One musician's anti-SOPA / PIPA tirade: Please keep my music free

We went to Best Buy to pick up Portugal. The Man's new album not too long ago.

Well... We tried, because it wasn't there.

We had seen this band perform "So American" on Conan (for free) and then investigated their music on YouTube (also for free) and were now left without a way to actually support them with what little means we could.

So what did we do? There are very few music albums at any big-box anymore. Tower Records is closed. We paid the extra shipping costs to order it online.

See, bands still sell music and people still pay to have it -- there's just more cost, more middle-men, more people to take money from those who don't have much. This hurts bands, too -- as I pointed out in a recent post, clubs are often filled with people who aren't even there to hear them. People don't go hang out in the record store and take a flyer on a cool album cover anymore either (back in the day I bought Blink-182's Dude Ranch about a month before "Dammit" hit the airwaves. Getting to them first was such a fun experience that I'm obviously still talking about it. Anyway..).

Without people getting a taste of their music, what's a band to do?

As per my previous post on "selling out," bands must now cast a wider net and shill their songs to commercials, movies, TV dramadies to get the message out -- you know -- they put their tunes other places people can hear them FOR FREE.

With MTV on a 24-hour Jersey Shore loop and Q101 shut down here in Chicago, there's no other way to hear new rock besides the occasional band at the end of Conan and, yes -- FOR FREE ON THE INTERNET (quite often posted by people not affiliated with the band).

If you shut down music on the internet, you shut down indie rock -- you kill the "word-of-mouth" connection between the people who want to hear it and the bands willing to let their little birds fly -- you stop the Amazon orders and the people who want to go to the show and buy the t-shirt because they can't stop flipping open the laptop to listen to that one song on YouTube.

Not every music pirate is a "thief."

Not every band is Lars from Metallica.

Bands that have "made it" can swear that they don't need the internet, but the rest of us who know that we do. Every single artist trying to sell anything needs an internet street team. We all want to go viral.

The world is on the internet now. Whether you're a musician or a writer, you have to give a little away to get a lot back (especially in an increasingly impossible economy). It even worked for Radiohead, who averaged eight or nine dollars (sorry, I'm without Wikipedia today) per album when they let consumers pay whatever they want.

Somebody is out there finding a solution to the modern music dilemma...

And it's not the politicians.


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  • I'd like to add a postscript:

    I went to college during the Napster era. I downloaded music. A fair amount of it.

    It lead me to hear sounds I never would have been privy to (I'm an '80s child -- let's face it, I was never going to own the entire Velvet Underground catalog. But now I know who they are) and towards shows I never would have been at (Victor Wooten kills live, btw).

    I know everybody in the world is not like me. But don't those who care little for music just buy whatever Gaga the radio tells them to anyway (that's not a knock. I like Gaga just fine)?

    Structuring the Internet to "protect" a Gaga tune (when everybody already has her record and is burning it for everybody who doesn't) means I never would have investigated Portugal. The Man, and would not now own their album.

    A free Internet works.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Dude, I couldn't agree more! I wrote a rant on this awhile back. I was talking about these "Deluxe CD's," where they add a track or two and charge more money, which only hurts the REAL fans! Who else would pay for that shit! I grew up driving a beater so I could afford instruments and music, and all we hear about are lables bitching! I'm so goddamn tired of this! You are right, DL'ing music only turns you onto new bands, not the reverse! This is how you sell merch and fill seats, not by blocking people from hearing your sound. I love Spotify for that reason, I can check out anything I like, and I am still PAYING!

  • In reply to radstarr:

    Hell yeah!!

    Movie tickets were down this year, but album sales were up. These guys are figuring it out. And it's the labels they're trying to shed, not the internet.

  • I think you nailed it here Dan. While there will always be a percentage of people that abuse the freedoms granted by the internet when it comes to downloading and posting music, I believe the large majority of people who can afford to buy music actually will. Before they can ever do that though, those people must be introduced to the music. There are many great bands I've been introduced to by downloading for free from the internet, and I own all of them now. Thank you internet and people that post.

  • In reply to elrickxxv:

    Absolutely J. You and i know this all to well -- real fans are constantly seeking new tunes and want the entire albums, or all the clean mp3s and all that other junk that goes with it (how many music t-shirts you think we have between us?). And we'll gladly support those bands we like (and the ones we don't we wouldn't anyway!).

    I remember L's mp3 collection in college -- about 60% of the songs were 1:35 long because she never checked if it was a full tune she had actually downloaded. So frustrating to listen to that playlist! Free music is great for finding new stuff, but it's not the magic carpet ride its detractors make it out to be. :-)

  • I really do miss the days when I'm just sooo excited by a band's album that I just wanna run right out to the store to get it....Funny thing is, EVERYTIME I go to a store they NEVER have the ablum I'm looking for. I absolutely hate waiting for a Cd to come in the mail. I know I'm not listening to crazy stuff, either, due to all the fans on youtube. It's frustrating trying to paint and stop to click on the next youtube video just because I can't have the music I want. I refuse to purchase and download albums online because of limited space left on my computer. And what if it crashes? I want the actual CD, cover art and all.
    This being said, I would not be in anyway satisfied listening to the boring crap on the radio only. I neeeed my indie music. And I need these links that suggest other bands I might like because I just don't trust someone elses opinion/review for music.
    To top it off, I'm broke broke broke. I can't afford to buy every artist that has one good radio hit. But if I like an artist enough I will look for change in strangers couches just to scrape enough together for one inspiring afternoon to music I know I'm gonna looove.

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