Mar 16, 2009

Do you pay for your record collection?

Do you pay for your record collection?

Following YouTube's decision to kick the pop stars off its screens (leaving the architect of Kylie Minogue's success in terrible poverty), you took one of two views. One: we internet-savvy media whores deserve all the free entertainment we can get, and we intend to stream our eyeballs out. Or two: "free" doesn't earn a living for struggling musicians; we should be paying for what we watch.

It has raised an interesting diversion in the battle between the internet autobots and the record industry decepticons. The debate is no longer about file sharing and illegal mp3s. In fact, Music Think Tank sounded the death knell for file sharing this week, arguing that illegal downloads are going the way of the mullet.

No. It's about streaming. Which bypasses the old debate about paying for transactions in which a piece of music comes into your ownership. It's a new debate about what you watch and what you hear through the power of Spotify or Last FM..

Independent writer Rhodri Marsden put up a staunch defence of the Performing Rights Society, insisting we should be forking out for our music consumption.  I agree with him, especially when you get the kind of impassioned plea from Grizzly Bear where hard-working artists have their new album leaked three months early.

So why, then, do I have a large stockpile of illegally obtained mp3s?

Well, almost all are single tracks swiped from blogs and file-sharing sites. I treat these downloads as tasters, and often do the old-fashioned thing of either buying the £6.99 download from Bleep or the £2.99 not-for-resale promo CD from Vinyl Exchange.

My streaming habits are different. Spotify spins me into a world of nostalgia; I listen to old albums I would never buy again. The past turns round and bites you on Spotify in the same way it does on Facebook (and noticeably doesn't on Twitter).

Last FM is another kettle of bunnies. It's the opposite of Spotify, in that it's totally about new music for me. It does, however, lead me into the cycle of sampling illegal mp3s, then eventually buying an album.

So maybe, my streaming habits feed my older-fashioned downloading habits. I don't think either habit costs the record industry a penny, though. I still pay for the bit of my record collection I really want to keep, and I would suggest this is true for a lot of music consumers.

Downloading can lead to disappointment.  The statistic that the dreary new U2 album was downloaded illegally over 400,000 times proves that, sometimes, you really can get nothing for nothing.  But overall, downloads serve as a valuable way of promoting promising musicians.

Get it wrong, and there's much to lose. Dave Allen, post-punk bassist and the proprieter of Pamplemoose sounded a warning that "what's at stake are the livelihoods of people who work at labels, big and small, and of artists who actually make a living recording and performing music."

No pressure, then. Do you pay for your record collection? Should you? Am I trying to justify behaviour which you think is harmful? Is streaming the new black? How will Pete Waterman get through the recession?

Post your thoughts (for free) below.


Anonymous said...

It's all about the vinyl, baby.

paulypaul said...

Illegal downloading is doing as much for the artist as paying for the Vinyl Exchange not for resale pre-release. Considering that was where I was buying most of my records predownload era I don't really feel guilty about it. If you're going to shows and buying shirts then I don't think not buying the plastic souvenir disc makes much difference. Albini agrees on this point so it must be true. Admittedly that doesn't work the same for electronica artists but then their music is more likely to be used on a car advert than a garage rock act.

Fat Roland said...

Dammit, the Albini defence. You win this time, Paul...

The fact that you're right about the advertising income fills me with sadness. Every artist on this website is a potential sell-out bastard.