4 The Love Of Music
2 Very Different Approaches
Real music lovers do not simply consume music. Real music lovers develop a special relationship with the works of the artists they like. At some point of their xploration of the music of a new artist, usually something "clicks" and triggers a whole process of discovery which involves wanting 2 hear everything the artist has ever put out (including b-sides, non-album contributions, etc.), wanting 2 hear it in the best possible conditions, wanting 2 hear live renditions of the music — and wanting 2 share this discovery with other people. They also feel that things like album packaging r an integral part of the musical experience, that the artwork, in so far as the artist has been involved in it, is an integral part of the artistic statement of a specific release and they want 2 own an original copy of it so that they can xamine it from all angles, in search of clues, or bits of in4mation which might enhance their understanding and appreciation of the music. On the other hand, some people just consume music. They want a copy of a song bcuz everyone else is in2 the song. They don't really care about top-notch sound quality, as long as it is more or less "CD quality." They don't really care about the rest of the contents of the album bcuz all they really like is the hit single that every radio station and music TV station is playing non-stop. They just want 2 b able 2 listen 2 the track over and over again until they wear it out, they effectively consume it — and then turn 2 something else. They r not really interested in music as an art 4m, but rather as a 4m of disposable entertainment —always looking 4 the latest hit which is going 2 displace the previous chart topper in their social environment, so that they r sure they stay "hip" 2 the latest trend. Those r 2 very different approaches 2 music. The trouble with the current system is that it is primarily designed 2 meet the needs of music consumers and not of music lovers. There is some overlap, of course, and sometimes real musicians enjoy a fair amount of commercial success which indicates that they r benefiting from the system designed 4 music consumers, that their music is not only appealing 2 music lovers, but also 2 music consumers. This is fine with them as long as they don't have 2 compromise their artistic integrity. Un4tunately, once u become part of the music consuming system, u have 2 obey very different rules and many artists r, understandably, not comfortable with this, which creates all kinds of tensions after they have xperienced a certain amount of commercial success.
A Fundamental Hypocrisy
The fundamental hypocrisy of the music industry (and of some artists) in the current debate over the MP3 4mat, Napster and other 4ms of online xchange of music is that they r talking about copyright, intellectual property and other such noble concepts when the only thing that they r actually trying 2 protect is the commercial value of their musical "product." It's indicative, 4 xample, that, in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Time Warner President Richard Parsons would make comments such as these: An increasing number of young people don't buy albums, so we are not only losing that immediate revenue. They are also growing up with a notion that music is free and ought to be free. This statement deals with the relationship between music and the public from a purely commercial point of view. Nowhere in his statement is there any indication that what might happen with young people xchanging music is that they might develop a real appreciation of music in general and of certain artists in particular and turn out to b perfectly honest citizens who realize that artists should b compensated 4 their work and who will help make sure that they r. Nowhere is it mentioned that the fundamental reason y those "young people" r xchanging music online is that they r xcited about the music, that they r actually developing a sense of appreciation of what good music is. Bcuz, of course, record companies don't really want the public 2 like good music. They want it 2 buy whatever "product" they come up with, whether it's musically good or bad. Record companies don't really want young people 2 develop a sense of what good music is. Bcuz real music lovers don't consume music. They don't buy the latest chart topper just bcuz it's at the top of the charts. They don't really participate in that "system." They don't really generate significant revenue.
A Growing Frustration
What record companies don't really understand is that Napster is just one illustration of the growing frustration over how much the record companies control what music people get 2 hear — over how the air waves, record labels and record stores, which r now all part of this "system" that recording companies have pretty much succeeded in establishing, r becoming increasingly dominated by musical "products" 2 the detriment of real music. When the only way 2 acquire some funky song from the 1970s is 2 purchase some crappy, overpriced compilation put 2gether by the record company, with an ugly cover and a poor selection of 4gettable songs interspersed with a few gems, and when u don't even know whether the artist who recorded this funky song is actually getting any money from the sales of this compilation (which he is probably not even aware of), then it's no wonder that the real music lover will b interested in alternative ways of acquiring the song which might not involve purchasing the compilation from the record company. If the record company which owns the rights 2 that song would actually re-release the original album featuring the song, with the original cover design, at a reasonable price and with a clear indication that the artist in question is actually benefiting from this re-release, then it would be another story. But the record company won't do it, bcuz it's not commercially viable. So the real music lover looks 4 an MP3 of the song online, downloads it and burns it on2 a CD. He knows that he doesn't have a perfect copy of the song (MP3 is, after all, a sound 4mat which does involve a certain amount of loss in sound quality), and it is clear, in his mind, that if the original album is ever released under the above-mentioned conditions, he will purchase it, bcuz he wants 2 discover other, lesser known tracks by the artist that r not available online, bcuz he wants the best possible quality, bcuz he wants 2 xperience the original release in all its aspects (cover artwork, song selection, etc.) and bcuz he wants 2 compensate the artist 4 his work. But y should the music lover have 2 wait 5 years, 10 years or even longer until the record company condescends 2 re-releasing the original work of the artist? Y should the record company have such control over how he, the music lover, wants 2 xperience the music?
A Cultural Dark Ages?
But the record company doesn't really care about all this. All it cares about is that "kids" on the Internet r downloading MP3s of the one hit song on the latest crappy release they put out with a huge promotional campaign, hoping 2 sell 2 million copies of the album when there is actually only one decent song on it. They don't care about copyright infringement. They only care about lost sales. When asked about Napster and the legal issue of whether it is infringing copyrights or not, the same Time Warner xecutive states: I think this is a very profound moment historically. This isn't just about a bunch of kids stealing music. It's about an assault on everything that constitutes the cultural expression of our society. If we fail to protect and preserve our intellectual property system, the culture will atrophy. And corporations won't be the only ones hurt. Artists will have no incentive to create. Worst-case scenario: The country will end up in a sort of cultural Dark Ages. It is rather ironic that he would talk about "preserving our intellectual property system." Isn't he the president of a company which has continually ripped off artists of their rights 2 their own music by retaining ownership of the master recordings and doing whatever they please with them without the consent of the artist or without compensating him? Is this the "intellectual property system" he is trying 2 preserve? Does he really believe that the current system, where artists get such a small share of the benefits from the sales of their music, is such a great "incentive 2 create"? Does he really think that what motivates an artist 2 create is the fact that record company xecutives r making millions off his back when he barely manages 2 scrape by even after selling hundreds of thousands of copies of his album? It's a bit 2 easy 2 talk about an era of "cultural Dark Ages." The use of doom and gloom scenarios in the rhetoric of conservative, narrow- minded people is a well-known trick. What it really indicates is a lack of understanding of what's really at stake here. What motivates artists 2 create is artistic achievement, the feeling of having created something beautiful, and the ability 2 share this beauty with others. The notion of copyright was not invented by artists 2 protect themselves from honest individuals sharing their enthusiasm about their work. It was invented by artists 2 protect themselves from dishonest and hypocritical individuals and companies xploiting their work without their consent. 4 all we know, we might already b in a "cultural Dark Ages" where "music" has become synonymous with heaps of mindless musical "products" and real, authentic, inspired music has already been relegated 2 the fringes of society. And online music distribution might actually become a way 2 get out of this.
The Evolution Will B Digitized
The standards r still constantly evolving. New systems, new devices r constantly being developed as an alternative 2 the old ways of doing things and no one really knows the way things r going 2 evolve. But, from the point of view of the real music lover, what's currently going on can only b viewed as an xciting new development in the history of music. And, 4tunately 4 him, there does not seem 2 b anything the old record companies can do about preventing this evolution from happening. Yes, young people need 2 b educated about the fact that artists should b compensated 4 their work. But they don't need 2 b educated about how 2 hypocritically xploit artists by forcing them 2 participate in a system designed 2 sell product instead of sharing good music. Rather, they need 2 b educated about how the record companies have xploited artists and abused their rights 4 so long and about the fact that online distribution is turning in2 a new medium which might enable artists 2 put an end 2 this xploitation. And, by the look of things, this will happen without the help or understanding of record company xecutives.