot.

After seeing the construction for the Sundance today, I decided to take a trip to Hilldale’s website to find out more about it, and what else is going on with the mall. What I found out about the theater got me really excited about it. The new theater will have 6 stadium-seated theaters (not the old school style like both of the previous indie theaters), with digital sound, a coffee & sandwhich shop, a bar, a sundance store, and a small art gallery in the entrance that will be open for anyone to come in and look around without buying a ticket. They will also be featuring reserved seating so that you can buy the tickets to your favorite seats, and will be advertising free, though they will be playing clips of sundance channel content which is essentially advertising if you ask me. The whole experience looks something like what I had been thinking of with a previous post, just more indie-centric than I had been thinking. I am very interested to find out how this place is when it comes.

Oh and if anyone who may live in this area is interested, Robert Redford is supposed to make an appearance when they open later this year in March.

Movie Theaters

They say that movie theaters are losing attendance every year. And they say that one of the main reasons they think this is is because as home theaters get bigger screens, better quality, better sound, that people would just rather stay home than go to a theater. So they do. I find this bull though. This takes out of account that theater prices have gone through the roof the last 5-10 years, and that even though prices are sky high, the movie quality is going into the gutter. So it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that people are being asked to pay more for less, it has to do with the fact that people can have nearly the same quality at home. Yeah right.

Honestly I think in general people in the United States have a special fondness for going to a movie. It is an event. American’s LOVE events. We love going out and doing things, getting out of our homes. And there is something that is nestalgic of movies too. We remember going with out parents, and we bring our kids to movies to kind of share that fun we had as youths. I think we WANT to go to the theaters, but they are doing everything in their way they can to ensure that we won’t.

My friend and I love going to the movies, and we love bringing my daughter. However, we rarely go after 5:30 as this is when they start charging higher prices. We pay $5.50 per ticket, which isn’t too bad. I think the night prices are $8.50. With my daughter we do our best to go at a noonish time as the price in our town is even lower at $4.00 a ticket. So with my daughter this means we can go the three of us for $12.00. That actually isn’t horrible. But this also limits us to just a couple movie times a day. Now sadly this is never it… we also tend to buy concessions which is where theaters generally make their money. We will buy a kid’s pack for my daughter for about $4.00, a soda for me for about $4.00 (granted I could be a 2-liter soda for $3) and a popcorn for about $2.00. This adds up to $22.00 for a movie that’ll last an hour and a half and isn’t really that great anyway. Continue reading ‘Movie Theaters’

Best Buy

I was walking through Best Buy the other day and it occured to me that half the store was full of CDs and there were only like 1 or 2 people in the CD section. Meanwhile the movie and game isles was a mere quarter of the size (if that) and each of those had 6-10 people in them. So I was left wondering, just what is going on with Best Buy?

It used to be that they would get people into the store with low CD prices and a good selection, now most people think the selection is better on iTunes and they think the price is cheaper too so it is no wonder there are few people buying CDs anymore. The people who actually buy CDs are relegated to the role of the record owner of not too long ago, they are specialists, either looking for the feel of the olden days or too old themselves to know any better.

Meanwhile the movie section is overflowing with movies that are far over my 6’3″ head. And the game industry is panicing because it keeps growing and there seems to be less and less floor space to put all these games in. If Best Buy had half a brain, and it seems they don’t, they would cut the CD section in half, put the music in the same type of tall bin that movies are currently in, and expand the movie and game section accordingly. I personally would like to see games move up to the front of the store where the CDs currently are and then have the movies fill in where the Games used to be, therefore expanding both section. Both sections are just far too cramped right now, with people and with product, it is a shame Best Buy doesn’t notice these things.

RIAA becomes more oppressive

The RIAA is at it again. Words cannot describe it as well as I’d like to. I mean seriously… they are now reducing the royalties they pay to artists. So on one side they are arguing that trading MP3s is stealing from the artists and using the artists as faces for this fight… and on the other they are giving the artists less money for what they do. It is just rediculous all the way around. There isn’t one thing in this that makes sense.

What really fucks with me though is that we are in a digital age. We are really in a time that could do without the whole industry as it is anyway. Yet we cling to them… why? We have means of distribution already that is far more popular than the hard copies that the RIAA gives us. We have a means of advertisement in Podcasts that hasn’t been utilized yet but it offers a way if used correctly to promote new bands and music (not to mention other services such as pandora and yahoo music which should allow independent artists to submit their music, same with iTunes and other online services.) So why is it that we are even still bowing our heads to this corrupt antique? Why not just do without them totally? They steal artist’s music, treat them like shit, sell it to us, and then treat us like shit. Why are we putting up with it? I don’t know about you but I’m heading to alltunes right now in retaliation.

Capitalism is great

So ok capitalism as a system isn’t totally bad. The higher ups sold this idea to the lower class by telling them that anyone could go from the gutter to the biggest house in the country if you were dedicated and you worked hard to get it. Yes and you too could become royalty if you found a toad in the swamp, kissed it, had it turn into a beautiful prince(ess) and married that toad royalty. It happens, but not often. In general the economic system of this country is geared to do what feudalism did before, keep the lower class at the lower class status. At best you will be able to move a small step… from lower lower, to middle lower, and this if you are extremely dedicated and hard working.

The other thing about capitalism that to me is the real meat of what is supposed to happen is the competition aspect. Because everyone is trying to make money, everyone is trying to undercut each other and trying to one up each other. A good example of how this works is in the computer CPU market. The processor advances largely because there is competition. Awhile ago Athlon came up with a dual-processor chip, then Intel had to match it and quickly announced quad core. Not only are they pushing technology along faster but they are also keeping prices low as both are trying to be the value cost to get more business. If Intel was alone this wouldn’t happen, products would come out at a slower pace and at a higher price.

But what if the system breaks somewhere? For instance, what if all of the various companies within a genre agree upon a status quo. For instance what if Intel and Athlon got together behind closed doors and said “Hey, if we both keep prices and speeds comparable, we BOTH could be rich by overcharging the customer!” And then these two companies go ahead and do that? What happens then? Is this capitalism anymore? Well this is what has happened in many sectors of the market. For instance, compacts have been made with music industry (the RIAA), the movie industry (MPAA), the oil industry, and many other industries. These industries have all gotten together within their respective fields and have decided not to compete on certain aspects of business. Like price for songs/movies/gas.

The whole point of capitalism is supposed to ensure that the best of the best will always do the best and push the envolope but this is repeatedly proven untrue. No where more than in the music industry where the less talented become stars because they look pretty or have money (Paris Hilton sings now? LOL!!!) Yet there are far more talented bands and singers out there who work so much harder and get so much less recognition than bigger “talents” because they may not be as attractive, or don’t have the money to get in.

The oil industry is a bit special, because somewhere along the line they not only decided to cooperate with pricing (I mean come on there are 5 or 6 major gas chains and they can all be the same price within a  5 mile radius, that just isn’t realistic.), they also went and lobbied the government to cooperate with them too. I don’t know if this is just Wisconsin or national, but there are actual laws that put a minimum price on gas based on how much the crude costs. I know this because apparantly many gas stations are actually breaking this law because prices are so high. I know this is true for real estate too, my mom is in that business and she is not allowed to take less than a certain percentage by law. How is this fair market? I realize this is to make it so that the bigger coorperations can’t undercut the little guy to get him out of business and then up the price when they are gone, but really where the hell is the little guy in the oil business these days? I have not ever seen an indepently owned gas station in my lifetime, yet I can turn on the Andy Griffith show and see it in a little town! What happened to this country!?!?!!

So yes I’m a communist, this system isn’t any much better than a feudlism as far as I can tell. Now just cause I am a communist by nature doesn’t mean that I want to go be a part of North Korea or China, those aren’t good communist countries. Remember this when you think of communism, it is an economic structure not a political structure. Those two above mentioned countries are tyrannies as far as I can tell, and I don’t believe in THAT structure. I believe in either a Communist Republic (btw united states is not a democracy, we are a republic) or a Communist Democracy. Democracy is probably better but honestly I don’t think a democracy will work until we get further along in technology than we currently are. I mean it is just a nightmare to try to figure out if votes are real or fake right now and to have people voting on every rule in this day and age is more than just a head ache.

Fighting the RIAA

You know, I used to be someone who thougt that if you wanted a song, you go buy it. I had Napster in its day though so apparantly I was breaking the law. The only problem was that I would download songs you cannot buy or I would download songs I would not buy.

For instance, back in those days I actually caried songs on my computer from groups like Eminem and Marylon Manson, of which I liked a few of their songs, but couldn’t stand the artists so much that I refused to buy their material.

Napster died, did the Limewire for a bit afterwards, and then after that went to emule before giving up. Never really got into the bittorrent. The idea is good, but it always seemed slow to me. It wasn’t nearly as good.

So in recent years, I’ve given up downloading music entirely. I’ve become a “good” citizen. The RIAA and MPAA should be thrilled right? Wrong. They noticed something then… people are buying music less now, than they were when napster was around. Can anyone wager a guess as to why? Well its obvious to anyone with a brain. Napster did for the music industry in the 90s what MTV did for it in the 80s. They advertsided the shit out of bands. Which is funny if you think of it because right when Napster was starting to do it, MTV decided not to air music videos anymore. What essentially occured was not only Napster now not advertising for them, neither was MTV. In fact soon enough the only advertising the music indsutry recieved was that it was suing 14 year old girls, grandparents who never knew they could download music, people without computers, and dead people too. So sales continued to plummet.

What does the RIAA do next? In their brilliance they decide that the only reason that sales numbers could go DOWN was if people were just massively stealing them! Even though that the number of MP3 traders went down significantly, they thought this. And why not think this? It couldn’t be because the music gets worse every year. It couldn’t be because there is no talent in the industry anymore. It couldn’t be because the only press they recieve is negative press. So in order to combat this, they decide that suing their customers is not enough. They start making it illegal to copy your own stuff. Even though there is previous precedent that says you can make copies of your own property. Not only with cassettes and VHS, but going all the way back to the 1800’s with piano rolls (you know those rolls for player painos. Apprantly those were pirated too and judges in those days decided it was the owner’s right to copy it, as long as they made no profit of it). So we end up having a whole slew of crap on our DVDs and CDs preventing them from running in certain areas. Some won’t play on computers at all. Now it is illegal for you to copy and share something with a real friend, you know how it used to be before the internet came around. There is copy protection stopping you in many formats now from burning a CD and putting it on your MP3 players, you need to buy a seperate copy of your song. If you can do it now, you won’t be able to in 10 years, this policy is somewhat new but you mark my words this will be impossible in 10 years, and by then it will be too late for us to complain, the law will already have been around for a decade.

In doing all this the RIAA especially has pissed off a number of it’s customers, myself included. Why? Well why not? they are basically telling me that the copy of any CD or movie that I BUY, is not mine, that in reality it is still theirs but now they are charging me for the right to use their shit. So basically I am renting it from them. Well I don’t want to rent their stuff. I want to own it.

So for the last couple of years I’ve done a virtual boycott of the music industry. In all honesty it hasn’t been a difficult boycott. I have only bought on average 1 CD each of the last 2 years. Now I do buy some music off of iTunes, probably more than CDs, but I feel this is a tad more justified than CDs at this point. I get the songs I want for a much lower price and can siphon out the crap. But I still do go through and download songs when I can get them for free. Awhile ago I found a list of great 80s songs for free, downloaded them all. A few months ago some cereals were giving away free iTunes songs, and boy did I buy those when I could! Now I’ve decided that buying from allofmp3.com is ok. The prices are low (usually about 15 cents per song) and not only can you buy it in the mp3 version (meaning that I can put it on ANY mp3 player, not only ipods or zunes or whatever), but I can also buy the raw .wav files so that I could potentially burn it to CD and play it in the car radio. Can’t beat that. Gotta love them ruskies.

The RIAA is trying to come down on the russians hard for this practice. Saying that they will kick russia out of the World Trade Association, but why should they care? What comes from Russia other than oil? And who do you think has more clout anyway the oil industry or the music industry? Let me put it this way… do you think that the US will go to war with Russia because of they are making it so that Americans can’t make money off of music? I doubt it, yet we went to war with Iraq over oil… so go with it Russia, keep hope alive!