December 10th, 2006

Music Downloading and Piracy

Posted by Jeremy2 in General Musings / Rants

First and foremost, let me say that I am against stealing. I do not believe that anyone should steal from another person. That being said, I am against the RIAA and the music recording industry as a whole and against a few people that download music without paying the artists. I myself am a musician and quite a good one at that. I would not put myself up in the “world class” group, but I do well enough to warrant attention from others. I am sure that many have already come across the article The Internet Debacle, an Alternative View by Janis Ian, but for me it was simply a confirmation of what I had learned from my research of trying to publish my music with publishing companies: the big labels and companies rip the artist off. I have known a few people that have their music published, and they receive pennies for every time their song is sold. Janis Ian reports that the only way that she has made money is by tours because she has never received a check from several major labels without them stating that she owed them money! So while you listen to all the muggers who complain about the people ripping them off by downloading, think twice about their flawed arguments. Unfortunately I do not have the time or resources to do a good survey, but it seems there is a lot of success by independent labels giving things away for free on the Internet and selling their CDs and doing live concerts. The argument that Janis makes is that people are afraid to invest in something without knowing whether it is good or not. With all the garbage that is being pushed on consumers with wild promises these days (and not just in the music industry), this mindset is understandable. The “free” download gives them an opportunity to see whether they like the music before they purchase it.

What started this whole musing by me was an article by John C Dvorak on PCMag.com entitled, The Pirate Tax - Anything to Shut Them Up!. Honestly I think John suggests things like this to generate discussion rather than actually suggest something useful. He suggests putting a pirate tax on all blank media to pacify the thugs in the recording industry. As my comments to the post and many others attest, this is not a good idea. People who whine incessantly are going to continue to whine no matter what you give them. The recording industry as a whole is much like the nobility described in Mark Twains A Connecticut Yankee in King Arther’s Court: extravagantly rich but essentially useless as they simply reap the benefits of other’s hard work. Now this comparison is a bit harsh, but it seems to me that the industry pays the most to those who do the least. There are big dividends paid to the distributors, the marketers, and the people who record the music - but the artists often get next to nothing (unless you are talking about the big stars). I considered becoming a studio recording technician for a while because of the amount they are paid - not only hourly but the royalties they often get from the recordings they make.

I can tell you that composing and performing is a lot of hard work. I do not know of a single musician or actor that I have known personally that does it full time, that does not work themselves into the ground virtually every day. I get just as exhausted from practicing music all day (which I did until a few years back) as I have at any construction job that I have worked. Composing music is one of the most wonderful and most frustrating things that I do - this can also be very mentally exhausting. I have had a few ignorant friends complain about how artists “don’t do anything” and get paid tons of money. Only a few artists get tons of money, and those artists usually went through years of poverty and waiting tables before they made it big. The rest continue to be that way in hopes that one day they will make a decent living enriching the lives of others. Actors are not much different than musicians in this regard - until you have sat through one of the grueling rehearsals (which can easily last more than ten hours at times) under the hot, bright spot lights, watching as the actors are exhausted both physically and emotionally trying to work out their parts, I would suggest that you think twice before you complain about artists in general. It is true that some stars are rather immature, but the media is only interested in digging up dirt (or the “interesting stuff”) and not giving a true look at the whole picture.

This being said - I fully recommend that you search out independent labels and try to support the many people who are trying to make your world a better place with their art. Without music, acting, or paintings, this world would be a dreary place indeed. Just because the professionals make the performance look effortless does not mean they did not put any effort into it - the reason it looks effortless is because they have already put thousands of hours into practice of their craft before the performance. They make an extremely difficult task look easy, that is all. Please support these people, but stop supporting the thugs who wish to manipulate and control those who are contributing to our lives.

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