Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Value of Free Part 1 : Musical Notes by Bob Duskis

From Global Noize:

While the rest of America watches in slack jawed horror as Wall Street tumbles into previously unheard of depths, we in the record business have been going through our own financial apocalypse for some time now. Without going into a long and drawn out history lesson, somewhere along the line, a basic shift has occurred in the way people value (or don't) music. While music plays a larger part than ever in our day to day existence, the fact that it has become so easy to get for free has somehow translated for many consumers to the fact that it SHOULD be free.

I will never forget one Christmas a few years ago, teaching my niece how to download from the i-tunes store (she had just received her first i-pod for the holidays) and her 16 year old cousin commenting that "paying for music was for suckers and chumps". This was a kid who was heavily into the alternative punk scene coming out of his native Northwest area. When I asked him how the bands he loved were supposed to survive without people paying for their music, he told me that he would happily pay to see them live and buy a Tee-shirt but why would he buy music when it was so easy to get it free. Besides, everyone knows that record companies rip off artists anyway so why shouldn't people rip THEM off. I have spoken on this issue at many colleges and high schools and I can tell you that this is an attitude that is widely held by younger music fans who have absolutely no idea of any distinction between the historically heinous practices of many major labels and the vastly different world of independent music.

Those of us who work on the independent side of the music business know that with very few exceptions, no one is getting rich in this game. Most of us have made conscious decisions somewhere in our careers to forego higher paying, major label jobs in order to focus on music that we love, rather than music that could sell in huge quantities. I have a large network of friends and acquaintances at other indie labels and I am here to tell you that for the most part, these are fans just like yourselves who are still passionate about music and have made many sacrifices to work in this world. I'm not trying to paint us all as glorious martyrs. We have gladly chosen a path that was never going to make us wealthy BUT we never signed on as charity workers. The idea that my contemporaries and I shouldn't be able to make a living in the music business because technology has made it easy to download and burn music for free is simply ridiculous. I believe it was Doug Morris (chairman of the Universal Music Group) who when asked how the RIAA could condone suing their own consumers for illegal downloading, asked the rhetorical question, "What do you think the makers of Coca Cola would do if someone invented a device that you could easily install at home, enabling you to get free Coke from your own sink?"- you can damn well expect that they would do whatever they had to in order to stop it and no one would blame them for a second. Think for a moment about whatever business you are in. If some new technology allowed your customers to steal from you with impunity how would you feel?

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