Record companies are amply staffed by the thick, myopic and smug. This simple truth was bared when The Recording Industry Association of America sued file sharing community Napster back in 2000.

A year or two before this watershed legal action, I’d seen the folly of this industry firsthand. Thanks to a short-lived vocation in music radio, I often found myself eating game, farmstead cheese and the promotional budgets of prominent record companies in overpriced restaurants.

“I don’t care how much that haute Medoc cost. You know there is no way I’ll ever play that fey and sh-tful tinkling bint, Enya, don’t you?” I’d say to the A&R guy in the vertiginous Gents at Sydney’s Forty One.

“Have some blow and eat your crown of hare.” This, btw, is far easier said than effected.

Thanks in no small part to poor table manners, I was booted out of The Industry. But not before I’d gathered a little ethnography from this outlandish culture. The Music Biz, it seemed to me, had duped itself into the custody of a weird conviction: We Own Music.

The RIAA vs. Napster brouhaha just evinced this conceit. The key representative body said the tool “facilitates piracy of music on an unprecedented scale.” Music fans just thought it a helpful way to discover new artists. It’s not, after all, as though record companies or FM radio cared any longer to promote an act riskier than Mariah.

In 2000, there was no evidence that peer-to-peer exchange of mp3 files would do anything to harm record sales. In fact, as netizens continue to suggest, the community was a promotional tool akin to the mid century listening booth.

Given, however, that the RIAA made initial moves to charge consumers for use of the listening booth, this action was hardly a surprise. These perverse actions continue.

Streaming online radio now has to cough up large to play non-downloadable works.

Our own ARIA and its fearless scion Music Industry Piracy Investigations tend to emulate this trend of “protecting” music to the point where it becomes impossible to sample before purchase. You gotta pay to play. (Actually, you should also pay to sing. Before your next chorus of Happy Birthday, you may wish to seek permission from copyright holders Time Warner.)

The latest self-anointed “casualty” of “piracy” and digital delivery is EMI.  (Or, as we used to call it back in the day, Every Mistake Imaginable.) 2000 staffers will lose their gigs.

“Downloads” are cited as the reason for this loss.

Versions of this defense have been used for the last 50 years. Radio, listening booths and MTV have taken turns as potential executioners for music. And in the moments before fumbling toward a collaborative marketing strategy with emerging media, industry nongs plead that they’re protecting the rights of artists.

B-llocks. So say the Stones, Coldplay and Robbie Williams.

EMI’s action has its roots in the same friable (and dishonest) mud as the Napster suit. A failure to revise business practice and keep apace with a file and taste-sharing culture is blamed on “downloads.” And the protection of artists’ rights. This is bald nonsense. No one has been ar-sed to promote or support a new artist since Ahmet Ertegün’s time.

This latest scale down should rip the bib of any music fan. That is, of course, unless you’re happy to resile to a world of James Blunt.

Now. Enjoy your blow, your crown of hare and your mediocre profits.