Music. It’s a given that we will always be surrounded by it. No matter what the future holds or how slim one’s chances are of earning a decent income from music, every day another guitarist is born, another singer, another kid wanting to bang those drums. Music offers so much to so many, whether your are a performer or a fan, it is an integral part of all our lives; even to those who don’t think it is, they too are being affected daily by the mood of a soundtrack on an advert or their favourite soapy and even the lager louts and sport jocks can’t escape it.
So why are less and less of us buying music? It’s a conundrum the industry itself has not been able to solve so I won’t even attempt to draw a conclusion.
I will say this though. The industry knows it has itself to blame for not moving with the times. Whilst the slightly older generation (say 25 and upwards) are fully aware that copying or downloading music for FREE is, well, not so cool – and illegal – (although many do it anyway) it’s the younger generation – the 13 to 20 year olds that have never actually grown up with a formal method of buying music. It’s all digital and all Smartphones these days so Blue-toothing tunes to each other is as natural as “BB’ing” your mate. Ask any 15 year old if they bought any of the music on their phone and they’ll look at you as if you’re daft.
Now the industry is to blame on many fronts. There is the well documented fact that the cost of music got totally out of hand years ago; let’s face it the major labels were all making a killing (perception or fact, it doesn’t matter) – the buying public simply got tired of paying a fortune for an album.
Then of course there’s the matter of digital and the music industry’s failure to successfully market this medium and embrace the new way of receiving one’s music. Ask any teenager where they can buy music online and they’ll quite likely mumble “iTunes?”
Now did you know that the only way to buy music on iTunes from South Africa is to get a US iTunes account? And did you know to do this you need to fabricate an address in the US? In other words pretend you are in the USA. The industry that wants you to buy music is making you ‘fool the system’ to enable you to do so! So even though Apple took great measures in their technology to restrict being able to transfer music direct from one iPod to another (generic MP3 players can all do it though), the fact that one cannot buy on iTunes – South Africa simply gives people more reason to pirate. Reality check, music lovers will always find a way to get their music. Paying or for free!
So let’s forget about the rights and wrongs of whether music should be free or not. Let the industry rather take a long hard look at why people aren’t buying and fix that problem by improving their image, getting the mechanics right and making it affordable!
Well, it worked for Radiohead, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Nine Inch Nails, Strangers Family Band, Arctic Monkeys, Yesterday’s Pupil, The Lua Union, LA.VI, and The Very Wicked. Why wouldn’t it work for all? The times they are a changin’.
The topic of recorded music being free or not should really be up to the artist. They need to think about the bigger picture and consequences. If he/she is cool with it, then great – download away. If not, who are we to devalue his/her art by stealing it?
Yes. Recording artists should be subsidized by the government handsomely. This way, we won’t have to loot their craft online, nor will they have to skulk around record labels like bug-eyed prostitutes trying to pay their way through law school.
Music is free. Songs operate like commercials of what artists can do, if you listen to a musician on your iPod long enough, you will want to see them live. That is the reality for any artist wanting to make a living out of music, get back on the tour bus.
Artists should be able to choose to make their work gratis or not. In fact, I personally think there exist albums which should cost R 1000 or more. Certain works of art – mass-produced or not – should cost sweat and tears to own. There are individual compositions in my collection that I prize more highly than my car. And I really like my car.
How about free food, free petrol, free internet service and other necessities? Why not? Musicians don’t have expenses, they don’t have car payments, don’t need to cover rent or a bond. Everyone knows that all musicians get free instruments, free rehearsal & studio time, and briefcases filled with cash. Yeah right!
Yes, as long as we know what it means and consider it a privilege, not a given – and start thinking on how producers can still earn a living.