Are We Starving Kid Rock? Maybe...

Kazaa. Morpheus. AudioGalaxy. These and many other applications are all attempting to take the place of Napster, the now-defunct peer-to-peer file sharing service that turned the music industry on its ear a year ago. Advocates of the system say that CDs are highly overpriced to begin with, and the dissemination of an artist's songs can actually increase album sales, since the music will be exposed to a wider audience. Those against this notion (the artists and record industry, naturally) claim that this is akin to theft--artists, labels, management are cut out of their just due for the music.

So, who's right?

Me (naturally.) But that's beside the point. This topic popped up yesterday whilst I was perusing the message board for my most favoritist band, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers. Their latest disc was released on Monday; a person on the board asked if someone could rip the songs off of there and put them on Morpheus for the world to download. Loyal members followed that by saying it didn't seem fair to the band to have people get the songs (this soon) without having to purchase the disc. Then some jerk replied that as soon as he got his disc he would be putting the songs out. Followed by said loyal members recommending the jerk get banned from the message board, bla bla bla.

This got me thinking about several topics. First, it reminded me why I don?t look at the discussion board much. People there have too much time and a sense of anonymity-- which leads to e-rage and a pack mentality. But that's an article for another time. It also got me thinking a bit on my stance on music sharing. Previously, I was unconditionally for it. Having spent WAY too much on CDs in my lifetime, I felt I may have been owed something. Artists like Kid Rock and Metallica complaining about the theft of their music didn't really change my mind-- I don't expect to see them in the soup line anytime soon (well--not because of this, anyway.) Lars, Kirk, James, and.. whatever Kid Rock's real name is are millionaires many times over, and don?t need to worry about people swapping a few MP3s here and there.

My attitude changed when people were contemplating doing this with the new Peacemakers disc. These guys aren't millionaires--far from it. They just released their second album on an independent label. They tour across the country playing small venues. They load and unload all of their own equipment for shows. While depriving Metallica of their rights to get compensated for ?owning? their music, that didn?t seem right with the Peacemakers. These guys are likely very dependent on the cash brought in from record sales. Can both sides be justified?

Not really. It's not fair to penalize a group like Metallica by not paying for their music simply because they have had mass success, is it? There's some appeal to saying that, well, they certainly won't miss the money I would've given them just because they have made money in the past. Capitalism says, in part, that those who make desirable "stuff" should get compensated based on the demand for said "stuff." Copying music, even from bands who are highly successful, isn't right.

Part of the argument for music sharing does have a logical appeal-- the notion that, if I download one song from an artist and enjoy their music, I'll go out to my local Sam Goody and plop down the $18 for the disc. If this truly happened, music sharing would be worthwhile. However, I'm guessing that this happens so infrequently that it's not valid. Have you ever done it?

Another question that will be posed: Why was there no hubbub (love that word) when people recorded CDs onto tapes? Isn?t that the same thing? The answer: yes and no. It?s the same piracy of music, true. However, the advancement of both technology hardware and peer-to-peer network applications make this an invalid comparison. Prior to this technology, you had to a) know and interact with the person who owned the CD, and b) take the time to dub it onto a tape (however long the CD was.) Now you can download all of the songs from the latest Eminem disc from someone you have never met in Passaic, New Jersey, then burn them onto a disc in less than ten minutes. This is a different situation entirely.

I'm uncomfortable advocating for the people who charge nearly twenty bucks for a little piece of plastic that costs less than a quarter to make. And, I feel like the free distribution of music may be instant karma coming to get artists and record execs for years (hell, decades) of gouging consumers for their products. For that reason, I can't ask for people to stop using the Napster equivalents. But I personally feel that it?s not right to take for free what amounts to an artist's work.



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