Or, “can it be wrong if everyone does it?” An NPR article on copyright that totally misses the point. Someone is making money on invented language? Peter Hollens and Middle Earth videogame sounds vs. Steve Roach and Ambient Electronica. Cosplay. Piracy. Point Counterpoint. Jane You Ignorant Slut. Fresh vs. Freeze-dried food. Some dark ideas on the future.
JCHOK, so there was this story on NPR:
JCHAnd I wrote a comment, which got deleted for some reason. So, sneak that I am, I re-posted it two days later (and below).
if any activity (like music piracy) is so easy to do that it cannot be reasonably prevented, it simply cannot be illegal. First people will ignore the law and then, the law itself must be removed because it is so far afield from actual behavior. The law cannot be that far afield from what people do.
RCHoly Invented Language Batman! That guy is just like what you were ranting on Invent Your Own Language last month!
JCHExcept that he found a way to monetize the thing.
RCHe makes a six figure income! Making D&D sounds?
JCHI mean, who knew there was so much interest in ‘Cosplay’.
JCHGoogle it, homes. Apparently, playing dress up is a big deal nowadays. But the article is a Point Counterpoint deal.
RCJane You Ignorant Slut!
JCHExactly. First off, the title of the article is completely misleading. It’s like an ‘Upworthy’ title to get you to click on it!
RCYou’re saying that NPR isn’t above click bait? I’m shocked. Shocked!
JCHAnyhoo, It starts out with a guy Steve Roach who tries to sell CDs the old fashioned way and has gotten totally Rogered…
RCCan’t you stop doing that?
JCHOops. Sorry. Mr. Roach has been “severely financially impacted by the ubiquity of music piracy.” So they give his side and then it switches to Mr. Hollens and his totally bitchin’ sounds of Middle Earth. And he gives his POV, which is basically, you can’t fight piracy so why try? But not to worry. You can make a very nice living in the current environment by giving people what they want.
RCPart of me can’t argue with the free market.
JCHFor sure. But the dark side, the part he’s missing is Honesty. To my mind, this story is really about how easy it now is to take things.
RCNot sure I follow.
JCHLook, if you have a TV store and no lock on the door? Those TVs are going to walk away. And not just in a ‘bad’ neighborhood. In any neighborhood.
RCRight. I can’t argue with that. If you drop money on the street, you will not get all of it back no matter where you live. People are people.
JCHExactly. So if you make free copying as easy as pushing a button, you simply cannot expect anyone to continue to buy music. It’s as foreign to human nature as leaving your TV store unlocked. The cops would blame you, not the thieves.
RCSo what about Peter Hollens?
JCHOK, so he has a shtick that sells with the youth of America. Fine. But my objection to his approach is that his approach only works for that kind of music and he’s kidding himself if he thinks it’s all about changes in taste.
JCHLook I don’t wanna sound disparaging, that’s not my point. But what Mr. Hollens does sure ain’t art. My point is that poor people like Mr. Roach could make a living until piracy hit.
RCAnd poor people like you.
JCHAs if I needed reminding! It’s not a change in taste so much. What Mr. Hollens is saying is that copyright is no longer relevant. And for what he does? I agree. Who bothers copyrighting sonic wallpaper!
RCHe’s not even selling TVs anymore.
JCHBingo. The TV store no longer has a lock because there is no such thing anymore as a TV worth taking! But here’s the deep shit: if technology no longer makes a law enforceable it can no longer illegal. You feel me? I’ll say that again: if any activity (like music piracy) is so easy to do that it cannot be reasonably prevented, it simply cannot be illegal. First people will ignore the law and then, the law itself must be removed because it is so far afield from actual behavior. The law cannot be that far afield from what people do.
RCAs with liquor during Prohibition. That law had to go. I get you. So you’re saying that copying music is no longer considered ‘bad’ because you can’t expect humans to not steal the TV.
JCHSadly, yes. But I’ll put another edge on this. For decades, we had stores with freezers to sell fresh goods, right? But let’s say the stores no longer have so many freezers. So the food that sells most is ‘shelf-stable’ stuff. Maybe it doesn’t taste as good, but it’s super convenient. And it’s way cheaper too, right? On paper it seems like a no-brainer. ‘Fresh’ food is a total pain in the ass and crazy expensive to boot. And people don’t want to be bothered with having an ice box so fresh foods have gone away except for…
RCExcept for connoisseurs. I like this. Foodies are like people who still really like music. They still buy vinyl like foodies get fancy knives and what not.
JCHThere ya go. But here’s the other edge. I’ve got very little use for either artist’s work. Neither Mr. Roach or Mr. Hollens.
RCI was wondering if you might get to that.
JCHThey would probably be riled to hear me say it, but to me they’re both sonic wallpaper. That’s the irony. If Mr. Roach and Mr. Rosenthal had a different marketing take, they might be able to (cough) ‘monetize’ their work a lot better.
RCYou mean like Hollens does, marketing his ambient stuff to, say, doctors offices?
JCHRight. Or maybe not. Maybe there is a difference that an old guy like me can’t get to.
RCMaybe. But clearly Mr. Roach takes his work seriously as music to be listened to. In that way, he views it as you do, right?
JCHRight. He expects to be paid for the product itself; not as part of some cooperative marketing deal. Go figure!
RCAs you wrote in that comment, ‘razors and blades’. But I have to say, it feels to me like this is old news. Is there still any point in talking about it?
JCHI think this is a watershed moment in human history. Seriously. The fact that technology makes copying possible has got to be thought about. And thought about hard. The next go rounds, will be 3D Printing or even genetics. We’ll be able to copy anything and the ‘disruption’ to society will make what has happened in the music biz seem trivial by comparison.
RCSo this is a theme in Progress?
JCHYes. I know you were thinking I was just gassing on about the horse and buggy…
RCBut you’re gassing on about something newfangled.
JCHIt’s another one of those ‘limits’ I keep talking about. To a certain degree, dishonesty has been self-limiting. There was a limit to temptation unless one was pathological. It was just too difficult for the average person to steal TVs so most people defaulted to being honest. We’re entering a world where those limits aren’t there, just like with tasty snacks and artificial light and so on. We’re not built to deal with all these temptations.
RCIsn’t that where religion and morality are supposed to kick in?
JCHI don’t know if you’ve been keeping up on current events, chief, but another consequence of all this abundance is that we now live in the most Libertarian era in quite some time. Most people feel like they do quite nicely without some pesky ‘moralist’ nagging at them. Those structures which might have previously said, ‘Thou Shalt Not!’ They don’t work anymore. What most of us seem to want is a really inspiring TED TALK!
RCYou’re being even more cynical than usual.
JCHMaybe. But let me ask you this: Will you be able to tell someone not to make their kid’s eyes blue if there’s a DIY kit available on BitTorrent? It’s coming.
But most serious musicians, in any genre, aren’t writing music for doctors offices or commercials or elevators or yoga studios or cartoons. They’re writing MUSIC, to be LISTENED TO. And the pre-piracy world made that a viable way to make a living.
Now? Unless your product can be re-purposed (as Mr. Hollens’ can), it is simply not financially viable on its own and THAT is the point.
If you spend a ton of time creating music that people want to listen to, you should be able to make some money off of that, without being an influencer or constantly having to re-purpose your stuff for commercials and videos and whatever. The current law does nothing for that.
Yes you can make a living in music… but only the music that fits within the technology… ie. background music for videogames, videos, etc. So what ‘the market’ has done is make it so that “profitable” music that is completely shallow. Ironically, any music with some depth? You can’t make a dime with it on Google or Youtube.