This is such a convoluted way of shifting the blame from ourselves and our own actions. Corporations are to blame for some horrific things, but in this case, it’s a mass case of people taking the easy road and having no qualms with it.
What I was trying to get across was not so much “it’s the corporations fault that people are stealing” but more “nobody has any money left to buy music”.
Obviously it is not as cut and dry as that, but I honestly believe that if we’re going to be paying so much for internet access at home and on our phones/tablets (I think it would be safe to say that anyone with internet access at home and on the go is paying at least $100 per month), then maybe a portion of the billions of dollars in profits these companies make should be going to the creators of the content that is being consumed for ‘free’. It might not be easy to fairly divvy up the money, but then again, it seems our online activity is pretty well kept track of. Imagine if, for example, a site like Bandcamp was designated a certain amount of the worlds internet providers profits to incorporate a ‘pay per play’ model for all the tracks that just get streamed on their site.
Or, imagine if we paid less for internet access. A quick google search shows that AT&T’s revenue for the first quarter of 2012 was $31.8 billion. It seems like they’re doing good enough to charge a little less. I’d be willing to bet that if everybody started paying 25-50% less for their internet access we would see a spike in music sales (or at the very least, a spike in Spotify subscriptions).
Or, imagine if a Spotify subscription (and a Netflix subscription while we’re dreaming) was included in the cost of what we currently pay for internet access. I think that would help a fair bit in making streaming a more realistic income source.
People often point to the 90’s as the golden era of music buying, but the fact that we all had about an extra $100 in our pockets each month ($1200 a year) seems to be skimmed over a bit. And maybe I am misremembering the cost of living in the 90’s (I was under 18 for all of it), but it seems like everything else we spend our money on (food, gas, utilities, etc.) is more or less the equivalent to what we used to spend in comparison to wages (although, I would bet that we’re paying more for those too).
So, is it morally wrong to not pay for things? Yes. Are people doing it strictly because they’re immoral? I’d say no. A poor man is going to steal bread (but at least in that bread stealing scenario, there isn’t a third party making a nice little profit).
So… a couple of days ago, a young intern at NPR wrote a blog post about how she ‘never owned any music in the first place’. And then today (or, I guess, yesterday now), David Lowery wrote a very concise, thought provoking reply (which you should read as it is one of the better pieces of writing about ‘stealing’ music that is out there on the internet). And then links to both posts have been floating around on the twitters and tumblrs (and I just got a Lefsetz Letter about it in the old inbox… which includes some his common bullet points of “just make good music”, “Lady Gaga”, and “Spotify is great and no one believes me”).
For me, I think the best / most interesting point that Dave makes is the one about how all these companies (like Google, your internet provider, etc.) are getting rich off of all this so called ‘free music’.
“But it’s worse than that. It turns out that Verizon, AT&T, Charter etc etc are charging a toll to get into this neighborhood to get the free stuff. Further, companies like Google are selling maps (search results) that tell you where the stuff is that you want to loot. Companies like Megavideo are charging for a high speed looting service (premium accounts for faster downloads). Google is also selling ads in this neighborhood and sharing the revenue with everyone except the people who make the stuff being looted. Further, in order to loot you need to have a $1,000 dollar laptop, a $500 dollar iPhone or $400 Samsumg tablet. It turns out the supposedly “free” stuff really isn’t free. In fact it’s an expensive way to get “free” music. Companies are actually making money from this looting activity.”
Now, yes, Emily the Intern, definitely put her foot into it (everybody is ‘stealing’ music… but nobody ever says that out loud). But after spending way longer than I should have spent reading some of the comments on her NPR post, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for her. To me, it seems like a lot of people left reading the great Dave Lowery post thinking that Emily and the millions of young people who have a similar relationship with purchasing music (or the lack thereof) as the big villains of this story. But I don’t know, maybe we should point the pitchforks at the people counting all the money being made from (as David nicely put it) “charging a toll to get into this neighborhood to get the free stuff”? Yes, this whole ‘I want access to everything, all the time, for free’ attitude that the interent has produced is more than a bit troublesome for anyone making the content that everyone expects for free… but I have a feeling that the ‘expect it for free’ attitude is born out of the ‘I’m already paying over $100 a month to have the internet on my phone and at home’. And don’t get me started on how expensive it is to heat a house in England (in fact, I wrote a blog post kind of about that already)
Anyways, I mostly just wanted to pass on the link to that Dave Lowery post. It’s a long, but good read. And it struck a chord with the ‘record label’ side of me as well as the ‘music listener’ side of me. Since I have those two sides, I agree with a lot of what he says and also disagree with some of it. Or rather than disagree with some things, I just don’t feel as passionately about shaking my fist at Emily the Intern. Especially in a room with a mirror in it. I am, afterall, loading the most recent epsidoe of Games Of Thrones and The Daily Show as I type this. You see, this ‘I want it free’ vs ‘everybody should pay all the time’ thing is a bit complicated, with a lot of moving parts.
Also, to Dave’s point of “is it really that inconvenient to download a song from iTunes into your iPhone?” I would just like to add, “is it really that hard for Apple to make it possible to download music from Bandcamp while on an iPhone?”*.
*If it is now possible to download music from Bandcamp on your iPhone, I retract that statement. I just remember back when I had an iPhone, you could only seem to purchase music from iTunes. I find things like that a lot more annoying than Emily the Intern’s prom date giving her 15 GB’s of free music. Although, I also find giving someone 15 GB’s of music annoying. Not so much for the lost artist revenue, but for the thought and time that didn’t go into picking just the perfect 20 songs, putting them in the perfect order, and just giving that… and for the 100’s of songs in that 15 GB’s that got thrown into iTunes and were never listened to (but rather just added to the grand total of an ‘I have this many songs on my computer’ drop).