Last night I got off the phone with one of my best friends who is currently out on tour for the second time in his life. This happened right after reading professor David Lowery's open letter to NPR intern Emily White, who, in a recent blog, proclaimed that she only purchased 15 CDs in her entire life, but obtained an iTunes library of over 11,000 songs. White is 20. My friend is 22. I'll be 26 in two months. Lowery, being a professor and ex-musician, is 51 years old. There is definitely a generational gap between all four of us. All four of us are involved in the business (or was), and to debastardize it to an extent, the "joy" of music. The four of us are also part of a greater consumerism, both financially and emotionally, of millions that hoard digital libraries, buy used CDs and flip them for new ones and/or spend way too much, or luckily at a steal, on OOP print vinyl or new, limited circles of wax.
To detach Lowery from the equation, the three youngest people mentioned do live in what he calls the "Free Culture movement," and i completely agree with that term. But at 26, myself and the older users and staff members of this site should remember going through the motions. I remember Napster on dial-up. I remember living through the downfall of it and the rise of Kazaa and Morpheus on countless others. I remember switching to Soulseek and ripping iPods in my early college years and then to the backdoors of Sendspace and Rapidshare in the later years. Yes, I have pirated a good chunk of music. In reading Travis Morrisons' column tonight, I also remember doing all those other things (with the exception of shoplifting. What?! My dad's a cop!). But I've also spent a good deal on t-shirts, concert tickets, CDs, vinyl, posters, etc. in that time. I love the tangible feel and ownership of something I find special, and even though I may not always have the dime for it, I generally attend the local record store at least once a week, if not twice and try to leave with something. Take that as you will and if you want to continue reading this op-ed.
For those that are 18-21, such as White, you came in at a time of music discovery when what Lowery describes as a "neighborhood" without an "antiquated police force" exists. More than just music, every form of media is digital and free. I just found out you can download comic books a few months ago! I thought video game emulators were one thing in my time, but that recent concept really blew my mind a bit. It's all free, why would you pay for it? The gas to go to the store only to find it's sold out, or the store doesn't carry it? You could order online, but there's extra for shipping. A simple Google search, and within minutes it's unzipped and in your iTunes. I could go to the store and buy fresh tortillas and meat and vegetables and cook tacos and invite my friends and share a good time. Fuck that! One of the best instant gratifications gained living in Texas is Taco Cabanna. Convenience reigns supreme.
That's my biggest problem with White's blog. Lowery touches on all the fiscal reasons why White is wrong, but I want to touch on the brightest red flag I had with her piece. This is going to come off as corny and lame (then again, a lot of what I say does, so take it or leave it) - there is nothing special in the "convenience" of either making music or consuming music. I say that in the most positive light too. Before sitting down to read both White and Lowery's blog entries, I watched Pitchfork.tv's documentary on Modest Mouse's The Lonesome Crowded West. Besides the information on the classic album's recording and meanings behind such Jesse Lacey covered classics as "Trailer Trash," the film makes old points on touring and promoting music without the vast space that is "the 'Net" and its ad-space virus which consumes sites like this and those lawless towns we loot from. All of the grain bands face daily only helps to create what I see as the best music in the end. The tension, anxiety, good times and bad, fear and letting go you hear in the most cherished records are generally reactions of going through the motions of making the music itself - especially lyrically, and sometimes (read: hopefully) instrumentally. (see also: 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons, Read Music / Speak Spanish, Kid A)
Like good satire, music has the ability to not only make us reflect on current trends and motions, the best music makes us grasp something deeper in the reaction to what's being executed. That's the thing that separates convenience from the people who should be in this industry: If something holds enough meaning to me, I want some sort of tangible item to remind me of that - especially when it comes to music. I will pay my water bill late for a copy of a record I've been looking for for sometime. I will drink less than stellar beer to own a copy of a CD or vinyl recently released from one of my favorite bands. I would sacrifice my credit - and have - to financially support something I believe in. I know that I'm not the only one who would do or does do this, and I know that there are people who are reading this thinking I'm insane. Well, so be it.
The economy certainly sucks. There just isn't enough money to go around that everyone can even remotely live a "convenient" life. I'm three years out of college living somewhere close to the poverty line trying to make it. My friends in bands are doing the same. Some of them you've never heard of, and some of them you might think are rock stars truly aren't. My friends who run labels doing their best to support their family of bands do well. But some rosters cater to a demographic of those 15-21 year-old listeners that share the tunes, and you have to remember that a pre-order goes a long way to put back into the label to sign more of "your friend's awesome band(s)" so they can truly see the same muck of business shit we all do.
I have no idea what to do about the financial situation of this industry. I can only give so much myself and still be able to work part-time and not give up my own dreams. It's not "convenient" whatsoever. It's an adventure, and the bands and industry people who live (or lived) through the years of "inconvenience" are generally the smartest. They know how things not only work, but how they work best. I'm not saying that White should quit her dream, because hell, she's on a great path. I'll say this, her demographic needs to think about the "convenience" of life catered to such technologies we've all been thrown into. Nothing I've ever loved has been easy to obtain or understood the moment it entered my life. There was no instant gratification, only days and months and years of appreciating something special that I once garnered. There's no "convenience" in true ownership, only hard work rewarded. I haven't been handed a lot of things in my life, so I know the work that has to be put into such ownership and confidence. A great band this week asked, "So what if everything that you ever loved more than anything was killing you this slow?" Well, this past year I've been on a deathbed of sorts. Some close friends have struggled as well. Just understand that big advances and trust funds generally don't make a lasting impact - quality music does. Go out and make a quality product and people will throw their hard earned money at your confidence and heart put into it. The people who matter will. They're the fans who will give your "new direction" a biting chance and take a plane or road trip cross country to see you reunite years later. People will put themselves through any number of "inconveniences" for any number of quality products - especially the comfort of music.
That's not to say that there isn't room to believe that the data is wrong in any way, but I'm going to try and look on this at both ends.
Why I believe it's accurate:
For the most part, I think a number of people who download music genuinely are looking for more music because they love music that much. Like a nervous twitch, they're constantly looking for something to add to either their hobby, or for some of us, their lives.
Like someone who enjoys any type of entertainment, they don't like waiting. Movie buffs will go to midnight showings, and be the first to buy the special edition DVD the day it comes out. Music buffs will be the first to grab a leak, a way to have a digital copy in anticipation for the street date. What is a street date anyway nowadays? A way to market a record over a few weeks with radio play and music videos-- two sources that are surely becoming out of date thanks to this Internet thingy.
I'm sure there are other "business" reasons (pressings, distribution, stocking, etc.) to have weeks between mastering and physically being on the shelf, but with physical copies on the decline (except for vinyl, but that's a whole other discussion), it shouldn't be surprising that leaks and downloads will give consumers a preview before the release date. I would bet anything that a majority of offenders who downloaded X-Men: Origins are going to go see it this weekend.
What about downloading after a record has been released? There's so many channels to consume an existing record. What about those who hoard music?
Why I think the data isn't accurate:
I think leaks are the primary spike in illegal downloading over the past two years, at least. The study doesn't separate this data though. There's no difference as to whether the downloaded material is pre- or post- release dated. I think that's something that needs to be accounted for.
Also, the story says, "Researchers found that those who downloaded "free" music whether from lawful or seedy sources were also 10 times more likely to pay for music. This would make music pirates the industry's largest audience for digital sales."
Digital sales! What about physical sales? What if those in questioned just assumed "yes" for any type of purchase, no matter the medium?
I believe the study is accurate, because I believe that a majority of those who download are the ones putting money back into the system through concert tickets, t-shirt sales, physical copies, etc.
The study doesn't look to be without its faults. I think the approach to marketing will drastically change in the next decade, and I believe a lot of bands will rely on labels less, press less and give even more incentives to their existing fans, and new fans alike.
This year looks to be a great year for music, and some artists are doing some pretty insane pre-orders, along with sales on Amazon MP3, it's good to say the future looks bright for what we love. There's a fine line, we as consumers are riding, and I think some are making it work, unfortunately there are a few bad seeds here and there taking new technologies for granted.
Illegal downloading is illegal. There's no question on that. But making bad music and saturating the market should be illegal too.
Should I be fighting this thing? Should I continue to ride the line of buying in and sampling on a five finger discount, or should I learn to play by the rules?
Riding the line of a love to consume music and a tight pocketbook, where each handbill better count-- may be it wrong to obtain an art form for free without compensation, distributed by a few bad seeds whose ship is sinking and is draining water into the life boats to save their own hide?
Does the free consumption of music have its potential to weed out those who don't deserve a three song set on stage? Or is the major consumption based around a major industry with bland and garbage as product?
All of these can be combated back and forth with answers for each side.
After reading through the thread on the front page, Jason makes a lot of points of how the labels put back into the artists' pockets to create the music we end up just taking.
And he's right. Scott Heisel explained a similar motive to me a year back. While as consumers, we think we are sticking it to the man, we may just end up hurting our chances of quality music in the end by the artists we love.
But how does this explain artists who are taking their own funding and investing it back into themselves to do things on their own terms?
Portugal did it. Thrice are thinking of doing it after their contract is up with Vagrant. I would like to think other artists are poised to do this as well.
Art is hard to bargain, but most of us don't know the amount of dollars that go into making that little jewel case that sits in cellophane at the record store.
Simply asking Google, it seems studio time is based by the hour (duh), which means anywhere from $50, upwards of $200 to $300 for your bigger studios.
Then a song has to be mastered. Again, to Google's knowledge, that could mean around $100 per song, if not more!
For your bigger acts, I wouldn't even know how much would go into having a producer.
Needless to say, that's a hefty fee that is usually fronted by the label, both major and independent.
But since there is a move from the physical sale to a digital sale with deals from Amazon MP3 and iTunes, are artists and labels making back those cost?
There's a lot of discussion that is hazy because of a shift in both at-home-production versus the old studio standard or the fact that bands can now have their own imprints for copyright purposes and distribute through Web and online retail, which is still a growing market (unsure if it is dominant over an actual store).
Who knows what Jesse Lacey and his band has made, or been making off their releases. But they have had consistent sold out tours and that certainly makes sure of merch sales, something, if void of a shitty 360 deal, are the best way to make money as artists.
Me, I'll still out weigh my handbill to see a band and buy a shirt or physical copy at a show if it cost them a preview of their album via a friend's iPod or the Internet.
The model is drastically changing, and it'll always be interesting to see where it ends up.
I promise this though...if I start making salary, I'll do my part to help those who truly deserve it.
Look, you can't always be number one. We have a fresh team, and in no way come close to how much Tim Teabow's greatness of circumcising little boys this summer has given him +8 experience points going into this season.
We lost fair and square. But we're not out the BCS yet. The Big 12 has't even begun to beat up on each other like the SEC has been doing these past weeks.
For some reason, I wish the industry would just consider themselves a loss this time like we have.
So CNN had an interesting article the other day on how Lime Wire and the labels were coming together in one giant union, probably marked by a back wooded ceremony of sorts.
In all of this, I'm trying to figure out if Lime Wire has moved to the Dark Side or if the industry is selling themselves out? See, if Lime Wire is embracing itself into the regular in and out, then the RIAA are screwing themselves out of any type of work.
Think about it. Napster-Legit. Lime Wire-Legit. Kazaa-No one cares, if you still use this, then you are an uber-n00b.
I'm sure there are thousands of super clones out there that hook up computers through a direct channel with no central hub and downloading nerds everywhere think they've beat the system. Well, congratulations, you haven't. See, you can still get busted that way as well.
But what about our wonderful set of friends we call hosting sites. You know, Mediafire, Rapidshare, MegaUpload... Etc. Well, to my knowledge, the only person who can get in trouble for this is the person whom uploads the file. Even I'm unsure if that person will get no more than "a ban" from using the hosting site-- and then they'll just open up another name, and the cycle will repeat itself.
But what if the industry is embracing their marketing channel that they have been fighting for some time? Would that ruin their reputation? Would they have to get on their knees and humbly apologize for being wrong. For being stubborn and not realizing the outlet of their mediocre success. If so, someone get my a ticket to this event. Actually, they'll probably end up podcasting it.
The music industry can't always be number one. Sometimes they have to admit defeat. Admit they signed and pushed too many NEW players. Sometimes the abnormal business model works. The entertainment industry is like the SEC. It's fucking nuts. Plays you wouldn't believe to happen that changes things on and off the field. Sometimes circumcising little boys doesn't seem as outrageous when you end up winning in the end.
Well, here's hoping we beat those Cocks next week.
So in the early 70's, former President Nixon decided to crack down on what was killing Americans-- all the hippies and their mounds of acid. What better way to do this than to get the definitive spokesperson on the subject: Elvis!
One of the most famous pictures out of sheer irony is Nixon and Elvis shaking hands, taking down the drug problem like Batman and Robin. In fact though, it was Elvis who volunteered himself to help take down the Hippie movement-- and the Beatles too for some reason.
Many loved Elvis. So I guess the mind set was simple-- If we get Elvis to back our program, maybe the youngens will put down the pills and put out their joints.
Needless to say, that didn't work, and the "drug Czar" still exist as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
But if we want to get our youthful computer geeks to stop their illegal downloading, we'll need someone that will stick. Who is our generation's Elvis? Here are my top five candidates to patrol the hyper cable waves with our next President.
1) Thom Yorke - If Yorke told fans to all bend over and moon the person behind them during the ending breakdown of "Idioteque" at a concert, it would be the biggest collective mooning to ever take place. When Yorke speaks, kids will listen, especially the savy ones that didn't pay for In Rainbows and downloaded the back catalog along with the In Rainbows bonus disc a month or so later.
2) Pete Wentz - What Wentz wants, Wentz gets out of 15 to 24 year old scene chicks across the nation, and in other countries as well I would think. Wentz would have the power to make downloading seem uncool enough to even his haters. Wentz also has the resources as an entrepreneur to spread the message through his record company, clothing line, viral marketing, Sidekick picture messages, etc.
3) Jesse Lacey - The man already threw large scale marketing out the window with his band's third release, even as he consistently alienates himself from his fan base, those damn kids are intent on filming and getting their hands on every new song that comes out Lacey's lips. Key here: Lacey strings a simple chord progression together for a few tracks on an unsolicited demo that just "happens" to leak, and that'll be the last song downloaded for a majority of fans for a while.
4) Dave Grohl - Grohl is the fucking man. He's right up there with Rollins to me. I know he has to be like that for all those people who sell-out the Foo Fighters' shows across the nation. When Grohl says stop fucking downloading...You stop downloading!
5) Kanye West - Let's face it, if you don't stop downloading, then the blogs and social commentary won't stop. West will probably make his albums more copyright protected than Fort Knox and just a bit more expensive to prove his point.
The fact is, no matter how powerful you believe a celebrity to be, they don't have the power to stop what made them famous, and what the government is inclined not to be able to figure out.
Just like the failure of the "drug Czar" in the 70's, and the RIAA now, this new outlet is not going to stop fresh minds from figuring out loop holes and side streets to change the distribution model.
The major record companies are just as greedy as the CEO's on Wall Street. They made their bed, and now we're supposed to sleep in it?
It's arrogance and stupidity like this that keeps USC in the Top 10.
"You can even move your iTunes folder over to Cox Rhapsody. Now all that, for the price of one CD."
All those vinyl records being moved around, wondering when the new N.E.R.D. disc is going to drop, and why the Mars Volta record has so much ring wear, and where I can get a copy---all to promote Microsoft's new Zune Pass.
I'm not dumb here. Even the "free" spoon that changes colors cost a few cents to stuff in my cereal box.
When the Colour Revolt disc came out early on eMusic, I went ahead and payed the $10. With that initial payment, I received 30 downloads and another 25 just for trying eMusic out. With the deal, I was able to grab a few discs that either were out of print (Locale AM's The Character's EP) or just wanted to give a spin (Page France ...And the Family Telephone).
What eMusic is based around is obscure and indie music. So unless you frequent Pitchfork and listen to your college radio station religiously, the only mainstream hits you can scoop up will be done by a string quartet.
eMusic has a great idea, its catalog is just lacking.
According to Microsoft's Zune Pass, for $14.99, the songs that are downloaded can be moved up to three computers and downloaded to any Zune device. The catch--- they can't be burned to a CD as well as, "The songs are yours to keep as long as you keep your Zune Pass valid."
Serioulsy? What the fuck does that mean? What if I cancel my pass, was all the downloading for nothing?
Then on the local end, Rhapsody music service has teamed with the local Cox Communications company here in Baton Rouge (cable, Internet, phone, etc.) to bring Cox Rhapsody. Same price, same idea...a lot of music for the price of one.
Taken directly from the Cox Rhapsody Web site: Cox Rhapsody To Go
Listen to millions of songs on the go, at work, or at home
Load and reload your player from the catalog as often as you want
Drag and drop songs and albums onto your portable player instantly
Discover new music through Rhapsody Channels and recommendations
Share music with your friends, even if they arent members
Let's see, everything seems in place. Doesn't specify a player, though, through some research, I found this doesn't work with iPods. In the commercial, it said you can move your iTunes library over to Rhapsody though.
Point to all of this is we continue to try to legally get around paying for music by paying as little as possible for as much as possible, and most consumers will be suckers to take the not-so-great deal. There's always going to be a catch. That spoon that changes colors in milk still isn't free.
Before you get sucked in, make sure you read all the fine print, or at least ask your kids or younger siblings how they get their music, bet you they found all that porn on your computer too. Smart little devils.