The Agenda

Alan Greenspan and the War Against the VCR

As if Alan Greenspan reputation hasn’t taken enough of a post-crisis hit, Joe Karaganis finds shoddy work in Greenspan’s past on the subject of home copying. After a bit of inequality-bashing, which didn’t strike me as particularly compelling, Karaganis  shares some eye-opening numbers:

As the MP3 replaced the CD, the major labels cut their distribution costs, struggled to keep digital prices at rough parity with the CD, and pocketed the difference. An artist signed with a major label still makes 15-20% on wholesale–no more than for a good deal in the CD era. Many of the indie labels and digital aggregator services, in contrast, return 50-90% of the wholesale price to the artist. It is glaringly obvious that the major labels’ 80% wholesale cut isn’t sustainable–nor, I will predict, is Apple’s 30% retail cut. Piracy was the messenger, not the message.

The death of the major labels is unambiguously good news. 

Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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