I haven’t paid for music in years and probably won’t for years to come. This may have something to do with my employment situation and other assorted problems, but really my non-contribution to the music industry has come about through of the ease of access to data in all its forms, which the internet provides.
I’ve been on the internet for over fifteen years now. I remember the first time my Amiga32 computer played a sound file (WAV). Years later I remember playing Doom on my shiny new 486. Most of all I remember the realisation that I could play any game I wanted to – I just needed to log on to a BBS or use IRC and the world’s digital entertainment output was available to me, free of charge.
Since then it has only become easier to access material online. My tastes have changed from dodgy video games and softcore lesbian porn to psychedelic trance and hardcore lesbian porn, but the principle remains the same. I don’t have to tell you how easy it is to download music and movies, because you’ve done it before and will do it again.
I know loads of musos, most of them are hardworking, sincere types. Some of them even make good music which deserves to be recognised and rewarded. How can I justify my illegal downloads to my friends? Well, like this.
I can barely afford to feed and clothe myself, so music purchases are simply off the table. Given this fact, would you rather that I illegally download and appreciate your music, or that I never hear your music at all? If my right to enjoy art is predicated on my ability to afford it, I will never enjoy art.
Most musicians would prefer people hear and appreciate their music. Those who wouldn’t are basically not worth mentioning – anyone who thinks that their right to money overrides the substance of their art is not an artist. Taking a wider view, those living in the future will have unmitigated access to all of the media available in our day. To them, bands playing now will simply be a part of our cultural history. Is it our fate to be deprived of our culture, simply because we live in the period in which it is being created?
Kids growing up today do not even know a world where they can’t access music, movies and TV for free. These little humans have a total expectation with little or no compulsion to contribute. You can moan and whinge about it all you like, it doesn’t change the fact. What are you going to do? Educate the kids? Tell them that while they can get music free, they should pay for it? To them, this will seem like donating to charity.
There is no turning back. As MS and Apple and Sony all try their hand at restricting access through software and hardware Digital Rights Management (DRM), hackers get better at breaking the DRM. Locking down the global Internet and attempting to prosecute file-sharers is laughably impossible, though it doesn’t stop the US’ RIAA from trying. Close the internet and we’ll all connect to local networks powered by WiFi transceivers.
All of this pointedly ignores the economic realities that musicians must deal with. Well, at this point, I simply point at CEO’s salaries and wash my hands of the whole subject. Money? The money system’s all fucked up. Don’t ask me how to cure Capitalism.