Friday, November 9, 2007


Are MP3 Blogs (like this one) Killing Music?

In posting mp3s on my blog am I ripping off artists or contributing to the death of musicians and record labels? Is my intention – to communicate a love of music – a naïve pipe dream?

I agree it is unethical not to pay for music. Musicians might not have the divine right to be millionaires but they certainly deserve the chance to make a decent living.

Having said that, I’ll come clean and admit I have done my share of illegal downloading. This has mainly enabled me to check out new tunes - like I did on the radio as a teenager - and satisfy my insatiable lust for music.

By way of sickening self-justification: it’s also true that I have spent a small fortune on music in thirty-plus years of fandom. And I’m not only talking about LPs, singles, cassettes, CDs and downloads. Then there are the innumerable concerts, t-shirts, posters, books and movies.

Studies suggest that downloading music leads to increases in CD sales, and artists now commonly offer free downloads as an incentive, though arguably only the largest bands and labels can afford to give music away for free, like the recent Radiohead release.

It’s more important I think to pay for music from independent bands and labels, since they are the first ones likely to go to the wall due to unscrupulous downloading. I played in an independent working band for ten years and never made a penny. In fact, like most musicians I lost money.

Free downloads can cheapen the value of music. With gigabytes of unappreciated songs accumulating on their hard drives, listeners become indifferent to their music collections. By contrast, if you have paid for a tune - as a friend of mine rightfully points out - you have more of a vested interest in the music and are more likely to spend time engaging with it.

There’s a huge conflict here between art and commerce. In other areas one doesn’t necessarily have to spend money to enjoy culture. Art galleries are often free and you don’t even have to pay for books, you can simply borrow them from your local library.

Perhaps the whole notion of music being inextricably connected with market capitalism has run its course, and musicians now need to explore more creative ways to finance themselves.

I doubt people visit music blogs in order to get free music. Rather it's to read opinions and get suggestions. I remain conflicted about this whole issue, but unless I hear objections from the artists concerned, I’ll keep posting songs on this blog. I’ll also continue to purchase music on CD and online while staying tuned for further developments in this debate.


Cushion Meg said...

Hi Shiffi, you blogged about a controversial issue. Anyway, as far as the artists you introduced on the blog are concerned, I feel, you contributed to their music. Until I read your posting, I had been unfamiliar with many of
the artists you mentioned. After I read your blog, I actually bought some CDs, for example, "Thursday Afternoon" by Brian Eno and "Sound Grammar"
by Ornette Coleman. I found they both are major artists. As you said, free downloading might be more a crucial problem with independent labels. And I welcome your posting mp3s. Every time I read your blog, I feel like buying the CD, but my budget can't allow me to buy them all. :D After checking a tune, if I really like it, I will buy the CD! I really appreciate you introducing new genres of music to me, Shiffi.

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Hi Meg,

That's great news! Thanks a lot!