Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man.

David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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94 Responses

  1. Tom Van Dyke says:

    My teenage ambition was a) musician b) someday a pundit. Today I do both but can’t afford to be either. Not complaining, mind you, just sayin’.Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    Not in line with the article, but the title of the post…

    You mean hipsters aren’t entirely 10000000% original?!?!Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    One angry, but sort of hilarious response I saw to Mr. Lowry’s article (and let me note that it’s good to see his social conscience has evolved past merely taking the skinheads bowling [a joke that should amuse no one else]) was a middle aged man I know who posted on Facebook that he shouldn’t be condemned for “doing what’s natural” (illegally downloading music presumably) and pointed out that the music industry has been underpaying artists, so he has no sympathy- since they’ve been underpaid by the music industry in the past, it’s only an act of social justice, I suppose, to instead support an industry that steals outright from them.Report

    • greginak in reply to Rufus F. says:

      +1 for Camper Van Beethoven reference.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to greginak says:

        Whew! I made a Dead Milkmen reference the other day and everyone looked at me like I was reminiscing about the days before electricity.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

          I got kicked out of a Dead Milkmen concert once!

          Okay, I’m overselling what happened. It’s more that the cops broke it up.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

            You know what, Jaybird? I like you! You’re not like the other people, here, in the trailer park. Oh, no, don’t get me wrong. They’re fine people, good Americans. They’re content to kick back, maybe watch a little Mork & Mindy on channel 57, maybe kick back a cool Coors sixteen ouncer. They’re good, fine people, Jaybird. But they don’t know what the queers are doing to the soil!

            (A variation on this was what got me the blank and awkward stares.)Report

            • Simon K in reply to Rufus F. says:

              They’re in it with the aliens, right?

              My first girlfriend made me a mix tape with that on it. Just to confirm to your friends how incredibly old and uncool I am, I should also point out that I was later starter.Report

  4. kenB says:

    I thought this bit from his reply to a commenter was interesting too:

    I used to be a paperboy in a pretty bad neighborhood. I used to marvel in the fact that no one would ever steal the neighbors newspaper. It happened maybe 2 times in the 4 years I was a paperboy.

    I think it has a lot to do with how people visualize “who” they are stealing from. In my paperboy experience people don’t steal cause they see it as taking from their neighbor.

    when I was older I ended up working at the same paper as the assistant circulation manager. I would sometimes have to fill the newspaper racks with papers. I would often watch people put in a quarter and remove 5 or 6 papers and distribute them to people standing around in front of the liquor store or supermarket. In this case they were stealing from a Company. it made a difference to people.


  5. DensityDuck says:

    The article asks “Why do you pay real money for this other stuff but not music?”

    Because the “other stuff” (computers, smartphones, etcetera) is real stuff, not “nonreal stuff” like computer files. It’s 2012 and people still believe that the disc is the content is what you own. The notion that a media purchase is just a bundle of reproduction rights isn’t something that people have internalized yet, because up until about fifteen years ago the difference didn’t mean anything.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to DensityDuck says:

      At least thirty years ago, some radio stations used to annoy record companies by playing album sides straight through without commercials, i.e. perfectly set up for taping off the air.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    I have many friends who pirate music and other things. They insist they do it because the industry is running a flawed model. The conversation came up because I wanted to go out to watch a football game that was not on local broadcast TV and they had ways of streaming it live through some shady online sites. Their logic was, “If they won’t give it to me, I’ll just take it.”

    It was really no different than the logic espoused in this comic (which seems to be lauding the practice, mind you):

    To me, it is about entitlement. They somehow feel entitled to have something and are frustrated with the obstacles they must go through to acquire it. What, you don’t want to go to the music store or log onto iTunes or pay money or wait for it to be available? Tough shit. It’s not yours in the first place. The industry isn’t “denying” you something through a flawed business model; they are choosing when and where and how to distribute it as they see fit. JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER GODDAMN BUSINESS! I can’t justify boosting a Snickers truck as it drives by my house because the Stop&Shop won’t deliver them to me at half the price they charge them for. So how can I justify bootlegging “Game of Thrones” today because I don’t want to wait for them to release the DVDs on their own timetable?Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      That comic, as you’d expect, misses the point. It isn’t GRRM who’s being screwed by pirating the TV version of GoT (he’s been paid up front, and if he has a royalty deal, it’s minor.) Pirating cheats HBO, which is spending a small fortune on location shooting and topnotch CGI to make GoT as awesome as it is [1]. If you want something free, go ahead and download the YouTube stick figure version. Or if you want to complain about the immorality of copyright, feel free to create a YouTube stick figure version, and if gets taken down I’ll be on your side.

      1. (Only if you’ve seen Season 2 and read Crows)
      Gubhtu V’yy unir n uneq gvzr sbetvivat gurz vs Eboo’f zneevntr gb gur fchevbhf ahefr punenpgre jnfa’g frg hc ol Gljva Ynaavfgre.Report

  7. dhex says:

    um, i think a point was missed here:

    “But I didn’t illegally download (most) of my songs. A few are, admittedly, from a stint in the 5th grade with the file-sharing program Kazaa. Some are from my family. I’ve swapped hundreds of mix CDs with friends. My senior prom date took my iPod home once and returned it to me with 15 gigs of Big Star, The Velvet Underground and Yo La Tengo (I owe him one).

    During my first semester at college, my music library more than tripled. I spent hours sitting on the floor of my college radio station, ripping music onto my laptop. The walls were lined with hundreds of albums sent by promo companies and labels to our station over the years.

    All of those CDs are gone. My station’s library is completely digital now, and so is my listening experience.”

    this is a special circumstances kinda case. i can understand why the responding essayist is cheesed off, but he’s also in the buggy whip end of the business, and that horse left town. most of her circumstances are no different than a college radio station guy/gal from the 90s or the 80s in terms of trading and gifting music.

    besides, bandcamp is where it’s at anyway.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to dhex says:

      If you did not purchase the CD (or receive it as a gift), or you did but no longer own it, then having a digital file is a violation of copyright.

      “I borrowed it from my friend/sister/mom/house/roommate” and you still have the file? Hey, guess what, that’s illegal copying.

      “i can understand why the responding essayist is cheesed off, but he’s also in the buggy whip end of the business”

      Yes, making a living through creative work is such a twentieth-century dinosaur concept.Report

      • M.A. in reply to DensityDuck says:

        If the song was broadcast on the radio, and you captured it with a digital tuner, you’re in the clear.

        If the song was put up on YouTube by the artist or company as a promotional, and you downloaded it and excised the audio, as far as I know you’re in the clear.

        If you bought the CD, ripped it to your PC for safekeeping or iPod transferal, and then someone sat on the CD and cracked it and you threw it out as worthless (because it was physically unusable) then you’re… in violation of copyright?

        This is why few people treat copyright with respect. The rules as written are ridiculous.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

          They aren’t any more ridiculous than the notion that you can’t drive your car at whatever speed is appropriate for road conditions and your ability.

          Or, maybe, than the notion that you can’t just walk across Mister Petersen’s yard even though there’s no fence or anything and you can get right to school and otherwise you have to walk all the way down the street and back up the other side.Report

          • M.A. in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Oh for fish’s sake.

            you can’t drive your car at whatever speed is appropriate for road conditions and your ability.

            Speed laws specify an upper limit of what is considered safe, and also include provisions such as traveling too fast for conditions. Your analogy fails.

            you can’t just walk across Mister Petersen’s yard even though there’s no fence or anything and you can get right to school and otherwise you have to walk all the way down the street and back up the other side.

            If Mr. Petersen has:
            – put up a fence.
            – put up a warning sign of another sort prohibiting trespass.
            – verbally warned you previously that trespassing on his property is not permissible.
            Then in those instances, you must walk around his property.

            If he has not done so, and has made no affirmative steps to demarcate his property from general property and indicate that he does not wish you to walk upon it, then there is no problem under the law provided that upon his verbal notice that he wishes you to exit his property, you do so.

            Clear demarcations there.

            Not so with the minefield that is copyright law.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

              “If Mr. Petersen has:
              – put up a fence.
              – put up a warning sign of another sort prohibiting trespass.
              – verbally warned you previously that trespassing on his property is not permissible.”

              Hey-ho, guess what copyright does?

              “Not so with the minefield that is copyright law.”

              I’m glad you agree that bankers shouldn’t have to comply with SEC regulations because they’re really complicated and stuff.Report

              • M.A. in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Not. The. Same. Thing.

                And you know it, you’re just trolling.

                When did I ever say that certain things were not illegal? I didn’t. I explained why so many people are willing to be scofflaws about them because the laws are not just complicated, they are completely nonsensical and self-contradictory.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

                funny. i’ve got a CD at home that says it is an illegal copy. It is quite legal, however, and distributed by the company itself.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

          “If the song was broadcast on the radio, and you captured it with a digital tuner, you’re in the clear.

          If the song was put up on YouTube by the artist or company as a promotional, and you downloaded it and excised the audio, as far as I know you’re in the clear.”

          Citation needed for both of those. “as far as I know” doesn’t cut it. Please try to do it without requiring an easily-closed regulatory loophole.Report

          • M.A. in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Citation #1: Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

            Regarding the second:
            – A song put on YouTube (or some other video or audio site) by an authorized agent (the artist, the recording company, a hired promotional company) is a freely given item, a.k.a. a promotional gift.
            – Viewing a song from YouTube necessarily downloads the file to your computer. This is a freely given item a.k.a. promotional gift to you, the viewer; you are within your rights to archive it and hold on to it, just the same as if you’d been handed a promotional single mini-cd at some public event, sent it in the mail as a member of a fan club or via your existence on some other promotional database, or given a direct download link to an MP3 or other audio format file in some other form of promotional campaign.
            – You are free to format-shift and space-shift this authorized copy gifted to you by the authorized agent, as consistent with RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia.

            I’ll invite a real lawyer to chime in if they think the logic is faulty.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:


            “…or you did but no longer own it, then having a digital file is a violation of copyright.”

            If you no longer own the CD because it was destroyed or broken or lost, you’re okay. If you give it away, not so much. A minor quibble, but I think an important one, lest folks go out and delete all their music for CDs they’ve since lost.

            I believe it is even okay for you re-download a song that you did appropriately purchase if it was somehow deleted or lost from your computer. I think there was a lawsuit about this where it was decided that you were purchasing the rights to play/hear the music, NOT just the physical digital file or whatever. I could be wrong.

            But none of those really get at your broader point, which I entirely agree with. NEWSFLASH! You are not entitled to something just because you really really want it. Burning/swapping CDs is illegal. Burning CDs from the library is illegal. If you have music you didn’t pay for, you probably have it illegally. That tends to be the case for most things, no?Report

            • Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

              Eh, the music pirating industry really croaked about the time Apple made it easy and convienent to buy the stupid things digitally.

              I know, oh, a dozen guys that illegally crack DVDs and bluerays. Of the dozen, one guy makes himself the occasional copy of one he doesn’t own.

              The other guys? All of them specifically sought, found, and utilize software designed to crack DVDs and bluerays to…remove the FBI warning labels and (more and more common) unskippable commercials, so putting in the disk jumps straight to the menu. (or just starts it).

              A few of them used to pirate movies rather than just remove annoying warrnings, but it’s just easier to watch it on Neflix.

              On books, Amazon’s DRM isn’t particularly hard to crack — and yet they’re making bank (in general) because people seem happy enough to just pay six bucks for a paperback for Kindle rather than brave malware infected waters for somethign that may or may not turn out to be what they want.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:


                I beg to differ. I know a lot of people who pirate a ton of stuff, including music. Some of the stuff they don’t even necessarily have much interest in utilizing, but it is there and they have the bandwith and the hard drive space so why not? Others use offshore sites and pay a couple pennies. I think they’re based in Ukraine or Poland or something.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’d be interested in some statistics on this. I think Morat is wrong on the bit about whether or not it’s croaked, but I would be surprised if legal downloads didn’t have some effect. It really was a problem when you couldn’t get the downloads legally, even if solving that didn’t eliminate piracy.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                Oh, I’m sure the ease of legal downloads has made a huge difference. And I do think there was a group of people (myself included) who didn’t know that Napster was illegal and, upon finding out, stopped using it. So I’m sure there are fewer people downloading music now than when the phenomenon began. But it certainly isn’t dead. The proliferation of high-speed bandwidth and the reduced cost of hard drive space has kept it a viable option for many.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

                Sure, but WHY? I mean, look what I get with Amazon or iTunes — I basically get free cloud storage. (well, 99 cents a song. Or a 1.29 if I want it unlocked. Assumign they still do that).

                My son got a new iPod and didn’t even have to hook it to a computer — he just accessed the wireless network and hit “download purchased songs” and it pulled down everything he’d ever bought.

                There are certainly hordes of people who pirate. But there were folks who lived entirely off bootleg cassettes.

                But most people? Happy to pay a reasonable price (which apple seems to have found) for music that’s backed up, known quality, and easy to access.

                And not infected with malware. Ever been to a pirate site? Good god, even with no-script on I kinda want to boil my computer after.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

                Music creates a deep sense of loyalty, (dare I use the word love?) between musician and audience. They thrive in each other’s company.

                I’m a big Umphrey’s McGee fan. If they put up a notice, “There’s trouble afoot and we need to raise some money right away” I’d make a huge donation. Thousands of people would, I know these people, they’d shell out. Because UM is a hard-working band and they’re creating music which gives a little meaning to my life. And UM doesn’t prohibit people from taping their shows. That’s not altruism. That’s a tacit acknowledgement some of us can’t get to all the shows.

                So how does UM cope with this potential loss of revenue? They put up every night’s concert, recorded straight off the board, to so we can all get our UM fix for a trivial sum. Which we UM fans gladly pay.

                A bit of Gentle Giant I’ve played for many years, sums up the matter:

                Gather round the village square
                Come good people both wretched and fair.
                See the troubadour play on the drum
                Hear my songs on the lute that I strum.
                I will make you laugh,
                Revel, Merry-dance.
                Throw your pennies, then you’ll hear
                more of
                the story-telling half.
                There’s no other chance,
                Always move on
                Raconteur, troubadour.

                Take the face that you see for the man,
                Clown and minstrel, I am what I am.
                All my family, not of my kin.
                Home, wherever, the place that I’m in.
                Humors give me wage,
                Favors for my art.
                Rising, falling
                Everyone struggle on.
                All the world’s a stage
                All can play their part.
                I have chosen
                Raconteur, troubadour.Report

      • dhex in reply to DensityDuck says:

        every mixtape i ever made was an adventure in scofflawism for the recipients? dang.

        anyway, yeah – making money through selling physical cds on a large scale is a largely 20th century concept. kids these days (get off my lawn!) grew up without the notions you (and i, even) have about ownership of this nature and the nature of ownership.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to dhex says:

          “every mixtape i ever made was an adventure in scofflawism for the recipients?”


          “bububububu IM NOT A CRIMINAAALLLLLLLL”

          I know that’s what you think. And that’s why this whole thing is a problem. People aren’t used to the idea that something they do every day with no trouble at all could actually be illegal.

          On the other hand, people violate the speed limit everywhere they go and they only get caught a few times–in egregious cases, mostly.

          On the gripping hand nobody who gets stopped for speeding is going to argue that speed limits are a fundamentally invalid concept in an age of economy cars that can go 100 miles an hour.Report

          • dhex in reply to DensityDuck says:

            i fought the law, and i won?

            dunno. i’ve bought a lot of music i first heard from mixtapes, both online and off. perhaps i can plead for leniency on those grounds. i’ve turned folks onto bands they otherwise would never have heard, etc.

            but the genie doesn’t go back in the bottle, particularly for people in their 20s who grew up with easy access. not sure analogies to speeding for downloading something they weren’t going to buy in the first place is going to change their minds.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Is this true only of digitial copies, or analogue as well? I’m remembering cases against Memorex back in the day and seem to recall that recordings from vinyl to cassette were legal.Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    That the girl from the article absolutely, positively stole is true and obvious.

    That this shows us why markets can be destructive for certain industries is just as true, if not so obvious.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Can you elaborate on that last bit?Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        People today who are in bands and think, “Boy, back before Napster I would have made all that money for people that wanted to buy my music!” don’t know what it was like before Naptser. Before Napster, they would never have made a recording to sell, because the entire music industry was controlled by the distribution channel – and the way the market makes the distribution channel profitable is to have just a few acts that all sound relatively similar (and look like models). Most people that signed recording contracts didn’t make any money either, because the contracts were fairly unilateral in terms of the music rights and royalties.

        You young people don’t realize this, but easy-to-pirate, cheap, universally electronic copies of music is why there is such a huge diversity of music available today. The market worked well for the industry that controlled the money, which was the distribution industry. It beat down that actual music-making industry, to the point that it was withering on the vine.Report

        • dhex in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          and it’s rubbed off on larger channels. npr’s music blog now streams upcoming metal releases from small labels like profound lore or (the larger) candlelight. weird.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I’m not sure how much of this you can attribute to Napster, though. A lot of it is related to how much less expensive it is to record and distribute music (not just talking about electronic distribution).Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

            Oh, I don’t know that I attribute it to Napster per se; rather, I attribute all of the things that led to Napster being the same sets of conditions that led to musicians being freed from control by a small number of distributors. I don’t know that you have either one without the other.Report

        • M.A. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Want to know what it’s like dealing with the RIAA, talk to Janis Ian.

          I suggest you read her take on the matter of publishing.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Tod, I debated letting this one go because I really like you and I don’t know a nicer way to say this, but your account is totally off-base here. I’ve been in bands since the 80s. Before Napster and the Internet, what a lot of us did was to make our own records on our own record labels, put on our own shows, sell them through the (then) hundreds of independent record stores around the country (and sometimes globally), take out ads in dozens of magazines, get airplay on of plenty of college radio stations, tour around in vans, and not think twice about wasting our time with the majors. We also found a rich diversity of music without waiting for MTV or corporate radio to tell us what to listen to. Ask Fugazi about the impossibility of getting anyone to hear your music if you weren’t on a major label back before the internet. (Ya know, like, D.I.Y. or die, man!) There’s a rich history of independently made and distributed music that undercuts the argument that, since major labels still suck, it’s better now for independent artists that the independent labels that treated them with respect and paid them well are all going under because people no longer think artists deserve anything for their art. I know people who have been playing music for 30-40 years and every one of them has posted that Lowry article on Facebook.Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Rufus F. says:

            Dude, don’t hold off telling me I’m wrong even though I’m a nice guy.

            I take your point, and you may be right. But those independent labels, do they really make less money (in aggregate) than they did 20, 30 or 40 years ago? This is a question, not an argument – I don’t actually know. I would be surprised, though, to learn that it was so. I’d be surprised to learn that indie revenues today don’t *dwarf* indie revenues prior to electronically stored music.

            This doesn’t mean, as I said above, that it isn’t stealing, or that bands shouldn’t look for technologies to make is harder to pirate music – it is and they should. But I have yet to be convinced that there isn’t more – a lot more – money (and more variety) in non-major labels today than before. And I certainly don’t think that a lot of the bands that we consider “big/mainstream” today – Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds, Arcade Fire, Black Keys, DeathCab, etc. – would have ever been any thing but small regional artists had the old model gone unchanged.Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Absolutely- it’s entirely likely that there are bands that get more exposure now through things like Youtube videos than ever would before, and that’s great. As I’ve said elsewhere, I also think Bandcamp is a great idea. But, yes, about half of the indie labels I used to buy records from have gone under and they’ve all had to tighten their belts because, no, they’re not making anything like what they used to. Actually, this is one of the reasons I’m skeptical when people blame the major labels for piracy- it seems to be happening to everyone pretty equally. I remember an interview with Ice Cube not too long ago, in which he said he felt bad for the artists just starting out now who have no hope of getting anywhere. It’s pretty rough.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Rufus – I should be clear that I do not blame the labels for piracy. I blame the labels for controlling the product – poorly. As I said to Will, I think that the technology that allowed musicians to circumvent major labels (yay!) is the same technology that allows people to pirate an insane amount of music in a very short period of time while I pay for it (boo!).

                And yet, I would not want to go back.

                And yet, even as I say that, I recognize I say that as a fan and consumer of music, not someone trying to put food on the table playing music.

                My assumption is that, similar to the time of music first being recorded, a sustainable business model will eventually follow the technology. This may be overly optimistic on my part.Report

              • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I used to work for several of the major record labels, and they deserve everything that’s happening to them today.

                When you buy a $15 CD, the artist gets about $1 of it. Except… that the record company gets to recoup its “production costs” first. So most bands, in most circumstances, don’t make a penny from their records beyond their signing bonus.

                When I was working for one of the big labels, they would periodically ask me to go to New York, or Toronto, or Chicago. They would send a ridiculous limo to pick me up at my house, even after I asked them not to. I would check the itenary, and see that they paid $6,000 – $7,000 for airline tickets, because they always bought them the evening before the flight. They’d put me up in a $650 / night hotel, even when a perfectly decent $150 hotel was closer to the corporate site.

                And at the same time, a good third of their staff were unpaid interns, and another third were working for pretty nominal wages.

                This was pretty typical for the major labels. Artists were so desperate to get record distribution, that they’d sign contracts that were completely onerous; usually for three to five records. The labels spent money like they were printing it, except when it came to reimbursing the people who worked for them.

                So, I consider Napster and bitTorrent to be karmic justice.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

                All true. Thanks, Snark.

                The Yes band once released a song entitled “5% for Nothing” Only a professional musician gets the joke, usually.Report

              • So, let me get this straight: you rightly despise that the major labels that grossly exploit and underpay artists, giving them on average something like $1.25 per CD. You feel that’s a terrible way to treat artists, so you think the companies- and the artists along with them- deserve what they’re getting when other companies, instead, pay them $0 for every CD distributed. But, if you’re perfectly happy with the “karmic justice” of one company stealing directly from artists and paying them nothing, what’s the grounds for criticizing the other one for underpaying them?

                I mean, I think it makes more sense to say we hate how the major labels treat artists, and with good reason, so we should now use the net to buy directly from the artists at the price they set and to make sure they’re much better compensated for their work than they have been in the past. But, that’s not really BitTorrent.Report

              • dhex in reply to Rufus F. says:

                folks who blame this cultural shift on the behavior of major labels are being shortsighted, as it affects artists popular and not, large and small.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F. says:

            The music business, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, was always a racket. With the advent of high fidelity recording, an entirely new market developed. But alongside it, the broadcast industry was developing. Radio made extensive use of recorded music, exposing recording artists to the world.

            But who had dominated the music industry before recording and broadcast technology? The sheet music sellers, that’s who. They had enormous market penetration and we still see their influence in the “publishing contract” inflicted on artists, stealing their copyrights for tiny advances. As far back as Mozart, there was good money in music publishing. There was pretty good money in selling musical instruments, too, but the real money was in selling sheet music, for in those days, every respectable home featured a piano.

            There’s also the performance royalty, a not-very-profitable but always remunerative arrangement, an offshoot of the publishing contract.

            The “recording contract” is another productive instrument for screwing musicians. A&R weasels used to roam the land, talent scouts with rolled up contracts in their coat pocket, bait to hook gullible artists just getting off stage after a performance. As the publisher had come to dominate the sheet music industry, the recording contract only served those firms with deep enough pockets to have a good studio and the machinery to process the vinyl and plastic into records and CDs. The indies outsourced the making of product to the larger companies: they didn’t have those deep pockets.

            Arguably, the recording industry of the 20th century did more to harm musicians than any other factor in their lives. Now that every musician can record and produce his own music, bringing in talented producers and engineers to make excellent product, I have no sympathy for the demise of the old music moguls and their rapacious business models. They brought this disaster upon themselves.

            The last remaining obstacle to progress is breaking the monopoly held by Ticketmaster. That day is coming and may have already arrived. When artists can create virtual concerts on the Net, performing for a virtual audience, then the cycle will be complete.Report

  9. Will Truman says:

    The arguments about convenience and failure-of-service have some logic when it comes to TV/movies, but not music. Buying is ridiculously easier than getting an illegal copy. The music industry (belatedly) did everything asked of them.

    Back when I was in college, it was a bit easier to justify morally and practically, if not legally. I would download music to sample it. The end result is that my music-purchasing skyrocketed. Now, though, I can sample with Spotify or Rhapsody. And I can download at a click. What more can we legitimately ask for?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


      Is there really logic to the convenience/failure-of-service arguments? How are they any different than me breaking into the corner convenience store because they had to nerve to close at 10PM but I wanted Doritos at 11PM? I mean, I understand the practical argument, but the moral argument doesn’t seem to change. Do you think it does?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        I believe that copyright law should exist not for the compensation of artists (though that’s not irrelevant), but for the advancement of the arts. As such, I do not believe that artists and right-holders have an intrinsic right to limit how their entertainment is enjoyed. So when they try to do so, I have less moral issue with circumventing those limitations. With the convenience store, I find the limitations to be more reasonable, and therefore circumventing them more unreasonable. (Keep in mind I am talking about morality here, and not the law, breaking the law and taking something without compensation is often going to be morally problematic in its own right.)

        The second issue is that morally, the illegal downloading before could be justified under the pretext of sampling. “I’m not going to buy this without listening to it first, and I can’t listen to it without downloading it.” If you never have any intention of buying it, this doesn’t work. As I mentioned, though, in my own experience this lead to me purchasing more rather than less music. So it shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

          Gotcha. I suppose we then enter a conversation as to what inconveniences or restrictions are reasonable and what are not. The friends I often argue with seem to think that just about anything other than the artist personally telling them the story while simultaneously giving them a foot jibber is too much to ask. We got into our big argument because they insisted we leave a bar that had the football game I wanted to watch on under the impression that it would be on at their apartment. It wasn’t. I said we should walk around the corner to the bar. They instead spent 20 minutes trying to stream it online (which they eventually did). It was actually more work to steal than to watch legitimately. And the only costs incurred to watch it legitimately were in the difference between drinking the beer in the fridge and drinking the beer at the bar, which obviously was entirely optional and not a requirement for viewership. They simply dug their heals in and insisted that they should be able to watch it at home without subscribing to the satellite package that would have allowed them to do so. Also, no one was offering foot jibbers.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

            Sports is actually another example, in a way. Due to a loophole in their verification process, I have access to a sports site that I shouldn’t. The thing is, I can’t get it. It’s not offered to me. Rather, Sports Network (SN) makes a deal with cable and internet providers and the latter either play ball or they don’t. And neither of my local providers do. (Anyone doubting my sincerity on willingness to pay for it, until recently I paid Other Sports Network $15 a month for less.)

            I have absolutely no moral qualms about doing what I’m doing. SN made a conscience decision to severely restrict the release of its content and decided not to offer me a chance to get their content as leverage against ISPs. I believe they made their bed.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

              Wait, a website isn’t available to you? Or a television channel?

              Also, are sports covered by “copyright” or “trademark” or something else? I understand your argument about copyright being intended to promote art. Are sports art?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                A website with streaming video content that cannot be seen on television.

                Sports logos and all are trademark, I think, but broadcast games and such are copyright.

                Sports would fall under entertainment, which I would put under the same category and rules as art.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I suppose sports throws a bit of a wrench into the gears.

                I remember being (and to an extent, continuing to be) upset about the NFL’s nonsense with Sunday Ticket and the NFL Network and blah blah blah.

                I guess I just tend to default to the respecting the right of the rights’ owner to distribute his product as he see fits, even if that means not at all. But you’re right that itself might undermine the point of copyright and patents. Something to consider. As always, thanks!Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                The NFL is an interesting case. There’s an argument that they aren’t all that bad as far as accessibility goes. When I linked a while back to a complaint about Sunday Ticket and mentioned the anti-trust exemption, a commenter made some good points:

                It is important to note that only baseball has a blanket anti-trust exemption. The NFL has it to collectively sell its regular-season and post-season rights and to operate as one league, instead of two distinct leagues. In order to get these exemptions, the NFL had to give a little too. Do you think New Orleans REALLY deserves a football team? Of course not. Except that in 1966 Russell Long and Hale Boggs* were very powerful and demanded one in order to grant these exemptions.

                Also, I feel the NFL is the most fan friendly league when it comes to television. If you live in the DMA of an NFL team, you can see EVERY away game of that team on free television. If they sell out more than 72 hours before kickoff, you can see all of their home games on free television as well. If your DMA doesn’t have an NFL team, then you can see four games on free television every Sunday: 1, 4:05, 4:15, 8:20. No college team, not even Notre Dame, is on free television as much.

                Futhermore, all 11 post-season games are on free television. In baseball, only 14 out of 41 are. The other major sports are even worse.

                This year I could have seen the Giants play 16 times, the Jets play 18 times, and Rutgers play once on free television.

                The NFL, by eschewing these cable opportunities, is already leaving money on the table and isn’t maximizing its profits. The NFL would LOVE to play on Friday and Saturday nights all year long. So why don’t they? They agreed not to as part of their anti-trust exemption, in order to protect the gate at high school and college games.

                The hole you can poke in my argument is that “everyone” has cable. My counter-argument is that the NFL has had these rules long before universal cable. Furthermore, cable isn’t as universal as everyone thinks, especially with the second television in the house, outdoor televisions, tailgating, etc.

                So I might be willing to cut them some slack. Though I believe they should be strongarmed into expansion (from another post):

                Beyond that, the NFL’s restriction on the number of teams it has is another example. Right now there are 32 teams in a nation of roughly 310 million. That is the worst ratio the NFL has ever had and at every decade marker since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 that ratio has gotten worse. This despite the fact that there are more avenues than ever for games to be shown on television. Cities considerably larger than NFL host cities were when they had teams do not get a team (and no, I’m not just referring to Los Angeles). Even now, there are cities without teams that are notably larger than cities with them (and not just New Orleans or Buffalo). In fact, there are between 7 and 10 markets larger than the bottom five current host cities. So why do the host cities still have those teams? In some cases because they got them when they were more vibrant locales (New Orleans, Buffalo) and or because of an intense potential fan-base (Jacksonville)

                I see very little reason to believe that the NFL could not expand by a good half-dozen teams and maintain profitability. It’s not hard to figure out why they’re not itching to do so. The fewer teams, the less competition. The less the big market teams have to subsidize smaller-market teams so that the latter can stay competitive or split their own market. The easier it is to blackmail cities into building them stadiums or else they’ll move. The model is working for them. That doesn’t mean that it’s working for us.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I might need to do a post over on MD about anti-trust exemptions and all of the other legal wrangling that goes into our sports leagues and what the implications are, both positive and negative, for fans. Maybe once we’re deeper into summer…Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                Which should be read as me saying, “This entire comment was fascinating and demonstrates the difficulty in making sense of all of this when looking at the sports world.”Report

  10. Fnord says:

    When a fool lectures an idiot, which one is the wiser?Report