Monday, 4 May 2009

Sharing music and other art over the Internet, and why it’s a good thing

This weekend we sat around the table at dinner with some people from the music industry, some independent artists, some DJ's who create their music from other peoples songs and some other people who have nothing to do with the music industry but are listeners of a wide range of music that is out there. We all ate dinner and discussed sharing music and other art over the Internet, and why it’s a good thing. Here are the points that came from this discussion.

Point 1: The end of millionaire rock stars is a GOOD thing. Imagine for a moment that each Beatle only made $50,000 per year instead of $600 billion trillion. I don’t see anything wrong, here. The sooner we can get it out of our heads (and our kids heads) that “being a rock star” is not a career goal, the better.

Point 2: Artists don’t, and never have, made money. I consider these blogs to be a work of art, and do you know how much money I’ve made off of it? Over the past six months: $1.26, according to Google. Should I:
  1. Get pissed and make it illegal for people to read my blog without paying me, or
  2. Realize that blogging is no way to make a living.
Unless I’m one of the very very very very very very very very incredibly lucky few who make it “big” in the blogosphere, I’m always going to need a day job. This is how it is with all art. This is how it’s been, and this is how it always will be. 99% of artists are starving artists. It’s not a stereotype.

Point 3: Money is not a good motivation to make art. People seem to think (why, I don’t know) that the only motivation to do anything is to become rich and famous. Let’s remember that art comes FIRST and money comes LATER. The Beatles wrote their songs and only afterward did they become famous. JK Rowling selflessly created Harry Potter for her child and only years later did she get paid for it. It’s great and all that the Beatles and JK Rowling got paid for their work, but even if they never saw a dime their work would still exist. Besides, does anybody want to listen to music written by people who care only about money? I don’t think that music would be any good…

Point 4:
Everything is ALREADY free and better because of it. If you’ve ever heard of or then you are aware of how massive an impact the Internet has already had on art, increasing both the quantity and quality all around, and providing free access to everything for everyone. No longer do we have to look at art that critics tell us to, or watch TV that cable companies force us to, or listen to music that record companies want us to. If you’ve ever heard of Linux then you are aware that open source software available for free (as in beer) is superior to proprietary software.

Point 5: Creating art doesn’t cost anything. “But if artists don’t get paid, how will they make their art? Better yet, why would they even bother?” Did I mention that most art (drawings, music, videos, software, everything) is already online and FREE? The millions of artists putting their art legally and freely online apparently aren’t getting the message about how important money is. Maybe you should go and tell them to stop making art until it becomes illegal to share it. On second thought, they probably wouldn’t understand. Most people, no matter how poor, can afford a pencil or a guitar.

Point 6: Money stifles creativity. I would much rather have 100 songs by 100 independent artists than 100 songs by a single mega-band like U2 or a teeny-bopper like Miley Cyrus. “If people download music illegally all the musicians will die out.” No, all the mega-rich superstar musicians will die out (hopefully). Think of all the aspiring musicians out there who never had a chance because they were pushed aside by the latest hit thing that the record companies decided to bring out. Once the mega-bands are gone, it won’t mean the end of music, it will simply open up a whole new world of opportunity to a whole new generation of artists. Money also stifles creativity because companies always want to suck you into two year contracts with arbitrary limits, proprietary technology, expensive add-ons, or whatever. Just think how cool it would be to be able to play your legally purchased music on any portable music device instead of just iPods or just Zunes because of the DRM.

Point 7:
Artists DO make money. Contrary to what I’ve said above, artists who are really good will always make money. Everybody knows that Radiohead’s album In Rainbows was given away for free and yet somehow still managed to hit the #1 spot on both UK and US music charts and sold a “measly” 3 million copies.

Point 8:
You cannot download a live performance. Why do people go see bands in concert? Why do people see movies in the theaters? Why do people go to museums? Why don’t they just listen/watch/look at everything on their tiny little computer screens? Because things are always better live, that’s why, and that’s how artists have always made their living: live shows. Live shows will continue and downloading has exactly zero effect on this. If anything, filesharing will encourage people to go out and see MORE shows because people will be aware of so much more art that is out there.

Point 9: You are not ENTITLED to money. You cannot FORCE people to buy things they don’t want. Just because you worked hard on something does not mean it has any value or that anybody wants to buy it. It’s very common for someone to spend many hours working on something such as a song or a computer game only to have nobody buy it. They feel that they are ENTITLED to have consumers because they worked so hard and that “life isn’t fair” because nobody is buying their stuff and that “it must be pirates” that are the cause. I have another theory: maybe your song just sucks or your game is just crappy. It’s also important to remember that some things just don’t have value because it’s available for free. When was the last time you bought an encyclopedia? Or a dictionary? Or a phonebook? Or a newspaper? These things haven’t gone away, they’ve just gone online and become FREE. The same thing will happen with music. It will go online and become free. In fact, it already has. Newspapers are going ape trying to get people to pay for subscriptions but nobody is buying because paying for subscriptions is retarded. I’m really good at making paper airplanes; why won’t anybody pay me to make paper airplanes?! I want a career making paper airplanes, dammit!

Point 10: Bit torrent is the best means of distribution, the best means of advertising, and almost always has a positive effect on the numbers. Everybody remembers when the pilot for Battlestar Galactica was leaked onto the Internet before it even aired. What happened? Viewers came out in record numbers when it actually aired on TV making it the most-watched pilot in the history of the SciFi Channel and perhaps their best series to date. I still don’t understand why companies spend so much money on bandwidth and distribution when we consumers are willing to share their files for free using something like BitTorrent. Distributors are no longer needed; we the people can do it for you!

Point 11:
The customer is always right. Give us what we want. As a customer, I have a few choices:
  1. I can hop in my car, drive a couple miles to the nearest Best Buy, wander around the store for a bit looking for the movie I want, wait in line for 10 minutes, drive all the way back home, spend hours ripping it to my computer and converting it to iPod format, and then FINALLY be able to watch it on the subway on the way to work the next day, or
  2. I could download it in five minutes.
I’m sorry, but no company will get consumers to pay for poor service at high prices to get things they don’t want.

Point 12:
It doesn’t make sense to illegalize something you can do nothing about. What’s the plan? Throw everybody in the world in jail? Impractical. Sue filesharing sites out of existence one at a time? Really impractical. Censor the Internet? Impossible.

Point 13: People are willing to pay LOTS of money to download things. iTunes is a BILLION-dollar business. People pay USENET servers like GigaNews $30 per month to be able to download things at reasonable speeds. Internet providers could DOUBLE their revenue by providing a service such as that. Perhaps this is the future of the industry, where services are what’s sold rather than content. Think about games like World of Warcraft which can’t be pirated because they depend on servers run by Blizzard, or companies like 37Signals who sell software as a service which also can’t be pirated. Consumers will always pay for things they are unable to do themselves, such as run their own servers.

Point 14:
Stop prophesying the end of the world. Video killed the radio star, remember? And then VCRs killed TV, DVDs killed VCRs, TiVo killed TV again, and now the Internet is killing TV yet a third time. It’s strange that both TV and radio are still around after having been killed off so many times. Trust me, things change, they don’t die. Maybe artists will have to adapt, but they aren’t going anywhere.

Point 15:
Not everyone is a greedy bastard; many people work for free. I’ve noticed that most people who are against file-sharing are greedy bastards who would never get off their butts if they weren’t paid tons and tons of money and they simply can’t fathom how anybody would work for free. Wikipedia is better than a real encyclopedia and it was built by people working for free. It’s actually a good thing that many jobs were “lost” because the people who used to spend their time making encyclopedias can now spend their time productively doing other things. The collaborative effort of Wikipedia and the Internet has freed up humanity from worrying about gathering information and now we can worry about using that information to better mankind. In fact, the only consequence of people working for free is that we end up with products made by people who ENJOY doing what they do.

Point 16:
Scientists aren’t in it for the money, either. I put this one in because I’ve actually heard people say such dumb things as, “But who will make medicines and new technologies in the future if they can’t make money off of it?” You do realize that patents and other intellectual property laws PREVENT people from getting the medication they need, right? And that it’s dirt-poor graduate students living in coffin-shaped door rooms and moderately-paid professors who actually come up with the drugs, not the drug companies? Drug companies come up with cures for restless leg syndrome while scientists do the real work. Besides, it’s the BUSINESSMEN who get rich off of the work of the scientists, not the scientists themselves. Has anybody who has seen Richard Feynman gave a talk or read any of his books honestly say that he was in it for the money? Do you think he would’ve just given up and stopped winning Nobel prizes if he wasn’t paid millions of dollars? Oh wait, he wasn’t and he didn’t.

The freedom of file sharing is the future. Why are we trying so hard to stop it? In the future music will be so abundant that the law of supply and demand will make it impractical to charge anything for it or to make a living off of it. This is a good thing. In fact, it’s a great thing.

(please note: KryKey Personal Web Radio does not condone the illegal practice of music file-sharing as it pertains in your country)

1 comment:

  1. It's been 3 years. Time to update your page.