See also "People Who Pirate Music Are Assholes"
Yesterday, I met up with a longtime pal, a very creative man named Alex Winter. Many know him from the Bill & Ted's films; he's the guy who's not Keanu Reeves. Alex stays extremely busy shooting everything from advertisements to documentaries. Several days ago, he asked if I would take part in a documentary he's shooting about music downloading and how it has changed the music industry and how we get our jams.
It is a topic that I find very interesting: the good and bad aspects of it, the winners, the losers and whether or not downloading an album for free should be considered stealing.
With the cameras rolling, we went over all of this for quite sometime. The point that I really wanted to stress was that the music file and file-sharing have changed the currency of music. A song is just a piece of information; there are no humans in those strings of numbers, just their digital representation. Many find them no more than mere crumbs to be vacuumed up into their hard drives and listened to in all their cold, tinny wretchedness. For many, an album is no longer a considerable feat of an artist but just sounds to be half listened to while one is halfheartedly engaged in something else.
If you are a musician who has released albums, it would perhaps be morbidly interesting to know how much you would be owed if everyone who now has your music had actually bought your record. In my life, I have released a lot of records and have no idea as to what I am "missing." I don't lose sleep over it, as it's nothing I can do much about.
Recently, my assistant told me that she was able to find all my albums for free download online. I get letters from young people telling me that they're broke and download my albums for free. They ask me what I think about that. I now have a standard line. I tell them I would rather be heard than paid.
Perhaps it's just conditioning on my part. I have never once in my life released a record and thought of the money to be made. Profit and bulk tonnage of units moved were never problems I had to endure. In fact, I am used to not getting paid or accounted to.
There is one thing that many who download music for free will never understand, and that is how damn hard it is to write songs, record them and get an album released. It really doesn't matter who the band is, big or small, great or terrible -- it is hard, hard work. This is the part that rubs me raw at times, when I think of someone downloading a record for free. It's not the money lost, it's the crass disrespect to the time and life force expended.
Respect must be paid to these heroic sacrifices. Cramming all that pain and beauty onto an MP3 file is destructive enough, but dragging it off the Internet for free is adding insult to injury.