To a Mother Concerned About File Sharing
This Post is part of a group blogging event hosted by MusicianWages.com, Music Careers at About.com and KnowTheMusicBiz.com. The post will be a response to this letter:
I have a teenage son who tells me his pirating music is no big deal. Since he is a musician himself, I point out to him that someday that’s going to be his money people are stealing. But he remains unphased.
He tells me the record sales make money for the record label, not the artist. He says that the artists make all their money from touring and live concerts. He thinks the pirated music promotes the concerts and therefore helps the artist make more money. I still don’t allow pirating in my house.
But tell me what you think – as artists out there having your work “shared,” are you just glad to have it being enjoyed, or does it bother you? Admittedly, he is stealing music that is recorded by major record labels, so maybe its different than the independent musician working for his living. But I’d still like to hear what you think.
In an internet world where anything and everything can be free, should we be worried about file sharing? If our music is going to be taken anyway, should we bother charging for it?
I got involved with music as a profession because I love the guitar–and getting a “real job” sounded awful to me. As I continue my education and gain more and more understand of art music performance, theory and history, my love for music in general continues to grow. I realized at some point that I will probably never win a major guitar competition, nor will I ever be the most impressive or skilled guitarist in the world. But I also realized very recently that I continue to play music because I love it–more importantly I want other people to love it as much as I do. I want to spread the word–I want to be a guitar evangelist.
To that end, the only way people can love music is to hear it. And sometimes the financial considerations involved in purchasing music limits the audience. More importantly everyone has a price at which they simply overlook something. Mine is about $20 for download purchases. I’ve noticed this only recently. There have been a couple $20 ebooks that I purchased immediately, yet I thought twice about a $30 ebook. I purchase iTunes and Amazon MP3 music like a junky–it’s cheap!
Would I be okay with my playing/music/recordings being passed around? Absolutely. Because I’m not terribly interested in making thousands of dollars from music sales. I am interested in promoting myself at a musician; I am interested in finding venues in which to perform; I am interested in getting my name out enough that I am invited to perform a recital (theoretically a recital for which I am paid!). I’m interested in teaching and having students that love the guitar as much as I do.
In short, I’m interested in creating a bigger audience for the guitar. And I’d like to make a living somewhere along the way.
A Case Study
I’d like to conclude this post with a case study. I love techno music, but I have never purchased any of it–I listen to it on pandora.
Then one day my friend sent me a link to Tettix. More specifically it was a link to his Rites album, a remix of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Stravinsky+Techno remix=music so good and interesting it makes your ears explode with happiness. In case you were wondering.
Tettix offers his music for free. I was pumped about this. I linked to it on this blog and I told a lot of friends about it. I sent emails with the link. I showed it to my guitar professor and several other professors (all of them thought it was interesting). I spread the word.
That could happen with any musician! I can’t speak to the result of Tettix’s successes or failures with his music. But I have a hunch that Tettix enjoys what he’s doing tremendously. As a musician I can say that when people say to me, “I really enjoyed your performance” or “that tune was great” I get excited. I get excited that people connected. I was able to plant the seeds from a which another music lover can grow.
Tettix was able to make me a fan by giving away music. Now I spread the word about that music. Maybe some people I told about that music donate through paypal or buy Tettix’s music on iTunes or go to a show.
I don’t think anyone has said it better than Jason Isbell:
More than likely, though, you’ll build a relatively small but loyal group of fans that will follow you to your grave. That can enable you to make music for a living for the rest of your life, and that’s way better than being famous. I hope.
Very good thoughts here. I encourage you to read this book written by two economics professors at Washington University. You can download the whole book for free:
And another good short essay on copyright worth reading is this one by conservative Christian Theologian Vern Poythress:
Hi Chris – great response. I think you have great points, and I feel the same way about it. My response was similar in some ways – I think we may have a lot in common.
I vote in favour of maintaining scope for trade, because we only know to live by trade. In support of this, I state that by eating, we trade with nature for time. To stop eating is to abandon our link with time, i.e., to die.
This means that we have to operate a system of property as produce (or equivalent), including digital produce, so that more people have a chance to engage in trade, which generates taxes, which pays welfare. To pursue the point, if you don’t think there is any need for trade in digital produce, why does your blog carry adverts for produce and which are also intended to pay you commission?
I ask the question because it seems that you are happy with the idea of free music. So am I, but it’s the perogative of content providers – the musicans – to decide what can be free for marketing purposes and what must be paid for, so they have a chance to generate a return for their efforts. In my own case, if my YouTube viewcount ever reaches the point where I can become a partner and thus carry adverts then I’ll certainly carry them. I’d be crazy not to.