Comment of the Moment: Steal This Album
w/ Peter Kafka & Walt Mossberg
AllThingsD Conference, Laguna Niguel, California, Jan. 31, 2012
Photos by Asa Mathat
Quite the lively discussion on the post Steal this album: What happens if no one pays for music?.
Essentially, the debate is framed between fan and musician: How should we pay for culture in the Internet era, and if we don’t pay, what happens to the producers of culture?
And after quite a bit of back and forth, our fundamental point was that the vast, vast majority of revenue from music today goes directly to the Apple/Google/Comcast/Verizon mega conglomerates -- not to musicians.
The Comment of the Moment is from knowledgenomad:
First off, thanks for posting on this issue. This is an important issue for all who care about art in all its manifestations, not just music. And these are not easy issues. I remember having discussions in college (where Lowery's CVB played our dinning hall and I became a lifelong fan) about the ethics of taping records. The technology has changed since then, but at the core the issue remains the same.
Lowery's piece bears reading in full, not just excerpted. His writing is cogent and he presents a well thought out argument (which is all the more entertaining when you consider he's responsible for such classics as "The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon").
What's missing from his piece is, indeed, the issue raised by Daylily Dallas -- namely the question of music discovery. In the past, that was often radio, and for me it still very much is. The difference is, now I can use the Internet to listen to great radio programs around the world that have turned me on to artists I would have otherwise never discovered on local stations. And these are artists I have gone on to support by going to their lives shows and/or buying albums. So I do think there is a space for that kind of "free" discovery that needs to be recognized as ultimately supportive of musicians.
My last point touches on the sore point of pricing that has been discussed here previously. I legally own all of Neil's commercial releases in one format or another, but my preference is vinyl. Yet, while I now buy almost exclusively vinyl for other artists, I don't buy Neil's LPs. Walk into any record store (I have the good fortune of living near probably a dozen with 10 miles -- LA must be vinyl mecca), and you'll experience sticker shock when you get the tab labeled "Neil Young." I'm thankful that I'll be able to get Americana on Blu-Ray so that I still get a hi-fidelity recording, but I guess I just don't get why Neil's vinyl has to be so much more expensive than other artists.
Same with concerts -- I can't afford to go to his shows anymore. Most other big name artists are also crazy expensive, but do they really need to be? My wife and saw Prince last year for $25, belying the claim that A-list artists have to charge astronomical prices. Maybe Prince lost money on those shows, but I doubt it.
Anyway, I do hope that people will take to heart Lowery's argument about the ethics of paying for music. And I hope artists and the music industry as a whole will strive to make their art accessible while still enabling them to make a fair living.
We'll let Neil have the last word...
"I look at [the] internet as the new radio.
Radio [is] gone. Piracy is the new radio; it's how music gets around."
So if piracy is the new radio, what do musicians do?