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Music Matters
March 26, 2010 4:40 PM   Subscribe

The British music industry is taking the carrot, rather than stick, approach when talking about downloading music. They have created a series of animations about various artists (Blind Willie Johnson, Kate Bush, Nick Cave, The Jam etc - I particularly like the Sigur Ros one) that proclaim 'music matters' and their 'trustmark' will appear on legitimate music downloading sites.
posted by meech (59 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well of course music matters. It's labels that don't.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:50 PM on March 26, 2010 [20 favorites]


On a quick skim of the site, it's kind of interesting that iTunes isn't listed on the supporting sites page, but they mention on their twitter page that they have a podcast available on iTunes. I imagine that's got more to do with Apple not liking other people's logos than it does with iTunes selling illegal downloads, but still, a bit weird.
posted by immlass at 4:56 PM on March 26, 2010


Does it have DRM? If so, thumbs down.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:04 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Haha, yeah. I look forward to all manner of pirate music sites also ironically pirating this logo.
posted by mullingitover at 5:05 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


But if they don't sue their customers, how will people know to pay the record companies?
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:12 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooh, so many ways to snark, so little time. Let's start here:
6. Pop stars and record companies are rich. Does it really matter if I download one or two tracks without paying?

Every creator has a right to be paid for the time, effort and money invested in producing quality music for us to enjoy. The money received can be reinvested in music and the people that make it. When music is downloaded for free, the investment cycle is broken, and that has an adverse impact on investment in emerging talent.
Yes, investments. In singing lessons, new instruments, and travel to hear new sorts of sounds, so the band's next album is even more amazing.

Or the money could be for food, clothing, and gas for their tour car/van/bus. Money for the engineer to mix and record the session, electricity for the studio, janitor who keeps the studio clean. Money for promotions so you, the listener, know about the music. And a bit extra for the label execs. It sounds silly to call those things which require "investments" from the buying audience.

This post is interesting, following the earlier post on Fucked Up's blog post about the cost of being a band. The one line that amused me, coming from a musician was the bit about the cost of a CD, which fans "knew cost 50 cents to produce but cost $17.99 to buy." The artist himself seemed to be discounting the cost of making music. Maybe he hasn't seen much from the sales of his CDs (if they're anything like the figures from David Byrne's 2007 "Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars", it's probably pretty grim).
posted by filthy light thief at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmmm. My experience of the UK music industry is that they're using sticks rather more than carrots.
posted by baggymp at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2010


In today's episode of Why Things Matter Showdown we have "why music matters" vs. MeFi's own "why sharks matter".

And be sure to tune in next week for the exciting showdown when "why a balanced diet matters" takes on "why the message behind Samuel Beckett's Three Novels matters".
posted by idiopath at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2010


Is the problem really people not knowing which pay sites are legit? Isn't the problem much more people simply not paying?
posted by klangklangston at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


There used to be a whole channel on television dedicated to generating buzz for new release music. They called it "MTV" Bands could get free advertising if they were good enough, and it was good for the record labels as well.

Well whatever the case, it is emphatically not true that the lack of exciting music videos on TV has contributed to the decrease in music sales. That is the fault of the bad guys, not the good guys.
posted by nervousfritz at 5:18 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seconding the Sigúr Ros animation. Very nice.

Maybe they should stop saying "legally" and say "ethically" instead. The downloading generation has rejected the concept of "legal" downloading, but maybe some ethical spirit (the idea that creative artists should receive some respectable compensation for your enjoyment of their work) can still be reached. It works for coffee beans (people pay more for fair trade), why not music?

If "Music Matters" to people maybe it also matters to them that their favorite artists can earn a living doing what their fans enjoy. If we are left with only those artists who want to tour and flog tee-shirts we may not be left with much.
posted by three blind mice at 5:21 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hi there klangklangston. Hope you're feeling better.
posted by three blind mice at 5:26 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does it have DRM? If so, thumbs down.

Is there much DRM music for sale anymore? I buy all my music in non-DRM mp3 from either Amazon or Zune, and I can almost always find it that way. Every once in a while I see DRM-only albums/tracks (and don't buy/download them because of it), but it seems to be well on its way out.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:31 PM on March 26, 2010


Is there much DRM music for sale anymore?

Isn't itunes still mostly DRM'd?
posted by lumpenprole at 5:34 PM on March 26, 2010


Isn't itunes still mostly DRM'd?

Not that I've seen. Nothing I've purchased in the last few months is anything but delicious clean MP3s. (Can't do Amazon's MP3 service because they hate seem to ignore Canadians.)
posted by Doug Stewart at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2010


klangklangston: "Isn't the problem much more people simply not paying?"

I remember being 17 and spending a windfall $100 on ten or so LPs at the Tower Records in the East Village. It was luxury.

Over the last two days, I've been on a hip-hop binge. I downloaded about 20 CDs that were recommended in AllMusic, Amazon.com guides, or this AskMe. When I came across something interesting, I could find a download link for it in less than a minute on some music blog about 90% of the time.

I was a little sad when I heard that Tower Records had closed.

(I never heard of Mobb Deep's The Infamous before. It's really good!)
posted by Joe Beese at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2010


CDBaby is notably missing from the list of supporting sites, as is Bandcamp.

The implication is that these sites somehow offer illegal downloads, when in fact they merely offer material produced outside the purview of the major label cartel.

Meanwhile, at a time when British music industry lobbyists are in the process of getting their own privately written bill pushed through Parliament without debate in the House of Commons (see eg here and here), it strikes me as naive at best to talk about 'carrot not stick' in response to this highly disingenuous Trustmark PR campaign.
posted by motty at 5:52 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


motty: "CDBaby is notably missing from the list of supporting sites..."

FWIW: The latest episode of the usually interesting CD Baby Podcast is a roundtable on "The Value of Music".

This is an amazing time for musicians because they have access to millions of potential fans through the internet. The flipside to all this availability is decline in monetary value assigned to music. People expect more for less. As a musician, should you find hope or dismay in the state of the industry?
posted by Joe Beese at 6:14 PM on March 26, 2010


Meanwhile....
posted by Mblue at 6:16 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jesus, it took them long enough to realize that downloading wasn't a fad.
posted by clockzero at 6:22 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is simply impossible to find a good blacksmith nowadays.
posted by cromagnon at 6:31 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Blind Willie Johnson is dead, right?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:36 PM on March 26, 2010


Blind Willie Johnson isn't a corpuscle.
posted by Mblue at 6:43 PM on March 26, 2010


The flipside to all this availability is decline in monetary value assigned to music.

Value != Cost
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:46 PM on March 26, 2010


So should I feel bad about having just ripped their entire collection of these shorts?

Oops. My bad.
posted by pla at 7:09 PM on March 26, 2010


In an evolving digital landscape, there can be confusion over which sites are legal.

Yeah. That's the problem. Consumer ignorance. Uh-huh. Sure.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:14 PM on March 26, 2010


Well, at least they're sort of making a token effort to try to look like they're speaking to me and music obsessives like me in my language instead of being all DRUGS ARE BAD MMKAY like they have been, but still, epic fail. I watched 2 minutes of the Jam one before turning it off because I felt patronized. Being more honest and frank is a good step, guys, but you have to actually do it and not just look like you are.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:41 PM on March 26, 2010


trustmark fixed
posted by Primofex at 8:49 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe they should stop saying "legally" and say "ethically" instead.

Either way, it should never illegal or unethical to enjoy music. That's the fail as I see it. When I have the bucks, I'm happy to spend generously on all arts, music in particular. When I don't have the bucks, should I starve in this regard?
posted by philip-random at 8:51 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I don't have the bucks, should I starve in this regard?

I want a Porsche and an iPad. Can't afford either. But should I starve in this regard simply because I don't have the bucks?
posted by incessant at 9:17 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


incessant : I want a Porsche and an iPad. Can't afford either. But should I starve in this regard simply because I don't have the bucks?

Of course not! So, go ahead and scan your favorite Porche into your replicator, and...

Wait, what? You mean the only way you can get a Porche involves taking one away from someone else?

Hmm, those two situations really don't seem all that analogous, then.
posted by pla at 9:26 PM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


You people are all delusional. Just admit that you are a thief.

You make yourself dumber when you delude yourself with such retarded rationalization. The internet merely made it easier to download music without paying for it--this is clear violation of copyright laws. If the laws were enforced, how greedy you think the record companies are is not a valid defense in court. Nor would it matter what it costs for the raw materials and the production of those materials into a compact disc. Aside: I wonder, should marketing costs, overhead and initial capital costs be included in the cost to make a cd?

One thing that could work would be to tell the judge that one time three to six years ago when Radiohead (who are not dead) sold their cd on their website and allowed users to choose their own price.

Here's the problem though: when you take away incentives to produce a product or a service, people have less incentive to produce the product or service. A cd is a product. Money is in an incentive.
posted by stevenstevo at 9:55 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


stevenstevo : A cd is a product. Money is in an incentive.

Well, if you put it like that - Fuck 'em.

I'll gladly flip a few bucks to the actual artists. The RIAA and the parasitic "industry" that feeds off the real talent, though? Sand - Go pound some.

And no, I really don't feel bad about it. I go out of my way to find the most direct way to actually support bands I like (hint - They get a pittance from CD sales. Go to their website, or better yet a concert, and buy some swag). But that I have downloaded 10x (and deleted 8x) as much music as I've "bought" (or would you like play lawyer and clarify what it means to "license" a physical object for us)? Nope. Not cryin' over it, nor over your failure to grasp the difference between copyright violation and stealing.
posted by pla at 10:06 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


With regards the stick over carrot approach of the BPI (music label trade group) written amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, the full text of the amendment is here, section 120A.

It's been pointed out that courts could already order shutdowns:

"Courts already have the power to do what the amendment proposes and therefore all that this amendment actually does is reduce due process. Under the proposed amendment, unless an ISP is willing to take the risk of incurring significant costs by not acting upon an initial notice - the accuracy and validity of which might not be clear - then the decision about whether to block access would be taken away from the court."

Basically, the music industry sends a take down notice to an ISP or hosting provider, and unless they do what it says without argument, and a court injunction then decides that copyright infringement is going on, then the ISP/hosting provider bears the full legal costs of the music industry in the court action. End result? DMCA-like take down notices that ISPs will apply without fighting, because they have no reason not to, and a hefty bill risk if they don't

The potential impact on legitimate fair use and people just caught in the crossfire by accident is obvious - and it also lacks one safeguard the DMCA has, whereby the poster of the original material can counter-argue the takedown notice, and the ISP then is no longer involved in the fight, and can put the material back up. With the DEB amendment now approved, ISPs will just take it down without a fight rather than take the risk.

It also significantly weakens the ability of ISPs to argue that they are merely a hosting service for user provided content; if copyright infringing material is posted in large quantity by users, even though they have a mechanism for content holders to notify them of infringing material, they can end up in court and risk having their entire site taken offline by the court who have reduced latitude - which will have a direct impact on hosting providers like rapidshare, or even youtube and flickr.

The wording of the bill is even sufficiently loosely worded that it could be applied to individual ISP users accused of sharing material via P2P; the mere accusation could lead to a court injunction forcing the ISP to cut off that individual user from the internet, where the only parties involved are the music industry and the ISP - NOT the user. The mere threat of court action where the ISP has to bear all costs if they lose may again introduce 'voluntary' user cutoffs by ISPs merely by accusation and threat of court action against the ISP, when that option was specifically removed from possible sanctions in the rest of the 'three strikes' part of the bill.

This amendment is now part of the bill, and the DEB is due to be pushed through by the labour government without debate in 'wash up' - the period just before the election when all the MPs are in their constituencies campaigning.

So while the artists may well be pleading nicely with the public to pay for music, the label trade association is busily getting laws passed without debate that do massive harm to civil rights and substantially weakening the ability of ISPs to stay out of the fight between alleged copyright infringers and their accusers.
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:17 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Here's the problem though: when you take away incentives to produce a product or a service, people have less incentive to produce the product or service.

So how exactly does this explain the unstoppable torrent of new bands, new recordings, new everythings that keep erupting onto the scene even as the so-called "music industry" sinks deeper and deeper into obscurity (or is it absurdity)?

I think the incentive to produce music (certainly the kind I'm interested in) isn't money. I think it's something that the musicians/artists in question just deeply NEED to do. Which doesn't mean they don't also need to pay rent, buy food, clothe their children etc ....

But this, I submit, is a different issue, as much to do with neutralizing the inherent criminality of the music industry as it does with rethinking market economics with regard to how they engage with and enable the arts.
posted by philip-random at 10:51 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


When R. Kelly recorded "Be Careful" with Sparkle...

he decided he wanted to get wid' her, and do somethin' freaky...

but he wasn't enough of a man for her...

... and she wasn't enough of a girl for him.

...but Sparkle's 13-year-old niece was.

It wasn't an easy journey...

But every rapper knows, when you're dealing with young bitches

... a little bit of bling goes a long way.

And while the sex itself was over before it began,

The journey was not a wasted one...

R. Kelly brought his passion into the studio with him

...and it poured out of him for everyone to see.

From a sparkle to a golden shower.

It inspired his music, just as it inspires those who listen to it.

(Lawyers don't come cheap, dogg.)

... and that's why music matters.
posted by markkraft at 12:21 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll conjecture that music fans would really get behind some ethical music logo program if the logo guarantees that musicians, production personnel and the musicians staff take 50% with the other 50% covering promotion and distribution. I doubt however that consumers will buy into your ethics if your not paying the band 50% however.

We simply don't value the industry's gate keeper role that highly, especially when iTunes Genius and music blogs do almost all the promotional work, and Apple takes only 30% for their distribution and promotion activities.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:33 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want a Porsche and an iPad. Can't afford either. But should I starve in this regard simply because I don't have the bucks?

Here you go, close enough? Or you could just go to your nearest Porsche dealership or Apple Store and geek out to your heart's content.

If you're trying to equate downloading music with stealing a porsche then you've got the analogy wrong. If people were breaking in to recording studios and stealing the original recordings so that no-one else could listen to them you'd be closer to it.
posted by robertc at 4:49 AM on March 27, 2010


Replying to the same quote from the FAQ that's been excerpted above:
Every creator has a right to be paid for the time, effort and money invested in producing quality music for us to enjoy.
No. This is called a sense of entitlement.

To counter-quote with Richard Stallman:
Q. Won't programmers starve?

A. I could answer that nobody is forced to be a programmer. Most of us cannot manage to get any money for standing on the street and making faces. But we are not, as a result, condemned to spend our lives standing on the street making faces, and starving. We do something else.
The ethical thing to do, as beneficiaries of others creativity, is to freely share our creativity with others instead of locking it up with manufactured concepts of 'intellectual property'.

Another quote from Richard Stallman:
This is Kantian ethics; or, the Golden Rule. Since I do not like the consequences that result if everyone hoards information, I am required to consider it wrong for one to do so. Specifically, the desire to be rewarded for one's creativity does not justify depriving the world in general of all or part of that creativity.
But those with a sense of entitlement prefer to ignore this particular ethical argument. And like selfish children, resort to calling us names such as 'thieves' and 'pirates'.

Actually, I can see there is enough implied idealism in these animations to convince a sizeable proportion of the mostly younger music-downloading population. So congrats for the slick spin. But boy is that Willie Johnson animation full of schmaltz.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 6:06 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really know better than to comment in any thread where people have started to justify quoting Stallman to avoid paying for music, but I do find it an interesting counterpoint to the thread discussing the Fucked Up post on how to make money at SXSW. We want people to put out infinite amounts of fantastic music and we (collectively, not pointing the finger at any single person here) don't want to pay anything for it.

I have no sympathy for labels as they are currently constructed, a lot of sympathy for working musicians, and no real solutions. Encouraging people to consume music ethically (real ethics, not just "buy from label-approved music sites" as opposed to CD Baby, which is an ethical site) is all well and good, but until people get over their sense of entitlement about commercially produced music, musicians are screwed.
posted by immlass at 7:58 AM on March 27, 2010


We want people to put out infinite amounts of fantastic music and we (collectively, not pointing the finger at any single person here) don't want to pay anything for it.

If I may be so bold to speak for collective-everybody.

"Yes" to part A. We do want infinite amounts of fantastic EVERYTHING, and why not, it's out there and fast proving cheaper to just give away than charge for (ie: ENFORCE payment).

"Not so fast" to part B. We already pay all kinds of money for all kinds of stuff (rent, mortgages, food, drugs, cars, toys, service charges, furniture, diamonds ...) and, most of us anyway, generally end up at the end of the day with very little if nothing left (often as not, in debt, paying more money in interest).

The challenge is not to shake us down for a few more bucks which we don't even have so that yonder musicians/artists don't starve (but instead maybe some unemployed autoworker suddenly will). The challenge is to figure out how to include music and the music makers (artists in general) in the dispersal of all the gravy mentioned above. Yup, I just said it. We need some kind of tax that will benefit the creative community directly.

Or maybe we should take a page from the War On Drugs, declare zero tolerance on sliminess in the music biz and start confiscating all the wealth of the scumbags who have ripped off the artists for so long ... for redistribution.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on March 27, 2010


The challenge is to figure out how to include music and the music makers (artists in general) in the dispersal of all the gravy mentioned above. Yup, I just said it. We need some kind of tax that will benefit the creative community directly.

As big a fan of the National Endowment of the Arts (look it up, it already exists and is a badly funded political football) as I am, its existence hardly entitles people to rip musicians off. Musicians who put out products for sale don't deserve to be ripped off--not paid for goods and services they sell--just because greedy people want to consume them without paying.

If you want music, you have a brain and vocal cords. You can make music of your own any time you like, any where you like, without paying a cent. If what you want is to consume the fruits of other people's commercial labors without paying, that's a different matter. You want to make it socialism, and sure, let's let the state subsidize musicians. But without getting into loaded terms like theft, the idea that in the current marketplace you're just entitled to take any music you want because you could get it? It's at best freeloading.

When you take commercial music for free in the current marketplace, you are not just ripping off labels. You are (also) taking money from musicians. It's really that simple.
posted by immlass at 9:41 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Illegal ≠ immoral.

Infinite supply = zero monetary value.

Meditate on this until you achieve enlightenment.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:45 AM on March 27, 2010


The funny thing to me is that there is plenty of free stuff out there: free stuff that was put out to download and consume without expectation of payment. Music put out by labels, music put out by bands, compilations put out by stores. iTunes, Amazon, Think Indie, RCRD LBL, you name it, you can easily find really free music that you can consume without there being any expectation of compensating the artist.

That's just never good enough for people who think that there's no moral issue about failing to compensate artists for their work. The rest of it is just bullshit self-justification under the guise of enlightenment.
posted by immlass at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll conjecture that music fans would really get behind some ethical music logo program if the logo guarantees that musicians, production personnel and the musicians staff take 50% with the other 50% covering promotion and distribution. I doubt however that consumers will buy into your ethics if your not paying the band 50% however.

Amen. Moreover, I'd love it if there were an easy-for-bands-to-use setup for DIY and label-based ethical mp3 distribution, so that I could know my money was going directly to the artists (and producers, and in most cases small labels) involved in making and promoting it, without a huge chunk going to some middleman - be it Sony or iTunes. I include the latter, because Byrne's analysis of artist reimbursement from iTunes sales has me unsure that they (or, I assume, Amazon or the other big names) are doing right by the artists. But right now, for many (most?) bands I like, there's no way I can know that most of the money I pay for an mp3 is going back to them. I feel a bit better about buying things directly from bands at shows, but I can't go to every show, and buying CDs honestly feels like a bit of a waste these days. I really want to do a better job of paying for music, without having to worry about how much of what I pay actually reaches the musicians.
posted by ubersturm at 10:04 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Blecch. These all remind me of those insipid "DID YOU KNOW?" clips theatres play before movies.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:15 AM on March 27, 2010


When you take commercial music for free in the current marketplace, you are not just ripping off labels. You are (also) taking money from musicians. It's really that simple.

immlass, it really isn't that simple. Seriously. If it were, we would not be having this discussion. That you insist that it is suggests to me that you are not taking the time to read the comments in this thread, or that you are not comprehending them. For instance:

Infinite supply = zero monetary value
posted by philip-random at 10:33 AM on March 27, 2010


Let's look at their platitudinous marketing slogan "Music Matters".

Now, most people feel that music is a good thing, so the people who are standing up for music must be the good guys right?

Well no, because really they're not talking about music. They're talking about control over the distribution of recordings.

And that's a much narrower domain. While music is fundamental to and always been a part of human culture, the phonograph only dates back to 1877. There have always been musicians, but the recording industry and the concept of recording artists is only a little older than a single life-time.

Well, times have changed again. Music still matters. How could it not? But this novel, and I would argue adulterating income stream is now drying up.

So please keep the argument constrained as to why our civil freedoms should be trampled to protect the rent-seeking behaviour of this relative new-comer and spare us the overblown rhetoric. Because we can blow it back in your face. Freedom matters. Sharing and culture matter. And putting imaginary boxes around our culture and criminalising the free exchange of ideas and expression is just wrong.

It's really that simple.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 11:06 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know what we're arguing about. There is no music. Home taping killed it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Isn't itunes still mostly DRM'd?

Not that I've seen. Nothing I've purchased in the last few months is anything but delicious clean MP3s.


You see, this right here. I've not even tried to download anything from the fucking iTunes site for over a year, because I decided I had wasted my last minute messing with a screwed up DRM or stripping the DRM using the appropriate software. I'm a guy with some dollars to spend on music, but I've avoided it because it's too much hassle to either rip CDs or download and strip DRM-laden files. And now they've missed out on over a year's worth of sales to me because they had this crap "anti-theft" system in place. Maybe I'm one-off, and everyone else like me has continued buying music at their previous pace. But I would not be astonished if DRM has actually cost the dear artists money in the long run.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:46 PM on March 27, 2010


Oh, and I'm not making any money off my music. Who should be paying me and whom do I blame?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:48 PM on March 27, 2010


When you take commercial music for free in the current marketplace, you are not just ripping off labels. You are (also) taking money from musicians. It's really that simple.

Read this account of one musician's adventures in not being paid by Warner's, or Steve Albini's classic rant about why signing to a major label is almost always a bad idea for bands, financially, and you'll see why it is really not "really that simple".
posted by motty at 1:35 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Record sales down, ticket sales up: Good for musicians.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:39 PM on March 27, 2010


Read this account of one musician's adventures in not being paid by Warner's, or Steve Albini's classic rant about why signing to a major label is almost always a bad idea for bands, financially, and you'll see why it is really not "really that simple".

motty, I've read the Albini rant and the Warner royalty statement. But many musicians aren't on major labels even if they sell through similar distribution channels (record stores, such as they are, or iTunes or Amazon); those folks may be getting ripped off by iTunes or Amazon--which is a separate argument--but if they're not going through the major labels, they're not getting ripped off by the labels.

But in any case, any money that musicians would/should see from sales of their music is money they're not seeing if people take it without buying. That they wouldn't see that money from some people who download isn't the issue. Nor is the bad IP regime about music or bad label accounting. The issue for each individual is "are you willing to take something you didn't pay for?"

That you insist that it is suggests to me that you are not taking the time to read the comments in this thread, or that you are not comprehending them.

I comprehend your arguments perfectly. I just disagree completely with them, as impossible as that sounds. Maybe this is because I'm more in sympathy with professional musicians than I am with folks who like to justify taking music because they can.

For instance: Infinite supply = zero monetary value

Except there's not an infinite supply of the music you (for any given value of you) want. If there were, people would be just getting the music that's given away. People can hop from here over to Metafilter's music site and get music any day of the week, music that people have put up for us to listen to and download free of charge.

If you (for hypothetical values of you) aren't doing that because you don't want that music but would prefer to listen to Lady Gaga, you're saying that Lady Gaga's music is more valuable to you than Metafilter Music freebies, but not valuable enough for you to pay for the CD or the download from a download store. You're saying you want it but not enough to pay for it. Or maybe it's not Lady Gaga you like but some independent artist who isn't on a label belonging to Universal, so you don't even have the justification of telling yourself "well, I'm just ripping off some music label, not an actual musician".

None of the arguments presented to me in this thread are persuasive to me that it is not generally morally wrong to take/duplicate music presented for sale without paying. The fact that in some cases the organizations losing most of the money from uncompensated downloads aren't ones I agree with or that there are serious flaws with the copyright/IP regime surrounding music doesn't negate that wrongness.

My test for this is whether I'd be willing to look a musician in the eye and say "I downloaded your album without paying for it". If the answer is "no", then I know it's wrong. That's simple enough for me. YMMV.

(And this is my third repeat of the same refrain, so I am out of this thread. If you have something new to say, MeMail me.)
posted by immlass at 2:45 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow... that Too Much Joy article was exactly what I was looking for to make my point.

The fact is, the most common amount that your favorite artists get in royalties when you buy music online is $0.00, largely because many of them are considered permanently in debt to their labels, though the labels themselves don't even do the accounting to verify this debt, or see if it ever gets paid off.

Even amongst those who are actually owed money in royalties, much of it goes unpaid, because the burden is on the artist to jump through the hoops in order to collect.

Towards the end of 2004, it was reported that more than 38,000 performing artists were owed royalties collected from 1996-2000 that they weren't paid, and would lose if they didn't register to collect... while only 6,000 artists actually collected any royalties.
posted by markkraft at 2:52 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


immlass, don't go: Except there's not an infinite supply of the music you (for any given value of you) want. If there were, people would be just getting the music that's given away. People can hop from here over to Metafilter's music site and get music any day of the week, music that people have put up for us to listen to and download free of charge.

What you have to realize is that digital anything is groundshaking. It really screws with people because they don't have a mental model for abundance. The copies aren't valuable anymore, since they're trivial to replicate. You can bemoan this fact, but most people are going to take you about as seriously as someone trying to sell you bottled air. Sure, it's valuable. Not going to pay you for it, though.

Then you can get angry and try to police it. Good luck with that. It's a big world.

Then you realize that you have influence with The Powers That Be and try to offload your problem to their jurisdiction. This is the most problematic approach, since those guys can use your business model problem to seriously cut in to everyone's civil liberties. After all, how can we be sure that someone isn't infringing on the internet unless we monitor everyone?!

Or, you can recognize that copies are cheap, and you're better off selling things like access (to shows or sites) or other scarce goods are the way to go.

Seriously, give techdirt a perusal. It's economist-centric, rather than lawyer-centric. They tend to have a level head about these things.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:40 PM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


but maybe some ethical spirit (the idea that creative artists should receive some respectable compensation for your enjoyment of their work) can still be reached.

My issue is that I think the most unethical party in the matter is the label, that barely pays the artist.
posted by toekneebullard at 7:00 AM on March 28, 2010


Good that they've got a Blind Willie Animation.

I'd suggest that the voiceover should say ...

Blind Willie Johnson produced a number of albums 80 years ago.

Within the original laws of copyright, the music he made should no longer be making money for the large corporation that owns the rights to his work.

In fact, if the copyright laws in existence now had been in effect when he made these records,
it would have been likely that he would not have been allowed to record.

The songs he sang, were the songs sung to him. Would it have been ethical if we had removed the rights he had to do this.

Not only that, but can you imagine a world where the right to cover songs passed on by him was controlled by a large and greedy corporation.

Do you think Bob Dylan, Beck, The White Stripes & Fairport Convention would have kept his legacy alive if they had to license his songs.

Blind Willie Johnson stayed poor all his life. He died a poor man.

It is not illegal MP3 downloads which disadvantage our musicians. It is the companies that aim to control our music that disadvantage our musicians.

Music matters. Reclaim it. It is yours.

* sidenote. Very little of this is actually researched. So take all "facts" with a pinch of salt.
posted by seanyboy at 7:46 AM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


None of the arguments presented to me in this thread are persuasive to me that it is not generally morally wrong to take/duplicate music presented for sale without paying.

As a concerned citizen who enjoys music but wishes to undermine the record labels for the benefit of all society, including musicians, please recommend to me an alternative course of behaviour in order to encourage change in society.
posted by robertc at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2010


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