I promise that when this interview began, it was supremely topical. Although it's no longer on the tongue-tip of every Internet troll this side of Pitchfork (F them and their year-end list, btw), the implications of OiNK's demise continue to interest me, even though my account was deleted for inactivity long before the hammer dropped.
Although I rarely shy away from an opportunity to bloviate about the state of the music business, it would be a very generous interpretation of the truth to suggest that I've ever had more than a peripheral role in the industry. The subject of this interview, however, has managed to hold down a job in the thick of it, and to his credit, he has maintained his dignity, integrity, and sanity through it all. He's a good guy.
So...this is a few weeks late. But I think it came out nicely, and it'd be a shame not to post it just because it's not the topic du jour anymore. With no further delay, I present to you an interview with an anonymous radio programmer at a wide-reaching alternative rock radio station about OiNK.
Mike McClenathan: You're a radio PD. Let's start there and talk business (not necessarily music business). What do you do every day? Who do you talk to? Who are your customers, and who do you answer to?
Anonymous Radio Programmer: I have an endless supply of answers to the "What do you do" question, but there one or two primary answers:
The station I work at fosters a lot of new talent, so I spend the majority of my time training the staff that creates content on air. That includes, jocks, production staffers, news anchors, etc.
I work alongside our Music Directors to pick the music we play, and set the overall vision for the station. I maintain relationships all throughout the industry and stay in the know about the momentum of as many musical projects as possible. We interact with people all over the industry, but the bulk of our contacts are labels (RIAA Major, RIAA indie, and unaffiliated indies), band management, and booking agents.
MM: From the perspective of someone gainfully employed in the music business with ostensible access to all the legitimate free music you desire, what was the appeal of OiNK?
ARP: OiNK was the most deep, organized collection of high quality music that the mainstream sharing world has ever seen. It was mind-shatteringly good. You know the OST to the SNES game Chrono Trigger? It was there, in 3 or 4 different qualities, including lossless. You know the other disc with the jazz arrangement tunes? Yeah. They had that too. Mp3/Lossless. At 600k a second. Oh, you want every recorded version of Love Will Tear Us Apart? Original Master? Remaster? Re-remaster? John Peel Session? Good, cause they had them. Lossless. 600k/sec.
This interview was started months ago, and since, several replacements have started up. Some seem well on the way to OiNK's depth. So, even though OiNK is getting less attention nowadays, its piglets will take its place, quietly, until they're purged, and new replacements/paradigms grow from the ash.
MM:When you talk about OiNK and the future of music distribution with people who are cogs in the current machine, what do they say?
ARP: Some have some optimism about the future of a music business on new terms. Most get at least a little bit defensive. Most defend artists rights, as though all artists themselves are sitting at the table talking about what they want.
Its unfortunate. Rather than 100% villainizing these user-created systems, these companies should take P2P as market research. Sharing = a very intelligent, very passionate segment of their consumer base waving their hands and screaming that they want something.
Granted, the dam is broken. Maybe what they want is free music. A lot of those people will never pay for media again. But I'm not one of those people. If I could pay for a legal version of something like OiNK, I'd eat PB&J for a couple weeks to do it if I needed to. No question. But maybe I'm not a large enough demographic to warrant the copyright law changes that would fix all this.
MM: Have you spoken with any RIAA artists about this sort of thing?
ARP: Not directly. I've heard plenty of opinions on-air in interviews, and they run the whole range, from hyper-critical to totally-supportive. Many RIAA artists in the building have loudly hated on the tactics of the label they're signed to, even in the presence of the record rep that brought them to the station. The tactics I'm talking about are mostly related to slowness/lack of change, and usually contrasted against new distribution systems that their fans are using.
Generally, the actual people in RIAA companies that we work with are smart, friendly, and often very music passionate. Artists recognize this too. They seem to be frustrated with the content distribution issues.
MM: From where you stand, is a legalized OiNK equivalent even remotely possible in the short term? Nope.
ARP: Short term? hah. No. If by short term you mean 5-10 years, maybe. These days, I contend that the primary issue is in copyright law. Until these companies recognize digital media as something vastly different from a physical product, and lobby to have copyright law adjusted, nothing like OiNK will take place legally. I'm not saying I can cleanly spell out a copyright law that is fair to both artists and consumers in the age of information - maybe there were some savvy lawyers on OiNK that can help out more there. Then again, isn't that why the EFF exists? Surely, they're more eloquent and equipped than blabbermouths like me.
MM: What legal music acquisition service do you think most closely resembles the way it will/could/should work in the future?
ARP: I know one or two people hooked on emusic, as well as rhapsody. Amie St strikes me as a pretty awesome, forward-thinking model. I'm glad to see it take off as it has. But again I ask - can you get Chrono Trigger - The Brink Of Time, in a lossless open-format? Or in a high high quality Mp3?
Maybe that kind of deep/esoteric library would only be important to a handful of hardcore collectors (the types of people that would shop at the record store in High Fidelity).
Maybe it isn't a worthwhile enough market for anyone to really care/make a profit. Maybe Hannah Montanas will be able to roam the earth as long as mainstream media promotional tools supersaturate every nook and cranny of human attention.
But it obviously is a worthwhile enough principle for 200,000 or so people to spend their lives hooked to the internet, setting it up in their own time. Sounds like a volunteer public library to me.
MM: Any closing comments?
ARP: This is not a time of sorrow; it is a time of great opportunity. Clever minds and music passionate people have a future in this business. I have a little experience in the old-paradigm music industry, and I am confident saying that intelligence and music-passion are abundant. The people I've worked with are great. We all just need to embrace the changing technological/intellectual frameworks. Models will change, scales will change.. but music is still loved, and there is a place for people to get involved, and make enough money to support their families. There might not be as many Ferrari toting coke heads, like the 1980s churned out, but you won't find me crying a tear over that. It takes forward-thinking, some courage, and an appreciation for the increasingly-free flow of information, but I believe it's possible. Build new paradigms!