Deep thoughts on the music biz

First an intern with the NPR show All Songs Considered posts this:
where she admits that though she has 11,000 mp3s on her computer, she’s paid for hardly any of them, but she’s feeling a little weird about that, and observes that it’ll be impossible to get people to pay for downloaded music consistently.

Then David Lowery (who cofounded the bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker) posted here:
to discuss the ethics of that, arguing that one ought to pay for music one enjoys, not on a legal basis but on a fairness basis (but that’s an overly rough, probably inadequate summary; this is a very thoughtful, albeit long article).

There was a lot of commentary, both in the websites above as well as on Twitter and probably elsewhere. I won’t try linking to that.

Songwriter Jonathon Coulton weighs in here:
with his thoughts. I’m but halfway through at the moment but I’m enjoying the insights from the one “act” who came along in the download era who really made it work in building a music career.

I don’t know anything, myself. The idea of making money at music has been churning in my background for years, and I have no answers. These are worthy pieces of thought on the issue of fairly compensating musicians for what they do. Lengthy reading, yes, but worth investing the time.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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5 Responses to Deep thoughts on the music biz

  1. kenny2fl says:


    A complex subject. Artists certainly should be fairly compensated.
    I’m not overly sympathetic to those who acquire rights and then milk profits on and on [unless this was a benefit to the artist & family in their life time]. That’s a big unless.
    So many of the artists have passed on — should a price tag be attached to Bix or Bird or Joplin? Their families undoubtedly think so.
    In the visual arts, how many of us enjoy paintings etc with no compensation to the artist [unless galleries have some arrangement].
    Copyright law is currently rather open-ended but also has a public use doctrine through which one could drive a tour bus.

    • songdogmi says:

      Re: art

      The thing with copyright is that it’s a lot bigger now than it was when the concept started out a couple of centuries ago. Originally copyright only guaranteed that the creator would be able to get the most use out of his work while he lived. It eventually evolved into something you could sell or license, and something that could be inherited, but in the process of that it became a lot more of the sort of legal nightmare we’ve seen for years. Copyright isn’t any benefit to the greats who’ve passed on, but somehow other people are still benefiting financially from their efforts. Of course they want that to continue, even if art might be better served if they just created new art on their own.

      Things are different with patents. I’m sure Apple and Pfizer and GE would love patents to last as long as copyrights, but the term of a patent is limited specifically because that’s what makes inventors invent more things. Although, it’s possible to reformulate something slightly and then re-patent it, which gets around the term limits.

      You’re right, it is a very complicated question, and the last few decades have made things more complicated in a lot of ways: how much corporations exploit art as “content,” how easy it is for anyone to create art because of advances in technology, and how everyone expects that art can and should support you financially (even if they don’t admit it) yet how so many people want everything for free or the cheapest price possible (which is only human nature, really).

  2. Anonymous says:

    I absolutely read that as “neighbors inflicting their lawns and desires on you.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    I hope so too! Now, since red pandas are a threatened species, it could be that they’ll go off to other zoos to have babies, but that’s just as good. Chewbacca came from another zoo a couple of years ago to be Ta Shi’s mate.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Happy Anniversary!

    I’m in the top ten! 😉

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