Are we re­ally killing mu­sic?

Bray People - - About Greystones -

TURN THE clock back to the last great re­ces­sion to hit th­ese shores, around 1984, and you’ll find that a big treat for yours truly was a fam­ily day out on the train to the big smoke of Dublin.

It was on one such trip that the younger brother, sis­ter, and I had the no­tion of club­bing to­gether with the few quid we’d man­aged to some­how scrounge, to go to Golden Discs in the Ilac Cen­tre and buy what would be our first ‘proper’ al­bum - a rite of pas­sage in many peo­ple’s lives. Be­ing a com­mit­tee af­fair though, we made more of a camel than a horse of it. I wanted ‘Born in the USA’ by Bruce Spring­steen, but I ended up be­ing out­voted by the two younger sib­lings, and so we ended up with Michael Jack­son’s ‘ Thriller’ in­stead.

Still, the nov­elty of hav­ing a ‘ proper’ al­bum proved too dif­fi­cult to re­sist, and so ev­ery note of the al­bum was lis­tened to over and over, while ev­ery word on the in­lay card was scru­ti­nised. And I still re­mem­ber be­ing mys­ti­fied by a no­tice printed at one cor­ner, where un­der­neath a logo of a skull and cross­bones were the words ‘Home tap­ing is killing mu­sic - and it’s il­le­gal’.

What could be wrong with tap­ing a few songs off the ra­dio, I won­dered. Didn’t ev­ery­body do it? And wasn’t the fact that the other two had ‘Bil­lie Jean’ recorded from the Larry Go­gan Show onto a blank C60 a key fac­tor in them want­ing to splash out money on the full al­bum in the first place? So was ‘home tap­ing’ not ac­tu­ally help­ing sales?

A quar­ter of a cen­tury later, and tech­nol­ogy has moved on, but the record com­pa­nies still take the same dim view of peo­ple get­ting their tunes for free, as last week’s agree­ment with eir­com shows (any­body caught down­load­ing mu­sic files from the in­ter­net will have their broad­band cut off on a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ ba­sis).

The mu­sic chiefs say that such il­le­gal down­load­ing is cost­ing them €14 mil­lion a year here. But there’s a fun­da­men­tal flaw in their logic, as they’ve come up with that fig­ure on the ba­sis that ev­ery sin­gle free down­load of an al­bum would in­stead have been a sale at a price of up to €20 each. Ask around though, and down­load­ers will tell you that the vast ma­jor­ity of what they take for free is some­thing they wouldn’t be buy­ing in the nor­mal way - it’s more of a ‘tester’ run to see what they think of a par­tic­u­lar band or artist. If it turns out they like them, well then they’re much more likely in the long run to ac­tu­ally buy the CD it­self or a con­cert ticket to go see them play. If they don’t, at least they’re not 20 quid out of pocket, and they can just delete the files from their PC.

There’s an episode of ‘South Park’ that deals with the same topic, as top mu­si­cians go on strike as lux­u­ries have to be put on hold since they’re miss­ing out on a few dol­lars through in­ter­net down­loads (Lars Ull­rich of Me­tal­lica has to post­pone an or­der for a gold-plated shark tank, and Brit­ney Spears has to set­tle for a Gulf­stream III pri­vate jet in­stead of a Gulf­stream IV). The boys try to con­vince them that the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing peo­ple are lis­ten­ing to their mu­sic and then com­ing out in greater num­bers to live con­certs should be enough for them, but the stars stay on strike, say­ing ‘we don’t care about that - we’re just in it for the money’.

Money is what it all comes down to, and of course it’s the de­sire of the record com­pa­nies to pro­tect their in­come that has led to last week’s agree­ment. But here’s an­other flaw - surely eir­com want to pro­tect their in­come too, so why would they cut off sub­scribers who are pay­ing them up to €50 per month?

They say it’ll be three strikes and you’re out, but on the grounds that eir­com won’t cut off their nose to spite their face, we’ll be­lieve it when we see it.

The boys on ‘South Park’ had their own ideas about what in­ter­net file-shar­ing is do­ing to the mu­sic in­dus­try.

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