Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Music Piracy - Are you buying this??

Quite a few new stories have been poppin up lately about file sharing/music piracy and that has prompted me to start obsessing over this issue again and again.

A long long long time ago I was a heavy user of Napster; back in it’s big bad taboo days and even before I owned an mp3 player. And because I was this strange hybrid of early adaptor geek and former thug princess, I didn't care that I was stickin it to the man cuz quite frankly stealing content by sneaking into the movies, buying bootleg VHS movies and CDs, and downloading songs to my computer was part of the culture I lived in and cherished. I used to make a running joke that if any industry including the government, wanted to test the security of systems or processes, they'd be wise to hire people from the hood as test hackers or rule breakers cuz we could always find a way around obstacles that stand in our way of getting something for nothing.

It wasn’t until a life change occurred, that I started to feel guilty about stealing (notice I didn’t put this word in quotes). Two significant events coincided around the same time:

  1. My kids became young adults with burgeoning and unique music tastes.
  2. I began friendships with hard working independent artists who were on their grind trying to sell their projects.
So on a morality level, I felt I needed to set an example for the kiddies and support my friends. But on an economic level, I was feeling the pain! My daughter said it plainly when I got my new iPod with 80 gigs (equivalent to 20,000 songs); “Ma, you mean to tell me you’re gonna buy $20,000 worth of music to put on there”? I nodded “yes”, but in my head I was like “What the hell am I gonna do”?

I started looking for music clubs to join like emusic.com, but my searches came up empty most of the time and for some, you had to use their proprietary players. I started to get really fed up and had a back-slide moment and decided to try my hand at Limewire. Somehow I justified its use…

  • I’m just sharing a file with someone. You give some, you take some. It’s all so innocent.
  • Everybody is doing it…C’MON!!!
  • I can’t afford 20,000 songs!
The loading began. The kids were in on it. I was ashamed. Then one day my iPod crashed and I went to visit the folks at Apple. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: My iPod’s not working

Apple Dude: Did it drop or did you bang it on something?

Me: Nope

Apple Dude: Did you load it with downloaded music?

Me: Nope (with a smile)

Apple Dude: You sure?

Me: Yep, I’m sure

Apple Dude: Uh because sometimes when people use files from Limewire or other file shares, the files can be corrupt and mess with the iPods with wheels.

Me: Word?

Apple Dude: Word

Me: That’s good to know (smile again)

Apple Dude tinkers with the player, shows me how to reset it if something happened again and sends me off on my merry way. And what do I do? I start lecturing my kid on the way home about and reprimanding her for installing the damn program on our computer! I felt like a serious hypocrite who became born-again at the Church of God in the Apple Store Apostolic Life Center.

Two years have passed and I’m living a clean and sober life; with only 1,000 songs on my iPod, but guilt-free nonetheless. I’m proud to tell my musician friends that I only buy my music. It wasn’t until recently that I began to notice that when I would make this statement, some of them would either change the subject or give me a half-hearted look of approval.
That’s when it became increasingly and evidently clear to me that some of these folks were probably pirating music. The clues?? Obscure Facebook comments and offhand references to their extensive music libraries were the first to tip me off.

And now I am at a crossroad…To Pirate or Not to Pirate
...that is the question...

Remember all of my earlier reasoning? Well it all came flooding back to me and the “everybody’s doing it” excuse is even more appealing and relevant now that I know the “everybody” includes the same independent artists I thought I was supporting in the first place.

One of these indie friends blogged about her take on the issue. Before I read it, I was hoping that it would stop me from committing the act, but those hopes would soon be dashed (sorry gurl).

What’s the outlook for the future? How will the industry survive? Well to be honest, I don’t care about the majors. I care about the independents. Music sales and publishing are their bread and butter, but if they too are pirating music how can we combat the problem or should we?

One more take and I’m done; this one from a working expert among the majors whose visualization about the future of this business actually came in the form of a side comment he made in a vlog* about making hits. Take note of what he says about how he wants people to get his music.

And me? I love music. Any kind of music. I’ve made a decision. I know what I’m about to do. See yall on the B-side.

Ciao Ciao Ciao
The Katalist

* - this video is currently hosted via Facebook. If you have trouble accessing this link, please let me know by leaving a comment.


Anonymous said...

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Dave said...

Well said!