It seems like the perfect scenario, in fact one that could only have been dreamt up by liberal artistic types; lets make a world where music is free. They ask the question, and in some ways it’s a reasonable one of ‘why should we have record companies who have turned our art into an industry, make a few millionaires out of our work, when most of us make very little.’
So online music piracy was born. However if you are a creative then downloading pirated music is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die, giving music away for free doesn’t just screw the record companies, it screws all of us. If free music creates any kind of equality, it makes us all equally poor - who wants that kind of equality?
I don’t subscribe to the notion of making criminals out of those that do it. It’s a clumsy and completely unworkable way of trying to fix the problems of online file sharing. In the last year we have seen a glimpse of hope in the fact that music sales revenues are up and illegal file sharing is down. In other words, most people are inherently decent and when given easy ways to download music (at a fair price) they are deterred from even bothering to mess around with torrent sites. Here is an interesting article on the why it may cost more to torrent than we all think.
If we are not careful, however, we just end up with the same old problem of a few making a lot of money; but now from virtual rather than physical music sales. Apple is one such case in question. Owning most of music download market they may have helped in some ways, if nothing else they kicked the record companies up the ass when they thought they were still living in 1985, but on the whole a musical aristocracy remains.
I’ve recently been working on a film where we tried to use incidental music from some musical megastar. Doing the right thing is to speak to the owners of the music, normally labels or management companies, and getting permission in return for payment. The process was so hard, even using a top music licensing specialist, that in the end I gave up and dropped two of the songs and purchased a sound-alike. They still have a lot to learn.
In the words of Jaron Lanier ‘what we have now can create an income, but it is not wealth’ so we can survive as artists as long as we keep working - but what happens when we want to take a holiday, get sick or need to retire? Creativity is a real way to make a living, however, we need to explore ways of helping the majority of those involved in it to have a decent income that allows them to have contingency. A kind of musical middle class.
Again Lanier suggests a new world order; a new technology of file distribution, where every file knows who has contributed to the content and then continues to reward all involved in its creation, from writer, artist, producer etc. A kind of electronic DNA within each file that links it to its parents and their ancestors too. May I respectfully suggest you check out his credentials in coding before you suggest he is talking out his ass and that it could never be done.
So the next time you think about downloading illegal content then remember that it may satisfy you now, but in the end it makes us all poorer.