tame that guilty conscience. thoughts on downloading.

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.


Christa said...

When I download music I try to imagine that the artist who created it would want me to hear it, by any means. Once I get it, if I connect with it, I feel like I become connected with the artist in some way, and then I will likely actually go and buy their album in the future.

That's my rationale. It would be nice to have more of a balance between buying and downloading. What a peaceful, ethical, and morally sound day that will be.

Skull of a Moose said...

Well put, I just relocated a few thousand miles and cash is really tight so rather than live without new music i've started downloading... at first i felt like scum about it but in reality I'm still buying music as often as I can make it happen so I guess its not that big a thing. A lot of times i buy the records I downloaded cos like you said, taking a recording out and physically putting it on is a huge part of the experience.

besides that being an active musician myself I've come to realize if you release your stuff in small runs of less than one hundred with no promotion (which finances force us and many others to do) the only way you can hope for a reasonable number of people to hear the sounds you make is to make them available and support their transfer in the digital domain. Best case scenario, someone gets turned onto something that way and takes the time to seek out the artifact itself... it doesn't always happen that way but if you're pressing 20 copies and not getting a piece of the ebay price gouging action yourself than it probably wasn't about the money anyway.

anyhow, fine blog I really enjoyed the Faraway Press feature, they're just one of those labels i never seem to jump fast enough to land anything by.

Since you dig the drone, scope out my blog "skull of a moose" i post a lot of metal and old hc but I've also been posting up a lot of stuff by my own drone project Static Towers and we may be of interest to you... aggressive meditative drones. Feel free to spread it around if you enjoy what you hear.

Be well,

Anonymous said...

i think you should always respect the right of an artist to make a buck off their work. If they can't sell it because people will download it then they will stop releasing music. Please only distribute out-of-print titles.

Capt. Greencloud said...

Hi! I'm so excited to have just discovered your blog today, especially because you are local and involved in the community.

I enjoyed reading your well-written thoughts on downloading and can confirm your assumption that the more I download free music and discover releases I never might have known about, the more I spend tracking down the actual material. The MP3s are just a temporary facsimile of the real thing and a tool for helping me choose what I buy. It also helps me decide who to go support when the live shows comes around.

I seem to have no guilt what-so-ever if the release is out of print and the artist is deceased.

Anyways, thanks for this great Blog and keep up the great work.

j said...

i am poor. I am also dangerously obsessed with musick. I remember being younger and reading mags like Ptolemaic Terrascope (which is rad, btw), or Galactic Zoo Dossier out of Chicago, or even The Wire, and haven't my imagination tintilated by the descriptions of the far out sounds. I want to hear everything. I wish i could live a thousand lifetimes, to hear every pluckbuzzscreamhiss or blurt that has ever been issued. As such, almost all of my capital goes into the musical stream. My favorite way of supporting music is live and merch, and i try to place my money into the hands of the artists themselves. Also, i spend pretty much every waking breath preaching the gospel of underground music to anyone who will bend an ear. Music is pretty much my whole life.
That said, i'm excited by the idea of getting more involved with contributing myself, writing my own blog and reviews, writing and recording music, and maybe making compilations and exposing people to ultra-rare recordings. I try to share as much as possible.
So i love yr blog. Yr doing good work here. Keep it up!