Friday, January 25, 2013

To Download or Not to Download (MP3)

First of all, I wouldn't read this post if it were your on your stupid blog, so don't feel guilty for completely ignoring this post on mine.

Sometimes I feel like I can be pretty wishy-washy on this subject but I have a lot of experience and insight on the subject and therefore I have a lot of opinions on this "hot topic."  A friend of mine once said to me "I don't believe in MP3s, they hurt musicians."  I'm not ashamed to admit it: I download a SHITLOAD of mp3s illegally, and I have since the days of Napster in the late 90's.  I would estimate I download around 20 new (to me) releases a month, mostly metal.  A large portion of it is stuff that I will never in a million years find physical copies of.  Should that fact bar me from ever hearing it?  If I went by that logic, then I would have to pay $119 (currently on discogs) to hear Emperor's "As the Shadows Rise" seven inch.  While I think that is a decent price, not a single penny of that money will ever go to Emperor.

Last night I was really enjoying listening to a 7" by the Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud in my car (on my mp3 player of course).  This likely was limited to 267 copies and came out in 1996, years before the wonderful voice of Alzbeth ever graced thine stubborn ears in 1999.  This and other music is worth keeping available, and we have an inexpensive, simple and easy way to make sure that we, and other newcomers are able to enjoy this stuff for years to come.  Its name is "the internet".  The digital posterity of music is important to me because our generation is solely responsible for overseeing the inevitable progression of music technology from a tangible format to a virtual one.  This is arguably the hugest thing to happen in the history of music.  It affects every single musician on the face of the earth who wishes to compile a publicly available release.

Back before the internet, everything hung on an 8-14 word description in an obscure catalog or zine.  In 1998 I knew that Lunar Aurora were an up and coming band because I had seen their debut "Weltenganger" mentioned in a playlist in a magazine, and it was a brief description (whose verbiage eludes me now) but I imagine it was something like "Great atmospheric BM from Germany"  that was enough for me to spend $12 plus shipping on it back then.  We now have the luxury of hearing everything before we buy.  So I take full advantage of that opportunity, and consequently through the years, I have bought easily hundreds MORE CDs, LPs, shirts, etc from bands that I never would have known about were it not for the digital availability of so many releases.  Obviously I am somewhat of an exception to the norm here, but my point here is that just because you download MP3s doesn't mean you HAVE to be a douche bag and never support artists.  its certainly not one or the other.

I fully support bandcamp, soundcloud, and all these other services, they somewhat circumvent the need to illegally download albums.  Ultimately though the days of buying a CD or LP without having heard it first are long behind us and its time to rethink some ideals about MP3s and such.  Lastly I have said it before and it bears repeating.  Music is meant to be heard, enjoyed and shared with others.  The exploitation and objectification of music is what leads to even more terrible music, ALWAYS.  If illegally downloading MP3s means the collapse of businesses that operate to do this, then all hail the new dawn.

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