Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Blog off

Do you listen to music anymore? Properly listen to it? Obviously the sound passes through your ears, but does the meat inbetween even acknowledge it? Do you have a problem identifying when you are musically full? The experience of listening to, buying and owning music has been dramatically changed over the last decade by the internet. There has been much talk of how the churn of blogs and internet hype-makers have accelerated the life-cycle of a band/artist to something approaching that of a mayfly, but everyone seems to be missing an important part of this equation; the listener.

All over the world, sweaty fingers are clicking on mice and eyes are dilating as we speak, heralding a new kind of hypocrisy, one we can all believe-in and look up to. A new species of music fan is emerging in the post-physical product age of music consumption, the hoarder. Typically, the hoarder will have a finger in every stylistic pie around, and will spend hours trawling blogs to find rapidshare links to steal newly-released albums before the labels can catch up and flag them as copyright infringement. It’s like file-sharing version of one of those board games where you have to whack a rat as soon as its head pops up through the hole, except the one who really gets whacked is the artist. Often, the hoarder will also display an at best rudimentary understanding of reality by believing that the only people losing out financially through their actions are a few suits who own major labels. They may even have rationalised their actions to such a degree they will tell you what they are doing is part of a winnowing process for the majors, instigating a new model of musical consumption where artist and fan alike will be better off without the tyrannical influence of major labels. So that would be the pay-nothing model then?

In fact the exact opposite is true; major labels will probably continue to exist as long as music itself does, and they will always make money. The people that the hoarders are actually squeezing are the artists and small, independent labels that they profess to love. This is not an argument of legality, this is a matter of not shitting on your doorstep, not fucking the things you claim to love There is less justification for downloading music illegally now than there ever has been, it is now possible to listen to almost any album free through ad-funded sites such as Spotify or We7. This is evolution of the best kind; labels and artists recognising a new revenue source which pulls the rug from those who feel it anathema to actually pay to listen to music on demand. There you go guys, now you don’t have to, as long as you can recognise you don’t have a god-given right to actually own the stuff without showing the dollar.

Except this isn’t enough for our friend the hoarder, driven by an arms-race lust to have more and more new music (more than they could ever listen to or appreciate) they hit up the blogs daily for the latest fix, every day taking more money from the hands of people who don’t have much to start with. Were the pirate-link blogs filled with stuff that people with only a passing interest in music would go for, their existence might be more understandable, but they’re not. There are no links to download the new Gaga album, or Britney’s new record, instead it’s the Autechres and Magnetic Fields of this world who are receiving the dubious honour of “fans” being desperate not to pay to own their work. In any other form of culture piracy is looked down-upon, especially when it is hurting the artists at the bottom of the pile most, but the hoarders have developed a curious self-aggrandising where they feel theft is actually ahead of the curve and everyone else needs to catch up to their insight. I wonder if that line of thought would fly down my local Tesco…While I ponder being arrested for stuffing a pack of supernoodles down my trousers, if you don’t already use it, check out the link for we 7 below.



  1. Spot on.
    I have nothing else to add as I really couldn't agree more.

  2. This is a great article Bob, which raises some very important, if slightly uncomfortable questions, for the blogosphere.

  3. Nice one.

    If its worth listening to, then its worth paying for, if its worth paying for then its worth buying.


  4. A combination of growing tired of the compact disc, becoming used to promotional copies and, basically, knowing where to find dodgy uploads have all contributed towards my virtually giving up record shops in the past year or so. While I don't think I ever will rekindle my relationship with these little aluminium halos, I know I owe it to many acts to pick up their new releases through 7digital or even iTunes rather than rapidshare. Perversely, one of my biggest thrills last year was buying the Bo Ningen EP legitimately after a google search for it yielded nothing. Who'd have thought downloading LEGALLY would provide a thrill? Sadly, file-sharing and archive downloading now feels the norm for a lot of people.

    Regarding the article, Bob, brilliant stuff. First time in a long time that an article on the subject has actually made me stop and think.

  5. Interesting perhaps that Warners start cutting off the legal alternatives to the illegal downloading ... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8507885.stm