Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Buy or Burn: Morals and Music

Secret Society links to this interesting interview between Down Beat magazine and the superb trumpeter Dave Douglas. Douglas discusses the relationship between artists and fans:

"But the one thing about these new business models is that listeners and people who love music also have a responsibility to support the artist. It doesn't take a lot. With an artist-run web site, you assume the goodwill of people-that they will buy the CD but not copy it for their friends. I see it at gigs. With a group of college guys, where once I'd sell five CDs, now I just sell one. How you purchase music is a political decision. To perpetuate the music, people have to pay back into the system. It's only happened a few times, but I've been approached by fans asking me to sign a CD-R. They don't understand the humor of that."

That someone would go up to an artist and ask them to sign a burned CD is galling beyond belief. But more importantly is the decline in people buying music. I buy a lot of CDs. And I burn a lot of CDs. Most of us probably burn music as much or more than buying it these days. But isn't Douglas right? Don't we as consumers of art have an obligation to support artists? Again, I do burn CDs, but only as supplemental to the relatively large amount of music that I buy. For me, burning CDs is not a way to avoid buying albums but a way to supplement my collection and hear new artists that I am hesitant to spend money on. Then I go out and buy other albums by these artists.

This is a personal moral choice that I make. I am comfortable with it. We all have to make these choices for ourselves. But I am distinctly uncomfortable with people who get 75% or more of their music for free. That is just not right. These people are struggling to survive. If it's Madonna or Radiohead or Jay-Z, well, who cares. These people have more money than God. But for indie artists, unknown artists, cult bands, or generally artists who are not getting rich, than as a music consumer, you owe it to these people to spend at buy some of the music you are getting. Your purchase literally allows these people to continue their art. Shirking this system entirely is simply an immoral consumer decision.

One additional note--it's true that I'm very behind the times and still buy CDs but it doesn't really matter--the issue is the same regardless of what format you get your music in.