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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Follow up on the future (I call shenanigans)

I'm going to address now the massive logical fallacy put forth by the music (and movie) industry. Illegal downloads are taking money away from them and out of the pockets of the creators. They want the public to think that if everyone who downloaded an album or a movie didn't do that, they would buy it instead. I can only speak for myself, but that's bullshit. I reserve my movie dollars for very few things I really like. I go to the big screen for something like Star Trek. I'll buy something I really love, like The Shawshank Redemption. If I download, the most I'm doing is taking a dollar away from Redbox. And I use Redbox, too (see below to see what the MPAA thinks of Redbox). Or I go to the library. At least half of my cd collection is either copied from friends or bought used. No money to the RIAA there. Of the music I've acquired from friends, the library, or otherwise not paid full price for, I'd say most I would have never purchased at all. These days I'm doing a lot of online radio listening. I hear tons of music I like but I'll never buy. I throw a little money in every now and then to help my favorite independent stations, but that's it. Let me see if I can summarize my point:

It's not a matter of buying vs stealing. It is a matter of experiencing vs not experiencing. 

I'd also like to take a moment to give a shout out the the original, old school, grandaddy of us all "analog" Torrent site, the Library. (with special nods to public, college and high school libraries)

Just a few more tidbits for thought on my posts about the state of the music industry. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has been raving, like the RIAA, about how illegal movie downloads are killing the movie business. The MPAA has even opposed cheap services like Redbox despite the evidence showing just the opposite. So how can the MPAA say downloads are hurting when, yet again, 2009 was a record year for box office profits. This during the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

If movies and music are analogous, why hasn't the music industry seen increases in the same way? Several likely reasons:

Many studies including this one have shown that illegal downloaders spend more money on music than those who don't download. Other studies show that digital sales are increasing. So why is the RIAA in a twist? Music is too expensive. $12-15 for a cd and $1 or more per song download are just too much. And studies are backing this up. For some reason, rather than charging what the market will bear, the music industry has picked artificially high prices. The consumer is finally catching on and deciding they don't want to pay that much for a cd. If you want people to pay that much, you have to give more than a little plastic disk.

The way we deliver music is outdated and being replaced by a system we don't fully understand yet. Brian Eno made the fine comparison of records to whale blubber. Oil replaced whale blubber as fuel. Cars replaced the horse and buggy. Transistors replaced vacuum tubes. We make ice in our own freezers rather than having it delivered. Technology moves on. In some cases the old ways die out, in others they adapt to new niches. My desktop computer would fill the room if it still had tubes, but many a guitar player would be lost without a tube amp. You can still ride a horse and buggy, but you do so for fun, not because it's the best way to get around.

People just don't like music that much anymore. It's a hard pill to swallow but I think it's true. I'm forgetting where I read or heard this, but it's related to the Brian Eno remarks. In the history of music, the multi-million album sales and heaps of money thrown around in the 80s and 90s are an anomaly, not the norm. Operating an industry on that scale wasn't sustainable. Video game sales have outpaced music for a few years now, and have passed home dvd sales. Internet, cable, satellite. There are so many sources for entertainment and information. Music is going to have to accept that it isn't on top of the heap anymore.

So, back to the artist. What do I think? I think I make art and that's a lot better than not making it. I'd feel sympathetic towards those who can't make a living anymore in music, but so far I haven't found any examples. I'm not entitled to make a living at music and neither is anyone else. I'm not entitled to anything but the right to make art. Hell, even Ray Alder of Fates Warning had a day job during their heyday. I have a job so I can make art. On one level, only making a small part of my income from my art makes me an amateur and not a professional. On the other hand, being free to make whatever art I want, when I want, to make myself happy, means that I am successful. And being successful in my art makes me happy with what I have to be happy with.


(is it perhaps ironic that these people are watching television and not listening to music?)
(slightly related, I link to Techdirt a lot. A great read for tech/copyright/what's next/that's a dumb law info)

12 comments :

stringray said...

Arcaneiro regularly provides me with original brasilian copies.
On some of them I found a logo that says

"CD so ORIGINAL
Denuncia
PIRATARIA
0800115751"

How far will they go???

BG said...

[sarcasm] They could make some anti piracy clubs for young people, where you get 1 free CD for every 10 copyright infringements you have reported. You will be a great example of righteousness for your peers and family...and if someone gives you a hard time you can always report them[/sarcasm]

Hmm...this reminds me of a similar system back in the 40ties

guitarsean said...

I saw Avatar last week, in 3D. I would say it has to be seen in 3d. My opinions of the plot aside, part of me did say after the movie "why would anyone consume entertainment that only stimulates one sense" like music does. There are times when I just want to read a book or listen to a song, but I understand why people don't find music compelling anymore.

The closest thing in music to that kind of experience is a surround sound mix. Surround music really has never taken hold with the public. In the surround mixes I've heard there is also a fine line between cool mixing expression and cheesy gimmick. Perhaps I'll have to explore surround mixing myself.

BG said...

"why would anyone consume entertainment that only stimulates one sense"

Because it allows you to do other things at the same time. I can work while I listen to music....but I would have a really hard time doing so if I was watching a movie.

guitarsean said...

But then you are not immersing yourself in the music. It's just background noise. We had that discussion in a previous post.

I think it's harder to get people to choose to immerse themselves in music.

stringray said...

"I saw Avatar last week, in 3D. I would say it has to be seen in 3d."

"The closest thing in music to that kind of experience is a surround sound mix."


1) I would say watching Avatar in 3d makes sense only because it was made in 3d. Being an expert in cinematographic techniques, I was quite annoyed of it all. It is a nice gadget, but nothing more. And, even it's quite imperfect at this time. All the filmed objects are placed somewhere in a 3d room, but aren't plastic themselves. They look like 2d layers in a 3d room (which may obviously be a matter of the way of compositing all the digitally produced landscapes).
Fact is, it doesn't help the lousy story at all, but disabled my usual habbit when watching a big screen: looking around. When you do that with bipolar glasses looking at a dual imagery, the effect gets lost and your brain feels sick. Eyes straight forward to the screen's center, please.

2) In the 70ies I had a chance to listen to a quadrophonic copy of Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother. Man I was stunned by all the effects and the three-dimensional sonic room. The technique was already obsolete at that time.
In the end, going back to stereo dind't steal any of the music's beauty at all.
Back to the cinema ,today, if you take care of what's happening in the 3d soundscape, you'll find out that it's mostly unused. The channels on the back are mainly copies of the front, using a delay for expanding the stereophonic front channels. You'll hardly find any audio of interest content-wise behind the audience.
Considering 5.1 for music production, filling a 3d roomreally would meand placing real music there. Extra content so to say. But what? The song has been written already. You could place instruments at different places inthe sonic room, but would that be that great? Most use of the 3d room is filled with keyboard carpets and sound effects. The music itself will remain untouched. The beauty won't be better. It won't help transporting the sound spaces the musicians intend.

Save you 5.1 budget and use it for a better stereo. It's all razzle-dazzle anyway.

Lamneth said...

You make some good points in your article. How can people in general be into new music today when they're hardly exposed to any of it? All of the terrestrial radio stations out there are still pushing the same tired old classic rock. People probably don't buy to much of that anymore either because they've heard all those songs for the thousanth time already. I think one exception to this is in country music. That industry seems to be reveling in all of their sucess and pushing new artists all the time.

guitarsean said...

Ray, I agree that Avatar has a weird 'diorama' look. I agree on the story, too. Still, it's the kind of thing I'd want to see like that. I didn't notice anything odd looking around. I also saw a trailer for Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. Definitely something that can actually benefit from that effect since it's a weird Tim Burton thing anyway. I don't see a reason to see a movie like Blindside in 3d.

I've heard some 5.1 mixes that were gimicky. I also heard a Seal acoustic cd where every instrument had its own speaker. And something else that brought out things missing or buried from the original. I think I'm envisioning a type of music that requires a 5.1 system, not just remixed from stereo.

Country music has a huge market so there is more room for new music. Also, I have to think that since they like pushing new music (read: new young good looking performers) that a lot of artists never make more than one or two records.

stringray said...

some mix that sounds like the listener is on the drummer's chair, surrounded by musicians, and the chair is slowly spinning? :D

guitarsean said...

I need to come up with s random-panning script. Turn the song into a swirling vortex of notes!

MAVIII said...

Just a quickie comment on Avatar:
Did not see it in 3D unfortunately but all I have heard was good reviews that the 3D was not gimmicky, it just made the Environment more emersable.

SOUND.
I think the most impressive "3D" sound experience was "Holographic Sound" that Pink Floyd used for the Final Cut, Momentary Lapse of Reason (and maybe The Wall).
The inventor "Zucerelli" of Zucerelli Labs years ago appeared on the Local LA Station KLOS on "Jim Ladds Headsets" and was interviewed and brought on some ASTOUNDING samples.
You could actually "hear UP and DOWN"! (It had the most effect on Headphones).

Like the "Paper Bag", you'd hear someone "behind you" come up with a paper bag, put it over your head, then put it ON your head! Then remove it, then run away while they crumbled the bag! it was incredible!
I had taped all the samples as well as the interview...

Then LOST the cassette tape along with Hundreds of others years ago in a Storage Unit I couldnt afford to pay :(

I believe Wiki has a Page on it :D

MAVIII said...

Just wanted to put this up:

Its "Hugo Zuccarelli" and heres the
Wiki Page on him with some cool samples:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holophonics

Enjoy!