June 20, 2012

music followup

Filed under:, , , , , — cwage @ 9:33 pm

A few things by way of a followup to this post:

First, this:


Many of you have seen this, I'm sure. Some of you may even remember it. But, lest we think sharing music is a new thing (or a problem), see above. Yes, it's real. It was the B side from In God We Trust, Inc. This is a good segue into this post, which is pretty funny. Sharing music is nothing new. In fact, sharing music is pretty awesome, and in general, historically, it's been pretty good for the artist in question.

I am annoyed, though, at how even this mostly-supportive article half-apologizes:

Furthermore, let's get one thing straight--it's not cool when artists don't get compensated for their work.

and then still misrepresents her position:

She notes with some wonder that she really hasn't bought much of it. Kazaa; Spotify; mix CDs; ripping music from her college radio station's library of CDs; legal; illegal; subscription model services; gifts from friends; everything except... buying The Thing and owning it.

That's not true, actually. She said she doesn't buy CDs. She admits to some piracy, but mentions streaming and the size of her iTunes library. She never really gets into proportions -- they're left as an exercise of assumption for the reader. I don't know why people seem to be having such a hard time with this. Her essay is stating in the simplest terms possible how an entire generation consumes music and it's like suddenly people can't fucking read.

If you carefully read her essay, it's nothing but a rather remarkably impeccable assemblage of facts about her habits. There's actually very little opining in it. And yet, the many and varied responses -- both pro and con -- seem to have assumed an admission of guilt, and a tone of casual immorality. Which is bullshit. They also all seem to have this "bless your heart, aren't you cute" attitude. I think part of it is projection -- that many of the readers cannot wrap their brain around a world in which a 21 year old has never really bought any CDs, and so they assume facetiousness, or disingenuity. Or they're assuming she's just stupid. I don't know. I think it'd be reasonable to assume there's a healthy dose of misogyny along with the ageism. Or whatever-ism. Part of it may be her own fault. If I were her, or her editor, I would have left out the "As I've grown up" prelude to thise phrase:

As I've grown up, I've come to realize the gravity of what file-sharing means to the musicians I love. I can't support them with concert tickets and T-shirts alone. But I honestly don't think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience.

If you read it carefully, this is a beautifully crafted phrase: "the gravity of what file-sharing means". Many people seem to be reading this as an admission of guilt or immorality -- an adult-onset atonement for sins of the past. I read it more like "I am sorry this sucks so much for you, but it is what it is." And it is. I don't know what age has to do with it, or why that was included. It lends credibility to the angle that her stance is representative of some developmental immaturity -- that a Good Mature Consumer would be much more responsible, but isn't she cute? *patpat* The reality is that she's stating, with nothing but facts, how an entire generation consumes music, and she's being treated like an idiot for it. It's weird.

June 19, 2012

a response to this guy’s response to this other thing on the internet

Filed under:, , , , , — cwage @ 4:28 pm


The Trichordist wrote this article in response to Emily White's blog post on NPR.

First, a word on her post: it's spot-on, and I don't understand what the controversy is about. She's merely telling the truth, succinctly, in a major media venue. She's spelling out in very simple terms what the entire music industry seems intent on plugging their ears and ignoring: people don't buy CDs anymore. People don't want to buy CDs anymore. She doesn't want to buy albums. She has a digital library. She likes streaming. She doesn't give a shit about CD jackets and art and physical packaging and all the other creative but unfortunately pointless ways in which the music industry has tried to provide alternative value. She wants to share music. She acknowledges that she wants money to go back to the artist. She concludes with "All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?" No, it's not. What the fuck is wrong with that? Answering such questions is literally how industries are built. But, no, no, let's eviscerate her for DARING to question the status quo (which happens to make certain people, none of whom are actual artists, very very rich).

So, back to the Trichordist. Anyone that leads an article with "My intention here is not to shame you or embarrass you" betrays their hand, because obviously, they do. The implication is that she has something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Classy, bro. I know that fisking an article is a rather brutish and immature way of responding to something, but I can't resist. I'll make it brief, because I got shit to do.

Suddenly, then:

I must disagree with the underlying premise of what you have written. Fairly compensating musicians is not a problem that is up to governments and large corporations to solve. It is not up to them to make it “convenient” so you don’t behave unethically.

Can anyone please find me where, exactly, in her post, she said anything about the government or large corporations? Perhaps he disagrees with the premise of what she wrote because he accidentally read a different article? I don't know. And why, then, does he three sentences later suggest that we "put pressure on our governments and private corporations to act ethically and fairly when it comes to artists rights". Huh?

The best part:

I’ve been teaching college students about the economics of the music business at the University of Georgia for the last two years. Unfortunately for artists, most of them share your attitude about purchasing music.


Now, my students typically justify their own disproportionate choices in one of two ways. I’m not trying to set up a “strawman”, but I do have a lot of anecdotal experience with this.

Translation: I haven't been teaching very long, and I don't really understand my students very well. Also, I'm about to spend the rest of this blog post setting up a strawman. Which he then proceeds to do.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, I'm stopping here. You can, too. The rest of his post consists of assumptions about what Emily has or hasn't done, and then a giant, long-winded defense of the current music industry in terms of the costs and problems incurred by the current music industry.

The music industry has changed. The world has changed. Emily White is telling us the way this new world works, for her, the consumer. David Lowery seems intent on ignoring it. My intent is to shame and embarrass him.

UPDATE: Steve Albini's response.

UPDATE 2: More:

If I came up with the phrase "thank you," and wanted to collect a royalty for every time it got used, it would be an impossible task and I should not frustrate myself in the effort. That's basically the situation recorded music is in. There are so many avenues to hear it and so many people involved that getting them to fall in line with a preferred compensation scheme is a fantasy. In a market sense, avoiding payment would be trivial and anybody who did pay for use would be at a competitive disadvantage, so that behavior is not going to be favored.