I’m confused. My aversion to illegal downloading used to be so pure, so unclouded by grey areas or ambiguities. Poor creative types were having their hard work thieved from them, generally by young, irredeemably cocksure people with irritating hair and an inexhaustible sense of entitlement.
Ignorant of any notion of copyright they’d glide through the internet, vacuuming off content for little reason other than that they could. You’d see them at gigs, these people, standing there. Smiling. Laughing, the fuckers, clearly not yet jaded and miserable about the world like the rest of us. Doubtless they’re the ones who would always stand directly in front of me, replete with a comedy hat or some kind of distracting twitch.
Any attempt to discuss the ramifications of downloading, the effects on artists and musicians and emerging talent – nothing. Just a facial glaze, drool leaking from the side of the mouth.
And, you see, I knew I was right. Downloading was killing the music industry, I’d say, desperately trying to ignore that this was the same argument being pushed by Bono and Lars Ulrich from Metallica. Faced with arguments otherwise I’d just get louder, more shrill, my voice getting ever-nearer to the pitch used by the bad guys in Live and Let Die to kill the UN ambassador through his headphones. How could music be sustained in the face of piracy, I’d say. What incentive would there be for new artists to emerge, and how could their development be funded? Sure, Radiohead could give away In Rainbows for nothing, but what about a group of 20 year olds trying to write a second album whilst living in East London?
Problem was, though, that music didn’t really seem to be dying. Quite the opposite – there was more of it than ever. Not just the drivel, the Coldplay and the Keane, but really good new, leftfield stuff too. The only thing dying was the record label itself, and it’s hard to get sad about the demise of multinational conglomerates.
I must have spent about a week pondering this, alone in a darkened room, only pausing periodically to roll around to prevent my muscles from atrophying. And then, Hurrah! I happened upon a book that explained everything, and made me feel good about crime.
Granted, this was back in 2009. But it warrants returning to, this book, so I am. Written by a guy called Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired Magazine, Free explores the growth in free media and its effect on culture, society and the creative industries, looking at the rise of Google and how it sustains its ‘free’ business model, the record industry’s doomed efforts to save itself from piracy and the generational shifts in attitude that have led to a reluctance in anybody under thirty to actually pay for stuff online.
It is, genuinely, ridiculously interesting. I’d write more, but to be honest the information’s better coming from him, so underneath is an audiobook mp3 of the ninth chapter – hey, I’m all for file-sharing now, ok – which looks at new media models, particularly those related to video games and musicians. It’s pretty lengthy – like, 49 minutes – and quite complex so not really driving material, but it’s helped to shift my thinking regarding online piracy and whether sites such as Spotify are actually good for musicians.
Most significantly, it’s made me all for criminality now. Like a gateway drug, I’m hoping to graduate from file-sharing pretty soon and move on to murder, and from there to genocide. Genocide of the tall. And the happy. God, I hate the happy.