I recently wrote a post praising iTunes for coming up with an inexpensive, easy to use music interface for the web. My one gripe about iTunes was that it is proprietary about the tunes you download and does not permit others to listen to, or copy them. Several readers took me to task for advocating violation of copyright and infringing on musicians’ means of making a living. Here’s a sampling of their sentiment:
“I don’t understand why people have a problem paying for music. I too, once used napster and other piracy software but living in Nashville, I know several musicians and they don’t make much money as it is. If we don’t pay for their songs, they are forced to live like paupers.”
“iTunes has no choice but to limit the amount of computers on which you can listen to a song. What would happen without such restrictions? You buy a song for $0.99 from iTunes. You make it available online for anyone who wants it, so no one else has to pay for it. How does this make sense? What motivation would record companies have to make their entire music collections available online (as is becoming the case) if there’s no economic incentive for them to do so?”
But these folks are looking at filesharing in the most hidebound, narrow way. Instead of attempting to find ways to embrace the new technology and live and flourish with it–they are somewhat akin to the Luddites who viewed the ‘New’ as a threat to their lives and livelihood.
USA Today is not my top read when it comes to newspapers and I’ve never linked to it here in my blog. But while I was giving plasma at the Puget Sound Blood Center, I noticed that day’s USA Today sitting at a snack table. On the front page, I was shocked to see was a profile of Bela Fleck (Summer tours help bands pay bills), the genius banjo and mandolin player. All I can say is: “Hush my mouth.” This is a great piece of journalism which describes the economic reality of being a contemporary musician: the tours, the recordings, etc. It also showcases Fleck’s original and creative embrace of filesharing and the internet as a means to create a fan community and expand his music’s reach.
Unlike the readers of my post, Fleck welcomes bootlegging of concert tapes and their sharing via the web. In fact, his website enables fans to share music on it. Instead of viewing filesharing as a threat, USA Today says:
The Flecktones specialize in long shows, varied set lists and a rapport with fans that allows them to tape shows freely — and encourages them to trade songs online.
Fans do that at the official Flecktones Web site. “It’s helped our live audience to be bigger,” says Fleck.
In doing some research for a post I’m writing about the new mp3 blog phenomenon, I came across Senses Working Overtime, which linked to Richard Thompson’s website, Beesweb. At his site, Thompson provides a number of free downloads of his music. I’d recommend this as a business model that more musicians should adopt.
Listen to Fleck’s revisionist (and slightly jarring) Ballad of Jed Clampett freely and legally!