5. The Onion
Predicted: The RIAA shaking down radio stations in 2002.
The satirical newspaper The Onion is a fantastic source of hilarity of both the intentional and non-intentional varieties. Not only is the publication reliably funny on purpose, but there have been numerous recent instances of non-US news organizations—ones that are presumably mystified by Western satire—picking up Onion stories and reporting on them as if they were fact. Unfortunately, it can be a lot less funny when an Onion piece actually DOES come true.
In 2002, the RIAA was fresh from its successful battle with Napster, and the debate over online piracy was beginning in earnest; lawsuits against individuals for file sharing were ramping up, and the Onion published a timely piece entitled, “RIAA Sues Radio Stations For Giving Away Free Music”. The premise is, of course, ridiculous—at least it was, until 2008.
At around the same time the RIAA announced it was ceasing action against individuals (if only because they were proving unprofitable), they began to make noise about radio broadcasting being:
” . . . a form of piracy, if you will, but not in the classic sense as we think of it,” said Martin Machowsky, a musicFirst spokesman. ” . . . their argument (is) that they provide promotional value. We think that’s a red herring. Nobody listens to the radio for the commercials.”
We don’t think that was actually the argument. We think the argument was that without radio exposure, the music industry as we know it wouldn’t exist. So far the RIAA has been unsuccessful in most of their wildly varied attempts at extortion, but not for lack of trying.