Kids, Lawns and Unhappy Campers

I must say this is a strange one – a NPR intern writes that she’s not owned many albums in her life but has 11,000 songs – fairly typical for that generation, as much as you might deplore it. Then Oscar the Grouch, sorry David Lowery comes along and his long toilet-roll rant about how it’s so wrong.

What appalled me about it is because he knew Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt he can then claim that downloading contributed to their unfortunate demise. WTF? No, nothing about the fact that EMI delayed the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ for over a year with a legal dispute – contrary to the fluffy argument earlier that record labels don’t rip off artists which David states “…in the vast majority of cases, this is not true.” (hmm right). Just because you knew someone, even closely does not mean you can know why they took their life, what was going through their heads that moment, or whether having no money or lots of money would have changed it. It’s unknowable. I know this from very personal experience, sadly. And then to get defensive and insulting when questioned about such an allegation? (check the comments) – ouch. Not a good look, really. And not a good way to remember Mark or Vic, whose work I both respect and loved – and indeed financially supported.

Also odd is the ‘it’s our site, fuck off!’ moderator comments at the end and the usual OMG Free Culture = EVIL ILLUMINATI CONSPIRACY simplifications (also – pretty sure Spotify has never actually disclosed the proper rates in fact? The ones people quote are from a leaked Gaga ‘receipt’ and estimate from 2010?) David’s post is full of FAIL, and comes over as a bullying sort of older generation that kids will just switch off. I mean I write about this shit, and that screed even turned me off…and I’m not exactly a kid. I feel sorry for his students.

I do get the whole ‘you’re giving Google/Apple/Samsung your money why not me?’ argument, although that’s very simplistic. There is some truth there, although artists are far from in the clear when signing very stupid contracts and not allowing people to give them money (I mean seriously, if you’re an artist without Bandcamp or your own site for buying direct, you’re a dolt). Also the culture has changed, hectoring ‘the kids’ about not giving you money for bits of plastic is not going to run – and I do think subscription/streaming models will most likely be the way as Emily did point out.

Screaming that ‘Spotify is shit! Google is shit! Do it MY WAY!’ won’t really run, nor help with that – the reason such things don’t exist or get crippled is record industry bodies (RIAA, BPI, MCPSPRS etc) who do want to screw every cent out of any service – not that many small artists see it – which tends to mean many of these things are either incomplete or stillborn. I would pay for access to ALL recorded music, there’s so much stuff that’s still not available and I’d like to pay for it – but can’t. Sadly this means the second hand dealers get the money not the artist – which is why I say if you don’t get your catalogue back and/or use Bandcamp or similar for your music then you are indeed a dolt.

Giving profits to the rare record dealer, when you or your label could be making it. Many records never made it to CD let alone iTunes, and all it takes is a few sales to be quids in…rather than moaning about kids sharing your stuff. I’d rather buy a decent quality copy, but amazes me that so many artists including the ones who moan about filesharing don’t do that (I won’t look into, say, Camper Van Beethoven’s discogs entry but I’m sure I could find some deleted gems that should be out there, but aren’t.)

In my mind if you’re not selling your music then why can you moan about people sharing it? Personally I’d change the law to say copyright is only in force through use – ie. you don’t use it by releasing then deleting something, you lose. Cover would still be there for unpublished works, but it would go back to the original idea of a license – like a patent – that only exploitation of rights happens for a shorter period and also must be utilised. If not – it reverts to the artist (which would also stop record companies holding onto albums forever). If they aren’t interested then public domain it goes. I don’t see why in the digital age recorded can be still shelved in dusty vaults, it makes no sense and makes a mockery of the original idea of copyright. It was never meant to be some artist pension scheme but to help dissemination of works into the public domain with the ‘candy’ to the creator of a protected window.

And unlike the expensive distribution and record pressing of yesteryear ANYONE can release a record now without any initial outlay – and sell it for almost free in fact (Bandcamp and other sites take a cut of any sales, for instance – meaning you don’t have to pay for it up front).

Oh and to finish – I love this gramps style comment from the article:

“kids, lawn, vacate. You are doing it wrong.” ?

Way to go, David. My response is: old fool get off my lawn.

EDIT: Dave Allen of Gang of Four restores my faith of old punks getting it with the excellent The Internet Does Not Care About Your Mediocre Band. He really does – and points out some other silliness of that article (thanks Jeb for the link!)

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