Usually, when I get to the point in a written debate where my opponent is resorting to line-by-line rebuttal, I can be fairly sure that I have exhausted any original thought that my adversary might have, and am witnessing little more than reactionary denial.
You may or may not have run out of ideas, but your technique leaves a lot to be desired. I'd rather read an original post, rather than re-read my previous post with lots of simplistic rebuttal interspersed. I suspect the same is true for many other readers. Be considerate, OK?
I think I am beginning to see the problem with my explanation of the costs of promotion. The problem is that people of a technical mindset tend to drasticly undervalue social assets. You return again and again to the technical aspect of selling records because you do not understand the value of popularity, or you do not understand that popularity is, for music, only minimally dependent on technical merit.
It was stated in the article that consumer goods are sold, not bought. You do not need music (or movies, or novels, or sports, or television) to live. You do not need it. You want it. This desire is almost entirely social in nature.
It is the job of the promoter, the advertiser, the man in the grey flannel suit, to sense that desire, and to then affix it to the products he has been trusted with. A few exceptionally talented individuals might once, at the pinnacle of their carreer, manage to alter the public desire to fit the product.
This is not easy work. Not everyone is suited for it, or even capable of it. In fact, many people in the technical professions are so devoid of any talent for promotion that they do not understand it in others, and exhibit nothing but resentment for those who practice the craft (and occasional art) of advertising, and recieve ample compensation for it.
So when you say promotion of music is "optional," you most likely say so because you are under the assumption that you can take a good record, stick it on a shelf in a local record store, and then sit back and wait for sales to snowball to the size that you imagine is justified by the technical merit of the music, artwork, and engineering.
So why don't we hear about this happening all the time? Because there's some evil conspiracy of the foul Recording Industry and the Evil Advertising Overlords afoot, as the piracy apologists would have you believe? Come on. If technical merit was all that mattered, then a conspiracy wouldn't make any difference.
Back here on Earth, a record doesn't "snowball" unless there's someone pushing that snowball, first alone, then with some help, and finally with heavy machinery. If there's a bit of a cultural slope to take advantage of, that's nice, but someone has to scout the terrain first. Someone who can read a culture. Someone who understands advertising.
Now, I'm not saying I enjoy all advertising. I do get annoyed with it, at times. But I at least understand that most of it isn't aimed at me. I don't let that stuff distract me from that fact that the culture I do enjoy almost always lands on my plate as a result of competent promotion aimed squarely at people like me. I could put my head in the sand and pretend that everything I like has all come to me due to the sheer gravitational force of my own good taste, but that wouldn't make it so.
I'm a social being. I accept that. I'm actually pretty happy about it. I don't mind the fact that some strangers understand me, and can sometimes get me to buy things. It warms my heart to think that a friend in a good little rock band might have his music enjoyed all over the country and abroad by all sorts of people thanks to the efforts of a couple of smart promoters and A&R people.
The act of taking music without paying for it is deeply antisocial, and it makes me sad. No amount of verbiage can make it social-- the rhetoric of "sharing" is a profoundly empty one, and the insistence on referring to music, to artistic creations, as mere "files" is a grave insult to the artists.
There is little I can do to convince you of the economic value of work that is primarily social in nature if you do not see it already, or if you cling to the simple-minded association of "value" with a concrete object of one sort or another.
Promotion is an aspect of our social human nature. It has always been part of the Music Industry, and it always will be. But you don't have to believe me. Ask an ethnomusicologist some time. Promotion of music is here to stay, and no technical system you throw at it will change that.
You think that the music industry is "abusing" their distribution rights, but you justify this with your personal tastes. If there's only one song on a record that you want, then don't buy the record, OK? I'm sure you can find other records that have a better "value ratio" for you.
That record that you think is a "one hit wonder" is being bought by people who think the one song is worth the price, or by people who like the other songs on the record, too. You are ignoring the people around you. You are using selfish, antisocial rhetoric to justify piracy.
The antisocial music pirates are getting away with it for now, but the day is young. I would prefer that this situation did not result in draconian legislation, but I fear we are headed in that direction. This series of essays is my small personal attempt to speak to the antisocial pirates, in hopes that they might mend their ways.
In my day-to-day life, I am trying to bring other social pressure to bear on the problem. I gently mock anyone whose music "collection" consists largely of home-burnt copies of CDs. I refuse to listen to music through computers; I tell people whose "collection" is no more than a chimera on a hard drive that I prefer to take my time picking out music, and that a shelf full of CDs is much more intuitive, public, and conducive to browsing than any collection on disk.
There are times when I don't even feel comfortable touching a friend's computer, for various reasons-- why should I have to go through that just to pick out some music when I'm visiting?
The full force of social pressure has not even begun to bear down on the music priates. When (and not if) it does come to bear, the word "geek" will come to have yet another social deformity associated with it. The backlash against the "geek power" of the late nineties has only begun. Wouldn't it be best to start mitigating the effects now, rather than later?
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