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 Everett True

stealing music – the conversation

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Once again, I find myself in the position of having to drag something across from Facebook that has direct relevance to this site. Facebook is like people’s safety zone on the Internet: they don’t need to stray any further afield, they can be reassured that everything happens within clearly defined parameters: indeed, the idea of “having a conversation” now holds sway over the concept of “discovery” (Facebook stats Vs Google stats) … although I think I would argue that the first often amounts to the second. Anyway, here’s the conversation that took place on Facebook around Edward Guglielmino‘s recent post about stealing music. If his main reason for writing it was to stir debate he achieved his aim.

(One of the reasons this dialogue is so intriguing is because two of its main participants – Beth and Neil – are fine music commentators in their own write.)

STEALING MUSIC

Aaron Richard Piper, Tina Silvey, Aisha Dixon and 2 others like this.

Abrar Hafiz

Almost Sufi~esque.

Massimo Usai

that sounds really, really moving. I only have one question: how about those who made some money while still retaining their souls?

Ned Guggenheim

Not possible

Neil Griffin

I love how these parables always single out artists as special cases. I’m yet to read one about the noble innkeeper who puts people up for the pleasure of their company, hoping to pay hir own rent etc with an intoxicating miasma of respect, the memories of hugs and occasional tips.

Ben Webster

This article seems a little misplaced seeing as Plan B folded in the main because record labels could no longer afford to pay for advertising anymore. Myself and many of my friends have been made redundent because of people stealing music. But at least we had the warm glow self-satisfaction to tie us over when we could no longer afford to pay the heating

Everett True

Ben, just because I print it doesn’t mean I agree with it

Ben Webster

I understand, Everett. My last comment wasn’t aimed at yourself, just at the naivity and insensitivity of your writer towards yours and many others situation

Everett True

well, speaking as someone who’s supporting his family (two kids) on a student grant and virtually no paid freelance work, at the age of (almost) 50… um…

Neil Griffin

Yeah, this ruined my morning. I strongly considered asking Everett if I could write a counterblast – even warming up a blank doc – until counting the sheer number of wrong-headed points that needed addressing made me (marginally) more tired than angry. I bet Jeff Pollack‘s been fwding it to friends all day.

Beth Capper

well, the only way to control these things is to distribute music on old, not new, (digital) media (as records etc), or to become super nutso about copyrights. Both are ways of forcing scarcity, and strong copyright laws hurt artistic production as much as they encourage it, and were never meant to feed an artist’s children after they die. Copyright was originally meant to be incentive for creation. Maybe people need to think about other ways of living off art, or a living wage for artists? And yea, maybe old distribution systems (labels, film distros etc) need to change or maybe they’re outmoded models? I’m not saying that to be disrespectful of people who’ve lost jobs because of piracy but piracy isn’t going anywhere. I’ve heard countless arguments against the free culture/piracy movement, but none that seem centered on helping solve the issue in a way that is appropriate to our contemporary world. I don’t think you’re going to convince ppl not to take music when they can and when they have grown up in a culture where that’s all they’ve known.

Ned Guggenheim

Maybe it is a joke.

Paul Koehler

I am seriously fantasizing about “Mandelo” (who incidentally, like most musicians prior to the advent of recorded music, probably lived to the ripe old age of 30 or so…) kicking this asshole in the nuts.

Neil Griffin

Yeah, Beth – I’m aware we’re not going to be able to upload the genie back into the bottle – and I think eventually ways and means will be found to replace commodification of music (which clearly wasn’t perfect, and didn’t last a vast historical stretch). My main problem is the happy abstraction these arguments always take – ‘information wants to be free’ rather than ‘someone has made something I want and asks I make a small contribution to help pay off their debts for a copy. I refuse, but I am still a fan. Because I feel it. In my soul.’ New technologies offer new ways fans can support artists – pledgemusic, etc – but new models only stand a chance if it’s recognised the artist, like the audience, however much they may hate it, lives within capitalism and the creation of art takes time and money.

Neil Griffin

It’s also, as others have noted, the double standard – those that advocate free art never seem to carry that supposedly anti-capitalist impulse into other spheres, like squatting properties, refusing to pay taxes, shoplifting, etc etc. No, they’ll meekly pay their rent, for fast food, for latest gadgets, for cheap clothes (to awful companies they profess to hate but financially support) but art (to artists they claim to be fans of and feel for)…? Nah.

Neil Griffin

Besides which, the parable form is excruciating + there are ridiculous lapses in cohesive logic – the article suggests art is ruined by money – but if this is the case, the best art would be that made and given away for free – so why is there even a need to steal?

Neil Griffin

And Everett, if CB does attain funding, remember not to pay Edward and ruin the purity of his self-expression.

Neil Griffin

Hmph. Just noticed Edward’s now labelled the piece satire. Since I don’t know him, and he’s one of yr droogs, I guess I have to take him at his word, but I’m not sure it reeeeally functions as such. Maybe that’s the sting speaking. Anyway, these arguments are worth having + having again regardless of pretext.

Ned Guggenheim

I’m Ed G and I’m a social libertarian. The article is making fun of the moral high ground that labels attempt about piracy. They talk about piracy being against the ten commandments “thou shall not steal” the opposing argument sounds just as ridiculous. We need to accept we have entered a new paradigm and that it isn’t a moral argument. It’s a pragmatic one. How do be monitize recordings in the 21 century? Stop calling pirates thieves. Stop calling labels evil. Watermark mp3s so we get a royalty every time they are played. Or something like that.

Beth Capper

I wasn’t defending the article. But, I think you characterize free culture/piracy advocates in simple terms kick. Maybe this is just because I am surrounded by a lot of free and open source software movement ppl here in Chicago, but not everyone who makes such arguments is an anarchist (and I agree that the ones who are ARE annoying). As I understand it, oftentimes it’s an argument about art as operating differently to other things in the world (that, I suppose, would be part of the argument of the gift.) Or, as an extension of the first (and this more relates to books most centrally i think) it’s an argument about the fact that information should be freely accessible to everyone, but not necessarily one about the fact that other things should be freely accessible to everyone (though I’m sure this does extend to other issues that you and I would probably agree on.) There’s also ppl like Corey Doctorow, who just want people to adapt to the paradigm shift, but who says he isn’t forcing anyone to put their shit out there for free (he just thinks opting not to is a bad business decision.)

The people I know who make the argument from either of these standpoints also often support artists who put their work out there for free by both opting to buy and download the thing at the same time. Many of them also contribute to funding projects through kickstarter etc. and are artists who fund their own projects through platforms like that themselves and then give their art away for free. The problem, I actually think, comes from people who aren’t political about these things – who just want to have shit for free. But I’m not totally convinced that these people always represent actual audiences that would have bought the thing before the internet – IE. if their choice is to pay for your thing or not have it, they might choose the latter. Also, I’m not suggesting that free culture people have the solutions to how one funds art outside of the current way of selling it as a commodity, but it seems to me that they are trying to think about it: http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2010/10/economies-of-the-commons-conference-amsterdam/

Neil Griffin

Thanks for responding, N/Ed.I admit I’ve been a bit binary / old school here, but it’s partially ’cause I’ve gradually (and quite recently) shifted from a position not unlike that you’re advocating (and Beth is flanking with alts) precisely toward one where we go back to the artist/audience interaction as the basic unit. What’s really depressed me recently is when an indie record shop-working friend told me about the latest indignity they’re facing – people stealing the original packaging for the CD-Rs they’ve burned. Bang goes one of the tactics I thought might fight some sort of rearguard action – the commodity as artefact.

Another reason I’m admittedly emotional about it is the way that – as audiences become less important to artists, it’s corporate sponsorship which is already filling the gap, and increasingly thus setting the agenda. So, until a pragmatic solution comes along (which must be technological), I think the moral case is all we have to make sure – once a workable micro-payment or distributed patronage or whatever arrives – that audiences will respond to it. I dunno – above all, I think I’m just frustrated on behalf of all the artists who are going to struggle to survive in the meanwhile.

Beth Capper
but artists have always struggled to survive?

Neil Griffin
All the more reason to stay angry.

Beth Capper
yea, I agree. I wanna see things change too, but I don’t want to see more artists becoming stronger proponents of copyright, because I think it hurts more than helps creativity

Neil Griffin
I guess you could say art spent much of history being a church functionary, then a tradesperson’s pet before being commodified into a capitalist object ranked by popular appeal before – next – either becoming some new virtually-mediated magically-profitable unthing or finally existing totally under/within/for a corporate aegis. I’m a tragic idealist, but I know which I think looks more likely, and it bugs me because I can’t or won’t believe this is inevitable. We can talk about historical trends or sociological inevitability, but I won’t or can’t let go of that choice we have (and this includes artists themselves) to act as members of an audience in supporting art. To a degree, then, it’s a feeling we’re losing a model which (while awful in lots of ways) felt like the least worst for … well, we’ll see.

Neil Griffin
SIGH.

Ned Guggenheim
Hio. I’m a musician. I can speak first hand about piracy. I know I’m going to shake the tree a bit here but I don’t think piracy affects independents as much as online streaming does (which is a choice artists make to promote there music). I help run an indie co-opt and many of our artists have sold well over 1,000 units but good luck finding them on torrents. I think the iPod and streaming have more of a role in the decline of indies than piracy (part of my Masters is trying to prove this point).

I think piracy affects artists who have sold over 10,000 units which in no what makes it fair but at this stage they are probably still okay due to touring income and merch. So this system isn’t completely broken and pirates arent the sole problem (IMO). All we need to do as entrepreneurs is find a way to make the consumer pay after they have enjoyed the music for a while. A lot of downloading is previewing. Say if they got three plays and then were asked (are these mp3s registered?). Pretty simple technology really. In the meantime everyone is going to quote law from thousands of years ago as a solution. Won’t do jack shit because people don’t feel like thieves.

Beth Capper
I don’t think its necessarily as pessimistic as you think it is. Do artists necessarily have to turn to corporate sponsorship to make $$? I don’t know. There’s a lot of micro-funding schemes (at least over here in chicago) where administrators and artists are working together to rethink ways of funding the arts. I think there needs to be real initiatives to justify the arts again (i might be talking from the american context more right now.) People need to advocate for the arts as a fundamental contribution to society – until that happens artists will always get shafted.

Ned Guggenheim
Can I just say I work in the music industry and play in a band and teach a bit and I am comfortable. I think the old machine is dead and gone but a new one has risen from the ashes. I recon a lot of the old school has trouble navigating the new paradigm so they get very upset about how things have changed. Honestly they are much better for a middle ground muso like me, in the 90s I wouldn’t exist.

Beth Capper
I agree with that. I would say that more and more, audiences are done with taste-makers. Some people have lost out, other people are being heard more than they were before because of the internet/cheap digital technologies.

21 Responses to stealing music – the conversation

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