As I Write My S-A: The Morality of Free Music

Now for something a bit different. Because someone is wrong on the internet.

This article about the ethics of not paying for music has been doing the rounds on The Internets for a few days, and I thought it was pretty interesting but pretty wrong. I ended up having an interesting conversation (okay, argument) with a friend from uni over on facebook, and I thought I’d bring the argument over here and see what people think. Even if, as I suspect, you just think “I don’t really give a shit”.

Basically the whole business started when Emily White, a 21 year-old intern at a national radio station in the US, wrote a piece on their blog about how she has 11,000 songs in her iTunes but she’s only ever bought 15 CDs. On the whole it’s pretty impressive; she’s frank about the way her generation look at this stuff (“I honestly don’t think my peers and I will ever pay for albums”) and as a music lover she’s obviously struggling with the idea that she’s never really ‘given anything back’ to the artists.

But then David Lowery, who apparently was in a few alt-rock bands in the 80s and now teaches in a university (as well as owning a studio, a record label and a publishing company) decided to go to town and challenge her on the ethical implications of her actions, asking her to take responsibility for screwing the artists that she claims to be a fan of.

So what exactly is wrong with it, I hear you ask? Good question, my friend:

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3 thoughts on “As I Write My S-A: The Morality of Free Music

  1. i’d rather buy albums off bandcamp or something where you paypal the money straight to the artist.
    a lot of the records i buy are made in small, locally produced runs and bought directly from the label who produce them, which more often than not is run by the artists. or theyre from small indie labels.
    having said that i doubt much money gets made after all the work that goes in. but most of these people are gonna make tunes regardless of whether they make money.
    in many ways i hope the mainstream music industry implodes. its not like people are gonna stop making or listening to music if sony or apple or whoever aren’t making enough money from selling it.
    gigs and merch can make you money as an artist if you do it right. but it is a tough life being a full time musician and promoting yourself too.
    but the internet is here now. its gonna stay. we have the opportunity to share all knowledge instantly with virtually everyone. that is more important long term than people making money short term. that is why i see ‘intellectual property’ as a concept is actually restrictive to our development as a whole. why should we wait until someone’s died and their patents have run out before we refine and develop their ideas?

  2. and as for the ‘net sharing is immoral’ argument – did everyone just forget about tapes and VCR’s? thats what you used to do. it was normal. we’ve always stolen music and video.

  3. tom crookston says:

    Yeah. I basically agree with you, apart from about intellectual property. I don’t think it’s a bad idea in principle, it’s just way over the top in practice. That’s why those Creative Commons licenses and things make so much sense.

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