On The Music Industry
Music is cool. I can easily think of many people that stand out in my mind as being excellent musicians. I have a huge amount of respect for these people who devote their lives to the art.
The recording industry is not cool. I can't think of one record company that deserves 75 to 95 percent of the profits from the sale of music. I find this to be outrageous. What did they do? They helped facilitate the recording and distribution of the music performed by an artist. Is their profit acceptable for the job they actually do? There's a very simple answer to that. No.
Record companies existed because of a need for music to reach the masses and a need for the masses to be able to play music any time they wanted in a high quality format. Technology way back then was such that one could only listen to music if they went to hear it in person or played it themselves. Then came records and similar technologies that allowed one to hear music in his/her own home. An industry was born to support the growing demand for recorded music. The companies would pay the artists in flat rates or royalties for the right to redistribute the music. This was fair.
Recently technologies have evolved to a point where it is now well within our power to instantaneously transfer high quality audio around the world. The artists now have the ability to distribute directly to the consumer. This, understandably, has the effect of causing the record company bigwigs to soil their pants. All of a sudden they no longer control distribution, and though enough people still use their product and generate enough income to support the bigwig quality of life, they greedily demand that only they control distribution.
There is another side to this issue as well. If the record company suffers, the artist suffers more due to the low royalties received on sales. Fair enough. Artists need to eat too. But, to blame the users and free distribution for their low income bracket is absurd. Even more absurd is to call file sharing stealing. Does the artist still possess the music and the ability to make the music? Yes. Sharing music is alot different than yoinking Yngwie Malmsteen's guitar. To the artist: consider who is really stealing your music. Who owns the copyright on all your works? Yeah, that's right. The record companies. And who controls your ability to perform said music? What's that? You can't perform it unless your record company gives you the right to? Indeed. So, again, who is stealing your music?
Now, we come back to the issue of food and shelter. How does the artist who doesn't sign his first born children over to the record companies survive? Simple. People will pay for a good thing. Without the record companies having been started way back when, where would musicians be? Out in public performing for tips. Now hold on a second, you say. Where's the prestige in that? I'll be blunt, there is none. But, the new economy has made even the Southwest Corner Store in El Paso, Texas a booming business. Now the economy has become about self-marketing. Make something good, market it, and people will buy. With the ease of advertising on the internet, anybody can sell anything to anyone. And there will always be a huge market for music.
So how do you make money when free file sharing goes on? Easy. There are a number of approaches you could take. One approach goes back all the way to the tip system. You perform, people listen, and pay you according to their rating of your music. If you're a good musician then you have nothing to lose. If you stink then you can still distribute your music on the net, just have other talents to back it up. Most everyone in the world with an ounce of creativity is an artist. Not all of them distribute their art but they all share the need to produce it. The majority of them work in sound capitalism-friendly jobs. Creation of art full time is a luxury that most people can't afford. Placing blame on everyone because you may lose this luxury doesn't help, nor does suing those who encourage technological growth. These people are your peers; fellow artists who appreciate good music. These are not thieves. Think about the software engineers who spent long hours, often of their own time, devising new ways to share information on the internet. They are artists, too. What makes your art more important than theirs?
The companies would have artists believe that they are a "work for hire" so that they can get full rights to the product. Art is a means of expression, not a service, and is as free as speech so long as credit is given where it is due. Even traditional copyright laws do not respect the license that includes provisions rendering free distribution to be illegal. What IS illegal is making a profit from a copyrighted work without consent. It is also illegal to take credit for copywritten work that is not your own. It is NOT illegal to freely distribute music, text, or art.
Technology is constantly changing and all industries need to work around that. Sometimes change is slow but in this case there is a very rapid movement towards free distribution of information. Even back in the days of gopher when the web as we know it was only beginning to form, such file sharing went on. Heck, before most people were on the internet there were bulletin board systems where I would obtain copies of still-in-print books in text format. You can't stop technology, but you can use it to your advantage. The record companies did this and look how far they've come.
Anyway, that's my rant on the industry. Yay ad hominem fallacy and broad generalizations.