It’s interesting to see how attitudes and mores shift over time. Easy enough to think about it from a generational perspective–hemlines and courting in my grandmother’s day looked a whole lot different. Some things are just as wrong today as they were then, however, like say having poor nutrition or not brushing your teeth, or robbing a bank (fear not, I am going to tie these together). Yes, robbing a bank is just as wrong today as it was then, even though there are more ways and means to get other people’s money into your hands, it’s still held in low opinion. But what of stealing other things….what has the digital age done to our perspective of borrowing, repurposing, sharing and just taking stuff that doesn’t belong to us. Still wrong, without permission of the owner, you say?
Let’s switch on the radio and think about this for a moment, gentle reader. I grew up in the time of record players–33s and 45s. Cassettes came along, and with them tape recorders. The birth of the Mixed Tape heralded the thin edge of the wedge. For the next 30 years, the music industry reacted–no recording from the airwaves, no recording music and sharing it in any way, CERTAINLY no selling of recorded music, no charging admission to an event where music is being played unless you have secured permissions, and you know, I bet if the music industry could have found a way to get a cut on Vinyl records being sold at garage sales, they would have.
And then, while they were at least able to stem the tide of consumers getting free music (how dare they!), along came the Internets, Napster, Pirate Bay, and the nerdling next door with a USB connection to his Mp3 player….
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve known a few musicians, and like any artist, I fully support them getting paid not only for performing, but for their creativity, their intellectual property, their magic which improves my life. When vinyl was being eclipsed by CDs, I replaced several of my favourite LPs with shiny new CDs. Then along came the iTunes Store, and I gleefully paid 99 cents for digital versions of my favourite songs (in some cases, representing the 3rd or even 4th time I had paid the artist for his or her work). I felt really strongly, at the time, that even though I COULD pirate music, I wasn’t going to, because it was stealing from the artists. But in the back of my head, there was a voice. I can’t remember whether or not the voice had a soundtrack, but I do remember it speaking eloquantly if not melodically about how it was the music industry was not changing with the times–the artists were, but the industry–the machinery–was not). Little shifts, like the Bare Naked Ladies on a stick or free iTunes downloads from Starbucks, live streaming from Internet radio… the ground was shifting, and with it came a shift in the noise from the machine–instead of shrieking about punitive actions and punishing musical thievery (oh that puts a delicious picture in my head…) the industry realized that the artists were not appreciating their “protection”, the flood gates had long since opened and completely annihilated the village below, and maybe being paid for creativity was going to need to make a shift to being paid for creative marketing.
Actual transcripts from conversations in my house about music:
Me: Hey I just bought the CD version of “Bat out of Hell”
The Husband: How many times are we going to pay for the same album? I wish you would just get stuff off the Internet like other people!
Me: Stealing is wrong
Me: Hey! the new U2 album is on my phone!!!!! For FREE!!!!!
TH: Wow, cool– the first time we didn’t have to pay for music!
The Boy Child (stomping off, muttering): What the hell!? I don’t want U2’s stupid music on my phone! They didn’t ask me if I wanted it…grumble….I shouldn’t have to have it….whinge….stupid free music….mutter.….my phone…grouse…..permission…….complain…..
And there we are, music-loving friend, we have come full circle… isn’t technology grand?