Let me get the link for the EFF’s petition to “Stop the RIAA” out of the way before my point meanders too much.
In case you don’t know, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is like the ACLU for the digital world. They fight the cause that “the information wants to be free.” I know that saying can sound a little hackneyed, but it represents the ideals that they represent – namely that the Information Age has caused massive changes to our lifestyles, and businesses, government, and individuals must come to terms without infringing upon our rights. The EFF does not argue that music should be free and therefore fileswapping is ok. Instead they make the point that if millions of Americans can be sued by big businesses for downloading music instead of paying the exorbitant prices for CDs when they only want one song, the system itself does not work. When laws like this make so many people criminals, you must examine the laws, not the people.
I support musicians. I pay to see them in concert. I buy their CDs from them at shows. I play their music for friends so that even more people can get into them. I also download music. I have thousands of mp3s at my disposal. Why do I download mp3s when it hurts the artists I profess to love? Because it doesn’t. I have every Pearl Jam song on mp3. I also have every Pearl Jam album on CD. I also have every Pearl Jam album on vinyl. I have them on mp3s so that I don’t have to go downstairs whenever I want to listen to one song. I can also access them at work if I so desire. I download full albums of other artists so that I can decide whether or not to buy them. With the combined power of Spinner and (the original) Audiogalaxy, I downloaded hundreds of songs and purchased dozens of CDs. In general, the songs I kept on mp3 were from very difficult to find CDs (and sometimes just very overpriced ones).
I am deeply offended by the RIAA’s efforts because that association has nothing to do with music. They help big labels screw over artists so CEO’s and Marketing Execs can make the big bucks. They don’t care if music is good or not, simply how many teenagers will spend their allowances on it. They want to dictate what we listen to, not provide us with music to listen to. I really didn’t care when Metallica sued Napster about their music being shared online. I thought it was a little greedy for a band that had been making millions to be so petty about some fans getting their music for free, but it was their decision to make. When they continued the fight against Napster to shut it down completely… well, that’s another story. Basically they were shutting down a system that gave young bands the same opportunity that Metallica had with the tape trading craze that promoted them in the early 80’s. Certainly they didn’t mind the help of fans back then, but now that they’re all millionaires? Well, screw the fans!
If you truly want to make music, you will do it whether or not you are paid. You will play music for the sheer love of it and write songs to sort out your life. You will play for others to hear you. You will relish each and every new fan that falls in love with your work. Local bands put their music on sites like mp3.com so that others will hear them and help fulfill their dream, even if just a minor version of it. Yes, they also want to make money while doing it, but my friends who play love the music far more than the possible money. Cash is merely the enabler for their dream. In a world without financial consequences, these people would continue to play music to put a smile on their face and reach out to others. Can you say the same about Metallica? Or would they rather sit around and do nothing than play for free?
**UPDATE** – I’m signature #43596 – that’s the sixth one on the left.