NPR Intern Gets an Earful After Blogging About 11,000 Songs, Almost None Paid For
06-19-2012, 05:06 PM,
NPR Intern Gets an Earful After Blogging About 11,000 Songs, Almost None Paid For

Quote:When it comes to digital music, can the audience be shamed into doing the right thing? That is, even if we all agreed that it was the “right thing” for musicians to be paid each time someone listened to their music, would it make any difference?

A candid blog post over the weekend at NPR’s All Songs Considered blog has touched off a small firestorm in the music industry over the behavior of young, “digital native” music fans and the right of musicians and record companies to be paid for their work. Fourteen years since the arrival of the game-changing Napster file-sharing service, these topics still touch a nerve. But the responses to the post show how wide a gulf remains between what the music industry expects the public to do and what the public is actually doing.

In the NPR post, a 20-year-old intern named Emily White wrote that despite being “an avid music listener, concertgoer and college radio D.J.,” with an iTunes library of 11,000 songs, she has bought only 15 CDs in her life. “As monumental a role as musicians and albums have played in my life,” she wrote, “I’ve never invested money in them aside from concert tickets and T-shirts.”

Ms. White went on to describe some typical Gen-Y behaviors about acquiring digital music: ripping CDs; copying friends’ song files; being given 15 gigabytes of music by a prom date. Curiously, she noted that aside from “a few” tracks that she obtained through the now-defunct file-sharing service Kazaa, most were not “illegally” downloaded.

The post has drawn more than 440 comments. It has been debated for days on music industry forums and in blog responses, none more impassioned than a 3,800-word open letter from David Lowery, of the bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. (His post itself has received more than 300 comments and been passed around and around via Twitter.)

After first telling her, “My intention here is not to shame you or embarrass you,” Mr. Lowery goes on, eloquently and in great detail, to do what might be called throwing the morality book at her. He argues against the unpaid accumulation of music online, rejecting common rationalizations (“record companies rip off artists”; “artists can make money on the road”) and explaining that even in not paying for music, Ms. White has made economic choices by using technology and online bandwidth, which somebody probably paid for.

As a result, Mr. Lowery writes, young people who do not pay for music instead wind up valuing the technology of “giant mega corporations” at the expense of the musicians they actually care about, “unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians.”

“You are doing it wrong,” Mr. Lowery concludes.


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