samedi 2 avril 2011

Download and Share

This week, I talked to Eddie Prevost of free downloading and its consequences on the share and the development of improvised and experimental music. Here is resumed his (and my) position and reflexions about it.

I don't think that to download for free is truly a problem for labels, even less for the artists, if we have a conscientious use of the download. This kind of music is already rather elitist at the cultural level, no need to be also financially elitist. Most of the people must have a free access to all musics (and arts), our love for music can't be stopped by monetary reasons, I don't argue that.

However, sharing music is (or should...) also the only and main purpose of the labels. Thus, the only means to help this music is supporting the involving labels which are inevitably within a capitalist society, a few people pay for pressing, printing and releasing  these discs that they share for we.

Most of the labels concerned with the experimental and free music are  not market driven. However, they have to co-exist within a capitalist economy and society. My guess is our more thoughtful audience understand this situation. My feeling is that one way they know they can support the music is by making purchases of the CDs we produce.
As much as we would like to make this music freely available — and many of the musicians concerned play most of their live music in non-profit making environments — we need the audience and those who share our philosophy to engage with us in many ways. One way is to help us maintain some kind of programme of releases to help nurture and propagate this music. Whether we like it or not this can only be done —  at the moment — by making CDs and other recordings within the industrial/commercial capitalist context. Pressing plants, printers, shipping/postal agencies and the like will not do their work for free.
Downloading for free as common creative licences are OK, but we have to support the creation and the diffusion of material or numerical stuffs as much as possible, what is the better and larger way for the evolution of this music. In fact, there are two ways, we CONSUME or not. If I choose to consume music, there are no sufficient (ideological and political in particular) reasons to justify HOW I consume because when I check a disc out, I accept its mode of production. Even if I hate money and work, the records which I like are creating within a working and financier capitalist society, because labels can't be outside that wether they want it or not.

Without getting some return on the costs of recording — which are achieved mostly through sales of CDs to people interested in the music — then there are no resources to make more music available. Thus the people interested in this marginal music will have fewer opportunities to hear this stuff. Freedom from copyright is a good aim. However, in the present circumstances your actions (and people like you) are in effect closing down the dissemination of this music and restricting the wider discourse of meaning  — which ironically involves ultimate free access and exchange!

7 commentaires:

  1. And he's quite right. About the only 'free exchange' of music which seems to be ethical, and make sense is recordings which are not (or no longer) available. These can be out of print LPs, or concert recordings which haven't and probably won't be issued. It's also a good way to hear music when you are unable to travel thousands of Km to witness a concert, and also valuable sources of reference material for past and present.

    However, sometimes record companies shoot themselves in the foot by having downloads that don't have all the material - i.e. only available on the album - tracks. I recently came across this with John Adams box set. The box set is no longer available, and the download has some tracks as 'available only on the album'. That's the point where you start to say '$€%%^:::', maybe I should just copy it!

    Anyhow, as a musician I have to agree with Eddie Prevost. Many people just don't realise what goes into a recording, and of course how the artist is meant to be able to make a living. But all that just comes down to the fact that most people are rather egocentric when it comes to getting something for free. Not only do they not buy (the) artists recordings, they don't attend concerts either. Most musicians would be happy to give away their music 'if' they had the possibility to play enough concerts to make a reasonable living. Unfortunately our society does not support that type of situation, and probably never will.

    Excellent blog, nice stuff here. Thanks.

  2. I got a partial answer to this dilemma this morning. More of a minor epiphany. The new Milton Nascimento CD was available for download, but I decided to order it instead. The gatefold CD came with two booklets, nice photos, lyrics ... reminding me somewhat of what I used to expect from albums. And I actually like box sets, even the pricey ones that Sony has put out with Miles Davis, like the On the Corner box. Photos, info, liner notes, and music. Something that adds to my experience of the recording. My point here is, make a CD worth buying, and I'll not be prompted to download it, I'll be prompted to buy it. I know it's not *the* answer, but it's one element of the problem with today's music marketing.

  3. I think most people that download are buyers too. I know I am an Emusic subscriber and buy too. Not everything is available for download, especially if you have eclectic music tastes.

  4. I think most people who download this kind of music would much rather own a CD or LP, but who's wealthy enough to afford to buy it all? Most of the downloaders I know have huge record collections and go to as many gigs as they can manage - we're music lovers and we spend as much of our disposable income as we can on music.
    A lot of what we download just isn't commercially available, so the only way we can get to hear it is to download it, or wait for a reissue. Or spend a lot of money on rare LP's on the collectors market. No one gets any royalties from second hand sales, but no one complains about second hand record dealers exploiting the musicians unfairly.
    The renewed interest in obscure old recordings generated by blogs and filesharing often results in records being reissued - Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day being an obvious example - so illegal filesharing can be a useful publicity tool as well. I've certainly bought Cd's as a result of downloading music by artists I wouldn't otherwise have heard.
    It should also be noted that with the kind of small independent labels that release music like this, the artists receive very little money for their efforts - the usual deal is a 50/50 split of profits after the manufacturing costs have been recouped, plus a free box of cd's to sell yourself. Hardly a major source of revenue for the starving artist. It might take
    years to sell enough CD's to recoup the initial costs.
    Unless you're a "big name" like Eddie Prevost or Evan Parker and can get £500 a gig, the income from playing live is often hardly worth the effort - £50 - £150 a gig is good money in this game. Most free improvisers have to make a living doing other things. A lot of them just live in poverty, waiting for the next low paying gig.
    What can we do? Buy CD's directly from the artists, go to their gigs and do what we can on blogs like this to publicise their efforts... if more people listen to this music and go out to see it live, then maybe the performers will get better gigs and get paid what they deserve

  5. Listening audiences also need to be considered. Most people discussing these kinds of issues assume the position (and are in the position) that the people downloading have decent amounts of (if we're gonna get capitalist about it) "expendable income". I don't mean rich, but they are not poor (when compared to world standards). However there are many people around the world who do not have much money, who do not have extra money, who have money to survive in their societies but the living standard is so "low" that an album (especially vinyl with international shipping!) is a large purchase, and etc...

    I think most of these people would absolutely agree with wanting to support small diy producers of art but are often not in a position to do so. Financially, for me, even buying one album a month is a major investment which i can't always do and when I do I often have to buy used. But even when I can, as a rabid music lover i don't think I could be satisfied by that. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the internet and I need to learn discipline/whatever, but mp3 album blogs make my life awesome and open me to tremendous musical horizons that i would never be able to find simply because I don't have enough money. Absolutely, I would love to own every album I love on its original format, or even a small percentage of what I love, but its just not possible.

    I know I'm not the stereotypical target in these kinds of posts (although I'm not sure who is, as others have said the people that download the most usually also buy the most...) but I, and others like me do exist.

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