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She Don't Want To Change The World
September 22, 2009 9:07 AM   Subscribe

British pop star Lily Allen recently posted a Myspace blog entry explaining her view that file sharing is a disaster as it is making it harder and harder for new acts to emerge.

Now the BBC is reporting that she has started an anti-filesharing campaign blog called 'It's Not Alright'. Messages of support have been received there from other major label artists including Mark Ronson and James Blunt. Other messages entirely are appearing in the blog comments. Meanwhile, the UK Government is actively consulting on explicit anti-filesharing legislation including proposals to force ISPs to disconnect persistent offenders.
posted by motty (362 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
However, aside from the critique of Fiddy, the rest of the blog post – put there by Lilly herself – is someone else’s work. Arrr mateys, Long John Allen lifted the entire post from another site – Techdirt.com – effectively pirating the work of the one and only Mike Masnick.
(Via)
posted by rokusan at 9:10 AM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


British pop star Lily Allen recently posted a Myspace blog entry explaining her view that file sharing is a disaster

It takes one to know one.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:10 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


You don't start out in music with the Ferraris. Instead you get a huge debt from your record company, which you spend years working your arse off to repay. When you manage to get a contract, all those pretty videos and posters advertising your album have to be paid for and as the artist, you have to pay for them. I've only just finished paying off all the money I owe my record company. I'm lucky that I've been successful and managed to pay it back, but not everyone's so lucky. You might not care about this, but the more difficult it is for new artists to make it, the less new artists you'll see and the more British music will be nothing but puppets paid for by Simon Cowell.

I agree with her, record companies are evil and we should support an alternative system such as direct-payment-to-artists and single-song-downloads oh wait
posted by DU at 9:10 AM on September 22, 2009 [66 favorites]


I have discovered approximately 3,451 new bands via filesharing that there is no way in hell I would have ever heard of, let alone listened to, without.

As a result of this, I have even (gasp!) purchased other work by these bands, and spend actual money seeking out and attending live performances by said artists.
posted by rokusan at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2009 [22 favorites]


I would like for people to not start the age-old filesharing arguments without reading Lily's blog post, as her stance isn't textbook.
posted by flatluigi at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


"It's Not Alright" with me that Lily Allen insists on using "alright."
posted by oinopaponton at 9:13 AM on September 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


That would explain the dearth of interesting new music these days.
posted by molecicco at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


All right, I have decided not to download any files from Lilly Allen. She wins.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:17 AM on September 22, 2009 [16 favorites]


I would like for people to not start the age-old filesharing arguments without reading Lily's blog post, as her stance isn't textbook.

Since her stance is apparently also plagiarized, I'm not going to bother.
posted by graventy at 9:17 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Case in point: I agree with her, record companies are evil and we should support an alternative system such as direct-payment-to-artists and single-song-downloads oh wait -- DU

Here's the end to her post:

If this sounds like I'm siding with the record bosses, I'm not. They've been naive and complacent about new technology - and they've spent all the money they've earned on their own fat salaries not industry development. But as they start to lose big from piracy, they're not slashing their salaries - they're pulling what they invest in A&R. Lack of funds results in A&R people not being able to take risks and only signing acts they think will work, which again makes British music Cowell puppets.
Is this the way we want British music to go? Now, obviously I'm going to benefit from fighting piracy, but I think without fighting it, British music is going to suffer.

I don't think what's out there is perfect. It's stupid that kids can't buy anything on the internet without credit, forcing them to steal Mum's credit card or download illegally. It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing. I'm off to South America on tour today, but i'm going to be writing British artists, saying just this.

File sharing's not okay for British music. We need to find new ways to help consumers access and buy music legally, but saying file sharing's fine is not helping anyone - and definitely not helping British music. I want to get people working together to use new digital opportunities to encourage new artists.

posted by flatluigi at 9:17 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Music is a service not a product.
posted by j.effingham.bellweather at 9:18 AM on September 22, 2009 [12 favorites]


tl;dr you're sarcastically 'agreeing' with her even though she's putting forth your opinion
posted by flatluigi at 9:18 AM on September 22, 2009


Well, she certainly seems [nsfw] like an expert on the complex issues gathered at the intersection of copyright law and technology and their economic impact on a diverse and wide-ranging assortment of artists and corporate entities.
posted by dersins at 9:18 AM on September 22, 2009


I'm having a hard time getting worked up about Lily and British music's "plight". This is always worth a revisit.
posted by josher71 at 9:19 AM on September 22, 2009 [17 favorites]


That's the posh white girl who puts on the fake Jamaican accent and raps about gangs and knife crime and "street knowledge", right?

Good to see you're keepin' it real, Lily. Word up.
posted by acb at 9:20 AM on September 22, 2009


Is this the way we want British music to go? Now, obviously I'm going to benefit from fighting piracy, but I think without fighting it, British music is going to suffer. ... File sharing's not okay for British music. We need to find new ways to help consumers access and buy music legally, but saying file sharing's fine is not helping anyone - and definitely not helping British music.

She's convinced me. From now on, I'll only pirate American music.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:20 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


graventy: Since her stance is apparently also plagiarized, I'm not going to bother.

Good for you, I'm glad you didn't read the article he linked or the blog post in question.
posted by flatluigi at 9:21 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


The old business model for music is dead. Thank god. Instead of 250 giant bands we will have 250,000 little bands which people can tell one another suck. Way better than the old days.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:21 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Flatluigi,

What are the points you think are different in this particular argument?
posted by josher71 at 9:22 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just love how the file-"sharers" here in Metafilter and elsewhere go "nah-nah-nah-nah-I-can't-hear-you-nah-nah-nah", anytime anyone bothers to point out that enjoying somebody else's work without permission or compensation may not be entirely ethical or beneficial for the general welfare.

So, Allen may be repeating somebody else's arguments? That doesn't mean she's wrong, and it isn't as if the "information should be free" people aren't themselves continuously parroting slogans from their leaders. Pot, meet kettle.
posted by Skeptic at 9:23 AM on September 22, 2009 [17 favorites]


Her stance is actually dumber than textbook.
Now, obviously I'm going to benefit from fighting piracy...
I am not so convinced about that, myself.
posted by rokusan at 9:26 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ethical or not, it is here to stay. It seems as though people are already trying many ways to monetize music in the new environment.
posted by josher71 at 9:27 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, Allen may be repeating somebody else's arguments?

Copy paste without attribution. It sort of sullies her as a messenger of copyright respect, I think.
posted by rokusan at 9:27 AM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


When it comes to file sharing, at first, I feel bad for a while, then I just smile.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:28 AM on September 22, 2009 [16 favorites]


people aren't themselves continuously parroting slogans from their leaders

Parroting isn't theft!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:29 AM on September 22, 2009 [12 favorites]


Don't most artists make the bulk of their revenue through touring? I would think pirating would increase this revenue. The more people know who you are, the more likely they are going to want to see you live.

And, really, when was the last time you bought a CD without hearing at least part of it first? Perhaps Lily would be spending her time better by railing on the current state of commercial radio.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, here's the deal. The story of commerce has been a competition among providers to excel at bringing that the fruits of Producers to Consumers. The providers that have been successful have profited, and the providers that have blundered have failed.

There was a time when merchants acquired goods and you paid a premium to get those goods because you had neither the time nor the means to acquire them independently. When merchants actually rode camels to China, you were paying for their time and travel.

More recently, merchants were glorified stockboys, serving as the clearinghouse for various producers in a particular location. Some merchants excelled and overtook others. Sam Walton eventually out-performed every Five and Dime in town. Then it outperformed K-Mart. Now we have the global force that is Wal-Mart. If someone devises a better system, then Wal-Mart, too, will crumble.

It just so happens that the entire superstructure of the music industry is antiquated. There was absolutely a time when my access to emerging artists was sufficiently limited that someone needed to "discover" them for me. The reach of those experts was limited sufficiently to necessitate on-air personalities, whom people trusted to bring them the latest and greatest. Now, with the exception of programs like Reg's Coffee House , most radio is just a relic of a by-gone era.

No one wants to pay all of the ridiculous middle-men for content anymore. This is not about theft of intellectual property. It is about efficiency in systems. Any system always prefers the most efficient route.
posted by jefficator at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2009 [28 favorites]


I'm pretty sure things that are making it most difficult for new artists to break are media consolidationg (ClearChannel, Viacom, I'm looking at you) and the death of the longform album.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:31 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Consolidation, even.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:32 AM on September 22, 2009


That's the posh white girl who puts on the fake Jamaican accent and raps about gangs and knife crime and "street knowledge", right?

Um, no. I mean, maybe she's done a Jamaican accent in a song or something, I'm not an expert, but the above is a pretty poor description of Lilly Allen.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:33 AM on September 22, 2009


I would like for people to not start the age-old filesharing arguments without reading Lily's blog post, as her stance isn't textbook.
posted by flatluigi at 12:11 PM


Really? I just read it, and it seemed pretty damn textbook to me, if perhaps a little more incoherent than most. Let's take it apart together!

I havent written on here for a while but I've taken the time to write this as I think music piracy is having a dangerous effect on British music, but some really rich and successful artists like Nick Mason from Pink Floyd and Ed O'Brien from Radiohead don't seem to think so. Last week in an article in the Times these guys from huge bands said file sharing music is fine. It probably is fine for them. They do sell-out arena tours and have the biggest Ferrari collections in the world. For new talent though, file sharing is a disaster as it's making it harder and harder for new acts to emerge.


So she talks about how file sharing is "fine" without defining any of what she perceives as its benefits for larger bands, and then says it makes it harder for new acts to emerge. Surely she will support that MASSIVE premise with some reasoning, right?

Mix tapes were rubbish quality - you bought the real music, because you liked the track and wanted to hear it without the DJ cutting off the end of each song. In digital land pirated tracks are as good quality as bought tracks, so there's not a need to buy for better quality.


Mix tapes were pretty bad quality. And nowadays, digital ones are better. So yeah, if you download all your music illegally, you do not have a quality incentive to go buy the album. Unless you get a shitty mp3. Or a torrent with a virus bundled. Or a bunch of crap drm. Or you CD booklets.

The Featured Artist Coalition also says file sharing's fine because it "means a new generation of fans for us". This is great if you're a big artist at the back end of your career with loads of albums to flog to a new audience, but emerging artists don't have this luxury. Basically the FAC is saying 'we're alright, we've made it, so file sharing's fine', which is just so unfair to new acts trying to make it in the industry.


Yeah, this is pretty crap. It means a new generation of fans for everyone, because digital music, filesharing, and yes piracy is how the newest generation of music listeners finds music. Not just the big guys. She's somehow conflating the idea of "wanting new fans" to "we made it, fuck you" to everyone else. Surely she realizes that open access to digital music means the massive supergroups are unable to monopolize the ears of every kid out there?

You don't start out in music with the Ferraris. Instead you get a huge debt from your record company, which you spend years working your arse off to repay. When you manage to get a contract, all those pretty videos and posters advertising your album have to be paid for and as the artist, you have to pay for them. I've only just finished paying off all the money I owe my record company. I'm lucky that I've been successful and managed to pay it back, but not everyone's so lucky. You might not care about this, but the more difficult it is for new artists to make it, the less new artists you'll see and the more British music will be nothing but puppets paid for by Simon Cowell.


Wow, you're right about that! The old standard of music industry contracts really sucks! So why on earth are you defending it, instead of recognizing that a paradigm shift is occuring? Keep propping up those inflated record companies!

And it's not like there aren't alternatives to illegal downloads anyway. Sites like Spotify give us access to new music and different music without having to rip someone off - you can listen to tracks and see if you like them before you buy them. Then obviously there's MySpace, that streams music and helps acts like me get enough fans to convince record companies to sign us up.

We know there are alternatives. You've been telling us this all along. Does she really think that it is difficult to log onto her MySpace, load up Orbit, and snag the streaming tracks?

She says that people streaming her music = more fans = record company contracts. Why on earth would that not mean that people downloading her music = more fans = record company contracts? I will tell you. Because in her mind, and that of the old greedy fucking record company, you can only be a REAL FAN if you buy the record and the t-shirt and the bumper sticker and the keychain and the marshmallows.

Newsflash: We can be fans of a band without pumping money into your record company. We might even buy a ticket to your show as a result of stealing your music. The time's are a changing.

If this sounds like I'm siding with the record bosses, I'm not. They've been naive and complacent about new technology - and they've spent all the money they've earned on their own fat salaries not industry development. But as they start to lose big from piracy, they're not slashing their salaries - they're pulling what they invest in A&R. Lack of funds results in A&R people not being able to take risks and only signing acts they think will work, which again makes British music Cowell puppets.
Is this the way we want British music to go? Now, obviously I'm going to benefit from fighting piracy, but I think without fighting it, British music is going to suffer.


It sounds to me like you want it both ways. You don't like the "players" in the record industry, but you want to keep the business model. How the fuck does that work? The reason the players suck and are assholes is because the business model sucks and is geared towards being an asshole. And A&R budgets? This is your lynchpin? Seriously?

Make a quality product with a home studio for less than a few grand. Don't go into massive debt. Upload a video of it, and if it's good enough you might get a few hundred thousand views and enough attention to keep going. But sitting there and whining about the A&R budgets being slashed by record companies you purport to dislike which prevents the old business model you are relying on to eventually, one day, get a fucking Ferrari is both disingenuous and a little assholish.

I don't think what's out there is perfect. It's stupid that kids can't buy anything on the internet without credit, forcing them to steal Mum's credit card or download illegally. It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing. I'm off to South America on tour today, but i'm going to be writing British artists, saying just this.

The only quasi-original point in the whole damn post is the kids and credit issue. Kudos. Let's think of some way that we can possibly connect e-commerce directly to a bank account in which you can put cash. Hmmm. We could call it PalPay!

And with that, she's off to tour South America. I hope she can scrape by down there as an emerging artist, and I sure hope all her poor fans from around the world can save for a month to scrape up the cash to buy her record. Pff.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:33 AM on September 22, 2009 [24 favorites]


josher71: Flatluigi,

What are the points you think are different in this particular argument?


Instead of the 'rargh filesharing bad pay for our overpriced music' strawman most people argue against, her points are thus:

1. Emerging artists need money or they won't survive, barring breakout artists.
The Featured Artist Coalition also says file sharing's fine because it "means a new generation of fans for us". This is great if you're a big artist at the back end of your career with loads of albums to flog to a new audience, but emerging artists don't have this luxury. Basically the FAC is saying 'we're alright, we've made it, so file sharing's fine', which is just so unfair to new acts trying to make it in the industry.
You don't start out in music with the Ferraris. Instead you get a huge debt from your record company, which you spend years working your arse off to repay. When you manage to get a contract, all those pretty videos and posters advertising your album have to be paid for and as the artist, you have to pay for them. I've only just finished paying off all the money I owe my record company. I'm lucky that I've been successful and managed to pay it back, but not everyone's so lucky."
2. There are free alternatives to illegal downloading that support the artists.
And it's not like there aren't alternatives to illegal downloads anyway. Sites like Spotify give us access to new music and different music without having to rip someone off - you can listen to tracks and see if you like them before you buy them. Then obviously there's MySpace, that streams music and helps acts like me get enough fans to convince record companies to sign us up.
3. To make money, record companies will shoot for artists they believe will make money instead of taking risks
If this sounds like I'm siding with the record bosses, I'm not. They've been naive and complacent about new technology - and they've spent all the money they've earned on their own fat salaries not industry development. But as they start to lose big from piracy, they're not slashing their salaries - they're pulling what they invest in A&R. Lack of funds results in A&R people not being able to take risks and only signing acts they think will work, which again makes British music Cowell puppets.
Is this the way we want British music to go? Now, obviously I'm going to benefit from fighting piracy, but I think without fighting it, British music is going to suffer.
4. So, we need to strive for alternatives that stay free and support the artists.
I don't think what's out there is perfect. It's stupid that kids can't buy anything on the internet without credit, forcing them to steal Mum's credit card or download illegally. It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing. I'm off to South America on tour today, but i'm going to be writing British artists, saying just this.
File sharing's not okay for British music. We need to find new ways to help consumers access and buy music legally, but saying file sharing's fine is not helping anyone - and definitely not helping British music. I want to get people working together to use new digital opportunities to encourage new artists.
This is obviously a different and (in my humble opinion) reasonable stance and doesn't warrant the same old arguments and comments.
posted by flatluigi at 9:33 AM on September 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


You don't start out in music with the Ferraris. Instead you get a huge debt from your record company, which you spend years working your arse off to repay.

Yeah, it really, really sucks when they hold that gun to your head and make you sign that contract.

I mean, the barrel of the gun is still warm from when they shot the guy ahead of you in line and shit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:33 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


I would like for people to not start the age-old filesharing arguments without reading Lily's blog post, as her stance isn't textbook.

No, but it's still an odd one coming from someone who launched their career by giving away unlimited free downloads of songs online. She would seem to be embody her own counterexample to some degree, though she frames that as promotion prior to really being in the music industry. And it's no less indebted to the idea that music has to be consumption driven by companies that have a disproportionate share of the resources needed to produce replayable copies of particular recordings. And that the business model that grew out of a particular version of that technology that made a lot of money for some people (though probably not the ones people assume) is the ideal form in which people would produce and consume music, rather than a phase in the larger history of technology.

The reason I really don't buy her case is that it still imports the worst assumption - that we face a stark choice between hurting people who make music OR supporting an economic practice that amounts to debt peonage to enter a lottery. I can and do support artists I love and have made and released music of my own in the past; I just see no reason that a third party (a record company that artists do not owne) has to be involved.
posted by el_lupino at 9:36 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Copy paste without attribution. It sort of sullies her as a messenger of copyright respect, I think.

rokusan, even if she had attributed it, it would still have been copyright infringement...hadn't Resnick snarked that he's cool with it.

Still, I agree that Allen may not be the most coherent advocate the copyright owners may have wished for themselves, what about addressing her point?
posted by Skeptic at 9:37 AM on September 22, 2009


And it's not like there aren't alternatives to illegal downloads anyway. Sites like Spotify give us access to new music and different music without having to rip someone off

Spotify availability (dark green: Free and Premium; light green: Only Premium) - for the rest of us? Oh right, MySpace.

What's her stance on the plethora of blogs that host (or link to) music files, or whole albums?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:38 AM on September 22, 2009


Lily Allen's anti-piracy blog itself rips off other blog's copyrighted content ooops
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:38 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: Spotify availability (dark green: Free and Premium; light green: Only Premium) - for the rest of us? Oh right, MySpace.

It's lucky then that she's talking specifically about British artists and consumers, then.
posted by flatluigi at 9:40 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, Lily Allen raps about knife fights? I don't know why, but I was under the impression that she sang pop songs about, y'know, boyfriends and celebrity and shit.

From el lupino's Wikipedia link: "Allen also produced two mixtapes — My First Mixtape and My Second Mixtape — to promote her work: they included tracks by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dizzee Rascal, and Ludacris."

I'm a little bit confused, honestly, about how she can disagree with 50 Cent about the role that mixtapes play in a modern marketing strategy. I'm also fully confident that she paid the full royalty amounts to Luda and Fogerty.
posted by box at 9:43 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


el_lupino: "it's still an odd one coming from someone who launched their career by giving away unlimited free downloads of songs online"

And not just her own songs!

Allen created an account on MySpace and began posting demos in November 2005. ... Allen also produced two mixtapes — My First Mixtape and My Second Mixtape — to promote her work: they included tracks by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dizzee Rascal, and Ludacris.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:44 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


1. Emerging artists need money or they won't survive, barring breakout artists.

Emerging artists need to make money from a business model other than bullshit old-guard record industry. Maybe some sort of interweb based tubal delivery.

2. There are free alternatives to illegal downloading that support the artists.

It seems pretty clear that to her, free = not supporting the artist. If you can figure out a way that ain't happening, I'm all ears. Otherwise, piracy would be supporting the artist.

3. To make money, record companies will shoot for artists they believe will make money instead of taking risks

Yes. Record companies suck. She has convinced me even more. So why is she deadset on working with them?

4. So, we need to strive for alternatives that stay free and support the artists.

I don't think she said a damn word about free. Alternatives sure. Support? She is subtly equating payment as the only metric for "fandom" which gets her in good with record companies throughout the whole article. Shit, in the paragraph you quoted for this one:

We need to find new ways to help consumers access and buy music legally...

I think you are being way too gracious in translating what you think she's saying into rational speech. The whole thing reads like this to me:


Big bands suck, amirite? They think cuz they made it and have like all these badass cars that ppl should be able to download music for free cuz they already have a ton of money but I don't yet so stop stealing my shit cause I want a Ferrari too. If u want to succeed today you need tons of ca$h to make it and we can't get no ca$H without bigass contracts and lots of album sales so pony up. But really its all about people still getting mad ca$h just not the people I think are kewl enough to get it cuz they are pop robots and it should go to me instead. There's lots of options out thar for u all to use to listen and get a taste but cmon I need cash. So ya plz don't donwload my shit anymore. BRB going to South America for a tour. LOL
posted by lazaruslong at 9:44 AM on September 22, 2009 [13 favorites]


missed it by that much...
posted by Joe Beese at 9:45 AM on September 22, 2009


It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing.

And the result of that discussion should be what exactly? All of these stakeholders have wildly different goals and priorities in the current situation, and it's not at all obvious that they would come up with a realistic plan to change the status quo.

Record companies are trying to hold on to their manufacturing and distribution oligopoly, because they know that barrier to competition is crucial to their profits and business model. Artists want creative control over their music, but also want a platform to get their music promoted and sold to a wide audience. Broadband providers want to hold onto their communication oligopoly, and don't want to ban huge numbers of their paying customers. The government wants to keep all of the businesses involved happy, as well as their voting constituents, while at the same time not spending a lot of money or doing anything that makes them look bad. Consumers want to buy music conveniently in a format that they can use, without needing to deal with DRM. And file sharers want to share whatever they want, and are able to circumvent pretty much any technological copy protection scheme that is introduced.

All of that doesn't really add up to any solution that will make everyone happy as far as I can tell.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:46 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Spotify availability - for the rest of us? Oh right, MySpace.

I'm waiting for Spotify too. But in the meantime, I recommend looking into Lala. Over the past few weeks it's been entirely changing the way I listen to music. Why take a few minutes to locate and download an album I'm curious about, when I can take a few seconds to stream it immediately (in fairly decent quality)? Not to mention the selection is pretty decent. Yesterday I was listening exclusively to noise artists. And the social networking aspect works - music nerd friends recommend new obscure stuff, which I then listen to without hassle. (Sorry if this sounds like a sales pitch, I'm just enthusiastic.)
posted by naju at 9:47 AM on September 22, 2009


And file sharers want to sharetake whatever they want, and are able to circumvent pretty much any technological copy protection scheme that is introduced.

FTFY
posted by Skeptic at 9:48 AM on September 22, 2009


You know what the best part of the industry change is? The death of bad pop.

Bad pop relies exclusively on the image. The music is an afterthought. It will die. And I am glad.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:50 AM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing.

See, that's just ridiculous. If her genuine concern is that young people can't buy music without credit cards (and that is one of the half-points in her tangled up mess) then you don't need any of those four parties to fix it... and I can't believe for a second that any of those parties would make anything "simpler."

If that's what you want, encourage Paypal or some other payment processor to accept and advocate mailed-in money orders or in-person deposits at banks or other specific places. Done. Solved.
posted by rokusan at 9:51 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's the posh white girl who puts on the fake Jamaican accent and raps about gangs and knife crime and "street knowledge", right?

singing is acting, it's normal to use different accents and sing about things outside of your life.
posted by bhnyc at 9:51 AM on September 22, 2009


It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing.

note how the average person isn't invited to sit down at the table
posted by pyramid termite at 9:52 AM on September 22, 2009 [11 favorites]


lazaruslong: The whole thing reads like this to me:

Big bands suck, amirite? They think cuz they made it and have like all these badass cars that ppl should be able to download music for free cuz they already have a ton of money but I don't yet so stop stealing my shit cause I want a Ferrari too. If u want to succeed today you need tons of ca$h to make it and we can't get no ca$H without bigass contracts and lots of album sales so pony up. But really its all about people still getting mad ca$h just not the people I think are kewl enough to get it cuz they are pop robots and it should go to me instead. There's lots of options out thar for u all to use to listen and get a taste but cmon I need cash. So ya plz don't donwload my shit anymore. BRB going to South America for a tour. LOL


You're obviously too biased to read the article and see her side as anything beyond 'I am a popular artist therefore I am a moneygrubber and can do no good.'
posted by flatluigi at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The common factor between Mark Ronson, Lily Allen, and James Blunt is mediocre music. This, as much as anything, is what's killing the big labels.
posted by Cheesoning at 9:54 AM on September 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing.

note how the average person isn't invited to sit down at the table
posted by pyramid termite at 12:52 PM



You are completely on the nose. This one sentence illustrates the entire problem with her train of thought. She pays lipservice to new ideas while really reinforcing the old business model with the old beneficiaries without a coherent thought as to why things are changing and how to change with it.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:54 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


pyramid termite: It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing.

note how the average person isn't invited to sit down at the table


The average person doesn't have any control over how music is distributed and sold
posted by flatluigi at 9:54 AM on September 22, 2009


Flatluigi: No, I'm really not. That's why I typed out a few hundred words before I reduced her argument down. If you'd like to debate it point by point, I'm for it. As I have already illustrated.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:55 AM on September 22, 2009


The average person doesn't have any control over how music is distributed and sold
posted by flatluigi at 12:54 PM


What? We have complete control over how it is distributed and sold. That's the whole point. They don't have that power anymore. That's what piracy is.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:56 AM on September 22, 2009 [16 favorites]


1. Emerging artists need money or they won't survive, barring breakout artists.

I make original music. I have a band. I am still alive. That is because I have a job.

These people want to be famous and rich. They are upset that illegal downloaders are interefering with their desires to be famous and rich. It has nothing to do with the music per se. To them, making music is only worthwhile if people are paying them for it and many people are telling them they are great musicians.

I just like making the music. If I didn't, I would stop.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 AM on September 22, 2009 [39 favorites]


lazaruslong:
What? We have complete control over how it is distributed and sold. That's the whole point. They don't have that power anymore. That's what piracy is.


Piracy isn't control over distribution and sales. It's circumventing distribution and sales.
posted by flatluigi at 10:01 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


bhnyc: "singing blackface is acting, it's normal to use different accents facial pigments and sing about things outside of your life race."

See the problem?
posted by Joe Beese at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


AMEN, IRONMOUTH! I make music in my spare time too. Money has never motivated that desire, EVER.

You don't get to blame file sharing just because you tried to make crappy pop music and it wasn't the kind of crappy pop music the Executives wanted on that day.

Seriously, living in San Francisco I have to say the music scene is expanding at a phenomenal rate here. There are new acts constantly popping up, and they're GOOD and DIFFERENT than all the crap you hear on the radio. After living in the suburbs of Chicago for 20+ years I had no idea there was any market for non-mainstream music - I believed whatever the radio told me about "popular music".

There are at least 20-25 shows I've seen in the last year ONLY because I had the chance to download free copies of the music and try it out. Repeat: I NEVER would have seen these bands live (and paid them money) if it wasn't for free "illegal" internet music.

I follow up by purchasing the albums of the groups I really want to support.

Young, intrepid, artists are taking matters into their own hands and going on tour to let their fans decide whats good, LIVE AND IN PERSON. A contracted musician in a studio can never touch that. That is why the RIAA thinks music is dying when its really being reborn in a huge way.
posted by cbecker333 at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


The average person doesn't have any control over how music is distributed and sold

On the other hand, the average person has complete control over how music is bought.

This has earned us a place at the table-- a place "they" won't let us sit down at. Piracy and file-sharing are our way of sitting down anyway.
posted by dersins at 10:03 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


I make original music. I have a band. I am still alive. That is because I have a job.

These people want to be famous and rich.


Believe it or not there is a middle ground between having art be a hobby and desiring giant piles of cocaine and a mansion. I want the bands I love to be able to focus on their music. I'm not interested in telling Boards of Canada that they have to become a live act or get day jobs, so I'm going to buy their albums every chance I get.

Personally, I figure people are going to pirate and there's not much to do about it, but it's kind of like not voting. You lose the right to complain.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


My Dearest Ms. Allen,

Your concern for emerging artists is touching, and I'd like to speak on their behalf for a moment. I feel I'll be fairly accurately representing their feelings when I tell you that they're truly impressed by the devotion you've shown toward protecting their interests. They've become practically dizzy with anticipation for the kinds of things you intend to now do for them. Their thoughts spin with images of you taking your considerable fortune and using it to open a record label specifically to cater to emerging artists, or perhaps frequenting local clubs looking for new acts to tour with and to help promote. They think, perhaps, that since you're so interested in emerging artists you might do them the colossal favor of campaigning against the kind of empty worthless pap that is keeping them off the air by dominating radio stations and mtv 24 hours a day. In fact, one particular emerging artist believes that your recent myspace blog entry was meant to imply that you, yourself, will now stop releasing terrible music in order to make space for more deserving emergent talent like his.

If you're taking suggestions, and it is the firm belief of all emerging artists that you are, here is a list of recommendations from the emerging artists on what would really help them:

1. eliminating reality tv from supposedly music oriented cable stations.
2. you know what, just kill mtv. kill it dead. replace it with something better, more suited to developing emergent artists.
3. destroying the top heavy oppressive relationship between major labels and distributors in favor of supporting and promoting a direct-to-artist payment method that eliminates the middle men and puts more money directly into the artists' pockets.
4. touring smaller, more intimate local venues in order to boost their revenue so they can afford to more adequately pay emerging artists, and more often.
5. starting a blog that, instead of whining about piracy, focuses on spotlighting emerging artists so they can develop a fan base and perhaps a lucrative deal.
6. campaigning against corporations like ClearChannel, whose business practices stifle competition among radio stations and resultantly any demand for higher quality listening material.
7. lastly, and perhaps most importantly, fuck off with your whiny blog bullshit and stop trying to pretend like your money grubbing plea for attention has anything to do with helping anyone but yourself.

Sincerely,
shmegegge, self-appointed spokesperson for emerging artists
posted by shmegegge at 10:05 AM on September 22, 2009 [11 favorites]


You're obviously too biased to read the article and see her side as anything beyond 'I am a popular artist therefore I am a moneygrubber and can do no good.'

No. She demonstrates stupidity that has nothing to do with her popularity or alleged greed.
posted by rokusan at 10:06 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Piracy isn't control over distribution and sales. It's circumventing distribution and sales.
posted by flatluigi at 1:01 PM


And therefore, control. When someone else has control, and people figure out a way to make that obsolete, that control is lost. It is transferred to those who get around it.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:06 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


To be fair to Lily, she did post an apology for her uncredited use of Mike Masnick's blog post. (Via)

(Warning: do not click with mouthful of coffee.)
posted by motty at 10:07 AM on September 22, 2009


She lifted one of her anti-piracy blog posts wholesale from Techdirt and distributed a mixtape with other artists songs and now she babbling about how "file sharing is a disaster as it is making it harder and harder for new acts to emerge" Really? This is like someone advocating for renewable energy with a coal fired plant in their backyard.
posted by euphorb at 10:07 AM on September 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


Heh. Yeah. The "apology" further demonstrates the cluelessness.
posted by rokusan at 10:07 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't most artists make the bulk of their revenue through touring?

Not really. In the past, touring was considered a loss-leader even by the big labels--labels lost money on tours that they recouped through record sales and licensing. Touring was just a way to promote albums. There's been a lot of speculation about touring becoming the new revenue generator for artists, but except for the big mainstream ticket master acts, that never really happens. It's a lie. Touring is, in fact, a massive drain on most musician's personal resources. Especially when you factor in costs like radio and tour promotion, which a lot of independent artists foot the bill for themselves.

As an occasionally still active musician myself, who's shared bills with and hosted a lot of touring acts at his home (including some pretty well-known names), I can tell you with absolute certainty, the vast majority of bands don't really make a dime from touring. They're lucky if they break even. And this forces most touring artists to live their lives like traveling vagabonds with barely enough money for gas and a decent meal most days, and rarely any left over at the end of the tour. At which point they go back to their day jobs if they're lucky enough to still have them, or they do odd jobs, or live on credit for a while until the next tour gets underway.

Even many of the more obscure well-established artists are struggling these days. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least one major indie rock icon who had to stop taking his backing band on tour with him completely because he couldn't afford to pay them anymore.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:09 AM on September 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


Don't most artists make the bulk of their revenue through touring?

The wholesale theft by record companies and downloaders mean that, today, touring is often the bulk of artists' revenues - but this is an extremely undesirable outcome for the artists.

Unless you're at the top of your profession, touring means grueling travel, staying in miserable accommodations, eating bad food, taking ongoing risks with your gear and your person (note how many musicians have died in transportation accidents). And you can "only eat what you kill" - if something prevents you from touring, you don't eat.

It's hard to make a career this way. It makes having a home and family very difficult. There's a very good reason I see so many amazing bands pass through New York City once or twice and then break up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:09 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Well, she certainly seems [nsfw] like an expert on the complex issues gathered at the intersection of copyright law and technology and their economic impact on a diverse and wide-ranging assortment of artists and corporate entities.

Okay you posted a link to pictures of her topless at a waterpark. While I appreciate the link I don't see what exactly that has to do with anything. I'm sure Lawrence Lessig doesn't wear a shirt at the beach either. What does that have to do with her views on copyright?

While obviously I don't agree with her ironically plagiarized blog post, I don't think the fact that she like swimming without a top has anything to do with it.

Anyway, the idea that studio bosses should even exist is a huge problem with her argument. Why should they? Metric is a pretty popular band and they actually turned down a bunch of offers from record companies. The Internet, file sharing included, has cut out the middleman. Record companies aren't needed anymore.

And this argument is so retro, I mean, there was a fight and the record companies lost. File sharing isn't going to go away and trying to shame people isn't going to work.

Also, while there's no doubt that Lilly Allen is sugary pop, it's good for what it is, IMO.

Wait, Lily Allen raps about knife fights? I don't know why, but I was under the impression that she sang pop songs about, y'know, boyfriends and celebrity and shit.

Heh, not really but there was that one song
Everything seems to look as it should
But I wonder what goes on behind doors
A fella looking dapper, but he's sitting with a slapper
Then I see it's a pimp and his crack whore

You might laugh you might frown
Walkin' round London town
...
There was a little old lady, who was walking down the road
She was struggling with bags from Tesco
There were people from the city having lunch in the park
I believe that it's called al fresco
Then a kid came along to offer a hand

But before she had time to accept it
hits her over the head, doesn't care if she's dead
Cause he's got all her jewelery and wallet

You might laugh you might frown
walking round London town
...
When you look with your eyes
Everything seems nice
But if you look twice
You can see it's all lies
maybe acb was thinking of Lady Sovereign?
posted by delmoi at 10:11 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I make music. I love it when someone downloads my stuff. I make music because I love it, I love to share it and I need a creative outlet. If it allows me to survive month to month even better.

I have trouble sympathizing with products disguised as artists such as Lily Allen who serve as puppets for corporate greed. Creation is not their motivation. They sell products, not art.

Perhaps I love being surrounded by healthy people with a singular focus on creation, community and fun. Perhaps I'm sickened by the ethos that material goods are creation's reward. Regardless, Lily Allen needs to shut the fuck up and I'd appreciate it if she cleaned up all her horrible corporate graffiti that I used to always see around Brick Lane.

That's all.
posted by cloeburner at 10:11 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's this kind of thing that the record company bosses, artists, broadband providers and government should be sitting down and discussing.

Unless there's a bomb under the table, I can't see anything good coming out of that meeting.

So, either Allen is some sort of deep-cover agent for the violent revolutionary wing of the Pirate Party, or she's a fool who has no appreciation for the group screwjob that all of the invitees to her hypothetical meeting would like to do to the public.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Your arguments in favor of file-sharing might be right purely on principle, but that doesn't mean file-sharing doesn't or can't have negative consequences, such as discouraging the artists and severely undermining the recording arts as an artistic discipline.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:14 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I have an actual job - that's how musicians should pay their bills!" I love this argument. Why is it so outlandish that musicians should be able to make at least a humble living from their craft? Musicians: if you hold down a serious full-time job, how exactly do you go on tour? Or, if you chose a job like waiting tables so you can up and leave to go on tour - do you have enough money for gas? What about (for us Americans) health care? Also, in the new file-sharing economy you're expected to be your own word-of-mouth marketer, which can be a full-time job in itself. Best of luck!
posted by naju at 10:14 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


You don't start out in music with the Ferraris. Instead you get a huge debt from your record company, which you spend years working your arse off to repay. When you manage to get a contract, all those pretty videos and posters advertising your album have to be paid for and as the artist, you have to pay for them. I've only just finished paying off all the money I owe my record company.

I thought she paid it off selling ecstasy in Ibiza.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:14 AM on September 22, 2009


It would be nice if she were smarter and realised where the heart of the problem really lay. Then she might be trying to do the right thing. As it is she's hardly disagreeing with Mandelson's preposterous plans.
Sigh.
posted by opsin at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2009


saulgoodman: At the lower levels of the industry where I reside, the only bands I know who make money, make it by touring (fairly relentlessly).

At least three bands I know make enough money from touring their own idiosyncratic work and selling their CDs and merch to make it a significant portion of their income.

For example, Talibam! is touring Germany and Italy right now (and if you're anywhere around there, I urge you to see them, they're utterly deranged but very high-energy and musical) but look at this tour, the first 12 days are in 12 different cities! That's pretty hard-core and you'd have to be pretty young to be able to pull that off. The fact that they're a two-piece, and I assume they don't bring their own drums, so it's just a couple of keyboards they have to transport, doesn't hurt either.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:16 AM on September 22, 2009



Piracy isn't control over distribution and sales. It's circumventing distribution and sales.


Well, it may or may not be circumventing sales, but it's clearly not circumventing distribution. It's simply replacing your preferred form of distribution with another form of distribution.

You want to dictate the terms under which you'll sell me an item, but if I can get your item without agreeing to your terms, then what kind of control do you really have? You have zero control. Semantics, legality or even ethics if you prefer to make it a moral case won't change that fact.
posted by willnot at 10:17 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


If Lily Allen sees a way for teens to pay for stuff online without stealing Mum's credit card -- maybe dropping coins into a box attached to their PC? -- I wish she'd reveal it. All of Western Capitalism wishes she'd reveal it.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:18 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


I expected better from Metafilter than trying to destroy arguments with ad hominems. Disregarding the trashy "oh look she's topless" and "oh look she did cocaine," the argument 'how can you argue for anything other than the current system when you yourself make money from it' is barely a step above 'how can you argue for reducing carbon footprints when you yourself are made of carbon.'

Argue the points, not the person.
posted by flatluigi at 10:19 AM on September 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


Perhaps I love being surrounded by healthy people with a singular focus on creation, community and fun. Perhaps I'm sickened by the ethos that material goods are creation's reward.

cloeburner: are you making music that can compare to XTC's Big Express, or Skylarking, or the Beatles Sgt. Peppers, or Harry Nilsson's The Point, or any of the other albums produced by real, full-time recording artists with the resources and undivided attention to devote themselves fully to their craft?

I hope so. You and other community-oriented artists have got some big shoes to fill.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Lily wants to have a word with her dad -- see if he can't persuade his best mate to stop infringing other people's intellectual property.

Oh wait, it's OK for artists to do it. It's only worthy of legal action when teenagers do it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I have an actual job - that's how musicians should pay their bills!"

Hah. Dream on. All the bands I see touring at the lower levels are either rich white kids, or people who are very used to living on nothing at all and have a network of places to stay and underground clubs to play.

In the US, you get two weeks of vacation a year. These days, you're lucky to be working less than 50 hours a week - or you're working part-time and barely able to make ends meet.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:21 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Flatluigi: If you really can't be bothered to respond point by point and in depth to the actual arguments that myself and others have put forth (of course ignoring the random character attacks on Lily) then I don't know what else to tell you.

I'm not saying that she cannot argue against the system from within the system. I'm saying, in detail upthread, that her points amount to arguing for the preservation of the system itself, which she also is a part of.

I've been arguing the points the whole time, and you keep telling me I'm too biased or glib or whatever. That's fine if this isn't really a conversation you want to have, but don't dismiss rational response out of hand, please.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2009


You want to dictate the terms under which you'll sell me an item, but if I can get your item without agreeing to your terms, then what kind of control do you really have? You have zero control.

Why are you telling us this? Does anyone dispute this? The question is not whether piracy is possible - it is whether it is right.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2009


Your arguments in favor of file-sharing might be right purely on principle, but that doesn't mean file-sharing doesn't or can't have negative consequences, such as discouraging the artists and severely undermining the recording arts as an artistic discipline.

I am not discouraged by people illegally downloading. I do it because I love it. Most of the music we listen to today is descended from folk music people made in their homes. How, exactly, is a musician "discouraged" by having their work illegally downloaded? I fail to see how that process works.

DJ Shadow had it right. Why Hip Hop Sucks in '96. "Its the money"

Why must people make money to play music?
posted by Ironmouth at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


The sooner piracy kills off the music industry the sooner we can get musicians back to producing music the way it SHOULD be done; live, on a bar stool in an inn, while elves and dwarves drink ale and wait for the next brawl, and the mysterious stranger in a corner eyes potential adventurers....

What? It makes as much sense as Lily Allen's argument.
posted by happyroach at 10:23 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Why are you telling us this? Does anyone dispute this?

Yes.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:23 AM on September 22, 2009


saulgoodman: At the lower levels of the industry where I reside, the only bands I know who make money, make it by touring (fairly relentlessly).

lupus--oh yeah, most band I know do, too, but they don't make sustainable incomes. They don't have incomes from touring--the revenue is eaten up with costs, which just so happen to be there living expenses. Maybe they make enough to live hand to mouth (or as you put it, they get to eat what they kill), but unless they're touring relentlessly, they don't have any real disposable income. It's a really grimy, subsistence-level kind of existence that makes normal life impossible and really makes maintaining consistent, quality creative output challenging.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:25 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


The funny thing about file sharing is that it doesn't affect a person's income, so music lovers can spend all that money they're saving on cool stuff like concert tickets. The real problem is people have other things to spend their disposable income on, like video games. The decline in the music industry over the past decade lines up perfectly with the rise in the video game business.

So really, get mad at the video game players (or get in on the action, licensing your songs in video games). Those evil, terrible file sharers actually tend to be bigger music fans, and all the desperate flailing just makes people like Lily look ignorant.
posted by mullingitover at 10:26 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why must people make money to play music?

Why must people make money to be attorneys? Love of law and helping humanity should be more than enough compensation, right? What about doctors? Surely, actors should work just for the pleasure of it? And professional athletes? Teachers?

We should all be doing everything for free shouldn't we?

But then, oh yeah: bill collectors don't give a damn how much self-satisfaction you get out of your profession. Or how much value it contributes to the world. They only care how much money you've got to pay them with.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


Perhaps I'm sickened by the ethos that material goods are creation's reward.

What about "an honest day's pay for an honest day's work"? What about paying the piper?

The fact is that a huge amount of the music we know and love has been accomplished by people who were full-time musicians - a comparatively small amount has been done by talented amateurs, which is telling because there are far more of them out there.

If you love music, killing "musician" as a viable profession seems like a Very Bad Idea.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:29 AM on September 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


cloeburner: are you making music that can compare to XTC's Big Express, or Skylarking, or the Beatles Sgt. Peppers, or Harry Nilsson's The Point, or any of the other albums produced by real, full-time recording artists with the resources and undivided attention to devote themselves fully to their craft?

I hope so. You and other community-oriented artists have got some big shoes to fill.


Let me gently suggest that what you think makes these artists "great" has a lot more to do with the effect that continuous marketing and airplay has on your aesthetic sensibilities than in any inherent value those artists have. Because there is no list of the greatest music ever etched by God on to a giant tablet floating around Jupiter. It is only your opinion. Popularity does not a great artist make.

Let's also look at the sources of that music. If you've ever actually composed music before, you know that basically you are ripping off everyone who came before you. That music came from pre-industrial people sitting in their homes playing instruments and sharing their songs with others. That's how folk music started.

There is absolutely zero evidence to believe that somehow these people are somehow made better by the fact that they have all day long to compose music. That's a premise you have to prove.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:30 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Lily... Lars. Lars... Lily.
posted by autodidact at 10:31 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why are you telling us this? Does anyone dispute this?

Yes. In fact, I was responding to flatluigi who specifically disputed that in this thread. See below.

The average person doesn't have any control over how music is distributed and sold
posted by flatluigi at 9:54 AM


lazaruslong:
What? We have complete control over how it is distributed and sold. That's the whole point. They don't have that power anymore. That's what piracy is.

Piracy isn't control over distribution and sales. It's circumventing distribution and sales.
posted by flatluigi at 10:01 AM on September 22 [1 favorite +] [!]

posted by willnot at 10:34 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


You want to dictate the terms under which you'll sell me an item, but if I can get your item without agreeing to your terms, then what kind of control do you really have? You have zero control. Semantics, legality or even ethics if you prefer to make it a moral case won't change that fact.

Anything can be justified by this argument. For example, I could beat you over the head with a baseball bat and take your wallet, and it would be okay because when I can beat you up, you have zero rights to dictate to me terms of access to your wallet.

At the end of the day, this is essentially the kind of relationship with creators that proponents of piracy are after. Ironically, it's not much different than the kind of relationship that creators have their record companies, except that there's usually a paycheck of some kind if they are halfway talented.

Piracy proposes to replace one set of parasites with another. From a creator's perspective, that's not much of a solution at all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:34 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Lupus,

I hope that the above dynamic is changing with the way that music is disseminated now. I think that the reason we know and love all that music is the record companies mostly had the means of distribution locked up. That's opening up and I hope that the music we know and love will be a better mix of professionals and amateurs.

I don't think that just because they were amateurs the music is lessened. Just the ability to access it was lessened.
posted by josher71 at 10:34 AM on September 22, 2009


Your arguments in favor of file-sharing might be right purely on principle, but that doesn't mean file-sharing doesn't or can't have negative consequences, such as discouraging the artists and severely undermining the recording arts as an artistic discipline.

This may be true, but there's no go back now. Maybe Lily Allen's stolen argument is right. Maybe file sharing is bad for artists, at least the way they work now. The loom was bad for textile workers. The printing press was bad for monks who transcribed texts. There's really no point complaining about it anymore, or arguing the ethics, because nothing can be done of it, short of shutting down the Internet or imposing draconian laws.

Musicians need to start developing new business models based on the knowledge that anything they produce can be effortlessly, instantaneously, and freely copied and distributed. That's the way of the world now, and if you're not making plans to live in that world, it's going to leave you behind, sleeping in the streets with record company executives and weeping into each others arms about the injustice of it all.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:35 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Why must people make money to play music?

Why must people make money to be attorneys? Love of law and helping humanity should be more than enough compensation, right?


Because it cost me $120,000 to get the training to be an attorney. People need attorneys to help them with real life problems and it actually costs a lot of money to put on a case. I can't volunteer my own money, I have to eat.

Yet I have an $800 8-track hard disk recorder and 5 $200 mics. I can literally put out music with sound quality that engineers 40 years ago would have killed for--and it only costs me pennies a day. And nobody needs music to live. People accused of murder need a lawyer to literally live. The value an attorney provides is far above that of a musician, in terms of impact on individual lives. I protect people's jobs in my practice.

Whereas music is worth much less than that economically. How do I know this? Because people illegally download it. You can't illegally download a lawyer.

The core of the "music business" was a high cost of entry to record and distribute music, not the inherent value of the music itself. Those high costs of entry are gone. Therefore, the "music business" is dying.

This is simple economics. You cannot fight it.

Note that I don't illegally download music, nor do I think it is right. However, the rights-based model of music distribution is a corpse ready to fall over.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:38 AM on September 22, 2009 [15 favorites]


cloeburner: are you making music that can compare to XTC's Big Express, or Skylarking, or the Beatles Sgt. Peppers, or Harry Nilsson's The Point, or any of the other albums produced by real, full-time recording artists with the resources and undivided attention to devote themselves fully to their craft?

I hope so. You and other community-oriented artists have got some big shoes to fill.


Funny you should mention that, I was part of the local DIY performance of The Point which Harry Nilsson's son recently stated was amazing [I suppose he saw it on Youtube]. We did it for the love of the art and all invested much more time than the money we got out of it. I feel that's the work ethic of the community I live in [Baltimore arts community]. Many of my friends are making it big nationally, and are able to support themselves and others artistically with the funds they make from touring.

I've yet to notice any semblance of greed from any of the artists or hear the remotest of complaints about file-sharing from any of them. Capitalism and wealth does not mean talent. Your examples of great music are subjective, while I appreciate all of them on a certain level, there are plenty of other albums and songs created with far less money and with far more love that impact me on a level that the overly produced Beatles and XTC cannot achieve.

The most significant music to me comes from obscure producers working in their bedrooms, folk musicians from unheard of areas of the world, forgotten innovators and experimenters whose works are too bold to be successful.

Anyway, Drums and Wires is superior to Skylarking.
posted by cloeburner at 10:38 AM on September 22, 2009


note how the average person isn't invited to sit down at the table

The average people have had their own table ever since Napster hit (arguably, far longer). Needless to say, the conversation at this table has been long-winded, often confusing, contradictory, bizarre. But, over time, it's come to make a certain sense; something to do with we music lovers and appreciators recognizing that evolutions in recording and downloading tech have irretrievably shifted the balance of power in the so-called "music marketplace" such that it's no longer the record labels (or the distributors or the media outlets or the artists themselves) that have the power, it's us.

What to do with this power?

This is the question that interests me. What "system" (model? whatever) do we want to see in place? How do we get what we NEED (we do need music, and lots of it) without destroying the incentive of those who create it? Needless to say, it's a complex question demanding a complex multi-headed answer, and yes many of those heads are showing up in this thread.
posted by philip-random at 10:40 AM on September 22, 2009


Musicians: if you hold down a serious full-time job, how exactly do you go on tour? Or, if you chose a job like waiting tables so you can up and leave to go on tour

Why must I "go on tour"?
posted by Ironmouth at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me gently suggest that what you think makes these artists "great" has a lot more to do with the effect that continuous marketing and airplay has on your aesthetic sensibilities than in any inherent value those artists have.

No, that's bullshit. I'm a musician and a recording artist. I know what's actually involved technically and artistically in the performances I listen to and judge, and that's the basis for how I form my own opinions. Most of my life, the bands I've listened to have never seen a dime of marketing money from the major label industry (and you've probably never heard of 90 percent of them). Yet conditions used to be a lot better for them and it's getting to be almost impossible for new bands to break out now (almost all bands that do now are purely industry products, not authentic break out artists).

You're really way off base here and could benefit from some first hand experience with how the business side of music actually works.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:44 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


philip-random: "How do we get what we NEED (we do need music, and lots of it) without destroying the incentive of those who create it?"

Haha! Good one.

People have hilarious ideas about incentives for making music. One of them is that people will only make music for money, and if no cash is available then the streets will be silent and all the musical instruments will gather dust.

There will always be music, even if it is outlawed. We could fine people for creating music and it wouldn't make a dent in our society's creative output. People create music (and art in general) because they need to.
posted by mullingitover at 10:48 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Lack of funds results in A&R people not being able to take risks and only signing acts they think will work

A&R people signing acts that they think will not work results in those acts owing the record company all that money that Allen is mad about owing.

On the other hand, if I could get a highly-compensated job as an A&R person with a job description that reads "go out and sign as many bands as you can that you think will not be successful," that would be pretty awesome.
posted by The World Famous at 10:50 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


We did it for the love of the art and all invested much more time than the money we got out of it. I feel that's the work ethic of the community I live in [Baltimore arts community]. Many of my friends are making it big nationally, and are able to support themselves and others artistically with the funds they make from touring.

Whoo, I see now that you're grossly morally superior to me. I better back down, quick.

Look, I'm not talking about being greedy, and raking in the big bucks and all that, I'm talking about being able to earn enough that you can survive and cover the expenses involved in making music and still have some semblance of a dignified, normal life.

Woody Guthrie called his guitar his "meal ticket" for a reason. Even as committed a leftist as he was, he wasn't so precious and falsely high-minded that he considered it acceptable for musicians not to expect to get an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:50 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not work. That's all I'm saying.
posted by cloeburner at 10:51 AM on September 22, 2009


If you love it, that is.
posted by cloeburner at 10:51 AM on September 22, 2009


There's also this tendency to behave as though the ownership model of songwriting is the way things must be, and have been, and without them, there is no music, because the creators of music need money and credit for their creations, or they won't do it.

The entire history of folk music shows this not to be the case, and it is a debt that popular music draws from, without acknowledgement or payback, every day.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:52 AM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


Nothing is work if you love it, and supposedly, we all pursue the careers we love, right? So by extension we should all be doing our work for love.

I love database programming. It's an extremely creative and satisfying pursuit, that I would compare most closely to making music. Should I do that for free, too? Are you going to feed my three year old son, then, and make the mortgage payments?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:54 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Most of my life, the bands I've listened to have never seen a dime of marketing money from the major label industry (and you've probably never heard of 90 percent of them). Yet conditions used to be a lot better for them and it's getting to be almost impossible for new bands to break out now (almost all bands that do now are purely industry products, not authentic break out artists).

The bands you named are big time recording artists. I believe you named a band called the "Beatles." I looked those guys up and they sold a lot of records and there was a huge marketing push by their record company, who put them in movies and stuff. XTC moved a lot of units too--they were pushed by big marketing forces.

But why must we make money to make music? Really, this is about whether or not big companies make 97 cents on the 99 cents per song. Only a tiny percentage of bands in existence make any money at all.

All of your references to "break out" artists and the like imply one thing--I want to be rich and famous. Why must an artist "break out?" These terms are about popularity amongst the general public and wanting people to like your music. Why must they be "popular?" It is an addiction to money and fame that is at the core of this desire. I suggest you read Albini's article again--I am certain that you would agree that as the producer of some of the best-selling albums of all time he has a lot more knowledge of the "music business" than either you or I.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:55 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


fatluigi: Good for you, I'm glad you didn't read the article he linked or the blog post in question.

I'm sorry if my original snark was somehow misplaced, but as an English major, I lose a LOT of respect for people who plagiarize like this, and do it so goddamn blatantly. Following it up with her non-apology just further reinforces my already negative opinion on her.

I am a bit curious as to why someone who apparently became famous outside the system is now claiming that the method of entry she used just isn't possible for young artists today.
posted by graventy at 10:56 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nothing is work if you love it,

This is most definitely not true. Nor do most people get to do what they love. This is the real world.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:56 AM on September 22, 2009


Anything can be justified by this argument. For example, I could beat you over the head with a baseball bat and take your wallet, and it would be okay because when I can beat you up, you have zero rights to dictate to me terms of access to your wallet.

I wasn't attempting to justify anything with that argument. I was simply addressing the argument that consumers have no control. They clearly do.

More broadly, I support the social contract that says I won't beat you up and take your wallet if you won't beat me up and take my wallet and we'll work together to make sure nobody else does either.

However, I don't extend that to creative works because I believe that the monopoly granted to creators reduces rather than expands the creativity in the world, and I believe that creative works become more valuable to both creators and to society at large with increased distribution. I don't expect that to persuade people who are locked into the traditional way of thinking about this stuff, but I do hope that will eventually be the perspective that will win in the end.
posted by willnot at 10:57 AM on September 22, 2009


I get to do what I love, and I'm nothing special. What's stopping anybody?

Sometimes I get paid for it. Sometimes I don't. If I think it's worth doing, I do it.

How do I take care of my bills? A day job. This is the way most artists in the world take care of their bills, and somehow they manage to do art anyway, despite the fact that many of them will never see very much money for it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:58 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth, you're saying that bands don't need to:
1) make any money
2) tour
3) gain any sort of popularity

I guess what we're left with is local people playing shows for their friends on the weekends. Maybe that's fine with you, but I suspect most people would disagree.
posted by naju at 11:00 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The entire history of folk music shows this not to be the case, and it is a debt that popular music draws from, without acknowledgement or payback, every day.

Modern architecture owes a major historical debt to the monumental creations of slave-laborers under the Egyptian and other empires. Those guys didn't expect any compensation beyond subsistence pay either. Historically, most people didn't get paid a fair wage for a fair day's work. It took the progressive movement to push for the very concept of a fair wage, and it's still not a concept adopted universally or applied consistently. So?

How do I take care of my bills? A day job. This is the way most artists in the world take care of their bills, and somehow they manage to do art anyway, despite the fact that many of them will never see very much money for it.

Yeah, but more often than not, that makes their art turn out half-assed. And a country with half-assed art is a half-assed country.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:01 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth, you're saying that bands don't need to:
1) make any money
2) tour
3) gain any sort of popularity


This can all be done without the traditional distibution model, and is not necessarily undermined by filesharing. There is a need for a new economic model, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:01 AM on September 22, 2009


I understand where you come from, but I'm stating on a personal level, music will never be considered work because it is something I love and need to do. Maybe you love music and still consider it work, that's your prerogative.
posted by cloeburner at 11:02 AM on September 22, 2009


Yeah, but more often than not, that makes their art turn out half-assed. And a country with half-assed art is a half-assed country.

I do not see how the relates to the established model of making music. Among the best music I have ever heard is the field recordings of American folk music made by the Lomax brothers. Some of the worst music I have ever heard is put out my major labels and backed by millions of dollars.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:03 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I do not see how the relates to the established model of making music. Among the best music I have ever heard is the field recordings of American folk music made by the Lomax brothers. Some of the worst music I have ever heard is put out my major labels and backed by millions of dollars.

Astro Zombie wins.
posted by cloeburner at 11:05 AM on September 22, 2009


Ironmouth, you're saying that bands don't need to:
1) make any money
2) tour
3) gain any sort of popularity

I guess what we're left with is local people playing shows for their friends on the weekends. Maybe that's fine with you, but I suspect most people would disagree.


I think that is exactly right. Bands need none of that. There is a gigantic difference between needing and wanting.

Bands can certainly make money, certainly tour and certainly gain popularity. But there is no need for them to do so for music to exist. For thousands of years we did just fine without the "music business" as we have it today.

Don't tell me people would disagree--tell me how and why they would. I do want to hear those arguments.

What I am doing is addressing the key element to Lily Allen's argument that music will die if we don't go back to the old ways.

The old ways are gone. Done. Finished.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't start out in music with the Ferraris. Instead you get a huge debt from your record company, which you spend years working your arse off to repay.

Nthing the "you're doing it wrong" comment.

as they start to lose big from piracy, they're not slashing their salaries - they're pulling what they invest in A&R

Let a failing business model fail.

I want to get people working together to use new digital opportunities to encourage new artists.

And, no offense if I'm wrong here, but what is she doing aside from starting an anti-piracy blog? Does she really think *that* will encourage new artists?!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:07 AM on September 22, 2009


I believe that the monopoly granted to creators reduces rather than expands the creativity in the world

What do you mean by monopoly? I'm genuinely curious about the usage here. I've never been held back by another artist from picking up and playing a guitar, for example.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not disputing that more money =/= good. In fact, I agree that it's generally the opposite. The thing is, in most cases, it's not the artists calling the shots in the big major label model, and that's what causes the output to suck. It's when you have the right combination of resources and artist independence that the really good work gets done, IMO, and that's actually happening less and less often as money gets sucked out of the industry as a whole (the majors aren't the only ones hurting; it's the indies that are really getting pinched).
posted by saulgoodman at 11:09 AM on September 22, 2009


More broadly, I support the social contract that says I won't beat you up and take your wallet if you won't beat me up and take my wallet and we'll work together to make sure nobody else does either.

And, whether or not we ever agree on solutions, I appreciate that you put it in terms of a social contract.

Debating notions of what is fair from a shared understanding that we all benefit from the same baseline of fairness is, I think, the most productive way to move forward on this subject.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 AM on September 22, 2009


I don't think that just because they were amateurs the music is lessened. Just the ability to access it was lessened.

This whole idea baffles me. In general, professionals are better than amateurs, because they get to spend a lot more time practicing their art.

There are very few things in this world where you do not improve commensurate with the time you spend on them. It's absolutely clear in competitive fields which have clear winners, like games (chess, Go) or sports, that the professionals are (almost) always a whole order of magnitude better than the amateurs, and that's simply because they can work on their skills full-time.

That music is somehow different escapes me. I've seen (quick calculation) somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 musical acts perform (Jesu!) and the majority of these shows have been young bands - and don't get me wrong, I love that stuff, I wouldn't go otherwise - but the most of the best of these shows have been given by full-time, professional musicians (even though "professional" might have meant $15K a year...)

Talent does not beat hard work. You need both.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:12 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am a bit curious as to why someone who apparently became famous outside the system is now claiming that the method of entry she used just isn't possible for young artists today.

Imagine someone saying "I got mine" in a West London accent.
posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Piracy is uncool. However the reality of not being able to make a living off your art-form is something that others have been living with for a long time - poets, literary fiction writers, many painters and visual artists, small time and documentary film-makers. Could they make more impressive work with unlimited time and vast resources of materials, marketing, research, etc.? Probably some could, but many come up with great stuff anyway. And the beauty of the internet is that they have the opportunity for widespread access to audiences without having to deal with a middle man. The music industry is experiencing some growing pains here but it's not an unmitigated catastrophe for music or musicians, just their business model.
posted by Marnie at 11:12 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Pandora. Box. Opened. Unclosable. Hope?
posted by zerodark at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2009


From a comment on the Futureheads blog post:

Arguments about music being too expensive are just pathetic. If a new car is too expensive you just don't buy it - you don't steal it.

Is there anyone (famous) out there advocating for file-sharing on a class basis? I.e. the people who can't afford to buy CDs/DVDs should have the same access to musical art that the upper class does.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2009


I should add that the record companies bear the brunt of the blame for destroying the professional musician - by systematically stealing from the creators until there was no profit in it except for a small number of massive hits. Filesharing is simply finishing them off.

But you're still stealing if you take someone else's work without permission, even if it's impossible to stop you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:15 AM on September 22, 2009


I don't know that I disagree with you, Saul. I just don't think there is anything to be done, and it is up to the indies to solve that problem, because it's not going to solve itself, and filesharing is not going to go away. If musicians are to make money in this new economy, it is up to them to figure out how. Maybe this is unfair, but, then, I don't make any money for my music -- and I make a lot of music, and perform it regularly -- but I also don't pay a lot for my music, because so much is available for free. The new economy may be a commons that we can take freely from, and maybe instead of feeling like we must pay back in financially, our responsibility is to pay back in creatively. Will the music be as good? Dunno. I think the quality of music rarely has anything to do with anything other than the talent of the artists involved. But it will be different, and musicians might have to give up the idea of making a living wage.

Frabkly, it's all sort of moot anyway. It's pretty rare that a band that writes their own material can make a living doing it. Generally, the small town bands that are able to do so are cover bands playing at bars -- in Minneapolis, I would guess they represent 80 percent of the local musicians who actually make a significant part of their income from playing live. I would argue that this is a bigger problem for up and coming artists, and does more to discourage new music, than any amount of filesharing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:15 AM on September 22, 2009


We should all be doing everything for free shouldn't we?

yes, we should - it would probably be a better world
posted by pyramid termite at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2009


I'm not disputing that more money =/= good. In fact, I agree that it's generally the opposite. The thing is, in most cases, it's not the artists calling the shots in the big major label model, and that's what causes the output to suck. It's when you have the right combination of resources and artist independence that the really good work gets done, IMO, and that's actually happening less and less often as money gets sucked out of the industry as a whole (the majors aren't the only ones hurting; it's the indies that are really getting pinched).

The vast majority of signed bands never make any real money. The people screaming against filesharing are huge record companies and artists who are making real money. There needs to be a new distribution model that isn't built around giant record companies who don't add anywhere near as much value to the finished product as they used to and who are looking to score with only a few artists that sell huge numbers of units in response to marketing campaigns.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:19 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


yes, we should - it would probably be a better world

It would be better if we were all trustifarians. I just don't see it happening any time soon, though. Maybe it's more productive to look for realistic solutions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:19 AM on September 22, 2009


What do you mean by monopoly? I'm genuinely curious about the usage here.

Copyright is a statutorily created limit on who can distribute a particular piece of creative expression. If you own a copyright, what you really own is a monopoly on who can use or access that expression for as long as copyright lasts.

So, yes, you can create your own music. That's not what I mean by monopoly. They haven't cornered an industry or a genre, but rather have exclusive control (granted by the state) of a single creative expression.
posted by willnot at 11:20 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


For thousands of years we did just fine without the "music business" as we have it today.

That's just not fucking historically accurate! There has always been a music industry. It didn't center around recorded music because no such thing existed. But even composers in ancient Greek expected their works to be protected from piracy during their lifetimes. And composers and performers alike have always expected and been given financial remuneration for their work--even the earliest classical composers worked on commission or as full-time employees on courts. They didn't do it purely out of love or vanity.

And they didn't do it with the expectation that music would only be a source of supplemental income either; they were professional full-time musicians. And American folk music wasn't performed for charity either. Folk singers packed small town concert halls and bars. Back then, the cost of living wasn't so completely out of step with personal income, and it was easier to get by. Hell, a lot of people managed to survive by selling apples from apple carts in the streets, or stitching up clothes for a living, or selling a few eggs, but times have changed.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:20 AM on September 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


Vapid music industry interests have ruined the music industry over the past twenty years, not file sharing.

Consider:
Crank Dat Soulja Boy (Superman)
I'm Too Sexy
Boy Bands

I'm sorry. A combination of lax industry practices and increasingly self-serving consumer base have all but ruined the magic of music.

And for the indie crowd that puts their music above the fray, Pitchfork exists to serve as the all-knowing, all-seeing sentient being.

We're watching music on life support. Once a generation of kids grow up on Garage Band we'll hear the death rattle.
posted by glaucon at 11:21 AM on September 22, 2009


As someone who has created a released a demo on the internet using indietorrents.com, I can say it was the only opportunity i've ever had to get real feedback from people who are willing to listen. It was totally priceless and I can't imagine how I would ever reconcile these two desires:
1. Find the largest audience possible
2. Control distribution to gain wealth

Anyone who places #2 first is not an artist, IMO. Being an artist is about finding an audience and moving them. Getting money for your work tells you nothing about who you moved or why. It only tells you that we live in a capitalist society.
posted by cbecker333 at 11:21 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's more productive to look for realistic solutions.

that depends on whether you define the problem as "amateurs and audiences need a way to share music" or "musicians HAVE to make money"

the first definition of the problem has been solved and many people are satisfied with that
posted by pyramid termite at 11:23 AM on September 22, 2009


Generally, the small town bands that are able to do so are cover bands playing at bars -- in Minneapolis, I would guess they represent 80 percent of the local musicians who actually make a significant part of their income from playing live.

Agreed. My lead player loves to play with us, but he makes his side money doing 100s of covers at roadhouses in Maryland and making $200-$400 a show. That's what bar owners are willing to pay. And they pay it not because of cover charges, but because large numbers of people show up and buy lots of beer when my friend's band plays.

There's nothing wrong with that, but it undercuts the whole "people will stop writing music" argument against filesharing. In terms of total funds lost, it is giant majors and giant bands who will lose funds from filesharing.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:24 AM on September 22, 2009


I guess what we're left with is local people playing shows for their friends on the weekends. Maybe that's fine with you, but I suspect most people would disagree.

Most people don't even really like music. They are the kinds of people that say "Oh, I like everything except for rap and country" when you ask them what kinds of music they like, the same way that a certain vice presidential nominee said that she reads all newspapers.

Everyone I know who has actually been into music, and spent massive amounts of money on CDs, merch, tickets, etc. has been into local acts that never drew very large crowds or made enough money to have a real career in music. The musicians who played music for their friends on the weekends tend to be the ones that create new genres within their own subcultures that eventually get co-opted by the mainstream.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:26 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just don't think there is anything to be done, and it is up to the indies to solve that problem, because it's not going to solve itself, and filesharing is not going to go away. If musicians are to make money in this new economy, it is up to them to figure out how.

No, you're right. I completely agree. Cat's out of the bag now. My big fear is just that the indies are screwed, because the majors already have them substantially outgunned and can always fall back to supplementing their revenue from other lines of business (since they're all part of massive conglomerates) and using their partnerships and allegiances with other industries to keep their revenue flowing while the indies slowly starve to death.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:26 AM on September 22, 2009


We're watching music on life support. Once a generation of kids grow up on Garage Band we'll hear the death rattle.

The oldest musical instrument is 35,000 years old. Humans are making music in every nook and cranny of the world. I can make an argument that it is nearly instinctual. There is literally no way that music will "die." Only when the last human dies will music end.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth: There needs to be a new distribution model that isn't built around giant record companies who don't add anywhere near as much value to the finished product as they used to and who are looking to score with only a few artists that sell huge numbers of units in response to marketing campaigns.

Don't you end up in the same place as the original argument to some extent?

"But as they start to lose big from piracy, they're not slashing their salaries - they're pulling what they invest in A&R. Lack of funds results in A&R people not being able to take risks and only signing acts they think will work"
posted by patricio at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2009


There are very few things in this world where you do not improve commensurate with the time you spend on them. It's absolutely clear in competitive fields which have clear winners, like games (chess, Go) or sports, that the professionals are (almost) always a whole order of magnitude better than the amateurs, and that's simply because they can work on their skills full-time.

First, you are right that they get to spend more time working on it and practicing. However, the difference to me is that music is not a clear winner type game and it seems that the professionals are not magnitudes better than amateurs. I also don't think that just because someone is an amateur they haven't poured a whole lot of hard work into it and can be indistinguishable from a professional.

Off to a job interview for a company selling tuna fish so I'll drop in on this particular discussion in four or five hours.
posted by josher71 at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


The oldest musical instrument is 35,000 years old.

Although, to be fair, that vulture flute player is still pulling in royalties on the first song he composed on that, which was, of course, Louie Louie.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:28 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


blackface is acting

I didn't realize she was using blackface, but anyway most english pop is sung outside of the singer's regional or class accent.
posted by bhnyc at 11:29 AM on September 22, 2009


Talent does not beat hard work. You need both.

True. But where popular music artists are concerned, like guitarists, pop singers, drummers, etc., the rich and famous ones are not working any harder at being able to make good music than amateurs are. They are working harder and for more hours at marketing and the business end of music. Major-label non-classical musicians who practice their musical craft for hours every day are few and far between. Now, producers, engineers, songwriters? Yeah, they have an edge because of the amount of work they have time to put into it. But if The Edge, Jimmy Page, and Jack White, for example, are spending a significant amount of time practicing to become better guitar players, it sure doesn't show in their playing (and I like all three of them).
posted by The World Famous at 11:29 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, you're right. I completely agree. Cat's out of the bag now. My big fear is just that the indies are screwed, because the majors already have them substantially outgunned and can always fall back to supplementing their revenue from other lines of business (since they're all part of massive conglomerates) and using their partnerships and allegiances with other industries to keep their revenue flowing while the indies slowly starve to death.

I think self-distribution is the answer there. The record companies add very little value to the process when I can record a song and have it on the internet in moments. Why must there be a corporation which controls distrubtion for sales? Anyone can do it now.

I've been arguing this for years here. I hope to see a whole hell of a lot more music now that things are changing and I think that's a good thing.

In the past, most of the great bands got started for a single reason and it wasn't money ;)
posted by Ironmouth at 11:30 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Talent does not beat hard work. You need both.

I grew up, and still mostly listen to, garage band and punk, so I am of the opinion that talent and three chords are really all you need.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:31 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can make an argument that it is nearly instinctual. There is literally no way that music will "die." Only when the last human dies will music end.

Ironman, I have to disagree because only good music comes from America. A la Soulja Boy.

I made a hasty argument. Apologies. I'll buy you a beer. Settled?
posted by glaucon at 11:32 AM on September 22, 2009


In the past, most of the great bands got started for a single reason and it wasn't money ;)

I know what you're talking about!

It was the drink tickets.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there anyone (famous) out there advocating for file-sharing on a class basis? I.e. the people who can't afford to buy CDs/DVDs should have the same access to musical art that the upper class does.

Jim Jones, of Dipset fame, has repeatedly been quoted encouraging people to buy bootlegs if they can't afford a legitimate release. Whether this is because he believes everyone should have access to musical art, or whether he's getting a piece of the bootleg profits or something, I don't know. Whether anybody from Dipset qualifies as famous, yeah, ditto.
posted by box at 11:37 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: "It was the drink tickets."

It was the groupies.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:37 AM on September 22, 2009


It was the groupies.

I have wasted years of my life.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:38 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Woody Guthrie called his guitar his "meal ticket" for a reason. Even as committed a leftist as he was, he wasn't so precious and falsely high-minded that he considered it acceptable for musicians not to expect to get an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do." -- Woody Guthrie.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:40 AM on September 22, 2009 [17 favorites]


I think self-distribution is the answer there.

Yeah, well, I thought so, too, and that's why I invested a lot of my time and money into doing that myself (for myself and some friends), and I've been at it a few years now, but I've all but given up at this point. It's just too painful to watch crap bands with unlimited money to spend on promotion shooting up the charts, getting press, and making big sales while bands who try to go the honest route end up being marginalized and ignored. Because more and more, that's how it works now. Even the indie rock scene is mostly a pay for play affair, and fans and many musicians don't even realize it.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:40 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Arguments about music being too expensive are just pathetic. If a new car is too expensive you just don't buy it - you don't steal it.

This is a pretty stupid argument. If you couldn't afford a new car, but could somehow get the mechanical drawings for one, feed it into a machine in your garage, and get a new car, I think people would do it all the goddamn time.

I'm not even sure people would recognize it as stealing, because they could look at the situation and reasonably see that the amount of actual harm caused was small. When you physically steal a car, someone loses that car--they are out one car at the end of the day. But if you just took the plans for a car and built it yourself on your Magic Constructor Machine, really all you can say is that the car company and dealer are out the profit they would have made on that car. Of course, if you weren't in a financial position to buy the car anyway then they're really not even out that much, so someone could say with a straight face that there's no actual harm at all.

If such a thing was possible it might, over time, put the car companies out of business. At best, they'd have to change their business models in a hurry to cope with the widespread existence of Magic Constructor Machines. A lot of people might end up out of work as a result, and there might not be any living possible in car design. (Of course, just about anyone would be able to be a car designer after that, since the barrier to entry would disappear.) But none of these things, I suspect, would stop the average person from copying and producing a car using their Magic Constructor, because they wouldn't see it as stealing, and lots of people who would never steal their neighbor's car would think nothing of asking the same neighbor if it was OK to borrow their car and make a copy of it. Just like they do with CDs right now.

The content industries love making physical-goods analogies to information piracy, but if you carry the analogy through, you quickly find that the physical-goods case wouldn't be nearly as clear-cut if the technology existed to copy them in the same way that information is currently copied.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:42 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: Yeah, and for similar reasons, I release everything under a non-commercial Creative Commons license. But that doesn't mean I don't people buying my records, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:43 AM on September 22, 2009


If you love music, killing "musician" as a viable profession seems like a Very Bad Idea.

You're saying this as if shaming people enough would change the world. That's not going to happen.

When was "musician" ever a viable profession? All the people I knew in the '80s who were planning on making music a career were planning on either teaching or being studio musicians. Anything else, like releasing your own music and getting paid enough to make a living, is a bit pie in the sky, no? I worked for bands and musicians, and there was no illusion that this is how any of us would make a living.

Incidentally, this touring money vs. record sales is missing the point (which is in the fine print of that record contract you just signed). The real money is in royalties, and countless good writers have been getting screwed out of those for years by their labels.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:45 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Spotify availability (dark green: Free and Premium; light green: Only Premium) - for the rest of us? Oh right, MySpace.


Welcome to a tiny taste of the experience of non-American users of streaming video sites. Every time I stumble upon a Hulu or Comedy Central page I want to bomb LA.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:47 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


They haven't cornered an industry or a genre, but rather have exclusive control (granted by the state) of a single creative expression.

I have exclusive control (granted by the state) over the money in my wallet. To apply your metaphor, I have a monopoly over the usage of the money in my wallet, while that money sits in my wallet, unspent. Why should someone with a baseball bat have the right to take the money from my wallet?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:49 AM on September 22, 2009


Why should someone with a baseball bat have the right to take the money from my wallet?

Would you mind if they simply made a photocopy of the money in your wallet and returned it to you? How about if they made a photocopy of somebody else's photocopy of the money even before it was in your wallet, and before it was yours?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2009


There is literally no way that music will "die." Only when the last human dies will music end.

In the back of mind mind, I hear whales... and they're laughing.
posted by rokusan at 11:51 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


When was "musician" ever a viable profession?

I suppose it's on a par with being an author. In Mar 2007, the average author earned £4,000 a year from their work.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2009


Clearly there aren't that many Brits here, or I'm old, but...

The Daily Mail shows pictures of women's naked breasts on its website! The Daily Mail! When did that happen? What is the world coming to?
posted by alasdair at 12:07 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Would you mind if they simply made a photocopy of the money in your wallet and returned it to you? How about if they made a photocopy of somebody else's photocopy of the money even before it was in your wallet, and before it was yours?

Photocopied money diminishes or eliminates the value of the money in my wallet.

But that ignores my larger question. I have a baseball bat. I want the money in your wallet. It doesn't really matter much whether I want to photocopy it or burn it or whatever. I am imposing my will on you by force, without your consent. I don't think photocopying is much of a defense for this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on September 22, 2009


That is so cute that Lilly Allen thinks she's a musical artist. Just like radiohead and Pink Floyd.

Dream big, lilly!
posted by shownomercy at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2009


Musicians: if you hold down a serious full-time job, how exactly do you go on tour?

Usually, you marry someone or live with someone who can pay your basic survival expenses, and hope your ability to contribute increases.

My husband is a fulltime musician, but has only been able to do so as of last month. His formula (which may not work for everyone) is:

1. Play paid live gigs online via Second Life. Yes, you can get paid; not much, but you get tips as well, all via PayPal, and because it's international, you can play throughout the day as people from different time zones come online. He's playing right this second for some Germans in-world. You also increase your fan base/sales. He has gotten real-world gigs from this also, at meetups. Very little money investment; mostly free software, paying a bit for a non-n00b avatar, a decent mike. Voila.

2. Have a cover band. Here in Texas, that means "country" but it could be anything. This part is just starting to gear up, but it's about the only way to get gigs/parties anymore. Keep your band as small as possible to increase the amount per person.

3. Get rid of all your debt first/have supportive spouse. The debt part took about six months for us to do.

4. Make your own albums/tunes. Requires investment/learning of a decent recording setup, in his case ProTools and some good mikes.

5. Diversify: find or create side projects (podcasts, collaborations, background music, whatever) to increase exposure.

6. Work your ass off.

We really don't know if it will work. But the Second Life thing has been a surprising success for him, and the virtual performance possibilities may lead to more opportunities for other musicians in future, as it reaches the people who won't go to clubs.

Anyone wants more info about this, mefimail me; and if anyone wants a kickass late 80s/early 90s country band in the DFW area, I know one too. :)
posted by emjaybee at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


No, you're right. I completely agree. Cat's out of the bag now. My big fear is just that the indies are screwed, because the majors already have them substantially outgunned and can always fall back to supplementing their revenue from other lines of business (since they're all part of massive conglomerates) and using their partnerships and allegiances with other industries to keep their revenue flowing while the indies slowly starve to death.

When I got older, I started to realize that all of the bands I listened to and all of the authors I read didn't make much money. For example, my cousin got a column in the Village Voice, called Beaver's Mixin' It Up (dedicated exclusively to hockey fighting) He watched every NHL fight for years and wrote the column for years. I was flabbergasted to learn that he made only a few hundred bucks per column. He also wrote the scripts that the announcers read in one of those NHL 2k video games and got 15 cents a comment.

There's a huge illusion out there that there are many, many rich and famous people out there in the public eye. That's not the case. A mere handful make any real money at all. When we first started my band, my bassist thought about touring. I can't make any real money doing that and so we put the kabosh on that. I make a lot more money at my day job.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:11 PM on September 22, 2009


You know, it sure is a good thing that we're finally putting the real parasites (musicians) back in their place economically speaking, because god knows, they're really the ones I blame.

Especially the ones from poor and working class backgrounds who, realizing they had some talent for music, arrogantly thought that if they applied themselves and worked hard to develop their technical chops, and wrote songs that reflected their life experiences and touched people's lives in some way, they might one day be able to improve their economic circumstances and--gasp!--get to live almost as well as personal injury lawyers.

Selfish fuckers.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:13 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Allen was born in Hammersmith, west London, daughter of Welsh-born comedian and actor Keith Allen and English, Portsmouth-born, film producer Alison Owen.

Sounds like Lily's "talent" wasn't driving her success.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:14 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


When was "musician" ever a viable profession?

Los Angeles is home to more than two million actors, but they still keep fucking up my drink order.
posted by rokusan at 12:15 PM on September 22, 2009


It's a certain kind of fun
That no one likes, but when it's done
I guess we all get laid
Although it hasn't happened lately.

-Matthew Hein
posted by snofoam at 12:23 PM on September 22, 2009


You know, it sure is a good thing that we're finally putting the real parasites (musicians) back in their place economically speaking, because god knows, they're really the ones I blame.

Especially the ones from poor and working class backgrounds who, realizing they had some talent for music, arrogantly thought that if they applied themselves and worked hard to develop their technical chops, and wrote songs that reflected their life experiences and touched people's lives in some way, they might one day be able to improve their economic circumstances and--gasp!--get to live almost as well as personal injury lawyers.

Selfish fuckers.


It isn't selfish to want to do well. But it is unrealistic to think that the music business rewards any of those things. Getting mad at the world doesn't help. Although I am not a personal injury lawyer, I busted ass to get to where I am now. Nobody's calling musicians parasites, we are just saying that it is highly unrealistic to think that big money is out there for people who are playing music. It really isn't.

Its the same thing with people who think that they are going to make a lot of money playing big-time sports. There just aren't that many slots out there. And there are so many people who want the exact same thing you do and who are willing to work as hard as you are to get what they want.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:24 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd have to say that Jefficator's file-sharing-is-the-moral-equivalent-of-Wal-Mart stance might be the best argument from the RIAA side of the aisle I've seen in a long time. "The times are changing get used to it-- no one needs buggy whips anymore" is not far from what Wal-Mart apologists say when Mom & Pop are driven out of business.

I'd express hope that the RIAA give you a good royalty payment when they make a scare commercial out of that one, but the record industry isn't exactly known for that sort of thing.
posted by straight at 12:37 PM on September 22, 2009


1. Emerging artists need money or they won't survive, barring breakout artists.

2. There are free alternatives to illegal downloading that support the artists.

3. To make money, record companies will shoot for artists they believe will make money instead of taking risks

4. So, we need to strive for alternatives that stay free and support the artists.

Emerging artists need money because they want to leverage the distribution outlets run by middlemen, who care only about profit (nothing wrong with that) and so will only represent those artists most likely to succeed. Any artist who can't or won't leverage the distribution outlets run by middlemen that require money (either up-front or as a loan from the middlemen) needs money to work the distribution outlets themselves, or needs to use an alternative that "stay[s] free" and "support[s] the artists."

In short, you either sign up with the big boys to take your chances with a high-risk, high-reward scenario, or you go it your own or through a free outlet with a low-risk, low-reward scenario. Until the internet came along, anyway; now we have a low-risk, high-reward scenario, where very little outlay is required to distribute enough content to "hit" if you can, and if you do, much more money can be made. Filesharing is a big part of what enables the low-risk, high-reward scenario.
posted by davejay at 12:50 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Talent does not beat hard work. You need both.

Also, networking. Knowing people who can get you gigs, get you played, get you signed, get you distributed, help advertise your shows and releases. This has become easier in the Internet age, but there will never be a substitute for having powerful friends/allies.
posted by zerodark at 12:50 PM on September 22, 2009


You know what never gets mentioned in these debates as an alternative to the traditional recording industry meat grinder? Public funding for the arts.

Maybe it's time we talked about that. I'm not saying it's a complete solution, but maybe, just maybe, it's time we looked into spending a little bit more than the meager pittance arts funding gets today. Perhaps governments could take just 1% of the money spent on engines of war and use it to support musicians independently of the monster-toad media conglomerates.

Patronage of the arts has a pretty long history, and has supported many of the greatest works of art we know today, music included.

Consider that the pallets of cash that went missing in Iraq could have covered the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts for 100 years. The total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, as would cover the NEA at it's current level of funding for 6500 years.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:51 PM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


I want lots of clothes and I want lots of money...
posted by PenDevil at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2009


Ironmouth: I didn't meant to suggest you were a personal injury lawyer, BTW, or that you didn't work hard to get where you are...

But the issue I see isn't just that big money isn't out there--it's that it's becoming harder even just to keep going unless you're a major label artist or have some deep-pocketed allies. Some of the contributing factors are purely big picture economics: Things like alternative consumer goods squeezing out music, and people having less money to spend. But much of it is cultural.

We don't value recorded music much anymore. People have no idea how much craft and labor--and even personal expense--goes into producing really artful recordings. Much less what an accomplishment it is when independent artists manage to independently produce albums that stand shoulder to shoulder with the legacy big label artists.

File sharing probably isn't so much a cause as a symptom of the effect. The media landscape is awash with music, so music just isn't as emotionally effecting to most listeners as it once was. I half suspect the only real future recorded music has as an art form is in film, where skillfully placed music still retains a certain amount of real emotional heft.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2009


erm... s/b "emotionally affecting" i think
posted by saulgoodman at 12:54 PM on September 22, 2009


It seems to me that musicians these days can spend years perfecting their craft, working their way up doing something they love, and have a very slim chance of being able to turn that into a life-long career. Most of them will have to abandon music as their livelihood at one point or another, if they ever manage to make it pay at all.

It also seems to me that that's just what life is like these days, for all of us. Nobody knows if their career is going to be around in twenty years; almost nobody has a job for life these days. Technological change could make any of us obsolete at any time, and we'll be forced to make our livings some other way than we had planned.

But hey, let's take a look at the data. If I plug Musician into the earlier-referenced Job Voyager I find that in the past hundred and fifty years, the number of people making their livings as Musicians/Music Teachers has gone from one in a thousand to almost seven per thousand, with the greatest increase happening in the past fifty years. So even if professional musicianship declines, it may just be the bubble popping, and not a world-ending event.

There's no such thing as job security these days. Everyone has to scramble to make a career work out, and even when we succeed, we may get the rug pulled out from under us anyhow. Musicians aren't any different. And never were, really.
posted by MrVisible at 12:58 PM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


File sharing probably isn't so much a cause as a symptom of the effect. The media landscape is awash with music, so music just isn't as emotionally effecting to most listeners as it once was.

Good point, especially combined with that comment about xtc ... there:

cloeburner: are you making music that can compare to XTC's Big Express, or Skylarking, or the Beatles Sgt. Peppers, or Harry Nilsson's The Point, or any of the other albums produced by real, full-time recording artists with the resources and undivided attention to devote themselves fully to their craft?

The more music that is created, the less each specific song/album is worth, correct? That's simple supply and demand.

So what happens when we reach a critical mass? I mean, I listen to a lot of music, a lot. And there are still a lot of artists from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s with whom I am not very familiar and that I would really like.

I listen to a fair share of new music, and I know would suck if there was no new music. But it wouldn't be the end of the world. I think I could listen to old music I've never heard before constantly 24/7 for the rest of my life and never run out of stuff to listen to.

Combine that with the music that I already know and like to re-listen to, and the fact that I'm only going to listen to music a few hours a day (not 24), and then, really, what is new music worth? Intangibles, certainly, but monetarily? Zip.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:08 PM on September 22, 2009


Joe Beese: "singing blackface is acting, it's normal to use different accents facial pigments and sing about things outside of your life race."

See the problem?


So does that mean that acting is inherently bad, too, since I can play the word-substitution game there as well?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:17 PM on September 22, 2009


The more music that is created, the less each specific song/album is worth, correct? That's simple supply and demand.

Sure, assuming that music is a disposable commodity as opposed to a part of the living, breathing organic tissue of human culture.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:35 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uh… Guys… Here's the thing: File sharing is great for some emerging artists. It's terrible for others. Touring works for some bands and musicians. It really doesn't for others. We've had historical shifts in the kinds of music that's economically viable again and again, especially in response to changing technology. There will be some winners and some losers, and some of those losers will be people you know and like, as will the winners.

File sharing is a huge red herring in a lot of these discussions. Think for a moment about the simple fact that it's easier than ever before to start a band, to record music and to make that music available for purchase. Even with me spending more money than ever before (and a whole lot of fans like me), that doesn't mean it's any easier for any particular band. The supply greatly outpaces demand, which is exacerbated by file sharing, sure. But with a fractured media space (I don't listen to radio, watch MTV or keep up with any of the top 20 music blogs), that means that promotion is, if not more expensive per se, proportionately more time consuming.

Which means that it's much harder for an artist that requires popular acclaim to justify their emergence—things are much harder for Lily Allen and James Blount because their ability to set trends is based on the rather circular assumption of inherent popularity. That used to be something that record labels could essentially manufacture, and were rewarded for by record sales. Now it's harder than ever to manufacture that, and the reward isn't there, due in part to file sharing and in part to a savvier, more difficult and more fickle audience.

Regarding the discussion of easy lives for musicians, I'm torn. I admit to the rockist bias against easy lives for musicians. It's supposed to be a young man's game, because it takes an insane perception of risk versus reward. Discouraging a lot of people who want to be musicians because, well, whatever, will eliminate a lot of shitty music. Touring toughens people up! Makes them sure of their dreams! But then again, it also cuts out a lot of people who might have a brilliant idea for music but who can't hack it, especially in the popular marketplace. A lot of how we avoid a socialized approach (like, say, Denmark takes towards musicians) is by believing that the market works for rewarding musicians equitably. If that's not true, and we value music as a society, subsidizing it makes better sense than clamping down on file sharing.

Finally, I've mostly given up on file sharing since Last.fm has expanded their catalog. I can find most of the stuff that I'm curious about, stream it, and decide whether or not to buy without ever taking up any time or storage space (I have learned that my music collection always expands to fill any amount of disc or shelf space). But that's still not going to mean that musicians are getting rich—it's free to me, which nets everyone far less than buying that CD, even if I like the music.
posted by klangklangston at 1:35 PM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


zerodark: Pandora. Box. Opened. Unclosable. Hope?

Check the bottom of the box.
posted by flatluigi at 1:37 PM on September 22, 2009


Check the bottom of the box.

Hmmm.
posted by zerodark at 1:44 PM on September 22, 2009


2. Have a cover band. Here in Texas, that means "country" but it could be anything. This part is just starting to gear up, but it's about the only way to get gigs/parties anymore. Keep your band as small as possible to increase the amount per person.

Yeah, and if you're willing to play weddings and parties, there is some pretty steady money to be made. Although, you really have to love the life, because you're going to be playing the same songs at each wedding, and none of them are what you really want to play. You can also make good money DJing doing the same thing, but you're going to have to listen to all of it and pretend like you're having a kick ass time.

But it sure beats waiting tables.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:50 PM on September 22, 2009


Check the bottom of the box.

Put the message in the box
Put the box into the car
Drive the car around the world
Until you get heard
posted by Ironmouth at 1:51 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


To apply your metaphor, I have a monopoly over the usage of the money in my wallet, while that money sits in my wallet, unspent. Why should someone with a baseball bat have the right to take the money from my wallet?

I already addressed why I think there is a distinction between physical property and intellectual "property," but money is interesting in terms of economic theory. In fact, as long as the money stays in your pocket -- that is your exclusive control, it's effectively worthless. Yes, you can spend it, but to spend it you have to give up control of it.

What's particularly interesting is if you put it in a bank, then instead of one worthless piece of paper, you get something like 10 dollars of value out of that one dollar through something called the money multiplier. The bank lends the dollar to a plumber, who uses it to pay one of their employees who takes it to buy some food, etc. Because more people have access to the money, the money becomes more valuable. And, all the while, you still have your original dollar's worth of value.

Now, the state doesn't particularly want you making photocopies of money because that debases everybody else's currency, and they want to be the only ones with the ability to do that, but that debasing argument doesn't hold with creative expression. Creative expression isn't a commodity like a dollar where one is exactly equal to another. Rather it's a unique snowflake with it's own intrinsic value that can't be diminished. And, I'd argue that just like with money, the more people that can access it, the more valuable it becomes. At least that's true in the aggregate for society. Somebody who's only thought is to sell access to that expression will find it more difficult to achieve the value they'd like perhaps, but generally, i believe it's value increases as it spreads, and that this increase is true for both the creator and society at large.
posted by willnot at 2:33 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regarding the discussion of easy lives for musicians, I'm torn.

Yeah. On the other hand, would it ruin music if working musicians could have access to a health plan that is something other than your musician friends hold benefit for you when you get sick or injured?
posted by snofoam at 2:38 PM on September 22, 2009


a benefit, that is, like a benefit concert to help pay off your medical debts or pay for treatment.
posted by snofoam at 2:39 PM on September 22, 2009


On the other hand, would it ruin music if working musicians could have access to a health plan that is something other than your musician friends hold benefit for you when you get sick or injured?

They can. They just have to work as both a musician and as something else. I am a working musician. I play music during one part of the day, and I work during another part of the day. My non-music job provides me with access to a health plan. As I said, I am a working musician.
posted by The World Famous at 2:48 PM on September 22, 2009


I guess I was really referring to people who make their living from music. Not to take anything away from you, and there are definitely people I know who are professional musicians and also have a day job for that reason.
posted by snofoam at 3:13 PM on September 22, 2009


The thing is, I don't think there's any reason to believe that the quality of music created and heard in the world would be diminished if every musician had to have a "day job" and do music as a hobby. I would personally like to have music be my day job, and elimination of that possibility, however remote it may actually be, is not appealing to me. But I don't think that full-time pop stars make qualitatively better music than the best hobbyists do.
posted by The World Famous at 3:21 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm with everyone here who recognizes that making music is something done for its own sake. I believe that making a living off of music has always been rare, and it seems to me that the major differences after the advent of file-sharing are that it is easier to find and enjoy the kind of music I like, and it is harder for people who do not make music themselves make money off of people who do. Lily Allen's description of the of new artists having to pay their labels back for certain services only applies to a gullible minority of artists willing to contract their talents in exchange for major label promotion, an agreement that artists enter into at their own risk.

I listen to the music, then I go to the shows, and then I buy the CDs (usually from the artists themselves). I see other folks doing this too. Everyone involved seems pretty satisfied with this arrangement. Obviously this music industry is not suffering like that which Lily Allen describes, but honestly, her music industry can disappear altogether for all I care.

A final note: the decision of artists like Lily Allen to publish her writings in a freely distributable electronic medium is simply killing the print industry.
posted by millions at 3:28 PM on September 22, 2009


And, I'd argue that just like with money, the more people that can access it, the more valuable it becomes.

I totally agree with you that money/music/art enriches culture when it is accessible.

However, that seems irrelevant to the matter of who decides the manner in which it is made accessible.

We still recognize in the social contract that the right to decide how money/art gets distributed originates with its owner/creator. We have these arrangements codified into law and ethics, as a means to conduct a fair society, one where we are arguably not ruled by tyrannical force.

What pirates (and the RIAA) are doing is trying to dictate the terms to artists of how artists choose to share their work. Whether right or wrong, it is usurping the rights of creators.

At the root of the matter, it is not really different from threatening someone in exchange for their wallet. File sharers take without the creator's consent. It doesn't really matter what they are taking, or what reasons they are applying to rationalize the act.

It is ultimately a violation of the creator's inalienable rights to self-determination, when a pirate decides to override the creator's choice in how the her work is shared.

Whether a society is able to correctly identify this as the violation that it is really gets to the heart of that society. Being able to recognize the value of creators and the value of creation highlights whether a society's participants value individual civil rights.

I guess we can argue that creators have no rights over the things they make, and some people do this without much more of a compelling argument than that they want to. With the advent of Creative Commons, it is easy for people to decide which rights they wish to cede. But that doesn't give them the legal or moral right to make this decision on behalf of other creators.

Applying this across the board seems a strange, special exception to make for digital media, when most societies have already decided that individuals have dominion over themselves and all other things they create and own.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:33 PM on September 22, 2009



That's the posh white girl who puts on the fake Jamaican accent and raps about gangs and knife crime and "street knowledge", right?

Good to see you're keepin' it real, Lily. Word up.
posted by acb at 9:20 AM on September 22 [+]


I get you point, but most young people in the UK have probably seen some one get stabbed.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:43 PM on September 22, 2009


It is ultimately a violation of the creator's inalienable rights to self-determination, when a pirate decides to override the creator's choice in how the her work is shared.

This is stretching it quite a bit. Copyright is an artificial monopoly granted by the government. There is nothing inalienable about music distribution in a private business environment. Does your inalienable right to self-determination also grant you the right to be published or to have your music distributed by a major?

But I think the argument is self-defeating. You are aiming all your ire at the "pirates." How is this working to solve the problem, as you see it?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:43 PM on September 22, 2009



I totally agree with you that money/music/art enriches culture when it is accessible.

However, that seems irrelevant to the matter of who decides the manner in which it is made accessible.


Is it? At least in the US, saying that an creator has an inalienable right to control their works certainly goes beyond what exists in law. Copyright is explicitly granted for a limited time, and it's explicitely granted for the sole purpose of furthering the public good, not the creator's good.

If the creators' rights were inalienable, then it would never be right for the work to revert back into the public domain. And if society benefits more from an open standard in which works can be duplicated and spread freely than it does from one in which the creator has exclusive control (something that I and others believe), then it makes perfect sense to reevaluate whether to even continue copyright.
posted by willnot at 3:45 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think Clear Channel has done more to hurt up-and-coming artists than file sharing ever will.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:45 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apparently, Lily wants lots of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:45 PM on September 22, 2009


In fairness, that song is pretty clearly a dramatic monologue.
posted by dersins at 3:49 PM on September 22, 2009


A right to excusicity that is unenforceable is not a right but a wish.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2009


I get you point, but most young people in the UK have probably seen some one get stabbed.

Really? People get stabbed that often in the UK?
posted by The World Famous at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2009


I get you point, but most young people in the UK have probably seen some one get stabbed.

Most people in the U.S. have probably seen someone get shot as well. On television.
In London last year there were 1,200 reported stabbings, and 30% of homicides involved a knife, police and Home Office data show.

Another article:

[The number of people being admitted to hospitals in England as a result of knife injuries fell] fell from 5,350 in 2007 to 4,899 last year.
That's not very many stabbings to go around
posted by delmoi at 4:12 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really? People get stabbed that often in the UK?

Do I have to take this one to AskMe? WELL? DO I?!?!?!?
posted by josher71 at 4:13 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Yeah. On the other hand, would it ruin music if working musicians could have access to a health plan that is something other than your musician friends hold benefit for you when you get sick or injured?"

As an unemployed writer, I am against everyone in the arts having any sort of safety net, because I only survive by eating their unburied corpses.

But I guess if we had to have socialized medicine, it would be OK to extend that to musicians, etc.
posted by klangklangston at 4:20 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


when most societies have already decided that individuals have dominion over themselves and all other things they create and own.

I'm not sure I'd go quite that far with a blanket statement like that. The laws surrounding intellectual property—particularly copyright—are grants from government. They are, essentially, manufactured rights. They come from a very different place in the Western legal tradition than what we generally regard as core human rights, most of which can be traced back to the idea of some pre-existing "natural law" that the law enshrines but doesn't actually create.

You seem to be making a natural law argument for copyright, and while it's interesting I don't think it's anywhere near uncontroversial. Copyright in the United States is a product of the clause in the Constitution which reads:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
Contrary to other rights, which are noted as being pre-existing and recognized by government, copyright is "secured" by government and given to rightsholders in furtherance of a very particular end.

I think you have your work cut out for you, if you want to argue that modern intellectual property rights are the expression of an underlying natural law, as has historically been argued for the right of security of the person and some other longstanding property rights. Furthermore, the temporary nature of copyright—the whole "limited Times" bit—also seems to undermine the 'fundamentalness' of the right.

The more common view of modern copyright, IMO, is pragmatic: they exist because it is beneficial to society to grant authors and inventors exclusive control over their creations for limited periods. But there's clearly a balancing act at work; how long should that exclusive right last, in order to maximize Progress? It's certainly not clear that it should be the decades that it currently has been set to, or that there's even any obvious value.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:27 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thou shalt not steal
-signed, songwriter.

(I'm all for Big (music)Business getting taken to the woodshed, mind you, but if you are taking what you didn't pay for and wasn't given away freely, you are stealing. Some of you apparently are okay with that. But at least, call it what it is.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:30 PM on September 22, 2009


You are aiming all your ire at the "pirates."

Attack the ideas, not the person.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:32 PM on September 22, 2009


It amazes me that the majority of Americans seem to run from the word socialism like it's typhus, but come the file sharing debate and everyone's an anarcho syndicalist. Big corportaions are bad, everyone with a record deal is living like they're on Entourage, I make songs in my spare time SO WHY CAN'T YOU?

One day they'll come for your job, so tell me all about new business models then.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:47 PM on September 22, 2009


Furthermore, the temporary nature of copyright—the whole "limited Times" bit—also seems to undermine the 'fundamentalness' of the right.

Property rights are plainly written in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, and though copyright is a function of the creator's lifespan, almost all other rights are, as well. To address the "limited" aspect, therefore, I'm not sure it makes much sense to ascribe inalienable rights to dead people, or somehow marginalize copyright just because it is limited. (If anything, a very reasonable argument can be made that copyright extends well past the death of the creator, when few other rights do.)

Notions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness only seem sensible for application to living people. Nonetheless, we would still call those fundamental, inalienable rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2009


One day they'll come for your job,

Christ, they can fucking have it.
posted by dersins at 4:49 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


One day they'll come for your job

Already taken.
posted by josher71 at 5:00 PM on September 22, 2009


While we're on the subject of 'stealing' songs, this might be a fun read for, uh, pretty much everyone, Lily Allen fan or not.
posted by motty at 5:06 PM on September 22, 2009


dersins: "Well, she certainly seems [nsfw] like an expert on the complex issues gathered at the intersection of copyright law and technology and their economic impact on a diverse and wide-ranging assortment of artists and corporate entities."

I don't see the connection between your statement and the photos you linked to.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


So as not to derail, see here, The corpse in the library.
posted by dersins at 5:14 PM on September 22, 2009


What would Chrétien de Troyes think?
posted by ovvl at 5:21 PM on September 22, 2009


ciderwoman: "One day they'll come for your job, so tell me all about new business models then."

If people start doing my job for free, and for fun, and do it better than I can, I'll have the reasoning powers to know that I should find a new job instead of getting all lawyered up about it.
posted by mullingitover at 5:23 PM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


What would Chrétien de Troyes think?

"Wait - you're telling me that, in the future, France plays an insignificant role in popular music?"
posted by The World Famous at 5:34 PM on September 22, 2009


TWF: "'Wait - you're telling me that, in the future, France plays an insignificant role in popular music?'"

Careful, them's fighting words.
posted by mullingitover at 5:36 PM on September 22, 2009


What would Chrétien de Troyes think?

The second sentence of that Wikipedia article is hilarious: "Little is known of his life, but he seems to have been from Troyes,"

Ya think so, Einstein?
posted by dersins at 5:39 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


if you are taking what you didn't pay for and wasn't given away freely, you are stealing.

No, it's not, not unless you no longer have the thing in question.

If I take your car in the middle of the night, that's stealing, because you no longer have a car.

But if I magically make an exact duplicate of your car... ?

Copyright infringement isn't theft. That doesn't mean it's right, legal or ethical, which are all valid arguments to have... and I'm not saying that artists don't deserve to retain some rights to their creations once they're out the door (for example, others shouldn't be able to profit from them).. but this insistence on calling it "stealing" and "theft" is a marketing spin pushed by the RIAA and other big corporate players. Allen has either fallen for that spin, or she's a witting accomplice.

Given the intellect she's exhibited on her, um, MySpace blog, I'm banking on the former. She probably saw one of her songs online somewhere, or heard a thirdhand report of someone who downloaded it, and got all greedy and indignant. Hence, the Lars-lite rant.
posted by rokusan at 5:40 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Careful, them's fighting words.

Hey, just because I liked Front 242 in the late 80s doesn't mean I thought Belgium played a significant role in popular music.
posted by The World Famous at 5:41 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


What pirates (and the RIAA) are doing is trying to dictate the terms to artists of how artists choose to share their work. Whether right or wrong, it is usurping the rights of creators.

Thanks for clarifying the reality of the situation. Seriously. Although, in terms of who's got the real power, I'd drop the RIAA from the statement. Yes they throw their lawyers around a lot, but to what overall effect? They've been fighting a losing war in terms of CONTROL ever since inexpensive quality cassette decks first started hitting the market in the 1970s.

Which brings us to those pesky pirates (otherwise known as pretty much everybody these days, at least to some degree; is there honestly anyone in this thread who doesn't have a "mixed tape" or two that a friend made them?). As I suggested earlier, evolutions in recording and downloading tech have irretrievably shifted the balance of power in the so-called "music marketplace" putting us in the driver's seat in terms of how we want this "industry" to work.

Which leads to the simple (but loaded) question: Why should we pay for something we can already get for free? Particularly when most of us don't have endless stacks of cash lying around, which makes every dollar we spend a choice.

Do I buy CD "A" or CD "B" ... or maybe I just stop buying CDs and spend all my cash on books, or movies, or cocaine, or better food for my kids, or putting a new roof on my house, or maybe I'll just give it all to charity.
posted by philip-random at 5:42 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I take your car in the middle of the night, that's stealing, because you no longer have a car.

But if I magically make an exact duplicate of your car... ?


And if selling exact duplicates of my car is how I make my living, and I am the one who invented and built my car?
posted by The World Famous at 5:43 PM on September 22, 2009


TWF: "And if selling exact duplicates of my car is how I make my living, and I am the one who invented and built my car?"

In a world where copying cars is trivial, you made a very poor career move. Unless you are doing it because you love cars, and then you are in heaven.
posted by mullingitover at 6:05 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if selling exact duplicates of my car is how I make my living, and I am the one who invented and built my car?

The fact that you make your living at it - even if some condition does mean you no longer can - doesn't entail that it's stealing, though. That's not to say that it's *not* stealing, but that it may be a red herring. Part of the problem that often comes up here is that our notion of stealing is tied in with material goods and we tend to reify possible outcomes regarding intellectual property.

Being serious - no snark, just interested in where you think this would go - suppose you run a restaurant. You make some awesome griled cheese sandwiches, some secret ingredient that only you yourself use at the moment. Suppose I figure that out, love the sandwiches and start making them myself at home. I just took your information, your design and realized it with my materials. Didn't take any of your materials, didn't stop you from selling your sandwiches. Am I stealing your sandwiches? Is each one of those $5.95 that you are entitled to? I'm not even saying that I sell them to others, I just don't buy them. My bread, cheese, whatever. Suppose my friends come over and I make them some sandwiches in your style. Are they stealing your sandwiches? Am I? If you want to imagine that a half dozen of us ate them, then you would have made $35.70 off of us, but it's also true that we might never have gone to your place at all.

Somebody gave me a mix a while back with a Drive-By Truckers song on it. Fine fellows, I'm sure, but I never would have paid $16 for a CD or 99 cents for a track. Am I stealing their music?
posted by el_lupino at 6:27 PM on September 22, 2009


Copyright infringement isn't theft. That doesn't mean it's right, legal or ethical, which are all valid arguments to have... and I'm not saying that artists don't deserve to retain some rights to their creations once they're out the door (for example, others shouldn't be able to profit from them).. but this insistence on calling it "stealing" and "theft" is a marketing spin pushed by the RIAA and other big corporate players

I'm a songwriter. I have been paid (minusculely, but still) for my work.

If you take from me something that I am entitled to get royalties from without paying royalties OR asking me for it nicely, then, as far as I am concerned, you have robbed from me. When I own a song I have written, it is mine, to do with as I please-to sell copies, to give away, whatever.

Creative work IS WORK. Your accountant doesn't work for free, nor does your lawyer, your grocer or your babysitter. Why are you telling me musicians and songwriters should?

At the very least, respect us enough to respect our right to control where our work goes. Many of us don't mind filesharing our work-as long as WE GIVE OUR PERMISSION. Some of us are trying to make a living or at least supplement our income with our work. Others of us (myself included) see our gift as something to share but want to be the one doing the sharing.

If I make cupcakes and invite you to partake, that is one thing. If you break into my house and grab them off my kitchen table, that's something else.

Respect the artist. Respect the work.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:29 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


St. Alia: If I make cupcakes and invite you to partake, that is one thing. If you break into my house and grab them off my kitchen table, that's something else.

What if you post your cupcake recipe all over town advertising your awesome for-profit cupcake party, and I go home and make cupcakes based on that recipe and share them with everyone?
posted by mullingitover at 6:45 PM on September 22, 2009


Lily Allen's description of the of new artists having to pay their labels back for certain services only applies to a gullible minority of artists willing to contract their talents in exchange for major label promotion, an agreement that artists enter into at their own risk.

Nope. The only real alternative is to buy all the services that the bigger labels perform yourself--but to do that, you either have to be rich yourself or take on substantial debt loads. The big players control most of the PR machinery, too. Even the indie promoters have bills to pay, and can't afford to risk their reputations on promoting unproven artists that don't already have something else going for them. You can try to do all your promotion yourself, but not only do envelopes and demo CDs and postage end up costing a lot more than you'd expect when you mail out 500 copies of a CD, if you expect the music press to pay you any serious attention, you'd better either be signed to a label that advertises with them or buy advertising from them yourself. I noticed recently that one online music magazine actually goes so far as to spell it all out in their album submission guidelines (and I gotta say, I kind of respect their honesty):
If you wish to submit an album for review you should consider buying an advertisement to get our attention. We have a mountains of CDs and generally only the very best stuff gets reviewed and most of that comes from a select few labels and publicists that we already trust.
And unless you're Stevie Wonder, there is no major in the world that isn't going to take promotion and manufacturing costs out of your future royalties. Most will demand publishing rights, too. And even a modest large-scale tour promotion campaign can run well over ten grand. That's saying nothing about the costs of promoting a release to distributors, radio stations and the press.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:50 PM on September 22, 2009


What if you post your cupcake recipe all over town advertising your awesome for-profit cupcake party, and I go home and make cupcakes based on that recipe and share them with everyone?

Is that supposed to be an analogy to recording your own cover version of a song?
posted by The World Famous at 6:51 PM on September 22, 2009


"Stealing" always seems to come up in discussions of intellectual property, and I agree, it should. In as much as "stealing" is taking from someone so that they don't have a thing, artists are thieves. They steal. They take from the public domain and they deny all of us what should rightfully be ours. In the beginning we let them get away with it. A certain amount of theft was allowed in a "don't bind the mouths of the kine that thresh thy grain" kind of way, as an encouragement to create more - but that clearly has to come to an end. They say that you give someone an inch and they'll take a mile. Well that not unreasonable amount of stealing that we've tolerated up until now has become theft from the public commons to the point that there is barely a public commons left. Nothing will enter into the public domain in my lifetime that was created in my father's lifetime. No more, I say. The deal is off. We can't afford to let artists keep taking from all of us like this any more. The moral choice is clear, we must all become pirates.

PS: software makers you're next
posted by mock at 6:58 PM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


mullingitover: "What if you post your cupcake recipe all over town advertising your awesome for-profit cupcake party, and I go home and make cupcakes based on that recipe and share them with everyone?"

I would like some of your cupcakes, please.

In the meantime, those of you who want us to feel guilty about "stealing" music had best get your licks in now. Because the kids in elementary school today will never know anything else. And they'll regard your views on copyright as a puritanical obsolescence.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:18 PM on September 22, 2009


Is that supposed to be an analogy to recording your own cover version of a song?

I think mullingitover's point and mine above is that everyone here treats copying information as equivalent to stealing a physical thing, and both of us were trying to make the point that there are pretty serious limits to any similarity between the two. If I take St. Alia's cupcakes off his kitchen table or steal sandwiches from the restaurant I imagined someone (mullingitover?) having, I've clearly stolen a physical thing that someone else can no longer have. If I eat St. Alia's cupcakes, he cannot do so, if I steal your car, you don't have it. But copying information doesn't involve that sort of change in a physical good. I don't take someone's CD and destroy it or even prevent them from having it, my computer just makes a copy of the information. Now, lots of people in this thread seem to be saying that the songwriter is entitled to something in virtue of that potential sale, and that theft has occurred because something was taken away. The dueling analogies here are, I think, people insisting that this is so while others insist it's not clear what, if anything, was taken. (e.g. Don't pretend that the Drive-By Truckers have been robbed of 99 cents, because it's just false that they were ever going to get it from me.)
posted by el_lupino at 7:20 PM on September 22, 2009


And they'll regard your views on copyright as a puritanical obsolescence.

And their music will suck ass even more than the last generation's.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:23 PM on September 22, 2009


The whole argument about whether to use the word "stealing" is just a pointless distraction.

In 1987, my friend bought the record of The Smiths' album The Queen Is Dead. I liked it. I wanted it. So I had two options to get it: Option A) Go to the record store and buy the record or tape of the album; Option B) Give my friend a blank tape and have him copy the album for me. Had I chosen Option A, I would have been paying Morrissey, Marr, and a bunch of other people for creating that fantastic album. But I chose Option B, and received the fruit of their labors without paying them a dime.

Did I "steal?" Who cares if we use that word. I used technology to get their product without paying them for it.

And their music will suck ass even more than the last generation's.

Or at least that's what the last generation will say.
posted by The World Famous at 7:28 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


You can steal someone's services just as clearly as someone's goods.

The raw material for a cupcake comes from the grocery store. Where anyone with money can obtain flour and eggs and sugar and whatever else goes in the treat.

The raw material for my songs comes from my heart, my experiences, my giftings. You take that from me with no recompense or permission-what would YOU call that?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:30 PM on September 22, 2009


And if selling exact duplicates of my car is how I make my living, and I am the one who invented and built my car?

Who says the person who copied your car was ever going to buy your creation? If it was copied by someone who would otherwise buy it, sure. However, if not, then it makes no economic difference to you... or perhaps it actually is advantageous to you. Let's stop talking theoretically and see how it works in practice. I hear a piece of music from a friend who pirated it - I like it, I buy it. It's actually happened - more than once. A perfect instance of how pirating works to your economic advantage - the downloader would not have bought your music anyway, so no loss, but he helps popularize your music, so he actually helps you economically (btw., that's a big part of MSFT's success, but that's a different derail).

Or take my case. I download tons of music. What is the economic impact on musicians of my activity? It seems to me, wholly positive. I download music mostly as a way to explore stuff I may end up liking. About 99% of it, I delete - I would never buy it anyway. Stuff I end up really liking - I buy CDs of, when available (I have over 5000 CDs at this point). I found a lot of music this way - a win for those musicians, in more ways than one, because I'm also a great proselytizer of the music I love, which often results in additional buying from those whom I turn on to the stuff I find. Finally, there's music that I download and keep, and love, which I don't pay for - is it a loss for the musician? No - because that music is not available to buy; for example live performances which were never recorded by the label or musician.

The net result of my downloading is that I spend more money on music than I ever have before I started downloading. The economic impact on musicians, seems to me good. If it were not for those who upload and share files, I'd never have discovered (and then been able to buy) a lot of music (and no, pandora last fm etc. don't have even a fraction of the variety of music available on file sharing sites). Thank you, pirates!

Does it always work like this for all musicians and all file sharers? Of course not. But tell me, net-net, are you losing money or making it thanks to filesharing?
posted by VikingSword at 7:33 PM on September 22, 2009


Copyright infringement. Stealing involves removal of property so that you don't have it any more.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:35 PM on September 22, 2009


St Alia, do you watch fan-uploaded YouTube videos? If so, do you consider yourself a thief? I would say your crime is more minor than that.

If someone takes food from the store, the store doesn't have it any more. If someone takes your "giftings" without permission, you still have them. So it is obviously a different order of crime.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:39 PM on September 22, 2009


If what I have is of value, and someone takes it from me without providing me equal value, you have devalued what I have. So why should I bother to sit down and write for anyone else, if that is the case?

If you go to your lawyer and pick his brain for what to do in your divorce case, and then neglect to pay him, he still has his knowledge, right? Do you expect him or her to work for free?

Besides, let me point out something else-recording COSTS MONEY. Studio time costs money. Cds cost money. Equipment and software cost money.

Composing music, performing music, costs money. Then people like some of you take the fruit of the labor of the musicians, the composers, who incurred expenses in order to provide what is, after all, a finished product, take it without even a thought of what these people did so you could have that song, and then you have the gall to justify what you did just because your technology allows you to do it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:45 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: There's also this tendency to behave as though the ownership model of songwriting is the way things must be, and have been, and without them, there is no music, because the creators of music need money and credit for their creations, or they won't do it.

The entire history of folk music shows this not to be the case, and it is a debt that popular music draws from, without acknowledgement or payback, every day.


Folk music can be moving and virtuosic and complex in its own way, but folk music is a dead end -- "it's the same old song." The joining of music and economics allowed the advancement of music by way of new forms and previously unimaginable sounds -- the orchestra. The synthesizer. The rock band. The 3 minute pop song. The 90 minute symphony. The studio recording. The 15 minute noise composition. All the innovations that allowed these things to exist were made for economic reasons (there was money in it) but the eventual outcome was pure creativity in ever more complex forms. This is the story of Western music.

Likewise, composers and artists have been able to push music as far as they have because it has always been financially possible (though never easy, except among the rich) to dedicate oneself wholly to music. It's still very possible to do so, but, increasingly, with the vast number of 'weekend warrior' musicians flooding the global music hot tub with pee, the recent ability of any music listener to download any piece for free, and the role of music consigned to 'background sounds for life' for many, the full-time artist-musician is on the way out. And it's too bad that a lot of people don't see anything wrong with that.

Rite of Spring wasn't written after work by a lawyer.
posted by gonna get a dog at 7:48 PM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ah, so musicians should tour for money.

So fuck Kate Bush, right? She toured once; it was terrible. She didn't do it again. She made more music. But fuck anybody like Kate Bush, who could make beautiful music but isn't the touring type. And fuck electronic music where the sound and not the performance is central. Fuck 'em all.

Right? That's where this is going. No, wait -- there are other ways to make money. There's that 360 contract dealie musicians have going on, where they have shoes and perfume and t-shirts and things. And of course there's short term sponsorship - boy band stuff - and engineered fads linked to reality TV and things.

These are "great" options. They're also why strident pirates are not the rebels they think they are, but are in fact fucking tools. Because if there's one thing pirates and music executives seem to have in common, it's not wanting to spend too much money on getting the content. The caricature of there being an copyright Mafia as the full extent of the industry's strategy is so stupid, such an idiotic underestimation of what they're capable of, it makes piracy advocates economic mouthbreathers.

Big Content just wants to get paid. It doesn't give a fuck how it gets paid and it *likes* the idea of artists being devalued -- always has, and now pirates have provided the ultimate pro argument. It explores multiple avenues to getting paid. So while the RIAA complains on one end, parasites on the sponsorship/management side do just fine on the other so you can get your t-shirts and perfume and novelty shit and tell the artist that since the market value of the content without their sponsorship is low, the artists should get paid accordingly.

Piracy isn't theft. It's something different. We're still deciding what it is as a culture. But it's not like there hasn't been a hierarchy of shitty arguments that it is an unalloyed Good Thing. Back in 2000 I remember when the argument was that it would never affect CD sales, that this was just industry scaremongering. Then the sales dropped, and it was all about how the industry hadn't innovated. Then legal downloads hit -- and musicians still shared stored about being screwed -- and it was all about how the artists had it easy all this time, and should be touring. Now, in 2009, when it's become fairly obvious that this is a lie, and that Radiohead could shit on a plate and make seven figures, but not everybody is them, it's just "fuck the artist."

No argument. Just dumbassed invective because y'all have nothing left when an artist who is not a millionaire says please, could you not pirate? Because Lily Allen isn't Metallica, and appears to be no reasonable variant of the Man you've been hanging your arguments on for a decade. And she has the temerity to suggest that as a recording artist, she might know what effects this is having that differ from the fantasies of People on the Internet. That obviously cannot be tolerated.

Does that mean you shouldn't pirate? No. Radiohead wants you to download their stuff, so go for it. Metallica has plenty of money. None of Madonna's children are going to go hungry or anything. Go nuts. But here's what I suggest. If you care about the artists and are not simply inveterate assholes, maybe you should find out what the *artist* thinks. Lots have already made their positions clear. Ask those coffeehouse musicians you think would be totally cool with it if they are in fact cool with it. Educate yourself about what the band you like think, and if they'd rather you didn't, instead of reaching for "fuck the artist" or some other idiotic self-serving rationale, maybe you should *not* download it.

Yes, just because they don't want you to.

We need a central repository of positions from artists. You check, see how they'd like you to experience their music. You give the artist a bit of respect, entirely apart from various forms of bullshit economic rhetoric -- just *respect* -- and you try to adhere to their wishes.

And I'd say that if you think a musician has 10 mil in the bank (a lot, but as Allen notes they get big debts) why the fuck not? They can take it. Wisdom-of-Solomon like universal arguments need not apply to this. It *is* reasonable for those acting outside of the conventional market to act on values other than those of a bottomless-stomached homo economicus and be a decent human being, who can moderate appetites out of some sense of at least rudimentary compassion.

It doesn't mean that you shouldn't pirate. It's not stealing -- it's stupid to say that it is. But maybe you should stop being so fucking *righteous* about it.
posted by mobunited at 7:53 PM on September 22, 2009 [13 favorites]


saulgoodman: "And their music will suck ass even more than the last generation's."

Let's say you're right. File sharing means that good music - however you'd like to define it - will never be produced again.

You know what? There's already more than a century of recorded music out there from every corner of the planet. One genre alone couldn't be exhausted in a single lifetime. I'm grabbing music as fast as I can download it - and have enough saved by now that it would take almost half a year, 24 hours a day, to play it all - and I'm still discovering new excitements all the time. Elmore James, for example.

Tell me I'm a bad person, if you like. But don't try telling me that, in choosing the free exploration of those riches over the Lily Allens of the future, I'm getting the worse of the deal.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:23 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, Joe Beese. I'm not totally on-board with Lily Allen, here. I don't really have a problem with file-sharing so much as with un-reflective piracy--and more generally, with the cultural devaluation of recorded music as an art form and the belligerent attitudes people express toward working musicians who, in many cases, are making significant personal and economic investments in creating their music.

Personally, I'm all for Creative Commons licensing. The non-commercial, sharing with attribution license is great. It lets the artist define the terms of how they want their music distributed. So under that license, I give a lot of my stuff away, with the restriction that you attribute its creation to me and refrain from using it for any commercial purpose without getting my permission first.

But mobunited brilliantly explains the problems with actual piracy. In fact, his position is basically the same as mine.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:36 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


If what I have is of value, and someone takes it from me without providing me equal value, you have devalued what I have. So why should I bother to sit down and write for anyone else, if that is the case?

(For the record, I am a songwriter and musician, too. FWIW.) Again, that presumes that someone downloading a file devalues my work. It's not at all clear it does that, even in a strict monetary sense. If I would not have paid for it in the first place, downloading it doesn't lower its monetary value to me. In the broader sense of people being interested in my work, it may have just the opposite effect of getting people more interested in my work.

If you go to your lawyer and pick his brain for what to do in your divorce case, and then neglect to pay him, he still has his knowledge, right? Do you expect him or her to work for free?

But that's shifting the example at just the key point. You contracted the lawyer's services, he did work specifically for you (or at least, you took up his time talking to you) and then you reneged on the contract. In that case, you clearly DID steal his work. You personally hire a lawyer and get his/her time and a service directly from him/her, tailored to your case. In that sense, what you're describing is more like going into a store, taking a CD off the shelf, standing innocently in the checkout line and then bolting for the door. While the lawyer isn't generally giving you something physical, you are directly taking (or contracting for) something that the lawyer can't replace - his time and potential for other business. The analogy for a musician would be something like playing a wedding or a show and then getting stiffed at the end of the night. But let's take the premise seriously. Suppose that I go to a lawyer, she reviews my details and says, "I don't think you should file a suit here. The law's not on your side in this state." Suppose a friend of mine is in a similar situation and I say, "No, don't bother. The law's not on your side in this state." Do you think the lawyer has the right to sue me for passing a copy of that information on to someone else? If that becomes common knowledge, the lawyer is likely to need a different way of practicing law (or a different specialty or something), but have all the people who have heard that advice by word of mouth done something wrong to the lawyer?

Besides, let me point out something else-recording COSTS MONEY. Studio time costs money. Cds cost money. Equipment and software cost money... Composing music, performing music, costs money. Then people like some of you take the fruit of the labor of the musicians, the composers, who incurred expenses in order to provide what is, after all, a finished product, take it without even a thought of what these people did so you could have that song, and then you have the gall to justify what you did just because your technology allows you to do it.

No one has denied any of those things about costs, as far as I can tell. And no one, as far as I can tell, is denying that dedicated artists deserve respect for their work. This is one of my passions, too, and I feel all the frustrations you do in that sense. My worries - and these are scattered among others in the thread, I think - are that we are locked into thinking that music as a profession mediated by third parties is the only legitimate form of making music. And we are thinking of information as property in ways that have rhetoric supporting artists, but in fact are ways of extending perpetuating control of that work by parties that never actually create it. That is, the debate is framed in order to pass off the commodification of art and culture as a defense of artists, when in fact it's no such thing.

I guess I went all anarcho-syndicalist at the end here. But, to address ciderwoman's concerns, at least I'm always like that.
posted by el_lupino at 8:39 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rite of Spring wasn't written after work by a lawyer.

When people start pirating ballet somehow over the internet, let me know.
posted by The World Famous at 8:47 PM on September 22, 2009


Yes, there was a ballet set to it, but it was music-I know; we played an excerpt of it in band back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:53 PM on September 22, 2009


Yes, I hope that file sharing will eventually starve the fat cats and usher in a new era of locally grown, digitally distributed "authentic" music. I hope that, in the absence of a direct patronage system, outstanding music will be able to thrive on goodwill alone. In the meantime, I agree with Joe Beese that the real blessing of the technology is the ability to travel backward in musical history.

PS - I enjoy slaughtering sacred cows as much as the next MeFite, but the suggestion that art-making is not work is absurd and insulting. Getting exceptionally good at anything requires discipline, sacrifice and an unbelievable investment of hours. It may be folly, but it is most definitely work.
posted by ducky l'orange at 8:54 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sure, assuming that music is a disposable commodity as opposed to a part of the living, breathing organic tissue of human culture.

actually i think the music business did that, hmmm, say about the time they put fabian on a stage

i don't care what you do, if you want to get paid for it in this society, it's going to be commoditized

---

It amazes me that the majority of Americans seem to run from the word socialism like it's typhus, but come the file sharing debate and everyone's an anarcho syndicalist.

i call that a good start - many people say that food, water, and most recently, health care should be human rights; why stop there? - when people are willing to collectively share the risks of ill health with one another, do i see flame wars here over the right of doctors to get paid what they want? - about the right of insurers to be middlemen?

let's face it - this whole argument over music only makes sense in the context of 20th century mass market capitalism - 200 years from now, if civilization survives, it will seem quaint and incomprehensible - (and if it doesn't survive, people will be too busy using pointy sticks to plow fields and hunt animals to care)

mass market music? - just another financial bubble popping
posted by pyramid termite at 9:07 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tell me I'm a bad person, if you like

Wouldn't that be the easy way out, though?

If we didn't have to be aware of the consequences of our actions, if someone tells us its wrong, we don't have to think too hard about messing with other people's livelihoods. It's just a corporate RIAA mouthpiece(*) blabbing about how stealing is wrong! It's not even stealing!

It's a handy way to transfer responsibility for one's actions, to rationalize getting stuff without respecting its maker enough to recompense her for it. It's almost sociopathic, acting in deliberate disregard for other someone else, while focused entirely on fulfilling one's needs.

If there was a musician selling CDs after her live show, would you (royal you) bring a laptop, sit across from her table and start downloading her stuff for free, showing passersby the laptop screen while you do it?

Why not, after all, if it's not dishonest. Or would you honestly need to wait for someone to tell you you're a bad person, or at least not being an adult?

(*) Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the RIAA and donate to ACLU and CC.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Even the indie promoters have bills to pay, and can't afford to risk their reputations on promoting unproven artists that don't already have something else going for them."

LOLWHUT

Do you want the numbers for some indie promoters who do good work and who have reasonable rates? I mean, no one is going to work for you for free, yeah, but the idea that there aren't a million promoters who do reasonable work for reasonable pay and are all concerned with their "reputations"? I've been on the receiving side of the promo dance, and no, really, if they're worried about their reputations, they do a piss poor job of protecting them.

On the other hand, like, that you think you have to mail out 500 copies of a CD just kind of shows that you're doing things the old way. It costs money to make an Electronic Press Kit, sure. You gotta have somebody make you a nice webpage, take some promo pix, write a one sheet and load up a ZIP of the album. That's gonna be, what, $20-$50 each for photos and the one sheet, probably $20 to design, whatever your hosting costs are… And most of that can and should be farmed out to folks you already know (I can put together a full press pack for pretty cheap if anyone needs one).

You then have ten CDs to send out to the various outlets that still demand them, and the real pain in the ass that you farm out to PR folks is follow-up and clippings. That's where having someone know someone comes in handy.

Still, this works for artists like Gang Gang Dance, Lee Scratch Perry, King Khan, and any number of other folks who have decent recognition and careers. I know this because I know people who do the promo work for them.

If someone says that they don't want to promote your music because it might damage their reputation, that has nothing to do with market constraints or file sharing—they're saying your music sucks.

And (if I recall correctly) your music doesn't suck. So you're either going to the wrong folks or getting jobbed or something, but it seems like you're assuming your milieu is universal—something I'm not doing (I'd know little about marketing a new country album, though I could write a one sheet and set up a press pack for it), but I am pointing out that there's a better way, a less sucky way, made possible by this wonderful internet.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


PS - I enjoy slaughtering sacred cows as much as the next MeFite, but the suggestion that art-making is not work is absurd and insulting. Getting exceptionally good at anything requires discipline, sacrifice and an unbelievable investment of hours. It may be folly, but it is most definitely work.

Well put. I'm all in favor of lawyers, bus drivers, teachers, farmers, bartenders, used car salesmen etc doing their day job then pursuing their relevant passion in their spare time. But we (humanity that is) will be losing an awful lot if we casually, lazily just shrug off all the full-timers out there because they " ... just don't fit into the new paradigm."
posted by philip-random at 9:41 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


If someone says that they don't want to promote your music because it might damage their reputation, that has nothing to do with market constraints or file sharing—they're saying your music sucks.

I was trying to be tactful, because I've got friends who work in indie music promotion, and I don't want to be too disparaging of what they do. As for the reputation thing, all I mean is that Joe Blow's Awesome New Hair Metal Band is not going to find an indie promoter that will work with them in a serious way, even if they spend the tens of thousands for full end-to-end promotion services. Otherwise, if you're passingly decent, it all comes down to dollars and cents.

And music submissions for club bookings, retail distributors, a lot of print media (especially regional print media, like the local papers you have to hit when you're promoting a tour), and a lot of major college radio stations are still expected to be made in the form of physical CDs.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:52 PM on September 22, 2009


But we (humanity that is) will be losing an awful lot if we casually, lazily just shrug off all the full-timers out there because they " ... just don't fit into the new paradigm."

Absolutely. But the better model, in my opinion, than we currently have would be one where being a full-time musician would earn lower wages at the top end and higer wages at the low end, and where there's not a massive industry of non-musicians who make money hand over fist because of the hard-working, creative people who make the product they sell. Most of the people we think of as "full-timers" are not actually making music full time.

Humanity won't be losing much if we casually, lazily just shrug off all the part-time music makers who are making unjustified money, together with their corporate handlers and leeches, because they just don't fit into a new paradigm that requires a musician to actually make music full-time in order for music to be their career.
posted by The World Famous at 9:53 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Composing music, performing music, costs money. Then people like some of you take the fruit of the labor of the musicians, the composers, who incurred expenses in order to provide what is, after all, a finished product, take it without even a thought of what these people did so you could have that song, and then you have the gall to justify what you did just because your technology allows you to do it.

You don't need to tell me how it all costs money. Really you don't. I'm not going to get into trading skimping on food to buy guitar strings type stories right now, all Four Yorkshiremen style, but trust me, I really could. Even so. A download is not equivalent to a lost sale. It's a free advert for your music.

If those people didn't react to the fruit of the labour of the musicians, the composers, who incurred expenses in order to provide it by falling so in love so hard they immediately ran out to buy the CD, or the concert ticket, or whatever, there are one of two possibilities: a) They thought 'meh, that was kind of ok', and forgot about it; b) They thought it was rubbish and - if a download - they deleted it immediately.

You have lost no sales in either case. And in the case of a) they might listen to it again in six months time and really like it. That might generate a sale.

'Your favourite band sucks' has a deeper meaning than mere snark. There's a great breadth of taste but no scarcity of music. More people have more access to more music than at any time in human history. In fact, for music lovers and musicians alike, this is an amazing time to be alive. True, the economic reality is sketchy for many if not most musicians, but it always has been.

I sell CDs while busking all the time. I'm not going to sell any CDs by standing there giving out flyers explaining how brilliant I am and how much my CD cost to make. I have to take the guitar and sing and show them. Some people just drop coins and don't buy a CD, some make faces at me and hurry away covering their ears, some don't notice I'm there at all.

Essentially the new reality is that we are all buskers now. We're trying to figure out how to busk effectively on the internet, and it's clear that it helps to already be Radiohead or Lily Allen, which most of us are not. Yet demanding, as some wish to, that people pretend there is no internet, seems an unlikely strategy.
posted by motty at 10:14 PM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


"And music submissions for club bookings, retail distributors, a lot of print media (especially regional print media, like the local papers you have to hit when you're promoting a tour), and a lot of major college radio stations are still expected to be made in the form of physical CDs."

Regional print, the best thing that a flack can do right now is call up and ask if they'll accept an EPK. Because EPKs are still somewhat of a novelty, the phone call really does call attention in a way that an email doesn't, and people are willing to try out listening to an EPK just to see what they're like. Combined with the fact that you can do multimedia in them, you've got a much better chance of getting a bit of press.

Club bookings, honestly, I think this is because you're booking different bands than I have experience with. But it was about five years ago that the main rock club on my old beat stopped asking for CDs for booking—all they wanted was a MySpace page if they didn't already know your band.

College radio is changing, but that really does depend on the station, and you're right—a lot of those places do still want the CD. But with both them and print, I'd definitely send an EPK first and have them opt in to physical media.

And if you've got a hair metal band, you get a hair metal publicist. Whether or not that's ironic hair metal is up to you, but they're out there and some of 'em are pretty great (though many of them are simply the girlfriend of somebody in the band).
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 PM on September 22, 2009


Darren Hayes chimes in.

Also: Nina Paley of Question Copyright claims that artists are not inherently obliged to be paid for their art. Or should they?
posted by divabat at 11:54 PM on September 22, 2009


I promise that I will never, ever download a copy of one of St. Alia of the Bunnies banging tunes.

In fact, I'm guessing I'll never even listen to one. Your future economic well-being is safe from my rapacious filesharing ways, St. A of the B.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:08 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Yeah. On the other hand, would it ruin music if working musicians could have access to a health plan that is something other than your musician friends hold benefit for you when you get sick or injured?"

You mean like the British national health system?

when most societies have already decided that individuals have dominion over themselves and all other things they create and own.

That's a pretty weird view. Many countries have had stronger IP regimes pushed on them by more powerful countries with large IP industries, like the US. But it's not something that people locally supported, and they're usually ignored. 12 years ago the number of people living in societies where copyright was strongly enforced and piracy was uncommon were pretty low, and that number has only gone down to almost zero, in practice.

Property rights are plainly written in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, and though copyright is a function of the creator's lifespan, almost all other rights are, as well.

Copyrights are not property rights, they're copyrights. And limited time was originally only 14 years at the time the constitution was ratified, not the lifetime of the creator.

Copyright infringement is not legally the same thing as stealing. You can call it whatever you want, but there is no legitimate reason to call it stealing, despite how strongly you feel about it.

---

Also you guys are missing the most obvious source of money for musicians, licensing music for advertising.
posted by delmoi at 12:32 AM on September 23, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: "Property rights are plainly written in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, and though copyright is a function of the creator's lifespan, almost all other rights are, as well. To address the "limited" aspect, therefore, I'm not sure it makes much sense to ascribe inalienable rights to dead people, or somehow marginalize copyright just because it is limited. (If anything, a very reasonable argument can be made that copyright extends well past the death of the creator, when few other rights do.) "

Except that copyright is not a function of the creator's lifespan. Take a look at the Copyright clause again—it says nothing about the actual span of copyright. That is left entirely up to Congress. They could make it a year, ten years, or a hundred years. (Well, Eldred seems to indicate that there's some theoretical maximum beyond which nobody could say with a straight face that it's a "limited time" anymore, but it hasn't been reached yet.) The duration of copyright is completely arbitrary. It's only linked to the lifetime of the creator by Congress' desire to make it that way—and even then many works fall under the corporate authorship rules and there's no linkage to anyone's lifetime at all.

You're correct that it doesn't make a lot of sense to try to recognize an inalienable or intrinsic right after the death of the person in question—which is why, with some limited exceptions, it's not really done. Dead people don't own property, for instance. (There are some weird edge cases like the quasi-property status of the actual corpse, or the liminal period while an estate is being distributed, but on the main they don't actually get to own stuff.) They can't vote, even if they may have expressed an intent to vote in one way or another in an election prior to death. Every fundamental or inalienable right that I can think of, the ones that are supposedly derived from natural law, are linked to the person in question and terminate on death.

Copyright doesn't do that; it doesn't have to, because it's constructed from whole cloth by Congress. It's similar to the "rights" granted to corporations and other legal entities (which obviously don't have any claim on 'natural' rights by virtue of their fictitiousness). The only reason they exist is because the Legislature, over the years, has decided for various reasons that it's preferable for them to. But copyright, like the rights of corporations, is open to debate on the grounds of utility in a way that fundamental rights are not.


Besides which, copyright has never been an issue of creators controlling something that's in their possession, it's about restricting what other people can do. Even if you had no concept of copyright, it would still be illegal to break into someone's house and take their writing and disseminate it. You don't need copyright to prevent that. What you need copyright for, is to allow that author to impose his will on other people who might get a copy of what he wrote, by prohibiting them from making a copy. Copyright takes away from one person's rights (he who bought a copy of the work, and without copyright would be able to do whatever the hell he wanted to do with it, including making another copy of the marks on it) in order to facilitate a very particular business model that depends on the ability to sell copies and prohibit further reproduction.

That model isn't naturally superior to the one without copyright, nor is it apparent that the creator's right to control downstream reproduction should automatic outweigh the purchaser's right to do whatever they want with their newly-acquired property. It's a purely pragmatic decision to value one over the other, and I think it's not improper to reevaluate that decision in light of changing technology and societal priorities periodically, if not continuously.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:33 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fully half the CD's I've purchased in the past 5 years (no cellphone, no iPod) are stuff that I ran across online. Either myself or as a result of a blog mention. MOST ARE STUFF I'D NEVER HAVE FOUND otherwise.

Do I buy it all? no. No more than when it was on the radio and I had to listen to ca-ca All Night Long for a chance at a cool newbie.

So she's nuts. Getting your stuff heard (as Doctorow has repeatedly said) is important. And as Arctic Monkeys proved, IF you've got the stuff, you can 'emerge' very well, thank you.

Is whole-CD filesharing bad? Yes. Can you legislate it? No. (The net routes around damage.) People need to understand they *could* KILL THEIR FAVORITE BAND that way. Terrorize the ISP and people will find a way ... phone-to-phone tethering if necessary.
posted by Twang at 1:02 AM on September 23, 2009


Let's not even get into the small problem of those filthy pirates buying more music than the file-sharing puritans.
posted by mullingitover at 1:23 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's constructed from whole cloth by Congress

That's a bit far out, I think. It's a clause in the Constitution, so it's not like the notions of why and how the law would enforce respect for intellectual property and copyrights suddenly popped out of thin air.

As much as interpretation by Congress and the Supreme Court guides the actual copyright law on the books, the same could be said for almost all of the laws of the land. Interpretation is why Supreme Court decisions land in the newspapers every so often, especially when contentious.

For music, at least (what this thread is about) copyright is generally a function of the creator's lifespan, and for the purposes of enriching the creator is in that sense no different from any other legal right constrained by the requirement that one needs to be alive to enjoy it.

What you need copyright for, is to allow that author to impose his will on other people who might get a copy of what he wrote, by prohibiting them from making a copy.

While semantically true, I suppose, it seems a fairly unique usage of the idea of imposing will. It's perhaps only an imposition of will in the sense that putting a lock on the door of a car is imposing its owner's will on any passersby who want her car.

I'd prefer to call it part of the social contract, where we more or less (some less than more) agree to respect personal boundaries.

I mean, there are literally hundreds of cars within a square mile radius of where I live — at least 50 or 60 VW Beetle copies alone, down to the color and model — so the need for locks is for 99.5% of all practical purposes simply to maintain ownership.

In modern society, there's little real or practical need for locks on cars in most locales. There's little scarcity of automobiles, and without those annoying security mechanisms any one of us could simply pluck up a car off the street and do our daily chores, as needed. But we still have locks on every door and in every ignition, I suppose, in some sense, to at least partially impose our will on others.

Likewise, there are housing and shelters everywhere, even though there are locks on pretty much every door. It really should be no imposition on the homeowner when a stranger comes over and squats in an unused part of the house — as much as it shouldn't be an imposition to take someone else's car out for a joyride when it was parked and the owner wasn't using it at the time — in precisely the same way that an illegal copy doesn't hurt the creator's livelihood, since she wasn't going to get paid for it, in any case.

In modern cities there is little real scarcity of real estate, mostly an artifice imposed by speculators, property laws and societal mores that outlaws or very strongly discourages squatting. Yet we still have locks on doors and are okay with such devices establishing boundaries that keep non-owners out.

Nonetheless, digital media is different somehow. Put technical locks on that stuff that recognize the creator's rights, and people get really upset. Even if you ask people politely not to steal shit, they get irate. Some even get demanding and entitled, like they are owed free entertainment.

Still, few act like they are owed a car or a house. It's a strange, if obvious contradiction, to me, in light of all the other ubiquitous bits of property that we subconsciously put into sets called (very roughly) Mine and Not Mine.

Laws and social rules suck for people who want to do what they want without regard for others. But that seems a lot better than being pushed around by sociopaths at the end of a gun. Maybe there are some bonuses from having a society not propped up on ripping off others, thieving and scamming.

nor is it apparent that the creator's right to control downstream reproduction should automatic outweigh the purchaser's right to do whatever they want with their newly-acquired property

What is interesting to me is that we recognize the creator's property rights in every other case but for what property is reproducible. The technical aspect of this property somehow merits a special exception (ultimately because people want stuff for free that they would otherwise have to pay for, though very few will ever admit it).

Even more damning, to me, is that people suddenly consider it their property once they have a copy. A light bulb goes off and suddenly people get the notion of property rights and ownership, while still finding it difficult to recognize when the creator has rights. A matter of perspective, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:35 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I understood it, the music industry has done fairly well in the recession.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:08 AM on September 23, 2009


promise that I will never, ever download a copy of one of St. Alia of the Bunnies banging tunes.

In fact, I'm guessing I'll never even listen to one. Your future economic well-being is safe from my rapacious filesharing ways, St. A of the B.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:08 AM on September 23 [+] [!]


Too bad, we're recording two new ones this Monday. ;-)

To be serious....again, if anyone wanted a copy of my stuff all they would need to do is ask-I don't do what I do for money. But otoh do I want other people making money off my stuff without my permission, or other people giving away my stuff without permission?

No. Because it's MY STUFF.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:29 AM on September 23, 2009


What is interesting to me is that we recognize the creator's property rights in every other case but for what property is reproducible. The technical aspect of this property somehow merits a special exception (ultimately because people want stuff for free that they would otherwise have to pay for, though very few will ever admit it).

Even more damning, to me, is that people suddenly consider it their property once they have a copy. A light bulb goes off and suddenly people get the notion of property rights and ownership, while still finding it difficult to recognize when the creator has rights. A matter of perspective, I guess.


Quoted for truth.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:33 AM on September 23, 2009


Darren Hayes chimes in.

If you want evidence that file sharing has destroyed the recorded music industry, look no further than at the disappearance of studios.

the explosion in home and business computer based studios is what's done in the old music studio - record companies are offering smaller budgets to acts that can do much of the recording in cheaper, pc-based places

Records sell so few copies these days that major record stores are closing down.

no, it's because places like best buy, walmart and target undersell them, while also selling things that have been taking over people's entertainment budget dollars, such as dvds and video games

he's using piracy as a scapegoat for very real changes in the technology and the market that recording studios and records stores couldn't or wouldn't adapt to

he's posting pure propaganda here and his commenters are swallowing it
posted by pyramid termite at 7:05 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do I want other people making money off my stuff without my permission, or other people giving away my stuff without permission?
No. Because it's MY STUFF.


Am I allowed to give books away after I've finished reading them, or should I write to the authors for permission first? May I lend books to friends? They don't buy them that way, which must by your logic "deprive" the starving authors of revenue they "deserve."

Because if that's wrong, I'm due for several consecutive life sentences.
posted by rokusan at 7:44 AM on September 23, 2009


Well, if books and music were similar, bars and restaurants wouldn't need to buy BMI/ASCAP licences, would they?

You don't like the law, change the law. But don't tell me it's a good thing to violate it at the expense of the producer of the content.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:51 AM on September 23, 2009


You don't like the law, change the law.

Thank goodness I have deeper pockets than Disney and celebrity politicians in my pocket. I'll get right on that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:14 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Well, if books and music were similar, bars and restaurants wouldn't need to buy BMI/ASCAP licences, would they? "

Music is more like cupcakes than books.

I am never playing Apples To Apples with you.
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Automobiles, books, buggy whips, cupcakes--we might have passed the point where metaphors aid understanding.
posted by box at 9:18 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if you've got a hair metal band, you get a hair metal publicist. Whether or not that's ironic hair metal is up to you, but they're out there and some of 'em are pretty great (though many of them are simply the girlfriend of somebody in the band).

Actually, I've heard Joe Blow's New Hair Metal Band, and they are definitely neither ironic nor great (but you're right: their publicist is the bass player's girlfriend).

Good national PR companies, the kind that can get your album to the top of the review slush pile at bigger print magazines, or talk Target into selling your CDs, or land you a feature spot on NPR or whatever, they don't come cheap and they aren't likely to work with artists who don't already have something going for them unless the artists have an inside connection. Either way, you can be the coolest new band on the planet, but someone ultimately has to foot the bills.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:32 AM on September 23, 2009


it seems like we're not talking about being compensated for playing music here, but for doing marketing
posted by pyramid termite at 9:44 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let's not even get into the small problem of those filthy pirates buying more music than the file-sharing puritans.

Well, of course they do. The pirates LOVE music and as such will get it any way they can (legal or otherwise). This is exactly where the RIAA blew it from the outset. They declared war on their best customers without bothering to examine the nuances of the situation.

Speaking of which, here's another nuance: all those who argue so vociferously in favor of a "must-pay-for-music" model are essentially arguing that poor people shouldn't have the same access to music as rich people.
posted by philip-random at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


essentially arguing that poor people shouldn't have the same access to music as rich people.

More money equals more access to stuff. That's why they call it money. Duh.
posted by The World Famous at 9:58 AM on September 23, 2009


Well, no, they call it money because Juno (Juno Moneta) was the protector of wealth in ancient Roman mythology.
posted by dersins at 10:06 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


essentially arguing that poor people shouldn't have the same access to music as rich people.

More money equals more access to stuff. That's why they call it money. Duh.


Respectfully, The World Famous, if you want to use metafilter to your advantage, you might want to try to actually read the inference inherent in a given comment before shouting it down and inferring that the commenter is DUMB.

This is no way to become a master of evil; just pick unnecessary and yes, DUMB fights.
posted by philip-random at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2009


I think we may be referring to different "theys."
posted by The World Famous at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2009


But don't tell me it's a good thing to violate it at the expense of the producer of the content.

The disconnect here is that it's not at your expense.

It's money you never had and never would have. All the studies show that piracy doesn't remove genuine sales from the market. It might, however, lead to money for you, as those downloaders buy stuff later. Or it might not. But there's no possible loss of money. That's all industry spin from those who want to control/restrict distribution.

To be serious....again, if anyone wanted a copy of my stuff all they would need to do is ask.

But they won't even know you exist, or know how to ask, unless your stuff is all over the internet. And there's one drop dead easy (and free) way for you to do that.
posted by rokusan at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2009


"Well, if books and music were similar, bars and restaurants wouldn't need to buy BMI/ASCAP licences, would they? "

Yes, the book business is less fucked up, because nobody will sue me if I lend a book to my buddy across the country. I can even mail it without violating interstate commerce laws. Imagine.
posted by rokusan at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2009


it seems like we're not talking about being compensated for playing music here, but for doing marketing

Well, in practice, unless you're content to just be the biggest insert-genre-here band in your home town forever (which isn't usually sustainable over the long-term, no matter how ego-stroking it may be, because it's still pretty much all money going out the door unless you supplement your income by playing in cover bands or something), you've got to do some kind of marketing. It sucks because it eats into time that could be better spent, you know, actually making music. And unless you just want to be slowly pissing your money down the drain to no significant long term effect on small-scale PR efforts, it's crazy expensive to mount a major PR campaign.

I'd argue the only real difference between amateur musicians and professional musicians, apart from considerations of technical proficiency, is that professionals have learned how to effectively market themselves in one way or another, just like members of any other profession. When the local plumber takes out an ad in the yellow pages, no one accuses her of being a self-promoting whore. Why are certain categories of musicians singled out in this way? Some artists eke out a niche for themselves by touring and relying heavily on word of mouth or self-promotion. The ones that gain national attention almost always benefit from some form of professional PR, in the best case, funded by a third-party, like a label or music publisher. Others don't go the popular artist route at all and market themselves as accompanists or studio musicians. But all professional musicians market themselves in various ways, and that's one of the less pleasant but necessary realities that goes along with being a professional (as opposed to being an amateur).

We like to think the big success stories just happen naturally, that the business side of music is or should be subordinate to the creative side. But that's never been the reality. I once had a 15-year-old kid email me about booking a show for his band at a local venue. Without a trace of self-awareness or irony, he explained to me that his band had one song, and that it was really good, and that if they could just get one chance to play it at a real club, he was sure it would be their "big break." That's how an amateur sees it. There's always some big break around the corner, and after that, it's all an easy ride. A professional knows that there are few accidents in the music business. Artists succeed on the national level either because they've convinced someone else or have independently demonstrated that they represent an opportunity for others to make money. It may not be pretty from a purist perspective, but that's how it goes.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2009


nobody will sue me if I lend a book to my buddy across the country

There's a word in there that's important: Lend.

he explained to me that his band had one song, and that it was really good

Dude, that was The Black Crowes.
posted by The World Famous at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me clarify my previous statement: Nobody will sue you if you lend a book to your buddy across the country. But if you make 100,000 bound copies of a new bestseller and start giving them away to people, somebody will probably sue you.
posted by The World Famous at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


you've got to do some kind of marketing

but my point still stands - it's not the copying of the music that people are complaining about so much as they're complaining that their marketing no longer works the way it used to do and blaming it on piracy

i don't doubt for a minute that there will continue to be music - but music marketing as we've known it is dead and the people who are demanding that they get paid for their music are really demanding that the markets and their marketing strategies stay the same in an age of rapid change

it's not going to happen
posted by pyramid termite at 11:23 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


complaining that their marketing no longer works the way it used to do and blaming it on piracy

I think they're complaining that their marketing is just as expensive and effective as it used to be, but that piracy is making it so that they are not being paid as much for it as they would like to be. Whether that's true is another question. But I don't think they're complaining that their marketing no longer works.

music marketing as we've known it is dead and the people who are demanding that they get paid for their music are really demanding that the markets and their marketing strategies stay the same in an age of rapid change

Yes. They are demanding that the law step in to make sure they get paid for all of their hard work marketing their product.
posted by The World Famous at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2009


For music, at least (what this thread is about) copyright is generally a function of the creator's lifespan, and for the purposes of enriching the creator is in that sense no different from any other legal right constrained by the requirement that one needs to be alive to enjoy it.

But you still missed the point that the lifespan time span is a recent addition by Congress, which could change if another bill is passed. The original span of time when copyright was in effect was 14 years. Your argument is moot, because it is indeed significantly different than laws regarding property. Copyright says nothing about property, only copying protected works.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


What do you think you own when you buy a piece of music? The format? A specific copy? Or the track itself. Because it seems there's a lot of people who assume that just because it can be copied they now own the track themselves, they are, after all, doing whatever they want with it, regardless of what the artist may feel.

I'm interested to know, beyond the 'because I can' argument, why some of the people here think they own more than just the format of a track they buy?
posted by ciderwoman at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2009


(and please, without metaphors or simallies - I can't take any more cupcakes / cars / burglary / whatever BS)
posted by ciderwoman at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2009


Because it seems there's a lot of people who assume that just because it can be copied they now own the track themselves, they are, after all, doing whatever they want with it, regardless of what the artist may feel.

If I personally know the artist, I bow to their wishes. Otherwise, I do pretty much whatever I please with a track. For instance, last Christmas I made a mix tape featuring various artists that I gave to various friends and family. A few results that I'm aware of:

- friend 1 and brother 1 who both totally dig new music used it as a guide to future downloading, AND SOME PURCHASES

- friend 2 and sister who both gave up on buying anything new roundabout the end of Bill Clinton's term in office added various tracks to their itunes shuffles and there they remain (no sales lost because neither would ever have bought any of the songs anyway)

- brother 2 actually got inspired to visit the itunes store for the first time EVER and actually bought a bunch of related tracks, and he continues to buy stuff there on a regular basis

- Mom, whose idea of great music doesn't include anyone even alive anymore, has probably never played the CD, but it's there for me to throw on when I visit.
posted by philip-random at 2:00 PM on September 23, 2009


"Good national PR companies, the kind that can get your album to the top of the review slush pile at bigger print magazines, or talk Target into selling your CDs, or land you a feature spot on NPR or whatever, they don't come cheap and they aren't likely to work with artists who don't already have something going for them unless the artists have an inside connection. Either way, you can be the coolest new band on the planet, but someone ultimately has to foot the bills."

Yeah, but that "something going on" should be "local and regional scene success" combined with a lot of hard, smart work.

Again, though, I think we're largely talking about different milieus. I've known a lot of professional musicians who don't have anything for sale at Target, yet make a middle-class (well, lower middle) living. What they tend to have is a motivated fan base and a fairly realistic plan regarding their career.

The musicians I know who are making a living as just musicians do a huge mix of stuff, from session work and production, to licensing their music to snowboarding videos and video games. But mostly, they are touring machines and know how to make money doing so—which I think also makes them better musicians. I realize that depends on the opportunities of geography, but over the last couple years, I've watched a band my friend manages emerge, and I've watched how he's done it. They didn't start out knowing people, really, but they fucking hustled. They were playing seven nights a week for a couple months, and were getting a buzz because they'd do things like play the empty lot behind a hair stylist in Sunset Junction, then play an art opening, then play a club. This was before they even had a CD—they had a couple of boombox MySpace tracks and used them to get shows in Long Beach, then played relentlessly. Are they making enough to support families? No, not really. But they've got six guys in the band and manage to come home from road tours with cash in the bank. They're getting practically no label support, since they were the last album their label put out before becoming a catalog only affair.

They made connections by playing out relentlessly, being professional with bands they opened for, and putting out pretty decent music. They hired a publicist after they'd got a decent buzz and needed to move up to the next level, but she's pretty cheap because she was a fan of the band and contacted them about working. Their manager and their booking agent both work off of percentages, which keeps them churning hard for the band.

Most of this is possible because they're in LA. But I feel like a lot of what you're saying is true only for certain kinds of bands, in certain scenes—it's a mainstream indie view of success, as opposed to the historically indie or punk rock/DIY view. And I think that the mainstream view of success is on the wane, which is sad for bands that have it and aspire to it, but as there are other views out there, I think those other views will wax and how music as a business is concieved will have to change with that.
posted by klangklangston at 2:08 PM on September 23, 2009


It doesn't mean that you shouldn't pirate. It's not stealing -- it's stupid to say that it is. But maybe you should stop being so fucking *righteous* about it.

How is that line of argumentation working for you? Is it doing anything to solve the problem? If not, don't you think maybe bitching at random people isn't going to accomplish your goals?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:11 PM on September 23, 2009


What do you think you own when you buy a piece of music? The format? A specific copy? Or the track itself. Because it seems there's a lot of people who assume that just because it can be copied they now own the track themselves, they are, after all, doing whatever they want with it, regardless of what the artist may feel.

This is a bit of a strawman. I think you're trying to find a scapegoat, of "them," the nasty pirates, whoever they are. Well, they are mostly adolescents/teens, and they number in the millions. But wagging your finger at them isn't actually going to make progress. Doing the same to people here is going to make people dismiss you, because they mostly are not teenagers and can think for themselves.

So, who are you trying to instruct as to how they may handle the music they bought? And, if you wrote that song, what is it exactly that you think you own?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2009


Well, if books and music were similar, bars and restaurants wouldn't need to buy BMI/ASCAP licences, would they?

Distribution rights are not the same as performance rights, correct. But the laws regarding distribution are similar with books and music.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:19 PM on September 23, 2009


This is a bit of a strawman

I assure you it's not. I'm just trying to get a handle on those who legitimately argue for fiel sharing. For me, once the artist asks you not to do it then it's a given, but there are some here who see this very differently and I'm just trying to see where they're coming from. I make no attempt to hide my opinion, but I'm genuiniely interested in the arguments of those rational posters who have a reason to believe this beyond the boorish.

I doubt any of the arguments will change my mind, but I certainly don't think I can argue my point until I really understand that of those who oppose me.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:45 PM on September 23, 2009


What do you think you own when you buy a piece of music?

I don't think you own anything. Personally, I believe that you can't own an idea or an expression of an idea. To my way of thinking, ownership is about controlling access to limited resources, and ideas spread so easily that they are not limited in any practical sense so there's no reason to confer the concept of ownership onto them.

I recognize that there are currently laws in place that grant creators a limited, and increasingly excessive control over what others can do with their creative output, but I don't support those laws, and I don't recognize any harm in ignoring those laws. Breaking that law is about as equivalent to me as breaking the speed limit. Actually breaking the speed limit is worse because that endangers people and ignoring copyright is entirely victimless (to my way of thinking, I recognize others in this thread disagree).

Generally, at this point in my life, I wouldn't be buying most of those works anyway, so me having them or not having them in no way impacts on the amount of money that the artists could expect to earn.

I know that some people believe an artist should be able to control their work. I don't agree with that, and I doubt we'll be able to change each others' opinion about that.

I recognize that artists would like to get paid, and I certainly don't begrudge them a living. I think they'll ultimately have to find other ways to do that. For instance, tipping, patronage, live performance, work-for-hire. I similarly recognize that artists may not like one or all of those methods and would prefer the old system in which they try to sell copies of their work. They're free to do that too, and if they make it convenient and simple to buy it, they'll probably even have some luck with it, but if they don't, I don't particularly care. At least I don't care any more than I care about the 99.999999999% of people that would would have liked to have made money that way, but couldn't have even under the old system.
posted by willnot at 4:17 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


To answer you, ciderwoman, it's like this.

Filesharing is intrinsic to what computers do. They are machines that receive, transmit (and manipulate) data - ie files - and that's without connecting them to the internet. With millions of computers in the world, filesharing is inevitable like the tide and cannot be stopped without taking the computers away, which isn't going to happen any time soon. That's why legislation is impossible and musicians in the age of filesharing can only damage themselves by being against it.

Happily filesharing increases sales for most artists whose files are shared, so long as they have product available. This includes people like Lily Allen, who - astonishingly - launched her career through filesharing. If it decreases sales it is only for those who were trying the old con of two good tracks plus a bunch of filler. That is not a bad thing, especially for music fans. A download is a free ad, not a lost sale.
posted by motty at 4:23 PM on September 23, 2009


I wouldn't be buying most of those works anyway, so me having them or not having them in no way impacts on the amount of money that the artists could expect to earn

This is the kind of thing I'm interested in. I agree with you that we're unlikely to change each others opinions on this subject, but why is it that firstly you think you can have something without compensating the person who made, and also why you don't think this will impact on what they could earn? Again, I stress I'm not trying to lead you into some 'AHA!' type trick, I really want to know why you think you can have something that another person spends time and energy creating without the need to compensate them for it? Because it's not like you have to have this, you're choosing to take it. Your life won't be any different if you don't take it, so where do you get the sense that you're entitled to take something the creator has specifically asked you not to?
posted by ciderwoman at 4:26 PM on September 23, 2009


Motty, this is where the argument splits. I have no interest in the "it's inevitable, so just take it" argument, history is littered with thinsg people thought were inevitable (and in this one I would never bet against business, if things really - and I mean really start to affect business then something will change. Broadband is created by businesses, you haven't set it up yourself, so if they have to change it then they can - but really, let's not go there).

So beyond your stated argument, why do you think it's OK?
posted by ciderwoman at 4:31 PM on September 23, 2009


I really want to know why you think you can have something that another person spends time and energy creating without the need to compensate them for it?

For the same reason I don't feel the need to compensate somebody who spent time and effort making their lawn look nice when I walk by and see the lawn. If it's there to enjoy, I'm happy to enjoy it, but my enjoyment costs them nothing, and I don't feel that I owe them anything. Are you paying your neighbors for their yard work? That takes a lot of time, money and effort you know, and surely your life is improved by being surrounded by beautiful things.
posted by willnot at 4:33 PM on September 23, 2009


Willnot, I did say without metaphors please. I don't thnk any of thse are helping because people then just argue over the specifics of the metaphor and not the actual concept being discussed. I really don't think they help, there are just too many variations.

If you could explain it purely in terms of the artist and their work, and specifically music as that's where all this started, I'd really appreciate it.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:39 PM on September 23, 2009


Those sorry metaphors are indicative of a defective conscience.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:52 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ciderwoman, look at your own computer.

Then imagine a million computers.

Each one is a filesharing machine. Intrinsically. It's what it does. That's without broadband. Without internet. It transmits and receives (and manipulates) arbitrary data.

Broadband is cute but I don't need it, or even internet. I can transfer files from my machine here to my machine next door - or any other machine - with a USB key any time I like. And so can everyone else. Then remember that there many many more than just a million computers out there, including most recent cellphones.

That's why filesharing is inevitable.

History is not littered with things like the invention of the computer, except insofar as there are a few things like the invention of the wheel, or printing, or the combustion engine, or aeroplanes, which changed everything for ever, permanently.

This is one of them. That is all.
posted by motty at 5:02 PM on September 23, 2009


If you want to spend your time creating something more power to you. If I enjoy it, bully for me. My enjoyment doesn't cost you anything. The creation was a sunk cost that you did for your own reasons whatever those may have been (to live somewhere nice, to hopefully sell it to whomever is willing to give you money for it, to take your mind off work, whatever). My ability to enjoy your creation is completely independent of time money or effort you invested in it.
posted by willnot at 5:02 PM on September 23, 2009


The creation was a sunk cost that you did for your own reasons whatever those may have been (to live somewhere nice, to hopefully sell it to whomever is willing to give you money for it, to take your mind off work, whatever). My ability to enjoy your creation is completely independent of time money or effort you invested in it.

If your employer decides not to pay you at the end of a pay period, will you accept that argument as justification for the failure to pay? That your employer's ability to enjoy the work you did is completely independent of time money or effort that you invested in it? That maybe the reason you worked was because you thought the employer would be willing to give you money for it, but now your work is a sunk cost and there's no reason for them to pay you?
posted by The World Famous at 5:13 PM on September 23, 2009


If I'm working on spec, then yes that's expected. I may continue to do work on spec or I may pursue other options. It would probably depend on a lot of different factors. Somebody recording a song or writing a book is effectively working on spec.
posted by willnot at 5:22 PM on September 23, 2009


Somebody recording a song or writing a book is effectively working on spec.

Assuming this is accurate, you're saying that, once they've done the work on spec anyway, it's totally cool for you to just take their work and not pay them for it.

But is it really working on spec if the person doing the work does not intend it to be so? Doesn't the intent of the person doing the work matter?
posted by The World Famous at 5:27 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, they really were working on spec, and they absolutely should expect that's the case.

Somebody doing work for hire, for instance writing a jingle for an ad, is doing that because they were contracted to do it and compensation is fixed in advance of the job.

Somebody recording an album doesn't generally have a paycheck lined up for the work they're doing. They are speculating that what they create will be so good that a lot of people will want to give them money for it. In almost every instance, they're probably going to be wrong, but occasionally they may get lucky, and a lot of people will want to give them money for it. Yeah, it worked!

But, not everybody who enjoys your painting is going to pay you for it, and that's just part of the cost of doing spec work intended for an audience. They don't owe you anything. I'm sure you'd like them to pay you. You might even try to exert social pressure to say it "isn't cool" if they don't pay you. I certainly tip my waiter, even when he does a crappy job of bringing me my water, so that kind of thing can work. But to say it's owed to you? That doesn't work, because nothing is owed to you, and if you don't like that, you should stop doing spec work.
posted by willnot at 6:12 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, not everybody who enjoys your painting is going to pay you for it

Are "enjoying your painting" and "hanging your painting in their house" the same thing?
posted by The World Famous at 6:40 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I did say without metaphors please. I don't thnk any of thse are helping because people then just argue over the specifics of the metaphor and not the actual concept being discussed. I really don't think they help, there are just too many variations.

I call foul on this position. Metaphors, effectively used, are a means toward communication, which is the goal here. It feels to me that you're requesting that we suddenly only communicate in black + white, but the English language is a full color medium. And failing that, what of all the grey?
posted by philip-random at 6:42 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I call foul on this position. Metaphors, effectively used, are a means toward communication

In general, yes. But specifically willnot is using them in a rather flailing attempt to justify downloading music. It's dishonest. I download stuff also, but I don't go around trying to justify it with non-parallel metaphor. Although, I'm not sure which is worse: someone who knows something is wrong and keeps doing it versus someone who has a warped sensibility and justifies the wrong with a series of artificial logical leaps. That may be a discussion for another time. I suspect a bit of trolling here at any rate.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:58 PM on September 23, 2009


I don't really have a ton of respect for people who sell their copyrights to a corrupt distributor and then flip their lids when teenagers share some files. I don't see much evidence that any artists are actually suffering because of file sharing; there's significant evidence to the contrary.

I wish people like Lily Allen, who are making plenty of money, would instead fight to increase the wages of people like kindergarten teachers or nurses.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:29 PM on September 23, 2009


"But is it really working on spec if the person doing the work does not intend it to be so? Doesn't the intent of the person doing the work matter?"

Jeez, man, no, and you should know that! What matters is what the contract says and how enforceable it is. Otherwise, all "spec" work would be published.

(Granted, that makes copyright law the broad social contract, in which many of us are in breach.)
posted by klangklangston at 7:29 PM on September 23, 2009


You mean kindergarden teachers and nurses don't work out of the goodness of their hearts? They want MONEY too? Imagine that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:44 PM on September 23, 2009


(By the way, teachers are paid out of tax money. Last time I checked, musician's money is as taxable as anyone's. Just sayin'.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:45 PM on September 23, 2009


Yeah, but that "something going on" should be "local and regional scene success" combined with a lot of hard, smart work.

That's exactly what I mean by it, FWIW. (I would note, though, that LA and NY dwellers are often reflexively dismissive even of significant "local and regional success" if that success is achieved outside certain key markets.) Also, if you've got an inside line on licensing your stuff for major commercial projects (film or TV), then that definitely doesn't hurt.

You may be right: to some extent, the old ideas about indie rock success might be fading. But on the other hand, one of our old band mates now runs a PR company that's recently worked with bands like Architecture in Helsinki, Ida, American Music Club and Radar Brothers, and in my experience watching the various projects he's promoted over the years, good PR makes all the difference between artists that languish in "local hero" status forever and those that make it to the national stage (what happens once they get there, of course, is up to them and the whims of the music buyers).

As far as file-sharing goes, it does seem to me that the sheer volume of free music out there makes it harder for any particular artists to standout and gain enough momentum to emerge nationally unless they can afford to spend tons on releasing themselves and advertising and promotion. It's the bands that can't pay their way to the top and can't find someone to pay their way for them that are suffering, because for them, the ceiling is a lot lower than it used to be. In practice, IMO, it's new artists who actually are independent whose ceiling now seems to be lower, not those who are either independently wealthy or who have deep pocketed benefactors (like a big label or publisher). I might be wrong, but that's how it looks from where I sit.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:46 PM on September 23, 2009


I wish people like Lily Allen, who are making plenty of money, would instead fight to increase the wages of people like kindergarten teachers or nurses.

That's kind of specious reasoning. It reminds me of arguments against space exploration because "we haven't fixed all the problems down here on Earth yet". They aren't really pulling funds from the same universal general ledger account, you know. Different interests and efforts don't translate into some kind of linear distribution of outcome.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:47 PM on September 23, 2009


who sell their copyrights to a corrupt distributor

Minor technical point: You don't sell copyrights to a distributor. You grant a limited license to them.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:48 PM on September 23, 2009


Lots of replies, and still no one wants to answer my question.

Firstly, motty, I really have no interest in this argument. I want to discuss the individual user, not the platform. However, I think there examples where technology and economics have taken a back seat to what we define as good for society. I'd suggest Wilberforce and his attempts to disband the slave trade are a good example. It went against the economics of the time, indeed he was told it would lead to terrible catastrophe or was impossible to impliment, but happened because we decided we didn't want a society that did this. This is just something to think about though, I don't think it has much relevance here, and certainly isn't an angle I'm that interested in.

Yes, philip random, metaphors and simillies can be very useful tools when used well. In this argument, however, they're not being, so I asked to see if we could have the debate without them. For example, the question of 'I like your lawn, I still like it without paying you for it' (as used by a poster earlier) becomes tricky when the question arises 'am I being paid for you to admire my lawn?' 'Is my income derived from my lawn?' etc. There seems to have been a lot of discussion about lawns and cars and cupcakes here, most of which has been arguing the specifics of the metaphor not the generalities of the case, that's why I don't think they're helpful in this case.

So, for those of you who can still be arsed to read this, I'll try and simplify my question:

We all agree that when an artist makes something, that thing has a certain value. The value is effected by many factors, scarcity, skill, time taken, but mainly consumer demand. The artist can say his product is worth X but it's only worth that if the consumer is willing to pay it. The consumer has a choice, pay the price for the product or don't have the product. Now this is where I don't understand the file sharers point of view, where do you feel you come in to this process? Do you believe that once the product has been sold once all copies are now fair use? Obviously taking this route will effect the pricing, and scarcity of product will become far more valuable.

I can't stress enough how much I'm not trying to trick anyone into an answer. I just want to try and understand an argument that, frankly, baffles me.
posted by ciderwoman at 1:21 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


hello, there is a meeting today in london where artists are meeting to discuss Piracy. my job done.

i wont be attending the meeting because it's going to be a press frenzy and i don't want to detract from the issues

i'm proud of the fact that that i've been involved with this debate but i'm passing the baton on to other artists.

and i've shut down the blog, the abuse was getting too much.


all @lilyroseallen on twitter
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:57 AM on September 24, 2009


Techdirt update.
posted by motty at 6:08 AM on September 24, 2009


ciderwoman, I tried to answer you.

I just don't worry about musicians who have record deals. I know they make a fair bit of money. I know they do pretty well despite (or maybe because of) firesharing. You presume that it means a particular value is being applied to a thing called an mp3 produced by a musician, but you're wrong. It's an mp3 produced by someone who has a whole machine behind them, selling their music into tv, movies and ads, making and distributing cds and posters, setting up concert dates, etc. The value of that particular mp3, and the "cost" to the artist of me downloading it and listening to it, drops. Do you think it actually hurts Britney Spears when someone downloads "Toxic" instead of paying for it? You can argue that it does til you're blue in the face, but I see the celeb news, I know she's got plenty of cash. I don't feel a moral obligation to do "the right thing" for someone who is better off than 99% of the people on the planet.

Now, a cd produced by someone without a record deal, someone who is working hard to make it and paid her/his own hard earned on the product: I don't generally download that stuff unless it's offered free (which it often is). That's the stuff I'm moved to buy. I've bought (and encouraged others to buy) music by small-scale guys that are making music in their garages rather than just pirating it, because I know my few dollars are going to make a big difference to them. While downloading the tunes is easier, I DO feel a moral obligation to those guys.

It's not quite as simple as "what's the value of this work" when it comes to filesharing. Since it's easier to download music than to go out and buy it, and even easier to download it than to buy it off an online retailer (with all their DRM), I actually need to feel a moral obligation to take the extra steps or endure the penalty. I no longer feel a moral obligation to Britney Spears. As a society, we have amply rewarded her for her work, and we continue to do so. If she were suddenly reduced to subsistence, we might reconsider buying her tracks instead of downloading them. (Like Billy Joel: buy, don't download!)

Because of how easy it is to download mp3s and because of the barriers and limits in place around buying them, the argument has moved out of the strictly money economy and into the gift economy. You may not like that, but I think that's where most filesharers are coming from.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:19 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the reason, Hildegarde, I was trying to keep it in general terms. You may very well feel that Britney has been rewarded, and I think you're probably right, but does that apply to everyone with a record deal? What about the band on Rough Trade, or Domino? I've got friends with record deals who still have day jobs because they don't earn enough from the music. My last band had a small deal, I never dreamed it would allow me to quit my job, and I was proved right. Unless you're going to audit everyone artist whose work you file share, how can you be sure that they are in a position not to mind financially?

Because you can't know that I don't think your argument works (I don't think it works for plenty of other reasons too, but this one surely we can agree on). If you only download work from people in the Forbes 100 then maybe you're OK, but otherwise you don't know, and it seems a little unfair to just assume that because they have a record deal they're rolling in cash.
posted by ciderwoman at 6:56 AM on September 24, 2009


Where do you get the idea that I'm making that assumption? Did you miss my comment about Billy Joel?
posted by Hildegarde at 7:00 AM on September 24, 2009


Sorry, yes I did miss that line. See, I told you we'd agree.
posted by ciderwoman at 7:10 AM on September 24, 2009


Also: in Canada, all blank media comes with a surcharge that goes to the music industry. If I buy blank cds to back up some files, or a USB drive for work, or a new hard drive, or an ipod, I am paying money to the music industry.

So it's a lot more complicated than just "how much is this mp3 file worth". Filesharing has a larger context than that.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:11 AM on September 24, 2009


I just don't worry about musicians who have record deals.

You have to be more discriminating than this.

There are a lot of tiny indie labels out there that really don't amount to much more than a bunch of musicians pooling their limited resources to help each other out. A lot of independent music that appears to be a product of a "record deal" is actually self-financed in whole or in part by the artists themselves. Most artists will make up some label name to release their own stuff under. And there are countless micro-brew labels that might not provide as much promotion or tour support, leaving it to the bands themselves to pick up the tab, in return for smaller royalty cuts. And even artists on well-known indie labels like Merge or Sub Pop might finance their own recordings (especially their debut releases).

So just because an artist may appear to have a record deal doesn't by a long shot mean that they get a free ride. You have to look at each particular artist case by case.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:15 AM on September 24, 2009


oh, ciderwoman already said it more clearly.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:18 AM on September 24, 2009


saulgoodman, obviously it was tl;dr, but read the whole post before you reply. I did qualify it.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:18 AM on September 24, 2009


Fair enough, Hildegarde. I just wanted to make the point plainly because I think there are a other people out there who see that an artist has a CD with [insert puny indie record label name here] on the spine and just assume that the artist must already be on easy street, auctioning off items from their multimillion dollar art collection to offset revenues lost to file sharing.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:55 AM on September 24, 2009


What do you think you own when you buy a piece of music? The format? A specific copy? Or the track itself.

I own a copy of the music, with which I can do what I want. I disregard copyright laws as they stifle creativity AKAIKT. I may remix the song, cut it up, scratch it, cut it, breakbeat it, sample it, use it in a mix, include it in a compilation, learn to play it on an instrument, reference lyrics in my songs, include melodies in my solos, parody it, mash it up with another song, base another song on it (wholly or in part), share it via file share, transcribe the lyrics, or a million other variants thereof. I may not have paid for my copy of the music, I may have borrowed it, bought it at a flea market or second hand shop, I may have heard it some time and place that I cannot remember, I may have got it via fileshare, heard it on the radio or at a party. I do not expect that my (debatable) creativity be recompensed financially, but if that were the case, I would try to consult with the artist in hope that we could come to some agreement on the possible financial rewards for us. Why this should involve any middle management I am not sure. I do not believe that anything I may do with the music could possibly detract from the original work.

I am a fan of music, if I like an artist I will buy CDs, t-shirts, magazines that mention them, books, concert tickets, 3D postcards, badges, in short anything related that I can get my hands on when I have the money. I collect music from the radio, films, file share, adverts, friends, cafes, lifts, where ever I am. The internet has made my life a lot easier in this regard, allowing me to query the hive mind regarding half remembered melodies and lyrics in order to find the original piece. I can then download the song and decide if it is as good as I remember it, then I may choose to buy it. Why anyone who loves music would want to try to curtail this avenue of discovery for music lovers is beyond me. Whom would it benefit?

Fans buy music when they have the means to do so. People who are not fans do not do that regardless. If I like an artist I may choose to encourage them to make more music by buying their material.

Music is a part of culture, commoditising it does not change this fact. Most cultures in the world integrate music, this cannot be bought, sold, pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. It is alive. It is also mostly outside this debate as it is not (and cannot easily be) recorded.

The music business; payola, fixed charts, 'fake' bands, media domination, controlling the market, copyright, rip-off contracts. These things are becoming less easy to perpetrate. I don't see this as a problem and I don't think anyone here is arguing that it is. File sharing/free downloads are part of the new model, it helps artists create a global fan base faster than any traditional form of promotion.

/what Hildegarde said
posted by asok at 8:04 AM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


NB. When I mention copyright, I am talking about the ownership of copyright not by the original artist but by unscrupulous business people.
posted by asok at 8:09 AM on September 24, 2009


Oh boo hoos teh unscrupulous business people! So different from *real* people.
posted by Artw at 9:11 AM on September 24, 2009


We all agree that when an artist makes something, that thing has a certain value.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. The only thing we all agree on here at Metafilter is that we don't all agree on anything. This statement is a perfect example, certainly if what you mean by "certain value" connotes a dollar value, which you touch on here:

The value is effected by many factors, scarcity, skill, time taken, but mainly consumer demand. The artist can say his product is worth X but it's only worth that if the consumer is willing to pay it.


Where I lose touch with you again his here:

The consumer has a choice, pay the price for the product or don't have the product.

Says who? The Law? Maybe in some jurisdictions, but often as not it's not enforecable, certainly not in any sort of meaningful way, or we wouldn't be having this discussion. Which leaves us with the consumer (a terrible word when applied to culture; I prefer music lover/appreciator) making a personal decision based on any number of factors from personal ethics/morals to available cash.

What if the "consumer" is poor? What if all his/her available cash goes to food, shelter, clothing etc? Should they be denied music? Or what if they just have other priorities, charity for instance?

The underlying point here is that due to advancements in filesharing technology (already touched on at length in this thread) the recorded music market paradigm has shifted significantly such that the consumer now has significant power that he/she didn't used to have. You may even say, the consumer has THE power.

This is where I feel that I "come in to this process". Which brings us back to that "certain value" issue. I personally don't think an mp3 has any intrinsic value at all. It just doesn't. It's a blip of digital code.

What might have value is what the code represents (ie: the music), but this is not a dollar value. This is an emotional, an intellectual, an aesthetic value and last time I looked, there was no exchange out there that acknowledged these values. Which ultimately puts us outside the realm of commerce, which is a very weird place to be.

Strangely, it's like discussing the environment. Yes, as a matter of fact, the air is free. That doesn't mean we could live without it for more than seven minutes. So my question to you:

How do we protect the precious ecosystem that gives us recorded music now that technology has undermined its validity with regard to market economics?
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


How do we protect the precious ecosystem that gives us recorded music now that technology has undermined its validity with regard to market economics?

We should give the music away for free to the general public and then license it heavily for use in commercial settings. Free music for the "people," and commercial interests can pay for use. And musicians who don't like the idea of "selling out" can remind themselves that, the moment they decided music would be their career instead of just a hobby, they sold out. That's how I think it should be, anyway.
posted by The World Famous at 11:30 AM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


How do we protect the precious ecosystem that gives us recorded music now that technology has undermined its validity with regard to market economics?

This is really getting down to the meat of the issue, but it's not going quite far enough. Before we can get to "how do we protect," we need to establish exactly to what ends are we willing to go to protect the ecosystem that gives us recorded music?

Because there are costs and tradeoffs involved. How many Jamie Thomases is the recorded music ecosystem worth, exactly? Once there is so much recorded music in existence that a person couldn't possibly begin to even scratch the surface of it in the course of their lifetime (which isn't really where we are, yet, but it might be in the foreseeable future), and given that some recorded music will continue to be created by uncompensated artists scratching their creative itch anyway (of debatable quality, perhaps), to what ends do we want to go to preserve 'recording artist' as a viable profession?

That seems to be the crux of the whole issue right there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:51 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


How do we protect the precious ecosystem that gives us recorded music now that technology has undermined its validity with regard to market economics?

This is exactly the question. Personally I don't think there's a really good outcome here, though I obviously really hope I'm wrong. My greatest fear is that in 20 years time people look back on the end of the 20thC / beginning 21st C as some sort of golden age, with a high level of films, music, TV and journalism.

I differ from you, phillip-random, I think that even the MP3 should have some value, and my point about someone being too poor to buy a CD is so what? Listen to the radio, just because you can't buy a CD doesn't mean you're being denied access to music. But I enjoyed reading your well worded post and it certainly gives me food for thought.

FWIW I used to work in the music business (first as a signed artist then later making music videos) before moving into the film business, so I have a vested interest in getting something sorted out, and believe me, there's a lot of people trying to find ways to make this work, but while they're busy doing that I try and do two things, see more of the angle where the file sharers are coming from, and, on a one to one level, try to persuade some of them not to (especially when it comes to my stuff). My business is waaaaay more hand to mouth than you'd think, and while we can have endless debates about what (if any) % of downloads affect sales, my marghins are so tight it's worth me asking anyone to not dl my stuff.

But while I guess we'll never agree on the rights and wrongs of this situation I'm glad to see that we can both completely agree that somehow, and god knows how, we have to find a way to fund new recorded music.
posted by ciderwoman at 11:53 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lily Allen retires from music

"Just so you know, I have not renegotiated my record contract and have no plans to make another record (applause). I do however remain a fan of new music, so this is not some selfish crusade. The days of me making money from recording music has been and gone as far as I'm concerned, so I don't (at this point) stand to profit from legislation, except future purchases of previously recorded material (which won't be much)."
posted by porn in the woods at 3:01 PM on September 24, 2009


The days of me making money from recording music has been and gone as far as I'm concerned

The days of her making money from recording music may be gone, sure. I'm not sure that has anything to do with the industry, though.
posted by The World Famous at 3:07 PM on September 24, 2009


No, it probably has more to do with her not, y'know, recording music.
posted by dersins at 3:09 PM on September 24, 2009


For a second there I thought that was some kind of flame-out, but it's from before the internet pitchfork mob, and more to do with switching to acting.

Which is good, because no one should make major decisions based on internet pitchfork mobs.
posted by Artw at 3:20 PM on September 24, 2009


Oh god she's deleted her LiveJournal as well this is getting serious does anybody have her parent's phone number or know how to get in touch with her? Wait I just got an IM from her....she's directing me to a webcam site...oh wow, she's not looking good...she's just wearing a tatty old Metallica shirt...from the album with all the white on it, and the statue? Which one was that? It was pretty rockin'. Oh her mascara is all running and there's this goo hanging from her nose, she's obviously been crying...she says how nobody takes her seriously...she's going at her wrists with a plastic knife...no, it didn't work, it broke. She's gone off-cam. Wait, no...no...dude she's got like six Nurofen!..she says they are *totally* the ones with codeine in them...she's chugging a Smirnoff mixer...jesus fuck don't do it Lily...somebody call somebody...
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:40 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


...no one should make major decisions based on internet pitchfork mobs.

Or Pitchfork reviews, for that matter.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:42 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh god she's deleted her LiveJournal

...now that would be more of yer flameout.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2009


What about the band on Rough Trade, or Domino? I've got friends with record deals who still have day jobs because they don't earn enough from the music.

If one of those friends magically removes every single copy of their songs from every MP3 site and file-sharing service and computer around the world, and successfully prevents anyone from ever 'stealing' any copies of their music, and the other friend does the opposite: deliberately uploading and seeding and spreading their work for free...

Well, I know which one will make more money in the long term.
posted by rokusan at 6:43 PM on September 24, 2009


I know which one will make more money in the long term

No you don't, rokusan, and neither do I. No study has proved it either way, and it's precisely this point that makes formulating a business plan and raising capital so hard for anything in the creative industries at the moment. If we knew for certain which one worked best life would be a lot easier, but it's disingenious and unhelpful to the argument to pretend that you do.
posted by ciderwoman at 2:36 AM on September 25, 2009


Squeeze file-sharers, stars say
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:10 AM on September 25, 2009


...no one should make major decisions based on internet pitchfork mobs.

Or Pitchfork reviews, for that matter.


I'll go one further than turgid dahlia and say that no one should make even minor decisions based on Pitchfork reviews.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2009


Dan Bull - Dear Lily [an open letter to Lily Allen]
posted by creeky at 8:01 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


That was really good, creeky.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:10 AM on September 26, 2009


The other issue here is that it's terribly difficult for new and emerging artists to gain enough capital to afford the time & money needed to create their art. I'm starting out in performance art and geez! Costumes and travel and training add up exponentially, and the current job market (for ANYTHING) is overloaded with applicants. Anytime I get a paid gig (one tonight to sell merch - not much, but it helps cover for my birthday yesterday) is a bonus.

You have a lot of people, including fellow creatives, arguing that artists need to work for free because they "love" it. Funders ask for complex business plans, but how do you calculate cashflow when you don't even have any regular source of income - one month you have a $500 gig and the next 3 months it's all volunteer work? You're expected to work for free to pay your dues, and the more work you do the more you get noticed and the more experience you get (which then translates to more leverage to support yourself) but how much can you do without sacrificing your sanity, your ability to pay rent and eat?

Part of the concern I can see with the don't-fileshare people is that for many others, the options to earn a basic living are so limited and complicated that any avenue that could get them an extra coin to live on is guarded to a fault. And no one's really giving them any more options on how they can be self-sustainable while being creative, because society economically doesn't value artistic work as much as, say, corporate law or finance. So in the frustration of wanting to be both self-sufficient and creative, they lash out at the smaller folk - who are probably in the same boat as they are: want to experience creative, can't really afford to do so.
posted by divabat at 4:25 PM on September 26, 2009


Lots of replies, and still no one wants to answer my question.

I'll answer your question(s), ciderwoman.

Do you believe that once the product has been sold once all copies are now fair use?

Yes. In fact, listening to content/reading content/watching content is all fair use, even before the first copy is ever sold. That's only my opinion, of course, but I do believe it.

Speaking of which, here's another nuance: all those who argue so vociferously in favor of a "must-pay-for-music" model are essentially arguing that poor people shouldn't have the same access to music as rich people.

(I brought that up a little earlier. And it's true.)

my point about someone being too poor to buy a CD is so what? Listen to the radio, just because you can't buy a CD doesn't mean you're being denied access to music.

Sorry, but no.

Imagine: "What?! Why do you need to read Epictetus when we have perfectly good copies of Peregrinus Proteus?!"

That's about where I stopped reading you, ciderwoman. Any culture that provides more art to the rich than to the poor is one I reject. If that means rejecting capitalism and/or democracy, so be it.

If a limited set of existing music is good for the people who don't have money, why do we even need new music?

Fwiw, no one has ever adequately explained (to me) why new music is a "public good." aside from very vague references (with, oh no, even metaphors!) about how it is intrinsic to our shared culture. I would like to hear a good answer for that.

...

Comment #359 seems like an excellent place to leave a long, mostly nonsensical rant that no one will ever read on a subject about which billions of words have already written...

I used to buy a lot of records--used and new, mostly used. With CDs, LPs stopped showing up, so I started buying CDs--used and new, mostly used.

Radio (in Detroit and Louisville in the 70s, 80s, and 90s) was good for guilty pleasures, but essentially had no impact on my buying habits. None of the stations (excluding maybe some alternative or college radio stations in NYC or California that I couldn't receive) played any music I liked. (I do have to admit that 91.1 WFPK in Louisville is pretty good whenever I visit these days.)

I knew good music was out there, but I had to buy it to find it. None of my friends listened to the same music I did.

You know how I learned about new music? I read about it. AP, MaximumRockNRoll, Spin, any culture mags that had decent reviews of indie rock, punk, and metal. Then I would fret and fuss about how I was going to spend my $20 or whatever I had available that week after rent, food, utilities, student loan, etc. and I would make a choice.

Sometimes it was awesome--Son of Bazerk, The Veldt, Built to Spill, the Innocence Mission--I took chances on all those acts I'd never heard before because of reviews I had read. And I loved them all.

But my hit:miss ratio was far too low, maybe 25% tops. I ended up with a lot of shit that I did not listen to. I would resell CDs, but based on the cost loss, the risk of buying a CD was pretty high for me.

Post-Internet, you know how I find new music now? I listen to it. Constantly.

I'll listen to upwards of 20 new bands a week, or 30-40 new releases (parts and wholes) via MP3 blogs and open directories. (I see no need whatsoever to use a P2P client. A Web browser works just fine for me.)

I used to buy about 100-150 new/used LPs and CDs a year. Now I buy about 10. The standard of quality necessary to stimulate a purchase has gone up. Waaay up. I still go to about as many shows (I have an infant child now), and buy as much merch (T-shirts).

My expendable money is limited. Even if I spent all of my non-fundamental (rent, food, baby stuff) income on music, I wouldn't be able to buy enough. I also download books for free. I also buy books.

What you're suggesting is that people with less money than I have (of which there are many) listen to less music and read less books than those with more money. That seems inherently wrong to me.

What do you think you own when you buy a piece of music? The format? A specific copy? Or the track itself. Because it seems there's a lot of people who assume that just because it can be copied they now own the track themselves, they are, after all, doing whatever they want with it, regardless of what the artist may feel.

What I think I own when I buy music is a physical product--a record, a sleeve, notes, pictures, etc. with the full recording of the album or song(s). Nothing more, nothing less.

I personally think I can do whatever I want with that record, including copy it, destroy it, or rearrange it into something else.

Even if I like music but the LP or CD is a shit package, I won't buy it (unless the act is unsigned and/or selling the album themselves). I will just listen to the MP3 music for free. Because that's what an MP3 copy is worth. Absolutely nothing.

It is a reproduction of a digital copy. I could not sell it for any money. It is by definition worthless.

why is it that firstly you think you can have something without compensating the person who made [it]

...

Pretty simple. I believe it does no harm to the creator. Honest, I do.

My business is waaaaay more hand to mouth than you'd think, and while we can have endless debates about what (if any) % of downloads affect sales, my marghins are so tight it's worth me asking anyone to not dl my stuff.

So, even if someone would never buy your music, you still don't want them to download it and listen to it?

I'm sorry, but I can't understand the thinking there at all.

I can understand: "If you like my music, please pay me instead of downloading it for free."

I can't understand: "If you've never heard my music and won't buy it before listening, please don't download it for listening." I just can't fathom that mindset. Sorry.

End long, nonsensical unread rant. But you said you wanted an honest answer ...
posted by mrgrimm at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes. In fact, listening to content/reading content/watching content is all fair use, even before the first copy is ever sold. That's only my opinion, of course, but I do believe it.

Unfortnately for you, that isn't the opinion of the courts. The law says otherwise. And they can punish you for it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 AM on October 16, 2009


Talent does not beat hard work. You need both.

Also, networking.


And, probably most important of all... luck.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:11 PM on October 21, 2009


And, probably most important of all... luck.

This.

And it doesn't hurt to be good looking.
posted by The World Famous at 11:30 PM on October 21, 2009


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