Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Music was not invented in 1900

For quite a while now, I've been meaning to post something about the recording industry's rhetoric regarding IP rights and music. I never quite got around to it, and now David Byrne has said most of what I would have said, and said it better than I would have. You can read it on his blog here.

The long and short of it (my words, not Byrne's, though I think the Byrne piece is along the same lines) no matter what an RIAA rep tells you, Music Was Not Invented by A Room Full of White Guys Early in the 20th Century. Music is a fundamental part of the human experience, at least as old as speech, maybe older. If tomorrow the Recording industry was removed from the face of the earth by a gang of vindictive Haxor Pirates, music would persist, it might even thrive.

What makes me so confident about that? I mean, if you listen to the friendly anti-piracy folks the only reason music is created is because of the tasty monetary incentives they offer, incentives based on their ability to sell recordings for profit. Bullshit. As I alluded to earlier, musicians found working business models before recording, and as Byrne discusses in his entry many at the turn of the century thought the technology enabling recording would destroy music. It didn't, and technologies threatening the profit margin of recording won't do that now.

Further, in a completely unscientific guess, I would venture that 90% or more of all musicians in the world see little or no profits from recordings of any kind. The big boys and girls on MTV aren't the only ones making music. A vast pool of nightclub players and other musicians who will likely never be known outside their local areas suit up every night and go out and play for tips and free beer. Some might sneeringly call this "lesser talent" but my father (a rank amature) still cranks out a version of "Don't Let it Get You Down (Its Only Castles Burning)" I prefer to the "real"
Neil Young recording. Some small musicians may do it hoping to cash in on a contract with RCA someday, but more do it because the music is what they have to do.

To go a tiny bit beyond what Byrne suggests in his piece, let me float this idea. If tomorrow the recording industry went away, might some of the cash currently being plunked down on $18 CDs (that mostly go to corporate profits, not to artists) be spent out in local communities, at bars and coffeehouses where local artists play? Might less recording actually mean more music?

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