Sorry, but I simply have to add my two cents on what Leonhard is writing about. Yeah, I’m blogging a bit out of my depth here, but as an ardent fan of original music and deep skeptic of intellectual property rights, I’ve had a strong opinion on this subject for years.

It comes as no surprise that ABBA are arguing for the preservation of the music industry. Too old or forgotten to sell any new songs, their income depends on the re-selling and licensing of old songs. Björn claims that downloaders are stealing the ideas of “single individuals” who, presumably, should receive income for it.

But the real question is: who needs the music industry? By pitting overproduced, overfinanced pop products against homegrown artists and appropriating the majority of proceeds, does the music industry really encourage creativity? I wonder how many professional musicians actually work for (major) record labels, but beyond any doubt it’s a very small percentage. The rest ekes out an honest and more or less satisfying existence doing what they can’t resist doing: making. good. original. music.

And here’s a link to the current capitalist crisis: As banking practices show, financial incentives just simply do not produce excellence.

Not the Mothers of Invention

Most artists survive off performing live plus selling records and merch at their concerts. Not one cent of this money ever touches the record industry, yet the “industry” claims an essential role in the production of our culture. Sure, Britney and consorts would most likely be doing anything but making music (and would the world be a better place?) if the industry weren’t around. But world-changing, honest-to-god, timeless music has rarely if ever emerged from the labs of Sony etc, and was always only taken onboard after its invention.

Here’s a radical case-in-point: the late hillbilly genius Hasil Adkins.

“A frantic one-man band who bashed out ultra-crude rock & roll tunes about sex, chicken, and decapitation into a wheezing reel-to-reel tape machine in a West Virginia shack, Adkins spent most of his life making music in utter obscurity until he was discovered in the 1980s and became a cult favorite in the last two decades of his life,” says Allmusic.

Now that’s passion. That’s rock’n’roll. That’s music.

The (to me inevitable) death of the music industry, made all the more dramatic by the destructive violence of its death-throes, will come at no cost to listeners. Some musicians will be less rich, most others will simply not be affected. But does anyone really believe the Beatles were motivated by a calculation of their future earnings in 2009 to create the White Album? Or were they artistically inspired? This doesn’t mean music should be “stolen” or “consumed” (what horrible words) for free, but rather that we may want to reconceptualise it as something more like a public good which can be sponsored as by the listener as she or he sees fit.

(phil)