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March 03, 2009


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I wish it were so simple. I've been writing a bit about where music fits in today's culture, and there's just not much room, or interest. The people who want the music the most are those who find leaks. Beyond that is a very tiny market as you note with Animal Collective's sales figures.

The music industry needs to restructure itself. It's a painful business decision that smacks of karmic retribution for generations of corruption, but it's the only way they'll survive.

Still, I'm not entirely convinced that they need to. Yes, venerable labels like T&G will die off, but those artists might be better served by self-releasing their stuff digitally.

There are positives in this. They're just hard to see right now.

While I agree with Ramsay that it's the people who WANT the music the most who find the leaks, I don't believe that complicates the basic thesis re one whit.

Because I don't think "the people who want the music the most" is the same category as "the people who the band depends on to buy the music so they can do this for a living".

When the leaks are hard to find, the people who go looking THAT hard -- I mean REALLY go looking, and do the work -- are also least likely to be the ones who the band DEPENDS on to pay their dues by getting the album. Sure, many will...but these folks will pay eventually, whether it be through album sales, donations, going to shows, pay for the rarities, etc.

On the other hand, the easier it is to find the album , the more you cut into the larger group of those who WOULD pay for the album...but may not do much else to support the band. Those folks exist as a band goes semi-famous, or at least popular; they buy copy when Paste or Pitchfork mentions the band, maybe, but they're not scouring the tubes. It's easy for us -- the folks who comment, after all, and thus reveal a particularly digital mindset -- to claim that we're the typical user, and imagine our habits as normative. But for now, at least, for most and in most, labels/promoters with hard copy to push, plus the very EXISTENCE of hard copy in stores, for better or worse, still help that process along, and regretting their loss seems productive.

JT, thanks for the comment as well as the response at your own blog.

I have to say my feelings about the current culture and "the industry" is complicated - more complicated than my post can describe. For one, I'd love nothing more than to see all the majors implode due to their ineptitude. Their history of exploitation--of artists and of fans--does deserve a little "karmic retribution," as you put it. But I do draw a line somewhere when it comes to the indies. Not long ago I used to run a club that catered to DIY bands, staffed by volunteers who put in their time and money to help make it happen. If a night had a bad turnout, it wasn't uncommon for the five people who showed up to pull out as much money as they could to help that band get some gas money. A label like Touch & Go epitomizes a support system for bands that WASN'T corrupt. It just makes me sad, tremendously sad, to see that the era of fans and artists all in it together--seems to be over. In the world of indie rock—that's the specific realm I'm talking about here—the fans have disconnected themselves from the equation. If one doesn't see the difference between fucking over Grizzly Bear or Touch & Go or other indies vs. "karmic retribution" for Warner Brothers or Britney Spears, then to my mind something really meaningful has died.

I like nabbing a whole album via torrent when I'm sure the band has gone to suck. I watch the share ratio skyrocket, and I am pleased I had a effect on making sure this album made less that it would had without my participation.

I downloaded a leak of the new Dan Deacon album a few weeks ago, but I still intend, then as now, to buy it (probably on vinyl).

I don't seek them out, but I've 'happened' to hear some of my most expected albums of last year (Envy/Jesu, Grails) before the actual release date, but again I still bought the vinyl. An folder of mp3s is the starting point of where I listen to music, not the end. And definitely not paying for music you claim to really like is unethical - but leaks don't necessarily mean non-payment over the medium-to-long term.

Are you real? How did so many errors of logic make it into such a short comment?

My last comment was directed at Capitalizzy, not you, Gabba - though your comment is one I've seen before when this sort of debate comes up. I don't doubt you, but I think it's a rare person who does this consistently.

My answer is vinyl. It's the best physical medium we've got.

If I were one of these bands, I'd offer up an official leak of a vinyl rip and sell the 'pristine' mp3s to those who need that kinda thing.

Or I guess we just have to wear some extra integrity these days, with such ease of access to pirated works.

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