I did it. I broke down and bought a CD from a major label. Yeah, I feel terrible having done it, Lord knows I don't want to reward the industry for it's deeds. But... I was shocked to see our local bookstore stock the Talking Heads 'Fear of Music' album. Then I started remembering the great bass lines and David Byrne's warbling rants on how animals, paper, and electric guitars are all conspiring against us. Truly this was a seminal album and had the rare privilege of being both enjoyable to listen to and unique.
But I broke my rule to do it. I purchased the first CD since Duncan Sheik's self-titled (and brilliant) recording. What a shame some of the best stuff out there is non-indie. Further, what a shame I should have to regret BUYING an album of music I love. God knows, I bought plenty in the 80's. At one time half my net worth was in CD's and cassettes!
As a musician myself, I realize the knife's edge of morality cuts deeply when I talk about file sharing or purchasing music. It's like different stages of veganism. Some believe it's ok to eat products of animals but not the meat. Some go to the extreme of not using ANY animal products including milk or cheese. For the past 10 years, you could say I've been a major label vegan.
I got into a discussion with someone here recently about copyright law, the constant extensions, and criminalization of children. By buying that one album I just helped fund another lawsuit against some poor kid who had been sharing the music he/she loves. On the whole, my guilt is not debilitating, after all I'M not the one telling the industry what to do with it's money. But I do feel a twinge of regret and remorse. To that poor kid I say I'm sorry in advance.
On the other hand, I DO NOT regret buying Ashley Holt's 'Great' and 'Gargle of the Spartanites' on CD Baby last week. If you've never heard his music or seen his art, you're missing out on something truly original.
Promote Thrdgll today!
Anyway, if you've read anything by me before you might have noticed that I support the mute-net project:
MUTE is a program that does anonymous file sharing. Every once in a while I throw the guy a $20 to show that my interest in his project is real and that his efforts are appreciated. My associating comment in my personal info here is that 'It's not pretty. It's not finished. But it might just be the answer...' Some of you out there might be wondering, 'What's the question?'
To me, there's more than one question:
1) When are we going to stop allowing corporations to prosecute children for sharing what they've come to love (music)? Don't we have enough criminals in this country? Last I checked we have the highest per capita prison population in the world. In other words, watch your step citizen! You are one small action away from being thrown in prison.
2) When is the industry going to find the business model that allows them to be profitable without being unreasonable (like suing the Girl Scouts for singing 'Happy Birthday' in public?)
3) When are Americans going to stop letting these in-the-pocket politicians and corporations run our justice system and make our laws for us? Demo or Repub, it's doesn't matter when you talk about the entertainment industry. The Dems tend to get support of the artists, the Repubs tend to get the support of the corps BEHIND the artists. One thing the Left and the Right can agree on is that each side appears to be in the pocket of the movie and music industry.
Until issues like these are addressed, the answer is of course, MUTE, or something like it. It's still a dream however. MUTE works about as well as Gnutella does now - that is to say, it's broken. But it's new, and it's a fresh way to deal with prying eyes whether they be the State (China, for instance), or the another branch of our gov't - the RIAA.
But imagine for a moment that MUTE worked, and worked well. Remember the 'Napster' days? I do. Through Napster I was finally able to find the music the labels stopped producing a long time ago.
To that end, I will state publicly: Mr. Woolfson, I would GLADLY pay for the 'Gambler' soundtrack but since it was only released in Germany AT THE SHOW for a short time, it simply could not be found elsewhere. Every other work of yours (mostly with the Alan Parsons Project) I have repeatedly bought on cassette or CD. Further, I would say that '(You'll be) Far Away' is the most beautiful song you've ever composed. Too bad few will ever hear it.
There is so much potential that is WASTED by the industry. So much more money to be made and yet they waste their time suing children. But I have an idea that might work. It's kind of like the 'flat tax' that's bandied about from time to time. Here's the plan:
First of all, you have to realize that music provokes an emotional response. This is why I'm so pissed off at the industry. The industry TARGETS children with their music. Kids make bad choices when emotions are involved - that's why we don't hold them accountable to most crimes to the same degree we do adults. They are simply not capable of the same level of judgement adults are. Charging some poor inner-city kid $40,000 because he was sharing some DMX, or more ironically Public Enemy (fight the powers that be?), is just ridiculous and a waste of resources.
And the industry helps promote music in public forums like MTV and ClearChannel that help to evoke and promote the WORST behaviors and attitudes. For instance, this same industry pushes the worst kinds of depravity and depictions of 'gangsta' activity right on MTV, saying in effect, "Yo, yo, yo! Check it - yeah, it's cool to be a gangsta but DON'T STEAL OUR MUSIC!" Laughable, yo. Talk about mixed messages!
So we've established that kids can't be trusted to keep their music to themselves. And don't be fooled, it is THEIR music to them. So the industry counters with ineffectual restrictions like DRM and lawsuits but it still doesn't stop the tide. Eventually, MUTE or a project like it will work easily and well and if not, kids will still pass the music secretly amongst themselves as they have for generations now. So what's the answer? Simple, FREE THE MUSIC!
Yes, that's my answer, make the music free. Free to copy, download, distribute for non-commercial purposes - like the Creative Commons license. How will this help the industry? Well... You have to understand how the industry makes it's money. If not another CD was sold from this day forward, the industry (meaning everyone from recording companies to radio) would still make money. How? LICENSING. It's how much of their money is made today - corporations paying other corporations for the right to use their music in radio, tv, film, Muzak, whatever.
It is my opinion that freeing the music would have other effects - it would make lesser known bands more accessible. It would also create new business models that could not have existed before the Internet. Example: Buy music from an artist online and get a full size poster of the band - it's a lot more satisfying than a lousy CD cover.
It would also allow more creativity since music tends to build on music. If you've listened to pop music lately you realize that you've heard much of it before. Sometimes blatently sampled like Shaggy 's 'Angel' - combining old Steve Miller and Juice Newton hits. I half wonder if this is because the industry loves to push music that has to license ITSELF a couple times over. What's next - a song that has six or seven license issues? Is this creativity or marketing?
At some point, all of this will come to a head - and I guess that's how America works. We tend to wait until a problem gets completely out of hand before we actually deal with it.
Maybe David Byrne and the 'Heads' were right on target about fearing music. But I'd like to think that it's a question of balance and fairness on both sides that will eventually be resolved without my having to feel guilty either way...