It's a bad time now to be a music corporation—and a tense time to be a little label without the benefit of the Beatles back catalogue—but the selfish listener couldn't ask for anything more. Bootlegging has always been about catering directly to the fans and the Internet breeds the best bootleggers yet: bigger and stronger and faster than ever before to best handle the demands of ten million filesharers trading a billion-and-a-half songs daily. Depending on whether your paycheck comes from or goes to musicians making albums, those could be pretty sickening numbers. The CDR bent the CD over and the MP3 player finished it off, and although the industry is still in shock, smaller and more agile labels are already accepting the obvious and locking in a vinyl/digital-only production schedule, then using merch like T-shirts—low production cost, high sale price, lots of options to ratchet up collectability—to stop the revenue gaps. Since filesharing is so established now that you can even buy $19-per-year lawsuit insurance, it's probably time to acknowledge the bright side. Out-of-print doesn't mean anything anymore. If you can learn about it, you can listen to it, and if the record company doesn't want to reissue it, you can probably find it without even having to stand up. The romance is gone but the music is cheap, accessible and instant—that's the music industry of the future, brought to you now by Russian MP3 pirates, obsessive genre blogs and criminals selling albums off a blanket on the street. Highlights of a year... More >>>