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"I honestly feel like this is extortion on some level," says the individual interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine.

This quote pretty much sums up everything the Recording Industry Association of America is all about nowadays - indeed, since the RIAA's inception. There are two articles about the RIAA in this issue's Rolling Stone, one of them is about major labels releasing separate versions of the same album from popular singers and bands with the blatant purpose of gouging the fans; the other article is about the RIAA sending fresh batches of lawsuits to college students who illegally download music.

Can you tell me to which article the above quote corresponds? It's not easy, is it?

Well, it's actually a quote from a student who received a letter from the University of Southern California, forwarded from the RIAA, requesting that he pay $3,000 to settle out of court, otherwise risking a lawsuit worth $750 per song shared. Should the maximum penalty be levied against this particular student, he'd be liable for $1.16 million in damages.

I read this article the other day and didn't think much of it. Same old fare, really. I've been reading these things ever since 2003, when the RIAA began this sadistic campaign. 18,000 of these letters have been sent out, and just about every one of them settled for the $3,000 to $5,000 fine. There's nothing you can do, it's the legal property of the music industry. And college students are some of the major purveyors of shared files, what with the high-speed dorm Internet connections and centralized file-sharing services offered on each campus. You can get whole albums in matters of seconds, whole movies in minutes. It's about half of the reason why my music collection is so vast (the other half actually purchased on CD, to the amazement of many).

So, I didn't think anything about it until this afternoon when I read about the re-release of the new Beyonce album "B'Day". This is what happens now. Major artist makes an album, it sells well but doesn't really start to take off until that second or third single hits big (think Mariah Carey last year). Six months later, out of the blue, a "Deluxe Edition" is released with a few new songs, a few videos on a bonus DVD or something, and there you have it.

"Her hard-core fan base will buy it again," says Tom Donnarumma, Columbia's general manager. "There will also be an audience for 'Beautiful Liar' {her new hit single} that probably didn't buy Beyonce before who will come out this time."

In other words, the music industry is in the toilet because so many people can download music for free; yet these major artists who have truly dedicated fans that actually PAY MONEY for an album because they're such big fans; and what do they do? They try to squeeze another fistful of cash out of them because they had the misfortune of being hardcore Beyonce fans. They very well could simply release the deluxe editions at the same time as the original album, but instead they stagger it because they're greedy swindlers.

This is what's wrong with the music industry. This is why I have absolutely no qualms about stealing music from artists on major record labels, but I'll buy a $10 cd after a live show in a dingy bar from some unknown band. The music industry has always been corrupt, now their overall record sales are tanking and tanking more by the year, and I hope they never recover. I hope the major record labels keep folding and being bought out and consolidating until finally the whole recording industry is bankrupt. It's what they deserve for trying to screw over the common man for so long.

People want to tell me that this could be the death knell for all those indie bands that I love so much. If major artists aren't making up the cost of having indie bands because the major bands aren't recouping, then they'll be more reluctant to take a chance on those lesser-knowns.

Well, I'm here to tell you that indie music will never die. You can make albums and organize tours for cheaper than it's done now. Indie bands and labels will always be able to stay in business because they're not as corrupt and they're not as wasteful with their spending. Granted, marketing suffers, but maybe it should. Maybe it would be better if indie bands were more like Indian Tribes before the Europeans swept the land. Forced to stay in centralized locations, tour their regions with limited access to other areas of the country. Maybe if everyone wasn't in the music business simply to appeal to the widest market possible (The Killers, Fall Out Boy, Panic At The Disco), they'd be able to focus more on growing as artists instead of homogenizing their sound to match all the other bland, faceless crap on the radio today.