Monday, May 14, 2007

Music Sharing: Convenience or Corruption?

The music industry seems bent on vehemently accusing the file-sharing community of being thieves and corrupt criminals. Every time they release some new DRM or a statement about file-sharing they refer to the file-sharing community as "music thieves" or some equally toxic term.

What they are failing to realize is that their attitude towards their customers is exactly what drives people to share music. I know because it has happened to me: the music industry has alienated me, and I have found a way to deal with it. It may be illegal, but to paraphrase our founding fathers, nobody should put up with a broken and failing system.

Obviously, a few things need to change before the file-sharing community can be convinced to give the music industry another chance.
  1. Single song purchases. Customers should be able to only buy one song at a time, instead of being forced to buy 11 songs they don't want for the one song they do. This not only helps customers, it forces artists to make better songs, because they can no longer float on their one good song per album: all the songs have to be good.
  2. mp3 downloads. This is a no-brainer. Everyone should be able to get their songs in mp3 format, instead of buying a CD and needing the technical know-how to "rip" the songs off the CD and convert into a format their music players can use.
  3. No DRM or other restrictions. Customers should be able to do what they want with their purchases. Remember when the movie industry thought that the VCR would wreck their business? That's what the music cartels think about mp3's. What they should realize is that if they want to discourage illegal activities, they should make it easier and more convenient to purchase the songs than to copy and share them. Duh.
There have also been a few neat ideas placed forward, and actually used in some cases as well.
  1. Popularity determines price. What this means is, the more people download a song, the more it costs. This not only encourages artists to make better songs, it also encourages customers to branch out, exploring music they otherwise may not have listened to.
  2. Be a mirror, get a discount. It works like this: a customer decides to mirror the songs they have already bought, enabling other customers to ge faster more responsive downloads. In return, the customer gets discounts on future music purchases.
Believe it or not, some music services have actually done some of these things.
  1. Napster. They've got the mp3 downloads, but you have to subscribe, and songs only work on some devices. When your subscription runs out, so does your music.
  2. iTunes. mp3 single-song purchases, but they're loaded with DRM, and won't play on anything but an iPod. This is starting to change, however.
  3. Ares. Ah, the king of file-sharing applications. mp3's, single-song downloads, and no DRM. That's what I'm talking about.
So what do you think? Are music sharing enthusiasts just a bunch of career criminals who have no moral standards, or does the music industry need to step back and assess its policies? Comment below and make your voice heard!

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Anonymous Gavin Fury said...

You have some good points, and the music industry is horribly corrupt. I don't personally believe in downloading, though. There is something romantic and exciting about going to a Cd store on the prowl for an album that you want really bad. A lot of the fun of the music industry, corrupt or not, is rushing the store when a new great album comes out to nab yourself a copy. Clocking something and watching your songs download doesn't exactly have the same aesthetic effect. True, we need to demand more from our artists and record labels, but "good" isn't something that one can define, so how could we force people to write all "good" songs? Also, what about our responsibility to the artist? Sure, some shitty bands write a bunch of fillers so they can cash in on the one catchy single with minimal effort, but why punish everyone else, and why go for the one good song, even if you like it? Even if I enjoy a song, I can't get myself to stand by an artist who's standards do not meet my expectations. The artists who are truly out there making meaningful music on any level need to make living off of what they do. They make full albums for a reason. Is there not a responsibility of the consumer to have the respect and attention span to at least try out what your particular artist of choice would like you to hear? There is no real excuse for downloading music in my opinion, except in cases of poverty or sampling. Anything else is disrespect. Want to make a difference? Go straight for the greed of the industry, not for the artists trying to cope with it. Go straight to the top. If people don't buy shit, they won't be able to sell it. If people don't put up with policies, they can't keep them in effect. Even in your downloading, if you do it legally, you are still supporting and lining the pockets of the greedy bastards responsible for rendering the system as it is now.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 5:57:00 PM PST  

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