The Bulletin Board: Music Ownership

We have a vendetta to quell cell-phone cameras and non-stop talkers at shows, but another underlying message we sometimes don’t vocalize loudly enough is to support the artists. A recent blog post at NPR and rebuttal by a musician are making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter sparking discussion on the notion of music ownership and what is “stealing” music.

This is the digital age. What constitutes ownership or is it all “Free Culture” once sent up into the ether of the cloud?

On one side, we have Emily White at NPR’s All Songs Considered penning a blog post about the culture of the generation that never bought CDs, always had access to the mp3. Admitting she used Kazaa for a few of her 11,000 song catalog, the rest were friend-sourced, ie copied. There is an underlying justification that this was paid for at some point and that the artist benefits from exposure they would otherwise have not had the to a new audience that might attend a show, buy a shirt, whatever.

On the counter-point is Cracker’s David Lowery. He lays out how “sharing” hurts the artists. Efficiently dismissing the argument of the ease of sharing music, he uses the point “is it really that inconvenient to download a song from iTunes into your iPhone”. The other interesting observation is the amount of money spent to play music but not own it, from the computer it lives on, to the iPod or iPhone, etc.

Personally, I have been using a subscription service for many years now. I am proud to say that my collection is nearing 30,000 songs, most rented monthly (annually now to get a couple free months), some purchased mp3s from Amazon or iTunes, a thousand or so downloaded from the blogosphere and a few hundred ripped purchased CDs. I see anything that is DRM-free as owned. The rest is rented. If you live in an apartment and stop paying rent, you get evicted. I admit to providing songs to friends, songs that they could download legally themselves, but they are lazy, heh.

So what is my point in all of this ranting? My point is to support the artist. Sign up for a Spotify or Zune (soon to be XBox Music) account. Buy stuff at shows. Pay your dues. Don’t be a dick that legitimizes hurting the artists you claim to love. We as fans do not have squatters’ rights to sit on these digital archives of pirated, that means stolen, music. If you downloaded every song on ATH (please don’t we couldn’t pay that bandwidth bill), you would have over 2,500 songs added to your catalog. Legally.

The blogs are in the weird area between fans and distributors. We certainly can not offer up everything we get sent to us, sorry, but we are drinking our Kool-Aid(tm). It is why Austin Town Hall Records exists, to support local artists we like. So yeah, we will work both sides for you.

What’s your take?

Source material:
Emily White at NPR – “I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With”
David Lowery at Trichordist – “Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered.”

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