Musicophilia

[Ethicophilia] Mp3 Blogging and Mixes: A Request For Your Thoughts

Posted in Talking by Soundslike on January 14, 2009

drum_bw1Recent events and a continuing uncertainty/curiosity have prompted me to do another talky post (the bulk of which I’ll hide behind the “more…” link).  I’m my own worst editor, so my aplogies in advance.   But I would really appreciate your participation in creating a discussion on the ethicality of mix-blogging, mp3-blogging, OOP-Only-versus-All-Music-Shared, the relationship between artists and listeners, and “who still pays for music”.  If you’re in a hurry, I’ll post a couple polls here first, and you can certainly leave it at that.  But if you have a minute, read on and then share your thoughts—even if they’re just “you’re a worrywort, get over yourself”.  My thanks, either way. (Polls, questions, and something like an essay after the “more…” link.)

[An ethical premise. . .]

From the beginning, what made me feel good about doing a music-download blog (and previously the ‘1981’ box set) was my sense that true music lovers understand that in order for good music to continue to be made, we have to financially support the artists who make it, the labels that propagate it, and the shops that disseminate it.   I’m not an expert, or even knowledgeable, about Creative Commons, Fair Use, Open Source, creative control, etc.  Instead, I’ve operated on a gut-level feeling that downloading music “illegally” is not inherently equatable to downloading it unethically.  A singles-oriented, intentionally ephemeral pop-music world (not passing judgement on such, or proclaiming false-consciousness on anyone—it serves a needed role) probably does suffer from downloading (as in “why buy what I won’t even like in a month when it’s not hot—I can get for free now, then delete it).  That’s a risk of mass-marketing that was always there, (Oh no, radio! Oh no, cassette recorders!) waiting for the technology to catch up.

But it is my gut feeling and my hope (not sure if I can say “my belief”) that the sort of music I’m posting here, much of which could be called “niche” or “of limited commercial potential” in the first place, appeals to people who are seekers.  And seekers will tend to seek something a little more permanent than an mp3 and a full hard drive.  We’re the answer to the question “who still buys CDs (or earlier, LPs)?”.  We’re the ones responsible for the plethora of reissue labels and the few remaining independent shops. I’m not saying this is because we’re moralists—it’s probably as much that we’re materialists. we need the artifact, whether for a sense of security (that’s me) or the joy-of-the-hunt fetishism (the grizly weirdos I love to see crate-digging).   And so I ventured forth basically confident that I was not a pirate; but rather that I was a pusher, a promoter, likely to foment ethical capitalist exchanges by turning people on to stuff they would simply have to own.

The results of an earlier poll on this subject were reassuring.  Better than 60% of the small readership I had at the time (not that it’s immense now) stated they either had already purchased new-to-them music after being introduced to it here, or that they intended to do so.  Only around 20% stated they had no intention of doing so, I can only guess either because they already had most of it or they didn’t much like what they heard; or maybe there really are people who like the sort of deep-geek stuff Musicophilia promotes who’ve quit buying music.  That 20% was enough to reopen doubt.

[Oh shit. . .]

And then a few days ago, I was approached by a label-owner and musician responsible for a number of tracks I’ve used in mixes.  He was polite and friendly, but he humorously but pointedly questioned how I had obtained the rights to use his music—of course knowing I hadn’t, that no small-fry money-free operation like this has that ability.  After the initial legalistic jolt of fear (which quickly subsided, as it is my tendency to trust independent art-related professionals not to jump that gun) I wrote him back trying to defend what I was doing with the feelings I explained above.  I hoped he would understand, maybe even agree, with what I said; I didn’t feel in danger, legally.  But nevertheless while awaiting his response, I started to experience a creeping ethical doubt.

It made me question—do I really have a leg to stand on, or is it possible I delude myself (and by association, all of us here) into feeling good about something inherently bad?  A lot of blogs post only out-of-print music, which while still not legal, is probably the easist ethical stance (and arguably the greatest social service).  But I post some non-out-of-print music; in fact I do so intentionally because that’s what people can reasonably acquire.  But we all know nobody is going to track down everything they hear from this or any blog—some artists whose music is featured may never see a single dime from our “promotion” of them. (Though—does that mean they’ve lost any dimes as a result? And does that quibble matter?)  Ultimately—does that make what I’m doing piracy?   Does that make you all (and me, at other mix-blogs) thieves?  Or is there a common-sense, if not legal, defense of this activity: is this sort of thing a material net positive for the livlihoods of artist, label and shop?

[The cultural consideration. . .]

We more often debate the effects of mp3-blogs and music message boards and the internet and purchase-free-downloading in cultural terms.  It’s a relevant conversation.  Almost everyone of my 30-ish generation enjoys in some way the freedom of access the internet has created; and maybe we slip into forgetting sometimes that doesn’t make everything free.  But I don’t think we yet take that access for granted—we remember, if from a small town like me, the concurrent frustration and thrill of seeking music outside of what could be found at the mall.  Maybe we don’t trust mp3s, much as we’ve come around to their convenience.  We still buy music—I think.  Right?  Is it different for older people, who spent all of their formative seeker-years in the old way?  Is it different for younger people, who have matured in an ether of free-for-all file-sharing, such that a question of the ethicality would seem non-sequitur?

I personally love what the internet has done, as someone who didn’t have the money/connections/location at no fault of my own to fully live my passion—but I understand some of us think the “democratisation” of access has lost us something, that scarcity bred a deeper appreciation, a more meaningful relationship with what we could find, or in our geek hearts, that the internet has devalued our coolness and credibility for “knowing” something like a secret (the last of which I say good riddance to).  But none of that seems to me to mitigate the bottom line of whether we’re stealing food from somebody’s mouth or not.

[Off the hook.  Or am I. . .]

As for the owner/artist who wrote to me—one I personally happen to admire—he seems to have been feeling this blog out on a personal level, well aware that full in-print albums are being disseminated on other blogs (though even that might be ethically defensible?).  That’s as it should be, it seems to me: intent is an ethically mitigating factor, at least on this scale of “distribution”.  He said he was cool with it, after my response, and OKed the continuing inclusion of his music in my mixes.  I was relieved, and thought maybe I’d been worrying about nothing.  And maybe it’s simply “no big deal,” in which case I apologise to the few who’ve read this far.  But—I’m not sure, it still feels like a question worth grapling with.

[So the questions I ask you. . .]

At this point, I cop out.  I put the question to you.  Is it inherently unethical (and we choose to do it anyway) to distribute or download music in any form the rights to which we do not own?  Or does the fact that it may create sales that would not otherwise have happened; and that listens that don’t result in sales probably didn’t deter a sale, they just didn’t cause one; make it an ethically tenable activity?  Or is it a pro-ethical activity, from some sort of grassroots political slant, liberating people from the effects of traditional marketeering and creating bonds of trust, which has an enobling effect on any subsequent commercial transactions?  And maybe cracking the legality nut open—do you have hopes that this sort of promotion may become strictly legal?

If you answered the polls, I thank you.  And if you’re reading this, you’re a brave and determined soul.  But I’m going to hit you up for more: I’d really like to see discussion happen at Musicophilia.  And maybe it’s narcicism or ethical justifying, but I think it’d be cool to hear examples of particular music you found and purchases you’ve then made at this or other blogs.  At this point I think there are maybe a couple hundred people who read this blog now and again, and I’d like to know you better, and to see you know each other, as someone who wants to believe “the internet is dislocating, individualising, anti-social” as hype.  The interactions I’ve had with people from around the world through my piracy-or-promotional-activity has been reaffirming about the essential kindness of people (or at least record geeks).  So don’t be shy, please.  I really do consider you my comrades.  Thank you.

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29 Responses

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  1. greg said, on January 14, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Ian,

    It’s obvious that your blog is a) a forum for you to share your passion for music and b) that you do not stand to profit by it and c) that most artists whose music is made available here are getting valuable promotion (and very likely the only promotion they get is from blogs like yours). I feel that puts you well in the clear ethics-wise. It’s not your responsibility if some (a minority surely) ‘abuse’ this and don’t follow through and buy music? Are you ‘worse’ than a radio station? Has anyone accused ratio stations of distributing music for free? They are clearly a promotional tool and your blog is to my mind just a much more finely tuned version of same.

    And your mixes are great. I’ve been meaning to drop a note since getting your email note (from your 1981 list) about musicophillia but truthfully have not found time to listen enough to give meaningful feedback on the particulars. Anyway I say THANKS and CARRY ON!

  2. Soundslike said, on January 14, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Greg–

    Your line of reasoning is essentially where I’ve ended up personally, with regards to this undertaking. I don’t feel guilty about what I’m doing here; but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize some gray area, room to debate. So inasmuch as you’re telling me, “don’t worry,” I appreciate it, and I’m pretty much at ease. I guess it’s just something that is interesting to me as a general principle–I guess it was unlikely I’d get any radically divergent viewpoints on a mp3 blog itself, which makes sense. But it’s good to hear how other people work through the ethical concern with regards to their own involvement in the ways we interact with media.

    I promise, I’m not going to keep up these mix-free posts : )

    Thank you, and when you get the chance to listen, I hope you like what you hear.

  3. Joel said, on January 17, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Hi there,

    I’ll cop to being one of those file sharers who has a full hard drive of tunes, many of which I would have never discovered if not for the communities that share the music with me, and somewhere just over 1000 other souls. I basically never purchase an upgraded, physical copy of something I have downloaded (though I rarely download the particularly ephemeral mp3, and tend to stick to FLAC, a lossless audio codec). Not infrequently, I’ll purchase other work the musician(s) have made; but I wouldn’t say that these downloads lead to purchases so directly. So, in the way the ethical question is normally posed, one might think I’m a craven fool who lends no financial support to the production and distribution of the music I profess to being unable to live without.

    There’s no direct link between what I download and my purchasing habits. It’s more indirect: so much shared music being offered without risk has opened my head up and made me much more willing to spend my money on music that I would otherwise be more nervous about purchasing. Instead of buying music I have good reason to believe will be great and that I will play to death, I make much riskier purchases by supporting some really small labels whose releases are perhaps less certain to be up my alley. I feel like my spending has become more targeted to where it might actually make the difference between whether or not a particular album sees a wider release, or gets a professional mastering job, or whatever.

    Based on my own experience, the conversation about the consequences of file-sharing feels stalled on this question of “yes, it’s good; but, do people still buy music?” The answer seems to me unequivocal: of course. But I think it’s bit lame to focus on the correspondence between download and purchase individual albums, artists, or tracks. All my spare change goes to supporting either the local record store (shout out to Chapel Hill’s finest: CD Alley) or one of a few labels that support weird music in places where weird is about the dirtiest word around (Digitalis Industries in my bland hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma). Am I the only one with this experience? Maybe. But the more interesting question to me is, what do people who have a relationship to popular music do with the resources file-sharing liberates for other activities? I hope people continue to use it to support the music that provides so much joy in their life; but it also makes me happy if they use the $50/week they would spend on money to play with their kids, finally get that new banjo they wanted, or even socking it away in these lean years.

    I can’t tell you not to feel ethically torn about it; I can only share that I don’t feel ethically torn — torn in other ways? yes. But as a matter of “what is to be done?” I sleep like a baby.

  4. Shawn said, on January 17, 2009 at 10:15 am

    While I have mixed feelings about ‘taking’ from artists, we should also realize that the source of our guilt is based on a system that is an accidental distribution monopoly created by the ghosts of old formats and a few powerful interests that spend like hell to protect their copyrights. An enormous web of laws, systems and lobbying has grown up around keeping intellectual property rights as they were 50 years ago even though the circumstances, tools & distribution are obviously different. As Lawrence Lessig points out in his book Remix, the Founding Fathers’ point of enacting copyright laws is not to continue to allow artists to profit from older works – or their heirs – or businesses borne on the artists’ work – but rather to provide an incentive for creation & innovation. That’s the balance we all walk now as we’ve all become creators one way or another and that most of our creations have a basis in the works of others.

    There is also something fundamentally queasy-making about Jimmy Page and Sting living in castles because their business representatives can continue to find ways to repurpose the same old music into new formats: ringtones, Rock Band, reunion tours… Give me a Paul Mc who continues to innovate and TRY any day over a musician that sits back, makes money from licensing and occasionally tours around the old hits. Not to pick on them, but they are top of mind: the real value on the open market today of The Raincoats’ music is fundamentally zero (and frankly it wasn’t much more back in the day either; not that we don’t love their stuff). The only reason it’s higher is if supply doesn’t meet demand. In a world of unlimited supply, it will unlikely be worth anything ever again. The cat’s out of the bag. So anything we can do to keep their name alive – to continue to provoke curiosity about them – is better in the long run. That’s the hidden side of the Long Tail. Sure, there will always be someone interested in them, but the supply (infinite) will always be some tiny tiny fraction of the demand. That’s not your/our fault and we shouldn’t take the hit for it. And it sounds like the manager/owner fellow you describe above realizes it, too. On the other hand, there are still finite opportunities to hear The Raincoats play, to buy their T-shirt, to get their autographs and whatever else they’re clever enough to think to create in a limited form. There is still an opportunity for The Raincoats. I for one would buy their Rock Band Track Pack.

    Bit of a rant, start arguing against my point at the end and I’ll probably be embarrassed later but what the hey.

  5. renae said, on January 18, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Whilst I do download a lot of music for free, I also download legally and occasionally visit local record stores to show support. The big change I’ve noticed is that I now spend more money on gigs. Being able to learn about more artists online increases my knowledge of more obscure bands and when they come to town, I go to their gigs. And often buy their album at the gig. And sometimes, the t-shirt too.

    I spend more money on music than ever, it’s just distributed a little differently these days. I also see mix-tape blogs are an extension of the culture I’m proud of. How can there be something wrong with passionate people constructively sharing their interests with others? It’s the best kind of promotion.

  6. danieldoyle said, on January 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    You are making mixtapes. Mixtapes are art. Essentially, they’re simplistic *re*mixes. And there need be no argument about remixes. That’s my knee jerk reaction to this question.

    Other thoughts:

    Mp3s are a marketing tool. They are tantamount to free singles. They aren’t the single;
    instead they’re lossy versions of such, and have little if any
    monetary value. Furthermore, I say when there’s a lossless or hard copy of an album out there, the value of an mp3 considerably depreciates. If you take into consideration how poor the mp3 codec is for archiving music as well as for playback fidelity, you start to realize that an mp3 file is worth little. It’s almost like mp3s are meant to be a quick marketing download.

    As far as profit losses for the artists, I’ve thought about this for a while, and I truly believe that it boils down to this: People have always nicked records, and will continue to do so. Maybe all-in-all the new way to do it hurts revenue, but it has been established recently that people who download music also
    want to financially support those artists they appreciate.

    Granted, our case study here, NIN, worked for years to build up the cult of followers that downloaded this recent album. But I think that quality music — the kind which draws followers — has just as fair a chance if not better in the era of viral marketing, which is usually fueled by free mp3s or even free albums from artists starting out. Lately, in the hip hop community especially, we see talented artists recording their own mixtapes — this is the word they use — and they make them available for free. Wale and The Very Best are two artists with upcoming commercial records scheduled to drop in ’09 who gave out free mixtapes in ’08 which were better than most mainstream hip hop records. I’ll be eager to look at their record sales, which will have to be more than decent thanks to the hype generated on blogs and music review sites about their free “tapes.”

    The people have spoken, and they’ve said they want their information to be free. They will pay for art if it’s special to them. What follows, and I may catch some flak for saying this, is that some artists need to hold on to their day jobs or find one. The positive side to social media replacing A&R people, however, is that the listeners decide who becomes popular, not one person with an ear for”marketability.” This to me is the way it should be, and it has has far greater integrity to it than the old corporate method.

    Joel made an excellent point when he said “There’s no direct link between what I download and my purchasing habits.” There really isn’t, necessarily. I’ll make it a point to by the Wale album, because his Mixtape About Nothing was amazing. Same for The Very Best’s Afro-Dance thing. But then let’s get corporate. I own the entire AC/DC discography on mp3. I dig a few of these records and would maybe pay for one of them (it’s AC/DC Live, and I’ve actually bought it at least three times since sixth grade). I also own, in digital format, several albums by Limp Bizkit. I hate the bizkits, but I might remix their stuff someday. I also love the Spice Girls, and own in digital form everything they’ve ever done.

    Now, if you want to concoct an ethical argument against me for stealing some profits from the already filthy rich Spice Girls, you are a dork who probably would’ve argued with a wall back in freshman philosophy. It is stealing, perhaps. But I am not sorry.

    I’ve been listening to your mixes for years and I hadn’t heard of most of these people you’re putting on there. Some of the stuff I’ve liked though — so much that I did buy the albums. But even if I didn’t, there’s value alone in the free publicity.

  7. Soundslike said, on January 20, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Joel–

    You present an interesting approach. As somebody more or less checked out of contemporary music for the time being, it’s not one I’d immediately think of; but I can see a logic to it. I guess it’s unsurprising I fall into the “mp3 as a try-before-buy” camp, and that I buy almost everything I download like I said not any more out of ethics than out of a distrust of mp3s (like what Daniel argues for in his response). But the idea of mp3s enabling “risk-taking” purchases of more ephemeral or uber-underground music is a fascinating inversion of that approach. (As a cousin to your approach–I’m not sure they have ever thought it out like you, but I have friends who are themselves musicians who don’t buy CDs, even of their most favorite musicians, and seem satisfied by buying tickets to shows and buying t-shirts or the like.)

    Because we all know that, say, the late Mr. James Brown no longer needs our money, or almost any of the “big names” who’re in print whom I promote. So in that sense, I get thinking of things like that as basically a public commodity at this point, a foundation that should be free-to-all. And were I able to trust mp3s/shed my materialism/whatever, I could probably get down with that approach, ethically. But I guess even with mainstream releases, I justify my purchases because I do so at community-level/independent shops, the area where the economy of even “foundational,” established music remains viable if not essential. Still, I can certainly imagine a well-formed ethical philosophy that prioritized supporting living, working, and even marginal (thinking the CD-R world) artists first (if not first and last). Maybe that’s why I’m glad there’s no single “right” ethical approach here–with some people taking your approach, others mine, still more another, hopefully everything of quality gets some attention–sufficient to keep the whole thing going (the good parts anyway).

    Amongst the sort of people who’d bother with this blog, yes, I would agree the question of “do people still buy music” is an unequivocal “duh, yes” (yet even there, a sizable minority of people have answered the polls here with the choices that suggest “I don’t pay for music anymore” is a conscious decision even of some hardcore music geeks). And so there apparently are people who aren’t like us (big shock), who really do seem to believe it should all be free somehow, maybe that music should only be made “for the love” pure and simple, never the basis of anyone’s income (and I can even find some part of myself that finds that idea noble and that imagines it would be artistically liberating). But that again makes me think of the “risky” sort of music I guess you might be talking about being enabled to support by downloading all of the more established music for free–I picture the weird limited-run CD-Rs of drone-core and electro-acoustic-improvisation and evil-ambient, etc. that I guess I haven’t waded into because I have no sense of quality assurance, though I suspect there’s some amazing stuff being made there. But: these would seem to be the artists with the least sense that there’s any money to be made, or that money should have anything to do with it, who bother with physical manifestations (as opposed to simply free downloads) because they dig artifacts and “limited runs” and neat hand-made artwork. But they’re maybe hoping to recoup the costs of materials, right? So in a way it seems to me the only reason to support these artists is the same as the only reason to buy a physical copy of a James Brown or Can or Bukka White CD: to support the shop from which it’s purchased, not to support the artists (monetarily, anyway).

    The idea of all music becoming free, and imagining then where would the resources we currently invest into supporting/commercialising/whatevering it is interesting to think about (though that’s probably not quite what you’re getting at). I’ve sometimes stopped and thought, “what if instead of the music library I have, I had the ~$40,000 I’ve spent on it in my life back?” I end up telling myself, well, the lions share of that $40k went to shops and labels I believe in, to supporting the arts, etc. blah blah. But what I finally admit to myself, as selfish as it may be, is this: nothing else that $40k could buy, not even travel, not even charity, would have given my life nearly as much richness, joy, even meaning. In fact, $40k spent on anything else pretty much turns my stomach. That may mean I’m just remarkably shallow. But it also makes me think that’s why I make mixes, all ethics aside: it makes me feel in some tiny way like I’m not the only one benefiting in terms of happiness, not livelihood, from my investment.

    Probably none of that addresses anything you said in the least. Can I plead “I’m working an overnight shift and my mind is wandering”?

  8. Soundslike said, on January 20, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Shawn– I may have been subconsciously melding your ideas with Joel’s in my response to his post, esp. in my bit re: buying the music of established (or even dead) musicians. But your more avowedly politicised concepts regarding music-as-commerce feel really germane, something I would’ve attempted to broach if I felt I had a stronger grasp of it all in my own head. So thank you for cracking it open.

    I guess on some level I’ve been aware that if pressed, probably any mp3-blog is “illegal,” so it hasn’t even really been an issue–which I guess means I think of all of us as protesting the absurd, non-artist-centered permutations of law vis-a-vis art. But, that said, if an artist felt what I were doing were illegal and infringing upon her legal rights–I’d weirdly take it emotionally to heart. It’s because I relegate all the legal stuff not to most artists but to the Giant Evil Corporate Machine or whatever that I instead addressed only the ethical ramifications of mp3-ness.

    While I agree with the “queasy-making” assessment of Page, Sting, Bono et al, and I can’t trust their motivations as artists (or credit them as artists)–I guess I’d tend to turn that on myself, knowing that reflects my own tastes and tendencies, and that I couldn’t really say it’s somehow “wrong” that some people get massively rich off of pop music (at least the musicians, to say nothing of the A&R men, General Electric honchoes, and other anti-artists). Nor do I think that the motivations of every poor, indie, 20-copy-selling musicians are above reproach–I’ve seen some dudes playing for 10 people where I felt I could hear the yearning-for-a-stadium in their voices. So again I guess I’m wimping out on the macro-capitalism argument re: music.

    I guess I’d quibble with the assessment of of the “market value” of The Raincoats-level music as “near zero” because of the fact that the scale of production is so variable. There may only be 10,000 people every ten years who’d buy their music, but since not everything has to be pressed up in Platinum-selling quantities, that still seems like a real, non-zero value, even monetarily. And I guess I continue to insist that music-geeks are materialists, who don’t consider the supply “unlimited” simply because an mp3 can be infinitely downloaded. If anything, I’d think it’s these artists in the middle ground–beloved but traditionally “non-commercial,” who will probably keep some sort of physical format for music distribution going. The not-yet-established may embrace the mp3 as a convenience, or even (as Daniel suggests) a sort of loss-leader for gigs and merch; the big-boys may crumble as far as traditional mediums, switching to ring-tone/advertisment/subscription-downloads/mega-concerts sort of model. So I guess I hold out hope that I’m prompting sales, and not just curiosity, with regards to the sorts of music I post. . .

    You’ll never need to worry about being embarrassed by your words at Musicophilia, cause you can count on me to see and raise any incoherence-bet. . .

  9. Joel said, on January 21, 2009 at 8:44 am

    It’s interesting to think about these questions since we’re sort of in between circuits of production-distribution-consumption where BitTorrent communities or message boards are very common among the people who sustain the CD/vinyl industry but where these forms are more or less illegitimate, at least from a legal standpoint. It’s really difficult to say how my relationship to my local shop, CD Alley, changes if my favorite BitTorrent community suddenly become legally unproblematic while remaining free. It’s fairly clear to me that the price of a CD ($12-15) reflects some kind of consumptive inertia rather than the cost of production, and that the price could be lower — at least on major label releases with a high number of pressings in the first run.

    The truth is I want people to be able to make their living by making music and nothing else. And if I’m honest with myself on that point, that means it can’t all be free. Unless we want to depend upon foundation- and government-approved music. Then, the flipside: basically any musician I have known who was able to quit their day-job and focus on music barely needed the day-job in the first place. Most people won’t take that risk unless some level of privilege insulates them from the worst consequences. I guess what I’m saying is, why should I want to support these privileged, rich-kid, assholes? I like what Daniel says up above about musicians getting a day job and getting used to it. And sending the A&R people packing. All of this: yes.

    Then the reissue labels frequently seem to me to give off a vibe about somehow “saving” these cultural artifacts. Something about that approach also puts me off. Sometimes, I feel like these reissue shops are just exercises in marketing approaches: like little test cases where people feel out new ways of pitching the product. Either way I always get this feeling like there’s some “authenticity” bullshit in back of all of it. It’s a concept that I used to obsessed with, so I understand the appeal. Over the past few years I came to see that concept as decreasingly useful, and in some cases totally incoherent. This “authenticity” business: I don’t have any, like, evidence or whatever. No reissue label so far as I know boldly proclaims to have, like intrepid, pith-helmeted explorers, “unearthed authentic artifacts of a forgotten Black America!” or anything like that, so it could all be a straw man or a personal hobby-horse.

    I suppose my point in all of this is just to say that supporting local record stores that are doing their best to provide a home for music I like is what I’ve come up with as my solution to the downloader’s dilemma.

  10. Soundslike said, on January 21, 2009 at 11:22 am

    It’s funny you say the cost of CDs should be lower and mention major label releases–current James Brown reissues are a pretty good example of coming close to a reasonable price for a more or less sales-saturated artist ($10 mrsp). But you know–I fairly often think, “man I’m lucky that it’s music that really does it for me, instead of dance (basically unpurchasable) or fine art (prohibitively expensive if original, definitely losing something if printed) or live theatre, etc. Recorded music (literature, too) seems like a sweet spot between affordability and accessibility. When one buys an album that changes ones life–like a Talk Talk record, or Charles Mingus’ ‘Black Saint and the Sinner Lady,’ etc.–what an incredible steal at $12-20! What original painting can one buy for that price that’s likely to affect one in a profound way?

    It’s hard to imagine anyone really aspiring to making their living solely from music. And the few who do and deserve it, would have made music even if it had only cost them money to do it. As for rich kids–I don’t know, it helps in nearly any avenue one wants to pursue to be a rich kid; I’d never thought about it re: music in particular. . .

    I also don’t tend to think one way or another about “authenticity”. It’s a pretty useless notion. And one, for all the talk of “rockism” that spews forth now and again, that I don’t actually see many marketing appeals to in the musical world I live in. But you know, maybe I miss something by discounting “authenticity,” wherein the word is meant to describe something as part of a larger context. In other words, I listen to some kabuki record or some Javanese gamelan or some Appalachian shape-note compilation and, beyond a cursory read over the liner notes or maybe a quick Wikipedia search–I’m basically unable to get excited about it based on the cultural locus, its historical significance, etc.–I just like it, or not, at a visceral gut level (that later might implore a little interest in context). Basically I treat all information about scenes, who knew who, who influenced whom, etc. as nifty trivia. And maybe this is wrongheaded. Maybe what I view as a desire to be moved by sounds of whatever origin is actually what makes me a cultural dilettante, or even an imperial tourist. How often do you really feel “authenticity” is the crux of the appeal of a reissue?

    As for the last–yep, that’s basically where I’ve reached, too. You should tell me more about the sort of music you take “risks” on at your local shops–maybe I should start taking chances on some of those hand-numbered CD-Rs?

  11. Joel said, on January 21, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Rereading what I wrote I think I may have come across all wrong, and perhaps as a bit of a prick with regard to reissue shops etc. Let me see if I can be a bit more careful, and hopefully, as a result a bit more clear. Obviously, whether or not reissues are marketed as authentic artifacts or whatever is not the same thing as them being consumed or used in that way: people can tell you how to use what they sell you, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it that way. So, I don’t mean to come off sounding like people who buy reissues are the pith helmeted expeditionaries. I certainly don’t want to call you out in particular, Ian, as some sort of imperialist tourist. At all. I’d have to remove the log from my eye or whatever the parable is. I’m sorry that could have been read from what I wrote. There’s no sort of ethical cage match here from my perspective.

    Here’s more of what I mean about the queasy feeling I get with reissue labels like, say, the Numero Group’s “Eccentric Soul” series. Numero, in particular, I think presents these “Eccentric Soul” releases in a very “insider knowledge for $15.99” sort of way. Perhaps I’m conditioned after reading some of John Fahey’s most nihilistic and bitter liner notes making fun of blues-ologists. I have this worry ever since grabbing a reissue of Syl Johnson, who claims to be the author of “Is it Because I’m Black?” and claims, furthermore, to have been completely ripped of by Twinight and a host of other Chicago soul labels. He singles out Twinight in particular for claiming he is dead so that they can collect royalties. Makes me feel funny, in part because I have no idea what to make of all this information. Twinight is one of the labels featured by Numero for this series. I guess to bring this around to what I mean to say overall — sometimes I’m not sure that a reissue is any different from a download where the artist who made the tunes is concerned. As you say, it’s the store that gets the bones that makes the difference here.

    I can hardly be so damning of reissues since more than half of what I listen to is technically a reissue. Since you asked about some things made in small batches, I can recommend pretty heartily Theo Angell’s “Auraplinth” on Digitalis, as well as Scott Tuma’s “Not For Nobody.” No guarantees, mind you; but they are worth a listen.

    peace,
    joel

  12. Shawn said, on January 21, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    All this aside, I think it’s bizarre that back-catalog movies – which originally cost way more to produce than music. have much better copy protection and have every bit as complex licensing issues – are sold by the bushel at my local Safeway for $4.99 but music companies struggle to place even the most popular artists’ works, like, anywhere. That may be non-germane to the conversation here, but so long as it’s easier to buy The Money Pit than Kind Of Blue or Revolver or Nevermind, I can’t help but be suspicious of the competence and motives of the record companies / music publishers / et al.

    Hitting up Soundslike’s point about compensation for musicians, mea culpa – who am I to determine who deserves what. Of course that’s the market’s job. (I’m a capitalist. An MBA. I got me an *advanced degree* in capital! Cue Gang Of Four…) But relying on the hidden hand of the market assumes a level playing field; it’s the job of society/govt to provide/enforce the level playing field.

    I live in Oakland where recently a rather stupid protest about a rather stupid (and really obviously accidental) police incident led to an incredibly stupid riot: innocuous bystander businesses like braid shops and corner cafes lost their shirts because of a mindless riot that the police either couldn’t or wouldn’t end. I’m well aware that when I bittorrent something that I’m reaching into a broken plate glass window with the siren wailing. And I feel really stupid about it. You know what would stop me? Honestly? Law enforcement.

    Earlier this year there was a rash of frightening restaurant stickups in my fair city. The official response was “We can’t arrest our way out of this. We need to change the conditions, get more education, better parenting, treat crime at its roots…” Sounds good, right? This went on for months, further tattering the city’s reputation while the locals got edgier and the police looked like fools. Then one day the police made a single arrest. And guess what? It all stopped. They *could* arrest their way out of it and all the excuses were exposed.

    I’m no conservative. I’m a proud Berkeley native, Oakland resident, only ever cast one ballot for a Republican – and he’s barely one. But I do believe that enforcing the rules can work, and can & will benefit the market and everyone in it. You just need the right rules. (“Just.” Like they would be that easy to create…)

    Ethics are above laws are above morals. It’s tough to get to Ethical when every participant in the market knows the Laws are screwed every which way.

  13. Soundslike said, on January 24, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Joel–

    I didn’t think you were being a prick, I just didn’t quite relate to the feeling that authenticity is the crux of the appeal of reissued music, or a major marketing tool of reissue labels. Reissuing of most of the kind of stuff I listen to happens on such a small scale, and all the owners of labels I talk with are so in-it-for-the-love, that I guess I have a sort of rosy view of the endeavor. The possibility/probability of artists being ripped off by reissue labels is something I’ve thought about, sort of the precursor to mp3 blogs (or physical mixes like the 1981 set). And I tend to hope legitimate reissuers, even the cheap ones like Collectors’ or whatever, do their best to support the artists; and then I know that stuff like Hyped 2 Death tries their best given that they make money from sales, but they also recognise it’s all of limited economic potential and feel the “illegitimate” (non-artist-supporting) means is the only way to get the music out there.

    The bit about being a cultural imperialist or dilettante was more a reflection of a former worry of mine that my focus on sound itself in music, as opposed to “meaning” or historical/cultural context, means I’m a shallow listener and a variant of an appropriator. For example, I once made a mix of post-punk and traditional African folk musics, exploring some sort of aesthetic/sonic commonality I found there, but I wasn’t trying to explore any sort of “debt” or “roots” or “theft” involved–and I’m not really interested in that sort of stuff, again meaning maybe I’m just a shallow bastard. But I just decided, that’s how I’m wired–I respond first and foremost to the sounds; and while I can respect all the rest, for me it’s always going to be a distant secondary element of my enjoyment of music. I didn’t take you as accusing anyone of anything, really. It’s really a whole separate conversation, and one I view as valid, given that when it comes to architecture instead of music, I’m fairly obsessed with context and history and meaning, etc.

    Thanks for the recommendations. In my town, Anthem Records really specializes in that sort of stuff, and I find it so utterly inaccessible (not the music–just the whole sub-culture) and I have no idea where to begin, so I haven’t been a good patron. So I’ll try to hunt those ones down, there.

  14. nosila said, on January 24, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Shawn, that is an excellent last point. As you point out, though, what are the proper rules? Unfortunately, there isn’t anyone to ask, as people’s viewpoints on this seem to differ radically.

    I personally regard recording music as a privilege, and people listening to it as an even greater privilege. I absolutely agree with the idea of a musician needing to work for a living. Whether this means a day job outside of music of not depends on the individual. However, I do know that being shepherded by a team of people from photo shoot to show to hotel and back is NOT work. Having a producer baby you through a session while you whine about your bandmates is NOT work. (For the producer, it sure as hell is.) While this is probably overstating the problem, that has been the idolatrous model the record industry has offered us. “This is James Hettfield. THIS is an artist.” Pardon me, but fuck that. No it’s not. This is a groomed and petted marketing tool used to line many, many pockets.

    Not to go all anecdotal on you, but I have chosen to give my music and my band’s music away for free. It is available for purchase as well (we’re in the “folks who love cool handmade limited releases” camp), but as presumptuous as I am, I could never be so presumptuous as to assume that I should be catered to, taken care of, and fed simply on the merits of any talent I may or may not possess. I am supposed to work for a living. That’s what people are evolved to do. The crash of the major label system is welcome to me. It has, at this point, outlived its usefulness. Staggeringly little music that is of real, personal value comes out of it anymore.

    So, er, (nice segue, huh?) is this blog ethical? Aristotle (oh, god, this is pedantic) begins the Nicomachean Ethics with a discussion of ends. The end which is for the greater good (ie for the good of more than a single person) trumps the end which is for the good of the individual. You will probably immediately notice that the ethics of the American legal system do not neatly coincide with that line of thinking.

    In this case, I have to agree with Aristotle. (It is not often that I say that. Seriously.) Music belongs to everyone. The strife that we encounter in making an ethically acceptable and economically viable delivery system so that there is music for everyone to revel in, especially in this turbulent time, is a natural byproduct of people’s overwhelming desire and, in some cases, need for the stuff.

    This blog is obviously for the greater good, as said label owner/artist figured out quickly. No one is profiting by others’ sweat, and it most likely doesn’t come at the expense of the individual/artist at all. Like it or not (and believe me, I do not), name recognition is an extremely valuable commodity right now. There is one certainty: no one will buy something if they have literally never heard of it/come across it. (A person has to have heard a name at least once to lay down money for it.) For the currently-practicing artists featured on this blog, who may not be welcomed into a particular scene because of their uniqueness, this sort of exposure and appreciation is one of the few external rewards in a life full of mostly internal ones.

    Most of the folks who are featured here are either still sweating away, dedicatedly making music for a dedicated few, or are finished with the whole business and have moved on in some way. Could it really upset these people that their music is being disseminated by someone who clearly loves and respects it? I can’t imagine that it would.

    Producers, engineers and studio owners will readily tell you that you should NOT go into the record-making business to make money at this point. Still, somehow, people are doing it. Records just keep popping out at blinding rates of speeds, almost as if it is completely inevitable that they will be made. (If it didn’t come through, that was sarcasm. It is completely inevitable that records will be made. If it is not inevitable, they probably don’t need to be made.)

    I believe that history will find, after this upheaval of the music industry, that listeners and musicians alike were better off for this rash of music sharing. The wheat and the chaffe will be in separate piles, and people will still make amazing music, and people will still listen to it.

    Disclaimer: I am incoherent. I have slept way too little. I will nap now.

  15. nosila said, on January 24, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    oh crap that is long.

  16. nosila said, on January 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Just to clarify one thing: I am all for musicians selling their music in order to continue to make it. I am not all for 800 middle men per musician. The process needs to be (and is being) simplified. An artist-driven distribution system just makes sense both from the standpoint of artistry and of efficient commerce. Giving away my music now is not selfless; I do hope to eventually pull in at least some extra income from sales of both albums and tickets. Mix blogs will undoubtedly help to further that goal.

  17. Tom Swirly said, on January 24, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I’ve very much enjoyed these mixes. I’d be very willing to throw some money towards the copyright holders, simply as a donation…

    I’m not so sanguine that this “musicians shouldn’t get paid” idea will work out well for musicians, I’m afraid. I’m a musician myself and :-D I personally would rather people listen to my music than get paid but that’s simply because people aren’t really doing either.

    As a musician, you’re hit on two sides. You can’t really sell recorded music any more – but then there are also fewer venues to play live music, and you’re competing with endless quantities of DJs, many of whom these days are playing right off mp3 and thus for the most part there are little if any royalties generated for the original musician.

    I don’t think the quality of the music we see is going to improve if everyone’s doing it as a hobby and giving it away for free. The dearth of historically successful part-time musicians and composers is certainly indicative (sure, I can name a few like Charles Ives but for the most part almost every artist most people have ever listened to before now were professionals).

    (BTW, I recommend you purchase one of nosila’s CDs, excellent stuff! and you can hear my music here: http://TomRitchford.com/music )

  18. Soundslike said, on January 28, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Shawn–

    It is a little hard to figure the economics of major labels insisting on selling mega-seller back catalogue stuff at ~$18, rather than cutting (a la the James Brown example) to an “impulse-buy” price. Interesting point about the mass-accessibility of catalogue movies on DVD–surprises me almost that you don’t see the return of CD collections, at least cheapo mega-sellers, to supermarkets and the like.

    As for law enforcement–I think the reason I’ve focused on the ethics of all this rather than the lawfulness is because oddly, the law almost seems more difficult to reason. What would “enforcement” mean? And should it be the laws as currently written that simply get “enforced”? I think that’s what the RIAA was trying with the thousand of lawsuits, but mostly I think they succeeding in exposing the silliness of the laws (and the dinosaur qualities of RIAA-supporting companies). Pretty clearly you don’t think I should be in jail, for example; but that would be “enforcement”. In a sense, even blatant non-physical “piracy” (as opposed to mix-making) seems to me to be part of “market forces”–just a black market, resulting in this instance not from the absence of a legitimate market but rather a legitimate market that seems sort of “fixed,” gamed rather than free. I’m not saying music should be free, not by a long shot–nor do I take every illegal download of 50 Cent’s latest opus as some sort of noble protest against the system. But I don’t think, nor do you I’m sure, that it’s just the public going to lawless hell in an e-handbasket. I’m not sure what’s broken–but it sort of pulls the whole discussion back to ethics, not law, in trying to figure out what’s wrong and what would be right, how it could be fixed.

    Cue Nosila’s post to actually take a crack at what I’m just superficially glancing at. . .

  19. Soundslike said, on January 28, 2009 at 4:53 am

    Tom–

    The appearance of a couple of my albums on this blog notwithstanding, I’m decidedly a non-musician who would never for a second have been able to comprehend the idea of making a living by making music. So I suppose my tendency has been to assume that people who are driven to make music will find a way. And given that “a way,” from a technical standpoint, has never been more available–and, to my (outsider) mind, expensive recording studios and My Bloody Valentine-like budgets have never been less necessary–I’ve further tended to assume that creative ambitions won’t be clobbered by “reality,” like working for a living, etc. But you make me wonder–how much of the music I love would not have been made if the musicians hadn’t been paid; and further, how much of it was made with the musician being only nominally paid by her music-making, under the stress of working a “real” job. . .

    As a general principle, Nosila’s humbleness aside, I do think it’s reasonable and not presumptuous to think that talent warrants (material) reward, from people who value that talent. But as to whether it’s ever been the case that making money and having talent when it comes to music very often intersect seems very much up for debate. Sure it happens sometimes, especially prior to sometime around 1975. But obviously a lot of talentless hacks make a lot of the money; and every one of us knows two or ten musicians who would be rich if talent were justly rewarded.

    So in a way, I feel like the impulse to make music for free has always been the default for artful musicians; and that making money has been a bonus, and an exception to the rule. Technological constraints probably prevented a lot of talent from reaching record in the past; maybe or maybe not less so as those barriers fall. Whether any of it gets heard–for money or for free–is of course another matter, and maybe that was where the Big System (and its indie corollaries) became useful: in getting what you were likely to do for free, “inevitably” as Nosila says, to be heard. But now, at least in theory, even promotion and dissemination–as long as making money isn’t the objective–is also increasingly in the hands of the musicians, as long as they’re happy to be heard on a different, more “intimate” scale. So maybe being heard “big” will become like making money “big” (aka as a living): a nice bonus if you can get it, but certainly not something the absence of which is going to stop the truly dedicated/talented from making their music.

    And hopefully something will take shape where true “market forces” (on a smaller scale) will form, and people will reward merit with free choice and free will, rather than ponying up for one of the multiple choice answers they’re given to choose from as in the past. But that’s probably all very idealized, the blabbering of an outsider. So–anybody with experience trying to make money, with the Major System, the now-aging Minor System, or the nascent Freelance/Superindie/Solo/Whatever system? I’ve been told by my one friend who released a major-label record, got fucked, and then went back to self-released indie and gigs that they made more money DIYing in the end, but I don’t know if that’s representative. Anybody read that David Byrne piece on the various routes a musician can take for production/distribution/making money? I’ll look for a link, it was definitely relevant. . .

  20. Shawn said, on January 28, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I’ve got Oakland on the brain, so I think I’ve gone overboard here. Yesterday our police chief quit in the face of an imminent No Confidence vote from the City Council. Between this and plowing through Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, lawlessness iis definitely on my mind.

    Having ranted my way into a corner, let me try to summarize the one bit that I feel is actually important in all those words above – without impugning Jimmy Page or Gina Birch:

    Morals are the basis of Law
    Law is the minimum standards of behavior in a society
    Ethics is what we do above the minimum standards to actually get through the day

    In the case of the internet (still) wild west, I’m not sure we’ve agreed on what the Morals or Law is yet, making a discussion of Ethics very difficult indeed. I’ve got no answers except to say that in the absence of (widely agreed upon) Morals or (reasonable, rational) Law, we’re all going to be stuck soul-searching for a while.

  21. Soundslike said, on January 28, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Well–so let me ask you to put it in personal terms. Were you the one to determine the moral underpinning, the legal extrapolation therefrom, and then the ethical practice thereof–what would it look like? Or to put it more directly–what informs your decision to download mixes here, or full albums elsewhere (if you do)? Do you just sort of enjoy it as part of life in the Wild West; do you experience the guilt of a self-aware criminal; or do you feel like you have a moral and ethical leg to stand on, and should have a legal leg?

    I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but I find what you’re saying interesting–and you’re adding a perspective I wasn’t sure would be likely to be expressed on a blog that basically only exists to disseminate and promote music, but via downloads.

  22. nosila said, on February 1, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Hrm. Maybe for every person who downloads my completely homemade (no others were harmed in the making of this record) music for free, I get one other person’s music for free? I’d say that I’d be about even steven were that the law.

    Of course, I would create a system wherein I’m already guiltless. :)

  23. Graeme said, on February 5, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    1- copyright is arbitrary & perverse , claims of morality are limited.
    2- USA was based of copyright infringement – using british & european patents with no monetary recompense.
    3- Music will not die , because you infringe.
    4- Serial downloaders have a greater propensity to purchase than the general public.
    5- The distribution labels are losing their core market – youngsters with their disposable , impulse buying habits – mp3s are great for them on their ipods, car usb ports etc- some on them only know downloading.
    6- better quality on illegal downloads.
    7- In china where cd copies are rampant, CDs are promotional tools, for concerts, tv shows etc .
    8- Allofmp3.com model was better than itunes etc – lot of folks paid for that -than search for downloads , or leave their computer on for peer-to-peer.
    9- the current distribution method is bad, and cynical – eg release a cd, fans buy, then cd with bonus tracks, then deluxe with live tracks – ie no customer loyalty.
    10- Movie Dist. smarter – Cinema, rental, Cable/supermarket, tv on a much shorter cycle- use to wait longtime to rental.
    11- the solution must be pragmatic – as infringement will only become easier with superbroadband, mega wifi- petrapods etc . So give the folks what they want, make it easy , have premium content, and it has to be subscription, no copy protection & lossless- With cable tv folks go around to friends house to watch premium events ( eg boxing ) , but wouldn’t bother with standard fair. The average consumer probably only buy 2 cds a year. Youngsters want the premium content, us folks want the superior package, so we pay more for addons –
    Bands get better promotion should customer reviews -Musicians can get a bigger support base for touring.
    12- your blog is only one vote for Obama, or McCain- ie do want you do if you feel ok, or can rationalize it to feel ok.

  24. Graeme said, on February 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Post Script – I only came to this blog today , because I only glance briefly at the title and I thought it related to Ethiopian music . A lovely country with some great music . Here in New Zealand a lot of that stuff is by import only – which obviously supports a great many jobs ( airlines, shipping companies etc , oh dear the carbon tax )- It’s not cheap to import , so it is tempting to download. I like Neil Young, not sure what his first archive box will sell for, however , I can buy most of his cds here reasonably easy , and not too expensive . I use emusic.com to get some harder to buy stuff – and I upgrade that stuff if I see the cd cheaply enough later on. The best CD stores are going out of business , leaving the top 20 albums and greatest hits, and no name cheapo cds( what label is that?, songs may be re-recorded, by only one or none of original band, or sourced and mastered badly from Jakes’ box off old vinyl found in the back of his old chevy)

    pps not all of emusic is available for your country. Cheers mate.

  25. Shawn said, on February 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Hello All,

    I had to amble away from this for a bit because I was getting all heated and confused – then worst of all soundslike prodded me (in a nice curious debating class kind of way) to say something personal and coherent. So naturally I blanched.

    It’s been on my mind, though. A week ago I had a dream about sitting with Axl Rose in a hotel suite as he watched 80,000 torrenters take copies of Chinese Democracy. Axl was not happy.

    But seriously, folks… I’ve reflected on this quite a bit. I used to justify my taking by attending 40+ shows a year. Now I get half the music I used to, but go to 1/10 the shows. So I’ve been beating myself up about my reprobate habits.

    But I came to a revelation this week. I’ve very rarely purchased new music anyway. Living in a locality with an Amoeba, Rasputins, and a host of others, I’ve never had to purchase new music, which means musicians had never been making money from me anyway. (or from a lot of us, and perhaps not at all from the most serious archival collectors) Not that this is an excuse, but I wonder if anyone has really had a look at where the money for used records comes from and goes. (I did see a recent study that found that over half of video game trade-in $ went towards new games, but that’s a very different flavor of collector; you finish the game, you move on.) And it’s an open secret that the most passionate music people – the record store guys, the critics and so forth – supplement their incomes by trading in their promo copies, which in turn attracts guys like me that would rather have paid $10 for a decent used (unplayed?) copy than $15 for new.

    So maybe this whole discussion is a red herring? The ability to ‘avoid paying musicians’ has been central to our chosen passion for years. I/We haven’t been helping labels or musicians via ‘music sales’ a lot longer than the internet’s let me do it.

    Or perhaps I deflect. Because there’s also the cold truth that if I know it’s free out there and I have no chance of getting ‘caught,’ I’d be a fool to pay.

    Bottom line for me: downthefting a big-timey current artist or a back major label catalogue item or something I already have in a ‘new edition’ or an artist I actively support or something I can find freely streaming somewhere or a DJ/blogger mix otherwise unavailable – virtually no guilt. downthefting a limited edition ambient bedroom genius, hand-drawn cover – guilty, but yearn to attend their live show if they would come around.

    Off point, but perhaps a whole ‘nother topic: Lawrence Lessig says that the Founding Fathers intended copyright law not as guarantor that inventors could ensure that their heirs would continue eternally to reap benefits, but rather to provide an incentive to create by ensuring that the inventor could get paid for “copy one.”

    OK bye.

  26. Soundslike said, on February 10, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    So here’s an interesting wrinkle to this whole “stealing” v. “promoting” conundrum:

    I noticed today one referral from a website I’d previously not seen. Neat, cool, I think. I visit it–looks like a pretty well-crafted blog, extensive archives, nice comments regarding my mixes, and a modest link to my blog. But see if you notice something else:

    http://www.jennywoolworth.ch/deardiary/?p=92

    The mixes are each linked. But not my posts to the mixes. Not even direct links to the files I uploaded. This person has stripped the mp3s from the .zip files, thereby losing the full-sized art and the tracklist text files. She’s re-named them. And uploaded them to her own server space.

    So what should be my response? I mean–it’s not my music, and she did credit me for the mixing, sort of, and these weren’t mixes I spent ages on. So part of me is happy–fine, more people will hear the music. But you know, there’s another part of me that says “why did this person go to the trouble to alter my files and upload them herself, when she could much more easily have linked to my blog posts?”. And so there I’m struck with it–I do have a sense of pride in the “craft” or whatever, at least in the time it took, to put my mixes together. But is that legitimate in any way, since certainly it’s the musicians who did all the work? What would be the ethics involved in my asking her to take down her files and re-link to my site instead (which I did as a knee-jerk response when I first saw them). Does anybody think she’s weird at least for doing that? Or am I the weirdo (or hypocrite) for caring at all?

  27. F.Baube said, on May 18, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    WFMU has asked themselves similar questions about their blog where a lot of MP3s appear ( http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/ ). They settled on a policy that they will post no MP3 of music that is being actively marketed anywhere. This still leaves them a vast range of stuff to post, and so far they have not been sued out of existence.

    Bands of yore need to be heard, esp’ly if they don’t have a website or even a MySpace page.

    BTW another great 3-part collection, 12 CDs total:

    http://kangnave.blogspot.com/2010/02/reference-of-female-fronted-punk-rock.html

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=389879717243

  28. […] to be featured at the Gris-Gris on Your Doorstep blog.  Finally, I’d like to invite you to join in the conversation going on at the recent “Ethicophilia” post, on the ethics and practical considerations […]

  29. […] What has me thinking about all this at the moment is the exchange between a college student who wrote about having 11,000 songs in her collection while having purchased only 15 CDs in her life, and musician David Lowery, writing about the ‘new paradigm’ her attitudes reflect and foster. As is my wont, I’m late to the discussion and you probably have already read it all. But it’s a subject I imagine the sort of people who would come to this sort of blog–which perhaps straddles both sides of the argument, by its nature (though firmly siding with only one, ethically)–might have interesting insights on the matter. So I invite you to discuss the issue here, at least in part picking up a conversation we began years ago here. […]


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