On the issue of Google and large tech corporate entities leaching off of artists through ads and search on pirating websites I wholeheartedly agree. It sucks. Shame on them. On the issue of individual ethics, I half-heartedly agree. If David Lowery truly believes downloading pirated music is as evil as internet child pornography then we do indeed have a case for an ethical argument. However, the mechanism of media delivery does not police pirated music (I assume it does police for child pornography to some extent). With the current internet infrastructure we have to somehow believe we’re doing wrong by simply doing what we do on the web – mainly searching for information, documents and media. That simply can’t be wrong at its core. Lowery asks us, the internet user, to take the burden of understanding the bewilderingly complex music industry past and present to understand the implications for doing what we would do. In the case of Emily White, Lowery tries to co-opt her conflicted feelings to his agenda which is simply a rather antiquated idea that people should pay for music like they used to.
There’s simply no going back. However, there is going forward. We all want the artists to be paid. But the mechanism is broken. It is out of sync with the way we actually use the internet. There is a lot of tech talk about user experience on the web. Frankly, the user experience of buying/downloading music is off. A bad user experience usually equals failure for a web startup. Yet the music industry and David Lowery want us to settle for the sub-par UX of iTunes because it is the most “ethical”.
David Lowery is very critical of streaming music platforms such as Spotify and Rdio in some of his other posts. What he doesn’t give credit for is that streaming music platforms are amazing tools for discovery. And guess what, they are perfectly legal. I pay $18/mo to Rdio for a family plan and my wife and I get an all-you-can-eat buffet of music. This invariably means that I (especially) listen to a lot of bad music trying to find the unknown diamonds in the rough. But I like that I can simply go through and discover music without relying on blogs, social media and hype. The discovery is simply me finding artists I like. Although Lowery downplays the significance of shows, when I find music I really like through Rdio I am most likely to pay the $20-$50 to see that band play live when they come around. That to me seems like a better take than iTunes where I’m much less likely to discover new music.
Ultimately streaming exposes that we don’t need to buy distributed music the way we used to. We don’t own it, never did and never will. The artist should be paid for the usage of their IP and streaming music services make that very very easy. Granted the field is so new it’s hard to say how lucrative this can be. But if everyone gets on board with streaming how could it not be lucrative?
I think streaming music makes piracy obsolete. Why? Because the user experience of streaming music platforms is a million times better than sifting through the nether-worlds of torrents. It’s probably cost-effective because you don’t need to worry about getting storage for all your downloads. Boy will that add up.
So to David Lowery I’d suggest getting on board with music streaming and finding ways to make it profitable for artists. I think the streaming community, this new generation, can really support that. Don’t guilt them into using an antiquated tool. This is not really about ethics even though the music industry needs to frame it that way to (frighteningly) get legal power to stiffen what they don’t like about how people use the internet.