Recollections of the hunter and his prey

About this blog

This is a blog describing the descent into madness brought about by record collecting. It is primarily about the hunt, the smells, the disappointments, the excitement, and the random occurrences surrounding vinyl records. I listen to them too, a lot, but from my perspective the hunt is what makes collecting records an exciting hobby, although it may be maddeningly frustrating and incomprehensible to those around me.

On the hunt for:

  • Articles of Faith-Give Thanks LP
  • Bhopal Stiffs 10 song demo tape
  • Black Cat Bones-Barbed Wire Sandwich LP
  • Blues Creation - Live LP
  • Freddie Hubbard-Black Angel LP
  • Henry Franklin - The Skipper LP
  • Herbie Hancock-Flood LP
  • Mount Everest Trio - LP
  • Neu!-75 LP
  • Revenant - Prophecies of a Dying World LP
  • Sam Cooke-Ain't That Good News LP
  • Sam Cooke-Night Beat LP
  • Strike Under-Immediate Action 12" EP
  • The Effigies-Haunted Town 12" EP
  • The Virgil Lights - (anything else out there besides the 45?)
  • Watchtower-Energetic Disassembly LP
  • Witchcraft-s/t LP

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Defense of Piracy: Democratizing the Public Library

Music is primarily an art form, not just a product to be consumed. I mean this in two ways. First, the logic of music creation follows that of other art forms, literature, painting, sculpture, theatre, etc., not the logic of supply and demand. Music has always been and will always be created as a form of expression regardless of the economic circumstances surrounding its distribution.  Artists create because they have to create, not because it is profitable. Writers continued to write, painters continue to paint, musicians continue to play, not because they know they will receive a paycheck every two weeks, but because of something inside them that requires this form of expression. Second, the enjoyment of art should not require certain financial resources, much like public sculptures and murals, free access to public libraries, taking pictures of anything found or created that one considers art, etc. Art has been maintained in various ways, including certain styles of music (i.e. jazz, classical) not because it is profitable, but because it is considered something valuable, something that represents the beauty and the absurdity within us all.

Free access to museums and galleries (in many places), and free access to books through libraries has not destroyed other forms of art. Why has it come to the point where free access to music has been considered a crime? The absurdity of this crime becomes all the more incomprehensible when we view music as art, not as a capitalist product with a copyright. The fight to restrict music to those who can pay has a striking similarity to those who ban books, to authoritarian regimes who restrict internet access and censor cultural production. Is music revolutionary? Music can be powerful, but I’m not so idealistic to think the message of music will destroy the dominant forms of power. What are they afraid of?

For years, music has been available for free through public libraries, although the selection was somewhat restricted due to budgetary and other constraints. Libraries have not killed music, artists still create, labels still produce music, people still attend concerts. Home taping was considered the death knell of music in the 80s. But surprise! music is still around. 

Think about what it is that libraries provide to our societies. I can go to the library, check out a book, read it, return it, and never have to pay a penny. I can do the same with a compact disc, a vinyl record or cassette (for those libraries that still have them), or a DVD or VHS. Nothing stops a person from copying any of these works, yet a campaign to shut down libraries to protect copyright laws would be unthinkable as many have come to depend on library access or consider it a right.

While through libraries and other public institutions, many people have access to the greatest literary and artistic creations, for some reason, it is considered inappropriate to have access to the greatest (and no so great) musical creations. To become educated about literature, about painting, and about other arts, requires very little in terms of financial resources. However, to become educated about an equally valid art form, music, regardless if you think that applies to Mozart, John Coltrane, Morbid Angel, Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, Kanye West, Albert King or the Dead Kennedys, is extremely difficult without a significant financial investment. Music is a record of the human experience, to protect this form of art for the benefit of all, for enjoyment, for enlightenment, for educational purposes, does not require making everyone pay for it, it requires making it available to as many people as possible.

File sharing, music blogs, mp3s, home taping, burning CDs, these are all ways of democratizing art, of creating a democratic library of music that ensures everyone can enjoy a popular form of art.  Lovers and appreciators of music have taken it upon themselves through the internet to revive lost musical creations to educate the young and the old about all they missed because of the absurd idea that only one art form can be enjoyed if you pay for it (while others can be free). The nameless and anonymous individuals who provide music for free are creating a historical record of music that could easily be lost or only enjoyed by a very few. Libraries and other public institutions have failed in this regard, appreciators of music as art have come forward to not only protect, but revive and share what should be available to everyone. 

13 comments:

Joselita said...

¿Crees que tuvieras las mismas opiniones si nunca hubieras ido a México?

when did you have time to write this?

bicyclepirate said...

unos minutos despues de que saliste

copyrightpolizia said...

Come the Revolution, Comrade, expect a knock at your door.

Copyrightpolizia

Casey Stratton said...

How are artists supposed to pay for these records to be made that people can have for free? With our day jobs that suck 40 hours of creation time from us each week?

Yodeee said...

A "Library" for music that is free to all already exists: It is known as RADIO. Still free after all these years, you can record what you like from it. But, just as you cannot own an original Picasso painting without paying for it, so you cannot own the CD or MP3 version without paying for it. Just as you cannot use the Picasso painting in your advertising without permission from the owner, so it is with music. Songwriters, musicians and recording people have to eat, too. Let's keep the music playing for future generations by losing this entitlement attitude that is so common these days, and realize that anything worth having is worth paying for. You can, by the way create your own music, and enjoy it for free. That's what musicians do.

Brian Scott Phraner said...

Artists and musicians may be "compelled" to create, but that doesn't mean you are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labors without helping support their hard work. This isn't "Democratizing" music. It's "the little red hen" syndrome. You want to enjoy the creations of the composers but you'll do nothing to contribute to the end result. You don't deserve it even if you're "compelled" to want it. Without support the composers will not have the time to compose. They’ll be working their day jobs and you'll ultimately have nothing "worth listening" to. Just the mass crap that gets spewed out by the terabyte loads by enyone with a computer and garage band…

Trevis Rothwell said...

Nothing stops a person from copying any of these works, yet a campaign to shut down libraries to protect copyright laws would be unthinkable as many have come to depend on library access or consider it a right.

Nothing physically stops such copying, yet copyright law makes copying of books, art, and music illegal without obtaining permission of the copyright holder.

Regardless, yes, music should be in a library. The fact that a library owns a copy of a recording and that people (one at a time) can listen to the recording is not the same as everyone being free to make copies of the recording. It's no more legal to make unauthorized copies of music than it is copies of books, and indeed free copying of books (other than those in the public domain) is hardly seen in a positive light by the copyright holders.

The public library is not the same as the public domain.

Spruceman said...

Difference is that libraries can lend out only the number of copies of a recording that they have purchased or had donated to them. If it's only one copy, then only one user at a time. Thats no different from my buying a CD and lending the CD to a friend to listen to it. A single license to listen -- not an unlimited simultaneous license.

Hey! I'm no big fan of RIAA, MPAA, etc. But protest is not a license to rip off the songwriters, musicians, etc who are already possibly underpaid by the record companies. I prefer music from those artists who sell directly to consumers, bypassing the big boys. Most the stuff the big record companies produce sounds like junk to me anyway -- especially now that the big boys have reduced their output of most genres other than rock and rap to nearly nil.

Matt said...

you're a fucking moron

grigori, trained octopus said...

First off. State support of the arts: your answer. As long as music is treated as a commodity and not as art, we will have to have this discussion.

Secondly. You'll notice a lot of artists (Chuck D., Radiohead, The Dismemberment Plan, just to name a few) aren't screaming about the end of music. They'll keep creating, and they're happy to give people a chance to check them out. The smartest ones find new ways of sharing their music (interactive re-mixing, etc.) instead of bitching about sales and attacking their fans. These kinds of strategies get listeners involved and therefore break down the impersonal consumer-producer-creator chain that only makes people feel more at ease "stealing" an easily-obtained "commodity".

It's actually quite simple. I will very likely not go to see a band or composer whose work I have never heard. I will very likely not shell out $20 for a CD of something I've never heard. If, by contrast, I get the chance to check out that person's art risk-free, I will very likely go to their show when they come to town, buy some vinyl, a t-shirt, etc. Which would you rather have, as an artist? Would you like me to give you no chance and to ignore you because I don't have the money to appreciate your art? Or would you rather give me a chance to hear you and then let me support you in more meaningful ways?

Having been in bands before I have to say this: if you think that art and music will go away because they become unprofitable, you probably have no business calling yourself an artist. As the 'pirate has noted, these kinds of arguments have been made before, and music has not died. There's nothing inherently more transformative about music sharing in these "dark" days than there was about radio at the time of its advent. The way I use library copies is actually exactly the same way that I use file-sharing. It's just that there are now a lot more online "libraries" with a lot better selection. Ugh.

Wireman said...

Relax, everyone, this was created by a vacuum cleaner with typing skills.

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