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June 19, 2012


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Alison Croggon

"Emily, I know you are not exactly saying what I’ve illustrated above. You’ve unfortunately stumbled into the middle of a giant philosophical fight between artists and powerful commercial interests. To your benefit, it is clear you are trying to answer those existential questions posed to your generation. And in your heart, you grasp the contradiction." Doesn't sound like he's being unforgiving to me.

Yes, he's using the letter as an occasion to ask why it's so acceptable for artists not to be paid for their work, while nobody blinks at spending hundreds of dollars on the hardware. Good question. And he does have a suggestion: he suggests iTunes as a system that works perfectly well as a convenience and as a model of compensation. He doesn't blame piracy solely for the deaths of his friends: he says clearly they have other problems. But he says that if they were not so poor, if the popularity of their music had been reflected in an income, it might have made a difference.

I totally agree with David Lowery. It's not a rant: he is outlining vividly what happens to artists when they make work that people believe they have a right to enjoy for free. He's asking how the culture that takes that as a given can be changed. Every artist whose work is reproducible faces these issues. I try not to get depressed about the hundreds of thousands of copies of my novels that are pirated, but sometimes it's hard not to: I don't believe each of them represent lost sales, but it's impossible to deny, in the age of the iPad and other nice ereaders, that many of them do. For many artists, it's the difference between being able to pay the rent and being broke. Since there are young musicians and emerging writers who face exactly the same problem, I'd say it's not a "generation gap" at all. It's the gap between those who spend years making work, and those who think it's perfectly all right to thoughtlessly consume it without any respect for those who made it.


But...see...Emily has no problem with iTunes and no compunction against paying artists. I suppose some people do, but I don't know those people, haven't heard from them. It's an enduring strawman argument. It's not one that Emily is making. Again, in fact, she wants a system that works for her convenience and supports artists BETTER than the system we have in place.

If you want to complain about piracy, fine. But don't make every argument about the changing way that people enjoy music into an argument about piracy. And don't make the consumer the enemy. They're not. The pirate sites, sure. The corporations that are relying on an increasingly out-of-date and destructive model and still refusing to pay artists appropriately, yes. But accusing an entire generation of being moral degenerates isn't getting it done.

Petter Joe

this is a admirable article. i just adore if i apprehend the article.

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