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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

I (heart) File-Sharing!

September 20, 2004

A class discussion on file-sharing in Writing for the Internet got me all fired up today*. The question being debated was whether or not file-sharing was ethical, which as you all know, is a popular issue in today's world full of violence, war, nuclear weapons, and legal assault rifles. I mean people are dying in shacks off the coast of Florida due to inclement weather, but record companies are suing twelve year old kids. So, hey! It must be important, right?

As a hard-core music pirate myself (shh... don't tell the record companies, alright?), I feel I have to defend my stance that file-sharing is a-okay. See, here's my opinion: how much money is a recording artist actually pulling in from CD sales? my thought - not very much. I would bet that most of the profit for a recording artists comes from concert revenues. I decided to do a little research online to see if I could find any information on this.

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I found a great article from underground music producer Steve Albini called The Problem With Music. In this article, Albini does a break down of the money involved in producing an album. A quote from near the end of the article is pretty enlightening:

"The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month. The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never "recouped," the band will have no leverage, and will oblige. The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won't have earned any royalties from their T-shirts yet."

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Secondly, I wondered: how much does a CD really cost to make? I bet the cost of the CD itself is neglible. I know that I haven't paid for a blank CD for a couple years now by milking all the mail-in rebates available these days. If I, Moira Richardson, not a big record company executive can get blank CDs for practically nothing, you -know- a big record company executive ain't paying squat. And what I really don't understand: why are CDs, which I know are cheap as hell to produce, continually growing more and more expensive? And why would a CD cost more than vinyl?

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"A CD, with its plastic jewel box, printed booklet and tray card now costs a major label about 80 cents each to make (or less) and a small independent label between $1.50 and $2.50. Meaning that CD's should now cost the consumer less than their original prices over a decade ago, not more. But the music business got consumers used to the idea of paying the higher price and the labels got used to the idea of their higher profit margin, and record labels continue to this day to pay almost all artists a royalty rate as if they're selling CD's for the list price of vinyl. That extra 4 or 5 or 6 bucks goes right into the pockets of the record labels. It is not shared with musicians. "

Shiny, Aluminum, Plastic and Digital: An illuminating article on the price of CDs from Negativland.com
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I think that recording artists that are smart and technosavvy will soon start to realize that file-sharing is where it is at, yo. I mean, online artists have the opportunity to reach scads of people who might never hear their music otherwise. This is especially true for the little guys. The big names will always remain big guys, but the internet and the concept of file-sharing actually seems to me like it would level out the playing field.

If you have bought twenty albums from the same artist, yeah, you might not balk at paying $20 for the next one. If you've only ever heard one song late at night by a newbie, you might think twice before you fork out the cash. But if you have the option of downloading some tunes from the internet, you might fall in love an artist you might never have been exposed to in mainstream media.

Yes, you might be thinking, a freeloader loving an artist doesn't pull in any buckaroos for the artist in question... but it might! I am 100% more likely to pay those outrageous ticket prices to see an artist whose songs I love than an artist who I've only heard one time. And you know an artist is making more money from my concert ticket than from my purchase of a CD. And, in the process, I'm not supporting the big corporate conglomerates I loathe so well. I am much more likely to search out the band online and show them some money love that way than going to the mall (gag) where I'll be paying for rent, advertising, and snot-nosed employees in addition to a little piece of plastic that just happens to have some good songs on it, if I'm lucky that day. Who hasn't bought a CD only to find out the only good song was the hit single???

And here's a question: Is the reverse situation of file-sharing unethical as well? And by that I mean: used CD stores. I mean, if a CD has already been sold once and then it's sold again, isn't that like stealing, on the part of the record stores? I mean, next thing you know, we're going to get charged per play of a song, and those music junkies like me who will play a new favorite over and over again until our ears bleed (today's choice is The Dresden Dolls) will be raking up a fortune in fees.

And so, in conclusion, I would like to say:

I (heart) file-sharing!

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* The fire was sparked by Leslie Rodriguez. Great presentation, Leslie! :c)

Some of my classmates have some interesting things to say:

Valeries Hates Celebrities - Who doesn't, Valerie? And good point about the sixth summer home! How can you feel bad about taking money away from someone who so openly tosses money around like it's going out of style? I'm not saying all celebrities do that, of course, just like not everyone who *steals* is a bad person.

Samantha Loves Her Free Tunes - I have to agree with Samantha that all morals are a matter of the question: Whose morals? Maybe stealing is bad to one person, but another person knows that stealing is a matter of survival? And who defines exactly what constitutes stealing, anyway? Taking unauthorized cash from the register at your minimum wage slavery, er, job, is considerably different than downloading a song from the internet. Is it only the person with the most cashflow who gets to decide the morals of the world? Screw that!

Vanessa Doesn't Want to Get Busted - The media blitz on the dangers of file-sharing -did- succeed in scaring away a lot of people from the beauties of file-sharing. The media also managed to make Britney Spears famous. So, really, who wants to trust the media?

Moira at 09:07 PM :: Comments (7) :: ::
Comments:

Oh my gosh Moira. That is such a great blog. I honestly agree with you. Celebrities are so spoiled it's not even funny. I mean they have millions upon millions of dollars and we as regular consumers do not. The music industry is as greedy as you say. Your research into this topic was amazing. Two thumbs up!!!

Posted by: Melissa at September 20, 2004 09:28 PM

Great points, Moira. Seriously, I'm glad to see -someone- defending the little guy. As a matter of fact, through file-share I found one of my new favorite artists "Jem." Her album isn't even out in the 'states yet, but here I am jamming to three of her singles. And I probably will buy the CD when it comes out at the end of this month! Just goes to show that sampling is profitable... for someone... er, not me necessarily. The little guys never finish in first place. It's in the rules somewhere.

Posted by: Karissa at September 20, 2004 10:41 PM

Melissa - thanks for the props! i really should have posted some links to the "opposing viewpoints" but I think we all know what the record companies think, right? Right. :c)

Karissa - thanks! and yeah! I'm all about supporting the little guy. Jem... I haven't heard of Jem, but next time I have access to cable internet (ooooh yeah) I'll be looking her up. File-sharing is how I fell in love with a lot of my favorite artists: Jason Mraz, Ben Harper, Aimee Mann. I've been to see Jason (sigh!) in concert, almost made it out to see Ben Harper but ended up having to work, and haven't heard of any Aimee Mann concerts but I'd go.

You wrote: "The little guys never finish in the first place. It's in the rules somewhere."

And, ain't that the truth, sista? I bet a big part of the reason record companies hate file-sharing is that it gives the little guys (we file-sharing poor college students) a chance to be exposed to other little guys (non-name-brand recording artists) that we might never have stumbled across in our mainstream spoonfed society otherwise.

That's why I dig it: There's a lot of great music out there that I might never hear if not for freebie downloads. And I'm not stuck listening to the mainstream crap, which is often exactly that - crap. Because they are making big bucks, they don't have to worry about putting out a great album.. who cares? The money is already there..

the little guys haven't been *discovered* yet - their stuff has to be stellar for them to even have a shot!

okay.. enough ranting.. have a great day!!

Posted by: moira at September 21, 2004 10:47 AM

I've never actually done any file-sharing, mostly because I have only had dial-up internet and a crappy computer for most of my adult life. Well, I did get a friend to find me some Kirstie Macoll online and burn it for me, but that was even before the big napster hooplah. (Would you consider that a hooplah? I was torn between "Hooplah" and "Fiasco")
Oh, and I would go to see Amy Mann or Jason Mraz anytime they come in concert at any venue. I honestly prefer to see live music. I find that one of the best ways for me to find new (and good) artists is to see them live first. I have a really hard time forking over a twenty to buy some over-produced commercialized piece of plastic before I KNOW they are someone I would want to see in concert.

Posted by: Lily at September 21, 2004 02:48 PM

Wow! Someone did their homework! It didn't really occur to me to think about things like used CD stores and the cost of CDs, so I learned a lot from your post. I just kind of complained about celebrities (darn them!). :-)

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at September 21, 2004 03:32 PM

Great post, Moira. I had no real delusions that I would change anyone's mind, but everyone should know that Seton Hill has to act on any complaints it gets regarding illegal file-sharing, or else the school could be sued.

At any rate, I've mentioned this page in a comment on my blog. Keep up the great blogging, Moria.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 22, 2004 09:43 AM

Whoops... I left out the URL.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/weblog/permalink.jsp?id=2817

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 22, 2004 09:44 AM
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