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Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?
June 18, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

NPR Intern Emily White wrote that out of a library of 11,000 songs, she had only purchased 15 CDs. Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker's David Lowery responds: "Why do you pay real money for this other stuff but not music?"
posted by troika (705 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Simple answer:
Because we can.

Longer answer:
Because we can't afford to buy all the music we love and enjoy, because our wages have stagnated for 30+ years, and in order to get through life without going batshit insane, we listen to music to cheer us up because life is depressing without art, and there is so much good art out there, we can't afford to pay for it all, so we "borrow" it from our anonymous friends on the internet, fully intending to pay for it when we "make it big", you know, like we were told we would by societies lie factories, but the reality is we can't, so we don't, so, you know, meh.
posted by daq at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2012 [152 favorites]


"Why do you pay real money for this other stuff but not music?" I should think it's obvious: because you *can* get the music for free and you *can't* get a smartphone/dataplan/Metro pass for free. Because smartphones are genuinely scarce in a way that MP3s are not.

I'm not saying it's right - I pay for the vast majority of my music - I'm just saying that when it's easy to be dishonest, people tend to be dishonest.
posted by mskyle at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


While I'll agree with some of Lowery's ideas there, he really tried way way too hard on that post. Suicide? Poverty? Seesh..
posted by Blake at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Did he write that entire long repsonse article without realizing that she has, in fact, paid for most of her music digitally, or gotten it from freebies and promos while working at a radio station?

Because it sure seems like he thinks she didn't pay for any of her music, when in fact she seems to have paid for at least a lot of it.
posted by Joviwan at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


I know you are not exactly saying what I’ve illustrated above.

Usually people don't mark their strawmen like this. Nice!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


Joviwan: "As monumental a role as musicians and albums have played in my life, I've never invested money in them aside from concert tickets and t-shirts."
posted by edd at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2012


Because food can't be downloaded?
posted by goethean at 11:57 AM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Erk. open mouth, insert foot.
posted by Joviwan at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think reasonable people can agree or disagree about most of his argument, but the 'it's your fault for causing musicians to commit suicide' bit made me so angry that I couldn't credit any of the rest of it. Just, no.
posted by marginaliana at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


Joviwan: "Did he write that entire long repsonse article without realizing that she has, in fact, paid for most of her music digitally, or gotten it from freebies and promos while working at a radio station?"

That's not what it sounds like to me.
But I didn't illegally download (most) of my songs. A few are, admittedly, from a stint in the 5th grade with the file-sharing program Kazaa. Some are from my family. I've swapped hundreds of mix CDs with friends. My senior prom date took my iPod home once and returned it to me with 15 gigs of Big Star, The Velvet Underground and Yo La Tengo (I owe him one).

During my first semester at college, my music library more then tripled. I spent hours sitting on the floor of my college radio station, ripping music onto my laptop. The walls were lined with hundreds of albums sent by promo companies and labels to our station over the years.
I don't think she was legally entitled to rip those radio station promos onto her personal laptop, and she certainly didn't pay for them. That seems to be where most of her music comes from.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Lowery can't be as dumb as he comes over there, can he? "Gee, you pay for your college education, why not pay for my music"?
posted by MartinWisse at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Joviwan: In fairness I thought exactly the same as you until I reread it.
posted by edd at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now we are being asked to undo [the system of the artist selling their work] not because we think this is a bad or unfair way to compensate artists but simply because it is technologically possible for corporations or individuals to exploit artists work without their permission on a massive scale and globally.

This is a point worth thinking about. It makes sense for big corporations who sell you internet access, gadgets, search results, etc. to fund the 'free culture' ideas, because everyone's paying for the data (unless they're camped out at the coffee shop I guess) and the hardware.
posted by statolith at 12:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


On preview, sorry to pile on Joviwan.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:01 PM on June 18, 2012


The whole "I’m gonna give you a break. I’m not gonna even factor in the record company share" so you'd owe 2 grand thing is disingenuous because her paying 2 grand directly to musicians isn't a real option.
posted by saul wright at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I dislike that he harps on the fact that it would "only" have cost $17/mo to purchase all of her 11,000 songs over a period of years. As he admits, that's only the cost of paying the royalties to the artist. Since a mechanism to acquire music that only involves paying royalties doesn't exist, $17/mo is a bullshit number that's artifically low to tug on people's heartstrings.
posted by hwyengr at 12:04 PM on June 18, 2012 [35 favorites]


Simple answer:
Because we can.

Longer answer:
Because we can't afford to buy all the music we love and enjoy, because our wages have stagnated for 30+ years, and in order to get through life without going batshit insane, we listen to music to cheer us up because life is depressing without art, and there is so much good art out there, we can't afford to pay for it all, so we "borrow" it from our anonymous friends on the internet, fully intending to pay for it when we "make it big", you know, like we were told we would by societies lie factories, but the reality is we can't, so we don't, so, you know, meh.


so your cure for depression is to rip musicians and record companies off? simply because you can? call me a stickler, but you know what, I was taught that it was wrong to take something that someone else was selling without paying for it.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:04 PM on June 18, 2012 [30 favorites]


Odd that she draws a line between illegally downloading music from kazaa and ripping music from the collection of her college music station.

Anyway, a significant portion of my own music library wasn't bought. Some was illegally downloaded, mostly back in the era of Napster. A significant portion was traded with friends. An even more significant portion was gained through promotional give-aways with eMusic. I discovered in college that I could sign up, download however many tracks they'd attach to a promotional account, then cancel my account. Then they'd give me more free tracks for coming back after a month or two.

Ironically, I mostly listen to pandora, last.fm, and spotify now, mostly on my squeezebox internet radio. Last.fm and spotify are both paid accounts.

What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts

Man, culture is so different now than it once was. Two days ago I watched Mac and Me streamed to my TV from Netflix, a film I loved on VHS and used to rent over and over again from the video section of the local supermarket. The kind of thing that I once would have assumed was a weird thing I'd dreamed up after it was lost to the sands of time. So little will be lost now. This is great for culture. How is it for creators? I don't know. But when I was a kid we had this book of different iterations of folk songs. That evolution will be gone if we have original recordings for ever and ever. So. Weird.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:04 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dislike that he harps on the fact that it would "only" have cost $17/mo to purchase all of her 11,000 songs over a period of years. As he admits, that's only the cost of paying the royalties to the artist. Since a mechanism to acquire music that only involves paying royalties doesn't exist, $17/mo is a bullshit number that's artifically low to tug on people's heartstrings.

Well, that's what him and the other artists are out.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2012


Lowery seems not to have read White's last paragraph.

He even quotes her: But I honestly don’t think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience.

Her response, in the next paragraph:
What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model).
(empahsis mine)

Lowery misses that entirely. What's wrong with a Spotify model? Why can't that replace individual unit sales?

The more examples of this I see, the more I'm convinced piracy is a symptom of market failure.
posted by bonehead at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [37 favorites]


White's original article is full of contradictions. She doesn't buy CDs, but she doesn't illegally download music, but she does illegally make digital copies of physical media for which she hasn't paid...

So...it sounds like most her music collection actually was gained illegally, despite her hand-wavy comment: "But I didn't illegally download (most) of my songs."

It also sounds like she got most of her music in a way that, while free, isn't actually overly convenient (I have delayed ripping my giant CD collection to my iPod because it takes way too fucking long and is a pain in the ass). Her argument is flawed and I am OK with Lowery taking her to task on it, even if I disagree with parts of his argument.
posted by asnider at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Because the distribution model is broken. I'm willing to pay $10 into Radiohead's tip jar when next they make their latest album freely available online. I'm much less willing to give Radiohead $1 by buying an album at store prices.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


Two days ago I watched Mac and Me streamed to my TV from Netflix, a film I loved on VHS and used to rent over and over again from the video section of the local supermarket. The kind of thing that I once would have assumed was a weird thing I'd dreamed up after it was lost to the sands of time. So little will be lost now. This is great for culture. How is it for creators? I don't know. But when I was a kid we had this book of different iterations of folk songs. That evolution will be gone if we have original recordings for ever and ever. So. Weird.

In case you aren't aware of it, this concept has a name: Etewaf.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Did he write that entire long repsonse article without realizing that she has, in fact, paid for most of her music digitally, or gotten it from freebies and promos while working at a radio station?"

She's not entitled to personally keep those promos. We didn't get to take the promo records home when I worked at the radio station when I was in high school. She readily admits that she took songs that others had purchased (most likely her parents or siblings), or got them on mix tapes. I think her prom date gave her 15 gigs of music.


So sounds like it was pretty much stolen.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2012


Yeah, "etewaf" is my husband's answer every time I marvel at this. I still find it insanely weird, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2012


What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model).

Just to be clear, there are two types of royalties, performance and writing. The bass player may not have written the song, but he or she gets paid for playing on it.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm willing to pay $10 into Radiohead's tip jar when next they make their latest album freely available online. I'm much less willing to give Radiohead $1 by buying an album at store prices.

Would you have ever heard of Radiohead if they hadn't gone through traditional distribution models prior to the release of In Rainbows?
posted by asnider at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would like to answer his question: "Why do you pay real money for this other stuff but not music?"

This may not be what Emily would say, and I'm sure it might make a lot of musicians mad, or sad, but nevertheless it's because music, as art, is essentially worthless at this moment in history. As a recorded product it used to have value. Now it has much much less value. Anyone can do it. Everyone is doing it. There are no gatekeepers and no rules to making good music. Record labels do nothing. Nobody reads Rolling Stone. The music that marketing department make for commercials sound just as good or better than most commercially released music. You don't need a studio and a orchestra and a conductor and a writer and a manager and etc etc. You can just do it by yourself, and just upload to something, for free, or for cheap, and then have a career. And I can just consume it, or pay you to make more of it.

That is the way it works now, and that is what music is. There's no going back, any more than we're getting Ritz photo-developing kiosks back, or the art of the darkroom. Time to look ahead, for new ways to sustain and inspire ourselves as pop musicians.

I would also like to point out this phase: "ripping 11,000 tracks in your iPod" as being particularly old man lolworthy. You kids with your ripping tracks to your pods--totally different than in my day when we used cassettes that we then copied and recopied oh that was totally different, yep!"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [51 favorites]


Lowery's piece went on and on and on.

My thing is that the record companies screwed themselves. They thought they could get around capitalism. In the 90's they were pricing old music from the 80's at like $17 a CD. They fought and fought digitizing things. Remember Scour? If iTunes had come out then, a lot of this would never have happened.

Instead, the difference between $17 and free was so great as to make it a no brainer, especially for those of us who bought more than one album and there was one good track on the thing. The record companies did it to themselves. I used to love going to Tower records, but I wasnt surprised when they closed, because the prices were bananas.
posted by cashman at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Because the distribution model is broken

Distribution model is broken=I couldn't get it for free the way the artists and record companies wanted to have me buy it, so it must be broken.

I wish it was all albums again, so you had to buy the physical product then.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


If only she'd used analog audio cassettes she'd be in the clear legally. (PS she probably owns NO music, despite owning a few pieces of media)
posted by jepler at 12:12 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


In this age of iTunes and Amazon MP3 and Google Music complaining about "convenience" seems to me to be rather hollow.
posted by kmz at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: "Yeah, "etewaf" is my husband's answer every time I marvel at this. I still find it insanely weird, though."

I kind of figured you were the kind of person who would be familiar with the concept, but I had to mention it anyway, in case you weren't.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2012


The entire point of her article was that there should be a simple, easy way for artists to get paid, via the system itself, for the songs people stream or download online:

With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model).

The "counterpoint" is that individuals should be buying songs as a moral imperative:

Fairly compensating musicians is not a problem that is up to governments and large corporations to solve. It is not up to them to make it “convenient” so you don’t behave unethically.

Yet the way people should do so is this:

Let’s just make the calculation based on exactly what the artist should make. First, the mechanical royalty to the songwriters. This is generally the artist. The royalty that is supposed to be paid by law is 9.1 cents a song for every download or copy. So that is $1,001 for all 11,000 of your songs. Now let’s suppose the artist has an average 15% royalty rate. This is calculated at wholesale value. Trust me, but this comes to 10.35 cents a song or $1,138.50. So to ethically and morally “get right” with the artists you would need to pay $2,139.50 [emphasis mine]

This makes zero sense. The mechanical royalty is already a way that the government and large corporations made compensating artists convenient for consumers, so it should be obvious that the general idea is not morally suspect. The idea that the current compensation system is inherently better than a new way, or that asking for a new way is morally problematic -- when the current way is easily bypassed and is thus no longer working! -- is short-sighted in the extreme.

The idea that Free Culture is a corporate thing is also suspect. That's not how it started, to say the least, and that's not why young people are jumping on board: it's spreading not because it's corporate, but because it works. Make a compensation system that works along with the way people actually listen to music -- or create something physical which offers more than just the music, such as vinyl -- and you'll be compensated; fail to do so, and you won't. No amount of trying to make buying X from Y a matter of morality has ever changed that equation, and I doubt it ever will.
posted by vorfeed at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I would also like to point out this phase: "ripping 11,000 tracks in your iPod" as being particularly old man lolworthy. You kids with your ripping tracks to your pods--totally different than in my day when we used cassettes that we then copied and recopied oh that was totally different, yep!"

Everything old is new again.
posted by delfin at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I used to pirate/borrow music. Then two things happened - I got a job and the industry started letting people sell DRM-free copies of their mp3's. I'm sure a Spotify-like service that only gives money to the good guys and leaves all those purportedly thieving bastards in the cold would be nice, but at this point the convenience and cost of music is such that I don't think anyone drawing a paycheck can justify never paying for something that obviously has value to them. Emily's final paragraphs sound like she is starting to come to this realization herself.

I'm still unsure what purpose Lowery's tabulations serve. All of the value he is assigning to her music collection is completely arbitrary. You can say a song is worth anything you want, since it is something that doesn't have any physical value whatsoever. If he has a level that he thinks artists should be compensated at he should come out and say it.
posted by NathanBoy at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think reasonable people can agree or disagree about most of his argument, but the 'it's your fault for causing musicians to commit suicide' bit made me so angry that I couldn't credit any of the rest of it. Just, no.

I'm with Lowery a little on this one. Recently, we've been learning how to value things more and more from very serious capitalists, and in traditional capitalism, it's having control over the means of production--not the work of producing or the finished product--that's most highly valued. It's only natural we've internalized that system of valuation and apply it to our own cultural products now.

What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model).

I've thought about this--why not cache/stream everything? Why do we even need local copies of media? Another upshot, if this eventually happens, it will be the death of music piracy. There'll still be hobbyists and the like who do the extra work to pirate, but it'll be much harder to do undetected. And once that monopoly on source media content is established, just wait and see how much more expensive it gets year after year to listen to the Beatles.

The idea that Free Culture is a corporate thing is also suspect. That's not how it started, to say the least, and that's not why young people are jumping on board: it's spreading not because it's corporate, but because it works.

Are you sure? When the products of a market are cheap, who benefits most from any monopoly on production and distribution? It's not the laborers, that's for sure.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Distribution model is broken=I couldn't get it for free the way the artists and record companies wanted to have me buy it, so it must be broken.

Not to pick on Ironmouth, but I thought the market was always right. You can't have it both ways - either you can look at people as good or bad, or you can look at them as rational actors responding to market incentives. In the case of the music industry, something's wrong with either the design or the implementation of the market - morality's got nothing to do with it.
posted by facetious at 12:22 PM on June 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


I only buy used lps, so nuts to everybody but the record stores, I guess.
posted by junco at 12:22 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think she was legally entitled to rip those radio station promos onto her personal laptop, and she certainly didn't pay for them. That seems to be where most of her music comes from.

Meh. Record companies send a gazillion free CDs to record stations and reviewers, hoping against hope they'd take them home and listen to them. I think she wins on spirit of the law there. Besides which, aren't you allowed to tape stuff off the radio, and from friends' collections? There was that whole legal case about VCRs back in the 80s that established this, wasn't there? Seems to be a grey area to me.
posted by Diablevert at 12:22 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Simple answer:
Because we can.

Longer answer:
Because we can't afford to buy all the music we love and enjoy, because our wages have stagnated for 30+ years, and in order to get through life without going batshit insane, we listen to music to cheer us up because life is depressing without art, and there is so much good art out there, we can't afford to pay for it all, so we "borrow" it from our anonymous friends on the internet, fully intending to pay for it when we "make it big", you know, like we were told we would by societies lie factories, but the reality is we can't, so we don't, so, you know, meh.


There's a lot of good art out there on Spotify for the cost of "listening to some ads every five or ten songs." You should just stick with "Because we can" instead of a just-so story about how the American Dream let you down.
posted by Kwine at 12:22 PM on June 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


" I spent hours sitting on the floor of my college radio station, ripping music onto my laptop"

So much for the insistence that really she just wants convenience.

"What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices."

That is, iTunes streaming, at $25/year.

"With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model). All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?"

Regardless of what the artist wants? Yes.

The convenience talk is hand-waving. Everything she wants is already available. She just has to pay for it. Which she won't do.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:23 PM on June 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


Ironmouth: "Because the distribution model is broken

Distribution model is broken=I couldn't get it for free the way the artists and record companies wanted to have me buy it, so it must be broken.
"

No, the distribution model really is broken. It's not that we can't get things for free, it's that its easier to get things for free than it is to buy them. I don't pirate music because I can't be bothered, but I've had multiple incidences where I would have bought something, if only I could have found someone to pay for it. I actually have music I did pay for that I can't play anymore because of DRM issues. Had I pirated that music, I'd still have it. That is a broken distribution model.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:24 PM on June 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


Disposable income that used to go towards CDs (or tapes, or records) now goes towards an additional household bill...ie internet service. Add that to stagnating incomes and there is the answer as far as I am concerned. People are paying for their music, just in a roundabout manner that doesn't benefit the music makers.
posted by ian1977 at 12:24 PM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


For one, I like to be able to listen to an album before I pay money for it.

Fortunately, Spotify has largely solved that problem for me in a way that inexplicably seems to make the labels happy. I still buy an occasional album so I can put it in the CD changer in my car's trunk (aww, yeah!), and as a way of putting some coins into the artist's 'tip jar,' getting a guaranteed DRM-free lossless digital copy along the way.

I do wish there was a better way to simply fork money over to artists that I like. I don't even mind offering a commission to the record label. However, I do mind when that commission is upward of 90%.
posted by schmod at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


They won't give me what I want in the way I want so I steal the thing I want.
posted by borges at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


When, very recently, I was poor enough that I could honestly not afford to spend money on music, if I really wanted it, I got it off torrent sites. Now that I'm rich enough that I can afford to spend money on music, I buy it off Amazon or whatever other legit source I can find it. Whether I had pirated music before or not, the constant is: bands get money when I can afford to pay them. But I don't happen to listen to Cracker or Camper Van Beethoven so he's not getting my dollars either way. I sure hope that doesn't make him kill himself!
posted by edheil at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I’ve only listened to All Songs Considered one time and thought the people on it were obnoxious, clueless, asses. This didn’t help improve my opinion, or make me want to give it another chance.
posted by bongo_x at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


And of course, for some of us, downloading music is not actually illegal, as here in the Netherlands making copies for home use, even using an illegal source is allowed under the current copyright laws.

Uploading/distributing copyrighted material is illegal however.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


She doesn't want some music. She wants all the music. So I did I at 21 and so do I now. I can't possibly pay for it, so I get it wherever I can. If they suddenly started making beer I could download, I'd do that too, because I am addicted.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:29 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


asnider: "Would you have ever heard of Radiohead if they hadn't gone through traditional distribution models prior to the release of In Rainbows?"

You're absolutely right, but also remember that album sales are only one facet of the music promotion/distribution model.

This is one reason why a new artist would probably be better off signing with a small label with a reputation for good curation (ie. 4AD) that also happens to understand the current business better than the big guys.
posted by schmod at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sick to shit of people wanting to spank us for not utilizing an outdated music distribution mechanism.

Wanna know something? I know someone who used to be a huge music pirate. They never did online filesharing. Instead, they would simply trade collections with people. Last I spoke to him, he hadn't listened to anything in his (enormous) personal collection in months. Instead, he pays $36 a year for Pandora and $10 a month for Spotify. It's the most he's ever spent on music in his life, and yet he says he'd be willing to pay even more for Spotify since it's been so useful to him.

Keep in mind, $13 a month is enough to buy a CD a month, which would make him the type of consumer that the music industry misses dearly. But that was never worth it to him, not with the dizzying variety of music available through digital channels.

People are not naturally dishonest, thieving assholes. I think it's just instinctive to a lot of us that the outdated method of music delivery was not some kind of set-in-stone guarantee of cocaine and hookers for those involved in the music industry, but the result of a messy, evolving compromise between industry, lawmakers, and consumers. Give us something that isn't a total fucking ripoff and we'll buy it enthusiastically.

I would imagine Spotify and similar services have ridiculously high consumer-satisfaction ratings.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2012 [37 favorites]


Give us something that isn't a total fucking ripoff and we'll buy it enthusiastically.

If you don't we will just steal it.
posted by borges at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


If they suddenly started making beer I could download, I'd do that too, because I am addicted.

The first step is admitting that you have a problem.

To be fair, if I could download beer, I would probably become addicted.
posted by asnider at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2012


Something that always stumps me when these discussions come up:

Why is it that so many professional artists embrace piracy and downloading, instead of seeing it as something that makes their career impossible? The acts and performers that constantly decry sharing; are they just absolutely convinced that if you make music for a living, you should be rockstar-rich?

I mean goddamn, rockers: lots of indie hip hop (and lots of indie rock) acts have been doing just fine off music in the past 10-15 years without condemning sharing. They aren't getting rich enough to live like Steven Tyler or anything, but they are not starving.
posted by broadway bill at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Amazon MP3

FWIW, it's seemed to me lately that Amazon is trying incredibly hard to drive down the average price of albums on MP3. Right now, one click away from the Amazon MP3 home page: 100 albums at $5; almost 50 at $2.99. And they rotate regularly; if you're looking for something current, mainstream or indie, chances are it'll come up on sale within a few months.

I'm buying more music speculatively because of it -- $2.99 falls at "impulse buy" level -- but I'm curious who's paying for it. Is Amazon subsidizing the price as a loss leader? or are the publishers on board with lower-margin/higher-volume promotions?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I torrent/copyright infringe for a couple of reasons. Thats not to say I don't pay for music, I have in fact I have over 200 cds, which if you figured I bought used or primarily at shows @ $10/piece I have spent well over 2k for my collection. Yet that pales in compairson to my pirated collection. I easily have over 250 gigs of music in 192/320 quailty. Why do I do this?
1.) Fuck the RIAA, they dont help artists, they are parasitic leaches, fuck them
2.) While new technology and distribution models have emerged, the industry has an old skool approach, make us repurchase the same damn thing over again and again in new formats. Often @ a higher prices
3.) The models like iTunes sucks, no I dont want to be locked into some shit software. Plus artists are lucky to break 10 cents per $1 song. The quality is lower anyways.
4.) Fuck DRM

I don't see my habits changing. I still buy albums abeit less so, but I do at shows particularly the more obscure titles I seek from niche artists.
Pirating is the way for me, I take from the high internet seas, arrrrrgh!
posted by handbanana at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, I think if you're an artist/musician it is of course incredibly frustrating that you have fans who love your music, but don't want to pay for it. And it's clear that if you look at the various download sites that these are fans doing much of the heavy lifting; there are people releasing every snippet of music the Beatles ever produced in chronological order, fer chrissakes. That must make you mad if you're a struggling half decent band who had a few hits but are nowhere near rock star royalty.

However, it's pointless to get mad or start moralising: like the obesity crisis, trying to shame people into the right behaviour just won't work.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that Metafilter's general age is close enough to mine that I'm not the only one who experienced the fun of making audio tapes from the radio. This wasn't illegal. No one was prosecuting or even implying that this was morally wrong.

So it's not about morality shifting for new technology, as Lowery is saying. Because the morality before the new technology was actually less restrictive before, when you walked around with mix tapes all the damn time, giving them to friends to listen to. Or boyfriends. Or random people. It cost a couple bucks to make a whole bunch of tapes, and none of that money was going to the artists.

The problem is that now the new technology makes it easy, and so sudden people are trying to force a shift in cultural morality, where it's somehow not okay to transfer music from one computer to another. Or from one friend to another. Where it's illegal to make your boyfriend a mix tape.

What exactly was morally wrong with Kazaa, or Napster? What exactly was morally different from sharing music with friends, and sharing music with strangers? As long as you weren't making money off it, what was the moral difference?


I’m sorry, but what is inconvenient about iTunes and, say, iTunes match (that let’s you stream all your music to all your devices) aside from having to pay?


Really? So speaks someone who's never actually used music, or iTunes. Because I have purchased iTunes music that I can never get back, because it was on a computer that went down . If it was regular music, I could have copied it and had it safe - but because it wasn't, I lost music I paid for. I can't transfer from computer to computer. I can't walk across my house and transfer music from one place to another. And, as noted above, I can't make mix tapes. It's ridiculously inconvenient and offensively more restrictive than every previous technology.
posted by corb at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


But I didn't illegally download (most) of my songs. A few are, admittedly, from a stint in the 5th grade with the file-sharing program Kazaa.

Yeah, I know how it goes. When I was in the 5th grade my friends and I were mad into swapping 8-tracks.

She's not entitled to personally keep those promos. We didn't get to take the promo records home when I worked at the radio station when I was in high school.

IME, promos are nearly always given away, sold to support the station, or taken to the nearest used record store. Also, IANAL, but note Universal Music Group v. Augusto where the Ninth Circuit ruled that "UMG’s distribution of the promotional CDs under the circumstances effected a sale (transfer of title) of the CDs to the recipients. Further sale of those copies was therefore permissible without UMG’s authorization." Presumably, anything that can be sold can also be given away for free.

Personally, I restrict my downloading to OOP music that would be impossible or unreasonably expensive to get otherwise. Probably 85% or more of my gigs of downloaded music is old twentieth century avant-garde music or otherwise impossible to find post-punk rarities.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


"She doesn't buy CDs, but she doesn't illegally download music, but she does illegally make digital copies of physical media for which she hasn't paid...

So...it sounds like most her music collection actually was gained illegally, despite her hand-wavy comment: "But I didn't illegally download (most) of my songs."
"

Both you and Lowery seem to miss that it's entirely possible to buy albums without buying CDs. Not least due to that thing called iTunes that everyone's probably heard about.

Lowery's an idiot railing against strawmen.

But let me say this: I've got a music collection of around 30k songs digitally, as well as a couple hundred CDs and a couple hundred albums. I worked in the music press for a long time, and still had general promo connections even longer — I've actually only paid for probably a third of my music collection. Some's legal, some's not. Someone could theoretically come take my Ween albums back to their record company at any time. (And I sold off a handful of Christina Aguilera promos without a second of guilt.)

I tend to find a lot more new music through Spotify and never feel like I have to own it — multiple moves with boxes of vinyl have kinda disabused me of the "owning things" stuff. And a lot of what I listen to hasn't been legal to buy for years (random jazz bootlegs, Wildman Fischer's debut).

I honestly don't feel like you can be a well-versed music fan without either piracy or a huge bankroll. Simply paying a reasonable fee for all of the canonical stuff would spiral into hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of tracking down out of print stuff that hasn't ever been reissued. I'm a big fan of dub music, and there are years worth of sides that are available only because somebody ripped an old album and put it up on an online locker. There is simply too much out there to both be conversant and available (especially for young people) without infringing copyrights.

Now, I'll say a couple things that modify that: First off, Spotify does a great job at mitigating a lot of that. I don't ever need to buy a VU album to hear them now. Instead, I buy a VU album because I like VU. Second, now that I have more money coming in, I'm able to fill in a lot of the blank spots in my collection, and fix things that I downloaded or burned years ago. I'm going to keep buying things like old Cibo Mato catalog because I downloaded them years ago to write about this thing or the other. It's a lot more easy to support niche bands too — getting an awesome four record set of weird Nordic ambient metal bands from Pesanta (where the vinyl looks phenomenal) is easier than ever. I pay for things that I want to reward after I know that they're good, and I also want to pay for things that are outside the mainstream.

I guess what I really want to get at is that these positions are often presented as mutually exclusive — either you buy music or you pirate. There are a lot more ownership and engagement options than that, and I don't feel particularly immoral about any of my behavior, which makes complaints like Lowery's — especially ocne you realize what a wild straw man it is — much less persuasive.
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


There's a lot of good art out there on Spotify for the cost of "listening to some ads every five or ten songs." You should just stick with "Because we can" instead of a just-so story about how the American Dream let you down.

Yea, but the Old Man Response argued that while something like Spotify may be a solution for how to compensate artists fairly in the future, it is not a fair system now. So paying Spotify won't save his destitute friends, so if it's about that, why bother?

I pay for a Zune subscription, because it's easier than getting music any other way. If it wasn't, I would download it free. I would honestly not care if no new music was ever produced, I'll never even listen to everything I would like that exists already, so I'm not influenced by the argument that piracy will make it impossible for people to be professional musicians.
posted by jacalata at 12:38 PM on June 18, 2012


Distribution model is broken=I couldn't get it for free the way the artists and record companies wanted to have me buy it, so it must be broken.

If you have a significant piracy problem in your market, you're doing it wrong. Black markets exist (and Pirate Bay et all are black market---running a big website isn't free) because the above board market isn't working for whatever reason.

Note that this is aside of moral and legal considerations. Rail against that and you're still missing sales. If you want to solve the problem you need to find a market that works, a product people will pay for. Otherwise, morally, legally right or not, you're going out of business.
posted by bonehead at 12:38 PM on June 18, 2012


Give us something that isn't a total fucking ripoff and we'll buy it enthusiastically.

If you don't we will just steal it.


Well, yeah. That's the point.

Well, no - the point is, copyright is a social and ethical construct. The compromise between the public, the musician, and any intermediaries has changed - by refusing to acknowledge this change, the entire notion of paying the artist for making a recording is in jeopardy. If the record industry wants to stay in business, they need to recognize that average, everyday, moral people do not consider it an ethical conundrum to copy music without authorization. (Which is neither ethically nor legally stealing, by the by.)

You can rage and scream and deliberately confuse infringement for theft and sue random strangers by the thousands...

... or you can move to Pandora, Spotify and LastFM and YouTube and other services as the distribution channels of choice. Go where the money is, not where you wish it was.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:43 PM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Also, remember, the music industry is, for the most part, a bunch of backwards-looking rent-seekers who wouldn't understand a money-making opportunity if it punched them in the dick.

Remember, there was a 2-year gap between the shuttering of Napster and the appearance of the ITunes Music Store. Two years when music industry fatcats sat on their asses and said, "Make money?! Off music?! Over the Internet!? Surely you jest!"

I feel absolutely not one grain of sympathy for their backwards asses.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:43 PM on June 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


So speaks someone who's never actually used music, or iTunes. Because I have purchased iTunes music that I can never get back, because it was on a computer that went down . If it was regular music, I could have copied it and had it safe - but because it wasn't, I lost music I paid for. I can't transfer from computer to computer. I can't walk across my house and transfer music from one place to another. And, as noted above, I can't make mix tapes.

I'm confused, are you the person who's never used iTunes? iTunes permits you to do all of these things. In fact, one of the best things about it is that music purchased on iTunes can never be lost, regardless of what happens to your computer, and can be mixed or burned to as many media as you like. (Not so good is the fact that it's generally not available lossless, but that's another issue.)
posted by The Bellman at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


In this age of iTunes and Amazon MP3... complaining about "convenience" seems to me to be rather hollow.

Also, DRM is in the rearview mirror with these services. It's getting harder and harder to defend the idea that the distribution model is broken, when the two major players in digital music stores are selling DRM-free music at prices about 25-50% cheaper than CDs.

There's an argument for ripping old music that publishers aren't digitizing, but PBS radio station GMs aren't playing that stuff anyway. They play the Neko Case and Wilco and other stuff that is easily available online, DRM-free.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to get my music almost exclusively illegally, and even the legal stuff was also just free downloads that the creators happened to allow, via places like MeFi Music and OCRemix. I have changed my ways, technically, in the eyes of the law, since I discovered Half Price Books' CD clearance section. $1-3 an album. It supports absolutely zero musicians, which is supposedly what people are angry about, but I have yet to hear anyone give me a speech over it.
posted by jinjo at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Also, I think if you're an artist/musician it is of course incredibly frustrating that you have fans who love your music, but don't want to pay for it. And it's clear that if you look at the various download sites that these are fans doing much of the heavy lifting; there are people releasing every snippet of music the Beatles ever produced in chronological order, fer chrissakes. That must make you mad if you're a struggling half decent band who had a few hits but are nowhere near rock star royalty.

However, it's pointless to get mad or start moralising: like the obesity crisis, trying to shame people into the right behaviour just won't work.


Yeah, I see this a lot with authors struggling against people torrenting their books--chastising people on twitter or writing shaming blog posts is pretty common. As someone who mostly once did not pay for stuff (I didn't buy books from a book store on a regular basis until college--couldn't afford it. It was 90% the library for me--and had I been a modern poor kid? I probably would have torrented. The library never was able to get me EVERY ANNE MCCAFFREY NOVEL ever, which is what I wanted), but eventually came to have the money to do so, I'd rather just ignore that behavior and hope that fans eventually pay when they can. If someone is an asshole to a fan, even if it's a dirty rotten thief fan, it makes me feel less inclined to buy. Maybe that's not fair--I'm almost sure it's not; I understand how it's an emotional issue for content creators--but it's still my inclination.

Meh. Record companies send a gazillion free CDs to record stations and reviewers, hoping against hope they'd take them home and listen to them. I think she wins on spirit of the law there. Besides which, aren't you allowed to tape stuff off the radio, and from friends' collections? There was that whole legal case about VCRs back in the 80s that established this, wasn't there? Seems to be a grey area to me.

Are promo CDs not clearly marked as "not for resale" etc. etc? Review books definitely are. Of course, I get enough review books that I would never, ever want to read or review that it's annoying, and though I don't resell them or illegally distribute the ebooks I get, I can understand the impulse to an extent. I think stealing from your college radio station or reselling review books are both actually long-lived and fairly old practices (one commentor on the NPR piece notes that he used to resell college radio promo CDs to used record shops back in the day), but now it's all much more public with the internet and all, whereas it once could have been largely ignored by content creators.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2012


Are you sure? When the products of a market are cheap, who benefits most from any monopoly on production and distribution? It's not the laborers, that's for sure.

Yes, I'm sure. Free Culture doesn't want there to be a monopoly on production and distribution, which is exactly why things like the EFF and Creative Commons exist -- if not for Free Culture pushback, computing might have been locked down by a handful of companies in the early-to-late 1990s. The idea that Free Culture is suspect because corporations donate to it or benefit from it is faintly ridiculous, given that the same corporations also have far more massive investments in the status quo.

As for "when the products of a market are cheap": you also have to recognize that the means of production and distribution are equally cheap, and that opens as much potential as it closes. The cost of doing a pro-quality CD release is now well within the means of almost any band, thanks to free recording software and the wide availability of internet-based companies who'll print CDs at $2 a pop (or less). Even a vinyl run will cost you less than $500 a band member these days, assuming you're a four or five-piece. And bandcamp-like services will let you stream your music and sell digital downloads to your fans for free. Given this, the fact that most CDs are still $12 or $13 on Amazon is crazy -- underground music is very swiftly moving to vinyl, downloads, and/or $5 CDs, and this is happening for a reason. Businesses ignore changes in the market at their own peril, whether they're selling music or not.
posted by vorfeed at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Analogy time:

dowloading is like speeding: the vast majority of people do it, even though it's illegal, don't consider themselves criminals for breaking the speed limit and get annoyed when they're ticketed for it. Of course, at the same time most people will happily condemn the wanker in the ferrari who does 210 in 55 mph zone.

The music industry and some artists want to make downloading like drink driving: also illegal, but also widely seen as immoral.

The only problem is, too much downloading hasn't ever killed anybody... yet.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


The elephant in the room with Spotify is that its a not a profitable business model

The major labels completely hamstring these on-demand streaming services with fees which make the pricing virutally impossible to make up. They're all working on the assumption that if they get the distribution the labels will change their mind.

(Pandora is "internet radio" and the fees it can be charged are actually regulated which is why its model works at all)
posted by bitdamaged at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you have a significant piracy problem in your market, you're doing it wrong. Black markets exist (and Pirate Bay et all are black market---running a big website isn't free) because the above board market isn't working for whatever reason.

That is some truly championship-level victim blaming. So if I'm a freelance graphic designer, and I make a logo for a client, and the client takes the PSD and doesn't pay.... that means I'm doing it wrong?

The compromise between the public, the musician, and any intermediaries has changed - by refusing to acknowledge this change, the entire notion of paying the artist for making a recording is in jeopardy. If the record industry wants to stay in business, they need to recognize that average, everyday, moral people do not consider it an ethical conundrum to copy music without authorization. (Which is neither ethically nor legally stealing, by the by.)

"You know, Mr. Graphic Designer, you ought to understand that these days, lots of people have MS Paint, and our relationship to you has changed. You should be *grateful* for the exposure!"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are promo CDs not clearly marked as "not for resale" etc.

When I worked at a college radio station, the vast majority of ours weren't, no. Only the major labels bother with this, and for the most part we weren't getting anything from them. Likewise, most used music stores will buy stuff whether the CDs are marked as promos or not.
posted by vorfeed at 12:49 PM on June 18, 2012


I'm not the only one who experienced the fun of making audio tapes from the radio. This wasn't illegal. No one was prosecuting or even implying that this was morally wrong.

AFAIK, no one was ever prosecuted for home taping, but at the time many in the industry averred that home taping was killing music.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a computer die and was able to get my music back. And I'm not much of a techie.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2012


You can make all the rationalizations you like, if you steal the music, you are ripping off the artist (and others) and acting like an entitled jackass. It may be the custom to ignore the laws associated with this, but they are still the law.

It's not like you can't live without owning every album you want. I would love to access to every (insert consumer product here) but that isn't possible, so I have to select a few things based on the money I have to spend.

Also, complaining about the high price of music is nothing new, but before digital distribution, the price was never looked upon as a justification for stealing an LP, Cassette, CD, etc. That was called shoplifting.
posted by borges at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The library never was able to get me EVERY ANNE MCCAFFREY NOVEL ever, which is what I wanted), but eventually came to have the money to do so, I'd rather just ignore that behavior and hope that fans eventually pay when they can. If someone is an asshole to a fan, even if it's a dirty rotten thief fan, it makes me feel less inclined to buy. Maybe that's not fair--I'm almost sure it's not; I understand how it's an emotional issue for content creators--but it's still my inclination.

Your inclination sucks. If someone is freeloading on my work, I owe them nothing but a kick in the face. Great that you could get every Anne McCafrey novel ever without ever compensating Anne McCafrey, but to expect her to be gracious about your eagerness for getting something for nothing is an attitude of such entitlement that I can hardly wrap my head around it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Odd that she draws a line between illegally downloading music from kazaa and ripping music from the collection of her college music station.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:04 PM on June 18


Not at all. I used to do this, too, when I worked at CKDU-FM in Halifax. If I wanted to play something on the air, I had to listen to it first to make sure that it didn't contain unexpected profanity or something (my show was noon to 2:30 on Saturdays, so if there was swearing, we had to "contextualize," that is, explain immediately before the song that there were curse words in it and why it was important anyway) and also to make sure that I actually liked it and it would go with the other tracks I was playing. I didn't have time to listen to everything at the station, not the kind of active listening required for planning a show, not to mention that if everybody had listened to everything at the station, we wouldn't have had the studio space for everybody - so I ripped it and brought it home. I feel 100% justified in this since that is the entire purpose of those promos, and it was to the band's benefit for me to play them on my show. Moreover, to my knowledge it wasn't illegal, since at least at the time the law in Canada was that it was legal to make a copy of an original (but copies of copies were illegal).
posted by joannemerriam at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like my cherished yet abused copy of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee In London, I'm going to say the same thing I say in every one of these threads. Maybe, just maybe, there is a market failure at work here.

As technology has improved, musical recordings have slowly become less rivalrous and excludable, and now they are pretty much as good of an example of a public good as the canonical example of the lighthouse so common in first year econ survey course textbooks.

Instead of using a combination of industry collusion, byzantine technological shenanigans and the enforcement of legally protected monopolies, maybe a simpler alternative is more public funding for the musical arts.

Of course, that would be socialism, and if we allowed it, Stalin would rise from his grave and send us all to die of starvation in Siberia.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


I remember before there was Napster, trying to scrape out my first MP3s around 1998 using Hotline, which was basically where you could download songs as long as you clicked on ads or didn't get kicked off. My wife once got kicked off a Hotline server because the server operator didn't like the creative spelling of her name.

I don't use iTunes or Apple devices, but to me, the DRM-free Amazon digital downloads for $1 song are a sweet deal. They definitely should have been doing this from the very start. Only if I can't find something there will I start thinking about torrents.
posted by crapmatic at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


(and I wanted to add that it's the convenience being a big part of me using Amazon, rather than sorting through torrents)
posted by crapmatic at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2012


It's getting harder and harder to defend the idea that the distribution model is broken, when the two major players in digital music stores are selling DRM-free music at prices about 25-50% cheaper than CDs.

Not to pick on this comment, which I agree with as par as it goes, but the market failure is in the idea of "ownership" of music at all. It made sense to think this way when we bought albums/tapes/CDs at the store. It made less sense when we started to buy DRMed music. music buyers' noses were rubbed in the fact that, no, you don't actually buy the music, you just some odd right=grant that the general public only fuzzily understands.

I don't think the future is "owning" music at all. The future is pay-to-stream from the infinite jukeboxes in the cloud, like Pandora or Spotify, or to listen to ad-supported free services.

I haven't bought a single DVD since we signed up for Netflix. Why would I?
posted by bonehead at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whether I had pirated music before or not, the constant is: bands get money when I can afford to pay them.

There are a couple of periods in my life when I've been very poor, certainly too poor to buy music. One period was pre-Internet era, the other post. Comparing the two in terms of music, the first time around I didn't steal any music, and didn't listen to much music. When I got out of poverty, I didn't suddenly start buying music again, because it hadn't been part of my life for so long.

The second time around, I did download music during my poverty, and this time, when I had more money again, I did start buying music, because I had been in that mode of checking out new stuff and following bands. Also, once in a while I could afford to see a band when they were in my area.

So, my own individual experience has been that (a) bands haven't lost any of my shopping dollars over the years to illicit downloading; (b) illicit downloading has exposed me to bands I wouldn't have otherwise spent money on, that I have since spent money on; and (c) by keeping me as a person interested in new music, the music industry has made more money from me as an illicit downloader than someone who has tuned out of music because I couldn't afford it.

However, I make no claim that my experience is representative of the whole, or that this single example somehow validates illicit downloading. It's just my experience.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:54 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I found Lowery's response frustrating, and sad. The free culture movement is not a marketing gimmick. It's an observation about the social and economic costs of the copyright system in a world with free copying.

The point of "copyright" is that we give content owners the right to charge for each copy of a work, and exclude the part of the audience that can't or won't pay a set fee. Two things change when you move this system online: you start to lose much more to the inefficiency of excluding low-value transactions, and content owners gain a greater incentive to control how the content is experienced, and forbid uses that are potentially threatening to their business model.

I've phrased these in really abstract ways, but they're tangible, practical problems that come up all the time when you try to use content online. It's what I think the kids are getting at when they say that buying online music is "inconvenient." Not just that they'd rather not pay, but that it sucks to be forced into a pricing scheme designed for people who listen to 100 songs 100 times, when you'd rather listen to 10,000 songs once. It sucks to only be able to watch a movie in HD if you have the right brand of video player. It sucks to have to read books in one braindead e-reader, and not be able to copy interesting bits to email to a friend. It sucks to take all the potential for new, weird ways to experience and relate to our culture, and try to corral them back into an imitation of the limits we used to have.

If you don't get this -- if you don't get that respecting copyright online is like running with your shoes tied together, and feels like a loss of freedom at a visceral level -- then you have no business lecturing people about morality. Understand the problem the kids are reacting to, and then you can start having a conversation about ethics.

(I don't say this as someone who personally violates copyrights. I'm doing my best to respect copyright, for a bunch of reasons. I know infringement pisses off people who make stuff I like; I don't like free-riding on people who do pay for stuff under the current system; and I don't like having such a conflict of interest in such a thorny ethical area. So nothing I write here is about defending my own choices.)
posted by Honorable John at 12:55 PM on June 18, 2012 [25 favorites]


Really? So speaks someone who's never actually used music, or iTunes. Because I have purchased iTunes music that I can never get back, because it was on a computer that went down . If it was regular music, I could have copied it and had it safe - but because it wasn't, I lost music I paid for. I can't transfer from computer to computer. I can't walk across my house and transfer music from one place to another. And, as noted above, I can't make mix tapes. It's ridiculously inconvenient and offensively more restrictive than every previous technology.

corb, actually, yes, you can transfer from computer to computer. It's DRM-free. Just right-click and select "show file." You can then open it in an audio app and do whatever you'd like with it.
posted by ignignokt at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I think if you're an artist/musician it is of course incredibly frustrating that you have fans who love your music, but don't want to pay for it.

Again, how is this functionally different from the radio?

I'm confused, are you the person who's never used iTunes? iTunes permits you to do all of these things. In fact, one of the best things about it is that music purchased on iTunes can never be lost, regardless of what happens to your computer, and can be mixed or burned to as many media as you like. (Not so good is the fact that it's generally not available lossless, but that's another issue.)

iTunes permits you to do all those things, if you're a person that never changed email addresses. If you're say, me, who had email tied to an internet provider (like you did back in the day sometimes), and then that email was shuttered when you changed your service, if you forgot that password, there is functionally no way to get back into that account. Which means, no, you can't get it back again.

And if music purchased on iTunes can be mixed or burned to as much media as I like, then again, what's the difference between me burning to a CD and giving the CD to someone, and emailing a copy of a song?
posted by corb at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can make all the rationalizations you like, if you steal the music, you are ripping off the artist (and others) and acting like an entitled jackass. It may be the custom to ignore the laws associated with this, but they are still the law.

Okay, thread's done, can just as well close it down now as it's now just another "piracy is evil/No way man, it's the music industry that's satan" showdown.

You could everybody to agree that downloading isn't nice and ninety percent would still do it in the privacy of their own bedroom (no, not you, you special snowflake, you).
posted by MartinWisse at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Music is art, and yes people should be compensated, but its the wrong group making bank.
Besides when did art become a commodity, a commericalized products? Artist I know are thrilled, and even encourage mass, free consumption. They make the majority of their funds via shows and merch.

And copyright infringement =/= theft. Dont know what it takes to get it through some of the thick skulls up in here.
you cant steal 0's and 1's,only duplicate them.
posted by handbanana at 12:59 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


The music industry hung itself when it’s business model became based on labyrinthian contracts and monopolistic distribution platforms. And artists gained for a long, long time from that model. Not as much as they should have – on that we can agree – but it’s uncouth to complain about both sides: “We didn’t have a fair share then, and we don’t have a fair share now. At least we could live on the fair share we had then.” If artists are never being paid enough, artists are overvaluing their work.
posted by nickrussell at 1:02 PM on June 18, 2012


I think if you're an artist/musician it is of course incredibly frustrating that you have fans who love your music, but don't want to pay for it.

I don't know who these people are but if I heard a fellow musician say that I'd be like "HAHAHAHHAHAHAH shut the fuck up." Gosh it's so frustrating that all the girls want to bone down w/ me it's totally unfair that I only have 1 dick to bone down w/ them at any time.

How can it be frustrating to hear you have tons of people who enjoy your music? It's not, unless you are a musician who made a few popular records back in the day while your new records, which would have to operate under the new models of direct revenue that are emerging (DIY touring, Kickstarter, Bandcamp) can't sell at all. Comedians get it, they give podcast and tweets away for free and Rob Delaney and Marc Maron go from middling at Zanys to selling out theaters. Figure it out ffs.

The fact is, when Lowery and his bros in the 90s said "Sorry underground, but I can reach a lot more people by selling out to a major record label" they sold their right to say now when the business model changed again "HEY NO FAIR I SIGNED UP FOR FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR LIFE TOO". No you didn't. That doesn't exist.

Meanwhile, Mike Watt and Ian MacAye and Jeff Mangum keep jamming econo and the kids are finding ways to support themselves by living modestly and selling their shit on the digital street. And ain't dying for nobody nohow.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


You kids with your ripping tracks to your pods--totally different than in my day when we used cassettes that we then copied and recopied oh that was totally different, yep!

In fact, yeah, it is totally different. Back in the day of making and trading cassettes, anyone with the ability to create and distribute cassettes on a scale even remotely similar to the scale possible of trading digital copies would have absolutely been hunted down and prosecuted as a criminal.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: "Odd that she draws a line between illegally downloading music from kazaa and ripping music from the collection of her college music station. "

As someone who has worked in broadcasting:

This is how people get familiar with an artist's music so they can play it on the radio.

My station had a policy against ripping CDs, which was nearsighted. DJs need to sift through all the dreck to find good tracks to play, and they can't do all that at the station- they need to listen to the music at length, at home. Sure, some people would rip CDs only for listening at home, but in my mind this was acceptable.

The policy meant that instead of bringing in a laptop and ripping music, people would simply steal the CDs from the station- meaning we no longer had that CD available to play on the air.

Yes, some DJs would just come in to the station and pull CDs off the "New" rack and play those- but that made for horrible radio. You really need to have a feel for the music, and what fits together, before you put your show together.

And on another front, most promotion companies no longer send out CDs, instead distributing download links. My station's music director actually admitted that they don't download, and just rely on the dwindling flow of promo CDs. ("inept fools" and "sitting on their thumbs" comes to mind.)

This meant that as a DJ, I had to download tracks off the 'net to keep my show new and fresh. In fact, perusing other users' music libraries is how I discovered a lot of what I played on my show.

Oh, and I'm a recording artist who makes money off his music. I still search for my tracks on Soulseek and thank each and every user who is sharing my tracks, because it's free publicity.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hm, how's this for an answer to "why?" : Because this is an economic problem of zero incremental costs, which you're trying to address by emotional manipulation while you hire others to address it by bribery and intimation. My relationship with the providers of many other goods is less problematic.
posted by tyllwin at 1:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Again, how is this functionally different from the radio?

Yeah, that's one of those things that never quite satisfied me. On the on hand, "piracy" defenders have always analogised it with radio or tv watching, or using libraries, or buying secondhand records or whatever, while "piracy = theft" people have always been quick to point out that in those cases, there's always somebody who has paid the rightholders somewhere down the line.

It does show that most people don't actually care about whether or not they're paying artists for their music directly, they just disagree with this particular method of you getting something for free.

On the other hand, utopian schemes of internet taxes or whatever to fund musicians and other (ugh) content creators directly are less than ideal either; more a sop to your conscience than something that would actually help artist making a living.

Clearly the only solution is to [fx:Rick the People's Poet] form a people's revolution and overthrow the state [/fx] to form a socialist utopia where everybody can work a couple of hours, laze a couple of hours, paint a couple of hours.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:06 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll never even listen to everything I would like that exists already, so I'm not influenced by the argument that piracy will make it impossible for people to be professional musicians.

I'll note in passing that you're also apparently not influenced by any sense of empathy for those "other people" or by any sense of social obligation that if someone makes you something that you like and value you should want to give them something in return.

You notice how nearly all our off-the-cuff arguments on any subject these day are framed with the assumption that, of course, if we want to have a reasonable discussion, we must examine every question or topic from the assumption that we're all mechanically precise, perfectly selfish actors, we have every right to be that way, and in fact that is the only way it ever could be.

I remember before there was Napster, trying to scrape out my first MP3s around 1998 using Hotline, which was basically where you could download songs as long as you clicked on ads or didn't get kicked off. My wife once got kicked off a Hotline server because the server operator didn't like the creative spelling of her name.

I think that's around the time my wife and I released our first record when I was still very much gung-ho about the Internet, MP3 sharing and all that stuff--back when the original MP3.com was still getting off the ground--when we decided we would be an internet-focused band and eventually even ran a small online label. I've been watching this stuff develop from pretty closely all along, and it looks to me from close up as if artists are much worse off now. They've got less contract negotiating clout, less leverage, and their wares are far less valuable than they've ever been. Moral condemnation be damned, it's just true... For the most part, artists are not coming out ahead in the current reshuffling. Pirate all you like, if you must, but don't do it under any misconception that you're standing firm with artists against the man, or that you're helping usher in an age that's going to be friendlier to all those artists who've been so mercilessly exploited by the music industry over the years.

Meanwhile, Mike Watt and Ian MacAye and Jeff Mangum keep jamming econo and the kids are finding ways to support themselves by living modestly and selling their shit on the digital street. And ain't dying for nobody nohow.

Your picture of how this works is very, very distorted, from where I sit.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: "Odd that she draws a line between illegally downloading music from kazaa and ripping music from the collection of her college music station. "

As someone who has worked in broadcasting:

This is how people get familiar with an artist's music so they can play it on the radio.


Honestly, I could understand the utility of it--no need to go all bold-faced. For example, as much as I hate getting scads of books not to my tastes from publishers, as mentioned above, I'd rather they send them to me just in case so I can pick ones to review. It works better for the publishers, I think, because then I'm curating a review venue where I'm more passionately supporting books I actually like rather than any old book they happen to send me from a small list.

(Even though I am then stuck with a massive amount of books I'm not supposed to sell.)

I'm just not sure if it's legally distinct from kazaa.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:08 PM on June 18, 2012


"Your inclination sucks. If someone is freeloading on my work, I owe them nothing but a kick in the face. Great that you could get every Anne McCafrey novel ever without ever compensating Anne McCafrey, but to expect her to be gracious about your eagerness for getting something for nothing is an attitude of such entitlement that I can hardly wrap my head around it."

Yeah, we should totally kick the teeth in of everyone who uses a public library. Especially those so poor they can't pay taxes. That's a totally awesome attitude to have and won't at all make people feel justified in pirating your stuff/make people less likely to give you their money. Way to solve the internet.
posted by klangklangston at 1:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


At the local sf bookstore (abc.nl) I once scored a review copy of a Jon Courtenay Grimwood novel; they noticed it wasn't supposed to be for sale, so I got it for free.

I'll note in passing that you're also apparently not influenced by any sense of empathy for those "other people" or by any sense of social obligation that if someone makes you something that you like and value you should want to give them something in return.

Never bought secondhand books than? Because you certainly haven't compensated the authors of those yourself...
posted by MartinWisse at 1:13 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great that you could get every Anne McCafrey novel ever without ever compensating Anne McCafrey, but to expect her to be gracious about your eagerness for getting something for nothing is an attitude of such entitlement that I can hardly wrap my head around it.

At the time I wanted every McCaffrey novel ever, I was twelve. You want to kick a poor twelve year old in the face? Awesome.

I don't really think content creators need to be gracious about this stuff. Mostly, I think they should ignore it and focus on, you know, creating content. If they want, they can do what they can to help get their stuff out there widely and affordably. But as a working writer with contracts and an agent and a publisher and things, I understand that this is often beyond the content creator's reach unless they do the whole indie thing.

In which case, again, they should probably just ignore it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:14 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You notice how nearly all our off-the-cuff arguments on any subject these day are framed with the assumption that, of course, if we want to have a reasonable discussion, we must examine every question or topic from the assumption that we're all mechanically precise, perfectly selfish actors, we have every right to be that way, and in fact that is the only way it ever could be.

I happen to think that (for the same reason that it's easier to consider things as point bodies when calculating a physics problem), but I don't believe in downloading music or movies because I have worked in those fields and it sucks not to get paid. All this stuff about the distribution model being broken is self-serving bullshit unless you are actually a signatory to a recording contract that isn't working for you. Nobody is forcing you to consume new music without paying for it. You don't have an automatic right to listen to whatever you want.

And yes, piracy is a form of theft. You're not stealing the music, you're stealing the purchase price.

Yeah, we should totally kick the teeth in of everyone who uses a public library.

You bring the books back after you're done reading them or you don't get to stay a member of the library. Slight difference, there.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:16 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Even though I am then stuck with a massive amount of books I'm not supposed to sell.

What are you supposed to do with them? If you aren't permitted to transfer possession of the book by sale, then presumably you aren't permitted to transfer possession of the book by gift or discard. That leaves returning them to their legal owners at your own cost or letting them accumulate until you die buried beneath a mountain of books you do not own.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:16 PM on June 18, 2012


Now we are being asked to undo [the system of the artist selling their work] not because we think this is a bad or unfair way to compensate artists but simply because it is technologically possible for corporations or individuals to exploit artists work without their permission on a massive scale and globally.

This is a point worth thinking about. It makes sense for big corporations who sell you internet access, gadgets, search results, etc. to fund the 'free culture' ideas, because everyone's paying for the data (unless they're camped out at the coffee shop I guess) and the hardware.


The solution is obvious: free Internet service for everyone.

Odd that she draws a line between illegally downloading music from kazaa and ripping music from the collection of her college music station.

Yes, isn't it? Like how taping songs off the radio is totally fine, but ripping your friend's CD is not. The whole situation is more than odd, and it's no surprise that kids who grew up with this nonsense have no idea what is legal or not.

We didn't get to take the promo records home when I worked at the radio station when I was in high school.

LOL, that's because the radio station was probably turning around and selling those promo albums to used record stores, who'd then mark them up for kids looking for cheap records (me).

How many (million) times have you see "PROMO ONLY - NOT FOR SALE" on an album at a record store?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:17 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I never stole a sale, there never was a sale (yet) to begin with. The sale from my consumption is when I go to a show, or buy merch, or purchase a special release / one of a kind.

I run 9 different torrents of music you cant find anywhere else. Some of the artist were small print, and the community of fellow pirates thank me endlessly, and are able to enjoy something that would otherwise be lost for all intensive purposes.
posted by handbanana at 1:19 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


How can it be frustrating to hear you have tons of people who enjoy your music? It's not, unless you are a musician who made a few popular records back in the day while your new records, which would have to operate under the new models of direct revenue that are emerging


What's most depressing about all this, in terms of long-term consequence: The twentieth century (the era of recording) has been a *ferociously* creative era for music. And much of the energy that drove it was poor kids who wanted to be rich. The Beatles didn't play until their fingers bled in shitty Hamburg clubs because they loved playing (if you're doing it for love, you stop when it isn't fun any more), they did it to get the hell out of Liverpool. The Wu-Tang Clan wasn't in it for the thrill of recognition, they wanted, well, to quote ODB "Who the fuck wanna be an MC if you can't get paid to be an MC?"

What most of the piracy supporters are working to bring about is a world where music is either state-sponsored, or a not-very-lucrative hobby. Which is fine for stuff that's either elite-approved (classical music and opera) or doesn't require much investment (sloppy indie rock or hip-hop). But it means that any poor kid looking to make it big should invest her time in anything other than making art. Which means that the next Wu-Tang, or Bob Marley, or James Brown, will never happen.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


What are you supposed to do with them? If you aren't permitted to transfer possession of the book by sale, then presumably you aren't permitted to transfer possession of the book by gift or discard. That leaves returning them to their legal owners at your own cost or letting them accumulate until you die buried beneath a mountain of books you do not own.

You are supposed to literally throw them away. Some reviewers donate them to local schools (I give a lot of them to kids I know, even though this is technically depriving an author of a sale and some look down on the practice). But "throw them out" is what marketing departments say, even though they also talk a lot about how expensive review copies are.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:20 PM on June 18, 2012


iTunes permits you to do all those things, if you're a person that never changed email addresses. If you're say, me, who had email tied to an internet provider (like you did back in the day sometimes), and then that email was shuttered when you changed your service, if you forgot that password, there is functionally no way to get back into that account. Which means, no, you can't get it back again.

You do not need an iTunes account if you just want to listen to previously-bought DRM-less tracks. This includes any tracks bought in the last 3.5 years, as well as any older tracks that have had their DRM bits removed through upgrades, etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2012



Also, complaining about the high price of music is nothing new, but before digital distribution, the price was never looked upon as a justification for stealing an LP, Cassette, CD, etc. That was called shoplifting.


actually, it was called home taping.
posted by philip-random at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


actually, it was called home taping.

If you could find someone who owned the music in question.
posted by borges at 1:23 PM on June 18, 2012


actually, it was called home taping.

If you could find someone who owned the music in question.


No, then you bought it and let your friends home tape it.
posted by philip-random at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The economics of this are such that no amount of heartfelt pleas are going to change this. The only thing that canforce people to pay for copyrighted material would be implementing a tyrannical police state that monitors everyone's Internet connection for violations.

I think perhaps there should be a tax on Internet connections to pay royalties, but I don't know how you'd distribute it fairly.
posted by empath at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a lot of good art out there on Spotify for the cost of "listening to some ads every five or ten songs."

Seems to me that it's probably mathematically better (for the arists) if consumers bought 1 CD or 1 LP a year instead of paying for Spotify for the whole year.

Somebody do the math. (I call "not it.")

What's wrong with a Spotify model?

It doesn't compensate artists enough. I tell my wife this every day. She pays $10/month for Spotify. I download all the music I want for free and buy 5-10 albums a month (~$60-120). And I'm the illegal user!!

If you could find someone who owned the music in question.

Most college radio stations were always looking for volunteers.

No, then you bought it and let your friends home tape it.

And/or your friend who worked at the record store would tape it for free or get you the wholesale discount.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll note in passing that you're also apparently not influenced by any sense of empathy for those "other people" or by any sense of social obligation that if someone makes you something that you like and value you should want to give them something in return.

That's correct, yea.

You notice how nearly all our off-the-cuff arguments on any subject these day are framed with the assumption that, of course, if we want to have a reasonable discussion, we must examine every question or topic from the assumption that we're all mechanically precise, perfectly selfish actors, we have every right to be that way, and in fact that is the only way it ever could be.

I find that these assumptions usually help my arguments match reality a lot more closely than not, which is important to me.
posted by jacalata at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2012


How can it be frustrating to hear you have tons of people who enjoy your music?

Well, because I'd like to make more of it? And after spending 8-10 hours at my day job, I'm pretty well drained and often don't feel like doing much besides watching old movies on Netflix.

And before anyone accuses me of having some entitlement issue: no, I don't believe that I necessarily deserve to make a living from music. I'm happy to let the market decide. But it would be nice if more people were willing to pay into that market.

As it stands, I've spent tens of thousands on instruments and equipment. I'm working on an EP that will cost several thousands more out of my own pocket, because things like producers, session musicians, mastering and publicity aren't free. And I'm putting that kind of money into it because it makes a huge difference to the final product. People will argue that it isn't necessary...all you need is Garageband and a microphone...but I've been down that road, and I know what it takes to do my best work.

Yeah, it would be fantastic to carve out a living on my music, but I'd be pretty happy just to break even on making something that people seem to enjoy. Hell, I've been lucky to get some great studio musicians to work at deeply discounted rates because they believe in what I do...I'd be happy just to be able to pay them what they deserve.

I guess the frustrating part is that people are happy to enjoy what I've already poured so much of myself into, but they seem completely unwilling to help me make more of it.
posted by malocchio at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


I hate artists of all stripes and will always do everything I can to destroy them and drive them to suicidal poverty. It's how I roll, babe.
posted by philip-random at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think perhaps there should be a tax

Grover Norquist just shot blood out of his nose and wrote your name on a list.
posted by delfin at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


All the back-and-forth about promo / review copies is ignoring octobersurprise's post upthread that points out a recent federal ruling that distribution of such constitutes a "sale" and that resale / gifting is permissible.
posted by junco at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


ugh, that should be a link to octobersurprise's post upthread
posted by junco at 1:29 PM on June 18, 2012


What most of the piracy supporters are working to bring about is a world where music is either state-sponsored, or a not-very-lucrative hobby. Which is fine for stuff that's either elite-approved (classical music and opera) or doesn't require much investment (sloppy indie rock or hip-hop). But it means that any poor kid looking to make it big should invest her time in anything other than making art. Which means that the next Wu-Tang, or Bob Marley, or James Brown, will never happen.

Fortunately it also means there will never be another Cold Crush Brothers, Sixto Rodriguez, or Ronnie Ronette either. Nowadays those talented musicians would be able to get some compensation off the music they themselves create.

But yes, you're right. That model is dead. There will be no more rockstars (or fewer and fewer). There may not be guitars or bands or microphones. There may not even be composition at all. But there will be music, and there will be genius and some of them will be poor kids trying to get rich or die trying (though I say that some of the best art doesn't give a shit about making money--the founders of hip hop just wanted to get up, on a stage or a bridge or a subway). But someone will find a way to make money on it, this future art. Let's hope its the musicians this time! (unlikely).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:30 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think perhaps there should be a tax on Internet connections to pay royalties, but I don't know how you'd distribute it fairly.

I suspect that some variant on this will be the "answer" to this convoluted and divisive issue, and exactly as you state, middlemen will get between the listeners and the music makers and figure a way to screw both.
posted by philip-random at 1:30 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find that these assumptions usually help my arguments match reality a lot more closely than not, which is important to me.

That's funny, because the actual science shows that this "selfish actor" nonsense is far too reductive a model to be useful. The evidence is in: Homo economicus was still born.

So if you care about getting it right, stop listening to economists!
posted by saulgoodman at 1:32 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nobody is forcing you to consume new music without paying for it. You don't have an automatic right to listen to whatever you want.

I am curious about where people who believe that any music sharing should be prohibited stand on works which, while they may technically still be under copyright, are not presently available for sale, may never be available for sale again, and in some cases were never even originally available in digital format. Is it "So sorry, vinyl-to-digital rips are prohibited. Too bad, you didn't need to hear that music, anyway."?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:32 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: You do not need an iTunes account if you just want to listen to previously-bought DRM-less tracks. This includes any tracks bought in the last 3.5 years, as well as any older tracks that have had their DRM bits removed through upgrades, etc."

That is by no means all of them, though. That's where my paid-for-but-unplayable music went. Every time I try to play them, iTunes tells me I'm not on an authorized system. I even know the user name and password (because at the time, I used the same one everywhere. I know, I don't do that anymore.) but it does not work because they've disabled accounts made via AIM and it for some reason it's forgotten that my new AppleID is the same person I was before. (It knew when I created it, but somehow it got decoupled, and well, I'm SoL.)
posted by Karmakaze at 1:37 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like how taping songs off the radio is totally fine, but ripping your friend's CD is not.

Signal degradation of analog recordings ensures that such copies are inferior. Digital copies are identical, which removes the incentive to purchase a high-quality copy.

I never stole a sale, there never was a sale (yet) to begin with.

The fact that you have to change the words around to make your point shows that it's hollow. Presumably you'd be OK with sneaking into movies or onto trains for free too as long s they have empty seats.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_rider_problem.

I run 9 different torrents of music you cant find anywhere else. Some of the artist were small print, and the community of fellow pirates thank me endlessly, and are able to enjoy something that would otherwise be lost for all intensive purposes.

So you're popular among people like yourself. Congratulations. How is this benefiting the artists? Have you bothered to let them know you're keeping their tunes alive?
posted by anigbrowl at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


oops: Free rider problem
posted by anigbrowl at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2012


What makes you think I paid for any of this?
posted by fuq at 1:40 PM on June 18, 2012


I guess the frustrating part is that people are happy to enjoy what I've already poured so much of myself into, but they seem completely unwilling to help me make more of it.

Look I'm a musician too, and I can say definitively that I have made in my lifetime exactly what my audience has tried to give me, in that they've never been that plentiful. I've been in some good bands, but never once did I think "Ugh I wish all these screaming fans would just hurry up and buy something!" We've never been that good frankly.

If anything, I've played in front of thousands of kids who had never heard of us before and who nevertheless were more than willing to chip in 10-25$ for some DIY merch. As the manager of a band (briefly) I knew what it took to get in front of those people and I did it, and I'm confident you can too. Unless your music isn't really really great and interesting, in which case you don't deserve to be making a living as a musician.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:41 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


"You bring the books back after you're done reading them or you don't get to stay a member of the library. Slight difference, there."

I bring the CDs back after I rip them. I'm good at libraries.

"The Beatles didn't play until their fingers bled in shitty Hamburg clubs because they loved playing (if you're doing it for love, you stop when it isn't fun any more), they did it to get the hell out of Liverpool. The Wu-Tang Clan wasn't in it for the thrill of recognition, they wanted, well, to quote ODB "Who the fuck wanna be an MC if you can't get paid to be an MC?" "

It is charming to see ODB held as an exemplar, but ascribing pure avarice as motivation for artists is a little bit blinkered — if the Beatles had been purely motivated by that, they woulda been bankers.

But hey, what kind of royalties were the Beatles paying to Chuck Berry during their Hamburg days? Performance rights and statutory songwriting royalties, right?
posted by klangklangston at 1:41 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nobody is forcing you to consume new music without paying for it. You don't have an automatic right to listen to whatever you want.

I am curious about where people who believe that any music sharing should be prohibited stand on works which, while they may technically still be under copyright, are not presently available for sale, may never be available for sale again, and in some cases were never even originally available in digital format. Is it "So sorry, vinyl-to-digital rips are prohibited. Too bad, you didn't need to hear that music, anyway."?


Are vinyl to digital rips prohibited? I thought that fell under the fair use, I can make a tape for my car exception. But I may have missed something in the veritable cascade of legislation and decisions that daily come out on this stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2012


That model is dead. There will be no more rockstars (or fewer and fewer). There may not be guitars or bands or microphones.

This is more interesting to me than pro/con discussions of illegal downloading, since times are a-changing no matter how much people argue about it. I've grown up with a certain conception of how musicians earn a living, and that whole structure is crumbling. For those whose livelihoods or dreams depended on that structure, this must be a time of great uncertainty, and for some, sheer terror. We can discern some vague outlines of the structure that's rising up to replace the old one, but nobody really knows what its final form will be. We're living in this weird transition period between the old and the new, and all we can do is shout about it. Interesting times.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:43 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In fact, yeah, it is totally different. Back in the day of making and trading cassettes, anyone with the ability to create and distribute cassettes on a scale even remotely similar to the scale possible of trading digital copies would have absolutely been hunted down and prosecuted as a criminal.

or

Signal degradation of analog recordings ensures that such copies are inferior. Digital copies are identical, which removes the incentive to purchase a high-quality copy.

So again, this seems a matter of scale and effectiveness rather than morality.

Can anyone argue why in fact it is morally different to make a tape than to burn music? To loan or give a book rather than an iPod? Forget the whole scale thing: can anyone answer why it's more wrong?

I get copyright law to a point. I would never attempt to profit by selling music I didn't create. But at what point is simple sharing wrong?
posted by corb at 1:43 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


So if you care about getting it right, stop listening to economists!

Rumors of homo economicus' death have been greatly exaggerated.

Nobody is forcing you to consume new music without paying for it. You don't have an automatic right to listen to whatever you want.

I am curious about where people who believe that any music sharing should be prohibited stand on works which, while they may technically still be under copyright, are not presently available for sale, may never be available for sale again, and in some cases were never even originally available in digital format. Is it "So sorry, vinyl-to-digital rips are prohibited. Too bad, you didn't need to hear that music, anyway."?


I am curious about why people make such unjustified assumptions. I did not argue for the prohibition of music sharing, I argued for abstention from bulk downloading. It's up to you as an individual to make this moral choice for yourself, be honest about what it means, and live with it.

As regards your specific question, I think that maybe there should be a right to republication, but that if you choose to do so you should pay something to the original copyright holder or else contribute to a fund for such orphan works. One way to do this would be to publish an inferior or partial copy and charge for access to the high-quality copy.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:43 PM on June 18, 2012


But hey, what kind of royalties were the Beatles paying to Chuck Berry during their Hamburg days? Performance rights and statutory songwriting royalties, right?

You do know that the club pays those royalties, right? It isn't the performer who does it, because they don't keep the gate, they are paid out of it. That's what ASCAP and BMI do, they collect royalties. If you have live music, you pay for an ASCAP License. This is royalties 101.

The rights-owner's societies have inspectors they send around. If they observe songs being played at clubs they sue the clubs.

Here's what it costs:

A. Audio Uses - Number of Speakers
($225.50 up to 3 speakers $46.50 Each Additional Speaker
Maximum Year’s License Fee $1,890.50) Fee:
(PDF).

That's the license agreement.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:47 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


But hey, what kind of royalties were the Beatles paying to Chuck Berry during their Hamburg days? Performance rights and statutory songwriting royalties, right?
Even the very first "rock" songs--like Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode--were all about making bank on music ("People coming from miles around to hear you do your thing till the sun goes down..." "someday your name will be up in lights saying "Johnny B Goode! Tonight!", etc). Yes, even most of your favorite legends were motivated by a desire for fame and fortune.

Rumors of homo economicus' death have been greatly exaggerated.

Don't tell the scientists that! I'm pretty sure they've already finished the autopsy.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this was posted to the blue previously, but his blog entry from a few months ago, Meet the New Boss, is an equally "enlightening" piece on profits in the music industry. Some good ideas there, but also plenty of moronic asides, such as ripping into Chilling Effects for posting DMCA complaints.

What I really dislike about this post is how spot-on he is on some aspects (mostly industry-related, having plenty of experience there), yet how wrong and narrow-minded he is with other things. It really detracts from his argument, and is off-putting to potential supporters when he does stuff like rip on the EFF, or imply that Google can just wave their magic wand and make all mp3s disappear forever. Don't get me started on calling the Free Culture movement "commercial", as if it's some giant Google/Comcast astroturfing experiment. That's just disrespectful to the rest of us who want solutions to this problem as badly as you do, David.
posted by antonymous at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Signal degradation of analog recordings ensures that such copies are inferior. Digital copies are identical, which removes the incentive to purchase a high-quality copy.

I've related this anecdote before. 1987-88. I'm a little high on acid, tale end of a long party, but my brain's still buzzing along in accelerated mode. A friend tells me about this new thing called a DAT tape that allows for perfect (hiss-free) reproduction, and I instantly say, "You mean, I could tape the new REM album, then you could pull a dub of it with no signal loss, then somebody else could pull a dub of your dub with no signal loss?"

"Yup."

"Well, that's the end of the music industry, isn't it?"

It just seemed obvious, still does. And this was way before the notion of filesharing etc. I saw it all happening via the mail or whatever. But it was the same end. Digital reproduction took away natural analog decay of signal. The music industry didn't catch this and thus was doomed ... as we knew it.

Interesting that the REM album I was thinking of at the time was Document, the one with It's The End Of The World As We Know It.

And I feel fine.
posted by philip-random at 1:49 PM on June 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


It also sounds like she got most of her music in a way that, while free, isn't actually overly convenient (I have delayed ripping my giant CD collection to my iPod because it takes way too fucking long and is a pain in the ass).

Remember back in college, freshman year, near finals when your meal plan was running low? You started eating more ramen, you started going to dumb student life events because they had free gyros, and you started hanging out with a kinda annoying girl who had a lot of extra meal swipes?

For me, consuming music was the same thing. You had more time than money and were anxious to spend that time with your peers, even when it was doing something mundane. Making mix cassettes or (when I finally got a CD burner in 2001) copying CDs was a time when you could talk about music and listen to something new. And maybe flirt with the girl who also liked that 90s punk revival shit that you secretly liked. It was awesome.

At the time my 5GB hard drive and slow internet mandated poor quality internet downloads. I still bought about 10 albums a year up until 2004, attended a handful of shows... and everything the RIAA said rang false. As sharing music got easier, I was buying more music because I was exposed to a lot more stuff I loved; and a free, tinny 64 kbps mp3 wouldn't satisfy. Fiery Furnaces and their label got about 50 dollars from me, even though my first interaction with them was ripping Blueberry Boat from a friend's burned copy. I bought less stuff I didn't care for because I could download a couple songs from napster and realize, man, I really did not care for what Everlast was doing in his career second act or that Louis XIV was boring cock rock.

Then something changed though in the last 5 years.

Downloading songs became too easy. With bit torrent techniques and cheap hard drives in the hundreds of gigabytes, I could wait till the end of the year, download 200 albums picked by some critic, then listen to them for free anytime I wanted on my phone. Even though I had a job since 2006 my music spending dropped off. Spotify is getting 10 dollars a month from me but I feel like this price point has more to do with what people are willing to pay to merely assuage their conscious, not what they're willing to pay to sustain the industry. The current tech of taking music for free is overly convenient. It is absolutely overly convenient.

Music recording and distribution is overly cheap but I feel like most people complain about it for the wrong reasons. When the economics allow 75,000 bands to self finance publication of an album (much less the countless unreleased CDs hocked by the ultra amateur bar bands in my college town) I have no idea how to engage with music anymore. I know maybe a dozen people who've produced their own albums, but even when a girl I was dating produced a bunch of tracks her roommate performed on, it wasn't really special enough for me listen to most of them more than once. With spotify I cruised through a few new artists a week, but they make less and less an impact as my browsing history continuously expands. 15 years of Bob Dylan records was a blur during my January this year.... I'm thinking about starting a vinyl collection just as a new way to interact with music, precisely because it is less convenient and requires more thought. It also require more stability than my vagabond lifestyle can manage right now. Maybe someday.

Lowery has my sympathies. Markets fail for a lot of reasons. Maybe the Free Culture people are right and the barriers placed by laws (such as DRM or restrictive recording contracts and record company cartels) diminish the value of the product while extorting unsustainable price points. Maybe Lowery is right and the market has failed due to a lack of adequate property rights and rule of law.

One thing I know is true; the RIAA is a failure of hubris and greed. 62 Trillion Dollar lawsuits reek of marketing incompetence not seen since the Military believed that fiery Napalm infanticide could make Vietnamese farmers love American capitalism. But that doesn't mean that we don't owe it to ourselves to reflect on the way we interact with music.

On preview; not really saying anything new, I guess... just thinking out loud that things are in flux and I don't think there's set, one right way to configure the market just yet. Artists are going to be poor and die, the rich are going to sue and malign the masses they depend on, public morality will sag in privacy. I don't think it's mine or Emily's or any other generation's fault; its been happening for centuries. It's what happens. Or at least, its just what happens until we figure out a way to make it happen less.
posted by midmarch snowman at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Yeah," I said. "I know. I'm guilty. I understand that. I knew it was a crime, but I did it anyway." I shrugged. "Shit, why argue? I'm a fucking criminal."

Yeah, the music industry is broken, but that's not why I download music. I'm not even going to try to justify it. It's the same reason I pirate all of my movies, games, software, and books. I do it because I can and the risk of paying the consequences is very low.

If I could download a car I would do that too. Sure I'm despicable, but at least I'm honest.
posted by WhitenoisE at 1:52 PM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


He really should have called this "What the world needs now is another folk broke singer like I need a hole in my head."
posted by entropicamericana at 1:54 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am curious about where people who believe that any music sharing should be prohibited stand on works which, while they may technically still be under copyright, are not presently available for sale, may never be available for sale again, and in some cases were never even originally available in digital format. Is it "So sorry, vinyl-to-digital rips are prohibited. Too bad, you didn't need to hear that music, anyway."?

Where, in the constitution or laws of any country is there any right to pay no compensation to a copyright holder who chooses not to market the work? There is a forced licensing provision in the law, but only if the holder decides to sell to some persons. No one can be forced to make available a recording. Some holders may not even want their works circulated. It is their right, not yours.

The fact is that the illegal copiers and downloaders have zero legal right to what they want an zero moral right to it either. Its the same 100 explanations for "why I should get stuff for free."

In the old days, the pirates just admitted they were breaking the law--that's the fun and risk of being a pirate. Now they think they deserve a medal.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Yeah," I said. "I know. I'm guilty. I understand that. I knew it was a crime, but I did it anyway." I shrugged. "Shit, why argue? I'm a fucking criminal."

Yeah, the music industry is broken, but that's not why I download music. I'm not even going to try to justify it. It's the same reason I pirate all of my movies, games, software, and books. I do it because I can and the risk of paying the consequences is very low.

If I could download a car I would do that too. Sure I'm despicable, but at least I'm honest.


Exactly. Very honest.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:57 PM on June 18, 2012


> but nevertheless it's because music, as art, is essentially worthless at this moment in history.

It's statements like that - "The music, the thing that you consider the most important in the world, is actually worthless," that, well, don't fill me full of the love of humanity with respect toward people who say that.

And the worst thing is that it's certainly a lie, and a conscious one - because there are almost no humans for whom music is worthless.

Tell me - how much money would you take from me in exchange for never listening to music again? $10? $100, $1000? I don't think so.

What you mean is that, "Most people won't pay money for music because they can get it for nothing." The fact that "get it" means "illegally" is just some sort of noise to most people.

The fact that you can take someone else's work for free has nothing, nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with the value of that work, unless you're someone so dead that "value" and "money" are synonymous.

The fact that "musician" as a profession in America has been reduced to at most 20% of the employment of what it was when I first became involved in the field is a logical consequence of the fact that most people believe that they are morally entitled to anything they can take.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:58 PM on June 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


The fact is that the illegal copiers and downloaders have zero legal right to what they want an zero moral right to it either. Its the same 100 explanations for "why I should get stuff for free."

But do the people who purchased the CDs have the legal right to the music? Do they have the right to listen to it, to play it at an outdoor barbecue, to give it to a friend? Aren't you limiting their rights when you try to limit the ability of people to, using their own technical equipment, make a copy of something they've legally paid for, and use the thing they've created with things that were all legally theirs?
posted by corb at 2:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't illegally download (anymore) for various reasons.

But if I did, the fact that we Australians are charged twice as much - despite our dollars being roughly at parity these days - would ease my conscience.

A recent analysis by Australian blogger Graham Spencer at MacStories.net found Australians paid 69 per cent more for the Bruno Mars song Grenade than those in the US and 30 per cent more for the Angry Birds app than US users.

Those links are a year old, but the situation is still the same. We are charged higher prices for digital music, and I'm willing to bet that the artist doesn't receive an equivalent higher income.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb: "No one was prosecuting or even implying that this was morally wrong."

They sure implied it then. I bet these days the record industry gets nostalgic about their War on Home Taping and War on Used Record Stores.
posted by the_artificer at 2:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]



In the old days, the pirates just admitted they were breaking the law--that's the fun and risk of being a pirate. Now they think they deserve a medal.


But, Ironmouth, aren't you simply arguing that we ought to follow the law, whatever it is? If a different faction lobbied congress enough tomorrow so that they made "limited time" one year, would you be all OK with people who followed that law?
posted by tyllwin at 2:02 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think stealing from your college radio station or reselling review books are both actually long-lived and fairly old practices...

Centuries. Balzac's Lost Illusions takes place in the 1820's and was written in the 1830's:
"Then it grew plain to me that journalism alone could give me a living. The next thing was to find my way into those shops. I will not tell you all the advances I made, nor how often I begged in vain. I will say nothing of the six months I spent as extra hand on a paper, and was told that I scared subscribers away, when as a fact I attracted them. Pass over the insults I put up with. At this moment I am doing the plays at the Boulevard theatres, almost _gratis_, for a paper belonging to Finot, that stout young fellow who breakfasts two or three times a month, even now, at the Cafe Voltaire (but you don't go there). I live by selling tickets that managers give me to bribe a good word in the paper, and reviewers' copies of books. In short, Finot once satisfied, I am allowed to write for and against various commercial articles, and I traffic in tribute paid in kind by various tradesmen. A facetious notice of a Carminative Toilet Lotion, Pate des Sultanes, Cephalic Oil, or Brazilian Mixture brings me in twenty or thirty francs.

"I am obliged to dun the publishers when they don't send in a sufficient number of reviewers' copies; Finot, as editor, appropriates two and sells them, and I must have two to sell. If a book of capital importance comes out, and the publisher is stingy with copies, his life is made a burden to him. The craft is vile, but I live by it, and so do scores of others. Do not imagine that things are any better in public life. There is corruption everywhere in both regions; every man is corrupt or corrupts others. If there is any publishing enterprise somewhat larger than usual afoot, the trade will pay me something to buy neutrality. The amount of my income varies, therefore, directly with the prospectuses. When prospectuses break out like a rash, money pours into my pockets; I stand treat all round. When trade is dull, I dine at Flicoteaux's. ... "
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 2:02 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


What you mean is that, "Most people won't pay money for music because they can get it for nothing." The fact that "get it" means "illegally" is just some sort of noise to most people.

Nope. What I mean by that is that is: "Individual pieces of music are essentially worthless". There's so much of it for free legally (streaming, given away by musicians, posted on Youtube) that I won't usually or ever pay to own it. Especially new music which is being made in record numbers in new ways for almost no cost and distributed at almost no cost.

I don't download illegally, why would I bother? I don't need to own some specific piece of music, any more than I'd need to own an original version of a picasso when I live next door to the met.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the old days, the pirates just admitted they were breaking the law--that's the fun and risk of being a pirate. Now they think they deserve a medal.

Nobody wants a medal. What they want is a realistic discussion of where we are technologically and thus ethically, not where various vested interests think we should be.

Fact is, it is now possible for a poor person to have a collection of cool recorded music, which wasn't the case twenty years ago. This is not a bad thing.

Another fact is (as Saul Goodman pointed out), artists themselves have generally been fucked around by this technological evolution, which sucks.

So yeah, I'd happily write a check for say fifty bucks a month and send it to some organization that actually put 98% of it into the pockets of deserving artists who needed it (keeping 2% for overhead). Where is that organization?
posted by philip-random at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's what the fee is for taverns, restaurants and bars PDF

Music Type Rate Per Occupant Fee
1. Live Music (check no more than one box if applicable)
Frequency Per Week
4 - 7 nights
3 nights or less
$5.59
$4.67
___________________________________________________________Enter the rate checked above here:____$______________
2. Recorded Music* (check no more than one box if applicable)
If Live Music is not used
If Live Music is also used (must also check a box in Section 1).
$3.26
$2.16
Enter the rate checked above here: $
3. Enhancements to Recorded Music* (check box if applicable, must also check a box in Seciton 2)
$1.89
Enter the rate checked above here: $
4. Admission or Cover Charge* (check box if applicable)
$1.89
Enter the rate checked above here: $
5. Television and/or Radio* (check box if applicable, Skip this Section if you checked a box on line 1 or 2).
$1.24
Enter the rate checked above here: $
6. Total Rate Per Occupant (Add lines 1 - 5) $
7. Total Premises Occupancy Enter 1,000 if Occupancy is greater than 1,000
(If premises occupancy is not established by the local fire or similar authority, use the following formula:
Total Square footage of entire premise /20 = Occupancy).
8. Occupancy Fee
A. Multiply line 7 by line 6.
B. Enter the amount from line 8a, or $348, whichever is higher.
(if no boxes are checked in Sections 1 - 5, enter $0)
9. Jukebox Fee* (skip this Section if our jukebox is currently licensed separately)
8a $
8b $
$163.00 $
10. Annual License Fee (Add the amounts from Boxes 8b and 9)
$

The stuff above was for arenas and entertainment facilities. So a giant arena can only pay $1,800 a year in fees for that stuff. Not sure how they calculate which artist gets what share on the performance royalties for public performances.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2012


In the old days, the pirates just admitted they were breaking the law--that's the fun and risk of being a pirate. Now they think they deserve a medal.

In the old days, there was no copyright, and no one went after monks hand-copying manuscripts.

Where, in the constitution or laws of any country is there any right to pay no compensation to a copyright holder who chooses not to market the work? There is a forced licensing provision in the law, but only if the holder decides to sell to some persons. No one can be forced to make available a recording. Some holders may not even want their works circulated. It is their right, not yours.

The original length of US copyright was 17 years. This has been expanded, of course, but the existence of the public domain means that, for example, it wouldn't much matter if Shakespeare never wanted his plays made publically available. Eventually, even with the most litigious estates (hello, Stephen Joyce), most works will enter the public domain and be made remixable, downloadable, and consumable.

It is our right, as consumers. Not theirs.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Moreover, I'd wager that it's not exactly correct to say that creators of works unavailable for purchase are all actively choosing "not to market their work." Some are dead. Some have no idea how, or that there's a demand.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:06 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the old days, the pirates just admitted they were breaking the law--that's the fun and risk of being a pirate. Now they think they deserve a medal.

But, Ironmouth, aren't you simply arguing that we ought to follow the law, whatever it is? If a different faction lobbied congress enough tomorrow so that they made "limited time" one year, would you be all OK with people who followed that law?


Why, yes. That's exactly what I am saying. I believe the law currently says it is wrong to steal things from persons who are asking money for it, yes. My Mom and Dad taught me that. But yes, if there was some other law that our representatives voted for and our President signed, I'd be for that.

And anyone who thinks they are fighting the good fight to have free music for personal enjoyment is merely justifying that enjoyment with some really solid self-deception.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:06 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because we can't afford to buy all the music we love and enjoy, because our wages have stagnated for 30+ years,

A CD's worth of songs on iTunes or Amazon costs a much, much smaller proportion of average disposable income than an LP's worth of songs cost in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Somehow most of us managed not to make this into an excuse to shoplift all our music.

It's amazing to me how ease of theft becomes a justification for theft. It's the acceptable form of the "but she was asking for it!" defense.
posted by yoink at 2:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


running those torrents benefits the artists in many ways.
1 it allows new and easy discovery
2 the artist doesnt neet to pay for hosting the material, all of us seeding it are
3 rare stuff stays in circulation
4 when tours occur there is more likely to be new fans attending.

Not hard of a concept to understand. Plus if an artist is dead, why the fuck am i paying an estate, which by the way they didnt create shit, but leech off the work of a dead relative or artist owned by big music company. Again, fuck em.
posted by handbanana at 2:08 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I buy music as much as I can, which is to say I will pay if the option is available. I download out of print stuff, rare remixes, or albums I have no way to obtain or are in a format I can't work with (my record player is long gone), or albums that I've bought before and lost at some point over the years. I have discussed this with people and they think what I do is weird, why not just download?

When I grew up, almost all of my allowance went to CDs, records, and tapes. CDs in my city here in Canadia frequently cost upwards of $20 back then, and having slightly more obscure tastes than most of my friends they could cost $35 or more. And this was in the 90s. We would tape the albums for good friends, exchange mixes, etc, but there was something about having the physical album and the liner notes that a lot of us would go out and buy it regardless. It might have something to do with tape sound quality or something, I don't know.

This seems to have changed for kids that grew up with Napster, then Limewire and Kazaa, and now torrents. It's way too easy to just download a song for free that sounds perfectly fine and not think twice about it. I think the reason I still pay is because I'm used to it, and it seems cheaper now than it ever did before. I don't know if I'd call it a failure on the part of the recording industry, but a large part of the market has decided that it's completely fine if they don't pay.
posted by Hoopo at 2:08 PM on June 18, 2012


In the old days, there was no copyright, and no one went after monks hand-copying manuscripts.

Actually, they did. There were composers guilds who did exactly this as far back as Ancient Greece.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:08 PM on June 18, 2012


Fortunately it also means there will never be another Cold Crush Brothers, Sixto Rodriguez, or Ronnie Ronette either. Nowadays those talented musicians would be able to get some compensation off the music they themselves create.



No, it means that now every musician is the Cold Crush Brothers, working hard and not getting paid for it.

But yes, you're right. That model is dead. There will be no more rockstars (or fewer and fewer). There may not be guitars or bands or microphones. There may not even be composition at all. But there will be music, and there will be genius and some of them will be poor kids trying to get rich or die trying (though I say that some of the best art doesn't give a shit about making money--the founders of hip hop just wanted to get up, on a stage or a bridge or a subway).

Horseshit. Is you just want to get up on stage, you get up on stage and hoot'n'hollar'n'have a good time. If you want to make a living, you practice hard, and get good, and try to do something no one's ever seen.

But someone will find a way to make money on it, this future art. Let's hope its the musicians this time! (unlikely).

Nope, it'll be the owners of Megaupload, and the ISPs, and the listeners who can get lots of stuff for free and see no reason why they owe anything to people who sweat blood making the music they consume. Whoopee.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


running those torrents benefits the artists in many ways.
1 it allows new and easy discovery
2 the artist doesnt neet to pay for hosting the material, all of us seeding it are
3 rare stuff stays in circulation
4 when tours occur there is more likely to be new fans attending.


Any stats to back that up?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Somehow most of us managed not to make this into an excuse to shoplift all our music.

When tapes came out we dubbed, and we bought second hand before, during, and after that. The record companies had problems with this too.
posted by Hoopo at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wait, so I can just send $3.26 * 20 = $62.50 a year to ASCAP for my 400 square foot studio apartment and all the people on the internet who chastise me for stealing music can stfu? It can't possibly be that simple!
posted by jepler at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


No one can be forced to make available a recording. Some holders may not even want their works circulated. It is their right, not yours.

The fact is that the illegal copiers and downloaders have zero legal right to what they want an zero moral right to it either. Its the same 100 explanations for "why I should get stuff for free."


It's hardly settled as a moral matter that artists have a moral right to control what happens to their music once it's released into the wild. In fact, the copyright system explicitly acknowledges that we should get some stuff for free: its purpose is to establish rights for a limited time so that stuff will be created that everyone can enjoy forever. As of now, corporations lose the right to control music 95 years after the music is written. As of 100 years ago, artists lost the right 14 years after it was written. Which of those is the moral law? Was the 14-year limit an immoral law, because it deprived artists of the right to control their music while they were still alive? Or are they both immoral, because even the 95 year limit deprives corporations of the right to control their music while they are still alive?

I suspect for the most part orphan works are not an effective way to honor a moral right, but are simply a negative, unintended side effect. Copyright is intended to promote the progress of the arts and sciences; the existence of a massive body of work that copyright makes legally unavailable is one of the ways it fails in its purpose.

There's still an interesting conversation to be had about whether it is moral to violate a law that is failing in its stated goal, especially if you can't be sure in the case of any particular orphan work that it is truly orphaned. But I don't think you can so easily wave away the moral problem of copyright's failures.
posted by Honorable John at 2:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


The beginning of the end for the music industry wasn't Napster; it was AudioGalaxy.

Sure, Napster was first, but it wasn't the best. AG was the first service where, if you looked up a band or song, no matter how obscure, they somehow had it. And that was it. The moment a service like that sprung into being, it couldn't be erased. That has become our modern conception of music : infinite variety. And there's not a damn thing wrong with that. There will always be some kind of service where you can type in a band or song, and no matter how obscure, you'll be able to listen to it, because that is what we want.

We do not want to spend a fixed amount of money and get a fixed number of tracks. It clashes entirely with our modern conception of music listening. Once again, there's no going back. No amount of shaming is going to put the genie back in the bottle. We expect variety.

Spotify is awesome because it's legitimized the thing we want. Will Spotify the company make it? Who knows? I hope they do, because I like their service. But maybe it'll take a few more iterations before the rent-seeking labels consent to a reasonable fee structure, but mark my words, it is going to happen. It's what we want, and what we expect.

There was nothing golden and magic and singular about pressing vinyl or plastic and selling it in bins in stores. Just ask all the early-20th-century musicians who were terrified that recorded music and player piano rolls would destroy their livelihood. The musicians, lawmakers, and consumers worked out a compromise, and the world moved on. The same will happen again.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:16 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why, yes. That's exactly what I am saying. I believe the law currently says it is wrong to steal things from persons who are asking money for it, yes. My Mom and Dad taught me that.

I believe the law on infringement doesn't contain the word "steal, " which you are using for its emotional impact.

But yes, if there was some other law that our representatives voted for and our President signed, I'd be for that.

Actually, I think your argument is entirely consistent. I'm just observing that viewing it as a purely legal question is on a very different moral ground from someone who bases it on a moral right of the creator.
posted by tyllwin at 2:17 PM on June 18, 2012


> We can discern some vague outlines of the structure that's rising up to replace the old one, but nobody really knows what its final form will be.

Oh, it's totally clear now - because it already happened in the last century and all that's happening is the working out of the details.

Almost all of that songwriting and recording income has gone - musicians won't come up with anything to replace it. There will still be some personal music teaching, but DVDs will replace a lot of it. There will still be some bands but they'll basically make money on personal appearances. A few session musicians will make a shitload of money, and of course there will still be "bands that make it big" but as a profession, "musician" is going the way of "buggy whip manufacturer".

If you work in the business, you already saw this happen. The recording studios mostly died. Yes, there are always new ones, but I'd say that 70% of the recording business vanished between 1983 (when I arrived in New York City) and 2003. All those session musicians and music teachers got busy learning HTML. I'm trying to think if I know even a single professional instrumentalist any more and the answer is that (aside from an actual performing violinist I met last week in Berlin) I know a couple of avant-garde people who are primarily supported by academic money (and live a penurious existence).

In some ways you won't notice it. There will still be bands of ambitious young males playing in your local bars and such, and I'm sure Aerosmith will still tour, as will Matmos.

What we're going to miss is a lot of voices speaking to us - I mean, who's the great instrumentalist of our age?(*) I don't think people even have this concept much any more... that musicians are "voices" that speak to us - and I don't think that the welter of written and spoken voices on the internet are a replacement for this.

(* - me! ;-) )
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am a pirate, I break the law. In fact, I break laws all the time.

I never agreed to this social contrat of being a whore for corporate interests, I was born into it.
posted by handbanana at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've grown up with a certain conception of how musicians earn a living, and that whole structure is crumbling.

Kind of. People will still always be paid to pay live events, no? I figured that was the main way most musicians got paid: concert performances.

"Well, that's the end of the music industry, isn't it?"

It just seemed obvious, still does.


... and yet here we are, 25 years later. How long does this patient intend to hang on?

I don't illegally download (anymore) for various reasons.

To be honest, I have ZERO idea whether the "downloading" I do is legal or not.

I believe the law currently says it is wrong to steal things from persons who are asking money for it, yes.

Citation?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:22 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, it means that now every musician is the Cold Crush Brothers, working hard and not getting paid for it.

Do you know any successful musicians? I know lots. They're successful because they are good at what they do, and they aren't greedy. They make decent livings being incredibly talented. Others are incredibly talented but just haven't really clicked yet--they haven't made something poppy (or crazy or metal or whatever word indicating "potentially viral") enough to be both cool and popular. So they have day jobs and keep trying.

The mediocre ones complain that they work hard and nobody buys their shit. But it doesn't matter how hard you work--music is art, and only great art sells (or incredibly well crafted pop that is made to sell, but that's a different story). If you make the pretty musics, people will pay for it, in one way or another. Just not in that Shooting Star, double-sided LP way.

If you want to make a living, you practice hard, and get good, and try to do something no one's ever seen.

Cool. Then do it. If you succeed at the latter I promise you can still do the former, via bandcamp, touring, kickstarter, Facebook and twitter.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:23 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, who's the great instrumentalist of our age?

Easy one: Kenny G.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:24 PM on June 18, 2012


You know what I hate? I see both sides of this argument; the end user, who just wants to pay a fair price directly to an artist for their works; and the artist, who just wants to receive some money for the work they do. That transaction would be easy and cheap using modern infrastructure and tools like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to generate buzz for music organically.

Meanwhile, huge corporations stand in the way of both parties getting satisfaction on what should be a pretty simple thing right now. So, some steal and some go hungry. I don't blame either party for being angry and frustrated, because the people on both sides have clearly articulated what they need and the behemoth corporations have helped write the laws that make that next to impossible.

The reality is, at some point more and more artists need to start selling to their fans; maybe the quality of production goes down, but everyone involved wins. Plus, we stop getting Carly Rae Jepsen jammed down our throats, because there will be no mega-conglomerates to decide what people should listen to. We, the user, will decide.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ironmouth, why did you assume that I pirate music?

1) I haven't downloaded albums in many years, iTunes aside.

2) Way back in undergrad I did download some music, but it is my understanding that it was legal to do so at the time. Perhaps I was mistaken, but as I recall there used to be a fee in Canada on cassettes, hard drives and other blank media. It was assumed that some people would be recording or downloading songs, and that fee was supposed to go to copyright holders to compensate them for that. Through that fee, I did pay for any songs I downloaded. Once torrenting really took off that deal was scrapped, but it was in effect at the time.

Every song I have in my possession was legally obtained. Did it occur to you that I might be opposed to the current system of commercially distributing music on principled grounds?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


The reality is, at some point more and more artists need to start selling to their fans; maybe the quality of production goes down, but everyone involved wins. Plus, we stop getting Carly Rae Jepsen jammed down our throats, because there will be no mega-conglomerates to decide what people should listen to.

Isn't that exactly what's been going on the past 10-15 years? Prince said it at the Webbys in .... 2006? ...

"eliminate the middleman."
posted by mrgrimm at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This delightful...poem? list? Piece of text, anyway, that i just ran across on the great free music site UbuWeb, seems apropos here:

A Few Dozen Copies of a Bland Pop Album That Will Soon Cease to Exist

posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 2:32 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


running those torrents benefits the artists in many ways.
1 it allows new and easy discovery
2 the artist doesnt neet to pay for hosting the material, all of us seeding it are
3 rare stuff stays in circulation
4 when tours occur there is more likely to be new fans attending.

Not hard of a concept to understand.


The patronizing comment would be annoying, even if you weren't utterly wrong.

New and easy discovery? Why do I care if I'm "discovered" by you, if I can't make a living off it?

Not having to pay for hosting? Come on! Hosting is cheap - you can serve a song for a lot less than a cent. If the artists were making money comparable to their play, the cost of hosting would be negligible.

Rare stuff stays in circulation? How does that benefit the artist?

"when tours occur there is more likely to be new fans attending."

I don't know if this is true or not.

I first note that this forces musicians to constantly tour to make a living - which, as I have commented before, is no fun at all, quite dangerous, and is probably not something you want to do when you have a family.

But in fact there's no evidence at all that there are more fans going out to music shows.

Yes, touring revenues are up overall recently - but this is entirely due to the megaconcerts, with monster ticket prices and hundreds of millions of dollars going to huge venues and a small number of acts. Madonna's record-breaking tour really has no positive consequence for me, a "regular" musician.

In every city I know, venues for concerts have been steadily shutting down every year and being replaced by nothing. And even if you include the megaconcerts, the steady gains in music's touring revenue are as nothing compared to the meteoric collapse of royalties and mechanicals.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:34 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I buy used books. I listen to the radio and leave the room or mute it during ads. I borrow books from friends. I block ads on web pages. I watch DVDs at friends' houses. I skip, mute, or fast-forward the ads during recorded TV. I vote for congressmen who strip artists of their copyrights after a certain number of years. I listen to Spotify, which does not compensate musicians enough to sustain a career. I sign up for internet deals using false data that prevents them from sending me the emailed advertisements that presumably allow those internet deals. When I see ads in magazines and newspapers, I intentionally ignore them; when I hear them in the grocery store, I tune them out. I have traded mix tapes and mix CDs with friends, and even copied whole CDs. I have used my own binoculars at national parks instead of the 25-cent machines. Every moment of every day, I am not giving money to the billions of poor who deserve it far more than any artist. There are many people who deserve my money whom I harm in no way apart from not giving it to them. When I do decide to give money based on who deserves it, rather than based on what the law compels, deserving musicians are on the list, but well down on it. In the meantime, I feel no great moral need to deny myself the music of musician X while deciding whether musician X makes the next round of charity donations. I apologize if this upsets musician X or those that believe that my voluntary compensation of artists or advertisers takes precedence over my other voluntary donations.
posted by chortly at 2:38 PM on June 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


> In the meantime, I feel no great moral need to deny myself the music of musician X while deciding whether musician X makes the next round of charity donations. I apologize if this upsets musician X or those that believe that my voluntary compensation of artists or advertisers takes precedence over my other voluntary donations.

"I take music because I can, and I because am a free spirit, take that you old farts."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


in fact there's no evidence at all that there are more fans going out to music shows.

In fact they are going to fewer "shows." However, they are going to more DJ nights, electronic music exhibits, Mashup parties (or whatever lol), and freestyle competitions. Rock is declining. Other forms of music, supporting other kinds of musician, are growing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:44 PM on June 18, 2012


Isn't that exactly what's been going on the past 10-15 years? Prince said it at the Webbys in .... 2006? ...

"eliminate the middleman."


The impetus of this whole thread is an artist who is advocating for people to support artists using the existing system...so no, while I think a few are moving that direction, the record labels continue to power out a bunch of albums every year.

I understand why; paying to record an album and promoting it out of pocket is really expensive. Louis CK or Prince can up front that because they can access credit readily; a relatively unknown band is a lot less likely to be able to. So there are some barriers to entry, sure, but recording a three song demo and shopping it around for gigs costs almost nothing these days, using better tools than they did 15 years ago, and if you scrimp and pinch and take other jobs too, you can save up enough to get a quality product out.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:44 PM on June 18, 2012


In the meantime, I feel no great moral need to deny myself the music of musician X while deciding whether musician X makes the next round of charity donations. I apologize if this upsets musician X or those that believe that my voluntary compensation of artists or advertisers takes precedence over my other voluntary donations.

I'm just imagining what your response would be if, say, you discovered tomorrow that Coca Cola had found an image on your Flickr account and decided to use it without compensating you in an ad campaign. Imagine what the AskMetafilter thread on that issue would be like. The outrage, the white-knuckled fury of it, the advice to consult a lawyer and get what you deserve as the owner of your artistic output. Now imagine the response if Coca Cola's lawyers wrote in reply to your complaint "We're sorry, but you just don't make our next round of charity donations. Maybe next time?"
posted by yoink at 2:47 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Almost all of that songwriting and recording income has gone - musicians won't come up with anything to replace it. There will still be some personal music teaching, but DVDs will replace a lot of it. There will still be some bands but they'll basically make money on personal appearances. A few session musicians will make a shitload of money, and of course there will still be "bands that make it big" but as a profession, "musician" is going the way of "buggy whip manufacturer".

While that may be where things are heading in the near term, I just don't know that it's how the things will end up over the long term. Yes, the system of patronage that (select) musicians have enjoyed to this point is breaking down, and the resulting vacuum seems to be reducing the opportunities for musicians to, essentially, busking for a living. But the difference between a musician and a buggy whip manufacturer is that people stopped needing or wanting buggy whips, whereas, barring some titanic shift in human nature, people will always love music. Which means that there will always be people coming up with clever, innovative ways to capitalize on that love.

God knows, it's 1000% easier for me, as a mere consumer of music, to be optimistic about the future than it would be if I were a professional musician, but nevertheless, I cannot see the present situation as anything but a crazy, confused time when one model is dying and the new model has yet to rise up out of the chaos of would-be solutions to replace it.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:47 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, it is funny how corporations aren't people, isn't it?
posted by vorfeed at 2:48 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


(in response to yoink)
posted by vorfeed at 2:48 PM on June 18, 2012


Is chortly, like Coke, a profit-making enterprise?
posted by tyllwin at 2:48 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm just imagining what your response would be if, say, you discovered tomorrow that Coca Cola had found an image on your Flickr account and decided to use it without compensating you in an ad campaign. Imagine what the AskMetafilter thread on that issue would be like. The outrage, the white-knuckled fury of it, the advice to consult a lawyer and get what you deserve as the owner of your artistic output. Now imagine the response if Coca Cola's lawyers wrote in reply to your complaint "We're sorry, but you just don't make our next round of charity donations. Maybe next time?"

That is not an apt analogy. In your coca cola example, coca cola is using chortly's image to make a profit. To make your analogy more accurate, coca cola would have to have downloaded chortly's image to look at whenever they wanted, not to make cash.
posted by dazed_one at 2:52 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


but before digital distribution, the price was never looked upon as a justification for stealing an LP, Cassette, CD, etc. That was called shoplifting.

I'm going to ignore the pathetic attempt to conflate file sharing with shoplifting, and just point out that I have a whole lot of dubbed tapes from my younger years that argue against this all being a new phenomenon.

Lots of other people, I'm sure, can recall going to the record store with a bunch of friends, only being able to afford one album (or none), and picking up a stack of blank tapes instead. So, to spell it right out: the high price certainly was, if not a justification, certainly a reason for engaging in something that the record companies at the time frowned on: either dubbing, or just taping from the radio.

Sure, analog media had generation loss and digital media doesn't, but that was never a concern in my world -- our stereos weren't that good, anyway.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:53 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


A lot of my friends are musicians, some successful in that music is all they do and they make a living at it, and the others music is more of a side job/hobby that they do in addition to their "real" job.

Both sets are prolific downloaders and sharers of music. I asked one friend in particular why he downloads and shares other peoples music without buying it, and he said that he doesn't like to go to shows alone and his theory is that if/when he gets people hooked on music he likes they'll be more likely to go to shows and buy CDs and merch at the shows.

I think that people enjoy knowing that their friends have experienced some of the same things...a particular album, a horrible smell, a taste of something delicious.

Bottom line is that one of the reasons I have downloaded most of the studio albums I have is because I've paid for a CD sometime in the past, and either it was stolen from me or borrowed and never returned...and I'm not about to buy another copy.
posted by schyler523 at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


While I've read this post hundreds of times over the past 15 years, I'm happy that the argument has moved from "legal repercussions" to "ethical obligation."

The standard retort to to all of this hasn't changed in 15 years either - it is not my responsibility to participate in someone's business model.
posted by MillMan at 2:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


people will always love music.

But people will not always love Jazz. That's why lovers of Jazz set up foundations and schools and got public funding while playing the music they love and think is dirty and dangerous in each other's living rooms for nothing. Now apply this process to rock and roll. Now apply the same thing to all music with instruments. Pop is fickle as a motherfucker. Capitalism is worse. People like Dave Lowery need to stop complaining and start taking action to save rock music from perishing as a live Art form.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


reducing the opportunities for musicians to, essentially, busking for a living.

While simultaneously expanding their street corner to every corner of the Earth, via places like kickstarter and youtube. Then again, their competition has expanded from "other bands in town" to "every band on the planet".
posted by fings at 3:04 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I dont have "hard facts" particularly when it comes to independent bands, small labels, or indie type music, but I know pirating has made me and many of my friends loyal followers who go to shows, and support the band directly.

And I wasnt trying to be an ass, but if you cant figure out the difference between copyright infringment and theft, one is a bit dense. No one is being deprived of any property. Its a copy of zeros and ones, the original remains and no one was missing or having their mp3 stolen from a copy. The whole "its theft" rings hollow. Hence why we have a thing called "copyright infringment" which is a civil matter, not a criminal one like theft.
for christ sakes, I hope that is clear enough.
posted by handbanana at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lots of other people, I'm sure, can recall going to the record store with a bunch of friends, only being able to afford one album (or none), and picking up a stack of blank tapes instead. So, to spell it right out: the high price certainly was, if not a justification, certainly a reason for engaging in something that the record companies at the time frowned on: either dubbing, or just taping from the radio.

This, exactly. And it's interesting - I have yet to see one person here say that they think sharing music between friends is wrong, but somehow when it comes to the impersonality of "the internet" it is. Which is funny, given this is taking place on an internet community that's really not that impersonal.
posted by corb at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


In summation: Justin Bieber. Jhameel. Earl Sweatshirt. Thank you and good night.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2012


I'm going to ignore the pathetic attempt to conflate file sharing with shoplifting, and just point out that I have a whole lot of dubbed tapes from my younger years that argue against this all being a new phenomenon.

It's already been pointed out here that anybody who duplicated on mass scale would have been prosecuted. People break laws. Doesn't change the fact that it is illegal. "I wouldn't have bought it anyway because I didn't have the money" isn't a defense.
posted by borges at 3:08 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


recording a three song demo and shopping it around for gigs costs almost nothing these days

Recording a three-song EP and selling it on Bandcamp costs virtually nothing as well.

In fact they are going to fewer "shows." However, they are going to more DJ nights, electronic music exhibits, Mashup parties (or whatever lol), and freestyle competitions. Rock is declining. Other forms of music, supporting other kinds of musician, are growing.

I would like some metrics there. Or are you just blowing smoke?

It's already been pointed out here that anybody who duplicated on mass scale would have been prosecuted.

I duplicated LPs and tapes to tapes on a mass scale in the '80s and early '90s and was never prosecuted (Or is 1,000s not mass enough?)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's already been pointed out here that anybody who duplicated on mass scale would have been prosecuted. People break laws. Doesn't change the fact that it is illegal. "I wouldn't have bought it anyway because I didn't have the money" isn't a defense.

Maybe some people aren't arguing whether it's legal or not but whether it should be legal or not.
posted by dazed_one at 3:11 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey Potomac Avenue thanks for the pointers to awesome artists I'd never heard of.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 3:12 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Rock is declining.

Wait, what?! When did this become about rock music?

There is, overall, a lot less money in live music performances except at the top level, and that includes chiptunes to reggae bands.

Some of that money has gone to DJs - but DJs aren't "live music". Don't get me wrong, there are many DJ's I adore, I go to dozens of DJ shows a year, but this isn't "live music" - and if your local bar hung a sign outside saying, "Live music" and there was a DJ and no band, they'd get complaints.

Yes, DJs are sometimes creating brand-new music - but the biggest thing that DJs do is to play music recorded and performed by other people. Both in law and in custom, there's a difference between "musicians" and "people who play recorded music".

Even if you include DJs, money spent on music overall is down hugely. And I would say, yes, if you are interested in making money from music, you are much better off today learning how to be a DJ than learning how to play an instrument, but I don't see that as a good thing...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:12 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


People break laws. Doesn't change the fact that it is illegal. "I wouldn't have bought it anyway because I didn't have the money" isn't a defense.

It doesn't need to be a defense, because "it is illegal" isn't much of an attack. I think the law is counterproductive, so I'm going to continue to ignore it.
posted by cdward at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


But people will not always love Jazz. That's why lovers of Jazz set up foundations and schools and got public funding while playing the music they love and think is dirty and dangerous in each other's living rooms for nothing.

Interesting...most of these discussions revolve around popular music, but what about forms like jazz and classical that have sort of fallen out of mass popularity. I have zero facts to back anything up, but I wonder if there's been any increase in interest in these genres since one major barrier to entry (the cost of buying albums) has been reduced to almost nothing.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2012


I only listen to Pandora these days. Am I in the clear, or not?
posted by maxwelton at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2012


People break laws. Doesn't change the fact that it is illegal.

But in most people's book's breaking a law isn't automatically immoral. Jaywalking is a law, the speed limit on a deserted highway is a law, not giving money to panhandlers, or not sleeping on park bench, or not harboring an unlicensed dog may be a law. Many would say that these are not necessarily immoral acts, and I'm always puzzled by people conflating the two.
posted by tyllwin at 3:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A Few Dozen Copies of a Bland Pop Album That Will Soon Cease to Exist

A Few Dozen is down to 1 dozen or less, probably. Anyone with the name of the album (Adele's 21) in the URL or on their site has gotten a take-down request. Many have complied.

Cool poem, though.

I wonder if there's been any increase in interest in these genres since one major barrier to entry (the cost of buying albums) has been reduced to almost nothing.

It's interesting because I was just getting into jazz and I had already been into classical for a while when Napster hit. Now, I don't listen to either much at all. Previously, both had been available at discount prices. Now everything is flat (free). So there's that.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:16 PM on June 18, 2012


Laws are not equal to morality in any way shape or form (for the most part, with a few exception, murdering, rape ect.). Least we forget the laws we had in our own past... segregation, bans on interracial marriages, laws against gays.

In short laws =/= morality.
posted by handbanana at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't pirate music anymore. I'm a year younger than Emily, but exposure and access to that much music burns me out. I just end up never listening to it at all.

I like being able to focus on one song or one album. If I don't like or respect the music enough to want to buy the album, it's not worth it to have a copy on my computer.

I listen to CDs a lot at my college radio station. It's difficult to listen to the digital collection unless you're actually in the studio, so I never do. If I like a CD, I buy a copy on my own and try to support the artist.

It makes me sad that some of my peers don't do this. I don't call myself a musician - I don't think I'm good enough - but I hate the idea that I probably wouldn't be able to support myself if I wanted to be one.
posted by topoisomerase at 3:19 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's something interesting in the fact that media, quite possibly, is the one commodity that has the greatest difference in cost between initial production and marginal production.

To make a movie, it costs a lot of money. To make a copy, you can hardly measure it cents per thousand copies.

To make an album, it can take as many hours as a full time person works in a year. To make a thousand copies of it, virtually nothing.

This problem isn't going to simply go away. Many days I consider my own music making not in terms of who might buy it in 2012 to listen to my communication, but the fact that I can get it onto iTunes and Amazon music, and maybe in a decade or in a hundred years or in a thousand, if the archaeologists decide to dig into 2012 music, I may be able to communicate with them as well.
posted by chimaera at 3:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


> The standard retort to to all of this hasn't changed in 15 years either - it is not my responsibility to participate in someone's business model.

Taking someone else's music without paying for it simply because you can is not at all the same as "not participating in their business model".

That's going to be my new excuse phrase, "Sorry, officer, I wasn't shoplifting, I just can't participate in that ugly business model the store has."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are no gatekeepers and no rules to making good music. Record labels do nothing. Nobody reads Rolling Stone.

I'm not so sure about that "record labels do nothing" part. The gatekeeping and control on distribution is gone, yes. I don't think the gatekeeping and control on attention has gone in anything like the same way.

The number of smash-hit artists of the post-piracy era who have arisen entirely outwith the attention channels controlled or supported by the record industry is small, mostly outliers.

The beast isn't dead yet.
posted by fightorflight at 3:22 PM on June 18, 2012


There is no good metaphor for copying music. So stop trying to make the shoplifting and stealing metaphors. They're tired and useless.

If I take a shirt from a store, that is a shirt they do not have any longer. If I copy a song, presto! I have one AND they have one.
posted by chimaera at 3:23 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


if your local bar hung a sign outside saying, "Live music" and there was a DJ and no band, they'd get complaints

Most local bars with signs that say "Live Music" have nobody inside. The ones that have DJs or electronic acts have a bunch of people inside buying drinks. The best DJs are curating shit that most people aren't aware and using . The worst are hitting play on a wedding mix. But that's what people want to go to, in most urban areas I've been in. Dont really have any more data than that.

That's going to be my new excuse phrase, "Sorry, officer, I wasn't shoplifting, I just can't participate in that ugly business model the store has.

"Punk fashion is shite. Real punks nick their gear." --Sid Vicious
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:26 PM on June 18, 2012


And you have made somebody worse off because you didn't pay.
posted by borges at 3:26 PM on June 18, 2012


lupus_yonderboy: Taking someone else's music without paying for it simply because you can is not at all the same as "not participating in their business model".

What I find most interesting about these conversations is that they demonstrate just how large the gap can be between people's personal systems of ethics. Statements like the above are totally incomprehensible to me. There's no shared ground here, and it's difficult to tell where the divergence begins.
posted by cdward at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lupus, you are missing the point. No is missing their orignal copy. How hard is that to grasp? I am being sincere in this question. No one "stole" anything. Its a fucking copy.
posted by handbanana at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting because I was just getting into jazz and I had already been into classical for a while when Napster hit. Now, I don't listen to either much at all. Previously, both had been available at discount prices. Now everything is flat (free). So there's that.

That is interesting -- was your decline in interest related to the whole downloading thing in some way, or was it coincidental? The idea is expressed often that all this freely available music will result in more eclectic listeners, but maybe it only reinforces existing interests? Or takes so much of the challenge out of exploration that it's less compelling?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2012


Sorry this sentence "The best DJs are curating shit that most people aren't aware and using ."
should be:

The best DJs are curating shit that most people aren't aware and using tools like Ableton and other neat tricks to blend them into a dance party that is very much an art or at least a craft.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:28 PM on June 18, 2012



I'm not so sure about that "record labels do nothing" part. The gatekeeping and control on distribution is gone, yes. I don't think the gatekeeping and control on attention has gone in anything like the same way.


In some ways, yeah, the problem is that we now have an embarrassment of riches. I can legally access more free music than I could ever listen to in ten lifetimes. My problem is that I think 90% of it is crap, 90% of the remainder isn't to my taste, and I have no way in the world to sort it out. I wish I could pay someone for reliable suggestions.
posted by tyllwin at 3:29 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It’s amazing that people keep using the same cowardly arguments about not supporting the RIAA or the record companies (which they don’t really seem to understand at all) and then ignore the point of this article; that they are just support other giant corporations and entities that are stealing money from the artists when they illegally download. It’s just a bunch of nonsensical rationalization.
posted by bongo_x at 3:29 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


11k songs at a dollar a song is about $11,000. Do we really expect a 21 year old to have spent $10k on music?
posted by delmoi at 3:29 PM on June 18, 2012


It doesn't need to be a defense, because "it is illegal" isn't much of an attack. I think the law is counterproductive, so I'm going to continue to ignore it.

do you mind if somebody thinks the law allowing you to take their wallet is counterproductive and takes it from you?

For all the people who say they "never signed on to the social contract," you sure do seem to think that robbers and other types stay out of your neighborhood because they just feel like it. You wish to benefit from the system when it suits you, but when it doesn't, well, fuck it, you'll just introduce your own personal morality.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


11k songs at a dollar a song is about $11,000. Do we really expect a 21 year old to have spent $10k on music?

Are you asking if the claim that she didn't illegally take music from others is wrong, or saying that she's entitled to own 11,000 songs and how can we expect her to have that much money?
posted by Ironmouth at 3:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but that guy's stealing my wallet because he has no money with which to buy CDs.

IRONIC!
posted by delfin at 3:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


that they are just support other giant corporations and entities that
1) It's easy to support someone when it doesn't actually cost you any money or effort.

2) Not all "Giant corporations" are the same. I'd much $1 to Google then send $10,000 to the RIAA.

3) If you're talking about ISPs, I'd still have to pay for the internet even if I wasn't pirating songs. So how is that an improvement? I have a choice between "supporting" both or just "supporting" one. The only way this makes sense if people were choosing ISP service over buying music, which is absurd. Sites like the pirate bay aren't huge corporations.

4) Adblock. I'm not even supporting them anyway (Other then my ISPs). Not that I have a huge problem with Google's ads, it's the rest of the crap on the internet that's annoying, but they do end up as collateral damage.
do you mind if somebody thinks the law allowing you to take their wallet is counterproductive and takes it from you?
Yeah! Do you mind the law that prevents your slaves from fleeing to the north!? Oh slavery isn't comparable to buying music? Well, guess what: stealing a wallet isn't comparable to downloading a song either.
posted by delmoi at 3:36 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


that they are just support other giant corporations and entities that are stealing money from the artists when they illegally download. It’s just a bunch of nonsensical rationalization.

Physical goods are actually scarce. Digital goods are a completely artificial scarcity enforced by a government policy. That is not a "rationalization," though we can reasonably differ about how we ought to resolve that.
posted by tyllwin at 3:37 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lupus, you are missing the point. No is missing their orignal copy. How hard is that to grasp? I am being sincere in this question. No one "stole" anything. Its a fucking copy.

the taking of a right without compensation is stealing. when you take someone's car, you are legally taking away their right to enjoyment and use of their car. when you take away someone's licensed recording without paying the requested fee, you are taking away their right to charge you for it.

you can try to obfuscate the case by trying to pretend that the only stealing involves the taking of a physical object, but that ain't the way the laws are written. that's why borrowing a car is still stealing it, even if you return it.

nobody pays attention in social studies anymore. or the teachers can't teach.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:37 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth, I know you are a smart person, in fact, I usuallly respect and look forward to your insight within the community.When your name pops up in a thread, I always look it over.

You are an attorney, you know the difference and how it is not a analogy.

Besides, we all breaks law, but generally as a collective have an understanding of what is right and what is wrong. The thing is with this issue, it is a corporate sponsered bullshit campaign. Seriously, a lawsuit for more money than in existence brought forth by these asshats? They can go fuck themselves.

Then again, I am a bit jaded. I am a criminal everyday for the herb I inhale. I have been shaken down by a prosecutor many years ago. This is neither here nor there, but when the system has labeled me unsavory and wrong, dispite my work and dedication to my communities, friend and family one can generally get use to going against the grain from time to time.
posted by handbanana at 3:39 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


If my laptop died and my hard-drive disappeared tomorrow, I would certainly mourn the loss of my 100+ playlists, particularly the archives of all my college radio shows. But I'd also be able to re-build my "library" fairly easily. If I wanted to listen to something I didn't already have in my patchwork collection, I could stream it on Spotify.
OMG, seriously, learn how to do a backup
posted by delmoi at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


So I think everyone is actually in agreement about the actual state of affairs.

People are just taking music regardless of legality, and no really cares except a few old-fashioned people, because, hey, how can you stop it?

And the people who create the recordings and try to claim ownership of them, well, that's like pissing in the wind, isn't it? Kind of pathetic, really - they should just be happy people like them.

The only difference here is how we like this state of affairs.

About the legality part - well, the reason that there are laws about copying things is that a long time ago most people agreed that creators deserved to have a chance to make some money from the things they created, and laws were passed to make sure that they had some limited control over their creations.

There was no debate or discussion over whether these rules were suddenly wrong and whether creators deserved compensation any more - it suddenly became easy to break these rules and everyone did.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:41 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In between my day job I've worked off and on in the music industry as a musician for the past 10 years. And this is my ultimate assessment: the sense of entitlement, the financial waste, the amount of middlemen seeking their pound of flesh is an absolute disgrace.

I've met musicians who complain about not making an income from their music, but ask them to play a C# minor and they draw a blank. They have no sense of craft, no sense of artistry, no sense of hard work. They think that they can spend three months writing twelve disposable songs consisting of four chords, covered by puerile lyrics unworthy of a prepubescent teen and the world suddenly owes them a six figure income.

There are plenty of aspiring artists in other fields (writing, painting, film-making etc.) that spend their youth not making a single dime from their work. That's the nature of art. It's supposed to be a passion (right?) that might turn into an income or, if you're really lucky, a lottery ticket. Is there any good reason that a musician should earn significantly more than, say, a civil engineer working 60 hours a week?

The future model as I see it is that the majority of talented professional musicians make a comfortable after tax income of around $50k-$100k, primarily from touring, streaming, merchandise and digital sales. If the dichotomy of poverty (Vic Chestnutt - btw a disgraceful thing to throw in Emily White's face) vs. insane wealth (Beyonce, Jay Z et. al.) is of such concern then perhaps musicians should consider unionizing and distributing their income.
posted by smithsmith at 3:42 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


What we need are committed and economically successful local and regional markets--the internet by itself doesn't promote that. I strongly suspect anything that would promote strong regional markets and audiences would help, but as it is, the internet by itself is turning out to be more a medium for propping up the existing industry power structure a little longer while those powers that be figure out new ways to do business than for bringing about any kind of cultural renaissance--but the underlying shifts needed to really make things better are cultural and social, not political or legal in nature.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:42 PM on June 18, 2012


do you mind if somebody thinks the law allowing you to take their wallet is counterproductive and takes it from you?

Yeah! Do you mind the law that prevents your slaves from fleeing to the north!? Oh slavery isn't comparable to buying music? Well, guess what: stealing a wallet isn't comparable to downloading a song either.


so taking someone else's hard work so you can listen for free is the same as the underground railroad?

Yes, you're right. why there's no one more morally right than the people who are running the underground railroad of songs, who never listen to any stolen songs themselves, but are selflessly only passing songs on, without ever benefiting personally.

please do not compare taking something for your own personal enjoyment and use to the people who risked their lives to help others become free of chattel slavery. people who are doing this are just doing it for their own benefit, not others.

It is exactly comparable. Exactly. It is the taking away of their right to grant you the song under conditions of their choice, conditions that allow them to feed their family and live. As the person who either wrote or played on the song, or the person they sold that right to in a transaction allowing the artist to receive value for the work, they have the right to license their song for a particular amount of money. downloading that song without paying the money is taking away the right to the use and enjoyment of a right, in the same exact way that some one taking your money out of your wallet prevents you from exercising your right to enjoy the money as you see fit.

This is the law of our property relations. Although you may wish they were otherwise, so as to justify the obtaining of licensed works without paying for them, this is how we have done this.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:45 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


See I truly think the internet offers awesome, and new techniques for artists all around. No longer shackled by a label, or forced into unfair contracts.
See Louis Ck and others. Even though I am a pirate to the fucking core, I still gave him 5 bucks. Why? Because I wanted to to directly support him. I wanted to promote this method of distribution.

Agree on the whole art for arts sake. If you are in it for $, you probably are making shit art
posted by handbanana at 3:46 PM on June 18, 2012


If culture is dead, let it die.

(spoiler: it's not)
posted by Sebmojo at 3:48 PM on June 18, 2012


I've run a small label (and I can play C# minor and even the diminished 7th) and I can offer a completely different POV than Smith Smith up there. What I see coming is slightly trumped up commercial jingles for consumer goods on endless repeat for eternity... Unless audiences start caring more about what music they consume and people start playing a more active and direct role in A&R from the beginning of the artist development process.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:48 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I must say must say Ironmouth, I completely disagree with you. IP and copyright is outdated, and see my last comment, I am all about supporting artist, but when iTunes for example is taking a third of the revenue for a simple download, this shit it fucked.
posted by handbanana at 3:49 PM on June 18, 2012


their right to grant you the song under conditions of their choice

There is no such right. Even if there were, it would be unenforceable.
posted by cdward at 3:49 PM on June 18, 2012


You are an attorney, you know the difference and how it is not a analogy.

the analogy is not wrong. it is exactly right. may i gently suggest that those who say it is not right are perhaps affected by the fact that they are benefiting personally from it.

I'm more than a lawyer, I'm a musician. While I've personally decided that I am unlikely to sell any music myself, I support my fellow musicians on this. The fact that they sold that right to someone for less than it was worth because they were likely to receive more value from it that way does not make that sale not worth it to the artist. What's the artist going to do? just flat out go door to door suing people himself? Is he going to make the downloads or market it? no. he's gonna sell the right to sell the music to someone else. and when you attack the right of the reseller to sell it, you are attacking the original transaction, because the resellers won't pay as much for it if the reseller cannot sell it.

basically the morality of stealing seems to be that the more faceless the group is, the less immoral it is to take from them. that's not the way it works in the real world. taking from the people who sell it to you is taking money out of the hands of the artists.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:51 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


> If I copy a song, presto! I have one AND they have one.

1993 called, they want their rationalizations back.

"I don't know why you're calling this 'industrial espionage' - they still have their plans, I just took photos of them."

If you can't copy my song, you have to buy it or not hear it at all, and I can try to sell it. If everyone can copy my song, I cannot sell it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:52 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cdwrd: but artists still also have the right to go on strike. Who'll be left making commercial music when they're out on strike? The big industry can afford to take investment losses the small guys can't; the big guys will win this game every time. They'll gladly sell you a commercial
posted by saulgoodman at 3:54 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


...disguised as a pop song. Or something or other.... Goodbye now.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:55 PM on June 18, 2012


nobody pays attention in social studies anymore. or the teachers can't teach....may I gently suggest... [etc.]

It's not an illegitimate argument *at all* that making a free copy of something that otherwise would have been a sale constitutes a conversion of the seller's property - in fact, it's pretty obviously true. And it's not an illegitimate point of view that any violation of the law of property is immoral. But attacking the character/morality/intelligence of the people you disagree with just causes them to be defensive, and it contributes to wrecking the discussion. This is a really, really interesting, complex, and rich subject. How about we have a conversation about it?
posted by facetious at 3:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


the taking of a right without compensation is stealing.

Huh. This is not even wrong.

But it's always interesting to see how so many people cannot accept the basic reality of copying information. The question itself is so naive: "Why do you pay real stuff but not stuff that can be infinitely reproduced at no marginal cost?"

and when you attack the right of the reseller to sell it, you are attacking the original transaction, because the resellers won't pay as much for it if the reseller cannot sell it.

A free market prices good at their demand vs production costs. Unless you can demonstrate that the rampant copying is somehow deflating real demand -- and thus prices -- then everything you're saying is nonsense. And good luck: virtually every study out there not funded by the MPAA suggests that copying of music actually increases real (sincere) demand and not vice versa.

Look, this is the point where we put aside legal nonsense and look at reality. Music has never been more plentiful and more easily available. And it's only becoming moreso. At this point not only do I not expect to pay for money, I expect to be paid to do so. The production companies can continue to dump all their money into ever-less-useful advertising or they can simply send me a check.
posted by nixerman at 3:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


their right to grant you the song under conditions of their choice

There is no such right. Even if there were, it would be unenforceable.


That right has existed for years. That is exactly the basis of our copyright law. You do not own the record. You have purchased the right to play it when you want. The copyright laws do create forced licensing in that you have to sell to anyone who asks, that you cannot discriminate, but the fact is that is the transaction that is going on.

Now things are changing and it is becoming harder and harder to enforce, because you can't control it by being the only person able to provide a recording of it, but in the past, it was easily enforceable. But the idea that our obligation to pay a performer or writer goes away because it is easy to take their right to sell away from them is morally repugnant to me.

More importantly, you can't expect that the continuation of this behavior will not affect the ability of artists to make money doing this. they'll lose their dime long before the record company will. and then you'll see a lot less music and more importantly, books.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew the music business was finally done for when a few months ago I went to a show, and at the band's merch table they were giving away the CDs for free, but the t-shirts cost $15.

Me, I buy directly from bands as much as I can, and I go see as many shows as I can.

If music is an important part of your life, I would encourage you to do the same, or at least find some other way to throw a little cash in the direction of the people who make the music.

You know they need it, and you know it is the right thing to do. You don't have to support the RIAA or the major labels in order to support the bands you love.
posted by spilon at 3:57 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I see coming is slightly trumped up commercial jingles for consumer goods on endless repeat for eternity... Unless audiences start caring more about what music they consume and people start playing a more active and direct role in A&R from the beginning of the artist development process.

This "the audience is the problem" mindset is, quite frankly, a load of shit. I've worked primarily in the indie scene ("white people's music") and you know what the problem is? Hip-hop and rap ("black people's music") have been (justifiably) the dominant musical genres for the past 20 years and that pisses entitled white people like Lars Ulrich and Cracker Van Beethoven off no end.
posted by smithsmith at 3:58 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


This discussion is at least a little horrifying. I've actually read all the comments up to this point and can summarize the most common opinion as this: "I download music without paying anybody for it because I can."

That's the nut of each of the posts in favor of taking possession of music without paying the people who made it. Everything else (critiques of the capitalist system, irrelevant arguments about the legality of the act, etc.) is window dressing.

Care to know how I read this thread, as a musician who has sold music and would like to sell more? "The record companies are screwing the artists, and I want a piece of that action, too."
posted by baltimoretim at 4:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, you could play shows like, I dont know.... most musicans do.

I just can't see it as stealing, because again, no one is being deprived of any goods or services. And like I said, it opens up new avenues for people to find you. Do you think as a small, unknown band, someone is going to spend a dollar a song or more for an album? Hell no. But if I find your music online, end up showing my friends. We are now at your show, where most musicians making money, buying your vinyl or a cd, or a shirt that otherwise had no fucking clue you exisited before I torrented you and shared with my friends.
or like a couple of indie bands I stumbled upon.... they had a donation button, or offered songs for free but had a high quality download for a reasonable price. Thats how these bands make money. I've done the whole band thing, I make music for myself these days. I dont know why some musicians think that its a career. Its almost analogous of some middle school kid thinking he will be a fucking nba player. Yes, a few might be.... most wont.
posted by handbanana at 4:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


the taking of a right without compensation is stealing.

Huh. This is not even wrong.


Please give me all your money for nothing then. You bet it is both illegal and morally wrong.

A free market prices good at their demand vs production costs. Unless you can demonstrate that the rampant copying is somehow deflating real demand -- and thus prices -- then everything you're saying is nonsense. And good luck: virtually every study out there not funded by the MPAA suggests that copying of music actually increases real (sincere) demand and not vice versa.
Revenues from sales of recorded music to consumers declined throughout the first decade of the 21st century. By 2009, consumers were spending half as much on recorded music as they had in 1999.[8] Total revenues for CDs, vinyl, cassettes and even including digital downloads in the world dropped 29% from $38.6 billion in 1999 to $27.5 billion in 2008 according to IFPI.[9] The same revenues in the U.S. dropped from a high of $14.6 billion in 1999 to $6.3 billion in 2009, according to Forrester Research.[2] The Economist and The New York Times report that the downward trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future[9][10] —Forrester Research predicts that by 2013, revenues in USA may reach as low as $9.2 billion.[9] This dramatic decline in revenue has caused large-scale layoffs inside the industry, driven retailers (such as Tower Records) out of business and forced record companies, record producers, studios, recording engineers and musicians to seek new business models.[11]
Your definition of demand is wrong. You call demand "people listening to music." But there's no market. In economic terms, demand is how much people are going to pay for the product, not their use of it.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


and then you'll see a lot less music and more importantly, books.

Yeah, no, I'm going to say that the idea that we'll see less music and books in the future is totally and completely wrong. If you really believe this then you 're simply completely ignorant of the dynamics at work. As we drown in new content the only thing I think we'll see a lot less of is middleman who no longer bear any real risk. Because that's what this is all about: risk. And the risk involved in producing music is no longer there and thus nobody should be paid to do so.
posted by nixerman at 4:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That right has existed for years. That is exactly the basis of our copyright law.

I know what the law is. What I'm saying is that the law doesn't reflect reality.

More importantly, you can't expect that the continuation of this behavior will not affect the ability of artists to make money doing this. they'll lose their dime long before the record company will. and then you'll see a lot less music and more importantly, books.

Maybe that's so. What do you propose to do about it, though?
posted by cdward at 4:04 PM on June 18, 2012


Well, you could play shows like, I dont know.... most musicans do.

I just can't see it as stealing, because again, no one is being deprived of any goods or services


They are being deprived of both. The artist doesn't get enough of the medium of exchange as he did previously. Therefore he gets fewer goods and services. Is theft of money theft? Money is neither a good nor a service, its the medium of exchange.

The idea that bottom lines are not being effected is insane. Sales are way, way down. Revenues are way, way down. These are facts, not propaganda. How can it be any other way? The companies cannot control distribution as much as they used to and people are taking things they don't need to buy anymore. It is pure fantasy to think that the artists and the record companies are selling as much as before.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Agree on the whole art for arts sake. If you are in it for $, you probably are making shit art.

Most artists throughout history have been in it for the $, florins, or denarii. I'd go so far as to say that scrounging for money, either because of bad money skills or being ripped off, has wasted more creative time for artists in general than drink or drugs or sex.

I just can't see it as stealing, because again, no one is being deprived of any goods or services.

Look at it from the other side. You're getting a benefit and the creator is not. He's put value into the transaction, you haven't. You don't see inequity there?
posted by IndigoJones at 4:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


David Lowery had said his piece. I spent an hour crafting a comment about the role of technology in the shift of music industries, partially agreeing with his points and partially dissenting.

Comment awaiting moderation

Yeah? Awaiting indeed. It does not appear, thus I see an angry man with a small microphone. His opinion is irrelevant, for he (apparently) cannot tolerate even the most civil of dissent (best behaviour). He is a preacher with a choir.

This was interesting when I thought it was a discussion... but the sound of one man ranting? zzzzzzzz...
posted by nickrussell at 4:06 PM on June 18, 2012


Its no only the removal of risk, but more importantly as you touched on is the lower barrier to entry. How much art has been denied to reach the public because of these barriers?

And people will always create, creation is not soley for economic gain but to solve a particular problem, for expression, for the sake of creation. Economics be damned (as much as I am an econ geek).
posted by handbanana at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2012


What's going to give artists more power, that's my concern. Guys like Louis C.K. are showing the way to the future, but IMO, the audiences gotta catch up and start getting in on the A&R game early if we really want a scenario that offers a lot of really diverse, quality music and that can support as broad a possible swathe of performing musicians as possible.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2012


I know what the law is. What I'm saying is that the law doesn't reflect reality.

More importantly, you can't expect that the continuation of this behavior will not affect the ability of artists to make money doing this. they'll lose their dime long before the record company will. and then you'll see a lot less music and more importantly, books.

Maybe that's so. What do you propose to do about it, though?


Let's break this down. Let's say the technology to hack bank accounts becomes easy. So, do you think we would have to sit down and say "gee, the law doesn't reflect reality, I guess we'll have to just give up on you know, having a secure place outside our home to have money?"

No. you'd be pissed as hell. And that technology is working on us every day. We're getting phished and hacked all the time and people are having their credit cards taken through technology. So is that use of technology wrong and yet it is still right that people can illegally download stuff? No.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the old days, the pirates just admitted they were breaking the law--that's the fun and risk of being a pirate. Now they think they deserve a medal.

Bull. One of the things reading this book taught me was that pirates have always thought they were bring books to the masses. From piracy in the 1700's (Ireland was known as the pirate kingdom) to people reprinting jazz records in the 40's, they've always had this underlying moral cause, whether disingenuous or not, of doing a public service by bringing art to people who might not have normally had it.

What the book also taught me is that people have been having these same arguments as long as copying books didn't require monks.
posted by zabuni at 4:08 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well.. it isn't just that it's now easier that prompts a new attitude is it? It's also that the rights-holder want more, more, more. The term of copyright has lengthened enormously, and the penalties for infringement have gone up dramatically. The problem is that no one is trying to fashion a new and equitable paradigm -- both sides are just screaming "me, me , me and you're evil."

That isn't helped when people who know full the difference between theft, conversion, and infringement use "theft" and "steal" because they have more rhetorical bite or act as though laws are perfect Platonic forms.
posted by tyllwin at 4:08 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


As I try to see it as me gaining something while the creator is "deprivved" of payment, I may not have even bothered to watch, listen, view, whatever type of art due to having to make finacial choices, or even just the barrier to purchase. Just because I pirated something does not equate a loss sale. That is simply leaping to conclusions, without consideration to the many factors at work.
posted by handbanana at 4:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are more than two sides here tyllwin.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:11 PM on June 18, 2012


It is pure fantasy to think that the artists and the record companies are selling as much as before.

And it's pure fantasy to believe that is only because of copying. Ever heard of video games? And there's a crap ton of free music out there. Indeed, many artists these days are giving away free mp3s and uploading music videos to youtube. Combine this with the fact you have tons of different avenues for purchasing and sharing music legally. As I said before, music is more plentiful (as in easier to produce) and more easily available (as in easier to consume) than ever before. The idea that prices would remain stable and not fall is what's absurd. If you really want to say that copying is depressing demand and driving down prices for the product then you're simply asserting something that is far from proven.
posted by nixerman at 4:14 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Besides isnt the artist really gaining already? They've now been entered into my life. I spent time on their expression.
posted by handbanana at 4:14 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's say the technology to hack bank accounts becomes easy.

It's not just that it's easy, it's that it's easy and that huge segments of the population don't think it's wrong.

So, do you think we would have to sit down and say "gee, the law doesn't reflect reality, I guess we'll have to just give up on you know, having a secure place outside our home to have money?"

Well, yeah, that's exactly what would happen, for the same reason that we stopped building castles with vertical walls when gunpowder became widespread.

You didn't answer the question, though. What do you propose to do about it?
posted by cdward at 4:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you like music, why wouldn't you want to financially support the people who make it? Don't you think it would 1) show them some gratitude for their effort and 2) encourage them to make more music for you? Isn't paying artists for their effort both a moral and self-interested act?
posted by baltimoretim at 4:17 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ach--you spent time on my expression! Shit. So can I bill you for this comment? Or do I owe you now?
posted by saulgoodman at 4:18 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've actually read all the comments up to this point and can summarize the most common opinion as this: "I download music without paying anybody for it because I can."

The fact that people like you and Ironmouth can say these things is staggering. Because there are a lot of people saying, "I don't think sharing music is morally wrong; thus, I do it."

I don't think that copying and sharing music is morally wrong. If I thought it was morally wrong, I would not do it. People say "Don't you care about the artists?" And this is an incomprehensible argument to me. The morality of copying and sharing things has nothing to do with whether starving artists are good or bad.

Is sharing music moral? If so, at which point does it become immoral? If immoral, to what extent?

Also: not buying someone's products is not theft. There are stacks of CDs in the warehouses. Not a single one of them has been removed.

This all seems to me like a bunch of people arguing that we should smash all the mechanized looms because nobody's buying well-woven fabric anymore, and everyone's out of work. Won't anyone think of the poor starving weavers?
posted by corb at 4:18 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I do. Its called going to shows, buying cds (as I stated above or vinyl), or using donation methods.

I just wont buy into this middleman, support the RIAA, or be locked into some stupid platform. Not hard to understand.
posted by handbanana at 4:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Besides isnt the artist really gaining already? They've now been entered into my life. I spent time on their expression."

That'll really mean something when a musician quits making music because she can't pay rent while doing it. The honor of being "entered into your life."
posted by baltimoretim at 4:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Standard first-year economic theory says that in a competitive market, absent of any monopoly, Price = Marginal Cost.

Marginal Cost in distributing an MP3 = zero.

Quite simply, their business model died the day the internet was born. If they stay alive, it will only be via huge inefficiencies - like how a government can prop up loss-making enterprises with constant bailouts funded by taxpayers, the music industry can stay alive by lobbying for protections or monopoly power and the right to overcharge consumers - but it will forever be a sub-optimal economic outcome.

(a reminder that economic theory simply states what the equilibriums are, and makes no moral judgement about whether the outcomes are desirable)
posted by xdvesper at 4:23 PM on June 18, 2012


Oh come on! No artist quits because they are not getting paid. An artist makes art for the sake of art. Its not like a painter will stop painting. Or a guitartist in a band says "fuck it, I am done", we all know he/she will pick up that guitar. It is intrinsic, I've never met a musician who didnt do it for the love of doing it.

Saul, I thin we are even :)
posted by handbanana at 4:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


At what point of complete and utter indifference to the value of the humanities will our society collapse? Only after we've literally spat in every artists face and told them personally their life's work is worthless? After every University classics program goes? Or will it just go humming along as always, only ringing a bit more hollow?


/melodramatic moment with some spots of truth in it
posted by saulgoodman at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


That'll really mean something when a musician quits making music because she can't pay rent while doing it. The honor of being "entered into your life."

That's really hilarious. Show me an artist who quit making music because her music was copied too much. Seriously, do you really believe such a thing is possible?

But I can show you thousands of artists who would have loved for their stuff to be copied far and wide. It's the absolute lack of exposure that kills musicians.
posted by nixerman at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, corb, I'll say it, without using boldface, even:

Sharing music without paying for it is morally wrong.

It may or may not be illegal. I'm not interested. I also don't care about how easy it is to do: the difficulty of an act has no bearing on its rightness or wrongness.

I believe that, like painters and novelists and sculptors and artists in any other medium, musicians have a moral right to compensation for their work. If you do not compensate them for their work, you are committing an immoral act.

Nobody is forcing you to buy up those stacks of CDs in a warehouse. You're free! Enjoy it! But if you want to listen to one of those CDs, you have to pay for it.

Welcome to a basic economy, where I do work and the people who benefit from the result compensate me for the effort.
posted by baltimoretim at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That'll really mean something when a musician quits making music because she can't pay rent while doing it.

Sorry but if you can't pay your rent by playing live music then you are probably writing bad music for a diminishing audience.
posted by smithsmith at 4:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Smith, thats probably far from the truth. The music scene is full of really talented people, often over looked.
posted by handbanana at 4:29 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry but if you can't pay your rent by playing live music then you are probably writing bad music for a diminishing audience.

Kinda like that Van Gogh loser.
posted by malocchio at 4:30 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nixerman--the point isn't the artist goes broke because of the copying directly (I guess unless they are self-bankrolled). But there are knock-on economic effects for the artists. If capital can go to the bargaining table with charts and evidence that recorded music is worthless, how is labor supposed to get a fair shake in the arrangement? The economic conditions piracy creates are incidentally also bad for the negotiating clout of artists.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the truth is, it's not just piracy. It's also elevator music, and the ubiquity of media content generally that makes it seem worthless.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:34 PM on June 18, 2012


No artist quits because they are not getting paid. An artist makes art for the sake of art.

Sure they do. All the time. I've known plenty of artists who have quit because they can't get paid a living wage. I've known plenty other who work day jobs because the art money alone doesn't cut it.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:36 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I believe that, like painters and novelists and sculptors and artists in any other medium, musicians have a moral right to compensation for their work. If you do not compensate them for their work, you are committing an immoral act.

I understand this. But I'm curious as to where your beliefs lie here. Is it morally wrong for me to share music in my own household, with my partner and child? Is it morally wrong to play music really loud in my car with the windows down? Or is it just morally wrong when I physically give a copy of the music to someone? What if I share just the sheet music? What if I sing the song that the musician created? What if I teach someone else the song?

Paintings and novels and sculptures are actually a really good analogy. Paintings hang and are displayed. Photographs are taken of them, art students attempt to copy them. These photographs (and even copies) can be enjoyed freely by many, so long as no one attempts to say, "This photograph is the real piece of art."
posted by corb at 4:38 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


people who are doing this are just doing it for their own benefit, not others.

I disagree. I like to tape and upload live shows, and I spend more time working on most of them than I ever do listening to them. If everyone were just sharing music/movies/tv shows/etc for their own benefit, then sharing wouldn't happen, because the original sharing part (as opposed to the personal-benefit part where you leech downloads and enjoy) is actually pretty annoying.

The people who truly drive file-sharing -- the people who run torrent trackers, the people who run upload blogs, the people who rip and upload hundreds of albums/movies/whatever -- spend a large amount of time (and/or money) on it. And it is done for the benefit of others, as they could just as easily be selling bootlegs a la Eastern Europe or sitting at home not-sharing files. File-sharing is and always has been a communal act, even when it was done by physically swapping floppies/tapes/CDRs; like any community, it wouldn't be flourishing if everyone were simply in it for their own benefit.
posted by vorfeed at 4:39 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, look, we don't have to agree if it's morally wrong or not. Even if we disagree on that, we have purely practical problems that we need to deal with.

Problem one, in crude terms: if you won't give any corn to the chicken it won't lay eggs. It can scrounge for itself for a while, but it'll eventually starve. (Artists need recompense, if we want art)

Problem two: our old plan for just throwing corn out back doesn't work, because the crows eat it all up. And shooting up the farm house and the henhouse both to try to kill 'em all isn't a great plan (It's impractical to throw all our resources at stopping "piracy.")

I freely admit, I don't know the answer. But we've been trying guilt and lawsuits, and those don't seem to fix anything, and it doesn't seem like we're even trying to find the answer.
posted by tyllwin at 4:39 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's why films are one of the only good places to really hear a new song... (continuing thought from before...)
posted by saulgoodman at 4:41 PM on June 18, 2012


I've always preferred to analogize piracy to vampirism, rather than theft. It has much richer rhetorical possibilities.

Granted, vampires aren't classically as full of entitled righteous indignation as a vocal minority of downloaders, but no metaphor is perfect.
posted by figurant at 4:42 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kinda like that Van Gogh loser.

Alternative history time:

Let's say Metallica wrote the exact same music in the 1960s. People that came across them thought they were creepy and weird and hated the sound of their music. The general audience of the time preferred the contemporary harmonies and melodies of bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. There were a small number of people that liked this Metallica band and came to their shows but not enough for them to derive a sufficient income to make a living. They were all killed in a plane crash in the early 70s but people began to see merit in their sound in the 1980s.

Was the onus on the general audience of the 1960s or on Metallica to ensure they derived a sufficient income from their work?
posted by smithsmith at 4:50 PM on June 18, 2012


I freely admit, I don't know the answer. But we've been trying guilt and lawsuits, and those don't seem to fix anything, and it doesn't seem like we're even trying to find the answer.

Yeah. Arguing about the basis of rights and who has the best ethical principles is fun I guess, but it's not very effective at ensuring the future of the music industry.
posted by cdward at 4:52 PM on June 18, 2012


An (implausible) system that is better than our current one: Each year an omniscient oracle looks into each person's heart and mind and determines what they would have bought if piracy weren't an option, and that person is charged that amount as an 'predicted art consumption tax', to be distributed to artists according to the oracle's vision of what that person would have bought. Other than this art tax, downloading movies, music, etc. is legal. Artists set prices for their (digitally distributed) works, but these prices are never paid, except indirectly through the oracle's predicted consumption tax.

This system is neutral for artists, since their compensation is the same as they would get under the current system. This system is better for consumers, since the amount of art they get for their spending is significantly increased.
posted by Pyry at 5:04 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That'll really mean something when a musician quits making music because she can't pay rent while doing it.

i've never paid my rent with what i earn as a musician, which is simply zip, zero, nothing

i'm several thousand dollars in the hole on this

but it's my dream to do this, and so i don't care - attention would be nice, cash would be nice, but i'm doing it anyway, no matter what i get for it

i'm a musician - i make music
posted by pyramid termite at 5:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


eMusic is a really cool way to download music while also compensating the people behind the music. Just sayin'. I've been a happy customer of theirs for years and years.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:12 PM on June 18, 2012


The ultimate point is that there is a damn good reason that the majority of rappers are not out there decrying illegal downloading (in fact, many have expressed support for it). It's because they can charge $100 a ticket, sell out stadium shows night after night and hawk premium priced merchandise.

My response to those that want to make money from music is "Write, perform or produce pop music - r'n'b and rap" because there is still a shitload of demand and money sloshing around those genres. If you don't want to do that, if your passion lies in genres directed at a limited diminishing niche audience (indie, punk rock, metal et. al.), then accept both my congratulations on pursuing your passion and also the fact that you are likely to fail to make a sufficient living wage.
posted by smithsmith at 5:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah. Arguing about the basis of rights and who has the best ethical principles is fun I guess, but it's not very effective at ensuring the future of the music industry.

Maybe - but that presumes that the rest of us are worried about ensuring the future of the music industry.

I'm not. It is honestly only recently that we've had this explosion of formal, paid musicians who can expect to make a serious living wholly through playing and listening to music. There was a time when a significant percentage of households had a musical instrument, and families generally knew how to play sheet music and sing on tune. People came to live music because they enjoyed the experience, and they wanted to hear someone's interpretation. Artists found patrons, or got a day job and continued on their way.

I think that music will survive even if the music industry doesn't. People will still get together and jam. They'll still make songs. They'll still share them. And other people will be able to use those songs as a spur to think up other songs. Humans aren't going to stop making music because no one is paying them enough to do it for a living.
posted by corb at 5:21 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Problem one, in crude terms: if you won't give any corn to the chicken it won't lay eggs. It can scrounge for itself for a while, but it'll eventually starve. (Artists need recompense, if we want art)

Whatever the resolution to all of this is, it starts here.

Though recompense is the wrong word. Artists need the means to a life (food, shelter, a future for their kids etc), whether it comes directly from their art or not.

What we want is the Stravinskys, Lennons, Dylans of now (and tomorrow) to get up in the morning and focus on creating new and beautiful stuff. Maybe this creative work won't be the only work they do. Maybe they'll also help on the farm.
posted by philip-random at 5:27 PM on June 18, 2012


Standard first-year economic theory says that in a competitive market, absent of any monopoly, Price = Marginal Cost.

It's a nice theory, but not particularly relevant, because it also assumes that you can get the same product from any supplier, which isn't really the case with art. It also predicts that if the price is less than the unit cost, a supplier will stop making the product. And it does cost money to make music.
posted by borges at 5:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saulgoodman I've been watching this stuff develop from pretty closely all along, and it looks to me from close up as if artists are much worse off now. They've got less contract negotiating clout, less leverage, and their wares are far less valuable than they've ever been.

I know next to nothing about the music industry but your story seems oddly familiar. It is almost as if artists are struggling with making a living wage in an era of decreased opportunity and fewer and fewer people are able to "make it big." Perhaps if the multinational corporations didn't take such a large percentage of the legal sales, then the prices would fall in line with what consumers would be willing to pay and everyone would be happy. This sounds like a perfect opportunity for artists to organize, raise awareness and lobby for change.


As for myself, I pirate music in order to avoid supporting major record labels and, by extension, the RIAA. If I can't buy directly from an independent artist then I go to shows, buy merch, go to CDBaby or hit the Donate button. I end up spending more than the cost of the albums I pirate and my favorite bands receive a greater share. I am not ashamed of pirating. I support the artists - not a bloated, corrupt industry.
posted by Vysharra at 5:29 PM on June 18, 2012


I'm not really moved by the "what if someone wanted to steal my wallet" analogy, since if someone could steal my cash without actually depriving me of that cash, I wouldn't actually give a shit (and not just because it would be the least profitable crime possible). Heck, if I had some kind of magic wallet that people could take money out of, but the money would still be there, I'd be giving money away all over town, becoming a real popular dude in the process. There are compelling reasons to oppose illicit downloading, but for me, this isn't one of them.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 5:35 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I've gotten to the end of this thread and NO ONE has called out yoink for comparing downloading music illegally with rape. Jesus fucking christ.
posted by Athene at 5:35 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a nice theory, but not particularly relevant, because it also assumes that you can get the same product from any supplier, which isn't really the case with art. It also predicts that if the price is less than the unit cost, a supplier will stop making the product. And it does cost money to make music.

It costs very little, now. The cost of a laptop and a decent daw. Maybe a guitar and a mic. And time, of course.
posted by empath at 5:41 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Alternative history time:

Ah, you don't have to go through all that to call me on my bullshit. But in that scenario? I would like Metallica's heirs to inherit their copyrights. I don't want Theo to die as impoverished as Vincent.

I just get really tired of people saying they won't buy my music from iTunes because I'm being ripped off as an artist.
posted by malocchio at 5:44 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


It costs very little, now. The cost of a laptop and a decent daw. Maybe a guitar and a mic. And time, of course.

Good luck.
posted by malocchio at 5:45 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I believe that, like painters and novelists and sculptors and artists in any other medium, musicians have a moral right to compensation for their work. If you do not compensate them for their work, you are committing an immoral act.

The work is already done. I didn't ask them to do the work, and I never offered to pay them for it.
posted by empath at 5:50 PM on June 18, 2012


On the whole I don't listen to much music, either for pay or pirated. While growing up I usually had very little disposable income, and so I never got into the habit of listening to music. If music had been available for very low costs, or even free, I'd probably listen to it a lot more than I do, and even if that were 90% pirated it'd still be a lot more money going into the pockets of music creators than what they get from me now.
posted by JHarris at 5:51 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


recorded music is worthless, how is labor supposed to get a fair shake in the arrangement? The economic conditions piracy creates are incidentally also bad for the negotiating clout of artists.

I don't buy this for a second. The acts that get signed these days will already have built up significant fan bases. If anything the widespread sharing of music will empower labor by driving down the real risk of producing music.

It's a nice theory, but not particularly relevant, because it also assumes that you can get the same product from any supplier, which isn't really the case with art.

Of course, that is exactly the case with art. Westerners have this "Great Man" theory of art -- that each artist is so infinitely special and unique and that "something terrible will be lost" if, say, Beethoven didn't make the cut as an infant. It's stupid. This is supply-side voodoo nonsense. There is plenty -- I'd say near limitless -- amount of great music out there. If some musicians don't make the cut there are plenty more to take their place as long as the demand is there.

it looks to me from close up as if artists are much worse off now. They've got less contract negotiating clout, less leverage, and their wares are far less valuable than they've ever been.

This is exactly what you'd expect from the tremendous increase in competition enabled by the internet. The same can be said for any performer from writers to porn stars. Congratulations, you're now competing with the world.
posted by nixerman at 5:54 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


empath: "It costs very little, now. The cost of a laptop and a decent daw. Maybe a guitar and a mic. And time, of course."

I just recently saw this short showing musician Gotye's setup in his parents barn that he used to record his last album.
posted by the_artificer at 5:56 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


When people were no longer interested in buying VCRs, companies stopped making them. In an era where many people are not interested in paying for music, an insane amount of it is being produced. I dont really know what that means, but it seems odd to me.
posted by yorick at 5:58 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's break this down. Let's say the technology to hack bank accounts becomes easy. So, do you think we would have to sit down and say "gee, the law doesn't reflect reality, I guess we'll have to just give up on you know, having a secure place outside our home to have money?"

I've been in many temporarily-lawless or near-lawless festival spaces, in which anyone who wanted to could easily -- key word: easy -- have killed or raped or stolen from someone else (and would have been likely to get away with it). Hell, half the time someone was actually up on stage screaming about killing, raping, and/or robbing, yet the vast, vast majority of people still won't do this, regardless of how easy it might be.

Sharing, however, is something people do, and they tend to do it naturally the moment they find a source of largesse that isn't hoard-able. File-sharing is interesting to me because it points to how human society might work in the absence of artificial scarcity... and frankly, Sharing World looks a lot better than a world in which musicians (and everyone else) have to worry about whether or not they will eat this week, despite the fact that there is more than enough food for everyone. I think the real moral calculus here will become increasingly obvious as the artificiality of scarcity becomes more obvious -- this might even become one of the defining issues of our time, as things like 3-D printing, Wikileaks, Anonymous, and Occupy go from yesterday's news to tomorrow's norm.

In short: young people who see sharing as a basic moral good and scarcity as a basic moral wrong are a great fucking idea, and we should have more of them.
posted by vorfeed at 6:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


Of course, that is exactly the case with art. Westerners have this "Great Man" theory of art

Not my point. The point was that perfect competition assumes a homogeneous product.
posted by borges at 6:04 PM on June 18, 2012


In an era where many people are not interested in paying for music, an insane amount of it is being produced. I dont really know what that means, but it seems odd to me.

I think that it may go further than that, eventually, and artists will pay people to listen to their music. I know struggling producers that pay people with money from their day jobs to get followers on soundcloud and twitter.

Fame>money for most people.
posted by empath at 6:05 PM on June 18, 2012


I just recently saw this short showing musician Gotye's setup in his parents barn that he used to record his last album.

I’d guess that’s anywhere from $10k-$30k worth of gear just in the little first bit I watched.
posted by bongo_x at 6:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't believe I've gotten to the end of this thread and NO ONE has called out yoink for comparing downloading music illegally with rape. Jesus fucking christ.

...my only excuse is that I must have skimmed over it. WTF.
posted by corb at 6:06 PM on June 18, 2012


"I’d guess that’s anywhere from $10k-$30k worth of gear just in the little first bit I watched."

Don't worry--you can pay for gear with fame. It's worth more than money, for most people!
posted by baltimoretim at 6:22 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't tell them, but I'd gladly fork upwards of $50 over to Spotify each month, especially if they expanded their catalogue and gave a bigger share to their artists. $10 to access all of the music, ever....everywhere is the bargain of the century.

I get much, much more use out of Spotify than I do from Cable.
posted by schmod at 6:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've met musicians who complain about not making an income from their music, but ask them to play a C# minor and they draw a blank.

So they have no right to be paid if you don’t think their musical knowledge is up to your standards? The Ramones should have never made a cent? These kind of arguments are ridiculous. If they aren’t good enough musicians for you then why do you need their music? Someone obviously wants the music or there would be nothing to complain about as far as illegal downloading goes.

"I’m going to steal this car because it isn’t a very good car, and GM doesn’t give the dealer a big enough cut".
posted by bongo_x at 6:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Besides isnt the artist really gaining already? They've now been entered into my life. I spent time on their expression.

You have a very high opinion of yourself.
posted by bongo_x at 6:34 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now imagine the response if Coca Cola's lawyers wrote in reply to your complaint "We're sorry, but you just don't make our next round of charity donations. Maybe next time?"

That's about the nicest thing I could imagine Coca Cola doing. Presumably they would just ignore me. If I sued them, presumably they would counter-sue, even if groundlessly, to deter me via lawyers' fees. If they ever did write in reply to anything, I'm sure they would snidely explain how the law as it stands shows that I have no right to whatever it was, and they would probably be right, because they and corporations like them write those laws.
posted by chortly at 6:40 PM on June 18, 2012


To clarify from way above: "So if you care about getting it right, don't trust economists who are still pushing that bogus, rational choice theory-derived nonsense," is probably more fair. There are still humans doing economics, too...
posted by saulgoodman at 6:41 PM on June 18, 2012


People that participate in these types of threads should be required to wear a special collar and any time they post an analogy it administers an electrical shock of ever increasing voltage.
posted by the_artificer at 6:45 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've always preferred to analogize piracy to vampirism, rather than theft. It has much richer rhetorical possibilities.

Yeah? Let's give it a whirl.
Back in my day, Vamps would pay for blood. For most people, it didn't amount to much. But if you were a rare type, like RhD negative, you could make a fortune. The Red Cross would send a limo full of cash to pick you up.

That started to fall apart a couple decades ago, when those damn bloodsuckers figured out how to clone the stuff. The rare types screamed bloodless murder, and the Red Cross started suing all the Vamps they could find. They claimed that they owned the pattern of the original blood, and that they (and, of course, the rare types that they made famous) still needed to get paid.

Funny thing, though. The rare types started to get a lot more attention through "private audiences." It seems that once the Vamps weren't focused on the latest and greatest bag, they started to pay more attention to the person behind it.

Of course, the Red Cross was facing a greatly diminished role in this new paradigm. It could have continued on as a sort of matching service, but they were so determined to sue their way to their former position of power that they eventually imploded. By that point, nobody missed them.
Meh. Seems a push to me.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:02 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


coca cola would have to have downloaded chortly's image to look at whenever they wanted

Aww, that is the most adorable thing I can possibly imagine.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a discussion in which every side has sinned and we should probably just walk away and start fresh.

But we won't, because the pirates (and I'm one of them on occasion) want their free music, the record execs aren't losing enough money to give a damn about their abuse of artists or the price of a CD, and everyone else is getting by just fine with either the music they already have or (increasingly) the music they can stream by sub-genre online.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:08 PM on June 18, 2012


coca cola would have to have downloaded chortly's image to look at whenever they wanted

Aww, that is the most adorable thing I can possibly imagine.


If you only knew...
posted by chortly at 7:09 PM on June 18, 2012


I've been in many temporarily-lawless or near-lawless festival spaces, in which anyone who wanted to could easily -- key word: easy -- have killed or raped or stolen from someone else (and would have been likely to get away with it).

Getting away with it isn't the same as there being no consequences. The assaulting person has to face their victim's reactions. The assaulting person pays a price.

When someone downloads music someone else made that they would like to be compensated for, there is absolutely nothing that taps them on the shoulder and says, hey, maybe you should buy a T-shirt so those musicians can keep on making music and afford to do things like quit their jobs for a little while so they can go tour for $50 a night for four people.

The person downloading the music may not even think about the musician at all. They clicked a few times in order to have a satisfying commodity pass through their ears.

People steal music because they can.

I admit, I'm not sure there's much point in decrying people that think they are heroes for downloading music (and maybe if they're ultra-saints, leaving the torrent up a little while after they've gotten theirs). The only value is in establishing that you can't get away with saying shit like "oh, the system's fucked up, nothing I could do" like the author of the original article. If nothing, she could have bought T-shirts or mailed a few dollars to the bands she enjoys.
posted by ignignokt at 7:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


So they have no right to be paid if you don’t think their musical knowledge is up to your standards? The Ramones should have never made a cent?

Oh ffs. I was making a general point about the elementary requirement to develop a deep understanding of the context in which your music fits, an insatiable desire to master your craft and a willingness to devote an enormous amount of hard work regardless of the lack of immediate success. Which of these factors do you think doesn't apply to The Ramones?

I'm telling you that I personally know musicians that possess none of these qualities and then have the audacity to whinge about how illegal downloading is to blame for their lack of financial success.

"I’m going to steal this car because it isn’t a very good car, and GM doesn’t give the dealer a big enough cut".


That's not even remotely close to the point I was making, asshole. I don't illegally download music. But I also have the ability to see that those complaining about its apparent impacts happen to overwhelmingly perform in culturally dying or descendant genres.
posted by smithsmith at 7:11 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


the questionable part of yoink's comment:

It's amazing to me how ease of theft becomes a justification for theft. It's the acceptable form of the "but she was asking for it!" defense.

I'm guessing I skipped past it because I'm so used to hyperbolic bullshit in the comments of those who insist on equivocating downloading with theft that I glaze over. Anyway, it is a dumb comment, and likely one yoink wouldn't have made had he/she actually given it a half-second more thought.
posted by philip-random at 7:15 PM on June 18, 2012


Oh ffs. I was making a general point about the elementary requirement to develop a deep understanding of the context in which your music fits, an insatiable desire to master your craft and a willingness to devote an enormous amount of hard work regardless of the lack of immediate success.

You’re completely missing the point. It doesn’t matter if you think someone is talented, deserving, they’ve worked hard or haven’t, their distribution deal is fair and to your liking, etc. They put out a product. If you don’t want to buy the product you leave it be. You can’t take it for free for any justification, not for something that’s discretionary spending.

Lots of people are successful in all fields through sheer luck. It’s completely irrelevant to the conversation. Your bad musician friends may whine undeservedly about their lack of success, but that doesn’t mean anything except that you have whiny friends.
posted by bongo_x at 7:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I buy used books. I listen to the radio and leave the room or mute it during ads. I borrow books from friends. I block ads on web pages. I watch DVDs at friends' houses. I skip, mute, or fast-forward the ads during recorded TV. I vote for congressmen who strip artists of their copyrights after a certain number of years. I listen to Spotify, which does not compensate musicians enough to sustain a career. I sign up for internet deals using false data that prevents them from sending me the emailed advertisements that presumably allow those internet deals. When I see ads in magazines and newspapers, I intentionally ignore them; when I hear them in the grocery store, I tune them out. I have traded mix tapes and mix CDs with friends, and even copied whole CDs. I have used my own binoculars at national parks instead of the 25-cent machines. Every moment of every day, I am not giving money to the billions of poor who deserve it far more than any artist. There are many people who deserve my money whom I harm in no way apart from not giving it to them. When I do decide to give money based on who deserves it, rather than based on what the law compels, deserving musicians are on the list, but well down on it. In the meantime, I feel no great moral need to deny myself the music of musician X while deciding whether musician X makes the next round of charity donations. I apologize if this upsets musician X or those that believe that my voluntary compensation of artists or advertisers takes precedence over my other voluntary donations.

This is obviously another "spare us the electrons and get to the 'because I CAN, goddamnit'" instance, but upon further review I like the image of you lounging in your settee, deciding which good cause to favor with your allowance money every week. Do you still have to do chores for it here in 2012? I nominally did back in the day but my parents were softies.

Anyway, since I actually give away my time and money and you have irritated me by comparing 'paying for the music you listen to' to a voluntary charitable donation, I'll donate $100 to OxFam in the name of 'Chortly Donegood' if you can prove that you've given a nickel to charity in the last six months. If you haven't, I'll donate $50 in the name of "Chortly Alltalk"; either way, I'll send the thread a picture. Email's in my profile! I'll check tomorrow morning Pacific time.
posted by Kwine at 7:39 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?

What?

If your rhetorical conclusion takes the form of "All I require is...what I want, when I want and how I want it...Is that too much to ask?" you were born in a first world country and the answer is yes.
posted by Bokononist at 7:51 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


"When I do decide to give money based on who deserves it, rather than based on what the law compels, deserving musicians are on the list, but well down on it. In the meantime, I feel no great moral need to deny myself the music of musician X while deciding whether musician X makes the next round of charity donations. "

The entitlement just drips off of this post. I'm stunned.
posted by baltimoretim at 7:53 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The entitlement, "the market has spoken", "those people just aren’t working hard enough", "they’re lucky to be doing it for free", "I got mine", that’s where this country is today, or at least way too many are.
posted by bongo_x at 7:59 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Call it entitlement if you must.

I view it as the shadow of something a little more positive. Which is that filesharing has shifted the base of power in the culture wars. It's now the audience, the fans, the appreciators, the downloaders, the consumers (to use a dirty word) who get to make the call as to how the paradigm should arrange itself. But we don't really get it yet. Not fully. Probably in large part because the former powers-that-be have done such a good job of brainwashing us from childhood on up. "Shut up and do as we tell you!" and all that.

But really, they're just another voice at the table, and not a particularly loud one anymore.

What do we want in terms of cultural "product"?
What are we willing to offer in return?
How shall we keep the artists we love alive and kicking? How shall we nurture the next generation of them?

And so on.
posted by philip-random at 8:16 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can’t take it for free for any justification, not for something that’s discretionary spending.

Yes I can and will. And won't feel the slightest twinge of guilt about it.
posted by empath at 8:21 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Music and musicians will adapt to the new reality.

Making music is a pleasurable and useful activity in its own right, like mountainbiking or cooking. There are still professional mountainbikers and chefs. There are many more amateurs, which is how it should be. Some people will certainly get hurt in the transition, and I'm all for doing everything possible to help them out (like buying the latest Aimee Mann record, or whatever).

But the market in recorded music was an artefact of the stranglehold record companies had over recording and distribution during the C20th. That's gone. For ever.

Now go learn an instrument.
posted by unSane at 8:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes I can and will. And won't feel the slightest twinge of guilt about it.

And that, my friends, is why I majored in finance instead of music.
posted by malocchio at 8:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't own an MP3 player. I finally got my first cell phone this past year after a bad family experience had me otherwise unreachable in a hospital. I've only used it twice to order Thai food. I think all these technological 'advances' are.. not.

We don't value the music because we're a disposable culture now that expects everything to be at their fingertips. Music doesn't mean anything anymore to so many people. It's an accessory. It's a background to their lives while they pretend they're in some flashy commercial or darling indie film. Our society is so slick, meaning and real connections (to each other, to musicians, to LIFE) can't penetrate beyond the surface. It wasn't that long ago that being alone in one's room with one's records or books wasn't a 'communal' experience to be shared with a bunch of unknown twits on Twitter. It was REAL and PERSONAL and MEANINGFUL. But, then again, what do I know.. I don't have 4,000 friends on Facebook or anything like that!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:32 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've always preferred to analogize piracy to vampirism, rather than theft. It has much richer rhetorical possibilities.

Eh. I go for murder. Nazi murder.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:37 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Perhaps the greatest point that David Lowery makes isn't about the industry, their business model, the ethics of file sharing or copyright law. It's about hypocrisy. Emily White maintains that she gets files for free because paying for them is "inconvenient"--as if any other step in the chain could be considered "convenient" by comparison. Ripping a CD library is hard work that takes a lot of time (digitizing my few thousand CDs took nearly a year). The bug hunt that is getting decent, accurate tracks via file sharing is anything but convenient (not every novelty song is Weird Al). Spending hundreds on digital media players, coughing up $50 a month to Mediacom--none of these are convenient yet everyone seems to regard these as hoops worth jumping through. But when it comes time to hit that PURCHASE button with a service that has your credit card on file--oh, no--not worth it, I got places to be and True Blood to watch, man. This would be like Frodo leaving The Shire, making his way through Mordor to Mt Doom, scaling it, wrestling Gollum off a cliff, then deciding he couldn't be bothered to drop The Ring into the lava.

This whole issue is very complex, but Emily's justification is the wateriest weaksauce in the Official IBS Sufferer's Eatery and perhaps provides a glimpse into a generational mindset more than anything else.
posted by sourwookie at 8:42 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


And that, my friends, is why I majored in finance instead of music.

I bet it's been about as much fun as it sounds.
posted by unSane at 8:47 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now things are changing and it is becoming harder and harder to enforce [copyright law], because you can't control it by being the only person able to provide a recording of it, but in the past, it was easily enforceable. But the idea that our obligation to pay a performer or writer goes away because it is easy to take their right to sell away from them is morally repugnant to me.

I think you're begging the question a bit; you're assuming that the 20th century copyright-law regime was, for lack of a better word, legitimate. And I don't think that's necessarily clear.

Throughout most of the 20th century (with respect to audio and audio-visual works), the average person might not have liked or respected the idea of copyright, but they didn't have a choice as to whether or not they participated. The rightsholders had such an effective lock on distribution that, from a consumer's perspective at the very end of the distribution chain, there wasn't any sort of choice to make.

What we have seen in the past several decades is that when the technical impediments to copyright infringement were removed, suddenly quite a lot of people felt themselves free to do whatever the hell they pleased, the law be damned. And I think that suggests rather strongly that the entire regime was on questionable footings from the beginning. Most laws just aren't like that; there's no policeman breathing down our necks most of the time, keeping us in line, but most people follow most of the laws most of the time anyway, because there's a general understanding that it makes life better that way. (Sociopaths and investment bankers excepted, of course.) When the police are all busy on one side of town, most people don't take the opportunity to loot the Best Buy on the other. Yet that is pretty much what happened with copyright after the advent of digital media: when the technical and supply-chain enforcement mechanisms disappeared, so too did the apparent respect for those laws -- because it wasn't there to begin with.

Rather than lament the demise of the enforcement mechanisms (as those who were riding the gravy train undoubtedly will for year to come), I find a different question more interesting: how did we ever manage to pass not just a few laws, but an entire category of laws, seemingly without significant public buy-in, such that the only thing holding most people back from flouting them was their inability to do so? And how can we avoid doing that in the future? Perhaps it's just me, but a society held together not by any mutual interest in playing along, but merely because of draconian enforcement mechanisms that eliminate the opportunity to deviate, does not strike me as a fun place.

I look forward to rebuilding copyright, but this time without the option of letting a few powerful companies write the laws and drag the public along for the ride. This time around, the public has the option to ignore them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


"I look forward to the rebuilding of copyright...", rather.

Alas, I'm not in charge personally. My resume must have gotten lost in the mail.

posted by Kadin2048 at 8:54 PM on June 18, 2012


Disclaimer: I've downloaded MP3's in the past, though I'm pretty sure I've never listened to them after I've downloaded them. They just tended to sit taking up hard drive space. If I want to listen to music, I tend to do it on YouTube.

It seems to me though, that this issue is purely a technological one. There's been a very narrow period in history, during which a tiny proportion of musicians have been able to make a living from their recordings. The vast majority, of course, don't give up the day job. In fact, the majority of those who actually get a recording contract don't make enough to live on from it.

But regardless of the morality, the days in which musicians can make a living from being recording artists are coming to an end. It's like being a buggy whip manufacturer when the horseless carriage comes along.

The smart ones will move on. The losers will sit around, bemoaning their lost sales -- even when they never had any sales to lose in the first place.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:56 PM on June 18, 2012


I want to disagree. Unfavorite. No thread on Metafilter has so strongly brought this up. I see sewage broken logic with 10+ favorites and I want to disagree and there is no way to do so.
posted by Bokononist at 8:59 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


" Ripping a CD library is hard work that takes a lot of time (digitizing my few thousand CDs took nearly a year). The bug hunt that is getting decent, accurate tracks via file sharing is anything but convenient (not every novelty song is Weird Al). Spending hundreds on digital media players, coughing up $50 a month to Mediacom--none of these are convenient yet everyone seems to regard these as hoops worth jumping through. But when it comes time to hit that PURCHASE button with a service that has your credit card on file--oh, no--not worth it, I got places to be and True Blood to watch, man. This would be like Frodo leaving The Shire, making his way through Mordor to Mt Doom, scaling it, wrestling Gollum off a cliff, then deciding he couldn't be bothered to drop The Ring into the lava. "

OH NO STRAW MAN YOU BETTA RECOGNIZE

Most people who download buy music and people who download buy more music. So why are you stealing from artists by not downloading enough to buy more music?

STOP ALL THE DOWNLOADING
posted by klangklangston at 9:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bokononist: have you never been around for any of the previous copyright infringement threads? It's all a bit like Groundhog Day.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:04 PM on June 18, 2012


I bet it's been about as much fun as it sounds.

It was the only way I could pay for all the gear to be a solo musician!

The funny thing, to me, is that no one ever walks up and says "hey! great trade! wow, that is my favorite trade ever! more! more!" And yet, I get paid a pretty good living.

But people DO write "hey, great music! wow, that is my favorite song! ever! more! more!" And though I've spent thousands of dollars to bring it to them, I'm lucky to recoup a few bucks.

The cost/benefit analysis is clear, but yet I soldier on. Go figure.
posted by malocchio at 9:05 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Handel was an inveterate stealer of other composer's ideas. And they, in turn, stole his. In fact, that whole musical subculture was built on stealing. Copyright arose, in part, as a way of locking in commercial profits from musical enterprises, but it was a special dispensation from the King himself.

Most traditional/vernacular music is *entirely based* on the recapitulation of received musical idioms. Bluegrass, blues, gamelan... None of those genres arose because the principals were going to make a ton of money from *recording*. They just fucking HAPPENED.

Yes, it sucks that people who built a lifestyle based on the economic model of the scarcity of recorded music are having a hard time. It really DOES suck. Many of them are people I love and admire. Some I've even met.

It also really sucked for buggy whip manufacturers.

The new reality is: recorded music is not scarce. It never, ever, will be again.

I look forward to whatever arises from that insight.
posted by unSane at 9:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


If nothing, she could have bought T-shirts or mailed a few dollars to the bands she enjoys.

She explicitly says that she has done this ("I've never invested money in them aside from concert tickets and t-shirts.")
posted by vorfeed at 9:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


buggy whip buggy whip buggy whip! buggy whip! buggy whip buggy whip!
posted by junco at 9:36 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. In all the years since people started copying computer videogames despite the built-in copy protection, I thought I'd heard the whole range of excuses people will throw up when they so cleverly discover that there's a way to get something for nothing.

But as always, some MeFites manage to come up with novel excuses for paying nothing, as well as free advice for the people they choose to disadvantage. I thought the cry for Dave Lowery to "start taking action to save rock music from perishing as a live Art form" to be particularly clever.

As the Great Wheel of Life turns, no doubt all such disingenuous, niggardly demisouls will find themselves in similar situations. A toothsome prospect.
posted by Twang at 9:43 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, people who download music also, on the large, pay for music. They also spend more money on music than people who don't download.

(And for every "entitled," it's easy to answer "avarice.")
posted by klangklangston at 10:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something about all of this that I realized after thinking about it, while at a bar watching a friend's band, that just got off tour, where they made a little cash, got their name out, had a great time for 2 months, and gave away a boatload of cassettes and cds:

For some people (myself included) this whole thing is made relatively moot just by the music in question. Almost no one involved in the musical scenes I am interested in ever thought for a second that selling recorded music was the way to go. Indie and underground acts--mostly hip hop and rock/punk stuff, on my end--have long been surviving off of things that are wholly unrelated to the industry we're talking about. Since about 1995, the bulk of quality stuff in those circles has been independently produced and released. Hell, most rappers I know don't even consider releasing something for sale. The normal model there is toss out a few "street albums" for free and try to get paid features on major label albums, or to build hype for a purchasable release down the road. I know a lot of guys that rap full time, and have $50k studios at home; they treat it like a full time job, and they eat off it (some of them quite well). I also know a ton of people in indie bands that make a decent living selling merch online and playing shows a few times a year, maybe touring for a week or two a year. It's totally doable (obviously not for everyone, but access is pretty wide).

All of this makes me realize that the only thing in danger of "dying" is the music industry, not music, and that fucker's had it coming for about 65 years now. I don't give a single fuck about how much money they lose. The bands and people I care about are just fine, and it seems like anyone willing to adapt is fine, too. I'm not about to shed a tear because Geffen or Universal or whoever is not making millions. Fuck middlemen, support artists.
posted by broadway bill at 10:20 PM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you don’t want to buy the product you leave it be. You can’t take it for free for any justification, not for something that’s discretionary spending.

You can't take it. You can only copy it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:47 PM on June 18, 2012


... Wow. I never realized that when people illegally fail to compensate me for my work it was actually a PRIVILEGE for me.

This thread is beyond crazy.
posted by kyrademon at 10:48 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Any business requiring ethical behavior or a moral argument to make its profits is going to fail. Capitalism doesn't work that way. No price can compete with free, whether that free is morally wrong, illegal, difficult or whatever. Free is free.

The digital revolution obviated the commodity aspect of a lot of art. When you can make a perfect copy of something at no cost, the value of the original art goes down. How could it not?

If one's business is dependent on the sale of digital products that can be easily copied, one needs to create ancillary value added services and sell non-digital products that cannot be copied in order to make profits.

That's if you are specifically producing commodities for a marketplace. If you are an artist, you may be producing art for its own sake without consideration of its market value as a commodity or even if it can be commodified at all. Such "fine art" is usually subsidized by the state or corporate patrons, but if you are producing pop art or folk art or vernacular art, you can only be compensated through the sale of your work, be you the sole owner and rights holder or work-for-hire. If your art is not commercially successful, you might not be able to make a living from it. This does not prevent you from making art, it only means you will have to do something else for a living.

Besides perfect copies and the subsequent trading culture that enabled, the digital revolution also empowered the masses to become artists with new tools and the means to share and promote. The resultant explosion of "amateur" music, photography, design and video has totally swamped corporate media, further devaluing individual commodities. Art is subjective, and the relative quality of home made products versus the professionally produced is getting harder to distinguish. Just the shere quantity and ubiquity of something is going to bring it down in price. Music? As someone said above, soon we will be getting paid to listen to it.

I sell a few MP3's, and I consider any trading of them as free promotion. Had I a hit or was a major label, I'd feel the same way. What else could I do? Make people feel guilty for taking something that is available for free?
posted by bonefish at 11:17 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Anyway, since I actually give away my time and money and you have irritated me by comparing 'paying for the music you listen to' to a voluntary charitable donation, I'll donate $100 to OxFam in the name of 'Chortly Donegood' if you can prove that you've given a nickel to charity in the last six months. If you haven't, I'll donate $50 in the name of "Chortly Alltalk"; either way, I'll send the thread a picture. Email's in my profile! I'll check tomorrow morning Pacific time.

Hm. I could buy X CDs this month and listen only to those X CDs, or I could buy X CDs this month and listen to everything under the sun. You can argue with anonymous people on the internet and give $50 to OxFam, or you could argue with anonymous people on the internet and give $100 to OxFam. Which if us is doing more harm by choosing the first rather than the second option?

In any case, facts about an anonymous poster's personal charity or their utterly unprovable claim to have dedicated their lives to progressive causes shouldn't matter, since the moral argument should stand on its own: The world is a better place with borrowable books and skippable ads, even though making these things illegal might support more writers and artists that the current system. Similarly, the world may be a better place with free and ubiquitous books and music and fewer career writers/artists than it is with the elaborate apparatus of copyright. I don't know whether I entirely believe this argument, and I certainly regret having ventured the wrath of the "entitlement" accusors, but it's a reasonable moral position to take. Suggesting everyone who espouses it does so out of venal self-interest is an unfortunate move, since debating motives is pretty hopeless. In my own case, for instance, I listen to music almost entirely via the radio these days. But who would believe that?
posted by chortly at 11:52 PM on June 18, 2012


Mick Jagger, a few years ago:
I am quite relaxed about [the internet's disruption of music distribution]. But, you know, it is a massive change and it does alter the fact that people don't make as much money out of records.

But I have a take on that - people only made money out of records for a very, very small time. When The Rolling Stones started out, we didn't make any money out of records because record companies wouldn't pay you! They didn't pay anyone!

Then, there was a small period from 1970 to 1997, where people did get paid, and they got paid very handsomely and everyone made money. But now that period has gone.

So if you look at the history of recorded music from 1900 to now, there was a 25 year period where artists did very well, but the rest of the time they didn't.
posted by hades at 11:53 PM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


In 60-80-100 years, obscure licensing and DRM will cause our musical and film and (!) computer game heritage to degrade and future historians will turn to pirated, DRM-free caches to reconstruct our cultural heritage. Just as renegade monks saved Western culture, so too will piracy. (Heck, this is already the case with games.)

As a result, Han-Shot-First fan recuts will outlive George Lucas. This is how culture progresses despite the meddling of the powers that be. Ultimately, art belongs to no one. Copyright is not a natural, God given law but it is a compromise, an incentive, to artificially promote bonus art, but the law is now on the losing side of the cost-benefit curve and it slips farther and farther down whenever copyright is extended past authors' death. Ain't no dead authors producing new art.
posted by Skwirl at 11:58 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


You guys why is it so hard to get your head around:

1) Theft is wrong
2) Piracy is not theft
therefore
3) Piracy is not wrong

duh
posted by ominous_paws at 12:06 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, people who download music also, on the large, pay for music. They also spend more money on music than people who don't download.

That's not really saying anything, though, is it? The set of people who don't download music is not equivalent to the set of people who buy music but download it, the latter is only a subset of the former. The other, likely much larger, subset that makes up this group is people who don't really care enough about music to really acquire any. (see [1],[2] for example). Overall sales have declined ([3],[4]).




[1] Illegal downloaders 'spend the most on music', says poll.
[2] IFPI responds to new UK music downloading study
[3] Wikipedia, Music_industry#Recorded_music_retail_sales
[4] Teens Cut Online Music Spending, Use Free Web Sites

posted by tallus at 12:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems to me there are two basic arguments against piracy in this thread:

1) "Don't pirate music because it makes me mad that you do" and
2) "don't pirate music because if you do there will be more music!!"

The first one is a non-starter. People don't care how you feel about it. Now obviously there are a lot of convoluted psudo-logical arguments presented to 'prove' that it's in fact "wrong", but none of those supposedly 'logical' arguments present their premises and go from there. If they did, it would be easy to see that the premises are not held by all people.

They basically boil down to the idea that stuff the poster finds wrong is wrong, and that other people need to do what they think is right. But the problem is other people don't care what they think is right. Why would they?

The second argument doesn't seem like it's true. There is lots of piracy and lots of music now, and people create music in order to get advertising licensing deals, youtube views and other ways to make money of advertising.

But the real problem is the assumption that the creation of new music matters to people who aren't musicians. This is especially problematic when it comes to stuff like SOPA, where people argue that if the internet is not seriously restricted, music, movies, etc got away. Well, I'm fine with that. I'd rather have a free, uncensored internet then continued content creation. there is already enough content that's already been created. I don't need more. If I had to chose between all the music and movies ever created, for free + no more movies and music being made or a highly restricted, censored internet, I would chose the free, uncensored internet.

But anyway, that scenario is completely preposterous. No one is making money off metafilter music, as far as I know, yet, stuff gets posted all the time. There are also other outlets for musicians to make some money without selling records directly. A song or music video on youtube makes advertising revenue. The songs can be licensed for advertising directly. There are concerts as well.

So I don't find this scenario very realistic. Less money for musicians? Sure. A complete collapse of all musical recording? It simply seems extremely unlikely to me.
"Would you have ever heard of Radiohead if they hadn't gone through traditional distribution models prior to the release of In Rainbows?" -- asnider
People have mention music for marketing: I've found out about two bands I like from advertisements, Canse De Ser Sexy in an iPod commercial, and Brazilian Girls in an ad for Grand Theft Auto. Heard about this guy from an ad for another video game, and while the video is pretty awesome the rest of his songs didn't do much for me.

So for me at least advertising is a reasonable way to find out about new bands.

Of course, in order to see the add someone will have to link too it, as I actually, of course, run adblock :)
I would honestly not care if no new music was ever produced, I'll never even listen to everything I would like that exists already, so I'm not influenced by the argument that piracy will make it impossible for people to be professional musicians. -- jacalata
Yeah, like I just said: This is an important point that the copyright jihadists don't really get. there's already enough stuff. It isn't like the if all music production stopped we wouldn't have anything to listen too, or we wouldn't have anything to watch on youtube. There is enough out there to last a lifetime. But, of course, it won't stop.
Besides which, aren't you allowed to tape stuff off the radio, and from friends' collections? -- Diablevert
Oddly, you're allowed to tape stuff but not burn to CD or hard drive because each audio cassette has a tax that goes to the RIAA to pay for all the taping you're going to do. If you burn to a "Music" CD you pay the royalty as well. In Canada, I think hard drives do have the royalty as well.

Anyway, they government doesn't care that much about the 'moral imperative' of people who make music to control their music. Radios can play it all, as much as they want too, while playing a flat fee. They don't need to negotiate for each individual song. There's no reason the government couldn't do the same thing for individuals that they do for radio stations: give people the right to transfer and send any music they want, in exchange for mandatory royalties.


---
You can’t take it for free for any justification, not for something that’s discretionary spending. -- bongo_x
That's the whole issue, though. You can take it for free. With no justification at all. If people don't like it, they don't have to make new music. Why is there this assumption that people absolutely need new music to be created by people who make money doing so? More music has already been made and recorded then anyone could listen too in a lifetime.
This discussion is at least a little horrifying. I've actually read all the comments up to this point and can summarize the most common opinion as this: "I download music without paying anybody for it because I can." -- baltimoretim
Yeah, that's true. Deal with it, don't deal with it, whatever. The world doesn't exist to service you. And the thing is, while I may have had some sympathy years and years ago the fact that the copyright industries have been trying to destroy the internet throughout, from the SSSCA to SOPA has really drained that sympathy away. Why would I want to financially support an industry trying to destroy the internet? I like the internet! If I had to chose between the internet existing and no new music ever being made, I would obviously chose the internet.

Although empirically, it doesn't seem like there is a shortage of people willing to create music without making much money. And it's even the case that there are people who are still willing to buy stuff if it's convenient even if piracy is easy.
But as always, some MeFites manage to come up with novel excuses for paying nothing, as well as free advice for the people they choose to disadvantage. I thought the cry for Dave Lowery to "start taking action to save rock music from perishing as a live Art form" to be particularly clever. -- Twang
Right, again, there is enough music that's already been recorded to last a lifetime. The argument that if people don't stop pirating, new music will disappear seems wrong. And if it were true, it still wouldn't be important enough to impose draconian internet censorship laws that could actually stop it.
do you mind if somebody thinks the law allowing you to take their wallet is counterproductive and takes it from you?

Yeah! Do you mind the law that prevents your slaves from fleeing to the north!? Oh slavery isn't comparable to buying music? Well, guess what: stealing a wallet isn't comparable to downloading a song either.

so taking someone else's hard work so you can listen for free is the same as the underground railroad?
-- Ironmouth
I said all of those things are non-comparable. Downloading music is as much like stealing someone's wallet as it is liberating a slave. That is to say, not much like it at all.
please do not compare taking something for your own personal enjoyment and use to the people who risked their lives to help others become free of chattel slavery. people who are doing this are just doing it for their own benefit, not others. -- Ironmouth
Yeah, like I said, I didn't.
the analogy is not wrong. it is exactly right. may i gently suggest that those who say it is not right are perhaps affected by the fact that they are benefiting personally from it. -- Ironmouth

Of course they are benefiting from it, just as anti-piracy advocates benefit from media sales. Obviously people support policies that benefit themselves.
This is the law of our property relations. Although you may wish they were otherwise, so as to justify the obtaining of licensed works without paying for them, this is how we have done this. -- Ironmouth
Like many laws, it's one people don't follow. Complaining about that fact won't change anything. The law also says undocumented immigrants who came here as children can't work, but Obama is giving them all work permits, because he can and no one can stop him. (Which I think is definitely a good thing)

Pirates will continue to pirate, and there is nothing you can do about it. As seen from the SOPA fight, anti-piracy advocates don't have the political power to fix the problem technologically, any more then anti-speeding advocates have the power to put GPS-connected governors in everyone's car to automatically limit their speed to the one posted.

Plus, there's another good reason to pirate: all this impotent frothy moralizing rage from the pro-copyright side is highly entertaining, especially now that the government has abandoned them (for now) and there's little hope of clamping down on the internet from here on out. Politically, pirates are gaining more and more political power. Even getting seats in parliaments.

So all that's left is anger and rage, that spews out of keyboards whenever the topic comes up. None of these people seem to understand that the fact something makes them mad has no impact on how other people feel about something.

And in fact all this unpleasant vitriol is probably actually making people who might be on the fence less sympathetic.

The idea that you could win over teenagers by having a bunch of old people screaming at them and calling them self-entitled ingrates, immoral thieves over the free culture movement that tells them they are revolutionaries fighting for free expression around the world and that their own creativity is valuable* is just downright hilarious.

*(although it's probably just a boring amateur hour remix or a lame lip-dub)
posted by delmoi at 3:02 AM on June 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


You guys why is it so hard to get your head around:

1) Theft is wrong
2) Piracy is not theft
therefore
3) Piracy is not wrong

duh
No, the argument is that this argument:
1) Piracy is theft
2) Theft is wrong
3) Therefore, piracy is wrong
Isn't a valid argument, because the first premise isn't something everyone agrees on.

The argument for copyright infringement is even simpler:
1) Copyright infringement by individuals to share music/movies isn't wrong
It's just taken as a premise. Sure, some people disagree with it. But the thing is: it doesn't matter if they disagree because they have no control over the people who do agree. We don't need to convince people who disagree if it's true. It's up to every individual to make the choice.
posted by delmoi at 3:06 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have to say, I might never have become an atheist and a person striving toward open-minded thinking if it weren't for the CDs at my local library.

How else, in a Christian household, would I have discovered Evanescence, which brought about the question of why my mother thought such music was "kinda scary."
Would I ever have learned that the favored music by Chris Gaines was made by the equally dismissed Garth Brooks, which made me question how I thought guys were supposed to look?
Would I have had such a memorable introduction to alternative rock without access to Letters to Cleo's "Wholesale Meats and Fish"?

Hell yeah, I burned copies of these at the time. Once I was introduced to non-classic rock, non-Christian music, it became a blizzard of music want.
Sure, I could painstakingly buy each album with my own money, but hey, *shrug*. I could always wait for Christmas and birthdays to get the items gift wrapped, but how could I ensure that some of those song titles wouldn't offend my parents and that they'd determine not to buy me the CDs? How did I even know if I'd like the whole disk? If YouTube was as popular then as it is now, I certainly didn't know about it.

Now I buy my music off of iTunes and try to resist buying CDs, but definitely request copies of songs from friends when I can get them. It's a mix of not having hours to devote to searching for the perfect songs/albums and knowing how to utilize my resources.
It's networking, darling.
I'm not ashamed of it.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:03 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The argument for copyright infringement is even simpler:
1) Copyright infringement by individuals to share music/movies isn't wrong
It's just taken as a premise.


That's not an argument for anything. It's just a stipulation. Same as saying "smoking in enclosed public spaces isn't wrong" or "taking marijuana isn't wrong".

Sure, some people disagree with it. But the thing is: it doesn't matter if they disagree because they have no control over the people who do agree.

And exactly the same with the smoking analogies, it's a personal choice that some people agree or disagree with. But, meantime, people are trying to convince the others, in an attempt to set some sort of broadly accepted social standard.

Social behaviours and acceptability of behaviours can change, dramatically, even when "everyone" is already doing something and when there are passionate proponents on either side, as smoking has shown.

If you don't want to take part in attempting to convince others of your position's validity, that's of course fine. Smokers don't have to fight for smoker's rights. But if you did want to be part of the attempt to convince others, you would probably be advised to make an actual argument, because flat stipulations rarely convince.

And, just like smokers and recreational drug-users can attest, opting out of (or failing to succeed at) the convincing and argument-making process can leave you at the mercy of some astonishingly draconian law-enforcement
posted by fightorflight at 4:14 AM on June 19, 2012


For those who are interested in the idea of a licensing scheme that would enable the creation of a licensed universal digital music library, here is a proposal that EFF released a few years ago on "A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing".
posted by KatlaDragon at 4:41 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm older than she is. When going through some boxes in storage, I found the dozens of audio tapes that I copied from library albums or family and friend's albums. Can't play them anymore and - unlike an NPR intern - I have a job, so I think I'll replace some of them with CDs.

But copying music has happened as long as people have means. I'm sure that people hand-copied ballad sheets and music sheets illegally too.
posted by jb at 4:49 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then, there was a small period from 1970 to 1997, where people did get paid, and they got paid very handsomely and everyone made money. But now that period has gone.

I think this is what I was trying to say, but less eloquently, above. There was a time when this worked as a business model, and people got rich, and were very, very excited. But this hasn't been a business model for a long time.

But copying music has happened as long as people have means. I'm sure that people hand-copied ballad sheets and music sheets illegally too.

I try to imagine how hilarious people would have thought it if some industry had attempted to tax everyone singing songs made up by other people a hundred-odd years ago. I'm mystified why people think this is cool now.
posted by corb at 4:56 AM on June 19, 2012


copyright jihadists

Standard of dialogue: raised
posted by ominous_paws at 6:37 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


"copyright jihadists" Otherwise known as people who would like to be paid for doing work. How passé.
posted by baltimoretim at 6:43 AM on June 19, 2012


Particularly sweet in light of the criticism of the "impotent frothy moralizing rage... unpleasant vitriol..." espoused by (what was perceived to be) the opposing side.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:46 AM on June 19, 2012


"copyright jihadists" Otherwise known as people who would like to be paid for doing work. How passé.

There's plenty of things I enjoy doing that are work that nobody is ever going to pay me for. This is capitalism. If I want money I have to do things that people pay me to do.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


DisreputableDog: "Would I ever have learned that the favored music by Chris Gaines was made by the equally dismissed Garth Brooks, which made me question how I thought guys were supposed to look?"

Wait, so you liked Chris Gaines before you knew he was Garth Brooks? That is fascinating. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge Chris Gaines apologist, and I think they screwed up massively by releasing the CD before the movie. It was confusing to the general public just what the fuck Brooks was doing -- was he changing his name? was he trying to fool people? -- but if he had made it clear that he was just playing a role by releasing the movie first it would have made more sense.

Anyway, sorry for the derail, but I'm always up for some good Chris Gaines talk. I'ma go listen to to "Lost In You" now.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:00 AM on June 19, 2012


If someone could sort me out with that shock collar, that'd be just great.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:04 AM on June 19, 2012


Late in the game here. David: I have just deleted my downloaded copies of "When Lassie went to the moon and Take the skinheads bowling". I hope you are happy now. I don't believe I will be buying either of these but I can still listen to them on Spotify. Enjoy your life as an artist.
posted by Xurando at 7:29 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


each audio cassette has a tax that goes to the RIAA to pay for all the taping you're going to do

It's worth pointing out that this is not the case, at least in the US.

Blank analog audiocassette tapes were never covered; what I think you're thinking of is the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 and the later Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998. They were both amazingly shitty laws, written mostly by the music industry and rammed through Congress with plenty of cash lubricant, but they did not affect blank analog tapes. They did, however, succeed in killing the nascent DAT and MiniDisc formats in the US as consumer products, and they laid much of the anti-circumvention groundwork for what would later become the DMCA.

The reason the music industry was so keen on getting the laws passed was specifically because of the whole "home taping is killing music" crap in the 80s; they didn't get a piece of blank analog tape sales, and wanted to make sure that it would never happen again. The way the laws were written, I suspect they thought they were in for 2% of the initial hardware price and 3% of all media sales of all future audio formats, probably forever. The AHRA was the first private copying levy in the US at the time it was introduced.

Unfortunately for them and fortunately for just about everyone else -- except maybe fans of DAT and MiniDisc -- when portable MP3 players (specifically the Diamond Rio PMP300) hit the market, the manufacturers succeeded in getting them deemed "computer peripherals" rather than digital audio devices covered under the AHRA. In retrospect, RIAA v. Diamond was the stake through the heart of the music industry and the entire media levy they thought they had bought themselves, although they didn't know it at the time.

So anyway, the only way you are contributing to the RIAA's slush fund through your media purchases is if you buy certain types of (rare) "home audio" DAT tapes or CD-R blanks, and apparently certain types of satellite radio recorders.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman from way back:
I've been watching this stuff develop from pretty closely all along, and it looks to me from close up as if artists are much worse off now. They've got less contract negotiating clout, less leverage, and their wares are far less valuable than they've ever been. Moral condemnation be damned, it's just true... For the most part, artists are not coming out ahead in the current reshuffling.

Really? That's disappointing. From my admittedly limited view of the situation I assumed things were much better now. Starting a band in the 80s or 90s and trying to go anywhere seems like a joke now. What are your options if you want to be heard? Try to get a local gathering, try to find an indie label, and then get noticed by a major label who is just as likely to screw you over as help you out?

Now, with the Internet the huge force it is, I was hoping things were better off for bands. I was under the impressions that the Rolling Stones and the Lady Gagas of the world maybe weren't raking in quite as much for the labels as they were in years past, but the situation for the smaller groups was better. I have paid money for albums from artists I had never heard before because they said, "Here's a sample, want the album?" or "We're doing a Kickstarter to press an LP!"

Tough to argue with someone who's actually going through this and doesn't see it that way though. I'd be interested to hear more about your experience.

More generally, it's so tough for me to empathize with the music industry on this because if they had it their way library lending and used sales would not exist. Unable to outlaw or tax into oblivion these methods of distribution, I'm pretty sure we're going to see them shut used sales and lending down in a technical manner instead.
posted by ODiV at 7:50 AM on June 19, 2012


Oh, and I buy some records and CDs used and I also occasionally buy limited run vinyl online from obscure indie bands that even I haven't heard of. Mostly I just stream YouTube or Slacker Radio though.
posted by ODiV at 7:52 AM on June 19, 2012


"That's not really saying anything, though, is it? The set of people who don't download music is not equivalent to the set of people who buy music but download it, the latter is only a subset of the former. The other, likely much larger, subset that makes up this group is people who don't really care enough about music to really acquire any."

I think there's a missing word in there somewhere, but what it is saying is that for all the idiotic sturm und drang of the copyrightists, they're ignoring the actual effects in the world — that the same people who are breaking the law to download music are the same ones that are keeping midlist and indie bands alive. The big fall in the music industry hasn't actually been from midlist music, it's that the superstars are recouping less, meaning that there's not as much cushion for the midlisters, so they're getting dropped if they don't perform. But sales aren't coming back for the topline artists — they're exactly the people who aren't really worth owning. They tend to be ephemeral pop, which is just as good streamed over YouTube or Spotify or whatever, especially with internet connected phones.

Instead of bitching about lost sales, it makes more sense to see downloads as part of the promo budget and accept that there will be a tradeoff (and that most people who buy your album heard it for free first).
posted by klangklangston at 8:19 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the future.
posted by freakazoid at 8:27 AM on June 19, 2012


The internet is awesome for smaller artists -- they make more sales through sharing selective tracks for free - as Janis Ian has noted.

I'm not much of a music listener - I prefer to listen to podcasts and other talk radio. But of the the several CDs I've purchased in the last 10 years, all but one or two have been bought AFTER we downloaded sample tracks for free. (The other two were of a busking band or a movie soundtrack - again, something we heard first).

I've bought 3 or 4 CDs from Northside, a small music company, solely because they offered 1-2 sample tracks from every album and I could explore bands I would never have heard of otherwise, except for Loituma (through sheer internet chance). That said, Northside no longer seems to offer tracks, so I probably won't discover any more music that way.

But I have also bought CDs of Gillian Welch, Jason Mraz and Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill (awesome duo) - all based on hearing 1 or more tracks online first - and few of these musicians would ever have played top 40 radio (even if I ever listened to music radio, which I don't). (apparently, Mraz has since made the top 10, but not for a couple of years after his first album which is the one I bought).

The internet is a blessing for smaller and independent artists.
posted by jb at 8:28 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]



Instead of bitching about lost sales, it makes more sense to see downloads as part of the promo budget and accept that there will be a tradeoff (and that most people who buy your album heard it for free first).

Yeah, see, this is part of why I regard the piracy advocates as Enemies of Art, even aside from lost sales. If you believe that the actual freaking music---the whole point of the enterprise---is a "promo", then you've created a perfect anti-Fugazi universe where music exists to generate publicity for t-shirts. What an awful way to be.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:29 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


We pirates are hardly "enemies of art" (how cute!), in fact we seek the highest quality of art. We seek lossless formats, we seek rare releases and old recordings of live performances. We distribute through our bandwidth small bands that otherwise may have been forgotten least someone uploaded. If anything we pirates are curators of art. We provide an easy method for anyone to have anything at their fingertips instantaneously. We share, promote, and cultivate the arts.
posted by handbanana at 8:37 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately for them and fortunately for just about everyone else -- except maybe fans of DAT and MiniDisc -- when portable MP3 players (specifically the Diamond Rio PMP300) hit the market, the manufacturers succeeded in getting them deemed "computer peripherals" rather than digital audio devices covered under the AHRA. In retrospect, RIAA v. Diamond was the stake through the heart of the music industry and the entire media levy they thought they had bought themselves, although they didn't know it at the time.

So anyway, the only way you are contributing to the RIAA's slush fund through your media purchases is if you buy certain types of (rare) "home audio" DAT tapes or CD-R blanks, and apparently certain types of satellite radio recorders.
-- Kadin2048
Interesting, I didn't know that, I had thought they did get a cut of audio tape sales.

One thing I like to point out is that when the iPod first came out, it was basically just a piracy accessory. You had to either pirate MP3s, or rip your own CDs - which the RIAA consider piracy (even though the government didn't)

And that was, obviously, the product that saved Apple and turned it into the most valuable company in the entire world. Of course, most of the jobs are in China. But still, the idea that piracy is destroying the US economy is preposterous in light of Apple.
That's not an argument for anything. It's just a stipulation. Same as saying "smoking in enclosed public spaces isn't wrong" or "taking marijuana isn't wrong". -- fightorflight
That's right, it's not an argument for anything, because we don't need one. Reality itself allows this to happen. Millions of people do it. Why would I need an argument for it?

People didn't need to come up with an argument for drinking in order to get prohibition overturned, no one who wants to legalize bothers to argue for non-medical marijuana use. Like those things, Filesharing is an intrinsically rewarding activity.
And exactly the same with the smoking analogies, it's a personal choice that some people agree or disagree with. But, meantime, people are trying to convince the others, in an attempt to set some sort of broadly accepted social standard. -- fightorflight
"You'll get cancer if you do this" Is obviously a compelling argument.

The other thing, with respect to smoking is that a lot of people really dislike the smell of cigarette smoke. Ultimately, there are more of them now then smokers, and they simply have more power. There are enough of them that they can get laws changed to ban smoking in places they like to go.

It's purely a preference, I like going to bars and not having my clothes reek when I come home, so I'll vote for anti-smoking politicians. That doesn't mean I think it's intrinsically "wrong" for bar owners to allow smoking if they want. I, personally would even be OK some kind of compromise to allow some small percentage of bars to be set aside for smoking. But if I have to chose to vote for a pro-smoking candidate or one who wants to ban them, I would vote for the one who wants to ban them. Again, not because I think it's morally wrong, but because I just don't like the smell (especially how it sticks your clothes, hair, etc. Bleh)

The problem is, when it comes to copyright infringement, there aren't enough people to get swing elections. Sure, the campaign contributions and lobbyists are nice, but that's really all they have. And as you see with SOPA it's not enough to overcome a mass grass-roots political campaign.

I just have to say: It's so bizarre that people who argue against filesharing don't seem to understand that people can disagree about moral/ethical issues.

And again, the real question is not "Should people share songs or not?" but rather "should we impose a draconian censorship system to prevent people from filesharing?" Obviously I oppose the second thing, and over time I've pretty much lost any sympathy for the copyright jihadists and their constant struggle to destroy the internet. Remember the CBDTPA? It would have made all computers capable of playing multimedia and without built-in DRM actually illegal.
copyright jihadists

Standard of dialogue: raised
-- ominous_paws
Oh yeah, because "pirate" and "thief" and "exactly the same as mugging" so polite. *rolls eyes*
"copyright jihadists" Otherwise known as people who would like to be paid for doing work. How passé. -- baltimoretim
Yeah, everyone would like to be paid for their work, but it only happens if people want to pay you.
Particularly sweet in light of the criticism of the "impotent frothy moralizing rage... unpleasant vitriol..." espoused by (what was perceived to be) the opposing side. -- ominous_paws
Right, because I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I certainly don't expect you to stop hating filesharing, any more then I would expect to change my position. I'm simply explaining why your arguments don't work, in case you were wondering.

With respect to artists starving, I support a broad social safety net to prevent anyone from starving to death, And I'm so generous that it would even apply to people without any musical talent.
Yeah, see, this is part of why I regard the piracy advocates as Enemies of Art, even aside from lost sales. If you believe that the actual freaking music---the whole point of the enterprise---is a "promo", then you've created a perfect anti-Fugazi universe where music exists to generate publicity for t-shirts. What an awful way to be.
Right because if it doesn't make money for corporations, it isn't art!

If you guys are unhappy with the situation, feel free to stop making music. I seriously doubt many people would notice.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Plus, there's another good reason to pirate: all this impotent frothy moralizing rage from the pro-copyright side is highly entertaining

Oh gosh, I know---what's funnier than seeing a bunch of powerless artists going hungry! It's just hilarious when you enjoy their work without compensating them, as exquisite as the look on a busboy's face when you make him bring you water ten times and then don't tip! Man, really, is there anything in the world more entertaining than depriving the people who work for you of the means to live?

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:39 AM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, see, this is part of why I regard the piracy advocates as Enemies of Art, even aside from lost sales. If you believe that the actual freaking music---the whole point of the enterprise---is a "promo", then you've created a perfect anti-Fugazi universe where music exists to generate publicity for t-shirts. What an awful way to be.
Right because if it doesn't make money for corporations, it isn't art!


I wonder where you came up with substituting "corporations" for "musicians". Is it because you simply don't imagine that there are people making the music you consume? Or because acknowledging that ripping off corporations is also ripping off artists is painful for you, and like so many thoughts you find difficult, you prefer to pretend they don't exist?

I repeat: If you regard the actual music as a "promo" for the t-shirts, as you have stated you do, then you are an enemy of art, artists, and anything that makes the world better. It is, however, hilarious that you're suddenly bleating that the market determines all value, as you never do in other threads, but I guess it's hard to resist the thrill of exploiting people who can't fight back.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:42 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, really, is there anything in the world more entertaining than depriving the people who work for you of the means to live?
The people who work for me agree on the terms of payment before they do the work. People in markets trying to sell me overpriced leather belts don't work for me, even if I buy one occasionally.
posted by Jairus at 8:44 AM on June 19, 2012


Christ how melodramatic!
no one is saying "starve the artist"
just that copyright is fucked, and needs to be fixed.
I appreciate many different forms of art, but downloading a copy of pink floyd, or a copy of the new album by "x independent band" isn't starving an artist. If anything the artist is starving themselves for, welll being an artist. Hence the term, starving artist. The phrase isnt "starving engineer" or "starving accountant".
posted by handbanana at 8:48 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, because I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I certainly don't expect you to stop hating filesharing, any more then I would expect to change my position.

I don't think you actually have a clue how I feel about file sharing. I am in fact ambivalent, and still trying to settle my own feelings on the matter.

What I most certainly *am*, is gobsmacked by the amount of words you've dedicated to strawmanning, hyperbole, histrionic ad hominem attacks, making the same basic logical errors that you've (often incorrectly) accused others of, and producing nasty, antagonistic doggerel. I feel dirty for even engaging, but there you go.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can't play them anymore and - unlike an NPR intern - I have a job, so I think I'll replace some of them with CDs.

I believe I read it last summer, almost a year ago now. According to Rolling Stone Mag, big label record companies will stop even manufacturing CDs by the end of 2014. That particular beast is dead. And yes folks, we have killed it.

fun though.
posted by philip-random at 9:09 AM on June 19, 2012


I repeat: If you regard the actual music as a "promo" for the t-shirts, as you have stated you do, then you are an enemy of art, artists, and anything that makes the world better.

Neither klang nor delmoi said anything about t-shirts. Downloads are a promo for the actual album -- the days when everyone bought albums they couldn't hear in full are long gone. Admitting that fact doesn't make people "enemies of art".
posted by vorfeed at 9:10 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saul Goodman
I've been watching this stuff develop from pretty closely all along, and it looks to me from close up as if artists are much worse off now. They've got less contract negotiating clout, less leverage, and their wares are far less valuable than they've ever been. Moral condemnation be damned, it's just true... For the most part, artists are not coming out ahead in the current reshuffling.


Worth noting (and not do denigrate anything in MeFi music), but Saul Goodman's stuff is of a genuinely high standard in terms of craft, artistry and overall attainment. Indeed, there's no doubt in my mind that twenty years ago, you wouldn't hesitate to call him a pro.

An example
posted by philip-random at 9:19 AM on June 19, 2012


That's right, it's not an argument for anything, because we don't need one. Reality itself allows this to happen. Millions of people do it. Why would I need an argument for it? [...] Right, because I'm not trying to convince you of anything.

You only need an argument if you're interested in engaging or persuading others who have different opinions about the morality of the act. Which you're not trying to do, so I agree you're fine without one.

I wish someone would provide a positive argument, though, one that amounted to more than "lots of people do it ergo it's good", "I have thousands of songs that i wouldn't otherwise have" or "mashups".

Because we need to figure something out here. The copyright laws are archaic, broken and counter-productive. I personally am in favour of some solution that allows for personal sharing with stronger commercial exploitation protections in exchange for a shorter term (eg 10-15 years). But we're not going to get there without making a good case for it, and I don't think we have, yet.
posted by fightorflight at 9:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


We pirates are hardly "enemies of art" (how cute!), in fact we seek the highest quality of art.

Pirates are the enemies of the scarcity-based marketplace for art, which was the dominant force for many years, but is now on the wane due to the evolution of digital compression and filesharing tech.
posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's quite amusing watching a bunch of what are normally politically fairly progressive and liberal trying harder than your worst caricature of a heartless 1%er to try and justify not paying for the use and enjoyment of the fruit of someone else's labor.
posted by gyc at 9:27 AM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's quite amusing watching a bunch of what are normally politically fairly progressive and liberal trying harder than your worst caricature of a heartless 1%er to try and justify not paying for the use and enjoyment of the fruit of someone else's labor.

To clarify. It's the market that has failed, not the soul of the downloader, who (as has been pointed out any number of times already) is often as not also the greatest appreciator of music (ie: statistically more likely to spend more money on music than non-downloaders).

I've raised the point before. I'll raise it again. I wonder how many of us hateful, soulless, criminal downloaders would happily pay a fair monthly fee (perhaps adjusted to reflect our income) directly to the creators of culture, but only if we knew it was actually going to the creators, not to various bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, mob-connected thugs, extortionists etc who have managed to wedge themselves into the model. I know I would.

Call it a tax. I'm Canadian. We're not afraid of that word.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you regard the actual music as a "promo" for the t-shirts, as you have stated you do, then you are an enemy of art, artists, and anything that makes the world better.

Clearly, lol.

Pirates are the enemies of the scarcity-based marketplace for art, which was the dominant force for many years, but is now on the wane due to the evolution of digital compression and filesharing tech.

Exactly. And "pirates" isn't really the right word. "Pirates" would be ripping DVDs and selling them, (somewhat) maintaining that artificial scarcity.

Call 'em what they/we are: "downloaders."

I wish someone would provide a positive argument, though, one that amounted to more than "lots of people do it ergo it's good", "I have thousands of songs that i wouldn't otherwise have" or "mashups".

Some people, true students of art, music, film, etc. truly cannot afford access to all of the art that they could consume, interpret, etc. Non-harmful duplication of digital versions of such art made freely to people who cannot afford it otherwise can only be a good thing.

The problem, as I see it, is how do you then value something that has a comparable free version? Honestly, I think it sucks for people who've been screwed by the transition in business model, but copies of digital files will always be available and free. It will only get easier, so you have to prepare for the reality.

Right now, it's the ISPs and ad-based file-sharing services (including YouTube) that are making hay. User X cannot afford the $2,000 worth of music (200 CDs) she listens to every month, but she can afford (her share of) a monthly internet bill and $100 to go in on a used laptop. (Google "YouTube to MP3 Converter"), which is partly why some find the current setup so offensive: different people are making money, and it's still not the musicians.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:44 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yup, the place to get us downloaders is where we're already paying. Our monthly internet bills. Which kind of flies in the face of the notion of free public WiFi, but that could be handled via advertisers (the it's free at Starbucks example) or just marginally higher municipal taxes (the it's free anywhere in downtown example).

The elephant in the room here then is, how will the loot be divided? That is, say I'm suddenly paying ten bucks more a month on my Telus bill. How much of that will make it to cool, fringe indie-music guy versus Justin Bieber + his lawyers?

This is the discussion I wish we could be having.
posted by philip-random at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


different people are making money, and it's still not the musicians.

Amanda Palmer is making money. So is Jonathan Coulton. MCs Lars, Frontalot, and chris are too.

If you can't make money on your music, you're doing something wrong.

And it ain't my fault.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Yeah, see, this is part of why I regard the piracy advocates as Enemies of Art, even aside from lost sales. If you believe that the actual freaking music---the whole point of the enterprise---is a "promo", then you've created a perfect anti-Fugazi universe where music exists to generate publicity for t-shirts. What an awful way to be."

Hey, since you don't want people to listen to music before they buy it, which will lead to fewer sales for those artists you pretend to love, you're worse than Hitler.

I mean, that's the way you're rolling, right? Where you misrepresent a position then combine it with a hyperbolic insult — I assume because you're either too stupid or too dishonest to actually engage with what's written.

The music is a promo for the music — just like the radio (which you don't care about even though listeners don't pay, because you've got a muddled semi-consequentialist [except not reliant on any empirical facts] philosophy) or hearing it at a bar or in a commercial or any other way that people get exposed to music without paying for it up front.

Again, I buy albums. I probably buy more albums than you do. I also download music, though I download a lot less now that I can stream things I'm curious about for free.

But hey, keep pretending that no music is disposable or ephemeral, and that consumers have no leverage to control the commercial exchange. It'll work great, and won't make you look like an anachronistic asshole at all.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hm. I could buy X CDs this month and listen only to those X CDs, or I could buy X CDs this month and listen to everything under the sun. You can argue with anonymous people on the internet and give $50 to OxFam, or you could argue with anonymous people on the internet and give $100 to OxFam. Which if us is doing more harm by choosing the first rather than the second option?

You've already incentivized me to give $50 by being a doofus. The marginal $50 was to incentivize you to follow through: I asked you to do a thing (to prove that you're sort of a well-meaning doofus instead of a pompous ineffectual doofus) and a marginal $50 should have been enough to get a charitably minded person to do the thing. I can't kick in the extra $50 because you didn't follow through. It's important that I do what I say I'm going to do so that my future commitments are respected.

...

You haven't even attempted to prove that you've donated anything to anyone in the last six months. Here is a link to a sheep that I donated to OxFam as a gift on behalf of Chortly Alltalk.
posted by Kwine at 10:06 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Good work. The farmer will appreciate the back left hoof of the sheep he receives as royalty on your donation after his manager / the warlord who owns the land he farms on gets done eating the rest of it for dinner.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2012


The preceding comment was an analogy based on just about nothing please do not answer it with more rhetoric.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


To clarify. It's the market that has failed, not the soul of the downloader, who (as has been pointed out any number of times already) is often as not also the greatest appreciator of music (ie: statistically more likely to spend more money on music than non-downloaders).

Just to add: it's not even against the law to download music from a file-sharing site.
posted by empath at 10:37 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"If you guys are unhappy with the situation, feel free to stop making music. I seriously doubt many people would notice." --delmoi

I'm imagining delmoi as a child, windmilling arms wildly, crossing the living room with a sibling in his sights, saying "If you don't want to get punched, you better get out of my way! If I hit you, it's your fault!"
posted by baltimoretim at 10:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm imagining baltimoretim as a child demanding an allowance for coloring inside the lines.

Make of that what you will.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:45 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've raised the point before. I'll raise it again. I wonder how many of us hateful, soulless, criminal downloaders would happily pay a fair monthly fee (perhaps adjusted to reflect our income) directly to the creators of culture, but only if we knew it was actually going to the creators, not to various bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, mob-connected thugs, extortionists etc who have managed to wedge themselves into the model. I know I would.

No, you wouldn't. After all, you don't. Right now, you could do exactly that---lots of creators have blogs, tip jars, etc. Donated lately? Oh, but it's so hard to donate there. So inconvenient! This "I would pay if I knew I could" is a smokescreen.

Gyc: Thank you for directly making the completely accurate point that these "downloaders" are creepily gleeful in their reenactment of a factory boss contemplating a move to China: "Hey, this is what the market supports! I can do it, and it's not illegal, so who are you to tell me it should be done otherwise? If workers don't like it, they can quit!"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:48 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, ChurchHatesTucker, now that you've thought of me and I've "entered into your life," as an earlier poster put it, I suppose I've gotten everything I could ask for. Cheers!
posted by baltimoretim at 10:48 AM on June 19, 2012


Well, ChurchHatesTucker, now that you've thought of me and I've "entered into your life," as an earlier poster put it, I suppose I've gotten everything I could ask for. Cheers!

Don't give up yet. You've got my attention, now you have the opportunity to leverage it into a truly scarce good, like a performance of coloring prowess. I'm thinking I'd pay ten bucks, or the equivalent in beer, for that.

I suspect we're neighbors, so this could actually happen.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, ChurchHatesTucker, now that you've thought of me and I've "entered into your life," as an earlier poster put it, I suppose I've gotten everything I could ask for. Cheers!

How much do you normally charge people to read your creative output, and why are you doing it for free, right now? Why, in fact, did you pay $5 for the privilege of other people reading your words for free?
posted by empath at 11:01 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


lots of creators have blogs, tip jars, etc. Donated lately? Oh, but it's so hard to donate there. So inconvenient! This "I would pay if I knew I could" is a smokescreen.

You're right. I generally don't give money to artists direct (via tip jars etc) precisely because it's inconvenient. Because that Nicolas Jaar mega-mix I downloaded didn't come from his site. And anyway, he was just the DJ. What about all the artists whose tracks he played? Am I supposed to track all them down individually, find their tip jars? What about the old blues guy who's been dead for twenty years?

Also, I appreciate that you have special powers that allow you to know my heart and soul and their every motivation. Except they have missed the fact that I happily send Netflix a monthly few bucks, precisely because I consider it good value, mainly because of the convenience (ie: saves me a lot of time searching, finding, downloading etc).
posted by philip-random at 11:05 AM on June 19, 2012


"No, you wouldn't. After all, you don't. Right now, you could do exactly that---lots of creators have blogs, tip jars, etc. Donated lately? Oh, but it's so hard to donate there. So inconvenient! This "I would pay if I knew I could" is a smokescreen."

Hey, way to assert something without any evidence, chief. In the past six months, I've donated to Kickstarter campaigns for recording new works, bought albums on Bandcamp, donated on Bandcamp for a free album, and purchased several new records (along with used ones, which don't really count except tangentially).

I know that you shrink from facts like a vampire from sun, but if maybe you could stop whupping some straw man in order to justify your moralizing bullshit, we wouldn't have to treat you like a rabid moron.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why people assume that because we pirate sometimes, or most of the time, that we never, ever pay for music. Its a simple fact that people who share and download music buy more music than anyone else.

And we indirectly lead to sales, too, since we are the ones bothering our friends with all the new music we find.

The people who insist on everyone paying for all the music they listen to are not only impoverishing themselves for no good reason, they are impoverishing the world and impoverishing artists now and in the future.

You have a right to the cultural output of the world, and you have no right to demand that anyone close their ears and eyes to all the beauty and art the human mind creates. It's like telling people not to breathe.
posted by empath at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well...that made me think about the issue, in a more serious way than I have in a long time.

I still consider all my digital music to be merely disposable backup copies...one day the drive they are stored on will crash, and my digital music collection will die with it.
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2012


I don't know why people assume that because we pirate sometimes, or most of the time, that we never, ever pay for music. Its a simple fact that people who share and download music buy more music than anyone else.

I don't know why people assume that giving money to Artist X justifies not paying Artist Y for his work.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:41 AM on June 19, 2012


I don't know why people assume that giving money to Artist X justifies not paying Artist Y for his work.

I don't know why people assume that if you respond to someone's post with a completely unrelated statement, that you're making a point of some kind.
posted by Jairus at 11:43 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Regardless of the ethical issues, we can all agree that recorded music is generally no longer a scarce commodity. However, it still takes time, effort, expertise, and technology to make albums. The question then becomes, what business models make the most sense for people who make music albums?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:45 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe artist y isnt as good, or charges too much for too little, or is dead (and fuck the estate, those bastards did nothing to make the art). It really doesnt matter, x =/= y.

Sorry, world isnt fair, never has been, and damn you made a pretty entitled comment about how all artist should be paid. Seriously, if you think making art for money is a great career choice and if you arent paid you wont make art, I can find many many more artists willing to make art for the sake of art.
posted by handbanana at 11:48 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why people assume that giving money to Artist X justifies not paying Artist Y for his work.

We've had this stupid fucking argument before. If a pool of people pay for a percentage of songs that they purchase at random, then x and y will be compensated equally if they are downloaded equally.
posted by empath at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am going to quote myself here, because I said this in an interview a couple of months ago and I don't think I can say it any better than I did then.

I don’t believe access to art should depend on how much money you have. I don’t believe that a trust fund teenager with an iTunes account connected to daddy’s credit card deserves more access to art than a teenager on welfare. The idea that the trust fund kid is “allowed” to listen to more music is so completely fucking absurd to me as to be nonsense. It’s like having a fireworks show and saying that poor people who can’t afford to pay you $20 aren’t allowed looking up at the sky because hey those fireworks aren’t cheap to make and I gotta eat, you know? It’s crazy.

I used to have a lot of time for other artists who didn’t see things the same way. I don’t any more. I understand why people got spooked when file-sharing came out, and industry revenues started dropping. We didn’t know that people were deciding to spend money on games instead of music or film, or that entertainment spending overall was still rising year after year.

Ten years ago we didn’t have countless studies that showed people who pirate music spend more money on music than people who don’t. We didn’t have testimonials and case studies of how free distribution increases sales. There’s no excuse anymore, and artists have so much learned helplessness and cognitive dissonance on the issue that it’s mindblowing. Musicians complain on Facebook about people pirating their music between posting YouTube links of other people’s pirated music.

92% of teenagers don’t have a problem with downloading. That’s the future. People graduating high school this year have never known a world without Google. Think about that. Think about how meaningless the idea of ‘piracy’ is for someone who has spent their entire life being able to listen to anything they want just by typing it into their browser bar.

If artists and labels don’t understand that the game has changed, that’s their problem. They can have their tantrums. They can throw a fit and say they’re not going to make or release music anymore because everyone’s going to download it. That’s fine. Just means that every day there’s less of them. I don’t need artists to agree with me. I just need them to get out of the fucking way.
posted by Jairus at 11:55 AM on June 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


I still consider all my digital music to be merely disposable backup copies...one day the drive they are stored on will crash, and my digital music collection will die with it.

Your CDs will eventually succumb to bitrot. The only way to preserve in a digital age is copy, copy, copy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:15 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know why people assume that because we pirate sometimes, or most of the time, that we never, ever pay for music. Its a simple fact that people who share and download music buy more music than anyone else.

I don't believe you, and suspect that this only appears to be true because the pool of people downloading music overlaps with the pool of people who purchase music.

I don’t believe access to art should depend on how much money you have. I don’t believe that a trust fund teenager with an iTunes account connected to daddy’s credit card deserves more access to art than a teenager on welfare. The idea that the trust fund kid is “allowed” to listen to more music is so completely fucking absurd to me as to be nonsense. It’s like having a fireworks show and saying that poor people who can’t afford to pay you $20 aren’t allowed looking up at the sky because hey those fireworks aren’t cheap to make and I gotta eat, you know? It’s crazy.

Where you and klangklangston (with the radio/background music analogy) are wrong are in the element of choice. If I let of fireworks or play a song, you can of course, look/listen. But you have zero input into what comes next. Even if you want to see Firework X followed by Firework Y, if I decide to launch Firework Z instead you can do nothing about it, because I paid for the fireworks, not you. Likewise when you listen to the radio it's not free, you have to lose some of your time to listening to adverts or repeats of songs you dislike but which the DJ wants to play, because you didn't pay anything for the broadcast. You go to a bar and overhear a song you like, great, but you don't get to choose what comes on next unless you get up and put some money in the jukebox.

Ten years ago we didn’t have countless studies that showed people who pirate music spend more money on music than people who don’t. We didn’t have testimonials and case studies of how free distribution increases sales.

But recorded music retail sales are in decline. And not all artists want or are able to tour or market merchandise like t-shirts...which, in any case, are ancillary to music production.

If artists and labels don’t understand that the game has changed, that’s their problem. They can have their tantrums. They can throw a fit and say they’re not going to make or release music anymore because everyone’s going to download it. That’s fine. Just means that every day there’s less of them. I don’t need artists to agree with me. I just need them to get out of the fucking way.

So this is how the people on Easter Island ran out of trees.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your CDs will eventually succumb to bitrot. The only way to preserve in a digital age is copy, copy, copy.

And you and I will succumb to rot, too. It's no tragedy...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 12:19 PM on June 19, 2012


"Where you and klangklangston (with the radio/background music analogy) are wrong are in the element of choice. If I let of fireworks or play a song, you can of course, look/listen. But you have zero input into what comes next. Even if you want to see Firework X followed by Firework Y, if I decide to launch Firework Z instead you can do nothing about it, because I paid for the fireworks, not you. Likewise when you listen to the radio it's not free, you have to lose some of your time to listening to adverts or repeats of songs you dislike but which the DJ wants to play, because you didn't pay anything for the broadcast. You go to a bar and overhear a song you like, great, but you don't get to choose what comes on next unless you get up and put some money in the jukebox."

This is a silly objection. When I listen to music on Spotify or YouTube, I get to choose what I listen to and listen for free and it's legal. Making the element of choice determining in the analogy is a non-starter.

"I don't believe you, and suspect that this only appears to be true because the pool of people downloading music overlaps with the pool of people who purchase music. "

No, it's really because the people who are really invested in music, in general, share that music as well as buy that music. Every single musician I know personally, every single promoter I know, every single music writer I know, every single record label employee — they all both pay for music and get a shit-ton for free, often of dubious provenance. It's just part and parcel of surrounding yourself with music.
posted by klangklangston at 12:25 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


And you and I will succumb to rot, too. It's no tragedy...

Speak for yourself.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:25 PM on June 19, 2012


I was talking about you...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2012


I don't believe you, and suspect that this only appears to be true because the pool of people downloading music overlaps with the pool of people who purchase music.

"People who download music illegally also spend an average of £77 a year buying it legitimately, a survey has found. Those who claimed not to use peer-to-peer filesharing sites such as The Pirate Bay spent a yearly average of just £44."

"However, when it comes to P2P, it seems that those who wave the pirate flag are the most click-happy on services like the iTunes Store and Amazon MP3. BI said that those who said they download illegal music for "free" bought ten times as much legal music as those who never download music illegally. "

"The report, prepared by University of London researchers, Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz, found that music downloads have a positive effect on music purchases among Canadian downloaders"

I have a dozen more studies I can link, if you'd like.


But recorded music retail sales are in decline.

Of course they are. People are largely spending their time and money on video games instead of music and film now.
posted by Jairus at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a silly objection. When I listen to music on Spotify or YouTube, I get to choose what I listen to and listen for free and it's legal. Making the element of choice determining in the analogy is a non-starter.

And nobody is complaining about your choice to listen to music on Spotify or Youtube or any similar service. It is legal, and artists who don't want their music to appear on those platforms have a relatively straightforward mechanism for having it removed or collecting a royalty on it.

Has anyone in this thread called for spotify or Youtube or Bandcamp or Soundlcoud or any other service to be curtailed? No. As you very well know, what some people are objecting to in this thread is unlicensed filesharing, in which the artist has no say whatsoever in the distribution or availability of the music.

It's all about choice. When you consume music through legal channels, you have a choice about what to listen to and the artist has a choice about whether to make their music available there. When you consume music via the radio or some other environmental source, you don't have any choice about what comes next because you don't control the broadcast/playback equipment. Likewise, when you download music in torrents, the artist doesn't have any choice about whether to license it or give it away free or withhold it.

No, it's really because the people who are really invested in music, in general, share that music as well as buy that music. Every single musician I know personally, every single promoter I know, every single music writer I know, every single record label employee — they all both pay for music and get a shit-ton for free, often of dubious provenance. It's just part and parcel of surrounding yourself with music.

None of which addresses the issue. I used to DJ, I know all about how the music industry functions. The number of people who are actually in the industry is a vanishingly small fraction of consumers.

Jairus, all your sources are several years out of date. I'm sort of amused at how you tell me the world is changing out of one side of your mouth but all your data is 3-5 years old and therefore a rather poor guide to what's going on now.

But recorded music retail sales are in decline.

Of course they are. People are largely spending their time and money on video games instead of music and film now.


you realise that this argument only makes sense if there is a fixed pool of consumers spending a fixed amount, yes? You're conflating market share with market revenue, as if the entire market for entertainment media were limited to a specific amount of revenue and all goods within that market were perfect substitutes.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:44 PM on June 19, 2012


It's important that I do what I say I'm going to do so that my future commitments are respected. ... You haven't even attempted to prove that you've donated anything to anyone in the last six months. Here is a link to a sheep that I donated to OxFam as a gift on behalf of Chortly Alltalk.

I doubt whether your reputation will be materially affected by your attempts to bully anonymous people on the internet into revealing their identities to make your rhetorical points. I made no "attempt" to demonstrate my charity because that's stupid. I'm sorry you decided your imagined reputation was worth denying someone a real sheep, but if I managed to wring $50 out of this discussion, that's much more productive than the average internet argument!
posted by chortly at 12:50 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think bands get a choice about whether they're played on the radio or not, do they? Maybe it depends on the country.
posted by ODiV at 12:51 PM on June 19, 2012


The number of people who are actually in the industry is a vanishingly small fraction of consumers.

But the people who actually make music, as opposed to being in 'industry' is growing all the time.
posted by empath at 12:56 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


As if the entire market for entertainment media were limited to a specific amount of revenue

Of course it is. Why wouldn't it be? There's only so much money available for entertainment, just as there is only so much money available for rents and so on.
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


But recorded music retail sales are in decline.

Of course they are. People are largely spending their time and money on video games instead of music and film now.


I like a lot of what Jairus is saying but one nit: Hollywood monies are up 54% in the past decade. I'm not saying all is well but music is certainly taking the brunt of it, it's about more than just piracy and people not wanting to buy, it's about producing product that people WANT to buy.
posted by Cosine at 1:03 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think bands get a choice about whether they're played on the radio or not, do they?

sure they do - or rather the record company does, if they're willing to pay off radio stations with super-tight playlists for the privilege of playing a band's record

and actually, that's the 900 pound gorilla in the whole equation - that the most important means of promoting a record, broadcasting it to the public on public airwaves, is so tightly controlled by people who have no real interest in the health of the music industry or the artists

if the midlist artists don't get played, they're a lot less likely to sell records - and THAT is partially responsible for the decline of the music industry - if there were more stations that were willing to play contemporary music instead of the same damned records we've been hearing for 20 to 40 years, people like david lowery would be making more money

it's the same old REAL law of the commons - complain about the people who steal the sheep and look the other way at the guy who steals the whole commons

also, did it ever occur to mr lowery that the recession might have something to do with reduced sales? - or, god forbid, that maybe music just isn't as good right now?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:04 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


pyramid termite: Right, but I meant the other way around. Can they avoid being played on the radio if they don't want to be? I didn't think that was the case.
posted by ODiV at 1:25 PM on June 19, 2012


First of all, torrents are legal. There is nothing inherently illegal about them. Again, for some reason, wrapping ones head around a criminal and a civil matter is difficult amongst some people. Second, people wrongfully upload copyright music on youtube all the time, shit google even said it was practically impossible to stop when the studios were on a rampage. Third, not everyone is satisfied with low bitrate, always needing a connection, ad supported service. Some of us want music on our own terms, particularly with the latest fucked up concept of tiered internet services/pay per gig.
posted by handbanana at 1:33 PM on June 19, 2012


Oh gosh, I know---what's funnier than seeing a bunch of powerless artists going hungry! It's just hilarious when you enjoy their work without compensating them -- ThatFuzzyBastard
Which artists do I listen too who are starving? Let me know and I'll send them some money. The fact is, I don't actually believe any of these musicians are actually starving.

The other problem with this argument is it assumes that it's OK if people who are not artists do starve. How is that moral? As I said, I favor a broad social safety net, so no one starves, regardless of their musical talent.

If the goal is simply to prevent starvation, it would be more moral for me to donate to the red cross or Oxfam every time I pirate something, that would be a much more efficient method of preventing starvation.

I looked at a couple of the metafilter music profiles of people who claimed to be musicians. Some was OK and some was terrible. But honestly, it's not stuff I would ever even bother trying to find and torrent, let alone pay for. If you stopped making music, it wouldn't affect my life at all. And rest assured, I'm probably not listening to anything you made anyway.
I wonder where you came up with substituting "corporations" for "musicians". Is it because you simply don't imagine that there are people making the music you consume? -- ThatFuzzyBastard
Because both corporations and musicians get a chunk of the money. In some cases, most of it goes to the corp, in other cases most of it to the artist.

But the thing is, I've heard from plenty of more successful artists say that file sharing doesn't bother them very much Dave Grohl, Lady Gaga, and 50 cent just off the top of my head. Maybe they're afraid if that if they rant the way Lars Ulrich did their popularity will decline and less people will listen to them, but if that's were true it would be a good illustration of just how powerful and popular the piracy 'ideology' is in today's society.
Man, really, is there anything in the world more entertaining than depriving the people who work for you of the means to live?

Christ, what an asshole.
-- ThatFuzzyBastard
Anyway, this is a perfect example of the frothy, impotent outrage I'm talking about. Obviously you're very upset, and yet, it changes nothing. As far as musicians being 'deprived' of the means to live, if they're not making enough money as musicians they can do something else. No one is forcing them to do it.
It's quite amusing watching a bunch of what are normally politically fairly progressive and liberal trying harder than your worst caricature of a heartless 1%er to try and justify not paying for the use and enjoyment of the fruit of someone else's labor.
Since when is liberalism/socialism/progressivism opposed to enjoying other people's labor? Isn't that the whole premise of progressive taxation and social support? Rich people work, they are taxed, and the tax money is used to pay for social programs. People "enjoy" the fruit of other people's labor.

In fact, farther left you go the less of a respect for "property" you have. At the extreme end you have the communist who believe in collective ownership, etc, etc, etc. The soviets didn't believe in intellectual property at all.

It's libertarians and hard-core objectivists who are opposed to benefiting from other people's labor. You actually seem to have confused left-wing ideology with libertarianism.
Right now, it's the ISPs and ad-based file-sharing services (including YouTube) that are making hay. User X cannot afford the $2,000 worth of music (200 CDs) she listens to every month, but she can afford (her share of) a monthly internet bill and $100 to go in on a used laptop. (Google "YouTube to MP3 Converter"), which is partly why some find the current setup so offensive: different people are making money, and it's still not the musicians.
Artists get paid when you play their music on youtube. It's licensed.
I'm imagining delmoi as a child, windmilling arms wildly, crossing the living room with a sibling in his sights, saying "If you don't want to get punched, you better get out of my way! If I hit you, it's your fault!"
First copyright infringement was theft, and now it's equivalent to punching people in the face
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think bands get a choice about whether they're played on the radio or not, do they? Maybe it depends on the country.
Not in the US. Radio stations can play whatever music they want for a fixed rate.
posted by delmoi at 1:37 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Well, to assuage my niggling guilt -- even though one is not morally responsible for the actions of blackmailers -- I gave the $50 to OxFam myself, in the form of a goat. But since I don't entirely trust the anonymity of their website, you'll just have to take my word for it! On the upside, if reputation is your worry, you are always free to donate your second $50 as well, and just not tell anyone about it. On the downside, my $50 came from my entertainment budget, so that's that much less for the artists I would like to support this year...

On a more serious note, I would certainly be in favor of a government body that helps out musicians and other artists whose jobs have been disrupted by new technology, much as is sometimes done for factory workers disrupted by robotics. I'm not sure what form the subsidies and retraining for this new economy should best take, but I'd be happy to have an extra tax to pay for it.
posted by chortly at 1:38 PM on June 19, 2012


First of all, torrents are legal. There is nothing inherently illegal about them.

It's a violation of copyright law to torrent a file that you don't have the legal right to do so: Torrenting a linux ISO is fine, and people use them to distribute large files they own. However, if you torrent a movie, audio CD you do violate copyright law because your computer distributes chunks to other users.

If you just download from a megaupload.com type site you're not 'distributing' the content, unless you were the one who posted it.
posted by delmoi at 1:39 PM on June 19, 2012


Artists get paid when you play their music on youtube. It's licensed.

Music videos which are on Youtube via VEVO are licensed, but the vast, vast majority of the music on youtube isn't from VEVO. Most of it is just stuff people uploaded, no licensing required.
posted by vorfeed at 1:47 PM on June 19, 2012


Has that ever been tested in court, delmoi?
posted by empath at 1:48 PM on June 19, 2012


Yep, a civil, not criminal. I dont give a fuck as long as it isnt a criminal offense. Even then, I probably still would do it, just through an international vpn. Its the job of the copyright holder to prove damages.... I wont be going to jail over it, and I'd love to see the tired agruement on how my download 'damaged them". Now when it becomes a criminal, it will be only more of a signal of corporate interests using the legal system for a business model.
posted by handbanana at 1:49 PM on June 19, 2012


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think bands get a choice about whether they're played on the radio or not, do they? Maybe it depends on the country.

Of course they do, by releasing a record or not. If a radio station played unreleased material without a band's permission (eg a recording of a gig or an unreleased track), they could be sued. Also, the radio stations pay into a royalty pool.

As if the entire market for entertainment media were limited to a specific amount of revenue

Of course it is. Why wouldn't it be? There's only so much money available for entertainment, just as there is only so much money available for rents and so on.


ridiculous. More people are entering the market than leaving it, and incomes are rising, so even if people spent a fixed portion of their wealth on entertainment the size of the market would still be incresing. but people don't have to spend a fixed portion of their welath on entertainment. They can choose how to spend it; some people buy lots of music, some people prefer attending sports events, and so on. There is no basis whatsoever for your claim that entertainment spending is a fixed-size pie, in which every videogame sale must translate into a correspondingly small number of music sales. None.

First of all, torrents are legal.

Nobody claimed otherwise. Next!
posted by anigbrowl at 1:55 PM on June 19, 2012


Of course they [choose whether to be played on the radio], by releasing a record or not.

If you don't see what the obvious response to this is, then I don't think you have any idea where we're coming from. And I don't think you're making any effort to understand.
posted by cdward at 2:07 PM on June 19, 2012


I looked at a couple of the metafilter music profiles of people who claimed to be musicians. Some was OK and some was terrible. But honestly, it's not stuff I would ever even bother trying to find and torrent, let alone pay for. If you stopped making music, it wouldn't affect my life at all. And rest assured, I'm probably not listening to anything you made anyway.

Stay classy, dude.
posted by malocchio at 2:32 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


David Lowery wants a pony.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:33 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you don't see what the obvious response to this is, then I don't think you have any idea where we're coming from. And I don't think you're making any effort to understand.

Much like you're not making much effort to understand the rest of the paragraph where it mentions royalties. Usually when there are multiple sentences in a paragraph they're connected in some fashion, and you're invited to consider them all together instead of in isolation.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:58 PM on June 19, 2012


I didn't click save on this one earlier today...

> But this hasn't been a business model for a long time.

Why say such obviously wrong things?

The record industry pulls in about $30 billion dollars a year in sales, still.

So this is indeed a "business model". Perhaps it's an old business model, or one in trouble, but it's one that employs hundreds of thousands of people.

And again, you somehow use "not being a business model" to justify taking music that other people have made and asked you not to take. The two are not related.

> I try to imagine how hilarious people would have thought it if some industry had attempted to tax everyone singing songs made up by other people a hundred-odd years ago.

Instead of "trying to imagine", why not spend just a few seconds' finding out actual facts about the field that you are pontificating about?

In fact, a hundred years ago, pirated sheet music was a big deal - with counterfeiters pumping out the latest hits, police busts and appeals to "liberty". And what happened? In the balance, intellectual property won. People still bought sheet music for a generation or two, and nearly all of it was genuine.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:01 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


One more point I want to address - the claim that people who download actually spend more money on music is not an observed fact.

The actual observation is that people who self-report downloading a lot also self-report paying for more music.

There's no study backing up this up with actual download vs sales figures, and it certainly seems plausible that people who are actually downloading a lot could report that they bought more music than they actually did to assuage their consciences, or even that people misreported both their downloads and purchases to make themselves seem more important.

Without any hard data, this idea is at best anecdotal.

Another independent way to test the hypothesis might be to look at downloads and at music sales. If people who downloaded more also bought more music, then you might expect that there might be a correlation between these curves over time.

In fact, as you're probably aware, over the last decade there has been a negative correlation - the number of free downloads has spiked while the revenues of the music industry have tanked.

Yes, correlation is only evidence of causation, not proof, but the lack of correlation is a disproof of causation...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:10 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can rationalise and justify it any way you want, piracy is still morally wrong because if you're supposed to pay for something and you don't pay for it, you're depriving someone of something due to them. It's all very well saying "things would be better a different way" or "you're wrong to want me to pay you", but if you are supposed to pay and you don't, that is immoral. People just don't have enough scruples. I'm not saying everyone needs to be more scrupulous (though that would be nice), just making an observation that whatever justifications are made, piracy is still wrong (in the sense of morally wrong).
posted by rubber duck at 3:18 PM on June 19, 2012


whose morals are you speaking of here?
Not mine.
posted by philip-random at 3:31 PM on June 19, 2012


On what basis are you determining that it's morally wrong? You can't just make that pronouncement. The case can just as easily be made that copyright itself is immoral, or at best a necessary evil.
posted by empath at 3:35 PM on June 19, 2012


You can rationalise and justify it any way you want, piracy is still morally wrong because if you're supposed to pay for something and you don't pay for it, you're depriving someone of something due to them.

Nope. I take things from people all the time without paying for them. Usually it's just a smile or sometimes I might ask them for directions or the time or where they were born. Then there are cases where I take stuff from them without their consent; I take pleasure in their appearance or the sound of their laugh or, the rare simple enjoyment of being around a bunch of warm bodies. And people take stuff from me all the time and I don't charge them (though sometimes I feel I should) because I'm a generous guy. The reality is that this increasingly desperate attempt to insist that all social exchanges must be monetized (or even consensual!) is just that. I could go on a long rant about how most musicians steal too so the sanctimony in this thread is laughable, and that, net net, the culture of sharing is almost definitely a net positive (but who knows, one day there'll be no more music! And it'll all be because of those kids and their ipods!) but the reality is -- who cares. Society evolves, morality changes. Thirty years ago people might've looked askance at somebody running an industrial cassette copying operation and stealing a bunch of music. Thirty years from now the idea that you shouldn't share your music collection with your friends and family will be regarded as exceedingly stupid, akin to the idea that you shouldn't share food with those you love. All this talk of "morally wrong" and other absolutes is just nonsense. This is what's going to happen next.
posted by nixerman at 3:43 PM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


what business models make the most sense for people who make music albums?

Day jobs?
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:48 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, sharing music = good. Sharing money = bad. Got it!
posted by anigbrowl at 3:50 PM on June 19, 2012


I could go on a long rant about how most musicians steal

The vast, vast, vast, vast majority of music is a frankenstein-ed together mish-mash of other popular songs and hooks. I'm not denigrating at all how hard it is to add that fraction of a percent of originality that makes your work stand out, but every musician is standing on the shoulders of giants, and they would all benefit from having greater access to each others work, and more people having more access to more music to inspire them means more music gets created. Every time a kid listens to an mp3, there's a chance he hears that song that inspires him to go out and be a rock star or invent a new sub-genre.
posted by empath at 3:54 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


sharing music = good. Sharing money = bad

One is a limited resource, the other isn't.
posted by empath at 3:54 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still remember the bad old days of the 1990s when a compact disc cost $32.95 AUD. This cost in no way reflected the intrinsic cost + reasonable profit of the item. While a select few artists (mostly alternative punk acts) had the guts and decency to print a disclaimer on the back of their artwork "This CD should cost no more than $15" most stayed conveniently schtum about this unjust price gouging.

It's a bit rich for artists of Lowery's ilk to now demand people make ethical decisions against their financial interests when the music industry did just the opposite for a 30 year period beginning in 1970.
posted by smithsmith at 3:55 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every time a kid listens to an mp3, there's a chance he hears that song that inspires him to go out and be a rock star or invent a new sub-genre.

In fact, let me expand on this again--- all of you guys go through as many musician interviews as you can find. Compare how many times people said there were inspired to make music because of music they loved, and how many times people said they were inspired to make music because they thought it would be a good way to make a living.
posted by empath at 3:56 PM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Compare how many times people said there were inspired to make music because of music they loved, and how many times people said they were inspired to make music because they thought it would be a good way to make a living.

Yeah, we probably shouldn't pay teachers or doctors or anyone else that enjoys what they do.
posted by malocchio at 4:05 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


it is of course incredibly frustrating that you have fans who love your music, but don't want to pay for it

Hasn't this always been the case?

When I was a teenager, back in the olden days before Napster, I owned maybe 50 CDs. Many of which were purchased used. Many were legacy artists not actively producing new music (The Beatles, for example). I also had a lot of soundtracks and compilations. At any given point I probably had less than 10 albums by bands that were currently popular.

I got most of my exposure to new music from the radio, as well as from sharing CDs with friends, listening to stuff at friends' houses, mix tapes, stuff borrowed from friends and copied to a tape, etc. I went to see the Smashing Pumpkins in 1996 despite never actually purchasing any of their albums. At the time, I'd have called them one of my favorite bands.

What has changed is the form that sort of ambient non-purchased music takes. I'll admit that sometimes includes torrenting. But I buy as much music on iTunes now as I did at Sam Goody in 1995.
posted by Sara C. at 4:13 PM on June 19, 2012


When I was a teenager, back in the olden days before Napster, I owned maybe 50 CDs.

Most of my legitimately purchased CDs in the 90s were from Columbia House, which was notorious for ripping off artists, something I didn't know at the time.
posted by empath at 4:22 PM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


We're still debating this? I was hoping that after a full day we'd have it all wrapped up so we could move on to settling the disputes in political and religious opinions once and for all.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 4:36 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I get nothing else out of this thread it's that "Chortly Donegood" and "Chortly Alltalk" are awesome pseudonyms and I've already created Goofus and Gallant type charachters for them.
posted by sourwookie at 5:21 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Signal degradation of analog recordings ensures that such copies are inferior. Digital copies are identical, which removes the incentive to purchase a high-quality copy.

Clearly you never used Napster. Also you clearly haven't done much torrenting.

I can always tell the music I downloaded "illegally" in the old days before the RIAA cracked down on Napster.

The metadata is always wrong, and half the time it's a random artist I was never interested in but ended up with it because it was deemed "Aretha Franklin" or "Sleater-Kinney" by some meth-addicted nine year old who knew fuck all about music.

There's a good chance that the song is only partially there, or is poorly ripped, or the volume is calibrated all out of whack. I also never have full albums for any of that stuff, because internet connections weren't fast enough to assume that anyone could actually download an entire album - you couldn't even search for a full album, or an artist's entire discography, let alone stand a chance of getting it!

Even now, if you want to torrent something, there's a hell of a signal to noise ratio.

There's still a decent chance that what you end up with will be a pile of incomprehensible files with no usable metadata.

Love Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, or the Rolling Stones? Don't fall for the lure of downloading their entire oeuvre, or you'll drown in dozens of gigs of garbage you don't actually want, much of which will be poorly labeled and impossible to sort through in any meaningful way. Including duplicates. Which you'll have to identify yourself and sort out from the live versions, alternate takes, and covers, because none of it is labeled.

And good luck finding that one album you need; it won't be available. But the artist's entire discography will. So you'll download that and proceed to deal with the monumental sorting task mentioned above, because it's the only way to replace the copy of Boys For Pele your college roommate stole from you back in 1998.

This of course, ignores the downloading of third party software, the joining of file sharing networks, and the constant monitoring of which torrent websites are actually up and running these days.

Granted, file sharing is a little easier and more reliable than taping, but the idea that it's a magic button that delivers a perfect, usable copy of the exact thing you were looking for is delusional. A lot of the time if I want something specific and want to know that I'm getting the right thing and it's going to be "as advertised", I'll just pay for it.
posted by Sara C. at 5:44 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't pay for music, but I also don't care if the entire recording industry collapses.

I'll still have my guitar, and I bet other people will find a way to create and distribute their music if they are so inclined.
posted by davey_darling at 6:06 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I get nothing else out of this thread it's that "Chortly Donegood" and "Chortly Alltalk" are awesome pseudonyms and I've already created Goofus and Gallant type charachters for them.

Don't you dare use my namesakes without my express written permission!
posted by chortly at 6:10 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The vast, vast, vast, vast majority of music is a frankenstein-ed together mish-mash of other popular songs and hooks.

Yes, but they're arguably doing something with other than simply consuming it.

It's a bit rich for artists of Lowery's ilk to now demand people make ethical decisions against their financial interests when the music industry did just the opposite for a 30 year period beginning in 1970.

Independent artists are not the music industry.

Clearly you never used Napster. Also you clearly haven't done much torrenting.

Clearly you don't understand the distinction being made here between technologies. The best analog gear in the world will suffer from generational deterioration for every additional step away from the master. This isn't a problem with digital technology, otherwise it wouldn't be possible to distribute software or make backups.

There's still a decent chance that what you end up with will be a pile of incomprehensible files with no usable metadata.

But this can't be; upthread there are numerous pirates assuring me that it's a labor of love, they deliver better value than the record labels, and so forth.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:13 PM on June 19, 2012


Yes, but they're arguably doing something with other than simply consuming it.

Where do you think they heard the songs that they're building off of? I have never met a working musician who wasn't a voracious music (and software) pirate.
posted by empath at 6:16 PM on June 19, 2012


Has that ever been tested in court, delmoi? -- empath

Yep, a civil, not criminal. I don't give a fuck as long as it isnt a criminal offense. --
Huh? If something is a tort, and not a crime, most people still call it "illegal". It's "illegal" to speed, or take off those little mattress tags* or make false claims in advertisements, but those things aren't crimes, as far as I know.

The RIAA/MPAA has definitely sued people over torrenting their stuff. Obviously it depends on the country as well. Could be legal in some countries, who knows.

(*Also, I just looked it up and apparently the consumer actually is allowed to remove the tag.)
So, sharing music = good. Sharing money = bad. Got it!
I'm all for sharing money. But, I think it would be better to try to prevent everyone from starving then a handful of people who make popular music but don't make any money touring, licensing for ads, selling merch, kickstarting or just selling music to people who do actually buy it, and ignoring pirates.

Note, of course, that it would cost far more money to provide a social safety net for everyone then it would to buy a rhapsody subscription or something. Possibly orders of magnitude more.
Clearly you never used Napster. Also you clearly haven't done much torrenting. ... The metadata is always wrong, and half the time it's a random artist I was never interested
I never used Napster because I was on a college LAN with access to local copies of just about everything, at much higher speeds. I've never noticed that problem with torrents. I've never really tried to download much old stuff though. Maybe it's a bigger problem with older recordings?
but the idea that it's a magic button that delivers a perfect, usable copy of the exact thing you were looking for is delusional.
*shrug* That's pretty much how it is when I try downloading something. Although, obscure stuff is sometimes not available.
But this can't be; upthread there are numerous pirates assuring me that it's a labor of love, they deliver better value than the record labels, and so forth.
It's not.
Where do you think they heard the songs that they're building off of? I have never met a working musician who wasn't a voracious music (and software) pirate.
A good friend of mine was really into making electronica with Fruity Loops back in the 90s. He actually got to be pretty good after a while. Of course he pirated it, along with tons of music.
posted by delmoi at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2012


The best analog gear in the world will suffer from generational deterioration for every additional step away from the master. This isn't a problem with digital technology, otherwise it wouldn't be possible to distribute software or make backups.

I understand that, it's just not my argument.

I actually used to use Napster to download music back in the day. I still have some of those files. They are only nominally better than what I had been taping from the radio a few years before that. Sure, I suppose it's true that I could make you a copy of Lena Horne singing Ain't Misbehavin', label it as if it were Aretha Franklin singing Chain of Fools (just like mine!), artifacts and pops and absurdly low volume intact, and it would be exactly the same shitty digital copy as mine.

But it would still be shitty, and you would still probably prefer to actually go out and buy a CD of Aretha Franklin's greatest hits to actually get a bonafide copy of Chain of Fools.
posted by Sara C. at 6:22 PM on June 19, 2012


Speaking for myself, I have spent many thousands of dollars on LPs and CDs over the years, as have a lot of other musicians I know. I spent money on music instead of other things like fancy clothes or a car or movies or (insert discretionary purchase here). And there's a lot of music that is given away for free, legally. It's not like you can't hear music without engaging piracy. If you can't be arsed to pay, then fine, but these rationalizations you're offering are just silly.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:24 PM on June 19, 2012


The RIAA/MPAA has definitely sued people over torrenting their stuff. Obviously it depends on the country as well. Could be legal in some countries, who knows.

You can sue people over all kinds of ridiculous bullshit. Sometimes they'll even settle. But that doesn't necessarily establish law. Recently there have been a bunch of porn lawsuits that courts and smart defense lawyers are using to test the boundaries, from what I understand. It's never illegal to download media. It's only illegal to share. It's, I think, a stretch to consider someone bittorrenting who also distributes a randomly selected selection of bits from the source material to a random selection of people as distributing the work. If you look at what they're sending to each peer, they aren't distributing the work.

The case against bittorrenters is I think based on the idea that these people are working in concert as part of a conspiracy to distribute the work, and I don't think that judges are entirely on board with that.
posted by empath at 6:26 PM on June 19, 2012


Speaking for myself, I have spent many thousands of dollars on LPs and CDs over the years

So have I. And how much music have you pirated?
posted by empath at 6:28 PM on June 19, 2012


I, too, have spent many thousands of dollars on LPs and CDs over the years, as well as thousands on fully paid for legit downloads.

I just don't think it's as simple as "digital piracy is an unprecedented evil". It's the same basic level of evil as home taping, or listening to the radio (which we did a lot more of back before digital music), or borrowing CDs from your friends.
posted by Sara C. at 6:28 PM on June 19, 2012


Independent artists are not the music industry.

They absolutely are a part of the music industry and happily participated in the gouging of consumers for thirty years. When I look back and realize that as a 12-year-old kid I was being charged an approximate 200% markup to buy a Camper Van Beethoven album it makes me damn angry. Where was David Lowery's ethical outrage then?

As I mentioned there were examples of post-punk bands that made an conscious ethical decision to limit the outrageous prices being charged to consumers, but they were a mere fraction of the total.
posted by smithsmith at 6:38 PM on June 19, 2012


[empath, angibrowl, Sara C., other usual suspects, it is time to walk away for a few hours and let the thread become something other than you arguing with each other and people arguing with you. ]
posted by jessamyn at 6:45 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meta
posted by mlis at 6:47 PM on June 19, 2012


The case against bittorrenters is I think based on the idea that these people are working in concert as part of a conspiracy to distribute the work, and I don't think that judges are entirely on board with that.
They are physically distributing chunks of the file. If you seed, then you're distributing the entire file.

When people have been sued, they usually settle . The producers of The Hurt Locker supposedly made more money suing file sharers then they did in theaters. Most of those where bittorent traffic. I don't know if anyone actually fought it all the way through. But, the lawyers may not have bothered with people who tried to fight back since it wouldn't be profitable to do so, as they were only going after $1.5 - $2.5k.

Jammie Thomas did fight the record companies all the way through, although she was using Kazza, and ended up losing, and got slapped with a $1.5 million dollar jury award, compared to a $5k initial settlement offer. Looking at the Wikipedia article, the award was reduced by the court to $54k. Apparently the case is still in appeals over the final award.

So why would bittorent be legally different then Kazza?

Obviously I'm certainly not arguing it's a somehow wrong to use bittorent, but I don't see why using it to distribute copyrighted material would somehow be less of a tort then Kazza, especially if you're seeding the whole file?
posted by delmoi at 7:02 PM on June 19, 2012


So have I. And how much music have you pirated?

None. I am quite happy with my existing music and that which is available free. I don't pirate movies either.

I just don't think it's as simple as "digital piracy is an unprecedented evil". It's the same basic level of evil as home taping, or listening to the radio (which we did a lot more of back before digital music), or borrowing CDs from your friends.

It's not an unprecedented evil, but I do think it's wrong. Home taping/copying isn't the same as serving up torrents to a global audience. It's wildly disingenuous to pretend they're the same thing.

They absolutely are a part of the music industry and happily participated in the gouging of consumers for thirty years. When I look back and realize that as a 12-year-old kid I was being charged an approximate 200% markup to buy a Camper Van Beethoven album it makes me damn angry.

You're angry over how much you paid for records at the age of 12? Nobody made you buy it, presumably you thought it was worth it at the time. You have an issue with this guy in this band, so every other artist that is trying to make a living from recorded music must be punished for his economic crimes? Really?

[empath, angibrowl, Sara C., other usual suspects, it is time to walk away for a few hours and let the thread become something other than you arguing with each other and people arguing with you. ]

There are 472 comments on this thread, and I have written only 12 of them, including this one. Several of those were made yesterday, and I've averaged less than one post per hour today. This is less than half the posting volume of many other contributors.

posted by anigbrowl at 7:09 PM on June 19, 2012


(oh, when I was looking up that stat about The Hurt Locker the first result was actually to download a hurt locker torrent)
posted by delmoi at 7:10 PM on June 19, 2012


anigbrowl: there is an open metatalk thread if you want to complain.
posted by delmoi at 7:11 PM on June 19, 2012


(just following up on the bittorrent thing, not continuing the argument -- AFAIK, most people who download bittorrents don't stay online long enough to seed. I know that I don't. I just think it's an interesting legal and technological, and hell, even a philosophical question, that I don't think has really been tested in the courts.)
posted by empath at 7:12 PM on June 19, 2012


You're angry over how much you paid for records at the age of 12? Nobody made you buy it, presumably you thought it was worth it at the time.
I actually got a check from the RIAA from the price-fixing lawsuit. I think it was like $12. Good times. They were proven in court to have been breaking the law.
posted by delmoi at 7:13 PM on June 19, 2012


(oh, when I was looking up that stat about The Hurt Locker the first result was actually to download a hurt locker torrent)

Yeah, I was once mildly interested in seeing the flick.

Not anymore. You couldn't pay me enough.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:49 PM on June 19, 2012


I keep thinking about this thread, and I keep thinking about a guy like Mick Karn. When Pete Entwistle tells everyone you are the best bass player in the world..someone from the fucking WHO is singing your praises and you still die in poverty, leaving your family in massive debt due to the cancer that consumed you.... practically no one steps up and takes notice.

A guy like that, enormous in every respect that I wish to be…as a musician, as an artist, as a man…dies in abject poverty? Guess he didn't try hard enough. And because he's signed to an RIAA label, people won't buy the one thing that might help his family. Hey! Fuck those greedy ass heirs, huh? It's just a gravy train for them.

Don't even bother...I can hear you already. It wasn't downloading that led to his bankruptcy. He was a victim of the labels and the industry. Or hey, maybe he was a terrible businessman.

Music has never been a meritocracy...it's a lottery, and it always will be.

Just another shame in a world that is rich with nothing else.
posted by malocchio at 7:57 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Music has never been a meritocracy...it's a lottery, and it always will be.

Just another shame in a world that is rich with nothing else.
But like I said: that's also a tragedy when it happens to people who happen to suck at music. I don't want to see anyone starve.
posted by delmoi at 8:10 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ahahah! Got my Who members all intertwined. That's Pete Townshend I meant...balls, never was a fan.
posted by malocchio at 8:13 PM on June 19, 2012


But like I said: that's also a tragedy when it happens to people who happen to suck at music. I don't want to see anyone starve.

So, then, you're equally amicable to downloading music created by starving Nigerians, even the ones that suck! Because you've taken nothing of value from them.

That's a nice moral high ground that you've found, there.
posted by malocchio at 8:19 PM on June 19, 2012


You're angry over how much you paid for records at the age of 12?

YES.

Nobody made you buy it, presumably you thought it was worth it at the time.

I did. Because I love music. And because of unjust price gouging, which was participated in by artists, I was able to access about 1/3 of the amount I should have.

You have an issue with this guy in this band, so every other artist that is trying to make a living from recorded music must be punished for his economic crimes? Really?

Read my username. It's down there VVVVVVVVVVVVV. For the last time I do not download illegally. I refuse to make this point again.

If you can't see the hypocrisy of artists berating people for acting unethically in their own financial interest WHEN THOSE VERY SAME ARTISTS BEHAVED IN PRECISELY THE SAME MANNER JUST FIFTEEN YEARS AGO WHEN THEIR PRODUCT WAS SCARCE then you have some major comprehension issues.
posted by smithsmith at 8:23 PM on June 19, 2012


Another independent way to test the hypothesis might be to look at downloads and at music sales

A new report on the effectiveness of the French three-strikes anti-piracy law claims that it managed to cut Internet piracy in half last year. While lobbyists are making preparations to show these great results to politicians worldwide, there is one thing the report fails to mention. Despite the claimed decrease in piracy, revenues through legal channels are down as well.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:50 PM on June 19, 2012


Don't even bother...I can hear you already. It wasn't downloading that led to his bankruptcy. He was a victim of the labels and the industry. Or hey, maybe he was a terrible businessman.

First up, that's terrible news about Mick Karn. I've long been conscious of his work (going back to Japan) and always considered his name to be an indicator that the relevant recording was going to be unique, usually in the best possible way.

But I've got to say that I side with Delmoi when it comes to the nature of the tragedy surrounding his death. Nobody should starve, go broke, lose everything because they got sick. That's a failure of a country's social safety net. Downloading/filesharing is entirely beside the point.
posted by philip-random at 8:51 PM on June 19, 2012


Downloading/filesharing is entirely beside the point.

[finishing my thought]

... and to drag it into the tragedy of his death just feels gratuitous. Or more to the point, it's gratuitous and hyperbolic to drag his death into a discussion of downloading/filesharing.
posted by philip-random at 8:57 PM on June 19, 2012


So, then, you're equally amicable to downloading music created by starving Nigerians, even the ones that suck! Because you've taken nothing of value from them.

That's a nice moral high ground that you've found, there.
Nigeria has a booming movie industry, generating about $250 million a year in sales (despite piracy). I don't know what the numbers are for the music industry, but Nigerians make lots of music and there are plenty of musicians there who aren't starving.
posted by delmoi at 9:00 PM on June 19, 2012


Oh, I should have picked Bangladesh then. Damn! I wasn't nearly as hyperbolic and gratuitous as I could have been.
posted by malocchio at 9:28 PM on June 19, 2012


"I keep thinking about this thread, and I keep thinking about a guy like Mick Karn. When Pete Entwistle tells everyone you are the best bass player in the world..someone from the fucking WHO is singing your praises and you still die in poverty, leaving your family in massive debt due to the cancer that consumed you.... practically no one steps up and takes notice.

A guy like that, enormous in every respect that I wish to be…as a musician, as an artist, as a man…dies in abject poverty? Guess he didn't try hard enough. And because he's signed to an RIAA label, people won't buy the one thing that might help his family. Hey! Fuck those greedy ass heirs, huh? It's just a gravy train for them.
"

I first heard Japan back in '96, when a cool older coworker of mine made me a bunch of tapes. I borrowed his CD (first pressing!) of "Adolescent Sex," and liked it, but didn't feel all that attached to it. He forgot about it and I had the CD long enough that it was getting bitrot, and I downloaded a copy of it on Napster when it stopped playing in my crappy discman. I ran into the guy, Lance, a couple years later and gave him back his CD, but I didn't bother to delete the MP3s. A couple years later, I bought it used on vinyl for $5.

I was working for a magazine when the most recent reissues were coming out, and I got a copy of "Gentlemen Prefer Polaroids," which I really enjoy. There's no sleeve or anything, so I ripped it to my computer, and probably couldn't lay my hand on the disc after so many moves (it's in a box … somewhere). I've put songs from it on mixes for other people, and gave 'em away without any of the consent of Mick Karn. Maybe one person has ever bought an album based on that, and the magazine wasn't interested in a review (because the EiC didn't like the cover art).

I'm just wondering how much responsibility you'd like to put on me for Mick Karn's cancer and death. Like, is it mitigated by me voting explicitly for politicians and policies that would prevent anyone from dying in abject poverty from cancer? I mean, should I run out and buy "Gentlemen Prefer Polaroids" today? Or is it only musicians that we care about? I mean, I suppose we can extend this to anyone working in an industry dependent upon lossless distribution. John Holmes fucked with all his might, and he might have died in the proverbial suburbs if home taping hadn't killed porn.

I think you're over-reaching, and I think it's rude to recast this into someone saying that Karn didn't try hard enough, let alone "Fuck those greedy ass heirs, huh?"
posted by klangklangston at 9:32 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey. You guys above who believe that all musicians are somehow magically entitled always to get paid in money for their oh-so-hard work. Yeah, you. I'm a full-time musician and I've made two whole albums so far with 12 songs each - good ones too, with lyrics and tunes and meaning and moods and everything. Believe me, I sweated blood and tears over them. Blood and tears I tell you. Here they are, have a listen:

1.
2.

Listened, did you? Great. Where's my money then?

You people who believe in the inherent entitlement of musicians to be paid for their labour will no doubt be clicking on those links and paying me what you already owe, right? I mean, that's what you've been arguing so hard that everyone should always do this whole thread. No? See, I have checked the stats and I note that none of you have paid me yet. How come? I have worked very hard on these albums. Some of the songs even have more than four chords in, or involve key changes. That's some serious voodoo right there. Plus I got other guys to play with me on one of the albums, and I probably still owe them money myself. Having followed your arguments above that musicians are magically entitled to always get paid by everyone, I believe you owe me.

Paypal will be fine. Sterling preferred but I'm not fussy.

The rest of you, the ones who actually get it? You can click too and you can download for free if you like, either at the above links or over on the Free Music Archive, where, being CC-licensed, my music also resides. If you really like the stuff and want to support the artist, I don't need to tell you what to do.

(Hoo boy, do I get more interest on the FMA than on Bandcamp. But I digress. And not entirely usefully.)

Truth is, these days I make most of my money busking on the London Underground in between function band gigs. It gives a musician great perspective on how the general public react to music and are or are not prepared to reward people for making it for them. You can play what you love, or you can play what they will pay for. If you're lucky, or clever, or both, you'll find an overlap. The categories are almost never mutually exclusive. What the copyright apologists above aren't getting is that all musicians are buskers now. That's not a complaint, it's a statement of fact.

There's nothing wrong with being a busker. A musician who cannot busk is like a musician who cannot record or who cannot play live on a stage. Recording, performing and busking are the three basic skills of musicianship. A deficiency in any one of those may be made up by extraordinary talent elsewhere but for us mortals, working on all three is incredibly beneficial. And what's been lacking for the last 50 years or so, bluntly, is the busking thing. So much music made that most people can't stand and that even the people who do like it aren't that into. Well that won't work on the street corner, or on the Tube. Busking teaches you what people actually like and how much they like it. And music is not just about expression, but also communication. There's no point expressing if it isn't communicating to anyone.

And we are all buskers now.
posted by motty at 9:38 PM on June 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yes, yes, terrible and rude. Guilty as charged.

Did you miss this, though?

Plus if an artist is dead, why the fuck am i paying an estate, which by the way they didnt create shit, but leech off the work of a dead relative or artist owned by big music company. Again, fuck em.

posted by malocchio at 9:39 PM on June 19, 2012


Listened, did you? Great. Where's my money then?

I didn’t listen, but I didn’t take them either. If I took a copy I would pay for them. If you don’t think the music is worth paying for then leave it be.
posted by bongo_x at 9:51 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you miss this, though?

I noticed that and yeah, it was ugly. Worst part is, I was sympathetic to handbanana's comment up until that point ...

running those torrents benefits the artists in many ways.
1 it allows new and easy discovery
2 the artist doesnt neet to pay for hosting the material, all of us seeding it are
3 rare stuff stays in circulation
4 when tours occur there is more likely to be new fans attending.

Not hard of a concept to understand.


Too bad it didn't just stop there.
posted by philip-random at 9:53 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do you know what it's worth if you don't listen?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:53 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will readily admit that I use the word "stealing" out of sheer laziness and not knowing what else to call it. I think it’s a form of theft, but don’t think it’s at all black and white.

There are so many people here making wild claims about what other people believe, and using that to defend their actions.

I don’t think the copyright system works well, I especially think the length is ridiculous and nearly criminal. But it’s the system we have, and I’m not going to just take stuff until we get a better system.

I don’t think every musician deserves money for nothing, most of them suck. I don’t take copies of their stuff. I think if someone is making money off a song (Spotify, Comcast, etc.) the person who created it should get a reasonable part of the money.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying used, sharing a copy with your friend, checking out from the library, keeping promos, etc. But when you have the means and purposely decide to take copies of the music instead of paying for and search out illegal means to do so I think that’s wrong.

There has never been the availability that there is now to get freely given music, it’s all over the internet. So if you have to have a specific song because you like it so much how can you claim it has no value? The disconnect in this thinking is baffling.

Some people give away music, fantastic. Some people say "I don’t want you to take a copy unless you pay me". In that case I have to decide if I think it’s worth it, if not then I let it be. There’s plenty of other things to listen to. As some have pointed out, there’s more music already out there than you could ever listen to, much of it free. So why don’t you go listen to that?
posted by bongo_x at 10:12 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh good, just in time. We can just have computers make music for us now!
posted by delmoi at 10:37 PM on June 19, 2012


We don't value the music because we're a disposable culture now that expects everything to be at their fingertips. Music doesn't mean anything anymore to so many people. It's an accessory. It's a background to their lives while they pretend they're in some flashy commercial or darling indie film. Our society is so slick, meaning and real connections (to each other, to musicians, to LIFE) can't penetrate beyond the surface.

Same as it ever was, granddad.

Nobody but a few weirdos ever cared as much about music as you'd want everybody to, for most people knowing which cords are played on a particular piece of music is as irrelevant as what particular rules D&D 3.5 uses to handle troll attacks.

For the rest of the world, music is all about getting somebody to fuck you.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:44 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I understand that arguing here won't change anyone's mind here, but batting down delmoi's dimwitted rhetoric is so easy, it's a nice way to wake up and get the fingers warm...


Oh gosh, I know---what's funnier than seeing a bunch of powerless artists going hungry! It's just hilarious when you enjoy their work without compensating them -- ThatFuzzyBastard
Which artists do I listen too who are starving? Let me know and I'll send them some money. The fact is, I don't actually believe any of these musicians are actually starving.


Then you've missed a number of comments in Lowry's article and above here. Some are literally starving; most are very poor. If you'd like to send them money, you could indeed go through your MP3 library and send payment to everyone whose music you've listened to more than once. But I don't think you will.

The other problem with this argument is it assumes that it's OK if people who are not artists do starve. How is that moral? As I said, I favor a broad social safety net, so no one starves, regardless of their musical talent.

If the goal is simply to prevent starvation, it would be more moral for me to donate to the red cross or Oxfam every time I pirate something, that would be a much more efficient method of preventing starvation.


Delmoi, I'm going to at least hope you have a functioning frontal lobe, so you can explain to me how saying "It is not right to take the products of someone's labor and leave them to starve" translates to "It's okay if other's starve." 'Cause I've been speaking English for many years and I don't see how you got there from those sentence.

I looked at a couple of the metafilter music profiles of people who claimed to be musicians. Some was OK and some was terrible. But honestly, it's not stuff I would ever even bother trying to find and torrent, let alone pay for. If you stopped making music, it wouldn't affect my life at all. And rest assured, I'm probably not listening to anything you made anyway.

That's fine. If you aren't downloading music from people here, they have no right to any compensation from you. No one said otherwise, and you're just making up motivations if you think they did. What people are saying is that the musicians whose work you *have* downloaded deserve compensation. Got that? That when you consume someone's labor, you owe them something. You can make the nixerman's silly argument that "I consume people's smiles all the time", but of course, that's a ridiculous claim that could be easily adopted to justify, say, grabbing your profile photo and using it to promote Mitt Romney's campaign.

I wonder where you came up with substituting "corporations" for "musicians". Is it because you simply don't imagine that there are people making the music you consume? -- ThatFuzzyBastard
Because both corporations and musicians get a chunk of the money. In some cases, most of it goes to the corp, in other cases most of it to the artist.


Let's go through this slowly, 'kay? Corporations (which generally put forward an advance to cover the recording, thus making the music you like possible) get some money off a sale. Musicians also get money from a sale. When you don't pay for a record, you deprive *both* the corporation *and* the musician. You may not feel you owe the corporation anything, which is logically indefensible but emotionally satisfying, but you are *also* depriving the musician of compensation. If you treat "corporation" and "musician" as though they were interchangeable words, based on their business relationship, you may have brain damage which is disrupting your ability to process nouns and should get that looked at.


But the thing is, I've heard from plenty of more successful artists say that file sharing doesn't bother them very much Dave Grohl, Lady Gaga, and 50 cent just off the top of my head. Maybe they're afraid if that if they rant the way Lars Ulrich did their popularity will decline and less people will listen to them, but if that's were true it would be a good illustration of just how powerful and popular the piracy 'ideology' is in today's society.


Well, artists like Dave Grohl, Lady Gaga, and 50 Cent make most of their money off advertisements, radio play, and megatours, so it's not as much of a problem. Which is among the many reasons to hate music piracy---it brings about a world where musicians must tailor their music to marketing directors rather than listeners in order to survive. If The Beatles were trying to get out of Liverpool today, they wouldn't write songs that teenagers like to hear; they'd write songs that would go well in a car commercial, because at least the car commercial will pay for lunch.

Other than that, yes, many musicians are afraid they would get Lars Ulrich'd if they objected to people taking from them. You seem to think it's awesome when people are afraid to object to their ill-treatment because an ideology that insists that they're whiners to ask for more than the market gives them. I recommend checking out opportunities at Foxconn---you seem like just the type to prosper there.

[cutting for length]

It's quite amusing watching a bunch of what are normally politically fairly progressive and liberal trying harder than your worst caricature of a heartless 1%er to try and justify not paying for the use and enjoyment of the fruit of someone else's labor.
Since when is liberalism/socialism/progressivism opposed to enjoying other people's labor? Isn't that the whole premise of progressive taxation and social support? Rich people work, they are taxed, and the tax money is used to pay for social programs. People "enjoy" the fruit of other people's labor.

In fact, farther left you go the less of a respect for "property" you have. At the extreme end you have the communist who believe in collective ownership, etc, etc, etc. The soviets didn't believe in intellectual property at all.

It's libertarians and hard-core objectivists who are opposed to benefiting from other people's labor. You actually seem to have confused left-wing ideology with libertarianism.


You seem to have some idiosyncratic descriptions of what constitutes progressivism. Do you actually think progressives want Soviet-style government? And that libertarians believe that it's wrong to benefit from other's labor? That would actually explain a lot about positions you've taken elsewhere.

In the definitions I'm familiar with, two ideas that are pretty important to progressivism are:
1)Workers should be fairly compensated for their work.
2)If the market brings about conditions where someone can "alienate" a worker's labor (go on, read early Marx to understand the verb there, I'll wait) by taking the product of their work without compensation, the state should intervene to prevent that exploitation.

That's why progressives want a higher minimum wage, rather than a minimum wage as low as the market can bear, and the shortfall made up with handing out tax money.

Your position is that musicians are getting as much as the market will give them, defining the market as the unregulated profit-seeking structure of a handful of megacorporations, and then reveling in your ability to take something a person made without paying them. You could just as well be walking through a Bangladeshi village grabbing peasant's handcrafts at the table and, when they reach out a hand asking for coin, you laugh and say, "What, I took this without paying you? Well then, I guess I get to take this for free, 'cause look, I can!"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I keep thinking about this thread, and I keep thinking about a guy like Mick Karn. When Pete Entwistle tells everyone you are the best bass player in the world..someone from the fucking WHO is singing your praises and you still die in poverty, leaving your family in massive debt due to the cancer that consumed you.... practically no one steps up and takes notice.

Yeah, it's a shame. But you know, those stories are a dime a dozen in the comics industry and it's not the fans, not even the fans who torrent the entire DC Comics back catalogue who made them poor, it's been the publishers.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:43 AM on June 20, 2012


Arguing about what people should do is completely beside the point. It's may make you feel better but it's a waste of breath.

It's what people will do that matters.

Even if you are vehemently convinced that unauthorized file-sharing/copying is wrong, wagging your finger makes no difference.

You either have to back up your opinion with sanctions (hello RIAA! hello MPAA! hello lawsuits! hello draconian copy protection!) or accept that simply arguing makes very little difference.

Most musicians -- by which I mean people who play music, not professional musicians -- have not been impacted in the slightest by file sharing.

The people who have been impacted are those in the industry, not just musicians, but the entire entertainment infrastructure, who for a few decades benefited from an anomalous stranglehold over physical music distribution which was enjoyed by the record companies.

Good times, for some, but the world has changed. It also changed for people who worked in manufacturing and many other industries.

Absent a technological solution to copying, or some miracle which suddenly makes people decide it's WRONG WRONG WRONG and they mustn't do it, the industry and the people within it either have to recalibrate to the new environment OR make the purchase of music (as opposed to copying) a compelling proposition in terms of value and convenience to the consumer.

Probably both.

Throughout recorded history, musicians (like all other artists) have typically struggled financially. That's because it's an avocation, not a vocation. People do it for fun, and because they feel personally compelled to express themselves through music. Our expectation that being a good or great musician should automatically result in satisfactory compensation is just wrong.

I regret that, personally, but that's the way it shakes out.

Widespread copying will have some unintended consequences, for sure. It will broaden the base of recorded music, because many amateur and unsigned bands can easily produce and distribute their own music. They won't make any money out of it, but they don't care. It will concentrate mainstream music in the industrial pop churned out by Sony, Universal, Warner etc and regurgitated by the radio. And most likely it will have many consequences we can't predict.

But in a hundred years, there will still be musicians, and music.

Like I say, if all else fails, go buy an instrument and learn to play it.
posted by unSane at 6:51 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here's an interesting though experiment.

What if there had never been such a thing as a physical copy of a song that was costly to reproduce?

What if all we had ever known was MP3s and the technology to share them?

How would the music industry, and the lives of professional musicians, and music itself, have evolved differently?

No-one would be complaining about piracy, because that's all anyone would have ever known.

Of course, this isn't a thought experiment. This is what the world is like for anyone born after 1997 or so.
posted by unSane at 7:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]



Throughout recorded history, musicians (like all other artists) have typically struggled financially. That's because it's an avocation, not a vocation. People do it for fun, and because they feel personally compelled to express themselves through music.


can't speak to folk music of the 18th century. But in the 20th century, some people made music for fun---they typically played a few hours a week to small groups of friends. Others did it because it's the most fun way they know of to make a living; they typically worked constantly developing a unique sound and making their songs drum-tight.

Many don't make a living, of course---lots of people don't make a living as computer programmers, either. But as I said wayyyy upthread, the engine driving this incredibly creative era in music has been poor kids, from Billie Holiday to Doc Boggs to James Brown to John Lennon to Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the Wu-Tang Clan, who wanted to get out of poverty. What piracy advocates are calling for is a world with a lot of local bar bands, and no one who really works hard on music.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:31 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bought an album yesterday. I don't buy physical media that often, but I did this time mainly because the band are stuck in an uncomfortable position between small scale touring and part-time work despite being bloody brilliant. I paid £9 in a local record shop so I was supporting both the band AND an independent shop.

On the other hand, I have been known to download entire discographies of large bands that can fill arenas or 1000+ capacity venue tours of the UK with minimal effort.

Ultimately though, I think that we're going to have to push towards some form of universal basic income if we want artists to continue to create be able to avoid relative poverty while still creating in an era where copyright infringement is so trivial.
posted by knapah at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2012


a world with a lot of local bar bands, and no one who really works hard on music.

I think you need to get out more.

If you think the only people 'work really hard' on music is because they hope or expect to get paid for it, I have no idea what to tell you.
posted by unSane at 8:02 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The hostility toward working musicians in this thread is really fucking depressing.
posted by speicus at 8:20 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Arguing about what people should do is completely beside the point. It's may make you feel better but it's a waste of breath. It's what people will do that matters.

This is pretty much never true. It doesn't take "some miracle" to change what people will do, it takes discussion, argument and persuasion. It's never an easy or fast process, but it's doable. We're in the middle of doing it on all sorts of things: racism, homophobia, sexism, smoking, diet, even tipping.

It can be done here, too, but to be fair it's not going to get off the ground without concessions to the changed reality from both the legal establishment and industry, neither of which seem to be even considering them. Quite the contrary, unfortunately.
posted by fightorflight at 8:28 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you're over-reaching, and I think it's rude to recast this into someone saying that Karn didn't try hard enough, let alone "Fuck those greedy ass heirs, huh?"

I've already addressed the "fuck the heirs" remark, so let me tackle the "not trying hard enough."

If you can't make money on your music, you're doing something wrong.
^

So, as I see it, both of those attitudes were expressed earlier in this thread. They may not have been stated about Mick Karn directly, but those were the kind of statements that got me thinking about him.

I'm just wondering how much responsibility you'd like to put on me for Mick Karn's cancer and death.

Umm, none? I think your attempt to imply that I feel otherwise is a bit of an overreach in itself.
posted by malocchio at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2012


The hostility toward working musicians in this thread is really fucking depressing.

Not as depressing as the dissonance from those who would term something like this hostile:

Throughout recorded history, musicians (like all other artists) have typically struggled financially. That's because it's an avocation, not a vocation. People do it for fun, and because they feel personally compelled to express themselves through music. Our expectation that being a good or great musician should automatically result in satisfactory compensation is just wrong.

I regret that, personally, but that's the way it shakes out.


I realize that there are more extreme statements in this thread, but to my eyes this is a pretty good summary of what the pro-downloaders (for lack of a better term) are arguing in this thread. And many of them aren't even downloaders, they're just being realistic -- looking at the situation as it is, not as it should be.

Arguing about what people should do is completely beside the point. It's may make you feel better but it's a waste of breath. It's what people will do that matters.

This is pretty much never true. It doesn't take "some miracle" to change what people will do, it takes discussion, argument and persuasion. It's never an easy or fast process, but it's doable. We're in the middle of doing it on all sorts of things: racism, homophobia, sexism, smoking, diet, even tipping.


This is the discussion I wish we could have. Not evil pirates vs innocent artists (or however one's particular bias wants to paint things), but appreciators of culture and creators of it (often the same people, as has been pointed out any number of times) actually putting aside their various tendencies toward hyperbole and provocation and listening to each other ...

Because I couldn't agree more. Discussion/argument/persuasion is never fast and easy, but always preferable to the flinging of dung.
posted by philip-random at 8:51 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I bought an album yesterday. I don't buy physical media that often, but I did this time mainly because the band are stuck in an uncomfortable position between small scale touring and part-time work despite being bloody brilliant.

Is it the Roadside Graves? Cuz, seriously, those fellas shouldn't be working day jobs. (Actually, they probably can't even afford to produce physical media, and certainly not EPs/LPs ...)

"We sound like awesome. Go buy a t-shirt."

I tend to buy physical media in bulk now. I will download as much music as possible, listen to find out what strikes me, listen more to find out what I really like, and then once it's decided that I actually like it (usu. a month or so), I'll buy the whole back catalog, which for newer artists is usually 2-3 albums and some singles for $50 or so. (Records seem a bit more fairly priced compared to CDs now.). I just stocked up on the whole Sunset Rubdown/Moonface catalog via Jagjaguwar.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2012


philip, I'm referring more to stuff like this much-favorited comment which essentially tells frustrated musicians to "shut the fuck up."

I'm sort of surprised by the traction this kind of sentiment is getting here, when similar sentiments about other struggling parts of the middle and working class, like teachers, are treated much more sympathetically (on Metafilter, I mean, not our culture as a whole).

I'm also disheartened by those touting Spotify and Pandora as panaceas, when they barely compensate artists at all. In a way they're really just updates of the old system of exploitation, with tech companies in the place of record companies.

In the end I think the solution will have to involve some kind of direct relationship between artist and audience, because once you stick someone in the middle you can't count on them to have your best interests at heart. Things like Bandcamp and Kickstarter, while imperfect, seem like a good first step in that direction. It's absolutely true that recorded music is essentially valueless now, and no amount of moralistic scolding is going to change that, so we have to somehow establish that musicians themselves are valuable.

This thread has taught me just how far away we are from that perspective, so thanks for that. It's daunting but I'm not ready to give up yet.
posted by speicus at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"What piracy advocates are calling for is a world with a lot of local bar bands, and no one who really works hard on music."

Sorry, that's idiotic. It's like saying that you're calling for a world where musicians can't benefit from a common culture unless they pay for it up front, because they'll never hear the music that will become part of their style otherwise. (And bringing up Wu Tang is weird — the economics of hip hop and cultural norms regarding ownership are really different. Mixtapes are how most rappers make their names, and those are explicitly taking someone else's labor for free and rapping over it in order to make money for yourself.)

"Umm, none? I think your attempt to imply that I feel otherwise is a bit of an overreach in itself."

Oh, so you brought up an emotionally inflammatory anecdote for no reason then? Because if it's not actually connected to the behavior you're decrying, it seems like a cheap attempt to manipulate the conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's absolutely true that recorded music is essentially valueless now, and no amount of moralistic scolding is going to change that, so we have to somehow establish that musicians themselves are valuable.

Nicely put.

I look forward to a time when we're all mature enough (music makers, music lovers, often one and the same) to have a discussion that starts here. Because anything else just seems to be pissin' in the wind
posted by philip-random at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hm. I respect copyright as an agreed-upon social contract (even as I deny the existence of any such thing as intellectual property), and I pay for things when there is a way to do so. However, it's looking like the genie is well and truly out of the bottle as a result of convenience and unenforceability. So it might be useful to reframe things.

Perhaps if we consider musicians in a similar light as professional athletes. They get paid (or not) to perform. They don't get paid for reproductions of their performance. If they want to use their abilities to make a living they have to either find a way to get paid for the performance or to use their success and standing to leverage some other kind of living, say merchandising or persuading people you should represent their charity because you look so bizarrely iconic in giant sunglasses.

Not ideal to my mind -- it almost certainly doesn't leave as many options open for novelists or software developers -- but I think this is where we are. A combination of ongoing legislative abuse of the copyright principle leading to a profound and rather well-earned disrespect for the law and the increasing technical unenforceability of it pretty much leaves us where we find ourselves.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's absolutely true that recorded music is essentially valueless now

Do not confuse cost with value. If music was valueless, nobody would bother to copy it.

The problem, such as it is, is that it is much harder to convince people to pay for recorded music. Which, aside from a fortunate few (fewer than most people realize) has never been a substantial source of income for artists.

So, what's the problem, really?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, so you brought up an emotionally inflammatory anecdote for no reason then? Because if it's not actually connected to the behavior you're decrying, it seems like a cheap attempt to manipulate the conversation.

Well, I brought it up as a response to some of (what I consider) the more inflammatory posts in the thread, a couple of which I've since quoted and linked to. So there was a context that I failed to identify at first.

I still think his story has some relevance here, particularly in response to the comments I quoted. But obviously you disagree and think it was something of a cheap shot, and after thinking about it for a bit, I find myself inclined to offer a good faith apology. Fair enough?
posted by malocchio at 10:24 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, actually. Thanks for that.
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2012


Sorry, that's idiotic. It's like saying that you're calling for a world where musicians can't benefit from a common culture unless they pay for it up front, because they'll never hear the music that will become part of their style otherwise. (And bringing up Wu Tang is weird — the economics of hip hop and cultural norms regarding ownership are really different. Mixtapes are how most rappers make their names, and those are explicitly taking someone else's labor for free and rapping over it in order to make money for yourself.)

"Who the fuck wanna be an MC if you can't get paid to be an MC?" -Ol' Dirty Bastard

One of the salutary contributions hip-hop has made to the cultural dialogue is being open with the desire to get paid, rather than treating it as a dirty little secret (some punk bands, like The Damned, shared that honesty, but they were few and far between). You think artists shouldn't get paid---or rather, you think they should get paid by some vaguely defined and impossible mechanism, rather than being paid by those who consume their work. The Wu would disagree.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2012


File Sharing 'Created' Pop Music And Removing Gatekeepers Is 'Killing Culture'
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey Dude From Cracker, I'm Sorry, I Stole Music Like These Damned Kids When I Was A Kid
posted by bwilms at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is the discussion I wish we could have. Not evil pirates vs innocent artists (or however one's particular bias wants to paint things), but appreciators of culture and creators of it (often the same people, as has been pointed out any number of times) actually putting aside their various tendencies toward hyperbole and provocation and listening to each other

If we did that, we'd have to admit that:

a) CDs are still selling, and that's not even mentioning vinyl (I know, because I sell them)
b) A surprising number of people are still making a good living on music, even underground music
c) People who download often buy, and people who buy often download
d) Convenience makes people more likely to pay to download/stream music, and leveraging this is exactly what Emily White suggested in the first place

None of this necessarily adds up to musicians starving in the streets. There is a huge, largely-untapped market out there -- even for physical media -- and right now musicians have a unique opportunity to engage with it before that engagement is necessarily mediated by some giant company which will take most of the money (the money which isn't already being taken by giant companies, that is). I think the best question is "how can we make money in a world where people don't see downloading as a moral wrong", not "how can we make people see downloading as a moral wrong"... and in my experience, trying to do the latter tends to make it harder, not easier, for an artist to do the former.

The more we associate paying artists with a moralistic guilt trip rather than a value and/or relationship exchange, the easier it becomes to find a reason not to pay artists; the more we paint the way people actually listen to music as evil, the less they will listen the way we want them to. This strikes me as a matter of basic psychology, and the way it works has been obvious since the Ulrich Incident all the way back at the dawn of P2P file-sharing.

I think we should all ask ourselves what it is we want: is it artists-making-a-living, or is it an-end-to-downloading? Is it free-and-open-access-to-music, or is it specifically piracy? These are not necessarily parallel goals, and they may even be orthogonal to a large degree. I suspect there's a sweet spot in which both sides can get what they want, but it's not going to happen unless both sides actually go for what they want, rather than limiting their choices based on an ideology they've built up around file-sharing.
posted by vorfeed at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think the best question is "how can we make money in a world where people don't see downloading as a moral wrong", not "how can we make people see downloading as a moral wrong"... and in my experience, trying to do the latter tends to make it harder, not easier, for an artist to do the former.

Yup. Couldn't agree more. I understand the tendency (I'm guilty of it myself) but moralizing isn't just boring in discussions such as these, it's also pointless. Because we don't all share the same morals -- certainly with regard to the electronic compression of data, and what to do with it. In fact, if there's one word I'd like to see REMOVED from all such threads, it's MORAL (and it's various extrapolations: immoral, amoral, morality, etc).
posted by philip-random at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


If there's one word I'd like to see removed, it's "theft.".

If someone deprives you of a thing, or access to a thing, then yeah, that's theft. If you still have it, it's not theft.

Dressing like you is not a crime.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:31 PM on June 20, 2012


That's fine. If you aren't downloading music from people here, they have no right to any compensation from you. No one said otherwise, and you're just making up motivations if you think they did. What people are saying is that the musicians whose work you *have* downloaded deserve compensation. Got that?

excuse me? are you saying that metafilter musicians have a RIGHT to compensation? did i hire you as my manager or something?

don't you presume to speak for me

i'm giving my music away here and i don't expect compensation from those who download it

i wouldn't have thought i had to make that clear, but i guess i do
posted by pyramid termite at 1:13 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, TheFuzzyBastard, please do take a close look at what pyramid termite just wrote. Because he definitely speaks for me as well. It feels like you're presuming to speak for a whole whack of people who haven't got you on retainer. Maybe if you dialed that aspect of your presentation back a bit, backs wouldn't go up the way they sometimes do.

Also, what ChurchHatesTucker said. It would be interesting to see how a thread like this would go if nobody was allowed to call anyone a thief/pirate/criminal of any kind.
posted by philip-random at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, TheFuzzyBastard, please do take a close look at what pyramid termite just wrote. Because he definitely speaks for me as well. It feels like you're presuming to speak for a whole whack of people who haven't got you on retainer. Maybe if you dialed that aspect of your presentation back a bit, backs wouldn't go up the way they sometimes do.

I'm afraid I'm not seeing what you mean., philip-random Certainly, musicians have a right to give their music away. I never said anything to the contrary. I give a great deal of my own art away for free online. I'm saying that if a musician did not choose to give her music away, and if you consume that music (let's say you listen to it more than once) without compensating the musician, you have committed a moral wrong. Please clarify how this is speaking for or misrepresenting other people.

As to the argument that we should not treat it as a moral issue... I'm afraid that strikes me as counterproductive. We seem to be in a very similar place with downloading as we are with globalization of labor: technology has made it possible to exploit people's labor without compensating them. I see no solution to that problem other than a moral (and then legal) one; Foxconn managers will happily tell you that they are simply doing what the market supports, and they're quite right, but that is not the end of the discussion. To say "We should just stop seeing it as immoral to consume people's labor without compensation" strikes me as approximately as useful as saying "Women shouldn't complain so much about harassment"---a call for the injured party to surrender masquerading as reasonable centerism.

If no one was allowed to call anyone a thief/pirate/criminal of any kind, this would probably be as productive as a discussion of the GOP in which one was not allowed to use the word "race"; it's guilty people who want to ban the words that identify them.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:26 PM on June 20, 2012


Again, the problem with talking about this in moral terms isn't that the moral terms are favorable/unfavorable to one side or the other. It's the fact that people fundamentally disagree on which moral terms are in play, along with the fact that one particular moral stance is not actually synonymous with the desired outcome. Framing things solely in terms of morals which others diametrically oppose means that nobody's going anywhere -- it's like a battle in which both sides have committed to meet each other with equal force, guaranteeing a stalemate.

The fact that you "see no solution to that problem other than a moral (and then legal) one" is very much due to the fact that you're looking at the problem solely through the same moral lens which is supposedly the only solution. IMHO, whenever people see no solution other than X it's a sure sign that ideology is defining the solution space, rather than the other way 'round.
posted by vorfeed at 3:23 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, no one said you couldn't see it as immoral to consume people's labor without compensation. You can see it that way if you want to, and you can even argue that this is (or should be) true... but the point is that hammering on this sole moral argument is perhaps not the only way to make fair compensation happen for laborers, and that doing so might be closing doors which contain actual compensation.

Is compensation the ultimate goal here? Or is it it is immoral to...?
posted by vorfeed at 3:33 PM on June 20, 2012


Dressing like you is not a crime.

You say that without seeing how I dress.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:38 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm saying that if a musician did not choose to give her music away, and if you consume that music (let's say you listen to it more than once) without compensating the musician, you have committed a moral wrong.

So, I'm morally indebted to every busker I encounter? For how much?

>Dressing like you is not a crime.

You say that without seeing how I dress.


Fortunately, the fashion police don't have any real authority. Although they're working on it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:40 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then you've missed a number of comments in Lowry's article and above here. Some are literally starving; most are very poor. If you'd like to send them money, you could indeed go through your MP3 library and send payment to everyone whose music you've listened to more than once. But I don't think you will.
I'm not going to read that 4,000 word (actual word count) screed to find the names. I asked which artists I listened too were starving. Now, obviously you don't know who I'm listening too, but most of the music I've downloaded has been relatively popular and fairly current when I got it. How is it that someone downloading Britney Spears or Justin Bieber or the Foo Fighters going to take food out of the mouth of some starving jazz musician? Even if they did pay, it still wouldn't help.

But seriously, give me the list of formerly popular musicians who are starving now, If I do have any music by them I'll send them a donation. But like I said, I doubt I do.
That's fine. If you aren't downloading music from people here, they have no right to any compensation from you.
You just said people are literally starving because I pirated their music, despite not providing any names.

I think the whole "people are starving because of piracy" argument is totally bogus. I'm sure there are musicians who are starving, but would people actually be buying new copies of their music if there were no piracy? They wouldn't be getting any money from used records sales, and there are tons of artists who's music would be out of print, making all sales used sales, meaning they wouldn't make any money.

It's just such a ridiculous argument. It's completely hyperbolic. It's barely even worth responding too. The idea that people are starving because popular music is being pirated?

(And the reason I want names: because I don't believe it)
Other than that, yes, many musicians are afraid they would get Lars Ulrich'd if they objected to people taking from them. You seem to think it's awesome when people are afraid to object to their ill-treatment because an ideology that insists that they're whiners
Yeah people might think they have a "sense of entitlement", which is apparently the worst thing in the world.

But more seriously, it shows how politically and culturally, it's over. Artists who complain loudly about copyright infringement make less money because the people who do pay for music get offended.
You seem to have some idiosyncratic descriptions of what constitutes progressivism.
"Progressive" is just a brand name the democrats came up with because "liberal" had been given negative connotations by republicans. There is no definition. I just used the traditional definition of "the left" as being for more socialism and social support, while "the right" for being for more capitalism and individual liberty. Your definition is way more idiosyncratic and you seem to have just made it up on the spot.
Your position is that musicians are getting as much as the market will give them, defining the market as the unregulated profit-seeking structure of a handful of megacorporations
You have me confused with someone else. My position is that I don't care. I don't care what happens to the music industry, and I think that there should be a strong social welfare system in place to prevent anyone from starving.

Automation has put hundreds of thousands of blue collar workers out of a job, and probably lots of them really are now in serious poverty. No one whines about how they were "entitled" to a job and that robot makers "pirated" their jobs. The internet has put lots of newspapers out of business, but it didn't do so by violating their copyrights. In another thread people were whining about all the fishermen who were going to out of business because whole foods was going to stop buying endangered fish. People complain about how oil workers are going to be out of work if we put laws against global warming into place.

Sometimes things change and jobs become obsolete. A strong social safety net is a good idea.
What piracy advocates are calling for is a world with a lot of local bar bands, and no one who really works hard on music.
If the choice is between that a highly censored and restricted internet, then obviously I would chose that. In reality, it's ridiculous. We've lived in a world with a high piracy rate for a decade and there are still lots of rich and famous musicians. In fact, if you look at someone like Justin Bieber, he became famous singing covers on youtube, technically, that's piracy. He wasn't licensing those tracks. (In fact, when was first told about SOPA he he wasn't exactly enthusiastic)

Justin Bieber is an example of someone who became famous in the era of rampant piracy.

We don't have to guess about what that world would be like. We already live in it. We've lived in it for over a decade. It's not a hypothetical, it's how things are now.

And again, these arguments rely on these fantastic and absurd hypotheticals about people literally starving because their music is pirated, as if there would be no used record sales and all music would always be in print and every artist got a good deal from their label last century, and on the other hand somehow arguing that piracy isn't a factor and therefore if it was the music industry would be destroyed and we'd go back to people playing fun in bars and nothing else - as if no one would take those videos and put them on youtube and sometimes get famous that way (which is exactly what Justin Bieber, and lots of other people, have done)
Do not confuse cost with value. If music was valueless, nobody would bother to copy it.

The problem, such as it is, is that it is much harder to convince people to pay for recorded music. Which, aside from a fortunate few (fewer than most people realize) has never been a substantial source of income for artists.
-- ChurchHatesTucker
There is lots of music I wouldn't bother trying to copy, because it isn't even worth the effort. But the problem is the distance between "click a link on pirate bay" and "$1 a track/ $10 an album". The more money you have, the easier it is to spend that $1. $1 can be a lot of money to someone struggling to pay rent. It could mean only buying a few new songs a month, without piracy.

So value, in dollar terms is highly dependent on income.
posted by delmoi at 4:41 PM on June 20, 2012


Wow, this this is still going eh.

Do not confuse cost with value. If music was valueless, nobody would bother to copy it.

It's interesting because. to me, this is perfectly backwards. The value of music is completely derived from sharing it. And the more a piece of music is shared, well, the more the valuable it becomes. So people copying music are actually making it more valuable! (Music is not unique in this respect, really, the same could be said of virtually all information.)

What you shouldn't confuse is value and money. The problem that musicians have (and virtually everybody else, indeed, this is the problem of our times) is how to translate that tremendous value into money. The are different ways to tackle this problem but again, this is the problem. Not the copying of the music but the monetizing of the wealth produced by the copying. All the people in this thread railing against piracy and ranting about silly, arbitrary moral pretentions simply don't see the forest.

Taking a step back and looking at the larger picture, in purely economic terms, it's immediately obvious that everybody wins when music is shared. (The idea that a musician might starve because his stuff is copied too much is utterly idiotic.) Real wealth is being created in this situation and all parties are truly much better off than when they started. The musician gains another fan, the downloader gains good music, and the sharer feels good and perhaps reaps social influence. (Note there's a big difference between sharing and piracy, we're assuming the sharer is not reselling the music.) So wealth is definitely being created here! The fact that this wealth is not easily translated into money certainly doesn't mean that it's not there. It's just illiquid.

And as musicians slowly realize that their real wealth lies in their fan base (and not in any one song or album) then they will be happy to give away their songs and albums in order to grow their fan base. Because the fan base will be where they extract their money from. And more than likely they will extract far more money from their fans then they ever did by pushing out albums. Realistically this will happen (if it hasn't already happened) because the economics of sharing are irresistible. There's tremendous wealth to be had there, the only question is (1) who will monetize that wealth and hour (in the worst case scenario it'd be stupid Facebook or the like) and (2) might the government foolishly step in and kill the whole market with stupidly draconian laws.
posted by nixerman at 5:09 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


i wish i could remember who said, "no one but an idiot ever starved in a garrett"

if you can't make a living from your art, you make a living from something else - been there, and have done it for decades, at some pretty shitty jobs

and yeah, a strong social safety net IS a good idea
posted by pyramid termite at 5:10 PM on June 20, 2012


I'm afraid that strikes me as counterproductive. We seem to be in a very similar place with downloading as we are with globalization of labor: technology has made it possible to exploit people's labor without compensating them.

Your confusion of this issues is, at least, novel. Wage arbitrage has absolutely no reasonable analogy to music sharing. Like it or not, no, musicians don't get poorer when their music is shared and even if they did it would not represent a transfer a wealth. This is nonsense. And the whole "musician's labor" thing is also just not even wrong. In a free market you don't get paid for labor, you get paid for risk. And the risk involved in distributing music is zero so it's hard to see how anybody should ever get paid for this. Especially when there's tons of people out there willing to do it for free. Even software, it should be noted, often has bug fixes and upgrades but music is just a bag of bytes. Seriously if this is the best anti-downloaders can come up with then, yes, this argument is over.
posted by nixerman at 5:24 PM on June 20, 2012


Nina Paley (film maker, activist) on Intellectual Disobedience.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:36 PM on June 20, 2012


I would 100% support paying higher taxes to support a stronger social safety net so that people can follow their dreams without facing the possibility of homelessness or starvation, no matter if that dream is making music or selling home made candles.

I mean isn't that what the real issue is here? That people don't have the economic freedom to do what they love, only what pays the bills?

Enforcing a draconian copyright regime might solve a small part of that problem, maybe. But it leaves out a lot of people who aren't 'creatives' but who also are doing shit jobs when they'd rather be doing something else (do you think I love programming Ciscos?).
posted by empath at 5:43 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]



I'm saying that if a musician did not choose to give her music away, and if you consume that music (let's say you listen to it more than once) without compensating the musician, you have committed a moral wrong.

So, I'm morally indebted to every busker I encounter? For how much?


I'm going to say this really, really slowly: If a musician chooses to give their music away, you may consume it for free. If they don't, you may not. Claro?

You have me confused with someone else. My position is that I don't care. I don't care what happens to the music industry,

"You have me confused with someone else. My position is that I don't care. I don't care what happens to musicians"

Fixed that for you.

Automation has put hundreds of thousands of blue collar workers out of a job, and probably lots of them really are now in serious poverty. No one whines about how they were "entitled" to a job and that robot makers "pirated" their jobs. The internet has put lots of newspapers out of business, but it didn't do so by violating their copyrights. In

delmoi, this is stupid even for you. No one says robots "pirated" their jobs because the workers are no longer doing labor. You are talking about taking the alienated labor (go on, look it up, I'll wait) of the people who did the work.

it's immediately obvious that everybody wins when music is shared. (The idea that a musician might starve because his stuff is copied too much is utterly idiotic.)

Ah ha ha ha haha! Everybody wins when music is shared? Nixerman, I don't think you're even trying.

One. More. Time.

When someone does labor, and you consume the product of their labor (you looked up the definition of alienated labor, right?), and don't compensate them, then you have exploited them. Are they "winning"? No. They may now be better known (assuming you tagged your MP3s correctly), but they have had their labor exploited. They are now in the position of a factory worker whose boss vanished before payday. The factory worker may enjoy spinning widgets, but will not feel like he was personally fulfilled when you didn't pay him.

In a free market you don't get paid for labor, you get paid for risk.

What the what? Where in heaven's name did you come up with that? How could you type that and not hang your head in shame? In a free market, you are paid for labor, services, or risk. Investors are paid for risk, but that describes very few people. Perhaps you share the GOP fantasy that everyone is an investor. Most of us, who go to a job and make something, are paid for labor. It's hilarious how quickly you leap to Heritage Foundation talking points when your right to exploit that labor is questioned.

music is just a bag of bytes

The fact that piracy fans can say something like that with a straight face is rather definitive proof that I'm right about calling you "enemies of art." What a horrible way to view culture.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:07 PM on June 20, 2012


I'm going to say this really, really slowly: If a musician chooses to give their music away, you may consume it for free. If they don't, you may not. Claro?

I don't think anyone is disagreeing there. The problem seems to be that once you release it to the public, it's essentially "given away for free." You may not like it, but that's reality at this point.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:15 PM on June 20, 2012


When someone does labor, and you consume the product of their labor (you looked up the definition of alienated labor, right?), and don't compensate them, then you have exploited them.

Jesus Christ, this is like a battle of wits between unarmed opponents.

If I create a song and post it on music.mefi, I am not compensated and I am not exploited.

When I got to my local bar and play a song I wrote for free, I am not exploited.

Really, vulgar marxist categories are really not helpful in this instance.
posted by unSane at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2012


The value of music is completely derived from sharing it. And the more a piece of music is shared, well, the more the valuable it becomes. So people copying music are actually making it more valuable!

For me, the value of music is completely derived from my ability to enjoy it. If a piece of music resonates with me and holds up to repeated listens, then it has value and worth. The song either hits you or it doesn't. Sharing does not enter the equation at all when I assess a song's artistic merit and emotional resonance.

When you share a favorite new song, I think you can reasonably argue that you're doing some pro-bono, marketing work for the artist. Could that win the artist a new fan or two? Sure! But I fail to see how torrenting an artist's work creates value for them when that work is available on a legit pay-to-download service.
posted by foot at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2012


Fuzzy is so wrong and his arguments are so empty that, at this point, it's best to simply ignore him. Hopefully he'll get the message. Repeating empty banalities doesn't somehow make them insightful. It's also hilarious that he would use Marx -- perhaps the ur-sharer? -- to defend his nonsense. But then he's simply abusing Marx because alienation of labor has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand and it does not mean economic exploitation at all. Really, he's just either stupid or a troll or probably both.
posted by nixerman at 7:35 PM on June 20, 2012


It Aint Gonna Suck Itself
posted by vozworth at 7:40 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


When you share a favorite new song, I think you can reasonably argue that you're doing some pro-bono, marketing work for the artist. Could that win the artist a new fan or two? Sure! But I fail to see how torrenting an artist's work creates value for them when that work is available on a legit pay-to-download service.

If it wins the artist a new fan or two, then one of them might buy the album (or the next album, or an EP, or a shirt, or a concert ticket). Or they might tell a friend who tells a friend who does one of those things, or maybe even books the band the next time they're in town. That's how sharing creates value for the artist. At the very least, having the work available in a torrent allows prospective customers to hear the whole thing before they buy -- Amazon et al don't typically provide that, and like I said earlier, 30-second samples just don't cut it anymore.
posted by vorfeed at 7:49 PM on June 20, 2012


Another way of thinking about it is that musicians and bands are having exactly the same problems monetizing the web as everyone else.
posted by unSane at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


delmoi, this is stupid even for you. No one says robots "pirated" their jobs because the workers are no longer doing labor. You are talking about taking the alienated labor (go on, look it up, I'll wait) of the people who did the work.
I guess I'm not as well versed in marxist theory as you are.

Currently, lots of musicians make lots of money. My view is that the status quo is fine. This idea that musicians are all going to be starving in the streets because people pirated their music is absurd. I'm not aware of any music listen too that was produced by people who were starving. Again, give me the names of people who are, and if am listening to them, I will be happy to donate directly.
posted by delmoi at 8:32 PM on June 20, 2012


The problem seems to be that once you release it to the public, it's essentially "given away for free." You may not like it, but that's reality at this point.

"Is" does not equal "ought". Once again, you resort to looter's logic: If your store is in my neighborhood, it's gonna get robbed and you may not like it but that's reality.

If it wins the artist a new fan or two, then one of them might buy the album (or the next album, or an EP, or a shirt, or a concert ticket). Or they might tell a friend who tells a friend who does one of those things, or maybe even books the band the next time they're in town. That's how sharing creates value for the artist.

No, if it wins the artist a fan or two, they'll "share" it as well, creating value for everyone but the artist.

If I create a song and post it on music.mefi, I am not compensated and I am not exploited.

When I got to my local bar and play a song I wrote for free, I am not exploited.


Really, dude, if you have that hard a time grasping the concept of consent, I hope you aren't dating.

My view is that the status quo is fine.

Yes, because you think Justin Bieber is what music is all about (I assume---you keep using him as an example).

But of course, that's wrong. Bieber will of course do fine under the new regime---his music is catchy, impersonal, and unspecific, so it works fine in an ad, a radio playlist, a corporate presentation, or a halftime show. His music is meant to act as background for other activities, which can be monetized. The problem is music that is more specific and personal, music that would not be a good ad buy. That's the stuff that is supported by people actually buying the music. Which you won't do. Enjoy your corporate-pop future, try the veal!

But to paraphrase Russell, no one can explain something to a man if his $10 depend on him not understanding it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:08 PM on June 20, 2012


So, say we cut piracy in half next year, how much more extra revenue would you predict the record industry would have to distribute to those niche acts compared to today?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:30 PM on June 20, 2012


No, if it wins the artist a fan or two, they'll "share" it as well, creating value for everyone but the artist.

I've personally gotten friends to buy records and/or tickets to see bands by pointing them to shared tracks. I've also spent well more than a hundred dollars -- as in a hundred each on multiple bands, not a hundred total -- on bands I first heard via file-sharing, unapproved youtube links, and other unlicensed means. I'm sorry this doesn't match your ideology, but reality matters a whole hell of a lot more.
posted by vorfeed at 10:06 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The reason I mentioned Bieber is because he's someone who didn't like SOPA and also someone who became famous in the last decade, as well as someone who everyone's heard of (I would hardly call myself a fan of his)
But of course, that's wrong. Bieber will of course do fine under the new regime---his music is catchy, impersonal, and unspecific, so it works fine in an ad, a radio playlist, a corporate presentation,
So now the argument is about what kind music gets made? Pretty weak. Especially since the record industry was pumping out bubble gum pop in the mid to late 90s anyway.

The fact is: there is a lot of piracy, and lots of artists are making lots of money. The fact that you don't like the genera of music that's profitable is really irrelevant. And in any event, it's completely absurd to imagine that somehow getting rid of piracy would mean a more diversity in the kind of music that gets funded is pretty ridiculous.
"Is" does not equal "ought". Once again, you resort to looter's logic: If your store is in my neighborhood, it's gonna get robbed and you may not like it but that's reality.
First thieves, then punching people in the face, sexual harassment (in the MeTa thread) and now looting. Who do you think is going to take this nonsense seriously?
posted by delmoi at 10:20 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pirating Elvis is Regicide.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:23 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I create a song and post it on music.mefi, I am not compensated and I am not exploited.

True, but you'd probably feel a bit differently if I posted one of your songs on music.mefi without asking you. As I said yesterday, choice is the y determinant here. It matters that you get to decide where and when to upload your song rather than me. It matters if I pay for a piece of music or a movie because I'm buying the right to play it whenever I want, rather than waiting for it to come onto the radio or TV at someone else's pleasure.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:59 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really, dude, if you have that hard a time grasping the concept of consent, I hope you aren't dating.


Really, dude, if you'd said 'without consent', you might have a point.
posted by unSane at 5:22 AM on June 21, 2012


I'm not aware of any music listen too that was produced by people who were starving. Again, give me the names of people who are, and if am listening to them, I will be happy to donate directly.

If it's important to you, I'd suggest you do your own due diligence.
posted by malocchio at 6:39 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Is" does not equal "ought".

And vis versa.

I'd let you rage against reality in peace, but the attempt to make digital goods behave like physical ones has implications that are just terrifying.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:46 AM on June 21, 2012


I'd let you rage against reality in peace,

It's telling that people who are generally fans of OWS and other such "change-oriented" causes retreat to "This is just how things are" when their own ability to exploit is threatened.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:36 AM on June 21, 2012


Okay, and if we cut that exploitation in half, how much extra revenue would the music industry have to distribute to the exploited niche artists?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:43 AM on June 21, 2012


Think you've pretty well answered the question of whether this is about fair compensation or enforcing your own brand of morality, ThatFuzzyBastard. You are clearly more interested in railing against "looters" than you are in finding any sort of compromise or solution to the problem, even if (especially if?) it ends in artists getting paid. And again, Emily White's article was about finding a way for artists to get paid. If this article were on the SATs, the correct summary would be c) "there should be a convenient way for everyone to listen which compensates artists, hopefully more than the current model does", not a) "I love to hurt artists because I am a lazy monster who enjoys grand theft larceny and/or hitting people in the face."

I find it painfully telling that this article was met by a ton of anti-sharing rhetoric, because that's exactly where we're at now: a bunch of people shouting arguments from ten or fifteen years ago at each other (and this is true on both sides: note how many people above still think paid downloads equal DRM). This is where the moral-argument approach has gotten us: to a place where obvious, workable solutions aren't even being discussed, and probably aren't even politically viable anymore.

We're all enemies now, and we will end this the way enemies do, spilling the blood of both sides all over the field to avenge wrongs which have long since been eclipsed by the war itself. Way to fucking go, I guess.
posted by vorfeed at 10:33 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


vorfeed, I'm with you all the way ... except your conclusion. I don't think it's that hopeless. Yeah, FuzzyBastard seems trapped in his/her ideology/morality much as any fundamentalist, but I've seen time change many a fundamentalist (and I include fundamentalists of all stripes here, not just the religious). In fact, fundamentalist is very much the word here. I've pretty much given up on FuzzyBastard much as I'd give up on some boring, repetitive Christer. I doubt I'll even engage anymore when I see the user name pop up -- unless it's saying something that suggests a little moderation has gone on in the thinking. Here's hoping.

I believe I commented in the Meta that my read of the overall flow of this thread was:

Day-1. Open war. Lots of ready-FIRE-aiming going on. Total reflex actions, folks arguing out of habit as much as actual thought. Playing to WIN.

Day-2. Some actual conversation, a move toward repositioning the discussion to something along the lines of ... "Given that the old ways have been done in by the new technologies, how can we finesse things such that those who create culture are somehow rewarded?"

But then things got "fighty" again (hate that word) -- provocative things got said, sides got taken again, playing to WIN again, but not as intensely as Day-1. With one or two exceptions, it felt that more actual listening was continuing to go on.

Now we're in Day-3 and I doubt much more will happen in this thread. So the question is, what will we (those who still care one way or another) bring to the next relevant thread? I know I'm going to try to get to ... "Given that the old ways have been done in by the new technologies, how can we finesse things such that those who create culture are somehow remunerated?" as quickly as possible.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tusk!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:18 AM on June 21, 2012


It's telling that people who are generally fans of OWS and other such "change-oriented" causes retreat to..."

I believe that is called "showing one's hand."
posted by mrgrimm at 11:23 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's telling that people who are generally fans of OWS and other such "change-oriented" causes retreat to "This is just how things are" when their own ability to exploit is threatened

You don't even realize what the alternative is. Do you?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:34 AM on June 21, 2012


Think you've pretty well answered the question of whether this is about fair compensation or enforcing your own brand of morality, ThatFuzzyBastard. You are clearly more interested in railing against "looters" than you are in finding any sort of compromise or solution to the problem, even if (especially if?) it ends in artists getting paid. And again, Emily White's article was about finding a way for artists to get paid. If this article were on the SATs, the correct summary would be c) "there should be a convenient way for everyone to listen which compensates artists, hopefully more than the current model does", not a) "I love to hurt artists because I am a lazy monster who enjoys grand theft larceny and/or hitting people in the face."

If this were, as vorfeed says, ten or fifteen years ago, before these solutions existed, your rhetoric would be defensible. But it isn't. I'm railing because, as I've said before, compromises and solutions already exist, and have existed for years. You can buy on iTunes. You can buy on Bandcamp. You can put money in the tip jar. If you're not doing that, then you don't want to do that, and all your talk of "Gosh, if only there were some way to compensate" is a smokescreen. There is a way to compensate; several ways, actually. You choose not to use them.

(oh, and if you're argument against the above is "But then the record company will get money", then you are simply ignoring the artist's wish for how they chose to divide the money)
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:34 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


And again, Emily White's article was about finding a way for artists to get paid. If this article were on the SATs, the correct summary would be c) "there should be a convenient way for everyone to listen which compensates artists,

iTunes is plenty convenient. She doesn't want to pay.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:46 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm railing because, as I've said before, compromises and solutions already exist, and have existed for years.

Again, you are not addressing Emily White's complaint, which is that the tip-jar/itunes/bandcamp model is a fragmented, overly expensive, often-not-available, highly-inconvenient mess compared to music piracy, which is universal and easy.

Tell me: if I want to watch a movie, are my only options physical media, pirate downloads, or choosing to hunt down a legal download/tip-jar/etc? No. I, like millions of other people, subscribe to a service which allows me to stream damn near any movie I like instantly, right to my own television via my very own remote control, for one low fee. The mere fact that this is faster, easier, and more convenient than torrenting AVIs has converted many, many of my friends from downloaders to legal viewers, and will continue to do so in the future.

At this point, the fact that an equivalent service does not exist for music is motherfucking crazypants, and we are all wearing those crazy, crazy pants because the music industry has refused to learn the same lesson the movie studios have. Why? Because waa, you choose not to! is the entire extent to which the music industry has engaged with reality, much less with what people actually want. And your behavior in this thread is an excellent example. Emily White is telling you exactly how she would love to pay you for doing what you do, and you're mad because she "doesn't want to do that"?

Obviously she wants to do it, or she wouldn't be telling you. Could you please let go of the idea that downloaders are all mean people who want to hurt you for just one second, so you can hear what they are actually saying?
posted by vorfeed at 12:49 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


You can buy on iTunes. You can buy on Bandcamp. You can put money in the tip jar. If you're not doing that, then you don't want to do that, and all your talk of "Gosh, if only there were some way to compensate" is a smokescreen.

this is a key point. If you're downloading music (/movies/etc) that is not made available for free by the creator, but which is available for purchase, then what's your excuse? Arguments such as the following are not very persuasive:

I am all about supporting artist, but when iTunes for example is taking a third of the revenue for a simple download, this shit it fucked.

Why is that any of the customer's business? It was the creator/publisher that decided to sell the music through iTunes (/Amazon/etc). Why should they have to gain the customer's approval of the distributor's cut in order to make a sale? Sure, the marginal cost of distributing another copy of a piece of music is near zero. But that doesn't mean that the distributor's cut should be converted to consumer surplus automatically. What about the fixed costs of building the distribution network? What about the benefits to the artist of being available in the marketplace of their choice? There's a value to the creator in having Apple (or Amazon/whoever) take care of not only the hosting/transfer but all the accounting, marketing of the service and so on. Plus if your music gets featured for a day then you receive a massive amount of advertising at no additional cost. The split between the creator and distributor in an open market is none of the customer's business. As a creative person, I'm not interested in running my own store on the internet or ensuring 24/7 uptime or dealing with payment processing. Nobody cares about an artist's ability to configure a web server or negotiate a good deal with a credit processor. It makes sense to pay someone else to do that work.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:07 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, like millions of other people, subscribe to a service which allows me to stream damn near any movie I like instantly, right to my own television via my very own remote control, for one low fee.

Netflix? I love the service, but there are tons of movies unavailable for streaming. I rarely find what I'm looking for, so it's usually a matter of finding an acceptable replacement.

I think Pandora, Spotify, and Last.fm and are pretty much equivalent services if you want streaming music. I find them a little frustrating as a user (like I do Netflix), but I don't really listen to much music. As a musician, I appreciate that they pay me some royalties (although getting paid by Pandora seems to be some incomprehesible labyrinth). Frankly, I'd like to see all of these services offer more content, or improve what they offer on-demand.
posted by malocchio at 1:12 PM on June 21, 2012


Again, you are not addressing Emily White's complaint, which is that the tip-jar/itunes/bandcamp model is a fragmented, overly expensive, often-not-available, highly-inconvenient mess compared to music piracy, which is universal and easy.

I'm sorry, are you complaining that you can't get every music track imaginable through a single app? None of iTunes/Amazon/Rhapsody/Last.fm/Spotify/Google Play are adequate to your needs? I'm not buying this line or argument - indeed, I suspect that if there were One Music Vendor to Rule Them All you'd be complaining about the potential for abuse of monopoly power.

Tell me: if I want to watch a movie, are my only options physical media, pirate downloads, or choosing to hunt down a legal download/tip-jar/etc? No. I, like millions of other people, subscribe to a service which allows me to stream damn near any movie I like instantly, right to my own television via my very own remote control, for one low fee.

And what service is this, pray tell? Netflix? Because not every film is available for streaming via Netflix. Comcast Streampix? Likewise. Amazon? Likewise. And so on. Not to chase you off my lawn, but for most of my life there was no guarantee of being able to find all the music/books/movies you want at a store because physical constraints meant there simply wasn't room to display every available product, so you had to settle for a subsection of what was available and (gasp!) go to a few different stores or place an order and wait if you wanted something old or obscure. Finding specialist vendors that catered for your particular pastes was part of the fun and what made it interesting to live in a city as opposed to a village. Nowadays you can be out in the middle of nowhere and have access to media consumption and communication facilities like the people on Star Trek and you're unhappy about the lack of convenience? Seriously?
posted by anigbrowl at 1:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That should read catered for your particular pastes. All my paste requirements are satisfied by my local, family-owned, Ace Hardware.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:24 PM on June 21, 2012


I suspect that there is another subset of downloaders (I'm not at all sure, though, and I can't guess about population size), like me, who simply are not interested in giving a chunk of money to major record labels or Apple.

I do buy a lot of music and merch from artists. I buy tons of music online, usually after I have downloaded and listened to it through plain old piracy (this very practice is pretty regularly endorsed by artists that I enjoy and respect). I also buy a lot of music at shows (I go to a lot of shows, too, which also supports the artists I like). I don't really listen to anything new that I can't buy directly from artists through mailorder or artist website. Even when dealing websites, I usually elect to go for mailorder, because I hate paypal.

The labels and artists pushing people to not pirate are not, generally, labels and artists that I care about. I very directly support the people who I do value as artists (shit, I've had touring bands crash on my floor), and I am happy to do that.

But giving a single cent to some major label just so I can listen to the Lady Gaga album once, so I can see what the hell the fuss is about? I'm not going to do that. Lady Gaga is fucking fine without my $15, and after listening to it a time or two, I felt like I was fine without her album. Do I feel any compunction about that? Nope.

The vast majority of the music that I do simply pirate is really really old, and it's not very likely that paying for it would result in any benefit to the artist. When major record companies exploit artists (which, I would hope, is basically understood as a Universal ((no pun intended!)) truth), then buying music from those labels is just continuing the exploitation.

Same goes for Apple; I told myself a few years ago that I was not interested in really supporting Apple, or any other tech-hardware companies, any longer. I don't buy from itunes because I think Apple is a shitty company, just like I think a lot of record companies are shitty. Hell, I'd rather not use PayPal, but on occasion I will if that's the only way to get music.

So, I kind of suspect that there are a lot of people out there like me, who happily buy music and pirate music, depending on the situation. For me, what frustrates me about hardline anti-piracy people is that they don't often seem to understand that they are casting too wide a net.

I can't afford most of the visual art I love to look at, but I certainly would not think it reasonable to pay a fee to save an image on my computer so I could see it tomorrow.
posted by broadway bill at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, are you complaining that you can't get every music track imaginable through a single app? None of iTunes/Amazon/Rhapsody/Last.fm/Spotify/Google Play are adequate to your needs?

As I explained above, I pay for plenty of music. Lately this includes an occasional per-album download via Amazon or iTunes, because they've finally become a reasonably-priced and convenient way to get some of the albums I want. And that's the issue. The problem is not that "none of iTunes/Amazon/Rhapsody/Last.fm/Spotify/Google Play are adequate to your needs", it's that they are not more convenient than piracy for many people, whereas Netflix and Amazon Prime are more so (partly because movies take more time to download, so the piracy-convenience bar is already higher).

My entire point is that the more convenient and comprehensive these services become, the less the average person will bother to pirate. Not because of morality or law or even cost -- because of habit and popularity and ease. It's pretty obvious what people want, and you can either give them more of it or you can rail about choices and stealing and morality, all based on an older paradigm they're not even talking about. Emily White even described what she wants as being "Spotify-like", only more so, so the idea that Spotify will never be enough for these people rargh rargh they only wanna steal is a bit much. She's already told you that this is not the case.

Nowadays you can be out in the middle of nowhere and have access to media consumption and communication facilities like the people on Star Trek and you're unhappy about the lack of convenience? Seriously?

Welcome to The Next Generation: kids who already have easy, universal access to just about all the music they'd ever want to hear via piracy. When legal options are less convenient than piracy, you should expect pirates to bring up lack of convenience as a reason they don't switch.

Not to chase you off my lawn

I'm 34.
posted by vorfeed at 1:52 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is iTunes still basically a buck a pop for a download? That's fine if I know the song, but it's a fail when it comes to discovering new stuff. My typical approach to this is, download fifty tracks, instantly dump at least half, eventually settle on keeping maybe ten or fifteen. Last I looked, the iTunes model doesn't support this, so I continue to work other angles.

Why is that any of the customer's business? It was the creator/publisher that decided to sell the music through iTunes (/Amazon/etc). Why should they have to gain the customer's approval of the distributor's cut in order to make a sale?

Because we're at the table now whether they want us here or not, and our voice is strong, though not that well organized yet. Or as I've already said in this thread:

filesharing has shifted the base of power in the culture wars. It's now the audience, the fans, the appreciators, the downloaders, the consumers (to use a dirty word) who get to make the call as to how the paradigm should arrange itself. But we don't really get it yet. Not fully. Probably in large part because the former powers-that-be have done such a good job of brainwashing us from childhood on up. "Shut up and do as we tell you!" and all that.

But really, they're just another voice at the table, and not a particularly loud one anymore.

What do we want in terms of cultural "product"?
What are we willing to offer in return?
How shall we keep the artists we love alive and kicking? How shall we nurture the next generation of them?


These are the issues we need to get clear on, and resolve. If the record labels etc honestly want to help in this regard, well good on 'em. If they don't, then ... [impolite words ensue]
posted by philip-random at 2:09 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Emily White is telling you exactly how she would love to pay you for doing what you do, and you're mad because she "doesn't want to do that"?
Obviously she wants to do it, or she wouldn't be telling you. Could you please let go of the idea that downloaders are all mean people who want to hurt you for just one second, so you can hear what they are actually saying?


No, I am listenening to what she's saying. She's saying "I would stop pirating music if there were some convenient way to pay for it." But there is, and she knows it. She thinks it's too... what? Too fragmented? What's the band she wants to get on Amazon and can't buy? Too inconvenient? How is buying an album on Amazon less convenient than torrenting? Now I can't dialogue with her, but I can dialogue with you. And when it was noted to you that there were plenty of ways to conveniently pay for music, suddenly it became about "Yeah, but I don't want to pay *Apple*," or Amazon, or whoever. Which makes me think that the things being said are insincere.

I don't think downloaders are mean people who want to hurt me (or other artists). I think downloaders are thoughtless people who want something for nothing. I haven't seen anything to suggest otherwise. They don't want to hurt artists, they just, as delmoi has explicitly stated, don't care if they do. Which is a pretty definitive statement of a defective moral compass.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2012


Or you know, they are passionate music fans that spend more time and money on music than you do. You can't generalize. And you are getting boring.
posted by empath at 2:15 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


How shall we keep the artists we love alive and kicking? How shall we nurture the next generation of them?

These are the issues we need to get clear on, and resolve. If the record labels etc honestly want to help in this regard, well good on 'em. If they don't, then ... [impolite words ensue]

I would be delighted if the downloaders started actually chiming in with believable ways to keep the artists they love alive and kicking. All I've heard is silliness about buying t-shirts and concert tickets which are, believe me, nowhere near enough to cover the costs of touring unless you're buying $100 tickets and $30 t-shirts. And then it becomes "if only there were some way to send money directly to artists!", followed by a list of reasons why all the existing ways of sending money directly to artists aren't acceptable.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:16 PM on June 21, 2012


Or you know, they are passionate music fans that spend more time and money on music than you do. You can't generalize. And you are getting boring.

I can't generalize about downloaders' clothing, taste in music, educational level, or income. But I can generalize on the one thing that is definitionally the case about them: They are people who consume something that was not offered to them, and don't pay for it. Your failure to actually engage with that fact is profoundly boring.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:19 PM on June 21, 2012


I'm sorry, are you complaining that you can't get every music track imaginable through a single app?

Well, that's what you're competing against--a technology that's been around for 20 years: the Web browser.

And when one option (downloading via Google) does have nearly every music track imaginable, or 400x or whatever the amount of music that any of the other options offer, which one are users going to choose?

I'm looking for Album X. I know I can find it and listen to it in a few minutes if I use Google (or YouTube). Is it on Spotify, Rhapsody, iTunes, Amazon, etc. Who knows!

If you're downloading music (/movies/etc) that is not made available for free by the creator, but which is available for purchase, then what's your excuse?

I have no idea how to value music until I hear it. Asking me to do so seems like an unfair business practice.

But giving a single cent to some major label just so I can listen to the Lady Gaga album once, so I can see what the hell the fuss is about?

That's my second most common use case. There is plenty of music that I want to hear once or twice and discard. YouTube is OK for that (no different than the Internet/Google, I suppose), but most of my listening time is during my commute underground. etc. I will download and listen to the album once or twice and then throw it away.

I would be delighted if the downloaders started actually chiming in with believable ways to keep the artists they love alive and kicking

That's simple. Buy the albums, buy tickets to live shows, and buy merchandise. There is nothing about downloading music that precludes spending money on music or supporting artists financially. It's pretty clear that most downloaders do. Any actual harm of downloading has never really been proven, I don't think.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:33 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I am listenening to what she's saying. She's saying "I would stop pirating music if there were some convenient way to pay for it." But there is, and she knows it.

She is specifically saying that the way to pay for it needs to be more convenient than the ways which already exist. Trust me, she knows what Amazon and iTunes are -- she just doesn't think they're a valid alternative to piracy given the way most downloaders listen. And I can see why, because they're not. Frankly, if it weren't for unlicensed sharing I wouldn't have paid for many of the downloads I did pay for, because a thirty second sample of something is not going to make $9 seem reasonable quite the way a couple weeks of listening to a rapidly-becoming-special album does.

What's the band she wants to get on Amazon and can't buy?

Are you kidding me? I'm into death and black metal, and the majority of the bands I follow aren't available for download on Amazon or iTunes. The ones that are charge almost as much to download an album as for the physical CD -- a far cry from paying one fee to listen to everything. Things are moving in the right direction, but they're not there yet, and they need to be in order to convince people to stop downloading. Which is Emily White's point.

nd when it was noted to you that there were plenty of ways to conveniently pay for music, suddenly it became about "Yeah, but I don't want to pay *Apple*," or Amazon, or whoever.

Yes, well, this is part of the problem. Why are you surprised to find that overheated moralistic rhetoric about "supporting artists" can cut both ways?
posted by vorfeed at 2:39 PM on June 21, 2012


consume

I know that this gets confused by people being called media 'consumers' all the time, but if somebody consumes something, it implies that they destroyed it or exhausted it in the process of using it, which is kind of exactly the opposite of what happens when people share files. It's not like consuming a sandwich.
posted by empath at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2012


I would be delighted if the downloaders started actually chiming in with believable ways to keep the artists they love alive and kicking. All I've heard is silliness about buying t-shirts and concert tickets which are, believe me, nowhere near enough to cover the costs of touring unless you're buying $100 tickets and $30 t-shirts. And then it becomes "if only there were some way to send money directly to artists!", followed by a list of reasons why all the existing ways of sending money directly to artists aren't acceptable.


I outlined, just a few posts above, how I keep the artists I love alive and kicking.

As to your point about merch and ticket sales not being enough to support a touring band, you're just flat wrong there. I have tons and tons of friends and family members in bands that do exactly that. No, it's not necessarily enough to support a spouse and two kids at home with insurance while you tour, but it definitely can sustain the tour itself.

The ways to send money directly to artists are out there, and they can--and should be--used if it's an artist that you love and needs support. Those are the ways that I support artists, and I do it that way precisely because I want to support artists. I don't have much interest in supporting middlemen of any stripe.


Also, an earlier point I raised that I am still interested in: what does it mean when so many professional musicians support--or at least understand enough not to condemn--filesharing? Bjork, Nelly Furtado, Radiohead, Shakira, Jack White, Norah Jones, Neil Young...all of these artists are okay with sharing/piracy. That's just from a single google result. I've also talked to dozens of touring indie acts that don't give a single fuck about piracy, and some who view filesharing as their main mode of promotion.
posted by broadway bill at 2:50 PM on June 21, 2012


If this is just about calling people who download mean thieving moral failures who should repent from their sins, I think the preaching has been heard loud and clear at this point.

If this is about starving artists I think someone should engage with the idea that cutting piracy in half does not increase revenue for the record companies.

Piracy seems to act as free advertising which is a godsend for smaller acts that can't make it on to corporate dominated radio. Nobody is going to buy a CD from a small act they have never heard before, but they might become a customer for other albums and products if given a chance to hear the music.

You know what I think is thievery? Asking someone to purchase albums blind that may or may not be to their taste. It's taking money from an artist someone would like and giving it to someone they don't. Bonkers.

Now, I know this is about sacred consent for some folks, but that is a separate issue from the starving artists. Even if Metallica doesn't want the piracy, that isn't going to decide if it loses them money or not.

At what point, if piracy does in fact increase sales, are the people trying to shut down the pirates the evil artist hating thieves?

Here's the thing, I don't download anymore, I just listen to legal internet radio. I don't have a single album, legal or not, on my phone. This means the revenue from me is way, way down even though I'm not pirating albums. You know what that makes me? Probably a much smaller source of revenue than a pirate who buys the occasional album even though I listen to music all the time. Who is the leech here?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:21 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing, I don't download anymore, I just listen to legal internet radio.

It's funny you mention that. Every song I've illegally downloaded for the past year or so has been for legal, royalty-paying radio sites like turntable.fm, so I could share them with friends.
posted by empath at 3:24 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing, I don't download anymore, I just listen to legal internet radio.

For, jeez, maybe 2 years in the Oughts, all I did was run Indie Pop Rocks on Soma.FM all day at work and save the stream (using software that would separate each file into a unique MP3 named Artist-Track.mp3). Then I would throw it all on Shuffle on my MP3 player and find new music that way.

I would assume stream-saving Internet radio is comparable to taping analog radio, legally?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:47 PM on June 21, 2012


what does it mean when so many professional musicians support--or at least understand enough not to condemn--filesharing?

John Vanderslice had some interesting things to say to Merlin Mann about it.

Transcript (the part about unauthorized downloading starts around 16:50):

"DRM is a moral stance--that's why it's so problematic. And it's doesn't do anything ... it doesn't prevent any of the behavior it's try to [stop] ... it would be better if you just accepted the behavior ...

This thing is that we don't lose money; we make money. We make more money every year. Clearly. It's clear to me ... I just did my taxes and I'm thinking, 'Jesus, I'm supposed to being getting hit by these downloads?' ... there's a part of me that says 'music's gonna be free.'"
posted by mrgrimm at 3:58 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would assume stream-saving Internet radio is comparable to taping analog radio, legally?

Not really, no. Streamripping was pretty much the core issue during the Copyright Royalty Board negotiations on streaming radio. If it weren't for streamripping and the fact that unlike analog radio there are no generational losses (and you get handy metadata for labeling your files, as you discovered), streaming stations would likely be no more liable for copyright than analog radio is. So no, it's not really comparable.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:03 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge: "Here's the thing, I don't download anymore, I just listen to legal internet radio."

This is pretty much me as well, though these days it's mostly just podcasts and audio books while I'm working. The only mp3s I think I've torrented was a complete archive of the "In Our Time" podcast. But back in the late 90s I downloaded constantly. Anybody remember firefly.com? I used that site to find stuff I might be interested in, download it from usenet, ftps, irc and then the early file sharing networks. If I found something I liked I'd order the CD. Between 1997-2001 probably bought five to twenty CDs a month. But then Microsoft swallowed up Firefly, Napster was killed and I pretty much quit acquiring new music.

In the last decade since I stopped pirating music I've bought maybe a dozen CDs and a handful of mp3s from iTunes. As a filthy thieving pirate I was a much better income source for the music industry.
posted by the_artificer at 4:40 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Emily White even described what she wants as being "Spotify-like", only more so, so the idea that Spotify will never be enough for these people rargh rargh they only wanna steal is a bit much. She's already told you that this is not the case.

OK, but I'm having trouble with understanding why Spotify or some similar service doesn't offer enough convenience. OK, you listen to black metal, I like goa trance and various flavors of IDM and drum'n'bass. As someone who used to DJ, I am the kind of person that really cares about this particular track that that particular band released on the other particular label 15 years, after which they were never heard from again. I totally get the completist urge. And yet, I have no problem finding the material I want legally, and often free. I have paid for thousands of tracks of music on vinyl, CD or via downloads from authorised retailers.

I know that this gets confused by people being called media 'consumers' all the time, but if somebody consumes something, it implies that they destroyed it or exhausted it in the process of using it, which is kind of exactly the opposite of what happens when people share files. It's not like consuming a sandwich.

In economics, everyone is both a consumer and a producer. My house is 100 years old and will likely stand for another 100 years, but I am still a consumer of housing. Look up the origin of the word; it comes from medieval french and simply means 'to take up', as in use. The idea that the thing used is destroyed is actually secondary.

You know what I think is thievery? Asking someone to purchase albums blind that may or may not be to their taste. It's taking money from an artist someone would like and giving it to someone they don't. Bonkers.

Well, don't do it then. There's a few artists whose work I'd buy without having heard a note, but like most people I'd prefer to hear/see something up front before committing a purchase. This doesn't seem to be a problem in practice. Musicians who voluntarily share their work or don't care? Great, more power to them.

The only people I have a beef with are the people like Emily White who are claiming that they just can't find a way to listen to music legally and that piracy exists because of the convenience factor. That was true back around the turn of the century, but not any more. I'm 42 and as far as listening to music goes, it's a solved problem. I have a bittorrent client and occasionally download things like Linux distros or collections of public domain material, but I don't even feel tempted to fire it up to get more music.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:29 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, don't do it then.

I don't anymore, it didn't lead to more revenue for the record companies. Isn't that the goal? Starving artists, remember?

I'm 42 and as far as listening to music goes, it's a solved problem.


If the goal is how to get more revenue to the artists, it isn't a solved problem, and cutting piracy isn't the solution.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:39 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suspect that there is another subset of downloaders (I'm not at all sure, though, and I can't guess about population size), like me, who simply are not interested in giving a chunk of money to major record labels or Apple

Then you are not interested in paying the artists. Because they realize their profits by selling some portion of the rights to someone more capable in the distribution area.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:45 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, don't do it then.

I don't anymore, it didn't lead to more revenue for the record companies. Isn't that the goal? Starving artists, remember?

I'm 42 and as far as listening to music goes, it's a solved problem.

If the goal is how to get more revenue to the artists, it isn't a solved problem, and cutting piracy isn't the solution.


Except the record companies help the artists realize their profits. It's called agency. So you're ripping off the artists. Every time a record company realizes less on sales, the artists get less too.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:49 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, so if you cut piracy in half how much more revenue would the record companies have to distribute to the artists?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:55 PM on June 21, 2012


Really, dude, if you'd said 'without consent', you might have a point.
Oh I missed that. So copyright infringement has been directly compared to rape. Awesome.
It's telling that people who are generally fans of OWS and other such "change-oriented" causes retreat to "This is just how things are" when their own ability to exploit is threatened.
Well, OWS has serious coordination problems and has somewhat gone off the rails. However, the basic idea that banks have too much political power, and that should change isn't a failure to understand how things are, but rather something they want to change. They certainly don't except to do so by wagging their fingers at bank CEOs and telling them they are thieving stupid looting violent rapists on the internet and then waiting for them to change their ways.
I would be delighted if the downloaders started actually chiming in with believable ways to keep the artists they love alive and kicking.
As I said, artists are fine now, at least the ones who are popular enough to find on popular trackers are currently alive, kicking, and making money.

So continuing the status quo is a way to keep them alive and kicking. The arguments about popular artists starving to death because their music is all pirated and they can't make any money is complete fiction.

There are obviously lots of people who do pay for music, and I don't have a problem with them continuing to do so. I do sometimes buy music if I know for sure most of the money goes to the artist and not a record company.
posted by delmoi at 9:00 PM on June 21, 2012


So continuing the status quo is a way to keep them alive and kicking. The arguments about popular artists starving to death because their music is all pirated and they can't make any money is complete fiction.

No one in the thread or the linked articles ever said anything like that. Read Lowrey's piece.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:38 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh I missed that. So copyright infringement has been directly compared to rape. Awesome.

Yes, when you say you have the right to interact with someone in a way they have not consented to, on the grounds that 1) you can and 2) you want to, that is what happens. Obviously, the effect on the recipient is different. But the logic of the one doing the nonconsensual interaction is the same. People who've had their work downloaded are not like rape victims. But people who download without consent are very much like rapists.

However, the basic idea that banks have too much political power, and that should change isn't a failure to understand how things are, but rather something they want to change. They certainly don't except to do so by wagging their fingers at bank CEOs and telling them they are thieving stupid looting violent rapists on the internet and then waiting for them to change their ways.

Right, dearie. And the ability of downloaders can acquire a hard drive full of other people's work without paying for it, and the idea that this is okay, is a thing to change. OWS does quite a bit of moral condemnation, trying to convince society's that making a ton of money by exploiting people is Wrong (honestly, I'd say that's the only thing OWS has been good at). The bankers mostly respond like you, becoming outraged that anyone would question their right to do whatever they can get away with.

Now, in response to the posters above, who are, unlike delmoi, actually trying to think and therefore deserve real conversation: I'd say if you're just listening once and tossing, or using a streaming service, you're morally in the clear. But your ability to do that also allows a lot of people to build up an iPod full of music that they listen to constantly without compensating the people who made it. Just as the technology to prevent downloading can have unfortunate suppressing consequences, so too does the technology that allows it have unfortunate exploitative consequences. Again, I regard downloading as part of a larger trend by which technologically empowered, well-off people can take the labor of others without adequate compensation, while feeling like they haven't done anything particularly wrong because the damage is depersonalized.

How much the industry's profits would change without downloading is totally irrelevant here: If my house was not burglarized, I might never have received that nice insurance payout, but that doesn't mean I'm happy to be burglarized. Suffice to say that while Mr. Vanderslice may have a good year, sales inarguably shot down when free downloading became possible, and it's economically absurd to suggest that when people can get something for free, they'll be happy to pay for it instead. The appeal of free is simply too great.

There are artists who've adjusted to the new dispensation, and even some who think they can curry favor with The Kidz by endorsing it. But there are also lots of musicians who are not happy with it. But again, the opinion of this or that musician is anecdotal and not important compared to the simple fact that the producer of labor has not been compensated for their labor.

Finally, on whether touring will support an artist: Broadway bill, you're actually making my point without realizing it. As you say, it is possible to make enough on a tour to pay for the tour (though very difficult, and requires touring under conditions so spartan that few over the age of 25 will put up with it). But not anything else. So you can make a tour revenue-neutral, but not profitable. Which means there's no money to support recording music, or even taking time off work to write songs. Which once again means you've put artists in the position of (thanks, anigbrowl), the trees of Easter Island---being chewed up with no means to renew. Once, tours were a way to promote the music---you kept ticket prices low so people could hear the songs, then made enough money on sales of the music to make more. Now, ticket prices have shot up in a desperate attempt to make money somewhere, but it's still not enough to cover the costs of touring and basic food and shelter while you write more songs.

I think the convenience argument reflects that people are sort of aware that something is wrong here. So they come up with reasons why it's not what it looks like. But again, the convenience argument has been a non-starter for about ten years now. In fact, at this point I'd say that buying music is much more convenient than torrenting or Filetubing it, which further strengthens the case that it's really about getting something for nothing.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:55 AM on June 22, 2012


All of the edm producers that I know make money from licensing their songs for commercials or retail stores, or from touring as DJs. There are very few that make any money from selling songs or from royalties. They also generally make more money from remixes than from original tracks, because remixers get paid a flat free up front.

You could have a top 20 record on beatport and still only pull down a few hundred bucks. But getting top 20 on beatport will get you gigs all over the world, if you can manage it with a couple of tracks. A friend of a friend is living in Ibiza right now, getting paid thousands a night, just because a couple of his tracks got picked up by Pete Tong for his radio show. He basically makes more money from one night DJing than he did from record sales from one song.
posted by empath at 9:05 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


But not anything else. So you can make a tour revenue-neutral, but not profitable.

Yeah, I know a guy that knows a guy that runs with the Lady Gaga crowd, and I've heard that at least one of her opening acts actually lost money on the last tour. Obviously I can't verify such a vague rumor, but I don't really find it implausible.

Some artists make a lot of money touring, I'm sure. Andrew Eldritch just plays festivals after being repeatedly screwed by his labels, and he seems to manage. But it's not a given, and it's a demanding lifestlye that isn't suited for every musician, particularly solo artists or those with health problems.

(Hell, much of that music isn't live anyway. The drummer I'm working with gave up touring with a four-time Grammy winner because he was tired of getting on stage and just pretending to play.)

Remember when Pearl Jam tried to take on Ticketmaster? The concert industry isn't exactly without its own problems. Concert prices keep going up, promoters keep taking a bigger cut, and good luck not paying a huge chunk of the ticket price to Ticketmaster/Live Nation, which is just as soulless and exploitative as any record label.
posted by malocchio at 9:10 AM on June 22, 2012


Yeah, I know a guy that knows a guy that runs with the Lady Gaga crowd, and I've heard that at least one of her opening acts actually lost money on the last tour. Obviously I can't verify such a vague rumor, but I don't really find it implausible.

Opening acts never make anything. Why should they? Nobody goes to the show to see them. They are there to kill time. The reason that opening acts go on tours like that is so that they can get famous. I opened for DJs that were making $35k a night, and I never got paid more than $100 bucks, and I begged for those gigs.
posted by empath at 9:16 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


All of the edm producers that I know make money from licensing their songs for commercials or retail stores

That's certainly where all the money seems to be these days. My suspicion is that those days are coming to an end, because the competition has become increasingly fierce. I don't really see the relatively stable demand outstripping the vast increase in supply, but I could be wrong.
posted by malocchio at 9:17 AM on June 22, 2012


Oh, okay.

have at it, folks. I try not to stick around in conversations where I am labeled as being "very much like a rapist" because I'd rather not give Lady Gaga another $15 to piss away on meat-dresses and overblown stage spectacles.

I'm gonna go download some music now. I'll probably throw a few bucks into the coffers of the Savage Wasteland Collective, and try my hardest to diminish the revenues of anyone who works within the major label system.

Have fun, rapists and righteous crusaders for The Arts!
posted by broadway bill at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


and your histrionic caviling just makes me want to fire up a torrent to spite you.

I've already done it. And I've specifically chosen artists who are on the verge of starving to death. It's taken hundreds of man hours to do the research and might just end up bankrupting the business that it took my father and grandfather decades to build, but fuck it, ARTISTS MUST BE DESTROYED BY ALL MEANS NECESSARY.

If you feel an urge to hurt and exploit others because you don't like what a third party said, you should take it up with a professional.

I am a professional.
posted by philip-random at 9:20 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Opening acts never make anything. Why should they? Nobody goes to the show to see them. They are there to kill time. The reason that opening acts go on tours like that is so that they can get famous. I opened for DJs that were making $35k a night, and I never got paid more than $100 bucks, and I begged for those gigs.

I dunno. The whole thing sucks. I think you have to be at a certain level of professionalism and popularity to get that kind of gig, and I think it sucks to lose money at it.

Saying that this is the way the system should work seems to invoke a type of social Darwinism and laissez-faire capitalism that I find less than ideal. I don't think it's going to change, and I'm pragmatic enough that I will find my own ways to work within the system as it evolves. But I'm still idealistic enough to argue that things should be better, even though I don't have all the answers myself.
posted by malocchio at 9:34 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's certainly where all the money seems to be these days

I'm not even talking about a huge amount of money. Armani Exchange paid a few thousand dollars for one of my friend's songs, for example. Definitely not enough to live off of, since he only manages to put out a few songs a year and only a couple have been licensed. It actually takes a lot of work to get a song licensed, not something most individual artists have time to do. That one got sold by his label. There's a whole business around sending out promo cds to buyers and so on.
posted by empath at 9:34 AM on June 22, 2012


Opening acts never make anything. Why should they? Nobody goes to the show to see them. They are there to kill time. The reason that opening acts go on tours like that is so that they can get famous.

Or maybe they're just there for the experience. I've been there, in that van, sleeping on that hard floor off some stranger's kitchen, dragging myself around from gig to gig, undernourished, over-drugged and alcoholed ... having the time of my f***ing life. It's one of the last real adventures left here in the declining west. There are certainly precious few circuses left to run away to. I remember being amazed that we could just pile into a van, cross the border (by hook or by crook) and then roll into Seattle and maybe not get paid for shit, but actually get to drink for free, play to a bunch of strangers, maybe sell a few CDs and t-shirts ... even have a life for a while (as opposed to just living). And then, the next night we could do the same thing in Portland ... and so on down to LA, which never worked out. Bands had to PAY TO PLAY there. Fuck that shit.
posted by philip-random at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saying that this is the way the system should work seems to invoke a type of social Darwinism and laissez-faire capitalism that I find less than ideal

Honestly, if you want guaranteed money in the music business, you should be an event promoter. As long as you know what you're doing, have a following and have money to burn on a few failed parties, you should be able to make piles of cash. I've seen people triple or quadruple their investments in one night (though I've also seen people lose all of it, too). It's one of the few ways you can turn a huge social network on facebook into dollars. You play at your own party, book a few locals for next to nothing, pay for one headliner, and go home with pockets full of cash and everyone thanks you for it afterwards, it's great. I've got a friend that does like a dozen parties a year and pulls down $20-40k profit on each one. Basically his full time job. He used to be one of the locals we booked for free at our parties and paid nothing to -- spent years doing that, built up his fan base and reputation and then cashed in in the past two years.
posted by empath at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2012


Honestly, if you want guaranteed money in the music business, you should be an event promoter.

Yeah, that's true. The people I know that work in music licensing and promotion seem to do pretty well too, though they are subject to a lot of ups and downs.
posted by malocchio at 10:06 AM on June 22, 2012


I think music production and audio software should have keysigned licenses. Then the artists and indie production studios could post on their websites the verifiable key signatures of the software they used. That way we know which artists we should buy from, and we can just steal from the rest.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:18 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember being amazed that we could just pile into a van, cross the border (by hook or by crook) and then roll into Seattle and maybe not get paid for shit, but actually get to drink for free, play to a bunch of strangers, maybe sell a few CDs and t-shirts ... even have a life for a while (as opposed to just living). And then, the next night we could do the same thing in Portland ... and so on down to LA, which never worked out. Bands had to PAY TO PLAY there. Fuck that shit.

Heh...you're lucky you didn't get refused at the border, unless you had your O-1 visa, of course. But those are really hard to come by since 9/11...it's disgraceful.

So is the pay-to-play system, but it always sucks to be a seller in a buyer's market.
posted by malocchio at 10:36 AM on June 22, 2012


have at it, folks. I try not to stick around in conversations where I am labeled as being "very much like a rapist" because I'd rather not give Lady Gaga another $15 to piss away on meat-dresses and overblown stage spectacles.


Some day, I hope, you boys will figure out that "I am offended" is not a rebuttal.

Honestly, if you want guaranteed money in the music business, you should be an event promoter.

No one is asking for, or expecting, "guaranteed money". They are asking to be compensated when you consume the product of their labor.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:54 AM on June 22, 2012


>Honestly, if you want guaranteed money in the music business, you should be an event promoter.

No one is asking for, or expecting, "guaranteed money".


Except the musicians. You do realize that's why concerts cost so much now.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:09 AM on June 22, 2012


"I am offended" is not a rebuttal.

Maybe not, but "you're a rapist" isn't much of an argument, either. At this point, Fuzzy, I honestly wonder if you aren't trying to discredit your own position.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:17 AM on June 22, 2012


I'd say if you're just listening once and tossing, or using a streaming service, you're morally in the clear.

I'm curious where you draw the line. Once? Twice? A lot of times I'm listening not for entertainment or even inspiration but source material, e.g. "hey that was a cool lyric," or "how they hell did they get that sound" or "what instrument is that" or "why did they shift the keys there" etc.

Also, as mentioned, there's listening for professional reasons, e.g. if I'm trying to break into the music writing business, I'm going to need to be as experienced a listener as possible. Just imagine in another 100 years how large the library of digital content will have grown. It's impossible to ask someone to pay for all of it if they want to learn about all of it.

The people who insist on everyone paying for all the music they listen to are not only impoverishing themselves for no good reason, they are impoverishing the world and impoverishing artists now and in the future.

You have a right to the cultural output of the world, and you have no right to demand that anyone close their ears and eyes to all the beauty and art the human mind creates. It's like telling people not to breathe.


That's a fairly elegant way of putting it, and I think I mostly agree. If we only allow paying customers access to non-degrading copies of digital works, well, that's just fucked up for all sorts of fundamental reasons.

My suspicion is that those days are coming to an end, because the competition has become increasingly fierce. I don't really see the relatively stable demand outstripping the vast increase in supply, but I could be wrong.

And that's also really the rub. If the main purpose of copyright is to stimulate creativity and innovation in creative works then current laws clearly fail.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:23 AM on June 22, 2012


No one is asking for, or expecting, "guaranteed money". They are asking to be compensated when you consume the product of their labor.

For local djs, at least, the price for booking them tends toward zero, to be honest. I booked 5 DJs a week for literally years and never paid them in anything but drink tickets. Different DJs every week. And I had a waiting list 4 months long of people who wanted to play. Some of them drove for 3 hours just to play at our party for free. But we let them play whatever they wanted and had a crowd who always showed up ready to dance to everything, which is rare for DJs just getting started. And this included producers who made their own music as well as playing other peoples.

When I say that musicians just want to be heard, I'm not pulling this out of my ass. That's from 10 years of experience in event promotion, DJing and working with promoters, producers, agents and labels. Almost everyone I know who started making real money in music more or less did it accidentally, and money was never the primary motivating factor. They were making music because they loved making music, and they were throwing parties because they liked throwing parties. Most of them got agents and managers when they got randomly famous because their song got playlisted by a superstar DJ or playlisted on the BBC, or their weekly party became THE hot place to be, and most of them went from being broke to having piles of money thrown at them, with nothing in between. Most of the producers I know that hit it big were just trying to get one DJ at one party to play their song. That was literally all they were trying to do, like if Sasha played their song at one gig, they'd have been happy.

The hard part for them was transitioning from being 'the hot new artist' to being 'a guy with a steady gig'. A lot of them took the money and started labels, bought a recording studio, and so on, then decided to 'make music full time'. A lot of them have a hard time duplicating their initial success, but they've invested all their money and time into doing it, so they get bitter about piracy and so on, but really what's happened is they tried to turn a lucky break into a career and didn't really have life skills they needed to figure out how to monetize their fame. What's funny is that the ones that DID figure out how to make money from fame spent so much time doing it that they don't have time to make music, and they start hiring other producers to ghost write for them. Two of my friends were offered more money than they had ever made on their own to ghost write songs for two famous trance DJs and they both turned it down because they cared more about being famous than getting paid.
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Two of my friends were offered more money than they had ever made on their own to ghost write songs for two famous trance DJs and they both turned it down because they cared more about being famous than getting paid.

This is really interesting to me, because it doesn't mesh with my own experience (which goes back much further than ten years). It has always seemed to me that among the musicians I've known, the desire for fame and fortune are nearly inextricable.

But fame seems so much easier to achieve, and it seems to have many more drawbacks than fortune alone. Maybe it's a generational thing.
posted by malocchio at 1:05 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


[klang, ThatFuzzyBastard, this is going to far into name-calling and ungood behavior. Follow up in MeTa if you need to, take the rapist talk out of this thread for good.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:20 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, an event promoter/DJ says that musicians don't want to be paid. Well, that's to be expected.

Event promoter/DJ/producer/song-writer, etc... Everyone in the dance music scene does all of them. If you want to actually make money, though, you do it as a DJ or a promoter. DJing is the same as touring for most record producers/song-writers (Deadmau5/Sasha/Oakenfold, etc). And I didn't say that they don't want to get paid, but if they have to choose between not getting paid and playing the gig, they'll play every time, assuming the gig is good enough. They don't start getting picky about money until multiple people are trying to book them on the same night. And I wasn't shy about paying people that brought people in. And we overpaid acts more than once just because we were big fans of them and wanted to see them play, knowing we'd lose money on it.
posted by empath at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2012


How much the industry's profits would change without downloading is totally irrelevant here

If the profits aren't relevant you are focused on the evils of sin rather than getting money to starving artists. It's like complaining about the immorality of masturbation, not that other thing you mentioned. Someone is enjoying themselves without putting in the work! It makes me so angry!

Consider, if people who pirate a lot of music also buy a lot of albums, they might be generating more revenue than someone who uses free radio or cheap streaming services. If you care about morality and never breaking the law, that is okay, wipe out piracy. But, if your primary concern is starving artists you want to take the route that generates the most money for the artists. I'm not sure putting millions of artists into a subscription service pool is ever going to pay off very well for small acts.

Take a look at cable TV, and the balance of power between the giants like ESPN and the smaller niche networks. The smaller networks shift towards being generic lowest common denominator reality show outlets because that is where the ratings are. The prices balloon to pay for ESPN and you have no choice but to pay for it even if you want to watch AMC but never ESPN. Again, you end up subsidizing entertainment you don't want instead of the entertainment you want. Bonkers!

There is no perfect answer, but there are a lot of interesting issues to discuss beyond "Thief v. not thief".
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:55 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


If the profits aren't relevant you are focused on the evils of sin rather than getting money to starving artists. It's like complaining about the immorality of masturbation [...] Someone is enjoying themselves without putting in the work! It makes me so angry!

FuzzyBastard, if you're still hovering around, this speaks well to my frustration with how you've presented your position in this thread. It comes from a inner (moral) directive on your part that I take no issue with. That's entirely your business. But when that moralizing hits the reality of this particular situation (ie: various people trying to compare and contrast various opinions/arguments with a goal toward evolving some fresh perspectives), it gets problematic. Because it feels like your position is fixed, with no possibility of a bend or a give. The only options are to fight you, or withdraw.

Which sucks.
posted by philip-random at 5:19 PM on June 22, 2012


Japan Passes Jail-for-Downloaders Anti-Piracy Law: Violators risk up to two years in prison or fines up to two million yen (about $25,000).
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:32 PM on June 22, 2012


It comes down to two simple concepts.

Fans buy. And by buy, I mean, spend real moneys on available media for access to whatever flavor of delivery they enjoy. And by flavor of delivery, I mean, real things like concert memories, cd's, tapes?,a fucking record, what the hell is that?, i-tunes, t-shirts, and even the occasional bumper stickers that say things like "I would fight for hippie chicks". Thanks for coming out, ya'll.

Listeners.. just listen.
posted by vozworth at 7:05 PM on June 22, 2012


No one in the thread or the linked articles ever said anything like that. Read Lowrey's piece.
not true
posted by delmoi at 10:03 PM on June 22, 2012


have at it, folks. I try not to stick around in conversations where I am labeled as being "very much like a rapist" because I'd rather not give Lady Gaga another $15 to piss away on meat-dresses and overblown stage spectacles.
Well, it can't be rape if you have permission
posted by delmoi at 10:08 PM on June 22, 2012


Phillip-random: The thing is, I don't think you can take morality out of this discussion, for the same reason you can't take morality out of discussions of Israel policy, student loans, or whatever: Because you end up with immoral conclusions. Lots of discussions would indeed go more smoothly and come up with more "fresh perspectives" if we simply didn't care about right & wrong---certainly foreign policy would be rather different if we simply set aside moral questions. But that would be appalling.

As for my position: I believe that musicians should be paid by those who enjoy their labor. They have the right to forego that payment, as many (myself included) do, but that must be their choice, not the choice of the one who benefits. To take the fruits of their labor without compensating them is as wrong as taking the fruits of any other worker's labor without compensation. To say "Well let's just set morals aside here" will lead to a self-serving, conclusion; when people say discussion of globalization should be looked at without moral issues obscuring things, we end up in Foxconn. Be mistrustful of logic that leads you to the conclusion "I should have whatever I want."

Consider, if people who pirate a lot of music also buy a lot of albums, they might be generating more revenue than someone who uses free radio or cheap streaming services. If you care about morality and never breaking the law, that is okay, wipe out piracy. But, if your primary concern is starving artists you want to take the route that generates the most money for the artists. I'm not sure putting millions of artists into a subscription service pool is ever going to pay off very well for small acts.

Maybe, although given that half the people here are saying they want Netflix streaming for music (which we of course have), that seems to be the only option. Do people who pirate music also buy lots of music? Maybe, maybe not. I find it hard to believe that people who get stuff for free are eager to pay for it---this would be the only time in economic history where that's the case---and so far all we have on that is self-reported data, which is worth nothing. The only objective data we have is that music sales shoot down when file-sharing shows up, and never recovers, which makes me think that the laws of economics have not magically vanished in the case of music, and people who can get something for free are less likely to pay, however good their intentions might be.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:23 PM on June 22, 2012


Are you bored with repeating yourself yet?
posted by empath at 10:27 PM on June 22, 2012


Now for the record: If people want to talk about alternate ways by which artists can be compensated for their labor, whether it's streaming services, an ISP tax, or something much cleverer, that would be awesome. But so far, I'm just hearing a lot of justifications for why people want things for free, most of which come down to "because I can", and that's unsatisfying morally, economically, and ultimately, culturally.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:03 PM on June 22, 2012


The only objective data we have is that music sales shoot down when file-sharing shows up

No, we also have the data that cutting piracy in half doesn't increase revenue. If you want to say correlation does not equal causation on that, I'll say the same thing back on the revenue drops since 2000.

Let's say I used to buy one CD a month and often felt ripped off when I paid for a bunch of songs I didn't like. Now, I buy the singles I want from the CD off Itunes. Revenue drop. Legal buyer. Or, let's say I buy one CD every two months now because I shifted more of my entertainment money to games or movies. Revenue drop, legal buyer. Let's say now that I have the Internet I am discovering more and more small, independent acts and buying their albums. Revenue not recorded by large record companies, shows up as a revenue drop in the figures.

All this is happening and more, it's been popular though to pretend all the revenue dropping is due to piracy. Well, since we can see cutting piracy in half doesn't increase revenue, maybe it's time to consider the other possibilities.

The Norwegian study looked at almost 2,000 online music users, all over the age of 15. Researchers found that those who downloaded "free" music – whether from lawful or seedy sources – were also 10 times more likely to pay for music. This would make music pirates the industry's largest audience for digital sales.

Wisely, the study did not rely on music pirates' honesty. Researchers asked music buyers to prove that they had proof of purchase.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:40 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Techdirt weighs in: A Business Model Failure Is Not A Moral Issue:
When you look at the details, you realize that Lowery isn't making a true moral claim. He's claiming that any business model, whether its legitimate or not, that allows musicians to not make enough money is, inherently, immoral. But that's ridiculous. If that's the case, then the old record label model is even more immoral, in that it paid next to nothing to tons of artists and then got to keep their entire copyright. Lowery's math is laughable. He talks about advances, but leaves out that those "advances" are then used to pay for everything, leaving almost nothing for the actual artists.
(snipped next paragraph because it has a zillion example links of new, successful models that I don't feel like rebuilding here)
Point being: there are a ton of people who have realized that they're much better off under the new system. There are some people, like Lowery, who feel they're worse off. At that point, you have to realize it's not a moral issue, it's a business model or a market issue. If it were purely a moral issue, there wouldn't be so many stories about successes in the new world, because that would be impossible. All of those artists would be suffering. But the fact that so many are finding success shows that it's really about the choices being made by the artists themselves. Do they embrace what the consumers want -- which was all that Emily was really pointing out in her piece -- or do they scold them and demand that they support them in the old way?
posted by Malor at 5:20 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, the Norwegian study did show that people who pirate are more likely to buy music. But that doesn't really answer the sustainability question, because it doesn't speak to revenue. Let's imagine thusly:

Norwegian A is a parent of small children, with not much listening time. She buys one $10 CD a month, and listens to half of it.
Norwegian B is a music-loving young person. She used to buy three $10 CDs a month. Now, in an average month, she buys five $1 singles, and listens to thirty pirated albums.

Norwegian B is obviously "more likely to buy music". But she also represents a major drop in revenue from what she used to spend. And that revenue is dropping because she is listening to thirty CDs worth of music without compensating those who made it. So the Norwegian study is simply not showing what you claim it shows: that piracy does not cause revenue loss.

As for the techdirt article: People who spend paragraphs yelling that we must set aside morality are generally simply advocating for immorality, and that's certainly the case here, as evidenced by the endless falsehoods it spreads. Music is not like buggy whips. People still "use" it in vast amounts. And music is still scarce---the number of people who can make really compelling music is very small, and will likely always be. The only thing that's changed is the ability of the consumer to take the music without payment or permission.

"It's not about a choice between being able to sell the content for money or giving it away for free, but a recognition of where the market is going." That is the logic of the exploiter. It used to be a market reality that a certain number of workers simply had to die in coal mine explosions, because workers weren't scarce, so it made financial sense not to protect them. And it still does make financial sense not to protect them---protecting workers is expensive with little reward. But we decided (back then... not so sure that decision will be sustained) that it was immoral for the market to allow people to die, so it got regulated.

Yes, there are success under the current model---artists who manage to catch the random kindness internet wave. But this has no relevance to the artists whose work is being consumed without compensation. The internet chose to randomly drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on one bullied bus monitor, but this does not mean that being a bullied bus monitor will make you rich.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:55 AM on June 23, 2012


The only thing that's changed is the ability of the consumer to take the music without payment or permission.

Copying bits is free. So musicians can't charge very much for copying bits anymore.

That's it. That is the hard truth. There is absolutely nothing you can do about this. Any 'solution' will involve vastly more social pain than any possible benefit that might accrue. Any attempt to make this stuff illegal is just another War on Drugs, and it will fail just as spectacularly.

Musicians need to charge for something else if they want to get paid for creating music. And, as you so carefully ignored from that Techdirt post, many musicians are very successfully doing so.

It has nothing to do with morality, because you can't charge for someone enjoying what you've created. Unauthorized enjoyment is not theft. You can only charge for things, and by your model, the 'thing' you're trying to sell is bits. Charging money to duplicate bits, when every one of your customers has a bit-duplication machine available that can do the exact same thing for free, is a fundamentally stupid business model. Of course it is failing. It is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Techdirt is right: this is a business model problem, not a morality problem. Give customers what they want, and you can do very well. Try to charge super-premium prices to do something that every one of them can do themselves, for free, and you're in deep trouble.
posted by Malor at 7:12 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are just goalpost shifting now. Profit is irrelevant since piracy is burglary to the studies don't show pirates buy music to okay they buy music but spend less than non-downloaders. Okay, next study:

The survey shows that the average music downloader spends £77 ($126) a year on music -- while the non-downloader only spends £44.


Survey results, but you are basing your guess on...any studies at all?

And that revenue is dropping because she is listening to thirty CDs worth of music without compensating those who made it.

Okay, so let's cut her piracy in half. What is the revenue gain?

NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING!

posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:13 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's also worth pointing, switching over to furiousxgeorge's argument, that even if we accept your completely bullshit, bogus numbers, about the pirate who only spend $5 on music, as opposed to the housewife who spends $10 (which is exactly backwards from what happens in reality).... even if we accept those numbers, you're still failing to prove that piracy is bad.

Why? Because we know that the pirate enjoyed every one of those dollars she spent. We know she got her money's worth, because she didn't have to pay for any of that music. Every one of those songs meant something to her, enough to part with a dollar for it.

The housewife? Maybe she liked one song on the album. Maybe she didn't like any of them at all. There's a really high chance that some or all of that money was wasted.

The second scenario is much better from the standpoint of all of society, because only musicians that actually create things that are worthwhile will get paid. The old expensive album format meant that a lot of people spent far too much on songs they didn't care for. The new single format means that artists only get paid for good songs, ones that are good enough to encourage those horrible, evil pirates to cough up.

This should, over time, drive the bad musicians out of business, and make the good ones better. Our total music quality will go up. Total systemic waste goes down. Everyone wins except crappy musicians and record companies, and those don't deserve to win anyway.

Total spending on music is not a good measure of anything except record company revenues, and that's not a systemic benefit.
posted by Malor at 7:24 AM on June 23, 2012


Musicians need to charge for something else if they want to get paid for creating music.

Then they won't be getting paid for creating music. They'll be getting paid for designing funny t-shirts, or charming internet people, or travelling to a lot of towns. And therefore, their focus will shift to doing that, rather than making music.

Unauthorized enjoyment is not theft.

If you sneak into the theater without buying a ticket, the theater has every right to throw you out. Unauthorized enjoyment is most assuredly theft.

Charging money to duplicate bits, when every one of your customers has a bit-duplication machine available that can do the exact same thing for free, is a fundamentally stupid business model.

Again, no one is charging for "bits". They are charging for music, which is in the medium of bits. If I charge people to see a movie, I am not "charging them for celluloid", I am charging them for the labor and investment of making it.

Everyone has a bit-duplication machine, but few people have the talent or dedication to make music. It is one of the many appalling delusions of techno-utopians that the ability to copy a Beatles song means they have made a Beatles song. They have not, merely profited off another's labor. And when you do that, you reduce the incentive for others to do that labor.

And that revenue is dropping because she is listening to thirty CDs worth of music without compensating those who made it.

Okay, so let's cut her piracy in half. What is the revenue gain?

NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING!


If she doesn't really care much about music, then yes, the revenue gain will be nothing, because she will lose interest when it costs her something. If she actually cares about music, then her listening will initially drop, then go back up as she decides she wants to hear music and will therefore buy more.

If she only likes music when it's free, then she deserves as much consideration by the makers as anyone who enjoys taking the products of your labor only so long as they don't have to compensate you: None. If my boss says "We'd love to have you come in and work, but only if you'll work for no money", then I'm not coming in.

Why? Because we know that the pirate enjoyed every one of those dollars she spent. We know she got her money's worth, because she didn't have to pay for any of that music. Every one of those songs meant something to her, enough to part with a dollar for it.

The housewife? Maybe she liked one song on the album. Maybe she didn't like any of them at all. There's a really high chance that some or all of that money was wasted.

The second scenario is much better from the standpoint of all of society, because only musicians that actually create things that are worthwhile will get paid. The old expensive album format meant that a lot of people spent far too much on songs they didn't care for. The new single format means that artists only get paid for good songs, ones that are good enough to encourage those horrible, evil pirates to cough up.

This should, over time, drive the bad musicians out of business, and make the good ones better.


I'll refrain from asking whether it seems to you that music has gotten better---that's a subjective question.

But the problem with your scenario is that there is zero reason to believe that our hypothetical person is paying for the songs that are "the best". Maybe she only buys singles for things she can't find on the torrents, in which case musicians are merely being rewarded for being very active with DCMA notices. Maybe she mostly listens to the album she downloaded, but got really drunk one night and bought some singles she doesn't like on iTunes. There's no way to tell, because her valuation of a song's worth has been totally detached from anything of value to the maker of the song. When you detach value from renumeration---from any expression of value!--- you get screwy results.

The survey shows that the average music downloader spends £77 ($126) a year on music -- while the non-downloader only spends £44.

This gets my concerns exactly backwards. As I have said before, spending money on Artist X does nothing (nothing, nothing, as furiousxgeorge likes to put it) for Artist Y. Artists are not interchangeable.

If you pirate every CD by Artist Y, but buy some expensive colored vinyl by Artist X, you are good for "the music industry", but not for Artist Y. I care very little for the fortunes of the music industry, but a great deal for the fortunes of the artists. Hence, so this study proves my point, rather than disproves it. What I care about is whether people who are making music that listeners enjoy are being compensated, and this has nothing to say to that question. I apologize if I have been unclear on that point, but I really don't think I have been. A future where making colored vinyl is rewarded, but releasing MP3 versions of songs people love is not, is a terrible cultural future.

Total spending on music is not a good measure of anything except record company revenues, and that's not a systemic benefit.

No, it is also a measure of how much money is available to artists. How that money will be split between the record companies and the artists is an entirely separate question.

Again, as I've said before, if you pirate every CD by Artist X but then go to their tip jar and PayPal them $7 for every CD you pirated, that would be morally unobjectionable. But I rather doubt most pirates do that.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:37 AM on June 23, 2012


NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING!

If she doesn't really care much about music, then yes


No, this is not hypothetical. In the real world, reducing piracy by half does not increase revenue.

If she only likes music when it's free, then she deserves as much consideration by the makers as anyone who enjoys taking the products of your labor only so long as they don't have to compensate you: None.

That is precisely the opinion of someone who is arguing about morality, not revenue. If she is giving you none before you cut piracy, and she is giving you none after...you have accomplished nothing by cutting out the piracy.

However, as the studies show, the pirates buy more. I think that they are exposed to more groups so they can become fans might be a likely cause there.

If you pirate every CD by Artist Y, but buy some expensive colored vinyl by Artist X, you are good for "the music industry", but not for Artist Y.

Okay, you have a study backing up that pirates are not spending on the artists they also pirate? It seems more likely to me they are fans of the same. However, if they don't enjoy one artist and don't become a fan, why the hell would they want to give that artist money? Absent the piracy they would just have been ripped off if they did.

What I care about is whether people who are making music that listeners enjoy are being compensated

It sounds like they are.

I isolate the causal effect of file sharing of an album on its sales by exploiting exogenous variation in how widely available the album was prior to its official release date. The findings suggest that file sharing of an album benefits its sales. I don’t find any evidence of a negative effect in any specification, using any instrument,” Hammond concludes in his paper.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:56 AM on June 23, 2012


Then they won't be getting paid for creating music. They'll be getting paid for designing funny t-shirts, or charming internet people, or travelling to a lot of towns. And therefore, their focus will shift to doing that, rather than making music.

It doesn't matter. It's not reasonable, in a world where there are hundreds of millions of computers that are globally networked, to expect to be paid exorbitant fees for copying bits. That model does not work, no matter how much you holler about it. You liking it or not is about as relevant as your opinion on gravity. That's why sales on recorded music drop every year, while the total amount spent on music goes up. More and more of it goes into the pockets of artists, where it belongs, instead of the pockets of record companies, which are largely useless in the digital age.

If you sneak into the theater without buying a ticket, the theater has every right to throw you out. Unauthorized enjoyment is most assuredly theft.

That's trespassing, and possibly theft of services, since they can't sell an occupied seat. The resource is limited, and each patron in the theater reduces the quality of the product slightly for the other patrons. None of that is true if you copy a bitstream.

You cannot steal an idea; that's why it's not called 'idea theft', it's called 'copyright infringement' or 'patent infringement' or 'trademark violation'. If I use your idea, you still have it. So it's not theft. It may or may not break other laws, but it is not theft.

Again, no one is charging for "bits". They are charging for music, which is in the medium of bits.

No, they aren't charging for music. Charging for music means showing up and playing music for someone. That's a 'concert'. An 'album', on the other hand, is a bitstream, one that can be duplicated endlessly for very close to zero cost. In the era when first records, and then CDs, were very hard to make, requiring massive capital investment, it made (some) sense to pay $12 for a record, and then $15 for a CD, because nobody could do it themselves.

But in the digital world, all you're selling a copy of some bits you created, and every customer you have can, 100% guaranteed, copy those bits. They have to be able to copy the bits to even listen to the music. So copying the bits again to give them to a friend or share them online is, by necessity, also easy.

They are charging for bits. This is hard fact, not opinion. Your opinion on this is, again, precisely as relevant as your opinion on gravity. You can have any opinion you like, but neither gravity nor bits care what you think.

But the problem with your scenario is that there is zero reason to believe that our hypothetical person is paying for the songs that are "the best". Maybe she only buys singles for things she can't find on the torrents, in which case musicians are merely being rewarded for being very active with DCMA notices.

Yeah, right. That never happens. This stuff is everywhere. That scenario is about as likely as going outside and not being able to find air.

Maybe she mostly listens to the album she downloaded, but got really drunk one night and bought some singles she doesn't like on iTunes.

Okay, maybe, but there's no way all those hundreds of millions of songs that get sold on iTunes are all the result of drunken binges. Maybe a few are, but taken across the entire spectrum of sales, arguing that it's all a bunch of drunken idiots is just saying that music isn't even worth paying for. I don't think you really want to go there.

There's no way to tell, because her valuation of a song's worth has been totally detached from anything of value to the maker of the song.

What does this even mean? You don't know what her valuation is no matter HOW she buys it, whether online or offline. With an online purchase, you can at least be somewhat more sure than usual that she's going to get her money's worth, because she can buy just one song for a small amount of money, instead of a whole album for ten times as much.

You get MORE data, in other words, from online sales than you do from old-style sales, so any argument you might make on that front applies even more strongly to the old business models.

When you detach value from renumeration---from any expression of value!--- you get screwy results.

Again, this makes no sense, because any argument you can make on this front is also true of older distribution systems as well.

This gets my concerns exactly backwards. As I have said before, spending money on Artist X does nothing (nothing, nothing, as furiousxgeorge likes to put it) for Artist Y. Artists are not interchangeable.

But, taken across the whole population, they most certainly are. If you know that pirates buy more music, then you want as many pirates as you can get, so that total sales go up. All that matters in the end is how much money ends up in an artist's pocket. If he sells five thousand copies of something, but with no piracy, then he's in much poorer shape than if he sold ten thousand copies to a world that pirated his music, no matter how large the piracy figures are. Even if a hundred million people copied his album without paying for it, he's still ahead if he sells 10,000 copies instead of 5,000. Copies do not cost him anything. No cost. Nothing taken. Nothing stolen.

He'd be in MUCH better shape if a hundred million people had stolen his album, because now that's a hundred million people that know who he is. And if they liked that first album, they're a lot more likely to buy his second. They don't HAVE to, and they know it, but all the studies show that the more people pirate, the more music they love and want to pay for.

No, it is also a measure of how much money is available to artists.

That is also not a systemic benefit. Money that's available to musicians is money that's not available to, say, clowns, or jugglers, or game producers. Giving large amounts of money to people for copying bits is fundamentally stupid, and bad for the economy. Bits are nearly free. Musicians should be paid for the act of creation, a la Kickstarter, not for the act of copying, a la record stores.

But I rather doubt most pirates do that.

I'm sure they don't, but I'll tell you from personal experience, that in years when I've pirated music, I've bought a LOT more of it. Your thinking about this is broken. You see the, say, fifty albums that I have on my hard drive that I didn't pay for, and you start shrieking about 'theft', even though the original author didn't lose anything, and has no idea I even exist. What I did with my computer did not affect or change his life in any way. What you SHOULD see, as should record companies, is that some of these artists I really liked, and I immediately started buying their albums. I would never, for instance, have found Imogen Heap without piracy, and now I buy her stuff as soon as I hear it's out. (I'd rather just buy it from her directly, but she doesn't yet give me that option.)

In the last few years, my piracy has dropped to near-zero again, and so have my music purchases, excepting only the artists I came to love during my pirating time. This is the hard reality of music piracy; people need to know who you are before they will pay you for it, and someone making a copy of your album doesn't cost you anything. And if they like you and your music enough, they may pay you for subsequent albums. But this is a purely voluntary donation, because nobody ever needs to pay for music in the era of the Internet. Never, never, not ever. They have to want to, and your job as an artist is to make them want to give you money so you can keep putting out new stuff.

Adapt to this, or die. It's a business model problem. It has nothing to do with morality. You can't charge very much for something that's free.
posted by Malor at 9:32 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


If there's any morality problem here, it's in the record companies that demand markups of millions of percent for copying a bitstream.
posted by Malor at 9:33 AM on June 23, 2012


If you pirate every CD by Artist Y, but buy some expensive colored vinyl by Artist X, you are good for "the music industry", but not for Artist Y.

As a person who both pirates and pays, this is silly (as has already been suggested).

Here are some real life examples of ways I have obtained music:

Borrowed copy of Just Kids, by Patti Smith. LOVED IT beyond measure.

Downloaded some Patti Smith albums from a variety of illegal online sources. Loved them, obviously.

Purchased new volume of Smith's poetry when it came out back in November. From an independent bookshop, if that matters to our little morality tale.

Paid an absurd amount of money to see Smith live, on her home turf in NYC (she does tour a lot, though).

Purchased two more of Smith's albums that I hadn't heard. Purchased three Patti Smith LPs (two new, one used, all from independent record stores). Purchased Smith's new album even though I didn't like the free preview track that much, just because I'm a fan and want her to continue to eat. Also, maybe it'll grow on me.

Alternate example:

Illegally downloaded Stevie Wonder's greatest hits. Felt like that was pretty much all the Stevie Wonder I needed in my life. Did not purchase anything.

Ran across a copy of Innervisions in the $2 bin of a record store. Bought it because I know it's a classic album one ought to have respect for. Brought it home, listened to it, am respectful but still not passionate about Stevie Wonder. No plans to ever pay full price for any of his music.

Alternate example:

Heard the Dirty Projectors on a freely downloaded quasi-legal mixtape. Was intrigued.

Purchased Dark Was The Night, a charity benefit compilation album. The Dirty Projectors were on there, too, with what is still one of my all time favorite songs.

Pirated a little of the Dirty Projectors' back catalogue.

Purchased the following two Dirty Projectors albums.

-----

In all these scenarios, I'm voting with my dollars and supporting the artists I love. Artists I'm neutral on are much less likely to see money from me. Which is probably the biggest change between 20 years ago and now. Big record companies aren't seeing huge profit margins on artists that a lot of people like only so-so. 20 years ago, I'd have had to pay for that Stevie Wonder greatest hits album, and if I didn't much like any of it, too bad.
posted by Sara C. at 10:12 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is precisely the opinion of someone who is arguing about morality, not revenue. If she is giving you none before you cut piracy, and she is giving you none after...you have accomplished nothing by cutting out the piracy.

Then so what? It is inarguable that some percentage of people who pirate an album would have bought it otherwise. If Ms. Hypothetical is giving no money before and no money after, she is of no interest. The one who is of interest is the one who is not paying, because they can get it for free (as any rational actor would).

However, as the studies show, the pirates buy more.

Of something. Hammond's paper totally fails to clarify correlation versus causation. A leaked record is likely to be a record by a more popular artist---no one cares when unknown artists leak records---and therefore, one that would sell more than earlier records anyway.

Once that's clear, there continues to be no reason to think people who pirate songs by Artist X are buying more music by X, rather than doing what every economist knows they would do: Use the money they aren't spending on Artist X to buy video games, or t-shirts, or whatever.

You are simply flying in the face of economic logic by insisting that people are more likely to pay for things they can get for free. The fact that every source you cite is explicitly an advocacy group does little to convince.

It doesn't matter. It's not reasonable, in a world where there are hundreds of millions of computers that are globally networked, to expect to be paid exorbitant fees for copying bits. That model does not work, no matter how much you holler about it. You liking it or not is about as relevant as your opinion on gravity.

This is where MeFites suddenly turn into market triumphalists, and it is as ugly as market triumphalism always is. It is perfectly reasonable, in a world of globalized labor, for managers to pay starvation wages and ignore safety. This cannot be changed by market forces. It can be changed by moral suasion and regulation. And should be.

No, they aren't charging for music. Charging for music means showing up and playing music for someone. That's a 'concert'. An 'album', on the other hand, is a bitstream, one that can be duplicated endlessly for very close to zero cost. In the era when first records, and then CDs, were very hard to make, requiring massive capital investment, it made (some) sense to pay $12 for a record, and then $15 for a CD, because nobody could do it themselves.

But in the digital world, all you're selling a copy of some bits you created, and every customer you have can, 100% guaranteed, copy those bits.


Nope. They are not charging for the bits, or the show, really. They are charging for the labor they put into making songs that people like, and the talent and skill that made people like the songs. The rest is an artifact. Making a CD, or playing a show, is easy and cheap. Writing and playing great songs is hard. That is what is being compensated, not the easy part.

If you cease to pay people for making music, music will go the way of live theater: A few superstars who get by on spectacle, and a lot of hobbyists who cannot put in the extra work that brings something from good to great, because there's no financial reward. As I said wayyyy up at the top of the thread, the great engine of 20th century musical creativity was poor kids, from John Lennon to Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, wanting to stop being poor, and putting everything they had into that goal. Take away the ability to stop being poor by making music---make the only source of money fancy Kickstarter pages, which reward personal likability and social networks over music-making---and you kill your golden goose.

There's no way to tell, because her valuation of a song's worth has been totally detached from anything of value to the maker of the song.

What does this even mean? You don't know what her valuation is no matter HOW she buys it, whether online or offline
.

I mean: How do you measure what a song is worth to someone? The simplest way is by how much they are willing to pay for it. Price is a pretty good rough measure of value. Not a perfect one, of course (people pay less for water than they do for champagne) but not too far off (people pay more for a better-reviewed video card than a poorly-reviewed one). A whole lot of economic theory is built around the idea of price as an aggregation of information about people's desires. But when you sever price from appreciation---when people pay nothing for a song no matter how much they like it---that system breaks down, and price becomes a function of externalities.

With an online purchase, you can at least be somewhat more sure than usual that she's going to get her money's worth, because she can buy just one song for a small amount of money, instead of a whole album for ten times as much. You get MORE data, in other words, from online sales than you do from old-style sales, so any argument you might make on that front applies even more strongly to the old business models.

As I have said a hundred times, I have zero objection to people buying singles on iTunes rather than full CDs. That rewards musicians who make songs people like, which is exactly what I want. What I object to is people taking music and paying nothing, because that makes the relationship of artist and fan one of pure exploitation, in which one party forces the other to consent to an economically unjust arrangement while crowing that there's nothing they can do about it.

But, taken across the whole population, they most certainly are. If you know that pirates buy more music, then you want as many pirates as you can get, so that total sales go up. All that matters in the end is how much money ends up in an artist's pocket. If he sells five thousand copies of something, but with no piracy, then he's in much poorer shape than if he sold ten thousand copies to a world that pirated his music, no matter how large the piracy figures are. Even if a hundred million people copied his album without paying for it, he's still ahead if he sells 10,000 copies instead of 5,000.

The operative word here---the only relevant word---is "sells". A musician is better off if he sells 10,000 copies, and worse off if he sells 5,000. If a hundred million people copied and enjoyed the record, they reward the musician in no way, then they are exploiters of labor, and their fandom is worth as much as a pat on the back from the boss who keeps losing your paycheck. If they buy the record, they cease to be exploiters, and that's dandy. That's why I want people to buy, rather than pirate, music and why I keep saying that if you are pirating as a prelude to buying, that's relatively morally neutral.

Copies do not cost him anything. No cost. Nothing taken. Nothing stolen.

He'd be in MUCH better shape if a hundred million people had stolen his album, because now that's a hundred million people that know who he is.


You can't pay your rent with name recognition.

And if they liked that first album, they're a lot more likely to buy his second. They don't HAVE to, and they know it, but all the studies show that the more people pirate, the more music they love and want to pay for.

Again, studies show that people who pirate (who are mostly young and relatively well-off) are both more likely to pirate and more likely to buy. They do not show that most people pirate as a prelude to buying. They do not show that piracy is good for a record (only that records by famous artists are both more pirated and more bought).

Adapt to this, or die. It's a business model problem. It has nothing to do with morality.

Any time someone says "You must adapt to market conditions" and gets hand-wavey when questions of exploitation or morality are brought up, you know you're dealing with a closet Randian.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:15 AM on June 23, 2012


Let me come at this from a different angle.

The reason the music market looks the way it does is because of how records were made. Record companies existed to sell vinyl disks. It took huge capital investment to be able to make the disks in the first place, and then a fairly high ongoing cost for each and every disk produced. And to sell disks, they needed content, so they started paying people to make music to put on them. This also had, for a long time, a very high cost, because the equipment you needed to make a really good recording was phenomenally expensive.

But it was worth doing, for record companies, because they could sell millions of a given record, in exchange for spending the money creating it just once. And their entire business model has been about trying to tempt new people to make disks, while paying them as little as they could possibly get away with. The market got so large that some of the musicians even made a lot of money and became very famous, but this was rare even in the gravy years... most artists never got wealthy, even if the record companies made millions from their recordings. The methods to keep from paying artists are legion, and I won't go into them here, but it ranged from extremely one-sided contracts to outright fraud. The recording industry was, and remains, extremely corrupt.

So this is why everyone is used to paying for music, because albums cost a lot to make. You didn't really have any options. When CDs came out, it seemed like the same thing all over again; huge upfront costs to make CDs, and then sell millions of them to make huge profits, and share just enough with artists to keep new ones showing up. The purpose for the record companies is not to sell music, it's to sell disks. They don't care what's on it. If they could sell millions of blanks, that would be fine. The purpose is not to create or distribute music, the purpose is to make and sell disks at a high price, and music creation is just the overhead required to shovel more disks out the door.

But there was a hidden change in CDs. CDs were digital. Lo and behold, the Digital Age happened. And suddenly, we don't need plastic disks anymore. For a long time, that was the only way to get music, but you can now transfer a perfect copy of music over a wire, for free. There is no reason to buy plastic disks anymore. This means that the entire basis of the music industry is gone. They exist to sell disks, but we don't need them.

The record companies are buggy-whip makers in the era of automobiles. For almost the entire history of mass-produced music, they have been in charge of the transaction, screwing both the customer (by charging too much) and the musician (by cheating them of their rightful royalties), and keeping almost all the profit. They had all the power, and musicians and customers had very little.

But now, every customer in the world who's capable of buying digital music also has a full-fledged record factory, every bit as good as what the record company has. Given an original recording, they can produce endless copies of that recording for free. I'm pretty technically ept, and I can get a deal at my colo provider for a gigabit of (Cogent, aka not too great) bandwidth for $500/mo, which should let me distribute something on the order of five hundred million FLAC-encoded albums a month. For $500, plus a few thousand bucks to set up a few servers that could keep a gigabit pipe saturated 24x7x365. In other words, for $500, I could give a copy of an album to every man, woman, and child in this country, and still have enough left over to cover a fair bit of the entire Canadian population! And then I could do it again the month after, and again the month after.....

So there's really not much capital investment required to be in the music business anymore. Where it once cost millions to be able to make records, now everyone can do it from their homes for nothing. Where it used to be extremely expensive to create the master copy, now you can buy superb recording and mixing equipment really cheaply. The only really expensive part left in recording is a good anechoic room to record in, and even that's not a major engineering effort these days. You can easily rent these rooms.

The world is fundamentally different now. Musicians were never selling disks. They were selling their services to record companies, and if their product was wildly, ridiculously successful, the record company might give them a small fraction of the hundreds of millions they could make from selling so many. Nowadays, artists can reach their customers directly, with no middleman required, and do very well for themselves. Instead of MAYBE getting paid if the record company decides not to cheat them too badly, they get to keep most of the money themselves.

The MUSICIANS are now in charge of the overall process, not the record companies, and this has record companies terrified. They're going to die unless they reinvent themselves, and they'd much rather use the guns in Congress to hold you at gunpoint and keep you buying virtual plastic disks.

Don't argue on their behalf. Don't think about music as plastic disks. That's what the record companies want you to do, but it's wrong. There are no disks, there are only bits, and bits are almost free.
posted by Malor at 10:31 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


FuzzyBastard - sorry but I'm not reading your entire comments anymore for the reasons I've outlined already. You really aren't listening (or to be specific, reading/comprehending). But I couldn't miss this bit ...

Any time someone says "You must adapt to market conditions" and gets hand-wavey when questions of exploitation or morality are brought up, you know you're dealing with a closet Randian.

To which all I can say is ....... something I really can't say in even half-polite discussion. So I take a deep breath, close my eyes and imagine the seashore, feel my heart rate go down, and then quietly ...

"You really are wrong here. If that's just a mistake, then please apologize. If it's an ingenuous jibe, a conscious bit of trolling, then I request that you take a look in the mirror and ask who's being moral/immoral etc? Because as a lawyer would say, you're the one that brought the subject up."

My final thought for now. It's something I heard in a heated discussion way back when in the early days of all this filesharing (late 90s):

"What are people always going to pay for? Whatever they can't get for free."

The guy who said it was a successful musician/producer, and yeah, you've heard of some of the artists he's worked with. Now, getting on fifteen years later, he's still making a living in music precisely because he did adapt.
posted by philip-random at 10:32 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for the techdirt article: People who spend paragraphs yelling that we must set aside morality are generally simply advocating for immorality, and that's certainly the case here, as evidenced by the endless falsehoods it spreads.

People advocating against piracy are essentially calling for an intrusive surveillance state, because that's what it would take. I'm pretty comfortable with my morality, thanks.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:34 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is inarguable that some percentage of people who pirate an album would have bought it otherwise.

Not enough to worry about, considering that when you cut piracy in half revenue does not go up.

Of something. Hammond's paper totally fails to clarify correlation versus causation. A leaked record is likely to be a record by a more popular artist---no one cares when unknown artists leak records---and therefore, one that would sell more than earlier records anyway.

Okay, post your better study. You take issue with every posted study, insist the opposite is true, and post none of your own. At some point you are just going to have to maybe consider admitting the studies are saying the opposite of what you think because you are wrong.

In instances where a US movie hadn't been pirated in advance of its international release, revenue from the movie was typically seven percent lower than it was when those abroad could bootleg the material. US sales also didn't necessarily go down with torrents in effect, the authors found.

You are simply flying in the face of economic logic by insisting that people are more likely to pay for things they can get for free. The fact that every source you cite is explicitly an advocacy group does little to convince.

This is just false and it shows how little you are interested in the actual factual matters of this conversation. The study I am pointing to to show cutting piracy in half does not increase revenue is based on the claims of an agency of the French government, which made the claim that piracy had been cut in half by their new law. I also cited a study from the BI Norwegian School of Management, and an academic paper by a researcher from the North Carolina State University.

Your logic is flawed.

The operative word here---the only relevant word---is "sells". A musician is better off if he sells 10,000 copies, and worse off if he sells 5,000. If a hundred million people copied and enjoyed the record, they reward the musician in no way, then they are exploiters of labor, and their fandom is worth as much as a pat on the back from the boss who keeps losing your paycheck.


Yes, if that fantasy you have was true, that would be a problem for the paychecks. However, in the real world anyone who has a hundred million copies of their album out there is going to be making a very good living on record sales too because those pirates are the biggest spenders on music and they like the artist now!

(Or they don't like them, and wouldn't be spending on them anyway!)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:42 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, furiousxgeorge, his imagination trumps your pesky real-world figures!

:-)
posted by Malor at 10:47 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malor: Record companies were selling disks, and good riddance to them. Musicians were selling their talent and hard work. and that is what I want remunerated. People with computers can duplicate the record-printing, but that was always a very small part o what record companies did---what make a record company successful is their A&R and marketing, which are just as important now as they ever were---and totally separate from what musicians do.
When you reduce making music to record-printing, you are eating your cultural seed corn.

Phillip-random: I have read every word you wrote, and understood every word, and you have no apology forthcoming. If you are going to argue that the workings of the market are more important than morality or economic fairness, you're a Randian. If you believe that the moral and fairness questions are being adequately met, then don't cite "this is how the market works" as a justification.

Churchhatestucker: I have no doubt that you are comfortable with your morality---most people are. But if your morality amounts to "I should get whatever I want, and owe nothing to the people who provide it", then your morality is flawed.

Furiousxgeorge: The article you posted from "torrent freak" (remember what I said about advocacy?) shows that piracy went down the year the French instituted an anti-piracy law, and that sales were down in 2011, a recessionary year. That does not even deserve to be called data.

You are making the economically extraordinary claim that people who can get something for free will be happy to pay for it. That happens in no other industry, so the burden of proof is emphatically on you.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:51 AM on June 23, 2012


When you reduce making music to record-printing, you are eating your cultural seed corn.

Which is exactly why it's stupid to pay for copies, because that's reducing making music to record-printing. Pay for the act of creation, not the act of copying some bits, which anyone can do.

You are making the economically extraordinary claim that people who can get something for free will be happy to pay for it.

The less I fit your ethical standards, the more music I buy. The more closely I hew to your ideal, the less artists make from me. And all the studies that have been done suggest that this is true across large population groups, not just me.
posted by Malor at 10:58 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are making the economically extraordinary claim that people who can get something for free will be happy to pay for it. That happens in no other industry, so the burden of proof is emphatically on you.

Did you read the techdirt article? Because there are twenty-two links to examples of exactly that. Artists cater to fans, who by definition are not rational. (At least in an economic sense.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:04 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Furiousxgeorge: The article you posted from "torrent freak" (remember what I said about advocacy?) shows that piracy went down the year the French instituted an anti-piracy law, and that sales were down in 2011, a recessionary year. That does not even deserve to be called data.

The article is not the source of the information. You know this. Why are you making me waste time pointing it out? The sales data is from Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. SNEP's responsibilities include collecting and distributing royalty payments for broadcast and performance, preventing copyright infringement of its members' works (including music piracy), and sales certification of silver, gold, platinum and diamond records and videos, and also compiles 4 weekly official charts of France's top-selling music (singles, albums).

Even in a recessionary year, if you can't show any growth whatsoever when you cut piracy in half, the conclusion is obvious.

You are making the economically extraordinary claim that people who can get something for free will be happy to pay for it. That happens in no other industry, so the burden of proof is emphatically on you.


You never heard of bottled water?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:11 AM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


See, TFB, you keep insisting on thinking about the relationship as a purchase. Of a thing. The artist makes a thing, and sells it, and then makes another thing, and sells it, and makes another thing, and sells it.

That's not how it works in a digital world. You're stuck thinking in terms of disks, not bits.
posted by Malor at 11:12 AM on June 23, 2012


People advocating against piracy are essentially calling for an intrusive surveillance state, because that's what it would take. I'm pretty comfortable with my morality, thanks.

Alternately, people advocating against piracy would like to avoid an intrusive surveillance state. SOPA, PROTECT IP, some components of ACTA, etc. are influenced by parties who are responding to illicit media copying and distribution. While this response might be flawed, ethically problematic and probably counter-productive, it still wouldn't exist if piracy wasn't perceived as a very serious problem in some circles.

Completely ignoring any moral stance on downloading, every individual act of it contributes in a very small way to the sense of threat for interests with deep pockets and longstanding ties to legislators. Expecting the so-called buggy-whip manufacturers to just lie back and take it, without any kind of response, is short-sighted. And we don't need to guess what that response will be, because we've been seeing it for the last decade.
posted by figurant at 11:16 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure, but that doesn't mean the buggy-whip makers are going to win, they're just going to make everyone freaking miserable for a long time.
posted by Malor at 11:18 AM on June 23, 2012


Whether or not incredibly intrusive legislation will eventually be passed in the US and elsewhere isn't something I think is knowable at this point. It's not like they're going to stop trying. I don't think it's impossible that it might happen eventually. Even if it isn't, is everyone being miserable for a long time a desirable outcome?
posted by figurant at 11:22 AM on June 23, 2012


Okay, it's a beautiful day outside, I'm out. I think everyone's said their piece and that's cool. So in conclusion on my side:

On a technological level, I think y'all are basically right. Copying recorded music is so easy that it's inevitable. This is not necessarily apocalyptic. If music shifts to a world of a few superstars, and a lot of hobbyists, with scattered local artists scraping by on the road, that doesn't mean no music will be made.

But I do think it's tragic. Partly because I think the commercial sale of music, which begins, oh let's say somewhere around the birth of the sheet music industry and continues until the last ten years or so, has been an incredibly fruitful time for music and culture in general. And I think to shift to a world of superstars and hobbyists will mean a return to a kind of folk music culture, which is perhaps inevitably conservative in its tastes.

But I also find it tragic because it seems like one more case of how technology has enabled people to do something deeply morally squicky, and made it so widespread that no one can quite think about how bad it is. From customer service to porn to manufacturing, the last few decades of technological progress have made it possible for consumers to relentlessly ratchet down what payment producers can ask, and the result has been impoverishment for all involved.

If we are consuming living artists' work without compensating them---if we are enthusiastically participating in and defending a system in which we consume uncompensated labor---then we are exploiting labor. That's really bad, not only because it's impoverishing to those who are rewarding us most, and thus practically bad, but also because it is treating those people as disposable, and thus morally bad.

If artists who make art we love go uncompensated, they cannot continue to make art we love. Better social safety net or no, people who have to make a living doing something other than art have less time and energy for art. Their talent and work is being consumed and disposed of, and that's awful.

I don't know what the solution is, I don't even know for sure if there is a solution. I would really like it to be the norm, rather than the exception, for artists who make great work to be compensated. But the least I can do, the least anyone can do, is treat this reality as the shameful fact it is, however much we enjoy its fruits.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:37 AM on June 23, 2012


Partly because I think the commercial sale of music, which begins, oh let's say somewhere around the birth of the sheet music industry and continues until the last ten years or so, has been an incredibly fruitful time for music and culture in general.

I don't know what world you're living in, but in my world, the last ten years have seen a huge renaissance in one of the most important sub-genres in my genre (death metal). In my world, the most popular DM bands -- who are nowhere close to "superstars" -- are selling out records within weeks or months, piracy or no piracy. Even minor bands are finding it easy enough to move 500 or 1000 copies of their record on their own, almost solely through touring and internet sales. But of course, many of these bands are doing colored vinyl and t-shirts and live shows, so I guess it's Not About The Music after all...

...which makes me wonder if you told musicians in the pre-piracy days to put out their album in an unmarked cardboard sleeve, lest it suddenly be Not About The Music. Graphic design, merch sales, charm, and hustle have been a part of being in a band since "being in a band" was a thing. Some of it could be outsourced to friends/other artists/record labels, but the same thing is true right now, so I'm not sure where your prejudice against trying to sell things the way people like to buy them comes from.

To be frank, you seem angry about the fact that you can't just drop a "great" mp3 into the wide sea of the internet and get instant money back for having done so, but what you're ignoring is that this was never possible, not even in the days before piracy. Great albums have always gone unnoticed due to a lack of popularity, and unpopularity has always had as much or more to do with marketing and public taste than with musical quality. Claiming that this is the sole fault of piracy is crazy -- if anything, it was worse back when people couldn't share exceptional yet underrated tracks with fans of the same genre. I can think of at least one band which sat in the cutout bin throughout the 1990s, yet spawned a high-selling sub-sub-genre after the download explosion of the early 00s. Shouldn't that be literally impossible, if piracy killed "the commercial sale of music" ten years ago?
posted by vorfeed at 12:35 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


From customer service to porn to manufacturing, the last few decades of technological progress have made it possible for consumers to relentlessly ratchet down what payment producers can ask, and the result has been impoverishment for all involved.

By that argument, you should be bemoaning the way factories have put crafters' guilds out of business.

Artists are going to do just fine, once they adapt. They won't be able to charge very much for copying bits -- but they can send copies to everyone on the planet for just about the same cost as sending the first ten. The problem is that you're used to thinking about plastic disks, and charging a high price for them to a limited audience -- but bits are so close to free that any price is almost pure profit, once the digital good is created. You will see payment models in the digital world move to reflect the reality that creating something is difficult and expensive, but sharing costs nothing. Kickstarter is one possible model there, where an artist can ask for upfront money to make something, and then provide it DRM-free. He or she doesn't then need to sell ANY copies, because the whole development cost was covered up front.

It's like that Double Fine Adventure on Kickstarter a few months ago ... even if Double Fine sells zero copies, even if every single person other than the backers pirates the crap out of it, they still fed a whole bunch of people for a good 18 months while they made the game. And, realistically, people will still buy copies from them, even though they won't need to. The game will be DRM-free, so customers could copy it, but in actual practice, a huge number of them will choose to pay instead. People do this all the time.

The Humble Indie Bundle just pulled in over five million dollars through voluntary donations for games that had no DRM on them at all. Five million dollars, purely from donations! They said, "Name your own price for these games, even one cent, and you get a copy of these base games. Pay more than the average of $X, and you get these bonus titles." And they pulled in five million bucks with people making up their own prices.

ALL purchases of digital goods are voluntary, even if not everyone has fully realized that yet. The Humble Bundle has figured it out.

You REALLY need to rethink your position, because all of the real-world data is contradicting it so, so strongly. Think about it: from your argument position, all those people are absolutely insane to pay anything at all for the Humble Bundle, but in actual practice, just short of six hundred thousand people chose to voluntarily pay an average of $8.53 for something they didn't have to pay for at all. (Myself, I paid $25 for my first copy, and $15 for a second copy as a gift.) Your model of people's behavior is wrong.

When the good costs you nothing, you're not really selling it, you're giving it to people in exchange for donations. Humble Bundle understands this, and just pulled in five million bucks by being smarter than most people.

If we are consuming living artists' work without compensating them---if we are enthusiastically participating in and defending a system in which we consume uncompensated labor---then we are exploiting labor.

But we don't owe them a damn thing if what they make sucks. We don't morally need to pay them just for viewing something they've made, when that viewing didn't deprive them of anything. If we enjoyed it, and want more, then it would be very smart to give them some money, and a lot of people do exactly that. I think, over time, this will become the dominant model for artists; the stuff that costs nothing to manufacture will be given away freely, the stuff that's actually scarce will come with price tags, and they'll make their money from a combination of selling merchandise, ticket sales, and donations. Which is pretty much how most of them made their money anyway, in the record company world, because the record companies didn't pay the great majority much at all.

And, sure enough, that's exactly what we're seeing -- total spending on music goes UP every year, while the spending on stuff that costs nothing to make goes down. People are internalizing that copying bitstreams harms no one.

If artists who make art we love go uncompensated, they cannot continue to make art we love.

That's actually not true. I mean, yeah, it would be nice if every artist I like was rolling in money, but realistically, a very great number of artists aren't that motivated by money to begin with. They don't do it to get rich, they do it because they love to, or in some cases because the drive is so strong that they have no choice. So we will have plenty of art and music no matter what, because these things are endemic to humanity, and there is no conceivable force that could stop it.

What I think you'll actually see is a lot MORE artists making a reasonable living from music. You will see far fewer super-rich ones, and a lot more of them that can make a basic, decent living, by connecting directly with fans. Few millionaires, but lots and lots of middle-class artists. And I would argue that this will be much healthier than what we have historically had. Further, when they're still focusing on making a living, and aren't being showered with megabucks overnight, I suspect that many of them will develop far more fully as artists. Getting rich too soon, I think, stunts your growth.

I don't know what the solution is, I don't even know for sure if there is a solution.

Look at the Techdirt examples. I'm not sure why you haven't really read and thought about that article yet, because it's excellent. There's a whole bunch of working solutions right there, artists that are doing very nicely by connecting directly with fans, and making them want to support what they're doing. You don't need to sell copies of music to do well as a musician. You need to convince people to support your music instead. And the smart ones are figuring that out.

There's nothing shameful about any of this. It's silly to pay for a "good" that doesn't cost anything. Copying bits is free. Support the artists that matter to you, and everything will work out fine.
posted by Malor at 1:17 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure, but that doesn't mean the buggy-whip makers are going to win

As I've heard it put, the buggy-whip manufacturers lost the battle the day they realized that their parent company was also heavily invested in providing brake pads for automobiles. Or as happened with SONY back in the late-90s/early-zeroes ... on one side of the table was the music department, on the other the guys making digital hardware.

And so on ...
posted by philip-random at 1:39 PM on June 23, 2012


As I've heard it put, the buggy-whip manufacturers lost the battle the day they realized that their parent company was also heavily invested in providing brake pads for automobiles. Or as happened with SONY back in the late-90s/early-zeroes ... on one side of the table was the music department, on the other the guys making digital hardware.

Bingo. SONY and Philips (aka Polygram) invented the CDR and were the dominant players in the early CD-burner market, and these were widely used for piracy once the price hit $500 or so. I remember swapping live shows through the mail using SONY CDRs, back when they were $5 per blank disc!
posted by vorfeed at 2:17 PM on June 23, 2012


Just in brief---I am still reading replies!

To be frank, you seem angry about the fact that you can't just drop a "great" mp3 into the wide sea of the internet and get instant money back for having done so, but what you're ignoring is that this was never possible, not even in the days before piracy.

This I do want to correct: I am emphatically not angry that I can't drop an mp3 and collect cash. I'm not a musician, and never have been (outside of a few embarrassing years singing badly for a political punk band, about which the less said the better). I'm emphatically just a music fan who is disappointed with the way the relationship between people like myself---that is, music listeners---and artists has evolved.

By that argument, you should be bemoaning the way factories have put crafters' guilds out of business.

I kinda do. I mean, factories definitely made goods available more cheaply, and there was (to say the least) a lot to be said for that. If someone was to argue that the death of the craft guild in favor of the capitalist enterprise was all bad, I would disagree. But it sure wasn't all good, and it involved---and continues to involve---terrible exploitation and abuse. And people around here are generally quite willing---eager, even---to note that exploitation and abuse, bemoan it, and interrogate our own complicity in it. Except in this case, and that bugs me.

It's like that Double Fine Adventure on Kickstarter a few months ago ... even if Double Fine sells zero copies, even if every single person other than the backers pirates the crap out of it, they still fed a whole bunch of people for a good 18 months while they made the game.

But if they work around the clock to make the game for 18 months, put in the blood, sweat, and tears of making a great game, and then are told "Thanks, glad we could cover your hourly rate while you developed it, now we're all gonna take your game and you can get back to work tomorrow!"... Well, that's terrible. We'll continue playing their game for years while they will be right back on the assembly line the next day; it's an internet-enabled sweatshop with all of us keeping them from taking a break.

Worse still, in that scenario they will have been paid for their reputation and their past games---we all donated to Kickstarter because of their track record---rather than for the actual game they make. The incentives are all screwy. You say "We don't owe them a thing if what they make sucks", but the Kickstarter paradigm completely detaches financial rewards from whether their product sucks or not, since all the money is coming to them before the product is made.

And please note, the Humble Indie Bundle made all that money, spread across a bunch of developers *and* charity. It's arguable whether any of the artists who made it covered even production costs.

Your model of people's behavior is wrong.

No---you're focusing on a few success stories and ignoring the overall pattern. The Techdirt article highlights a few people who have managed to figure out a living in the post-piracy world, and I could think of quite a few others, and good for all of 'em. But the pattern is unmistakably a decline in the number of dollars going to artists, even as the number of artists goes up (and so the dollars are being spread more thinly). This is a formula for environmental devastation., A site like Techdirt focuses on those success stories because they represent the interests of the tech companies who have taken over the distribution role of the record companies: getting rich off artists' work without renumerating those artists. The difference between now and then is that that Motown would pay artists pennies, and Google will pay artists nothing.

That some people succeed in such a system is great for them, but no contraindication of the overall pattern, which is a death spiral. People can pull themselves out of poverty by hard work and luck, and every day in the United States, they do. That doesn't mean the system is not making it prohibitively difficult for all but a few lucky cases to do so, or that we are not complicit in that system.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:32 PM on June 23, 2012


"And I think to shift to a world of superstars and hobbyists will mean a return to a kind of folk music culture, which is perhaps inevitably conservative in its tastes."

Except that this has no basis in reality — it's pretty much the exact opposite of actual music. It's weird, too, because you've been the one arguing for a conservative (even rockist) view of music.

The more gatekeepers you have to distribution, the more conservative the distributed music will be, and free downloads have very, very few barriers to distribution other than time and attention. Furthermore, nearly all music that is truly experimental is divorced from the idea of being commercial in itself. You do not become Merzbow to get rich, even though he does sell his music.

Pop's its own thing, but that's not likely to become more conservative either — novelty's a virtue for pop — and the only argument for rock becoming conservative requires such a weirdly truncated view of music, where Nickleback and Foo Fighters are your exemplars, while ignoring all of the crazy indie bands all over.

There are dangers to quality from having music downloaded and streamed — there's less incentive for a band to come up with an amazing studio arrangement, just to have it flattened to an MP3 — and I won't deny that this is accelerated by the idea of not being able to justify the investment for studio sessions, but free downloading is not the villain there.

You've made some terrible assumptions due to, I suppose, unfamiliarity with music and the music business, and they've led you to act like a total dick in misplaced defense of musicians.
posted by klangklangston at 3:40 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


But the pattern is unmistakably a decline in the number of dollars going to artists, even as the number of artists goes up (and so the dollars are being spread more thinly).

Artists' share of music revenues has increased steadily over the last decade. The sky is rising.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:45 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Phillip-random: The thing is, I don't think you can take morality out of this discussion, for the same reason you can't take morality out of discussions of Israel policy, student loans, or whatever: Because you end up with immoral conclusions.
People are not removing morality, they disagree about what is and is not moral. The problem is that many posters in this thread can't seem to understand that is even possible, and are essentially throwing a tantrum about it. But what does the fact that you're mad have to do with what other people think is right and wrong? No one is going to change what they belive is right and wrong becuase you analogized them to a rapist.

If you want to convince someone who doesn't share the same moral view as you, you have to make a practical argument.
If people want to talk about alternate ways by which artists can be compensated for their labor, whether it's streaming services, an ISP tax, or something much cleverer, that would be awesome.
I've said that was a good idea before on the site, but why would I want to talk to you about it? As far as I'm concerned, you're just making me even less sypathetic.
Then they won't be getting paid for creating music. They'll be getting paid for designing funny t-shirts, or charming internet people, or travelling to a lot of towns. And therefore, their focus will shift to doing that, rather than making music.
Which is fine. The other thing you don't seem to understand is that people don't need new music. Old music is not going to cease to exist. There is tons of great music from France or Japan and other places that most americans have never heard. Music promotion might go down, musicians might focus more on marketing and merchandising then pure music. The overall quality might drop.

This, however, would not be the end of the world for the vast majority of people on earth, most of whom probably listen to crap anyway (bieber, britney, etc)

From a practical standpoint, there is no way that it's something we should destroy or heavily restrict internet freedom over. And if you don't do that, you'll have piracy.

And again, years ago I might have been more sympathetic, but now? Meh.
posted by delmoi at 9:52 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


But if they work around the clock to make the game for 18 months, put in the blood, sweat, and tears of making a great game, and then are told "Thanks, glad we could cover your hourly rate while you developed it, now we're all gonna take your game and you can get back to work tomorrow!"... Well, that's terrible. We'll continue playing their game for years while they will be right back on the assembly line the next day; it's an internet-enabled sweatshop with all of us keeping them from taking a break.

Why is that so terrible? The work is done. I don't expect to get paid for utilities I write for a workplace for years after it's finished. Gardeners don't expect income for the rest of their lives from doing a beautiful, artistic landscaping job.

The whole idea of long-term royalties for creating something comes from the fact that the people making the plastic disks could keep making huge profits from the same goods for as long as Congress was willing to grant them a monopoly. And artists demanded a cut of that, though they were mostly cheated out of what was promised.

But we don't need plastic disks anymore. We don't need to keep spending money for copies, over and over and over again, because copies now cost nothing to make, and anyone with about five working brain cells can make them. There's no real revenue stream there anymore, so there's no reason for residual incomes for long periods of time. The whole idea of writing a book or a great album and retiring on the lifetime income stream thus generated is bizarrely strange; no other field of endeavor I'm aware of will continue to pay you for the rest of your life for not doing anything else.

Rather, creative people, like pretty much everyone else in the economy, are going to end up having to keep working, to keep creating for most of their lives, instead of coming up with one great thing and then coasting. And that's good. We'll get more great art that way. Fortunately, most forms of artistic endeavor allow you to get old and still do them, which is quite unlike many of the trades.

I just don't buy that anyone deserves to be paid forever for being creative once, especially not by force, where the guns of the government are arrayed to demand payment from everyone. If anyone is making money off distribution, artists should certainly get a cut, but fundamentally, the whole model of getting paid for endlessly duplicating things is going away. The net effect will be, I think, strongly positive, because artists will have to keep creating if they want to keep getting paid for being an artist.

I get that you somehow think this is unreasonable, but nobody else in the economy gets that kind of special treatment. If you want to set up the economy so that everyone gets residual income from all work they've ever done, forever, that would be closer to fair. But barring that, I see no strong reason, in the digital age, to privilege artists to such an extraordinary degree. They're not fundamentally any more important than garbage people. Hell, from a utilitarian perspective, you could argue that they're less important. The trash really needs to be taken out, but if Justin Bieber weren't singing, not much would change.

Worse still, in that scenario they will have been paid for their reputation and their past games---we all donated to Kickstarter because of their track record---rather than for the actual game they make. The incentives are all screwy. You say "We don't owe them a thing if what they make sucks", but the Kickstarter paradigm completely detaches financial rewards from whether their product sucks or not, since all the money is coming to them before the product is made.

Well, again, what will ACTUALLY happen in the real world is that, if the game ends up being good, they will "sell" many more copies to people that don't actually have to buy it, who are just grateful that the game exists. If the game is terrible, they won't move very many copies, and they'll be much less likely to get funded to do any more work.

This is just like about every other field of endeavor, where you get hired to do something. You get paid, and if you did a good job, you get to keep your job, or maybe get hired again, possibly at a higher rate if you are very good. The more people liked what you did LAST time, the more you'll get paid THIS time. That's just how it all works.

Kickstarter is no different. Make something great, and people will be happy and will probably pay you more to make another thing, at least if your idea sounds cool and they want it. Make something terrible, and you'll have trouble finding funding for your next project. There's nothing screwy about this. In almost every field of endeavor, you're being paid based on your last success or failure, not your current one, which isn't finished yet, so people can't judge your performance.

But the pattern is unmistakably a decline in the number of dollars going to artists

No, the actual pattern is a decline in the number of dollars going to recording companies, who hysterically shriek and wail and use the money they're cheating artists out of to lobby Congress for more intrusive surveillance. The number of dollars going to artists, and the total number of dollars going into these creative industries, is climbing steadily.

We don't need plastic disks anymore, and the disk makers are in real trouble. They LIE THEIR FUCKING HEADS OFF and scream about 'the artists, the artists!', but it's not about the artists, it's about the record company execs' Beemers and mansions. It's never been about the artists with these people. They are nearly as morally bankrupt as Wall Street, and are absolutely untrustworthy in every sense.

If a record company tells you the sky is blue, you should go outside and double check.

the overall pattern, which is a death spiral

There is no death spiral. Smart artists are prospering mightily. It's just the plastic disk industry that's got problems.
posted by Malor at 7:12 AM on June 24, 2012


Dipshits like Kim Dotcom and his ilk also prosper mightly.
posted by foot at 12:18 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that Kim Dotcom can make that kind of money from filesharing is showing that the market is being incorrectly served. It's damn near free to make copies, and Dotcom is exploiting that by selling them for a few cents.

Mainstream media companies could put illegitimate filesharing out of business almost overnight by simply pricing their bitstreams properly. They insist on acting like bits are scarce, like they're selling virtual plastic disks, and the Kim Dotcoms are getting rich simply because they are stupid.

Well, also, it's because everyone hates the giant media companies, and if they can flip them the bird, they will gleefully do so. One of the most important parts of the digital economy is making your customers want to give you something, and the big corporations act like they're taking lessons from the Antichrist.
posted by Malor at 12:34 PM on June 24, 2012


Dotcom wasn't selling files for a few cents, he was giving them away for free. All the user had to do was navigate a minefield of pop-unders, spamy affiliate marketing ads, and misleading download links. That's who the record companies should be taking a cue from? Meet the new villain, same as the old one.

Kim Dotcom is filesharing's new posterboy, for better or worse.
posted by foot at 1:54 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The US government is currently making him a very sympathetic one.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:23 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


klingklangklaston: Please note, I am not unfamiliar with the music industry. I worked in quite a few aspects outside of performing, including event production (part of why I'm so scornful of promoters is because I've spent decades hearing musicians ask for their cut of the door and hearing promoters reply "C'mon, guys, this isn't about the money!"), marketing, and shooting and editing more EPK and band documentarie than I can count on all my toes.

Most notably, I spent many years working at a number of jobs at one of the big distributors, from the mid-90s to the mid-aughts--- a massive, slow-witted music distributor, hostile to the internet, exactly the people techno-utopians said would be put out of business. They weren't. On the contrary, they did better than ever. They just reduced the amount sold through retail channels, and increased focus on B2B, soundtrack, and corporate sales. Which was great, because now they need to pay the artists even less---don't even have to bother hiding it in fake royalty statements. Labels are doing just fine---the techno-utopians have been totally wrong about them becoming obsolete, since A&R, marketing, and tour support are now *more* important, and that was always what the labels did best (manufacturing was never very important to their business model).

Meanwhile, while Merzbow is never going to get rich, the next Merzbow, knowing that he will never get *anything*, is unlikely to quit his office job and become Merzbow. Oddly, I was just listening to Weird Al Yankovic on the Marc Maron show, an artist who has been pretty savvy about adjusting to the new realities. And all through talking about his career, he kept saying "So then we decided to get a band together and do this for real", "THat's when I thought 'Hey, I could make a living doing this," "That's when I was able to quit doing data entry." A world where none of that was possible will be very different, but not necessarily better.

Churchhatestucker: The Techdirt chart was interesting, until I actually read the article. Techdirt is so relentlessly boosterific that I trust them about as much as I trust the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, and inspecting past the infographic reveals that they have a source for the total amount of money in the industry (though a source that they admit is "an estimate"), and a source for the number of songs recorded (which I would indeed assume is larger as the population grows). But gosh, that number they cite for percentage going to the artist appears to be unsourced. Can't even find it in the actual text. Funny, that. The best sentence, though, has to be "The new music success story is not in selling music", which sorta says it all.

Malor:

The whole idea of writing a book or a great album and retiring on the lifetime income stream thus generated is bizarrely strange; no other field of endeavor I'm aware of will continue to pay you for the rest of your life for not doing anything else.

Are you perhaps unfamiliar with the extremely common practice of licensing electrical engineering plans? Or patented inventions? Lots of people retire *if* they invent something that continues to produce value to the consumer for the duration of their life. That's what provides the incentive to invent something that'll stay useful. In the arts, that has both provided an incentive for massive achievement---wanting a record so big you can retire on it---and allowed artists to make experimental records (for better or for worse) and fund other endevours without needing a hit every time (hence Adam Yauch's ability to single-handedly fund much of the Amerindie film movement). You seem to be very excited about seeing the artistic middle class decimated and their futures destroyed as thoroughly as every other segment of the middle class, and I can't share your excitement at that prospect. I don't share your Russian nihilist view that the arts are less important than garbage collection, but then, perhaps if the city paid artists every time they made something, this would be a more practical comparison.

Well, again, what will ACTUALLY happen in the real world is that, if the game ends up being good, they will "sell" many more copies to people that don't actually have to buy it, who are just grateful that the game exists.

Why would anyone pay money to buy what they can get for free? As we have seen over and over, good intentions don't pay the rent, and the people who say they'll support an artist mostly mean support in the sense of "positive word of mouth", which don't buy food. Kickstarter means you can collect a lot of money for having a good track record, while separating your money collected from the quality of your product. It turns every consumer into an angel investor, with exactly the same blind spots as every angel investor: mistaking past performance for future results.

No, the actual pattern is a decline in the number of dollars going to recording companies, who hysterically shriek and wail and use the money they're cheating artists out of to lobby Congress for more intrusive surveillance. The number of dollars going to artists, and the total number of dollars going into these creative industries, is climbing steadily.

[citation needed]

We don't need plastic disks anymore, and the disk makers are in real trouble. They LIE THEIR FUCKING HEADS OFF and scream about 'the artists, the artists!', but it's not about the artists, it's about the record company execs' Beemers and mansions. It's never been about the artists with these people. They are nearly as morally bankrupt as Wall Street, and are absolutely untrustworthy in every sense.

I don't think you understand how the music industry works. Plastic discs were never central. They were ridiculously profitable, because they allowed you to sell your entire back catalog without re-investing in recording and touring, but never inherent. The industry handled many medium and format shifts with aplomb, because their business has always been about large-scale transactions---negotiations with major venues, worldwide marketing, retail chain interaction, jukeboxes, etc. All of that does just fine. The one thing that's been decimated is retail sale of music, the area where they contractually had to throw a few pennies at the artist. That sector has been destroyed, which is why today, the vast majority of artists get nothing from those who take enjoyment from their music. As I said before, artists used to get pennies every time someone listened to their music, and now they get nothing. This is not an improvement. It looks like an improvement to the consumer for the same reason Wal*Mart looks like a bargain.

Berry Gordy, like most record company execs, ripped many artists out of their rightful royalties, even as he nurtured talent, hooked up performers, songwriters, and studios, and promoted artists. Kim Dotcom has contributed nothing at all to the arts in his entire life. If you find the latter more sympathetic than the former, you're on the wrong side.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:04 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Meanwhile, while Merzbow is never going to get rich, the next Merzbow, knowing that he will never get *anything*, is unlikely to quit his office job and become Merzbow. Oddly, I was just listening to Weird Al Yankovic on the Marc Maron show, an artist who has been pretty savvy about adjusting to the new realities. And all through talking about his career, he kept saying "So then we decided to get a band together and do this for real", "THat's when I thought 'Hey, I could make a living doing this," "That's when I was able to quit doing data entry." A world where none of that was possible will be very different, but not necessarily better."

Yeah, no, this is nonsense again. File sharing has exactly zero to do with Merzbow's revenue stream, the idea that experimental music is not a place to make a lot of money hasn't changed, and you're moving the goalposts again. You were saying that without money, music becomes conservative. I pointed out that experimental musicians — the very antithesis of conservatism — never made any money to begin with. You invent a hypothetical future Merzbow who's somehow impacted by filesharing so much that he doesn't make any of the noise music that dominates the charts, or something. Weird Al has nothing to do with that, and neither does the idea of "getting serious" have anything to do with file sharing nor does it guarantee success. I'm glad that Weird Al has a career, but complaining that music will get conservative without money and then pointing to about the least musically inventive genre — parodies of popular songs — to prop up the argument is even more nonsense.

I realize that you believe this very much, but it's a very stupid argument that has absolutely zero relationship with reality.
posted by klangklangston at 6:13 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cribs: Merzbow is something that needs to exist.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:25 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why would anyone pay money to buy what they can get for free?

Look, you just don't get this. I just showed you hundreds of thousands of people, who very happily set their own price and voluntarily gave money to the Humble Bundle. Hundreds of thousands!

People absolutely will pay for things they don't need to pay for.

You, on the other hand, are absolutely impervious to real facts hitting you right in the goddamn face. Your imagination is more important than actual data, and you're just going to sit there in that imagination and stew, I guess. I'm done talking to you, because there can be no argument presented that will convince you.

Again, think about that: there is no evidence that I could present that would change your mind. You're not a fact-based arguer at this point, you're off in religious thinking. And I don't have time to argue religion with you.
posted by Malor at 6:33 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


And as for an earlier comment that I pretty much let slide, the difference in hip hop ethic of copying can be seen in mixtapes, and freestyles over bootlegged beats. (There are broader links to hip hop understood as coming out of African oral culture, but that's a lot to unpack right here).

With that, I'm out. I think this thread has devolved into an idiotic retread of the same arguments that are always made, and I'm done.
posted by klangklangston at 6:40 PM on June 24, 2012


the techno-utopians have been totally wrong about them becoming obsolete, since A&R, marketing, and tour support are now *more* important, and that was always what the labels did best

360 deals are very recent. You should know this.

manufacturing was never very important to their business model

Nice misdirect. No, *manufacturing* may not have been central (although they would force it on new acts) but *distribution* was.

But gosh, that number they cite for percentage going to the artist appears to be unsourced. Can't even find it in the actual text.

The text talks about the major sources of revenue. Figure the portion that went to artists from each, and do some math.

Why would anyone pay money to buy what they can get for free?

First off, we've given you so many example of people doing exactly that, that it's a wonder you keep trotting this out.

Secondly, even if that were the case, you use it as a loss-leader. Give the album away, make money on the tour. Y'know, where musicians have *always* made the bulk of their money.

Again, you should know this.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:32 PM on June 24, 2012


make money on the tour. Y'know, where musicians have *always* made the bulk of their money.

insert shot of Chuck Berry playing live, suitcase full of cash from the promoter right there next to him, never out of his sight.
posted by philip-random at 9:59 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Windows Advanced Multimedia Products (WinAMP) player was released to the world on April 21, 1997. The next year, when its parent company Nullsoft formally incorporated, Winamp became $10 shareware. But no one pays for shareware, right? Wrong.

“Nothing ever was broken [if you didn’t pay], there was no feature that was unlocked,” Rob Lord told Ars. “In that year before we were acquired, we were bringing in $100,000 a month from $10 checks—paper checks in the mail!”

posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:08 PM on June 24, 2012


I thought about posting that too, furiouxgeorge, but there's not much point. Actual data is irrelevant; we're arguing with faith-based thinking.
posted by Malor at 3:37 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, I shouldn't have re-engaged after saying I wasn't. I've explained why HIB isn't actually demonstrating what you say it is, and why I think it's deceptive of you to focus on the success stories and ignore the larger pattern; you'll keep saying people will, in large numbers, pay when they don't have to out of the goodness of their hearts,, and we'll go back and forth. I'm out, y'all---see you on the internets! Perhaps in twenty years we'll all come back and see if we've had a new artist middle class arise, or whether Brazilification will have hit here the same way it's decimated every other sector where producers have driven down prices, but it won't get resolved here.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:33 AM on June 25, 2012


Okay, okay, one last factual correction:


But gosh, that number they cite for percentage going to the artist appears to be unsourced. Can't even find it in the actual text.

The text talks about the major sources of revenue. Figure the portion that went to artists from each, and do some math.


If that's how they did it, the number is totally meaningless. As you should know, there is no "standard" breakdown for how much artists get from different sources---it's totally contract-by-contract. Moreover, that number has changed a lot as labels use their leverage (and hey, why do labels still have such leverage post-piracy? Answer that and you'll understand something important) to increase their share of touring revenue, etc.

Techdirt's "portion of revenue going to artist is increasing" stat is not only false, it's deliberately deceptive. Understand why Techdirt is putting out deceptive propaganda, and you'll understand something else important.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:03 AM on June 25, 2012


Meanwhile, while Merzbow is never going to get rich, the next Merzbow, knowing that he will never get *anything*, is unlikely to quit his office job and become Merzbow. Oddly, I was just listening to Weird Al Yankovic on the Marc Maron show, an artist who has been pretty savvy about adjusting to the new realities. And all through talking about his career, he kept saying "So then we decided to get a band together and do this for real", "THat's when I thought 'Hey, I could make a living doing this," "That's when I was able to quit doing data entry." A world where none of that was possible will be very different, but not necessarily better.

Proposal: The world would not be much "worse" without the music of Merzbow or Weird Al Yankovic or ANY artist, or in fact, the entirety of recorded music.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:38 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If that's how they did it, the number is totally meaningless.

Specifically, because I asked, it's the iDATE data with revenue split calculations recommended by PRS.

It's an estimate, obviously, but if you've got a better figure I'd love to see it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:36 AM on June 25, 2012


Some Facts & Insights Into The Whole Discussion Of 'Ethics' And Music Business Models
posted by homunculus at 9:28 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Taken a step further, a $17.98 list price CD earned a band $1.40 as a band royalty that they only got if they were recouped (over 99% of bands never recouped).

If an artist sells just two songs for $0.99 on iTunes via TuneCore, they gross $1.40.

If they sell an album for $9.99 on iTunes via TuneCore, they gross $7.00.

This is an INCREASE of over 700% in revenue to artists for recorded music sales.


And if an artist's music is distributed by BitTorrent or MegaUpload, they gross $0.00.

Which is why I approve so strongly of buying music on iTunes or TuneCore, and disapprove so strongly of BitToreent and MegaUpload.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:35 AM on June 26, 2012


As others pointed out above, many of the people who first hear small-artist tracks hear them via unauthorized means, including BitTorrent and MegaUpload. If even one of those people goes on to buy a record from the same artist via iTunes, that's $7 gross thanks to BitTorrent and MegaUpload, not $0.00.
posted by vorfeed at 12:21 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, Techdirt - always good for a specious argument, whether original or requoted...not that a good part of David Lowery's argument isn't specious, but I haven't been participating in this thread to defend Lowery at any point. I like where they're coming from (observing that copyright is broken rather than promoting infringement), but they get a little carried away at times.

Previously, artists were not rolling in money. Most were not allowed into the system by the gatekeepers. Of those that were allowed on the major labels, over 98% of them failed. Yes, 98%
.

Of the 2% that succeeded, less than a half percent of those ever got paid a band royalty from the sale of recorded music.


Yes, 98% of artists on major labels failed. But this leaves out the fact that 100% of them got an advance and a record launch. Sure. most of them never saw any long-term profit, either because the records didn't sell or because they had skeevy deals. But they got something out of it up front - studio time, living and tour expenses, and publicity. there's a lot of people who were one-hit wonders in one market who never made any long term money off their record deal, but are still making a regular living from playing the same song that made them briefly famous back in the 1980s or whenever. Also, note the narrow phrase 'band royalty' - there's often a separate songwriting royalty which is overlooked in these discussions.

The problem with Techdirt is not that the observations made there are wrong, but that they are almost always stripped of significant context in order to promote a particular point of view, while pretending to objectivity. Frankly, if I met Mike Masnick in a bar I wouldn't trust him to look after my pint if I had to leave the table.

Next up, we've got famed musician/producer Steve Albini's response, in which he notes that Lowery's facts are wrong and he's pining for a past that doesn't exist and ignoring all sorts of new opportunities:

Steve Albini did OK under the old regime, though. He's quite right to cite the necessity of moving forward with new technology, but it's worth remembering that a Pro Tools rig of the kind he's discussing probably cost something around $250,000 at the time. It's a lot easier to adapt if you have a large chunk of capital that you can re-invest in your business. This is not all that helpful to the new entrant to the market, however. Even punk heroes often gloss over the fact that a strong local music scene provides a lot of useful business infrastructure and a market, however uncool this observation may be.

Coulton's point is much more clear. He agrees that artists should get compensated, but scolding your customers is no way to do it.

They're not customers if they're not paying you anything or insist on bypassing your chosen distribution methods. A basic problem here (with Techdirt) is that they tend to treat artists like Coulton as the median rather than the extreme outlier he is. The value of labels (and the reason they continue to exist) is that they are experts in curating and marketing music, and (historically) willing to cross-subsidize signatories to a certain extent, on the understanding that not every band is going to turn a profit straight away. It's the same reason film production companies (aka studios, if they have their own plant) haven't gone away, although they are undergoing considerable change: they can provide capital for large projects, and they know how to sell. Selling a film is at least as hard as making one, and that's why there are so few producer/directors - the ability to do both is extremely rare.

Now, to some extent artists should be better at selling themselves - the artist/musician/filmmaker who's so talented that they shouldn't have to deal with the filthy world of business is a rare special snowflake indeed, and anyone that talented is usually spotted early and already has a manager and an agent. But as i said the other day, the ups and downs of artists within the creative industries do not justify the systematic infringement upon their copyright by people who choose to disregard the artists' own decisions about how their work is distributed. Perhaps an artist who sells their work could indeed do better by giving it away, but that's not the consumer's decision to make on the artist's behalf.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


A basic problem here (with Techdirt) is that they tend to treat artists like Coulton as the median rather than the extreme outlier he is

Their premise is that artists should emulate successful artists.

I fail to see how that's a problem.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


As others pointed out above, many of the people who first hear small-artist tracks hear them via unauthorized means, including BitTorrent and MegaUpload. If even one of those people goes on to buy a record from the same artist via iTunes, that's $7 gross thanks to BitTorrent and MegaUpload, not $0.00.

That supposes a first encounter is the only possible encounter. In reality, someone might just as easily discover music through YouTube or one of the numerous other free/cheap vectors. Leaving aside the question of payment entirely, one major disadvantage of unauthorized filesharing is that the artist doesn't even get any feedback about who's listening, whereas free-to-listen services provide useful analytics that enable the creator to identify and connect with fans.

If you put your tune up on YouTube or the Free Music Archive or wherever and discover that it's insanely popular in South Korea for some reason, then you can leverage your developing fanbase there - set up a page in Korean, play a live show there, or whatever. If your stuff gets downloaded a lot from Rapidshare or somesuch, getting hold of that information can be a lot more difficult.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:39 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Their premise is that artists should emulate successful artists.

I fail to see how that's a problem.


You're equating the normative with the descriptive.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:40 PM on June 26, 2012


...or put another way, why doesn't the same argument apply to all the unsuccessful bands under the traditional model? If they didn't make any money, it could be argued that it's because they failed to emulate the successful acts sufficiently well. Masnick is using one approach to undermine the arguments for the traditional model, and then the other approach to prop up his preferred one, which is either slightly deceptive (if you don't like him) or a symptom of his woolly thinking (if you do).
posted by anigbrowl at 12:42 PM on June 26, 2012


You're equating the normative with the descriptive.

I think the reverse, actually. There's nothing descriptive about saying "This guy is making mad cash! Maybe you should do that too!"
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2012


Yes, that's normative. But Masnick is presenting Coulton's case as descriptive whenever it suits him to do so.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:46 PM on June 26, 2012


Not really. He also cites Amanda Palmer, Dan Bull, etc. And they all have somewhat different business models. His point is essentially "Do what works. Don't bitch about what doesn't."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2012


Yes, but I could cite rich bands on conventional labels as 'proof' that the old model works. I don't think you understand the point I'm making here, but it isn't all that important.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:56 PM on June 26, 2012


Well, I do want to understand the point you're making.

But, citing bands that were successful under the old model is like polling the 1% about corporate capitalism.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:02 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


So is citing bands that are successful under the new model, absent evidence that this outcome is significantly more common.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:07 PM on June 26, 2012


Fair point. But recent successful acts are likely better models for newcomers than older ones.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:10 PM on June 26, 2012


Or to put it another way, whenever data come in showing that it's quite difficult for recording artists to get a toehold in the new economy, writers at Techdirt tend to respond with handwavey exhortations to economic bootstrapping. Now I'm an economics-loving guy myself, but it's a fact that organic growth is a lot slower than that which can be achieved with an initial injection of capital, which is what the labels provide (by capital I mean not just money, but marketing and organizational expertise too). Unchecked, piracy arguably threatens the return on that capital (making investment less likely) and/or slows organic growth.

That's why I keep citing the existence of free and very comprehensive music discovery services like Youtube etc. The artist gets a significant informational benefit (about listening patterns) which offsets the low revenue to some degree, and which isn't available from unauthorized filesharing vectors. I don't agree with the argument that recorded music is worthless (because its so common) and that one should look to touring or merchandising for all income. Not all musicians are cut out for touring or have the ability/expertise to work that way, and many other kinds of art aren't suitable for touring (eg you can't really replace lost movie revenue with live theater performances). Merchandise is ancillary to the art, and I think that people who choose to sell their recorded music (or whatever) as their primary source of revenue are entitled to have decision respected, whether or not we as consumers consider it optimal. In other words, if Herman the Hermit refuses to leave his cave and wants to sell only CDs and not t-shirts of runny hats, that's his choice and my choice is to by the CD or go without. To grab an unauthorized copy because I think Herman's approach to the music business is foolish is a selfish decision, because Herman has no obligation towards me as a consumer but is entitled to the protection of the law as it currently stands, whether or not I think that law is good policy.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2012


Metafilter: t-shirts of runny hats
posted by anigbrowl at 1:19 PM on June 26, 2012


That supposes a first encounter is the only possible encounter. In reality, someone might just as easily discover music through YouTube or one of the numerous other free/cheap vectors. Leaving aside the question of payment entirely, one major disadvantage of unauthorized filesharing is that the artist doesn't even get any feedback about who's listening, whereas free-to-listen services provide useful analytics that enable the creator to identify and connect with fans.

Most of the music on Youtube is just as unauthorized as the music on BitTorrent or MegaUpload, which is why I specified "hear[ing] them via unauthorized means", including (but not limited to) BitTorrent and MegaUpload. And yes, you can get feedback if you put your own song up on Youtube, but if you put it on a download site like MediaFire you can also get feedback regarding number of plays -- and their pro accounts offer far more detailed stats than Youtube does.
posted by vorfeed at 1:21 PM on June 26, 2012


Yes, but the difference is that sending a DMCA request to Youtube is trivially easy, compared to getting your stuff out of the torrents. Also, a Mediafire Pro account costs about $85/year, compared to being free on YouTube. As I said above, and am not going to repeat again, the issue is not what you ro I think is optimal, it's what choices are available to the creator of the work. Unauthorized filesharing is at odds with the creator's control over their own output, even if it might actually make more economic sense for the creator in question than limiting distribution to authorized channels. That's the creator's choice to make, regardless of wheter the consumer finds it convenient or sensible.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2012


BTW not to run out on you guys or anything, but I really can't spare any more time on this thread, and I'm repeating myself somewhat at this point.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2012


anigbrowl: Thanks for continuing the discussion! Just one note: Marketing and promotion is only part of the value of a major label contract. The services a major label provides include:

1) Marketing: This means not just advertising, but also securing radio play, which is very hard to do absent personal connections and we-mustn't-call-it-payola, and getting your music reviewed in the big-time outlets (People, Entertainment Weekly, etc)
2) Distribution: Not just getting your songs and CDs onto iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy, etc., but also getting prominent placement in those outlets
3) Tour support: This is huge, and is even bigger now that touring revenue is so important. Major labels can get you booked at much larger venues, can get you sweetheart deals on better lodging and transportation (a very big deal for any musician over 25, or with health problems), and can send the lawyers out if the venue or the promoter tries to rip you off, as they so often do
4) International marketing and distribution: I separate this from 1 and 2 because it's a whole other level of complexity, and often incredibly important (jazz artists, for example, pretty much survive on European and Japanese tours, which are very hard to book if you don't speak the languages).
5) Merchandising: Majors usually have preexisting arrangements with merchandise manufacturers, which can be both cost-effective and way easier than shopping it yourself
6) Corporate and B2B sales: This is *huge* in the post-piracy world, and very much controlled by the majors. If you want your song in an Apple ad, or a movie soundtrack, or any of the other opportunities for ancillary revenue, major labels are the ones who can make it happen

You'll note that 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are all things that are very big deals now that actual music sales revenue has shrunk. That's why the promise that piracy would kill the majors has been so terribly wrong.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:13 PM on June 26, 2012


The creator doesn't have control over their own output, and they never did -- not in the days of mixtapes and taping from the radio, not in the days of unauthorized sheet music, and not today. No amount of "choices" will change the fact that music (and all art which is shared with others) involves a two-way relationship between the artist and the audience, not a one-way transfer mediated solely by what the artist wants to happen.

Citing Youtube as a positive free music distribution channel is a perfect example: it got that way because fans used it that way, not because artists did. Videos which contain unauthorized audio/video are still incredibly common on Youtube, and authorized videos are still being pirated through Youtube downloaders (which may actually be one of the most common forms of piracy among teens right now). You can't have your free-distribution cake and eat it, too -- either unauthorized distribution is inherently bad, in which case all forms and forums of unauthorized distribution are bad, or we can start discussing what unauthorized distribution actually does for and to artists, in which case the choices of the artist aren't the only consideration.
posted by vorfeed at 2:15 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


whenever data come in showing that it's quite difficult for recording artists to get a toehold in the new economy, writers at Techdirt tend to respond with handwavey exhortations to economic bootstrapping.

[Citation Needed]
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:07 PM on June 26, 2012


But, citing bands that were successful under the old model is like polling the 1% about corporate capitalism.

So is citing bands that are successful under the new model, absent evidence that this outcome is significantly more common.


It's almost as if the vast majority of musicians have toiled in unpaid obscurity since the dawn of time...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:24 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, anigbrowl, thanks for noting what I'd missed: that Techdirt isolated "band royalties" from songwriting royalties (and presumably publishing royalties). That's just blatantly deceptive---everyone knows that songwriting/publishing royalties are where the band money comes from. Eliminating that from your numbers suggests an absolutely positive intent to trick your readers.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:12 AM on June 27, 2012


How Big Music Threatened Startups and Killed Innovation: An unprecedented new report has detailed how the destruction of Napster chilled a decade’s worth of innovation in the music industry. Through interviews with 31 CEOs, company founders, and VPs who operated in digital music during the period, we hear how Big Music collapsed startups, turned down ‘blank check’ deals, and personally threatened innovators with ruination for both them and their families.
posted by homunculus at 11:18 AM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


That Michael A. Carrier survey (that homunculus references ^^^^^) probably deserves its own post. But I ain't a making it...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:34 PM on July 10, 2012


Lamar Smith Looking To Sneak Through SOPA In Bits & Pieces, Starting With Expanding Hollywood's Global Police Force
posted by homunculus at 5:33 PM on July 10, 2012


Amanda Palmer is making money. So is Jonathan Coulton. MCs Lars, Frontalot, and chris are too.

Speaking of AFP, here's her new video: Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra - Want It Back (Uncensored | NSFW)
posted by homunculus at 5:58 PM on July 10, 2012


That's the creator's choice to make, regardless of wheter the consumer finds it convenient or sensible.

No, actually, it really isn't, anigbrowl. It isn't under artists' control any more, and it never will be again. The genie is out of the bottle. Whether or not you think it should be otherwise, this is how it IS.

Any attempt to enforce your view of how things should be will have catastrophic social consequences. A war on unauthorized filesharing will be even less successful than the war on drugs, and cause far more grief in society than any possible benefit that could ever accrue.
posted by Malor at 2:16 AM on July 13, 2012


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