There has been a fiery discussion going on about music copyright and intellectual property started by Element Of Crime singer Sven Regener, who was furious about „a society that thinks our music has no value and should be free of charge and that they could do anything they want with it“ (analogous translation). It triggered a whole avalanche of reactions both favourable and contrary. Here’s what I think, in a nutshell. Music recordings will become public good and common property. The developments of the last decade cannot be reversed. Today’s teenagers have grown up with free downloads, legal and illegal, and don’t understand why a song should be paid for, because most of them probably never have paid for a song in their lives. Fans will buy Vinyls on concerts, but that’s it.
The production values will go down further, record companies won’t pay a dime anymore and will probably go extinct in the process. But everybody with a reasonable income can afford recording gear, there will be a lot of music around. Maybe pop music will become a subsidized branch like theatre/opera, many European countries (France, Sweden etc.) are already funding a lot of bands. I just hope music won’t end like subsidized theatre, repeating the same over and over again.
But the principal art form „music recording“ will have no monetary value in the eyes of society. Not in mp3 form, not in video form. However unfortunate that is, it’s going to happen. It is already happening. Now you could argue that everybody who rages against that is a dinosaur who can’t cope with reality. But this reality is problematic for the whole universe of art forms. Even though artists have always had the tendency to be either grossly underpaid or grossly overpaid, now that paintings, photographs, songs, literature and film can all be downloaded somewhere for free, the public significance of art itself may be at risk.
Sure, a piece of art isn’t getting better just because it’s been paid for. But isn’t it discouraging for someone who feels the urge to devote him/herself to one of the most essential aspects of life and society? To know that nobody’s willing to pay for anything you do? It’s possible that taking free music for granted will also lead to more complaints about concert ticket prices. Even now as we speak, having to pay a double-digit entrance fee for a band seems to be an outrageous incident in the minds of many so-called music lovers.
It cannot be denied that the internet is probably after all more of a blessing than a curse for music creators. But it does destroy the thin ice of intellectual property and its compensation that musicians have skated on for quite some time now. Yes, we will all have to adapt and find new ways. But until then … anyone with respect for music and art: If you can afford it, please pay for it. It’s still possible. Be choosy, don’t download a thousand records you will never listen to, let alone conciously. Invest in the music and art you love and it will love you back. We will keep our part of the bargain. We are artists. If we survive, if we can afford being artists, we will never stop. It’s what we do.