I’ve lately been on a surge of music grabbing. In my grabbing I have stumbled upon some interesting discussions of music sharing. I’d like to take this time to address the ongoing issue that is "free downloading." First off, I do not plan to resolve the issue for anyone, nor am I preaching or attempting to convert anyone. I am merely going to express my own opinion on the matter and blow off some steam. Although my attitude towards possession has always been one of vanity and loathing I must admit that I have developed a personal attachment to my collection of cds, lps and cassettes, and have humbly enjoyed it’s slow but sure growth over the years. In no way would I ever consider a download more valuable or even close to on par with it's physical version. The packaging completes the album; it is a representation of the music within. The experience of listening to an album is not complete without the physical act of removing the record or cd or lp or 8-track or whatever, and physically putting the music on.
With that said I still strongly believe in sharing music over the internet through streams and downloads for a number of reasons. For many people (myself included), music is not merely a healthy obsession, it is a life blood. If some kid in Wisconsin wants to hear a rare bootleg of a live Taj Mahal Travelers gig where the group performed naked on the roof of a monastery in the Andes and can't even afford to pay 1/10 of what it's going for on ebay because he works part-time at Home Hardware, he is left with only two choices: never listen to it or download it off of the internet. To me, it's a no brainer that music that is OOP should be available on the internet. Collecting music is expensive, and I sympathize with the kid from Wisconsin because even though I've poured a lot of money into obtaining music, I could never afford to hear it all. But like him, I need to hear much more than I can afford and by not doing so I would be cutting off my oxygen supply, stunting my natural and intellectual musical growth and curiosity. Maybe distributors and anti-downloaders should take a minute and consider the health factors.
So, what now…because I download am I going to stop buying music all together? Absolutely not. To me it isn't about downloading vs. buying, It's about getting to know as much music as possible. I am still going to pour buckets of money into the cause because I am a music lover who would pay for the album if it were available over having a crappy download in a second. And I think there are many people like myself out there.
I can't verify this, but my rational assumption is that the people who are downloading the most music are the same people who are funneling the most money into the hands of the artists. Ok, maybe that is wishful thinking, but there has to be some give and take. And yes, I do recognize that there are people out there who only download; but by taking away their right to do so, the rights of those that deserve to download are also taken away. Let me define deserve as I see it in this context. Imagine for a second the idea of "privileged downloading". The more one spends on music the more one is able to download for free, a sort of sliding scale. It would be impossible to regulate now with thousands of different share software providers and countless blogs offering free downloads, but should maybe be considered as a general rule of thumb for those trigger-happy downloaders who have 5 albums in the little compartment between the tv and the stereo but over 1000 on their hard drive. The more music you buy the better you should feel about downloading. I'm the type that needs to own my favourite downloaded albums anyways. So, unless it's too rare or expensive or both I will make the effort to track down the real version. Therefore, my scale is always more or less balanced.
Another thing that should be addressed (and this is a big one) is the quality of mp3s. No one should be satisfied with the quality of downloads, unless of course one is consciously transferring, say William Basinski's "Disintegration loops" onto cassette tape in order to fully grasp the weight of decay embedded in those loops, or maybe Gavin Bryars' "The Sinking of the Titanic" to further allude to the oceanic void by drowning the already saturated music in layers of tape hiss. Also, I'm having to constantly deal with corrupted links, missing songs, and wrong track titles almost to the point of saying fuck it, it's easier to simply buy the album. But I think that way already. It also goes without saying (but I will anyway) that downloading is a great way of discovering new music because most of the time sound clips and written descriptions are just a tease. Downloads are too, sometimes just a tease.
I hope that reads somewhat clear to people. As long as I continue this blog I will be posting free music for all you grabbers. But do me a favour and try to maintain a balanced priviledge scale.
Leave comments, I want to know people's thoughts on the subject.