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I have been asked on many occasions what I think about music downloading, file trading and music on the internet and its effects on the music business.
I want to be clear here, I’m talking about out of print studio recordings, live recordings, videos and other art produced by working artists that are commonly traded or downloaded freely.
As long as there has been music or art there has probably been the question, how does the creator of things we all enjoy get compensated for the time and talent he or she puts into creating those things? After all, art is not something you have to have to live, it’s just something that’s hard to live without. In other words it’s not life-sustaining, it just makes living more enjoyable. I also think that since the beginning of art there have been the people who make it, the people who consume it and the people who make money off it, and these are three distinct groups of people. In the past it was the collective society or the ruling elite who were patrons of the arts. The Pharaoh, King or socialist state realized it was in their interest to patronize the arts, to show their power or status. With the coming of the digital age, the traditional roles for the players have changed.
While multi-international corporations struggle with how to control access to digital art, I have been thinking about how does the independent artist cope with the age of easy digital copying. First I have to say I have not been one of those who thinks file trading and sharing is necessarily a bad thing, particularly for the struggling independent artist. After all, if someone thinks enough of your art to share and trade it, is that necessarily a bad thing? I think at the moment the state of things is that it’s just a fact of life: If you create digital art, it’s going to propagate out of your control. At the moment I don’t care too much about what the people who traditionally try to make money off of artists are going to do; they always seem to land on their feet. It’s how can an artist continue to produce art while never being compensated for it? The fact that the art is hard to find, out of print, copied or bootlegged doesn’t matter, because the artist is effectively put out of work and must seek another form of livelihood. It’s like if the local food store stopped charging for food, how long would they keep stocking the shelves. I think here is where the consumer of art has to step up and help out. Let’s just say it doesn’t matter where you get your art or music ( I’m not talking about store bought still in print music here, I hope that’s a no brainier). It’s everywhere, having propagated like the endless chain of life. You get it by downloading or trading wherever you happen to find it. On the internet, on someone else’s computer or handed to you on a ridiculously cheap-to-produce disc.
If you love the art and you listen or look or experience the artist’s creativity and it means something to you, here’s where you can make a big difference. Seek out the artist and make some small payment in appreciation; at least pay the royalty that the artist might have gotten in days gone by. Think about the bargain you’re getting because of the way you acquired your art: You saved on packaging, shipping and the overhead that large media companies try to exact from artists. If you can find a CD by an artist you like at a retail outlet, you can be pretty sure a royalty is being paid (hmmm, I hope, anyway). Here we offer downloads of CDs that are hard to find, the artists still owns the copyright to this material and you can be sure the artist gets their royalty directly.
If you can’t find it any other way than trading and it becomes meaningful in your life some way, I think it’s important to seek out and become the patron of that artist. One of the biggest misconceptions I read about justifying not paying for art is that the artist is somehow wealthy and won’t miss the revenue. I can tell you working for over 30 years with artists who are surprisingly well-known that this is just not usually the case. Most of them live month to month like the rest of us. I hope this is something you will think about.
This page is where you can make a contribution to an artist’s royalty for art you have acquired by whatever means and you think enough of it to seek out that artist and compensate them. Think of it like shareware, if you use it, pay something for it. I’m going to start a row of donation buttons for PayPaling contributions to artists I work with here. Give whatever you like, but a donation of $4 or more will better survive the minimum take by the credit-card companies. I hope next time you give a disc to a friend, you will say, “This is some great music. If you love it as much as I do, I know a place you can show your appreciation, pay your fair royalty, directly to this artist.”