Tuesday, November 4, 2008
If You Love Music, Set It Free
You might be an avid Kanye West fan, or perhaps Kenny Chesney. Maybe you can't get enough of Katy Perry or you're obsessed with Owl City. No matter the music preference, you can't deny the rising issue in the business: to share or not to share? While music is so available on the internet for free, it's also illegal to obtain and distribute it. It should be made legal, or at least there should be another method that lets musicians get their share while giving internet users a way to download music legally (Yes, I am aware of iTunes, but I still think more needs to be done.)
Record companies are kidding themselves if they think they can stop the entire internet community from downloading music. It's very easy to do, widely available, and not to mention free. You can even download the CD cover art to look nice and pretty on your iPod. Cd sales are hitting an all time low. The internet, with such social networking sites as MySpace, is a perfect canvas for musicians to self-promote. There is no progress left for the record companies, so why fight the inevitable future of music?
Musicians themselves, the whole reason the industry exists, are all for sharing music, or at least some modified version of it. Radiohead released their latest album, In Rainbows, in a way that allowed their fans to pay whatever they wanted to download the album from their site. They could pay any amount--they could even put nice, round zeros if they felt like it. While something I think only more well-known artists could pull off, it is a better direction than what the record label companies have been pulling. Thom Yorke, frontman of Radiohead, has so eloquently said, "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model."
There are some concerns with the idea of letting music be shared on the internet. Some are worried about how sharing music would effect a musician's ability to make money. The fact is, not that much. Most musicians make money through concerts, not record sales. According to Alanis Morissette's manager, Scott Welch, "The top 10 percent of artists make money selling records. The rest go on tour." Not to mention most bands take fifty percent of the merchandise sold at concerts, which is a much bigger cut than what they get out of record sales if they're not in the top ten percent.
And honestly, the uprising of technology is probably going to be a great shift for musicians and fans alike. It will musicians a much firmer hold on the business aspect of their music, and it has endless advertisement opportunities. For the fans, they are exposed to much more and a greater variety of music, and can easily access the musicians to support them by buying their merchandise and concert tickets via the internet. This entire movement is probably one of the best to happen to musicians.
Now, to address the big dilemma--is this stealing? I guess that depends on how you look at it. A blog I recently read had a great quote about this. The author, who worked for a major record label, wrote, "But it wasn't okay - I mean, let's face it, no matter how you rationalized it, it was stealing, and because the technology existed to hotwire a car didn't make that okay, either." Still, stealing or simply "sharing", this is the way the industry is going. Even iTunes is not good enough to stop the sharing. The industry has to evolve, or fall to pieces.
Now, I'd like to share a lengthy quote from Sonic Youthe's Thurston Moore. I think it really encompasses what sharing music is all about--the love of music, and wanting to share it with the world. "Once again, we're being told that home taping (in the form of ripping and burning) is killing music. But it's not: It simply exists as a nod to the true love and ego involved in sharing music with friends and lovers. Trying to control music sharing - by shutting down P2P sites or MP3 blogs or BitTorrent or whatever other technology comes along - is like trying to control an affair of the heart. Nothing will stop it." This is part of the reason that record companies have failed and we have to accept sharing in one form or another--the record companies were greedy, and forgot what it meant to be truly in love with music. Instead of adapting with the consumers, they got angry and attacked, thus causing their very own down fall.
As a poor college student not able to afford whole CDs very often, I experience the need for this change in the music business. Unable to freely consume music due to restrictions by my university, my music library remains sadly unchanged. The music business needs to change so that I, along with everyone else, can love and share music the way it was meant to be loved and shared--freely.