Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Price of Freedom

First of all, Jon Grayson was kind enough to post our radio appearance on the KMOX Web site. Interested? You can stream it here.

Radio Show

I want to talk about free mp3s.

I like to give away free music, as evinced here and here.

(These offers are still good, by the way. Send me an email with "Birds Sing" or "Nickel" or both in the subject line, and I'll send you mp3s of "Birds Sing" and/or "Nickel." I have another free song, an outtake from Songs from Memory, I plan to give away later in the year. Stay tuned.)

But I don't like to give away everything for free. There are things, like Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory, I can't afford to give away for free.

In casual conversation, I've even been known to suggest that CD replicators offer the option to make your CD un-copy-able. The buyer can't download the songs, or duplicate them, or put them on his iPod or iTunes. You buy a CD, you can play it in your car or on your jam box or on your computer, and that's as far as it goes. "There's got to be a scrambling device that could make this a reality," I've said. "They do it for DVDs." If you want an electronic version, you can buy that too, but with some limit on how many times it can be replicated, if at all. I think iTunes does it this way, even if they don't like it.

In the last month or so, I've found a few people who disagree with me. At one point, one guy referred to me as "Lars," as in Lars Ulrich, the drummer of Metallica.

Another guy said there's no sense in employing such a scrambling device, since people can always put a mic up to a speaker and record it anyway.

I did my share of this back in the day, or a similar thing.

The old "play/record" option on the jam box.

When I was 20 years old and first moved to Arizona, I had two Memorex cassettes with a total of four Talking Heads albums on them. I drove around the Valley all day, doing one of my many driving-related jobs, listening to those two cassettes. When one finished, I replaced it with the other.

It was my favorite part of going to work, listening to those cassettes over and over again.

So here I am, 18 years later, claiming to have stolen Talking Heads records and claiming to have listened to them over and over again for free and claiming to have loved every minute of it, and yet I talk of making my CDs so they're not replicatible.

What a hypocrite, right?

What's the difference?

The difference is, I never once had to worry whether Talking Heads would survive my two blank cassettes to make another record.

The Talking Heads were doing just fine; there was never a chance they wouldn't make records together, as long as they wanted to make records together.

(After a while, they didn't.)

Not so with the independent recording artist in 2008 (if ever). If we enjoy Dead Hot Workshop's new record, or John Austin's new record, or Stephen Ashbrook's soon-to-be-released new record (I've heard it; get ready), we probably should pay for it.

Metallica? Who cares? Go ahead and steal 'em, baby!

Just kidding.

Kind of.



K said...

Hey, Art! It's nice to see I'm not alone. As much cd burning as I do and share with other fans, the only music I burn and share are boots that can't be purchased from the band, or ones that are no longer available to purchase. Whether an artist is doing well financially with the release or not, if it's something we can buy from and support the independent artist then I always encourage people to do that. Last year, I made a mix of your two songs and some of Brian's solo songs for fans needing a current fix for their Refreshments addiction :-) I stopped burning and sharing the two songs you give away simply because it is available for purchase now on the cd. I know people who will make a mix of sample songs from band releases for others who aren't familiar with the music, and I still say it's wrong. It's cheating the artist out of their money for the disc. My dos centavos :-)

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