Lowry article on free downloads
David Lowry (main guy of Camper Van Beethoven, and Cracker) has written an interesting article/letter about music downloads here
My thoughts on it?
Some interesting points I hadn't considered.
And his article is not actually as long as it looks at first (the comments go on forever though).
It would have more power if it was written by a young person and not a relatively old fart from the music world-brain of the 80s, who clearly just can't adjust to the current reality. Water flows downhill - people do the easiest, cheapest, most convenient thing. Can't fight it just by saying it's "wrong" - if it's POSSIBLE then it will happen, and continue happening until something else becomes more convenient.
I didn't read the WHOLE long comments section, but so far in my reading nobody mentions what I think is an obvious related issue: for many years before the internet, and to this very day, the majority of music that I own and buy is used records. No artist or label has ever seen a penny from used record sales. The same is true for books, used book stores and libraries. Which points out that the issue is not QUITE SO MUCH the money vs. free issue, but the problem of distribution - it's just easier to FIND the music in its free (or used) form than in its paid form, especially for hardcore music lovers who are seeking items below the surface level of the most-known music. And, significantly, the paid form is often an outrageous ripoff - I could go to Other Music and buy a brand new CD reissue of some obscure psychedelic CD for $21.99, often with shitty packaging (and sometimes with none of that money going to the original artist anyway), or maybe find the original used vinyl for $10 on ebay. OR just download it for free (even while in the midst of traveling the world) if I can't find it in either place. IF there was a way to FIND the FAIR, PAID downloads of this music online I always do it - and it's not expensive - but I only do this when it's easy to find. It IS the first place I look - when trying to find something like the weird 1972 Marc Mundy album somebody recommended to me I first check itunes and amazon downloads, and in this case I actually found it there - 8.99 for an Amazon download of the album. Great! I bought/downloaded it immediately. But if they didn't have it, I'd download it for free somewhere else, of course, because I just wanna fucking hear it.
The guy from Camper Van Beethoven's article, and the article he is responding to, feel to me like the complete opposite ends of the spectrum, and I personally feel like I fit somewhere in the middle.
I can't speak for most people, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them fit somewhere in the middle too.
I am such a music buff that I NEED to satisfy my curiosity and desire for new (and especially new-to-me-but-actually-old) music any which way I can: the public library, used music shops (the real thing and online), streaming on Spotify, legal downloads, blogs with download links (sometimes of questionable legality, but sometimes the music is out-of-copyright/out-of-print), etc. etc.
But, then again, a lot of folks aren't music buffs, and just don't value music as anything besides ear-wallpaper...
When I was around 14 I started going over to my grandparents and taping my uncle's albums.
I didn't have much money and I was interested in hearing/having recordings of those things.
On Christmas however I requested new LPs.
Recently when I got into SunnO)) and Prurient I bought about 5 of their cds (each)--some used and some new.
I liked buying new SunnO)) cds because those guys are alive and making music and I knew they'd get some of the money.
They also put a lot into the packaging/artwork.
I have gone months without turning on my stereo.
Sometimes I read a lot more (a whole lot more) than I listen to music.
This same thing is going on with books.
A guy sent me two illegal downloads last year of books that cost about $30 each.
These books are not even available in print.
The author charges $30 each for the ebooks.
(I accepted the gift--yet it does bother me slightly.
I rationalize it by saying it's only two books and I allow people to sometimes have my music for free. Not a sound argument perhaps, but it's mine for now.)
I have paid probably over $400 for books in the last year or so---usually used and sometimes new.
I have never bought an ebook.
Same as cds---sometimes when a new book comes out I like to buy it right away at a hefty price---especially when it concerns current affairs and the author is risking his life to write it.
Note: These are arbitrary thoughts of mine.
I did not (and probably never will) read the article.
Used CDs don't really affect income of the artists like downloads, though. A used CD must have been purchased initially, and therefore the artist received money from it. Even if a lot people choose to by a used CD instead of the new one, it simply means the artist initially got money from that same number of CDs. Let's say the used CD gets sold back...how many times will in change hands in its lifetime? 2 users? three? I've had some used CDs for 20 years. If there is a buzz about a new record, before downloads, you couldn't go out and try and find it used. Ultimately, any fan who wanted to cash in on that initial excitement of hearing a new release had to buy it new.
With free downloading, one CD can be reproduced infinitely, and the mp3 copies can be obtained during that initial wave of excitement...you can read about a record on Pitchfork and obtain it for free within a minute or two. Used CDs are different. You'd have to be patient and hope, by some chance, that within a few months someone traded in their copy of something that you liked.
This applies to libraries as well, to a similar extent. I think the issue *IS* still the "money vs. free issue."
In terms of CDs new being an outrageous ripoff, I'm not sure that I agree. It's true that if I obtained music at my current rate via new CDs only, I couldn't do it, but over the past few years I have started to question whether the rate I consume--and that is an appropriate term--music is a healthy one? Am I listening to the music I obtain with the discerning care that it deserves? Am pouring over the lyrics and memorizing every beat, every nuance like I used to in junior high when I could only afford to buy one CD a week (used) with my job? Should local CD stores lower their CD prices to an amount that forces them to close shop simply because I am been conditioned to consume music like potato chips?
There are times when I feel that the amount of care I put into listening to music, compared with the amount of time someone put into creating it, is insulting to the artist. This is why whenever I've reviewed a CD for a music publication, the rule has always been at least 3 discerning spins of the release. Anything less wouldn't be appropriate, in my mind.
I like what you said about your commitment to the music that your are listening to in comparison to the effort put into making it. There does seem to be a lot of disposable listening out there. I'll counterpoint that statement with the idea that there is more disposable music being made as well. It's easier than ever for some one to create and record music. But quite often incredible music can be created in short amounts of time with very little effort. I'm not so sure file sharing has as much to do with it being difficult to make a living as a musician as just the fact that there are so many more people trying to do it these days.
A couple random interesting related points: I've had kids come up to me at a couple of our shows asking to pay less than our sale price for our CD's or records. They seem genuinely shocked when I say, "No." I had a guy that only had $13 dollars for one of our vinyl records. We sell them for $15. He wanted to make up the rest with two 9 volt batteries. I took it because it was worth more than 2 bucks but I was just thinking, "Dude, is it really that hard to borrow 2 bucks from your friends?" I didn't mean to be a jerk but it was almost like he had this ingrained aversion to spending money on music.
The other side of that is we had a kid hand us a $20 bill at a show once and said that he felt guilty because he downloaded all of our albums off the net for free. Not to put too fine a point on it but if he really downloaded all of our albums I think it would have been more than $20. But I appreciated the gesture.
20 years ago the artist rant was all about distribution and how labels were the gate keepers of access to the record stores and produciton. "Getting Signed" was the only real way to make a living, or so we thought. Tapes and digital made production more accessible. Indie labels started working as their own distributors and with the Internet and file sharing that argument just kind of disappeared. And the record stores disappeared with it. In the past you either made your living through touring, or through record sales, or some combination of the two. Nowadays the model appears to be more like making your living through touring, merch sales, through TV/ film licensing, or some combination of the three. In the end, merch sales are still a big part of subsidizing our income on tours.
Some good news is that we are also finding that vinyl sales are going up. Pretty hard to download a record. The down side to this is that vinyl is much more expensive to make. Hopefully, this new demand will drive down some of those productions costs.
Record labels won't share Pirate Bay winnings with artists; they're keeping it for record companies
This article brings up an interesting angle to the issue. It appears as though, at this point, even if we are able to recover money lost from this pirated music it's not going to go to the artists anyway.