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Why do we pay for recorded music?

By fluxrad in Op-Ed
Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 11:45:55 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

It used to be (and still sometimes is) that you had to be good to make it in any industry. A successfull painter had to be good: technically skillfull, as well as artistically creative (this being more of a subjective matter). Musicians were either very gifted, or they got a new job. When was the last time you heard a beggar say: "you got a quarter? I need to write another song!" Surely you never have. This is because these pursuits are hobbies that can turn in to professions.

I, for one, am a huge fan of Napster for three reasons. The first is that, as a tremendous number of musicians proliferate their "product" over this medium, the listening public is able hear/discover all different kinds of music, and for a very large number of unknowns in the industry -- that is not to say that napster is purely an outlet for up-and-coming talent, however -- it is highly probable that talent will be or has already been discovered via Napster.

My second, and most influential, reason for supporting products like Napster and Gnutella is that they do, without a doubt, make it harder to become recognized. This may seem like a paradox at first; however, the rationale is clear. While an ever growing number of garage bands throw their labor into the ocean of music that is Napster, the ratio of knowns to unknowns decreases. This, in turn, creates a natural competition and motivation for originality, and most importantly, skill. The medium that is napster creates the perfect opportunity to become discovered, provided that you do, in fact, have talent.

But thirdly, we come to the age old question of "how are these artists to get paid?" and therein we return to the subject of this post. Products like Napster prohibit the music industry from taking money for that which they have no right. Recordings are a professional tool for the advertisement of a product (i.e. the performance) and are not, as many would seem to argue, a means to an end in and of themselves. Assume, for a moment, that the music industry does not currently exist as it is now. Perhaps we return to the days before recorded music was the norm. My proposal: Pay musicians for that which they do: the performance, the t-shirt, the entertainment. It seems to me to be illogical, though, to pay musicians for something they did 10 years or more ago. Why is it, that i can go to jail for "pirating" a John Lennon album? He is no longer alive; surely he does not care about the money he is losing because I did not pay for that work of his. Certainly Yoko Ono cannot complain as she has no more right to live off his music than my sister has to live off my own perl scripts. Why is it, then, that we feel a need to pay musicians ungodly sums of money for work they performed years ago? Do we pay doctors for patients they healed years ago? Perhaps we should pay lawyers for cases they tried in 1984. I find it odd that in any other industry but that of entertainment, we find these comparisons ludicrous.

Indeed, if musicians are skillful, then they will be asked to perform for an audience. From this, of course, they will be rewarded financially. If members of that audience like that musician enough, then they might ask them to perform elsewhere. Eventually, a pattern starts to emerge, and we see a situation much like the one we have today. An artist tours the country, and is paid to perform; a service has been rendered. However, the subtle difference between the imaginary industry i have (sort of) proposed, and the real industry that we have today, is that if i set the tiny magnetic components of the magnetic disc sitting next to my cd-rom in a certain order, per the instructions given to me by another person, I can be sued by third parties under the pretense that I have stolen money from them. Told to an alien society, this story would sound like absolute insanity.

How does thievery relate to professional ability in music, or any other "art" for that matter? In this way: in order for an artist to be paid for his work, he must be recognized as a capable individual. In fact, anyone's chosen profession demands that he be, in fact, good at what he does. If you are not unique, or cannot convince your employer that you are the best person for the job (in the artist's case, the American public) then you are subject to termination. You will recieve no more funds and will most certainly not be given more money for work you have done in the past. It is in this same light that I see artists. If they are not to be considered the "best" in their field, if there is nothing to differentiate them from their avocational peers, then by all rights they *should* be directed towards a new profession. Why, then, does the American (and international) public see fit to support artists by paying them for work they have already done? If I do not work, then I do not get paid; If Eric Clapton does not work, then he continues to be paid for work he did 20 years ago.

Perhaps this type of discussion is tired, but I see nothing changing in the "fleecing of America." What do you think?


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Why do we pay for recorded music? | 62 comments (56 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hmm. (4.25 / 8) (#4)
by pb on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 12:34:47 AM EST

I think I should get paid for software I wrote years ago; I mean, really, where are my royalties? :)

But really, I think about half of your argument is sound. However, please suggest a business model for real studio bands; some bands don't tour, and I'm not convinced that touring is really profitable enough anyhow.

The music industry is still in the business of selling music, and unless we find another way to support the musicians, we'll probably keep having to buy it. I'm sure we'll have to buy it one way or another.

For those still interested in this topic, here are some links to interesting information about this from people in the industry; if you just wanted RIAA propoganda, I'm sure you can find that too, but not from me. :)

Steve Albini - The problem with music

Courtney Love - her speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

Touring and money (none / 0) (#13)
by Miniluv on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:51:20 AM EST

However, please suggest a business model for real studio bands; some bands don't tour, and I'm not convinced that touring is really profitable enough anyhow.
Actually, for your average band these days touring is exactly how they pay for food and shelter. Royalties don't begin to pay the band until 1M copies of the album are sold, radio play goes only marginally to them because of ASCAP.

I have heard, from a sucessfull musician's perspective, the arguments as to why Napster doesn't actually hurt their ability to put money in their pocket. The reason for that is touring, since record companies barely get involved in that.

You do raise a good point, in terms of "studio" bands. There are not many of these, but there are some, and the number is growing due to the proliferation of electronic music, which doesn't play live in the same fashion pop or rock does. Ultimately, I suspect what we'll see is bands releasing some of their material on Napster as incentive to sell CDs that they press themselves in whatever fashion makes the most sense for them. That's when you'll see real resistance from Napster by bands because it will have crossed the line into hurting their bottom line.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Paying for music (4.50 / 12) (#5)
by fremen on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 12:42:30 AM EST

I'm getting sick of this argument. You argue that we shouldn't pay for music because "they shouldn't be payed for something they've already done." By this logic, we shouldn't pay authors either, since they already wrote the books from which they later obtain royalties.

But that's not the point. We pay for music for several reasons. The first is that if I perform something, it is my intellectual property (this may not be true in regard to certain recording companies, but that's beside the point right now). If I own the intellectual property rights to a piece of music, then I can do whatever I want to with it. Do you want my music? Pay me. It's that simple. That's how our society works with quite a few copyrightable mediums, and you should respect the artist's desire to make a living (once again, ignoring the less scrupulous recording companies).

But, that's not your question. You asked why I should pay for recordings, and I'll happily answer you. First, I pay for recordings to pay for all of the other stuff that goes into making a good recording. The disk costs nothing, but the recording engineer doesn't come cheap. Neither does the studio and all of its equipment. Only the well established performers could pay for all of this with money from concerts. The new guy is going to be screwed by your plan.

How much money can be made from concerts? You've got to pay for the venue and the help at the venue. The band needs to eat as well, plus the various producers will want a cut. If you have enough people (say a concert in the Astrodome or something) then you can come out pretty well. But, if you are a new performer and your band is unknown, you might break even if you're lucky. Can you afford to make your "marketing CD" at that price? I bet the answer is no.

Here's what I suggest, and it relates to the "recording company" comments I've made above. Recording companies should facilitate the artist's desire to make music. They should provide equipment, distribute the CDs, and deal with the financials surrounding all of this. Many companies do this quite well, but some of them have grown greedy and corrupt. They take a heavy slice of the CD profits, more than is needed to cover the costs and make a fair and reasonable profit. They do things like claim the rights to the artist's music, so that they can reap the rewards of the future. I consider this to be the truly unfair part of the picture. As for recordings, I will gladly cough up the $15 to pay for CDs, knowing that there's more to what I'm hearing than just a random musician.

excellent point (3.00 / 6) (#8)
by fluxrad on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:28:57 AM EST

i agree with you in certain respects.

the author of a book should be paid for his works for one primary reason: He cannot travel the country (or his own city, depending on how well known he is) and reproduce his books for people in the span of, say, two hours. In this respect, i do not see authors as entertainers. I believe, in this sense, that authors are basically their own category of professionals.

As for your argument for paying musicians for their works, i suppose there is a bit of a rift in the world now-a-days in relation to most peoples thoughts on the role of the musician. I, for one, believe that the fundamental role (if you will) of a musician is live music. Bands are formed to play live, not to make albums. After all, what is an album, really, but a popular collection of songs by an artist? It is in this sense that an album is nothing more than a rememberance of a live performance. I listen to the album because it's something to do while i'm not seeing live music. Not, as many see it these days, the other way around.

Additionally, in spite of what many people think, it is entirely possible to create a quality album (12 tracks, not including the CD and other physical media) for under 3,000. A perfect example is Pavement. Their first album was just a 7" they pieced together in Steve's basement. Very little cost, extreme results - because they were that good. Sure, the quality won't be equal to that of today's studio recordings, but it can definitely be done, and well. The argument of the artists inability to create an album is moot in my own book for the two stated reasons above.

i certainly agree that artists should be compensated for their work, and certainly if you buy a CD, you should pay for the cost of the physical media plus markups for shipping and whatnot. i do, however, find it ludicrous that, because a new musician put out an album, this warrants another episode of MTV's "Cribs."

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
CDs and recordings (4.00 / 3) (#12)
by fremen on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:50:46 AM EST

Certain musicians can make that kind of quality recording, but most of them are not able to do so. My girlfriend is a classical violinist at a major conservatory, and she would like to one day be a prominent musician. She has absolutely no clue how recording technology works, so she would need to have a recording studio help her. The classical recording world is a bit different from the pop world (a soloist doesn't need the CD recording to become famous), but the point remains. Some people are very talented, but they have no clue how to make good recordings. Should they be punished?

I will accept that it is possible for a professional studio to put out a good recording for fairly cheap. But, it still costs money to make a professional recording, and that money has to be regained somehow. Additionally, a national distribution of a CD can be expensive (MP3s are a way around this, but broadband isn't cheap for everyone and the quality of MP3s have a lot to be desired).

I see where you're coming from, and your argument that a musician should want play live over making CDs is valid. I would much rather see a musician that enjoys performing live over a musician that performs only at select occasions (Barbara Streisand comes to mind as one of the worst offenders). But their craft is still the same, and they should be free to perform their art any way they choose. If Barbara wants to make a CD and then have a once in a lifetime performance in Central Park, that's her business. If you like her music enough to hear it played, then you have a choice. See it once or pay for the CD.

I'm sorry if I sound cranky about this subject, but I still feel that there are plenty of reasons to pay for a recording. My views are conservative in this regard, and I look at it more in the view of supply and demand. I want to hear that music badly enough that I will listen to a recording. The artist (owner of the intellectual property) demands compensation for obtaining that recording. Do I value the listening experience enough to purchase the recording, or am I better off spending my money in some other way?

[ Parent ]

A solution (none / 0) (#58)
by dennis on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 06:11:52 PM EST

If I hear your girlfriend in concert and would like a recording, one option I could have is to contribute to a Street Performer fund. Once your girlfriend has enough money in the fund to pay the recording studio, she's all set. Then her music can get traded all over Net for free, she can build a fan base, and if she wants she can set her price higher next time.

Just an idea. Personally I think it's worth a try.

[ Parent ]

The real question (4.25 / 4) (#17)
by Miniluv on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 02:05:37 AM EST

You seem to question why you should pay for a cd, but that's not what you're actually asking. What you are, in fact, asking is why you should be compelled to. The first argument makes sense, and it has a simple answer, "Don't." The second argument is much more nebulous and has far more in the way of philosophical context than economic or societal.

In my mind the question is not whether an artist can prevent me from illegally copying their music, or whether the law should consider it to be illegal, but whether I can justify redistributing someone elses creative endeavors within my own moral system. Today it is certainly possible for an artist to support themself touring, if their music permits it. This is not a model that will work for everyone, and I think music as a whole would suffer from trying to force it.

What I cannot understand is this need to force musicians to give away their recorded work and only live from profit on their live performances. Why can't we let musicians choose to give their work away if they want, and not redistribute against their wishes if they don't? How does that hurt us, the listeners?

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Personal take (none / 0) (#59)
by dennis on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 06:23:40 PM EST

Personally I don't trade or download music on the Net without the permission of the musicians. And I bought half a dozen CDs the other day. However I do take exception to the music industry trying to impose technologies that restrict my fair use of music I purchase. Musicians should be free to run their business however they want, as long as that doesn't infringe on my freedom.

I also think that musicians who embrace the new technologies are more likely to do well. Making a business of selling old recordings is a temporary quirk of technology. It didn't exist in the 19th century, and in my opinion won't exist in the 22nd. New business models like Street Performer have all the advantages--faster distribution, up-front money, better exposure, and much lower costs. If the music industry were smart they'd have Bruce Schneier on retainer already.

[ Parent ]

Listening to new bands (none / 0) (#25)
by retinaburn on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:05:22 AM EST

I listen to alot of diffent music, from artists alive and dead. The odds of me seeing even half of the musicians I listen to is ridiculous. For them to loose all the money they make from people who buy their CD but will never see them live is silly.

I use napster, mainly to get live tracks that are not available on CD's. I also use it to scoep out new artists then go and purchase their CD.

If I go to a live show I will almost certainly leave with the bands CD and maybe a T-shirt. It feels a lot more personal to see and chat with the person you are supporting through your purchases.

I can't remember the last CD I bought from a mainstream artist, but maybe thats because I hear them ad nauseum on the radio.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
Comment on logic (2.00 / 1) (#42)
by fluxrad on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 09:23:21 PM EST

I use napster, mainly to get live tracks that are not available on CD's. I also use it to scoep out new artists then go and purchase their CD

by this logic you are a thief (uf you'll pardon the abrasive terminology). The argument i have seen presented most often is something along the lines of: based on our system of IP, when you purchase a CD, you are purchasing the right to enjoy the music on that album.

consequently, one would conclude that if you have downloaded any song from an album that you did not already own, you have technically "stolen enjoyment" that is not rightfully yours.

i suppose i'm trying to illustrate (by this post and my own story) that our system of intellectual property raises too many questions. The government is constantly trying to make new laws to cover themselves, much like a game someone made up on the spot, and are now making rules as they go along simply to fleece the unaware. IP, to me, seems like a bad game of poker, and the music industry, the government, and the artists are the dealers. Have you spotted the sucker yet?

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Im also a theif (none / 0) (#49)
by retinaburn on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 10:08:32 AM EST

If I use GIF without paying.

Or finding money on the ground and not claiming it on my tax forms.

If I enjoy the song I will buy the CD (only if its not a 1-hit wonder) and then its legal and legit again.

i have no problem paying for a CD that is 50 years old, I have no problem paying to see art in a gallery, I have no problem paying an entrance fee to visit a museum.

Why do we have to pay 5k in tuition to be lectured from books where the info is anywhere from a year old to 200 years old.

Being cheap is no reason to steal music. You like the artist support the artist, their record company, their management, their family. You don't like the artist don't listen to their music

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
some thoughts (3.50 / 6) (#6)
by kei on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 12:51:04 AM EST

First off, if recorded music was free, who would make any? Don't get me wrong -- I love going to concerts and realize that artists put a helluva lot of energy into them and deserve every penny, but at the same time recorded albums can sometimes be far superior in audio quality. Consider the later Beatles efforts, which were wholly studio creations after they quit playing concerts. Why shouldn't an artist be paid for the effort that was put into creating and sharing his/her/their creation to a wide public? (Issue of who owns said recordings and benefits the most thought better of and omitted, as it's a pretty hackneyed argument)

The issue of how long one should be allowed to profit from said recordings is another tricky issue altogether. Sure people like Yoko Ono might be able to support herself off of Lennon's popularity, but what about those cases where the money would really help the family/estate of an artist? No one is questioning the broad copyright law which lasts for a significant time after an author dies, yet recorded works are quite similar to books. Also, not everyone can crank out good new material at regular intervals... But shouldn't one Big Break be rewarded?
"[An] infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
- /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle

I would still make music (none / 0) (#46)
by rabbit on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 03:11:36 AM EST

I'm a musician. I've self published one CD, and net published some more
stuff since. Fact of the matter is, I write music because I write music. That's
what I do. If I never make a dime off of it - and I've scarcely made more
than that - it wouldn't matter, I'd still do it.

People who write music "for the money" are doing it for the wrong reasons
and they usually suck. Aaaand. If ms. Courtney Love is to be believed she
scarcely makes any more money off of it than I do...

It would be nice to make a living off of it, but one does not follow the other.


-- I have desires that are not in accord with the status quo.
[ Parent ]
i make music too (none / 0) (#52)
by kei on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 12:39:58 AM EST

I don't ever intend to make money off of my music either. I don't understand why being able to support oneself while doing what they are passionate about is met with such stigma in the music community when in ever other area of life it's something to aspire towards. That's the "sellout" mentality that I frankly can't understand.
And we're sorry that so many people
got to enjoy our music
by hearing us on the radio...
- Reel Big Fish

Sure there are a lot of recording "artists" of questionable intent in the industry. Not everybody is either a penniless music-lover or a sick, greedy swindler, (people who write music "for the money") as you make it sound.
"[An] infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
- /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle
[ Parent ]

I was perhaps unclear (none / 0) (#60)
by rabbit on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 06:27:07 PM EST

Actually, the money is mostly a side issue, I think. There are a lot of people out there that started bands because they wanted to be "rock stars". They wanted to be rich and famous, and figured "hey this is america, anyone
can do that". Based on the quality (or lack thereof) of crap on the radio these days, it would appear that they are right - any damn fool - even the Offspring - can get a record deal. What bothers me most about the music business is the word "business". Business implies "commodity" and music is treated, and created (ala N'Suck, Backdoor Boys) in a very "commodity" manner. I refuse to call that crap that BoyBands spout off "music", because it ain't. *They* *are* doing it for the money. And the fame. And presumably for the drugs and the girls.

I've got *NO* problem with an *artist* making a living. I buy whatever I can to support artists that I think are worthwhile. What I have a problem with is calling *manufactured* pop-culture "art" , because it's about as artistic as a steaming pile of dog shit. And the vast majority of what's on the radio these days is exactly that - tailor made to fit a specific market niche.
Boy-Band, Post-punk, Modern-Rock. I mean shit - give me $2million, and two weeks and I'll write you a platinum selling "punk" record. 3 Chords, dumb lyrics, and we're all set. Oh wait, never mind, my soul isn't for sale.

Anyway to summarize a point I'm not even sure I've made: There are a lot of people out there making music for a lot of different reasons. Most of them are the wrong reasons, which is why most music isn't work the plastic it's printed on. If it's any good, it's worth paying for, BUT whether you pay for it or not - the real artists keep on going. I'm not sure if I've ever heard of a band breaking up because they couldn't sell enough records.

I forget.


-- I have desires that are not in accord with the status quo.
[ Parent ]
ok (none / 0) (#61)
by kei on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 08:39:12 PM EST

Well, reading my first comment again, I can see why you said what you said. I suppose what I meant was that if recordings were to be free, then I would imagine that the there'd be a problem paying sound engineers, etc., for those kinds of albums where a lot of focus is put on the production, not just on the performance (just like movies).

It's funny that you group the Offspring with the poseur bands. I won't get into any argument cuz you're entitled to despise whatever bands you want (as am I, and believe me I make it a point to exercise that freedom :), but I really think that your judgement of the Offspring's intentions in the music business is just a tad bit skewed by your opinion of their success and/or musical style. I admit that there was a phase when I couldn't stand them either, but recently I've gotten into the Punk Side, and I've certainly opened my ears to the messages that punk was originally about. I find social critique a lot more relevant, and a lot different, than social fashion statements off most of what one hears on the radio.
"[An] infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
- /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle
[ Parent ]

A few comments (4.40 / 10) (#7)
by Maclir on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:17:13 AM EST

I voted +1, because you presented your arguments clearly, had a logical progression in your story, and demonstrated that you have thought about the issue.

However, I disagree with you on your basic premise - that somehow "artists" only should get paid at the time they actually perform (OK, I know this is a substantial simplification of your arguments). Similar arguments have been applied to many of the "creative" areas, and are similar to the "free (as in both beer and speach) software" is moral / closed is immoral arguments.

Let us assume that I am a builder, and you engage me to build a house for you. I will charge you a price for that service, which will generally consist of two parts - the materials that I have to purchase (bricks, timber, nails, and so on) to construct the house, and a charge for my labour and skills in actually turning that into a livable dwelling. Nothing strange about that, we all accept that as how things are done. Alternatively, I may chose not to buy the house from you, but to rent the place, and pay you a certain amount while I continue to live there. Again, pretty well accepted world wide.

Under either of those business models, I will base what I charge you to provide you with a dwelling to cover my costs, and to make a profit so I have some money for my own use. In the second situation (the rental case), because it will take a lot longer to get a return on my investment in building the house, I have to factor that into what I charge you for rent. In one case, you are being provided with a tangible product where you get legal ownership - a house; in the second situation you are not getting a (dare I say it?) "bricks and mortar" item, but a service - the provision of accommodation.

Now lets take the case of an artist - Eric Clapton recording "Layla" over 30 years ago (OK, it was in fact "Derek and the Dominos", but lets not get picky). When you purchase the album (or CD, today), what are you in fact purchasing? Not the hunk of plastic in a cardboard sleeve or jewel case. You are purchasing the right to get pleasure from listening to the music that the artist created. The artist has based their career on people paying them for that pleasure - either through record / CD sales, attendance at live performances, or broadcast royalties each time a recording of their creation is broadcast. The fact that music recordings originally made in the 1960s and 1970s are being sold today is that people still believe they get enjoyment from listening to them.

This is where may of the arguments over paying for "creative works" fall over, in that they try to treat the transaction like buying a physical object (like the house). If I create something that is not purely physical, but create music for you to listen to, or a great book to read - or even the algorithms in a piece of software, why shouldn't those that use my creation pay me for them when they use them? Are I somehow less worthy of financial reward than Bob the Builder or Shonky the Apartment Owner?

You purchase a music recording today, and derive enjoyment from listening to the works created by that artist. So why shouldn't you pay that person for the service you are getting? Or do you think that somehow you should be able to listen to the results of other people's efforts and creativity without rewarding them for it?

Now before others jump in and say "the artists don't get the money, it is the evil record companies that are ripping us off . . . ." - that may or may not be so. What you are now describing is a problem in the business arrangements involving the "middlemen". The Internet and the tools it brings can allow the traditional middlemen to be dispensed with - but the artist is still due their appropriate levels of payment. Now, if you do not believe the "product" is worth what the artist is charging for it, then no one is forcing you to buy it. If I go to a shop, and see an item of furniture that I like, but when I see $1,000 on the price tag - what do I do? I can negotiate with the seller, and if we can come to a mutually agreeable price, then I pay and take my product, or I leave the store without it. I cannot say "Tough, I will take it anyway." That is theft.

Now we're getting somewhere... (3.50 / 2) (#9)
by pb on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:34:51 AM EST

So how do you propose that we negotiate?

Since CDs are cheaper to produce and cost substantially more than tapes since their inception, I'm convinced that the price is artificially inflated. Also, as there is something of a monopoly on the distribution of an artist's works, traditional economics doesn't fix this problem.

I've heard that there's a court case pending to rectify this problem, but I don't know the status of that, and I don't trust my current (US) corporate-friendly government.

I suppose we could all steal the music involved, and write a nice letter explaining what we did, and why, and how much we'd be willing to pay, but then we'd probably have a record company trying to arrest each and every one of us. :)

So do you see a solution that's somewhat in-between? There are a lot of strange issues involved, due to the letter of the law, and how twisted it is on the Internet.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Retail Price of CD's (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by Maclir on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 02:01:25 AM EST

OK, let us look at the components of the retail price of a CD. I will state at the outset that I have plucked figures from the air, but I want to look at the components that make up the total price:

Lets assume that the standard retail price of a CD is $30. This has a number of elements:

  • Government taxes, duties, and so on - $3.00;
  • Retailer's margin - $3.00;
  • Record label's advertising and distribution costs - $0.25;
  • Manufacturing costs - $0.25;
  • Artist's cut - $1.00;
  • Original production costs (studio, etc) - $0.50;
  • Record Companies profit - $21.00.
Again - I have plucked these figures out of the air, but the first two (government taxes and final margin) are probably reasonably close. Some artists do much better, of course, some probably don't get a brass razoo. There may be other layers of "middlemen" all sharing that hypothetical $22.00, too.

With an internet based distribution method, we can eliminate some of those costs (except the government taxes, nothin in life is certain other than death and taxes). So, the retailer's margin, manufacturing costs and some of the distrubution costs go, however, there would be some cost in establishing and maintaining an internet distribution method. Now - what about the middlemen - the recording studios? Some of that apparent profit goes into what I would call "industry development", looking for, developing and preparing groups that have potential, and many albums are produced that must make a loss for all involved. I would imagine funding new groups is financially risky, and like any other forms of investment, those investing in risky markets expect a high rate of return from successful ventures.

What is required is a new business model - one that allows new talent to be found, nurtured and developed; one that ensures adequate rewards go to the artists; and one that makes sure consumers of the end product pay an appropriate price for the product.

The bottom line is, however, the price is artifically inflated, but, economists will tell you that the true value of an item is what purchasers are prepared to pay for it. Is a painting by Vincent Van Gogh really worth $10 million? Yes, if someone shells out that much cold, hard cash for it. Do I think it is worth that much? No way. Likewise, would I pay $30 to listen to NKOTB, Boyzone, Brittany Spears (or the latest dollybird with inflatable breasts)? No way. However, I have some 200 CD's in my collection that I was happy to pay the price to buy them. Would I have like to have obtained them for less? Of course, but that wasn't an option.

There is the very complex problem of how are artists appropriately rewarded for their work - but simply taking their products, and not giving them anything, doesn't solve that problem.

[ Parent ]

30 bucks for a CD !!! (none / 0) (#26)
by retinaburn on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:10:21 AM EST

I just paid 20 at a live show and I thought that was outrageous ..and thats CANADIAN money with all the fancy colors.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
The same useless anology. (none / 0) (#55)
by bloat on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 09:12:43 AM EST

I can negotiate with the seller, and if we can come to a mutually agreeable price, then I pay and take my product, or I leave the store without it. I cannot say "Tough, I will take it anyway." That is theft.

How many times do we have to go through this? Stealing a sofa is not the same as copying a CD. No one is deprived of music if you copy a CD.

Now tell me, should you be allowed to go to a shop, note down the exact design of the sofa, and then go home and build one yourself?

Note, I'm not making a statement about the rightness of copying music, just pointing out that this tired analogy is utterly invalid.

There are no PanAsian supermarkets down in Hell, so you can't buy Golden Boy peanuts there.
[ Parent ]

Cable MP3 service!? (3.66 / 6) (#10)
by yuri on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:44:54 AM EST

Well, this is a complicated issue and I have a few thoughts on the subject.

I actually know a couple of successful major market musicians (read rock) and frankly they do squat for what they earn. However you can bring up the football player analogy and argue that they will not be able to make that kind of money for their whole career and therefore they need royalties on their successful songs. I also know a starving musician or two that still do a lot of cover band gig's, just for the money, outside of their new material band activities. I have no sympathy for the former, some for the latter, but starving musicians are like most people in this world...working paycheck to paycheck and therefore deserve no special treatment just because they are musicians.

So does napster and digital music relegate the aspiring musician to a life of performing or earning real dollars the same way others do?

I think napster/digital music just levels the playing field among musicians by allowing equal opportunity for exposure. Currently the record companies get to decide who will be popular. Napster and the like bypass the record company distribution scheme and allow lesser knowns the chance to be heard. At the same time it throws a wrench into the entire scam the major companies have going (the whole marketing of music scam).

My solution to this is for a recording industry association to form an alliance, similar to cable tv) to distribute unlimited of music by user choice to subscribers for a fixed and relatively low fee (~10-15$/month). This will require public adoption of a technology (computer?, web appliance? your new stereo?) that connects your stereo to the web and allows easy downloading of music that you like. The royalties would be shared to the musicians by % of bandwidth served. Suddenly you have a system that removes some of the big corporate spin from the music industry yet allows artists to receive compensation for their work.

I personally would be willing to spend $20 US per month for a service that worked well.

So, do you think this could work? Is it politically possible/financially sound? Technically feasible?



So... (4.28 / 7) (#11)
by Elmin on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:50:11 AM EST

In general, you are saying that intellectual property is not valuable. What defense do you offer? Allow me to paraphrase your argument: "Recordings should be free because they are marketing tools. In addition, the free distribution of music would lead to a system whereby musicians are rewarded for merit and not popularity. Finally, the concept of intellectual property is absurd, because an alien society would, once exposed to it, say it was indeed absurd."

Firstly, you misunderstand the purpose of recorded music, calling it a proffesional marketing tool. I have been involved in the production of a CD, so let me tell you exactly what is involved in that process:

1. Music must be chosen so that it forms a somewhat consistant and/or varied representation of either a theme or the artist's style. This must be chosen to fit in a certain time period.
2. Said music must be performed in a studio, so that it is of the maximum quality achievable in a practical time frame.
3. The performance must be modified to fit the medium, producing as an end result the data (digital in this case) which can be played by consumer devices.

Step one and two are, essentially, a performance. Step three is a method of preserving the performance for future review. What is the difference between listening to a CD and going to a live performance? First, you can only go to a unique performance once, while recordings can be listened to until they are worn out, lost, or destroyed. Second, live performances involve the performance in immediate time and proximity to the listening, while listening to a recording is separate in time and space from the actual performance.

So, the relevant question here is this: what is the consumer paying for in each case? In the case of the live performance, the consumer is paying for a privilege, namely the privilege of listening to music performed by a certain artist or group thereof. In the case of recorded music, the consumer pays for a medium containing the data necessary to reasonably reproduce a performance. This media, then, gives the consumer the privilege of listening to this performance. There is no reason that recordings should not require purchase, then, because they in effect amount to the same thing as a live performance, but with several added benefits and a few significant defects. Benefits and defects, however, are irrelevant -- the consumer must make a choice based on these: to buy or not to buy, but it makes no sense to say that a vendor should give a product away simply becasue it is of poor quality.

All that said, some musicians do use CDs as marketing tools, and sometimes they succeed in that. Internet distribution makes recordings intended for this purpose a very good marketing tool indeed. Still, the purpose of a recording is entirely the responsibility of the performer -- it is not for you to decide.

Now, the idea of merit-based awarding of funds. I am not familiar with Napster. What systems does it offer to separate signal from noise? I propose that any such system is fundamentally flawed, because quality is both absract and subjective, and therefore cannot be judged correctly by a single system.

Let's assume, for the moment, that signal can be separated from noise in a darwinian fashion: users will listen to many recordings, and go to the performances of only those artists whose recordings are of high quality. This is flawed in two areas. First, the art of recording is very different from the art of performing live, and many bands whose studio recordings are magnificent have little in the way of live performance skills. Second, the incredible number of "garage bands" is prohibitive to the unbiased selection of music; users will tend to start with the most popular (or in some cases, the least), and therefore miss those quality recordings which are less (or more) popular.

Finally, we live in a human society, not an alien one. Just that intellectual property may be a human notion does not immediately disqualify it for consideration.

a few responses (4.00 / 8) (#14)
by _Quinn on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 02:00:38 AM EST

Recordings are a professional tool for the advertisement of a product (i.e. the performance). Not, as many would try to argue, a means to an end in and of themselves.

I'll get the nitpick out of the way first. A performance is not a physical thing, so you should be saying, 'advertisement for a service.' Second, a recording is legally a means to an end; as intellectual property, it has been accorded the same (or substantially similar) legal status as physical property, much in the same way that a corporation is an 'artificial person.' Taking a work from someone other than its creator is clearly theft; I'd imagine you'd react poorly if someone wandered off with your CD collection, or computer, or automobile -- none of which you made. 'Taking' physical things, however, entails denying (access to) that thing to the previous owner, and this is where copying comes in -- it doesn't deny the owner of the original access to the orignal. I'll discuss the ethics of for-sale records and copying shortly.

I find it odd that in any other industry but that of entertainment, we find these comparisons ludicrous.
Other have already mentioned authors, but you may consider them to be entertainers as well, though a text on quantum mechanics is rarely considered entertaining. However, a carpenter expects to be paid for a cabinet he built twenty years ago if he's selling it today. But carpentry isn't a service business, like non-recorded entertainment, is it?

"under the pretense that i have stolen money from them." And that's the crux of the matter, isn't it? Non-recorded art is a service industry; sneaking into the concert is getting a service without paying. Is it theft? Recorded art is a product industry, with the attendant need for scarcity, which is provided for by legal means. Is RedHat stealing money from Microsoft every time it sells a copy of its Linux distribution? I think we can agree that no, RedHat isn't -- it's called competition. Is RedHat stealing money from Microsoft every time someone downloads their distribution? What about a not-for-profit, like Debian? I think we can all agree that this is still competition, because the products are different. Am I stealing money from RedHat every time someone downloads a copy off of my mirror? (By providing an identical copy, this becomes closer to the situation with music.) By contrast, consider the iron market, where different producers are selling identical things; clearly it's not theft for any one iron company to sell its product rather than another. (On the other hand, it might be illegal (and/or wrong) for a company with a monopoly in another field to give iron away!)

So can denying someone else of a potential sale be ethically/morally construed as theft? Legally, it seems to be, with the justification that creating an artificial market (by way of artificial scarcity) is better than the alternative, which is usually assumed to be having no market at all; and that this articial scarcity must be protected rather stringently if it is to work at all. In the past, legislation has defined 'rather stringently' as (roughly) 'everything but personal/home use, time/space/format shifting, excerpts for review purposes...' But modern technology and the internet have removed the small scale previously associated with 'personal use,' and that's what scaring these companies so badly.

For-sale records. I have to say that they're morally legitimate, because I harbor delusions of authorial adequacy, and plan on publishing some books down the road. Is the institution of intellectual propery ethically sound? Certainly, it is ethical for people to be compensated for their work; so the question becomes: is the specific legal instution we have to allow that compensation ethically acceptable? You have objected specifically to paying an artist for something s/he did twenty years ago; do you find it ethically offensive, or merely "ludricous?" Is it limited to music? Art? (I won't address the issue of studio content, especially movies.) Is it ethically acceptable for Microsoft to be selling copies of something it finished a year ago? Two? Ten? (Well, MS probably doesn't, but whatever.)

Napster (for copyrighted material) is clearly a form of parasitism: there will be (new) recorded music available to it so long as those who pay for their recordings exist in substantial enough numbers to drive the industry. (This, BTW, includes music you get for 'free' from the radio station.) So the ethics of copying music comes down to the ethics (whatever yours may be ) of parasitism and/or the tragedy of the commons. If you take actions to avoid parasitism -- donating to the artists -- I applaud you. From the sound of your article, however, you don't.

Finally, others have noticed practical problems with your proposal, and I'll expound on one of them: what is the 'performance' of the author? Do you really expect authors to make a living traveling around the country reading out loud to stadiums full of people? Especially books like "Advanced Topics in Civic Engineering: Statistical Thermodynamics and the Architecture of Arch Bridges"? You explicitly concerned yourself with compensating artists (musicians, in particular), but leave us wordsmiths out to dry -- aren't we also ethically justified in expecting compensation for our work?

Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.

Bits as sound (none / 0) (#57)
by dennis on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 01:38:11 PM EST

what is the 'performance' of the author?

I would argue that the performance of an author is the initial release of bits onto the Internet.

The reason all this is such a mess is that we've got a bad metaphor. Up until recently, recordings were always propagated in atoms. Physical CDs, books, whatever. Now they aren't. But we persist in thinking of artistic patterns as physical objects that can be possessed like any other object.

Instead we should think of bit patterns on the Internet as sounds. Just as physical sounds are just patterns of energy in pre-existing matter, files on the Net are patterns of electrons that echo from one computer to the next.

We pay musicians to release their bit patterns into the air. If someone outside the stadium overhears, the musician has not been robbed. Steven King was paid $600,000 in advance to perform a novel. He did (or most of it), and the echoes of that performance continue to propagate. No problem. That's the way to do it.

[ Parent ]

A possible midway solution to this problem (3.66 / 6) (#18)
by DoorFrame on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 02:54:45 AM EST

Ok. I look at this situation and I'm torn. On one side is the fact that without copyright and trademark law, there is little or no incentive to create new works of art. On the other side, with trademarks and copyrights, we're living in an anti-capitalistic world meaning resources are being wasted.

So, we come to a middle ground.

The real problem, as I see it, is not that there are currently songs which are copyrighted and cannot be copied and sold. This is only fair and I, along with most other producers of content would be annoyed if, say, I wrote a book and tried to publish it only to find the next day that another company was giving a reprinted copy of my book away for free as a grab bag prize. Suddenly I cannot make a living (there are no performances for authors). So I do need copyright.

On the other hand, the blocking of others from selling something that they can produce and distribute more cheaply than I can is a shame, and there is no reason that after I'v been allowed to make my money from a product someone else can try to do a better job selling.

What we really have is a problem of time. For some reason it seems that copyright, unlike how it was originally intended, no longer expires. Patents on medines run out after 7 or so years to allow generic copies to be made, why can't the same hold true for content?

So, after 10 or so years, all content enters the public domain and can be reprinted or resold by anyone who wants. Anybody today could print up and sell Beatles albums at whatever cost they decided to charge. Suddenly there would be a true free market for Beatles recordings and the market would decide the price, instead of one company in an artificially controlled pricing system.

That's just my idea, but I truly believe it should be applied to all content: movies, music, books... everything. Give the authors ten years to make thier riches, then give them to the masses to use and reuse as they see fit. The public domain would once again be bountiful.

That's _supposed_ to happen under US Constitution (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by pin0cchio on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 04:21:09 PM EST

What we really have is a problem of time. For some reason it seems that copyright, unlike how it was originally intended, no longer expires. Patents on medines run out after 7 or so years to allow generic copies to be made, why can't the same hold true for content?

Because the entertainment industry is better at lobbying Congress to extend the term of its exclusive rights than the drug industry is.

So, after 10 or so years, all content enters the public domain and can be reprinted or resold by anyone who wants.

That's how it used to be. The first US copyright act provided a term of 14 years, renewable to 28. Nowadays, DisneyCo is fscking everything up with the retroactive copyright extensions they're buying from Congress, and we're up to a copyright term of 95+ years and increasing.

[ Parent ]
I'll download "radio songs"... (none / 0) (#40)
by ramses0 on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 08:12:12 PM EST

I don't feel bad about downloading "radio songs" from napster. I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I was forced to listen to Livin La Vida Loca enough times that you can come chase me down if I ever decide to download it.

However, I don't download and keep other songs that I haven't bought, or haven't been on the radio 24x7.

In my mind, radio is advertising for product (CD's/Concerts), and any band that releases their music to the radio has released it to the public. The same arguments about time-shifting TV recordings with a VCR shift pretty smoothly to MP3/OGG audio.

If it were easy to download "radio" songs and then have links to your standard cdnow.com real audio teasers... music people need to learn how to use technology to *enhance* their product in a way that will promote sales.

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Coupla points. (3.16 / 6) (#19)
by i on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 03:37:34 AM EST

  • Surgery performed in 1984 does not help a patient in 2001, bit a piece of art can entertain generations upon generations. That's why we don't compare these professions.
  • Your grand scheme implies that writers should not be paid at all. They don't entertain the public. Pieces of white paper with black patterns on them -- patterns that were created long, long ago -- entertain the public. So what the writer did after all?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

Leaning toward perpetual copyright (none / 0) (#35)
by pin0cchio on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 04:15:25 PM EST

bit a piece of art can entertain generations upon generations

Exactly Disney's argument for the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Every 20 years, Disney buys a retroactive 20-year copyright extension from Congress. How about a reductio ad absurdum: What if, for example, patents were perpetual and existed in the Stone Age? The descendants of the inventors of the wheel would be rich. There's a reason patents have limited terms, and copyrights are supposed to: "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts." If IP rights are perpetual, nothing else gets created as the creators of key parts of our technical and cultural infrastructure (such as Mickey Mouse) can simply sit on their arses, rest on their laurels, and rake in the dough without contributing anything back to the community.

[ Parent ]
I don't see any contradiction here. (none / 0) (#54)
by i on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 03:57:58 AM EST

IP rights exist so authors can make some dough. IP rights are time-limited so the authors need to create something new to make some more dough. Question of balance. Authors, naturally, want to tip the balance in their favour, and they will succeed if and only if the general populace (voters, you know) let it happen. In which case they get what they deserve.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Why do we pay for anything? (4.14 / 7) (#21)
by lucid on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 06:14:56 AM EST

Where do I start?

It used to be (and still sometimes is) that you had to be good to make it in any industry.

Can you provide some kind of evidence for this? You can't, because it isn't true. There have always been people who are bad at doing what they do. There always will be.

Why is it, then, that we feel a need to pay musicians ungodly sums of money for work they performed years ago? Do we pay doctors for patients they healed years ago? Perhaps we should pay lawyers for cases they tried in 1984. I find it odd that in any other industry but that of entertainment, we find these comparisons ludicrous.

I don't feel a need. If I want something, I buy it. Your question is valid, but your conclusion isn't. Assuming that a doctor healed me in 1984, you can rest assured that I paid him. Why do we pay for prescription medicine? After all, whoever invented the medicine did it years ago. Why pay them now? It should be free, and on Napster. Right? Why do people buy jewelry? The elements in the ring or bracelet or watch or whatever were formed billions of years ago. Why pay for them now? The answer: someone has it, and someone else wants it. In the case of music, someone 'has' it, and someone else wants to 'have' it. It's not that hard.

If they are not to be considered the "best" in their field, if there is nothing to differentiate them from their avocational peers, then by all rights they *should* be directed towards a new profession.

Now this is just plain stupid. There can be only one. One master of music, one master of picking shit up, one master at writing books, etc. If someone isn't 'the best', they're wearing the carpet bare at the unemployment office. And it will be a very long line, because only 'the best' clerk is worthy of waiting on these losers. He or she will be working alone, consoling the dregs, tirelessly trying to find something they can handle.

I don't consider you 'the best' when it comes to submitting articles. You're not allowed to do it anymore. Does that sound fair? It shouldn't, because it isn't.

Ownership (none / 0) (#24)
by B'Trey on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 09:46:51 AM EST

Why do we pay for prescription medicine? After all, whoever invented the medicine did it years ago. Why pay them now? It should be free, and on Napster. Right? Why do people buy jewelry? The elements in the ring or bracelet or watch or whatever were formed billions of years ago. Why pay for them now? The answer: someone has it, and someone else wants it. In the case of music, someone 'has' it, and someone else wants to 'have' it. It's not that hard.

While I agree with your conclusion, your reasoning is invalid. In theory, at least, we pay for prescription medicine because it cost money to create it even if the recipe has long been known. Additionally, medicine, jewelry, etc. are all physical items. If I have them and I sell them to you, I no longer have those items. I have transferred them to you in exchange for your money. On the other hand, if I allow you to download an MP3 of my song for a price, I've not given up anything. I still have the original song. A physical item can only have one owner (although that owner may be a collective of individuals) and you pay for the privilege of being that single owner. An MP3 can belong to an infinite number of people. You need a different rationalization for restricting its distribution.

[ Parent ]

hmm.. (none / 0) (#33)
by lucid on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 02:37:09 PM EST

I don't know why half of my post is in italics, it wasn't when I posted it. Oh well.

Anyhow, my reasoning assumed that music, generally, also comes on a physical item. With MP3's, I think I'm going to argue that you _have_ given up something by allowing me to download that file - singular control. But I'm not real sure how useful that is, because once you sell the MP3 to me, you're only going to make 50% of the money you could have. If I then sell that same song, should there be an additional fee I have to assess to pay you? A sort of royalty?

Trying to assess how to make money off of non-finite goods gives me a headache...

[ Parent ]
i'll just reply here (none / 0) (#44)
by fluxrad on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:39:11 PM EST

ok. this is going to be somewhat of an agregate response to all posts in the current thread. so here goes.

first off, by the *best* in your field, i meant something along the lines of top 10% or something (i think you get the gist). I'm not saying you have to be michael jordan to playin the NBA, but you sure as hell aren't going to make it if you grew up 'playin' in tha hood yo!' - i think you see where i'm coming from when i say "the best."

Trying to assess how to make money off of non-finite goods gives me a headache...

as well it should. The previous poster touched on a very important subject, the proliferation of goods. Microeconomics dectates that if i breed goats, and you breed cows, and i want a cow, i could trade you for a goat. You have lost something, i have lost something. Additionally, we have both gained something. It is a simple trade

With a system of intellectual property, thought, we get into a completely different, and illogical, system of economics. If i purchase a CD from you, what have i purchased? some would say a CD, some would say a CD and the right to listen to that music for as long as i listen to that CD. Some would say i am simply leasing the right to listen to that CD, etc. Of course this conversation gets even more scary with the concept of "fair use." - legally i am allowed to take that CD and duplicate it for my own personal use. I may make mp3 copies of it. I may make a tape copy of it for my car, or walkman, or whatever i please. What about copies of those? can i sell those? what about if i sell the CD? do i have the right to listen to those other recordings i made now that i no longer own the original.

No matter what the answer is to these questions (mind you, totally consumer based questions), the seller is still extremely well off. They still own the rights to their music. They have lost nothing, aside from a piece of circular plastic, and have gained a fair amount of money for their troubles. You argue that the artist (let's say it's you for the sake of conversation) loses singular control. Of what? Of the CD? certainly. but why then am i paying $10 for the privalege of owning a $.50 piece of plastic? Perhaps the privalege of listening to the music? Since you wrote the music, and can listen to it any time...certainly you don't give two shits about your own personal and exclusive right to listen to your own music. What "exclusive control" have you lost in the trade. I give you (or your "promoter") $15 and you give me....what, exactly?

in %99 of people's responses it is still never clearly defined. They law says one thing, everyone else says another. There are almost always examples of contradictory evidence to support anyone's claims. Indeed, the concept of IP will give anyone a headache. I give you a goat for a song. what have i lost that i cannot get back? what have you gained? what have you lost that you cannot get back? what have i gained?

please pardon the misspellings above. i'm tired...but i'll give you a goat if you go back and correct them for me ;-)

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
the human mind as a recording device (3.42 / 7) (#22)
by sayke on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 06:47:13 AM EST

i'm giving this story a +1 because the author clearly thought about the problem (funding the creation of public goods) and presented his take on it in a clear, coherent manner.

i think the most common standpoint taken by anti-napsterites is, when examined carefully, along the lines of "people should pay for certain experiences." the experience is what record companies like to think they're selling. they insist not only that they own the patter (although how someone can own a specific bit-sequence, is beyond me) on a cdrom that, when invoked properly, triggers a certain experience, but they insist that they own any other bit-sequence that, when invoked, triggers a similar experience.

the guy who i got my bass from is a classic example of someone with this viewpoint. he thinks people should pay every time they think they listen to a song by a certain artist. hell, i've got another friend who thinks people should pay the author of a book every time one of the author's books is read.

the obvious problem with that viewpoint is that it's absurd to charge for an experience. ever remembered a song in very clear detail, and started humming it? oh shit, you just violated copyright! you recorded the song (lossily, but since when does that matter) on your mark 1 neocortex, and used the same as an illegal playback device! you just experienced that song without compensating the artist in any way whatsoever! the author is now going to starve in the gutter because of your thoughtlessness!

that examples reduces to the absurd the notion that experiences can, in any way, be the property of someone other then the experiencer. experiences cannot be meaningfully bought, sold, owed, or traded in any way. i've argued this in the past, and i'll argue it again:patterns can never be property - experiences, even less so. genies, once out of the bottle, can't be put back in, so people need to stop trying, already... all is not lost for artists, though. far from it. as a programmer and a musician who thinks both programming and playing bass are services, not manufacturing, i say that a good implementation of the street performer protocol is really all ya need to fund public works.

sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */

Technology is no excuse (3.50 / 2) (#31)
by Elmin on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:26:50 PM EST

the experience is what record companies like to think they're selling.

Yes, that is what they like to think they are selling. In fact, it is. The whole idea of music is that it is an experience to listen to, so someone figured out that people will pay to listen to music. If you tell a recorded musician that they have not created an experience by recording a CD, they would probably be insulted if they didn't believe you. So, if you want to justify pirating music by saying that it is not an experience, why are you even bothering to listen to such music?

although how someone can own a specific bit-sequence, is beyond me

Obviously, you have never written anything in your life, whether it is software, literature, or music, because all those things are sequences of something. In this case, it's bits. This is the problem of the technological age: bit-sequences seem so transparent and simple, so are they worth anything?

Finally, it's not absurd to charge for an experience, not unless movies, amusement parks, books, video games, and live performances are all absurd.

[ Parent ]

your post has so many logical flaws it's not funny (3.66 / 3) (#47)
by sayke on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 07:25:39 AM EST

ok, well, actually, it is. ;p

the fact that it's possible to pay for a cd, and not listen to (experience) it, proves that cds are not experiences. record companies sell cds, and tapes, not music. sheesh, if you can't tell the difference between "an experience of hearing music", and "a cd", you really need to get your personal ontology in order.

when i play bass, i experience playing bass. so, in an obvious sense, i "create" an experience by doing anything. so, when me and my friends record some noise we make onto a tape, we "create" an experience of sorts... but that experience has little, if anything, to do with the tape. we would have the same experience even if the tape player was off, or broken.

heh. error, unrecognized token combination in line 7: "pirating music". music cannot be owned, therefore music cannot be stolen, much less "pirated" (whatever that is). and, in case you can't tell, an mp3 is not an experience. listening to an mp3 is an experience. remembering listening to an mp3 is also an experience. if i have a good memory, remembering listening to an mp3 is the exact same experience as hearing it played.

so you know, i have written software, literature, and music (as if that somehow makes my position stronger). you're right, those are all sequences of something; encodable patterns. so? i don't pretend to own the python, c, english, or bass lines i make up. that i weave a pattern into existance doesn't mean i own it. far from it. do you own the noise of your breathing? the tunes you find yourself whistling as you walk? is the way the light reflects off of your skin, your property? pfff, of course not. you can own instances of a pattern, but don't be suprised when i own instances of that pattern, too.

and, so you know, the intellectual property question isn't "are bit sequences worth anything?" for example, there are patterns of bits on my hard drive that are very important to me, so they are worth something. pretty much everything i do and have done, that can be preserved in digital form, is encoded in the bit-sequences on my hard drive or on one of my cd backups. while i don't own those sequences, i do own my hard drives, and my cd-roms. see the difference? the pattern is not the instance of the pattern. so, the question actually posed by the intellectual property debate is "are patterns meaningfully described as property?"

and, because you can't seem to tell, it is really quite absurd (movies like "total recall notwithstanding) to charge for an experience. heh. have you not noticed the "admission" signs in the places you mention? movie theaters charge for admission, as do amusement parks, and live musical performences. bookstores charge for books. video game vendors charge for game cartridges and cd-roms. video game machines in video arcades require you to put money (or a close approximation thereof) in them before they function interactively. none of the examples you cited sell anything resembling an experience.

in conclusion, i can only suggest that you get your ontology in order. ask yourself "what exactly is my property, and what makes it mine?" find a nice, dank, dark cave in the middle of nowhere, and sit in there and contemplate those questions. then read some heigel, some marx, some locke, and some von hayek. then, when/if you figure out an answer to that with at least a semblence of internal consistancy, get back to me. it's really not nearly as simple as you seem to think it is.

sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Oops... (none / 0) (#50)
by Elmin on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 02:04:00 PM EST

the fact that it's possible to pay for a cd, and not listen to (experience) it, proves that cds are not experiences.

No, it doesn't. You can buy a box and never put something in it, so does that mean that boxes are not storage? If you rent a locker, you are renting storage space. It's still possible not to put something in it, but does that mean it's not storage space? Does it mean that you should not have to pay for the use of the locker in the first place? No, it doesn't. A thing can have a use whether you take advantage of it or not.

As for ownership of sequences, I think you're correct in saying that no one can own them. Think about it this way instead:

It takes a certain sequence of bits to reproduce an experience similar to the original performance. A similar sequence of bits, say an MP3, might also reproduce an experience similar to the original performance. When you pay for a CD, then, you are paying for a tool to reproduce the experience at a relatively high accuracy. Looking at it this way, it seems logical that mp3s should not be charged for. What were we arguing about again? I hate it when that happens... Apologies for any personal attacks I made in my pathetically fallacious and poorly composed psuedo-argument.

I argue in order to agree.

[ Parent ]

a thing is not it's use. like, duh. ;) (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by sayke on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 02:57:15 AM EST

boxes, indeed, "are" (and this is the "are" of identity here, which really should disappear from the english language) not storage. boxes are boxes. you can use them to store things, and you can them as pulpits, and as shelter, and all kinds of other things, but that doesn't mean that a box "is" storage, a plupit, or shelter. the fact that things which have little in common with boxes can be used as storage, as pulpits, and as shelter, proves that, well, (box != storage && box != pulpit && box != shelter). was that unnecessary? probably. but i think you get my point. =)

you're right, i think we agree on the part about paying for mp3s. and, apology accepted, but i'd like to say that my original tone was a bit less then serene, as well. aww well, so it goes...

sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Street Performer Protocol (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by iGrrrl on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:30:02 PM EST

There is one majore difference between street performer protocol in theory and in practice. In practice, real street performers are there in person, either passing the hat in person or having someone else do it during the performance. They can shame you out of your money.

There are a lot of street performers in Boston, and the ones who actually make any money at it either work the crowd at the end of the show (sometimes including pathetic appeals), or have a shill shaking the hat or can under your nose as you laugh or listen. People using those tricks do much better than those who passively allow people to contribute or not, regardless of merit.

Given the option of not contributing, most people don't.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

buskers (3.00 / 1) (#39)
by fluxrad on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 08:07:26 PM EST

as a matter of fact, the people you are speaking of are called "buskers." - we hold a festival for them here in Denver every year (buskerfest).

actually, you'd be surprised at the level of skill most of these people have (be it playing guitar or juggling). My ex-juggling instructed, a man by the name of Reid, is currently a professional juggler who works for the likes of Disney and such.

Point being: aside from your average bumb who decided to pick up a fender at the local pawn shop, a vast majority of these people are professionals who make their living by entertaining the public (and believe me...it can be QUITE lucrative, as an ex-busker myself).

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
The Street Performer Protocol (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by Luke Francl on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 11:37:38 PM EST

Actually, the Street Performer Protocol, as proposed by Kelsey and Schneier is resistant to this tendency. Check out the link, it's a really cool idea. It guarantees that the artist gets paid. It's sort of like the Collective Patronage idea that Arkady just posted.

The short explaination is that the artist proposes to create a work, be it software, a painting, a short story, or a song. The artist names his price, and when that amount of money is collected, the artist releases the work into the public domain for everyone to use. If the artist doesn't release the work, the money is given back to it's contributors. The artist gets paid, no one gets ripped off, and the work can be redistributed without legal implicaitons.

Stephen King tried something like the Street Performer Protocol, but he didn't collect the money in trust, then release the work once X dollars were contributed -- he wanted 75% of people to pay $1 for every chapter. And it failed, just like you say it would. But with the Kelsey and Schneier, he could have made plenty of money on the deal.

I think the Street Performer Protocol combined with a "tip jar" system for contributing to artists you like is the future of media distribution. It is internet-friendly, cuts out the middleman, and supports more varied forms of art than are currently viable.

[ Parent ]

Failed? (none / 0) (#56)
by dennis on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 01:03:58 PM EST

He made over $600,000 from purely voluntary donations. That's a failure?

As you point out, though, he didn't follow the Street Performer protocol, and the way it worked out is instructive. He promised at the beginning that he would issue all chapters if the first two did as well as his criteria. As it turns out, they did.

In other words--he said "Contribute $X and I will release the rest of the book." People did contribute $X. King stated it in percentage terms rather than absolute, but other than that he basically followed the SPP, the transaction was successful, and he made a pile of money. Transactions fell off later when there was no longer any tit-for-tat--under the original agreement, King was already committed to releasing the entire novel.

[ Parent ]

I don't think that was the deal... (none / 0) (#62)
by Luke Francl on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 02:14:40 PM EST

I don't think that was the agreement. I believe readers were supposed to pay for every chapter at the 75% rate. Here's what Jon Katz said about this in the slashdot article about King suspending the project:

Even worse, fewer and fewer of those downloaders were willing to keep paying. King issued the installments under an honor-system payment model, asking readers to pay for $l for each chapter downloaded and promising to keep writing only if at least 75% of the readers complied. "If you pay, the story rolls. If you don't, the story folds," he wrote on his Web site. But this week, King staffers said that only 46% of the downloads of the most recent chapter were paid for, and the experiment was suspended.
You're right, of course, that King made a great deal of money off of the project. But many of his readers were disapointed (check out Salon's Letters to the Editor about it). If he would have said flat out, "I want $50,000 for the whole book, here's the first 2 chapters for you to try out before you pay" I don't think all the people who paid a few bucks for the first couple chapters would be disappointed now.

[ Parent ]
Simple answer (3.42 / 7) (#27)
by finkployd on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:41:15 AM EST

Why charge for music? Because people will pay for it. It's simple economics, I have a product you want, you have money I want, we trade. I'm not defending the actions of the record companies, and I'm a fan of Napster myself (I prefer to use it to download songs I've never heard of, that's how I discovered Guster and bought three CDs from them), but the decision to keep our current model of music sales is a purely a consumer decision. If the consumers as a whole decide to not pay for music (especially when the physical media vanishes), then the system will change. As long as there are millions of teenage girls able to convince their daddy to buy the latest 'Nsink album, the system will not change. We alone cannot change it, and the record companies have no incentive to.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
you miss the point of the "recording" (4.50 / 8) (#28)
by rebelcool on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:51:35 AM EST

first off, the entire reason things like albums and recordings are made is so an individual may listen to a replica of the live performance you speak of. This costs money. Lots of it (particularly to small bands..studio time ranges in the $50-$300/hour, plus post-processing and cd pressing fees..a cd will easily cost a thousand dollars or more to make 200 copies of, unless you want to do it the shitty unprofessional way which will sound TERRIBLE and do it all yourself)

There are only a small number of venues for a band to play in around the world, compared to the number of bands there are. If the only way you could make money was by playing a venue, there would be a very, very small number of bands because of the waiting time to play. All that music you like listening to now? Select 2 bands from it and theres how many you would have to listen to.

I used to work in a rehearsal studio assisting small local bands with their stuff. Most of them are not on a label (if they are, its a small local label) and depend on CD sales as an additional source of income. Plus, on a local scale, cd's are vastly more important than napster. You can go to a show, buy a CD, show your friends and then they'll go to shows too. Cycle repeats. With napster, so what if some guy from batshitzania can download a song? He's obviously not going to come here to listen to the band play. This is also why many bands have mixed opinions about napster. Small bands do not care because it hardly affects them. Large bands make enough money it doesnt matter. But middle of the road bands (MDFMK said it best in an interview) are those who have alot of trouble. They're not large enough for massive radio play which is what creates the real bucks, but they're large enough that alot of people listen to them..but get most of their songs from napster. Which genuinely HURTS them because you simply cannot spend much time doing live performances.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Pricing Schemes (2.88 / 9) (#29)
by reshippie on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:52:24 AM EST

I think that after an arbitrary amount of time, 20 years, the price of a recording should be cut, or the royalties renegotiated.

Since they build in promotions and recording costs, after a while it doesn't make sense to continue to pay for this. I'm thinking something like, after 20 years, the price gets cut, say 10%-20%.

For deceased artists, I think that the family should be able to collect standard royalties for 5-10 years, after which their royalties should be cut, say 50%, and then have the savings returned to the customer.

Of course I also think that the artist should be making most of the profit off of the CD, not the recording company. Or, at the very least, split the profits 50/50.

Lemme know if this makes sense to anyone, I'm tired, and under caffinated.

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

Very different opinions (4.87 / 8) (#30)
by iGrrrl on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:23:02 PM EST

My over-riding reaction to this op-ed was feeling as if it were written by someone who is not a musician. I suspect that some of the view comes from disgust with the Music Industry (as apposed to other sorts of Working Musicians). The Industry can create and package a group, sell lots of their records for more than they're worth, and make a bucket of money peddling lowest-common-denominator entertainment. If I've read between the lines appropriately, let me say that I share that disgust. I do not share many other of the opinions presented.

I worked in live production ("roadie" -- audio, lighting, stage management, and moving heavy things) for four years in my early twenties. I've been in bands since my mid-twenties, and in the last five years I've produced (studio work) two CDs, served as production manager (physical manufacture) for five CD's, worked as a backing vocalist on three projects, and as a lead artist on two projects. I feel as if I have a clue. On the small production level.

First off, the studio recording is often quite different than a performance. There are things done in the studio which *cannot* be done live. If they're used in live performance, it's from canned tapes -- often not considered a good thing from an audience point of view. To simply view the recording as *itself* a promotional tool betrays a lack of understanding of the studio itself and of some musicians' use of the recording process.

Since the Beatles broke ground and the Beach Boys followed the lead and blazed new trails, the technology of recording has become an integral tool of many musicians. While there are still some artists who do nothing studio they don't do live, there are many artists who never, or rarely, tour (the Beatles gave up touring early). The studio process is as much a component of the "sound" as a guitaritst's particular amp settings.

Then, in the end, a recording is a product made by skilled labor. Just like a piece of software. By the argument presented, I shouldn't have to ever buy a word processor, a computer game, or a DVD of a movie. Games and movies are entertainment. They're produced and then promoted. It costs pennies to manufacture the copies. <sarcasm>Why should I pay for this? Why don't all coders simply do it for love and give it away? The good ones will get asked to go on coding tours...</sarcasm>

The only thing I would like to agree with is point 2, that within the wash of noise, the cream will rise. I'd love to believe that, but cynical enough to think otherwise. Buzz is often created by promoters and media specialists pretending to be "just one of the folks."

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

good points, but... (none / 0) (#41)
by fluxrad on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 09:13:13 PM EST

My over-riding reaction to this op-ed was feeling as if it were written by someone who is not a musician

i suppose i would feel that way had i read this post blindly as well. That being said, you couldn't be farther from the truth. I am, by avocation, a musician. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, i am not a professional musician - being that it is nearly impossible to become one. The trade, it would seem, has become dominated by trends in a fickle industry. Most pros have been relagated to an episode of "where are they now?" Additionally, my sister is a classically trained vocal performance major with one of the most beautiful voices i have ever heard. The creation of music is certainly a signifigant part of my life.

That aside, i certainly agree that most recorded music (much like a novel) cannot be duplicated. A point, which i have yet to see anyone make, could most certainly be argued for the merits of the listening public paying for this based on that argument alone. If i am willing to pay for a book which will not be reproduced, why am i not willing to pay for a CD or Tape or mp3 which can not be reproduced either?

This, however, presents a bit of a problem in my mind inasmuch as music which cannot be duplicated (nearly) does not seem to me to be a collecton of songs, but more of a collection of sounds. The vast majority of albums coming out now are nearly more the work of studio engineers than musicians (rock, techno, or otherwise). The fundamental reason that these albums cannot be faithfully reproduced on stage is because they have been altered, much like a photoshop-ic representation of an original piece of art. Certainly a copy of a Chuck Close painting would look a thousand times better when put through a multitude of filters and and the like, but the je ne sais quoi is lost.

The vast majority of professional musicians make their living because of their own skill and mastery of their craft, not because of the skill and mastery of studio engineering techniques. For people like Coltrane, Monk, and Vaughan, no studio recording will ever come close to their live performances. Beck is another example of, not only a professional musician, but a professional entertainer. His albums simply fill the time between tours. (this brings up sampling, which is a whole other argument alltogether).

By the argument presented, I shouldn't have to ever buy a word processor, a computer game, or a DVD of a movie. Games and movies are entertainment. They're produced and then promoted.

i think people would like to take this to it's natural conclusion and say this. I disagree with that argument as it makes things too cut and dried. Yes, i think software should be free. The economics of this are another thread altogether, but if you look at examples, guys like Linus, Alan, and RMS aren't exactly starving. And i certainly don't ever intend to charge the public for software i create.

As far as movies are concerned, let's just assume for a moment that, as i have stated, music can be reproduced live for an audience. Conversly, movies cannot be reproduced in the span of two hours. I have no issue with paying to see a movie, or to buy a DVD because, as i said, they cannot be reproduced for a live audience. Perhaps, a more accurate parallel would be a DVD of a play, or musical. And, you are correct in assuming that i would not pay (or at least, in theory, i don't think i should be legally required to pay) for a recorded copy of a stage production. I will most certainly pay to see something like MacBeth, or Death of a Saleseman live...but never a recording of such. No matter how well done it is. (I don't even want to get into an argument about adaptive movies like Much Ado About Nothing, or HurlyBurly, etc.)

However, when all is said and done, you must recognize that i am definitely not coming from a standpoint of "fuck them, i don't want to pay for anything!" - i am most certainly not an advocate of leaving someone that has filled my leisure time with entertainment, or laughter, or drama destitute. However, i feel that the amount i pay for such subjective works should be my own choosing, be that $50 for a CD which means alot to me, or nothing at all for the very same.

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
art and Art (none / 0) (#48)
by iGrrrl on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 09:00:10 AM EST

You present some very good responses, and of particular note the comparison between movies and plays. However, if I read you right, you are not quite willing to extend studio production the same accord as a movie. Your tone indicates to me that you deem live performance as inherently superior. I'd argue that they're different animals, in the same way a movie is different from a play.

Even between plays, a tight production of a "Death of a Salesman"-type work is a different animal than the big production of a "Phantom of the Opera"-type work. Even within live performance, there's the stretch between an intimate Bruce Cockburn concert, and a Britney Spears extravaganza.

It's all music, but it's not all the same. I agree with you that there are some musicians for which the live experience of performance is paramount. In fact, I'd even agree that, imo, live performance is almost always the best way to experience the best musicians. However, you seem to have decided that that experience alone is music, and that all recordings are merely "a collection of sounds." I disagree. I don't hope to change your mind, but I disagree.

You sound dismissive when you say that most recordings produced today are the work of engineers and producers rather than artists. The engineers and especially the producers would argue that they're creative people in their own right. Actors do not make a movie alone. They act in front of the camera, but the director, the cinematographer, the editor, & etc. make the movie with the actors. I don't find it difficult to view studio recording in similar light.

But just as all movies are not classics, all recordings are not great works. Not every painting is great art. Not every director is John Houston, and not every studio producer is Brian Eno. There are always degrees of skill, artfulness, and longevity in any piece of work. Some people use these criteria to delineate Art from art.

However, when all is said and done, you must recognize that i am definitely not coming from a standpoint of "fuck them, i don't want to pay for anything!" - i am most certainly not an advocate of leaving someone that has filled my leisure time with entertainment, or laughter, or drama destitute.

Well, that's a relief.

However, i feel that the amount i pay for such subjective works should be my own choosing, be that $50 for a CD which means alot to me, or nothing at all for the very same.

This is how I read this: You wish your determination of art vs. Art determine what you pay for an entertainment. If you think it's art -- of little to no value -- that should allow you to swap it for free. But that leaves me with this question:

If it has little or no value, why do you even want it for free?

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Performance as primary source of income? (4.00 / 6) (#34)
by endymion on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 04:13:10 PM EST

One problem I've always had with the argument that artists really make (or at least _should_ make) their money from performance is that it is not universal.

One of my favorite artists is _Velvet_Acid_Christ_ (Brian Erickson). He toured recently, where I was fortunet enough to see the show, as he has stated he will never tour again. Why? Well, he said a big part was that he made very little money from it. The hastles and bulls**t that had to be dealt with was horrendous and draining.

In my personal opinion, touring was probably too tiring and stressfull. For someone who does ALL of the work on his CDs (programing & playing synths/samplers/drum-machines, post-processing effects, and mixdown!), and in general has put a lot of his life into making wonderfully creative and emotionally charged music, it is supprising he hasn't cacked yet.

Now, I'm all for doing away with the RIAA and all that, and in general hate the recording _industry_ with a passion, I have to wonder: some artists are great live, and could probably live off of performance, but what about the others? Brian Erickson as VAC has produced some of the most moving music I've heard in a long time, and if he was required to tour constantly to support himself, I seriously doubt most of it would have been produced.

The question then becomes, in the advent of freely tradable music (which is NOT going to go away, no matter what any industry execs think), how do I do my part to support VAC, when the only product is data? I know Brian Erickson considers traded mp3s as theft, as he stated as much on his web site, and is an artist I respect (you know, those things all this crap is suppost to help?!).

Perhaps that's part of the problem, as music is changing. With the advent of music that cannot be performed live, is all this napster/mp3/etc stuff the reactionary industry/market change that is necessary to accomidate the new musical styles?

Hmm... I'm getting the fealign I should just mail off cash to him, on top of buying all the CDs. At least I'd know where the money was going, and it bypasses all the s**t nicely.

- The Code Nazi
Music will exist with or without money (4.00 / 4) (#37)
by Sinter on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 05:14:47 PM EST

Music will exist with or without money, but skillfully written, performed and recorded music will not. The reason is very simple: composers and musicians have to have food, shelter and clothing like everyone else.

I've listened to a lot of music for a long time, and as a result my interests and tastes have evolved. The same old same old doesn't satisfy any more. As a result, I listen to stuff I wouldn't have given the time of day, years ago. The people who make the music I listen to are a minority in the music world. Unless I support their efforts, they will be *unable* to continue making it. Without recordings, their sounds would never reach me.

If you don't want to support *recorded* music, only performances, great ... and, lucky you! If *everyone* lived in such a rich environment, recordings might be unnecessary. But everyone doesn't. Furthermore, if your favorite band lives across a continent and doesn't tour, recordings are the only way you can hear them. Will you still refuse to pay?

If everyone chose to pay only for performances, not recordings, then recording would stop. There'd be nothing but oldies online, because the source would have dried up. Artists who do not perform but *only* record would go away, and I'd never hear from the artist across the continent again. There are a thousand ways to rationalize not paying, but ironically, if that's the way things are going to go, we're all going to be poorer for it.

If your beef is with the high retail cost of recordings, then you have my complete sympathy. That's not the artists' fault. The energy shortage in California did not result because the generators stopped turning. It's a result of the centralization of power production and distribution in the hands of a few. Music lovers have been victimized by the same kind of tactics, and now there is something they can do about it. *Directly* support the bands you listen to regularly, so that the energy keeps flowing. Short circuit the old system. Find ways to get the money directly to the artists.

Maybe the bands you listen to... (4.75 / 4) (#38)
by Pseudonym on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 07:03:20 PM EST

Warning: incoherent rant ahead.

Most of the recorded music that I own simply can't be performed. Well, that's not entirely true. You can approximate it on stage, but it's simply not the same.

Some groups, like The Alan Parsons Project, never did any live performances. And they couldn't. Parsons is, by trade, an audio engineer, and the albums were designed to be performances in themselves. The engineering could simply not be reproduced on stage no matter what. In your hypothetical music industry, this art form would need some other mechanism to exist.

Speaking of Alan Parsons, he did the engineering on the biggest selling album of all time: Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. Listen to the album, then watch a video of the live version. Then come back and say that the album is an advertisement for the performances.

The same can be said for anything by Mike Oldfield, or anything from the overtracked glam era (if you've ever seen Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody performed live, you'll know that they don't do the opening, and they leave the stage for the middle section which is played from a recording). Or, perhaps more seriously, it can be said for any music which doesn't fall in the current "popular" genre. It takes, for example, a lot of extremely talented singers to create a performance of Thomas Tallis' Spem in Alium. Outside England, you'd be lucky to get one good performance of that work every twenty years, and when it happened you'd pay a correspondingly large amount of money to be there. I'd sooner pay for a recording than wait for it to happen.

One telling point from your rant is when you talked about the artist touring "the country". It's all very fine if you, a fan, happen to live in the same country as the artist. What about fans in other countries? There are albums in my collection from artists who have never toured my home country. I'd love to ask them to perform here, but they wouldn't because it's not cost effective for them. The cost of getting them here to Australia would be more than any tip I could afford to give them.

I suspect that your hypothetical music industry might work just fine for the kinds of music that you like and living in the country that you live in, but please don't suggest that it would work for the rest of us.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
Umm...that's not qutie right. (4.66 / 3) (#43)
by JazzManJim on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:08:36 PM EST

Whereas I applaud the argument you've made, there's a problem. When you buy a CD (or cassette, or what have you), you're not necessarily giving the musician a dime. You're paying the music distribution company and the people who hold the copyright on the written music. This may or may not be the artist.

When dealing with visual art, the line is much clearer, but with recorded music, there are a variety of people getting paid, and the chief among them is the music company. They are the one who negotiate the deal with the musician defining how much, if anything, that person gets paid. They are the ones to whom the money goes, and the disbursement of that money is up to the contract they've made. In most cases, the artist doesn't make much at all.

But, the more important point is this (and it's something that was made here also): the entire purpose of making music is *performance*! I'm a musician and though I could make a hundred CDs, I make music so that I can perform it. That's where I'd make my money - not from recording. The CD is fine and (with few exceptions) it's a valuable tool to present my music, but the aim here is to get out there live, and make my money that way. There have been albums which were amazing studio creations, but in those cases, I think you'll find that the "money pipeline" worked *much* differently than it did for other albums (i.e. The Alan Parsons Project, which was a venture among the musician and Alan, and the money was pretty equally divided, with the company itself getting very little because it was a venture of Alan's, and not the corporation). The vast majority of musician do not have the advantage of being able to 1) own their own recording studio (which is an expense taken out of the revenues); 2) have their own distribution pipeline (again, a big revenue-sucker), and; 3) maintain the rights to the sheet music itself (especially when they're starting out. Later, they may well write their own music and own those righs, but not always).

I love Napster and when I decide to get my music out there in recorded form, I plan to take full advantage of programs like it. Until then, performances are what drive me and, when I'm ready, will make me the money.

"Hostility toward America is a religious duty, and we hope to be rewarded for it by God...I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America."
(Osama bin Laden - 10 Jan 1999)
Maclir would be talking Australian dollars (3.50 / 2) (#51)
by Toojays on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 08:53:13 PM EST

I think Maclir is talking about Australian dollars. Here (in Oz), the going price for a CD is about $30, although you can generally get top 40 CDs at somewhere like KMart for $22 or so.

Why do we pay for recorded music? | 62 comments (56 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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