Downhill Battle’s Tune Recycler

Here’s something I can get behind – a group of people are calling for using those Pepsi iTunes giveaway codes on non-RIAA music. The folks from Downhill Battle are running the site called Tune Recycler and they describe their mission thusly:

When you submit a winning Pepsi code to the Tune Recycler, we’ll redeem it for music from honest, independent labels. There are a few great independent labels in the iTunes store that give their musicians up to 40-50 cents, right from the first sale. When you use the Tune Recycler, you know that no money is going to support price fixing, payola, or lawsuits against families with children–and most importantly, the money goes to a musician.

So, if you get a cap and don’t plan on redeeming it, give the code to them and help out some indie musicians who are attempting to make a go of it without a life of indentured servitude to the major labels.

Something they say further down the page has me thinking. The other day I posted my theory that perhaps the RIAA suits are really to prevent people from downloading any sort of free music, maintaining the major labels’ place as gatekeepers of everything we hear. I’ve been thinking Pepsi was opposed to that, but maybe they actually are part of it. Watch the ad for yourself or here or here. Here’s Downhill Battle’s commentary on the ads:

Pepsi has begun airing an ad for this promotion that features 16 of the children that were sued by the major record labels for filesharing. It’s a perfect cycle: now that these kids and their families have been put in debt by the major labels, they have to sell themselves in a soda commercial to make back some of what they owe. But the ad isn’t just exploitative, it’s also wildly inaccurate. A girl in the ad says, “I’m one of the kids who was prosectued for downloading music free off of the internet.” And throughout the commercial, the words “busted”, “charged”, “incriminated”, and “accused” flash across the screen (you can watch the ad here ). Now, while “busted” and “accused” might be ambigious enough to apply to these lawsuits, no one was “prosecuted” or “charged” with any crime. Actually, none of the filesharing lawsuits has even gone to court, because the cost of mounting a defense against the major record labels is far too expensive for an individual or family. Furthermore, none of these kids or anyone else was sued for “downloading music”; all the suits have been for uploading, which can be easily turned off in the settings of any filesharing program.

I had been thinking the Pepsi ad was a slap in the face of the RIAA, but having watched it now I believe it is more FUD about downloading. Supposing you are an average joe internet user not up on the issues and you see this, will you get the impression that downloading all music will get you sued (or prosecuted as they erroneously imply in the ad)? Will you have blurred in your mind the distinction between that freely offered and not, or will it just make you scared to download anything (that is, not from iTunes) because you don’t want to be in the next ad? PR is all about making associations, and the associations this makes is that only iTunes (subsidized by the fine folks at Pepsi) is a valid way to download. Through PR juijitsu, what sounded like something opposing the RIAA turns out to be a stealth reinforcement of their core message. “Go through us for all forms of your music online or off, or you will be sued. We’ll even suggest that we have the power of law enforcement even though we don’t and get spanked in court when we try.” The message is clear: you the consumer are powerless against the mighty corporations, so only do things the ways they approve you to. This whole internet disintermediation nonsense is over, its back in the sheep pens for us all, buying what they tell us to, listening to what they want us to, behaving like obedient little wallets for the cash extraction convenience of the big companies.

Every time I get weak in my personal boycot of RIAA labels (I really want to buy some CDs from Flaming Lips and The Thrills but I’m being strong) something comes along that reinforces my belief that these sons of bitches should be starved of cash, drained of their political power and thrown on the dustbin of history.