Friday, June 24, 2005

Commentary on the Music-Pirating Struggle

I have bought Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” 5 times. More, if you count my copy of The Smashing Pumpkin’s greatest hits since she gets some royalties for that in some roundabout way. How does something like this happen, you ask, especially with musicians whining and complaining about how they’re not getting paid enough to do something they love, how people stealing mp3’s are putting a dent in their income and everything? You’ve heard it, I’m sure you have.

Before I go any further, let me explain how I’ve purchased “Landslide” so many times. I bought my first Fleetwood Mac CD in high school, about 11 years ago. That was their greatest hits album and it didn’t have “Landslide” on it, so this fact is actually irrelevant. I just wanted to demonstrate that I've been a longtime fan.

About 3 years ago I got a record player. And then I bought some used records because the sound you get from records has a beautiful texture you’ll never find with digital music. One of those records was Fleetwood Mac’s s/t album, with “Landslide” on it. So, you might argue, since it was used Stevie never saw any of that money. True, she didn’t.

But then I wanted to learn to play it on the guitar. So I had to buy the sheet music from that online sheet music place, I’m pretty sure Stevie saw some of that money, if only $.50 or something.

Later, I wanted to make a compilation for some stupid boyfriend or maybe just for myself, so I could feel lonely and sad or some crap like that. So I had to buy the song from iTunes. Don’t you think Stevie got some of that money?

Just the other day I ordered the remastered CD version of Fleetwood Mac’s s/t album, because you don’t get the convenience of portability with a record that you get with a CD. I got the super saver shipper thing so I didn’t have to pay for shipping, which was nice. The CD took a million days to arrive because UPS seemed to think it was funny to let it sit around in their various distributing places and to take it to France, Germany, Antartica and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon before dropping it at my place (I live in a very nice neighborhood). Anyway, what about that money? Don’t you think Stevie’s wallet is padded with hundred dollar bills all because of my penchant for CD portability, the sound textures of records, and guitar playability?

If you’re keeping track, you probably noticed that my count is a little off, but that’s just because of my penchant for hyperbole.

Anyway, I want to level with you: I’m sick of hearing about how I can’t make copies of the CDs I buy (for my own use or to give to my poor college student friends). Frankly, I fall into an exhausted slouch in my seat every time I notice one of those giant FBI warnings on the back of an album. What gives? You don’t see an angry mob of writer’s at the Library of Congress protesting because people borrow books from libraries instead of buying their books. You don’t hear about bitter court trials and sad-eyed testimonies of starving authors because college kids buy Cliff Notes instead of the whole book.

My best guess is that every rock-star wanna-be expects to make billions so they can buy an island or build their own $30 million recording studio in the Cascade Mountains, with a private runway and several jets for flying in their best-friends and the Brooklyn based, rap producer for their next $10 million project.

A writer just wants to write. Sure there are some with outrageous dreams of fame and fortune. But most of them would be happy just to see their book in print. Anyway, the point is that it’s not really about the music. If it were about the music the musician would simply make the music and sell the CD on or from their own web site for a realistic price. What it’s really about is the money and fame. You’ve seen it in sports. You’re seeing it in music . . . . I only hope it never gets the writers.


Anonymous said...

Great insight...and very true. I guess everyone has a different definition of having it be "about the music." For some artists, that means that it really is all about the music and he/she doesn't really care how you obtained the song, just if you, the listener and supporter of all their talent efforts, enjoy it.

On the other hand, you have those artists where having it be "about the music" is somehow related to the idea of it being lucrative for them because they created it and their music must be preserved for generations of music lovers! They say things like, "It's MY music," which it is, but they say it in a way that we should get in trouble for having it ourselves. And yet, we are the ones that keep them singing. To them, it somehow ups the value of the music if you make sure that the they have $1000.00 bottles of champagne to smash against a wall in one of their videos.

I don't know if that makes sense, but your blog did...sharing music is a wonderful thing! I'm sure everyone has heard the idea that "music speaks in all languages" because music is really a powerful resource when it comes to reaching people on deeps levels. Sometimes music is the only way to reach someone--more than books, literature, and counseling, for that matter.

If something is good, for crying out loud, share it!

Itsaboutstarving? said...

For the record (no pun intended), it is mostly record companies making noise about copyright infringement. They want to make back all the money they spent in advertising, distribution, scouting, promoting, etc. There are a few artists (Metallica comes to mind) who make a big deal of their "stolen" music, and they are losing potential fans as a result.
I make no claim to be a writer, but I think once a writer gets past being published, they would like to be paid for all the effort they spent spilling emotion and/or imagination into their work. After all, the most satisfying way to leave the community of "starving artists" is to get paid!
I just wish the RIAA and MPAA (and all the other AAs) would concentrate their efforts on the real criminals - the asian industry of illegal media reproduction, for example - and leave the little people alone. Jane Student isn't hurting the recording industry with her five song downloads.
Have you seen the tv commercial where all the movie set workers complain that you're taking money out of their pockets and really hurting the little guy when you copy movies or download them?
What a crock of doodle doo. As if the key grip (whatever that means - I always think of some guy standing behind the camera pouring all his effort into clutching the producer's car keys) gets royalties from a movie he worked on! Maybe he does, I don't really know.
The whole entertainment industry has grown too big for its financial britches. There is something wrong when athletes and rock stars (often uneducated and talented at very little aside from their sport or "art") are paid millions and influence the aspirations of millions of kids.