Music industry is suffocating from overwhelming burden of slimy leeches that steal the fruits of it’s labour. Or at least that’s what we are told. But people, in general, aren’t evil. If they were, we wouldn’t be living in such a well organized and civilized society as we see around today. I was wondering about this and came to some interesting conclusions. Copying music has been made incredibly easy during past twenty, thirty years. It is said that opportunity makes the thief, and the Internet is bursting with opportunities to access illegal content. Today we are able to get ourselves perfect copies of most popular albums in a matter of minutes, legally as well as not. But is this enough to turn so many of us to the dark side?
Imagine that you have found wallet on the street. Do you take it’s content? Or do you take it to the police, or directly contact it’s owner to return it? I’m quite sure it’s the later. And what would your first thought be? Mine would probably be: “Oh dear, the poor owner must be going out of he’s mind, all he’s money and documents lost or stolen”. In other words, I would primarily be struck by the value this items presents to him, the volume of he’s loss and that would determine my action.
I think that human nature, and morality, is flexible. We are not entirely good or evil and each action is judged independently. In case of a wallet, we know, or at least suspect, that this might put someone in a very serious situation. In case of music, many people don’t feel that burden at all. It is much easier to silence the conscience, after all this is just a minor sin, right?
Up to this point, there is nothing really new and surprising in my reasoning. But let’s go a bit further and try to figure out why do people value music so low. They steal it, therefore it presents very little value to them. If they thought that they are doing something really bad, stealing something really valuable, they wouldn’t be doing it. At least not on such a scale.
In my opinion, the one to blame is the music industry itself. For years, instead of developing the creative, artistic aspects they have spent millions in optimising the production, distribution and promotion processes creating something that resembles car factory more then we would like to know. This wouldn’t be possible without passive stance of the audience, and that is probably the most depressing part of it.
Ambitious and engaging music, as all other forms of art, is being developed in a spontaneous and unpredictable way. Real quality appears only when the author has full control over the creative process as well as the final result of he’s work. This stands in contradiction with the interests of the large publishing companies, which follow logic to make money, and logic tells them that in order to make money they must avoid the unpredictable and take as much control as possible.
Through many years of their activity these corporations have raised themselves a whole generation of indifferent listeners that eagerly absorb everything they offer. The catch is that through their monotonic and predictable offerings, they are not creating a real engagement with them. They tend to conceal details of the creative process, because it gets utterly simplified and there is really nothing to boast about. As a result, people are unaware of the true artists, of the way they think, the way they work, compose, practise, perform and record, the way each composition has to go through many stages of development and refinement until it becomes what it becomes. Without this knowledge there is no understanding, without understanding there is no real choice, no deep bond and finally no need to participate (financially or otherwise) in the process.
In the end, large labels become victims of their own policy. The sad thing, though, is that in the meantime they numb so many people. This might sound mean, but sometimes I’m really glad that the Internet and the whole IT revolution exposes this and successfully limits the industry’s income. Music is and always will be a genuine form of art and it just doesn’t fit into corporate thinking.
I strongly believe that all real artists will reach their fans and won’t have to make compromises. I see that works very well in my small musical world of progressive rock and adjacent genres, and I’m quite sure this ‘underground’ develops in other parts of musical roadmap as well. The best we can do is to keep buying good music (directly from the band whenever possible), attend live performances, spread the word, share our passion and make it contagious.
I think it matters.