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Music Business and the “Free Culture” Movement

I still struggle with the “Free Culture” movement that Music Business Instructor Dave Lowery addresses in his write up “Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered” posted to The Trichordist: Artists For An Ethical Internet blog.

As part of the music business, “Free Culture” movement, Lowery claims that “Rather than using our morality and principles to guide us through technological change, there are those asking us to change our morality and principles to fit the technological change…” He challenges the notion that it’s okay for music fans to download music for free even if artists aren’t being paid what they’re worth by labels. Contracts still require some type of artist payment, which is better than getting nothing.

And it’s not just music business executives that don’t care about artists. According to the argument, all sites and services who allow for file sharing or access to music for a cheap monthly fee, along with hardware companies, and maybe even the stores that sell the hardware, are profiting unethically from those who put their hard earned cash into digital content creation. The way Lowrey frames it, I think it’s pretty hard to argue with him. Others, however, don’t think he’s telling the whole story.

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The recent Bob Lefsetz piece “The David Lowery Screed” is critical of Lowery’s approach. And, if you know Bob, he’s going to take the side of the “Free Culture” peeps arguing that the old model doesn’t work, and that copyrights shouldn’t last forever. I don’t think his argument really addresses the mess with the same intellectual or emotional strength as Lowery’s, but I think both would agree, without question, that the system we have is broken.

Jay Frank’s piece “Is Stealing Music Really the Problem?” seems to take a different angle than either Lowery or Lefsetz as he looks at the facts… go figure. Jay breaks it down like this: record labels have discovered the new music business is all about exposure and awareness. With lots of artists competing for less and less dough, it’s those who consumers don’t have to dig for to find that are going to make money. BTW, most of those artists are the ones still riding the charts, and the big labels still win.

All three of these are a great read and THEY DIG WAY DEEPER THAN I DID HERE. If the music business is where you’ve chosen to make your livelihood, take the time to think through this stuff. All this may one day affect your income.



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