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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Stealing music is awesome!

Sorry for the blatant flamebait, but now that I have you here I wonder if we could have a meaningful debate about digital distribution, piracy, the state of the recording industry, and generally the way technology is changing how we create and use cultural commodities like music.

This is partly inspired by the direction Are soft-synths stepping stones to hardware? (a year later) recently took, which I think deserves its own thread. There are so many issues that need unpacking here that it's hard to know where to start exactly, but I'll do my best to get the ball rolling. This may end up being a severe case of tl;dr, but I guess them's the breaks with a topic like this.

It seems that the biggest division on gearslutz can be loosely categorized as a virtual/physical binary. This is maybe a little simplified but I think it will help get a feeling for the general issue here. One camp believes in the power of "real" physical hardware, physical distribution on CD or vinyl, and an emphasis on true-space community in the form of parties, shows, etc. The other camp prefers a completely soft studio, digital distribution of one form or another, and virtual networking via myspace, youtube, sound cloud, whatever.

What I think is interesting is that music itself can be thought of as possessing intrinsically virtual properties. It's not like a painting or a sculpture that is essentially tied to a physical structure; music is in the air. It flows. A score is not the music. Even a CD isn't the music. Music only exists in the ephemeral, transitory moment in which it is realized.

Since the beginning, music has been a happening, something that occurred when a person or collection of persons realized it at some specific moment. It is interesting to note that in almost all traditional cultures, music was an entirely communal event, and one that exhibited a principally memetic behavior -which is to say, folk songs were not only integrated into daily community life, but also traveled great distances and evolved as they did so. Very similar to oral storytelling in this sense, I think. These cultures would have had no sense of what buying or selling music would even mean.

The first attempt at monetizing music must have been a "service" based model, in which a musician was payed to perform at some event: a wedding, a funeral, a celebration, etc. As I think we'll see this was probably the most robust, "safest" approach to making some coin off tunes. If you don't pay me, I simply don't play. Of course, there would always have been the possibility that someone else would step up and offer to play for free.

This would have led directly to the idea of the "gated performance," in which a space was demarcated for musicians to play in, and access to that space was subject to a fee. From the outset the problems with this approach should be obvious, as it basically amounts to erecting a fence around an unfencable object -sound has a way of traveling, bleeding through walls, etc., so it is entirely possible to simply stand on the other side of the demarcated line and hear the music anyway. Sure, the gated performance works well enough as a revenue generating tactic, but I still want to point out the it doesn't resolve the fundamental trouble here.

Next came notational systems, and I can't emphasize enough what a game changer this was. Suddenly, for the first time in history, music was directly tied to a tangible physical object that could be traded like any other economic commodity. The score selling business was immense, and these same companies were eventually the first to transition to selling recordings, which to my mind represents the ultimate flowering of the music as commodity process.

While it lasted, the recording industry was fairly robust, but with the advent of peer to peer filesharing and the recent explosion of internet piracy, the whole structure has been blown wide open. It seems to me that this doesn't represent some radical new approach to music, but rather a return to form. Music has become liquid again. I think we are seeing a return (or at the very least, an implied return) to more folk based approaches in which music once again becomes communal, memetic, and… free. Like it or not, filesharing is not going away. Making reasonable money off music just doesn't seem very tenable anymore.

My personal feelings about this issue are strongly positive. I know many will probably disagree, but I just don't see music (or any cultural good) as something I need to make money on the back of. That is not why I make things. I also find it incredibly difficult to dredge up any sympathy regarding the imminent demise of the recording industry, which as far as I'm concerned is composed predominantly of crooks and swindlers who have been flat-out abusing artists for the last century.

This is not to say that there aren't all kinds of serious problems implied by this shift, which are mostly connected in some way to the single, overarching question of, "how do we get the things we want made?" I've thought about various forms of micro-patronage, the whole radioheed "pay what you will" approach, etc. etc., but I think at this point I've said enough for now. I'm really interested to hear some of your thoughts about this.
#2
27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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The count-down to this thread being moved begins...

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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonator View Post
The count-down to this thread being moved begins...

We can have a 'closest to the bull'???

I say 10.45 GMT Monday morning.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Originally Posted by simonator View Post
The count-down to this thread being moved begins...

lol. The future is definitely certain. I just hope we can get something helpful out of it before that happens.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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The bottom line is that technology is a blessing and a curse at the same time.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djanthonyw View Post
The bottom line is that technology is a blessing and a curse at the same time.
thumbsup

Exactly.

Like when Robocop went rogue.

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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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a great business model would be access to a collection for streaming or to download to a propietary player. like netflix with a hardware box for storing your favorites. id pay $5/month plus hardware costs for that.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkerton View Post
a great business model would be access to a collection for streaming or to download to a propietary player. like netflix with a hardware box for storing your favorites. id pay $5/month plus hardware costs for that.
What happened to your crazy yellow bird? You totally swapped your face like John Travolta & Nicholas Cage!
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#9
27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkerton View Post
a great business model would be access to a collection for streaming or to download to a propietary player. like netflix with a hardware box for storing your favorites. id pay $5/month plus hardware costs for that.
Sure, but it would have to match or better the convenience of something like bit torrent to be successful. That means, total selection, robust servers, minimum set up, and DRM free files.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonator View Post
What happened to your crazy yellow bird? You totally swapped your face like John Travolta & Nicholas Cage!
Simonator, you seem like a cool dude, but you've spammed my thread like three times in under 5 minutes. You get a pass though due to epic inclusion of robocop, which instantly converts this thread into win no matter what the eventual outcome.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
Sure, but it would have to match or better the convenience of something like bit torrent to be successful. That means, total selection, robust servers, minimum set up, and DRM free files.
i can agree with all of that outside of the need for DRM free files, as that would basically be the crux of the whole thing. if you can downoad to a propietary player with a line out, its just like having it on your mp3 player, you simply cant share with other players. basically it eliminates the need to be DRM free (kind of like apple has done with their OS)

edit: youd also need a kickass hardware player as sexy as the ipod.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonator View Post
What happened to your crazy yellow bird? You totally swapped your face like John Travolta & Nicholas Cage!
i put a crasy yellow drum machine up instead.
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#13
27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkerton View Post
i can agree with all of that outside of the need for DRM free files, as that would basically be the crux of the whole thing. if you can downoad to a propietary player with a line out, its just like having it on your mp3 player, you simply cant share with other players. basically it eliminates the need to be DRM free (kind of like apple has done with their OS)
Except that it limits by ability to use any of that music in applications that are covered (or should be covered, imo) by fair use, like distributing examples to students in a class, creating a parody, etc. etc.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
Simonator, you seem like a cool dude, but you've spammed my thread like three times in under 5 minutes.
Sorry dude, just that identical threads to this spring up from time to time, and invariably end up either deleted (if too controversial) or in the piracy forum where they belong:

Piracy discussions - Gearslutz.com


Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
You get a pass though due to epic inclusion of robocop, which instantly converts this thread into win no matter what the eventual outcome.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonator View Post
Sorry dude, just that identical threads to this spring up from time to time, and invariably end up either deleted (if too controversial) or in the piracy forum where they belong:

Piracy discussions - Gearslutz.com
I was hoping that this could expand beyond just a debate regarding the ethics of piracy, but I certainly don't disagree with you about what direction the wind will probably blow. Can't blame a guy for trying though.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
Except that it limits by ability to use any of that music in applications that are covered (or should be covered, imo) by fair use, like distributing examples to students in a class, creating a parody, etc. etc.
and thats what we have other DRM free pay-per-mp3 services for.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Originally Posted by pinkerton View Post
and thats what we have other DRM free pay-per-mp3 services for.
Doesn't this somewhat eliminate the utility of a single, blanket license hub though? It seems like the whole point would be to avoid using a number of propriety services for different kinds of media with different levels of restriction.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
I was hoping that this could expand beyond just a debate regarding the ethics of piracy, but I certainly don't disagree with you about what direction the wind will probably blow. Can't blame a guy for trying though.
I know... and people in the Electronic Music forum love to debate this... but it always seems to be deemed too controversial & moved to the piracy forum... which is obviously a total 'room 101' that no-one ever visits, least of all the people who we converse with here on a daily basis.

It just seems that this topic is deemed illegal by the bosses!

See this:

nOObie confusion with piracy conversation that was deleted
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonator View Post
I know... and people in the Electronic Music forum love to debate this... but it always seems to be deemed too controversial & moved to the piracy forum... which is obviously a total 'room 101' that no-one ever visits, least of all the people who we converse with here on a daily basis.

It just seems that this topic is deemed illegal by the bosses!

See this:

nOObie confusion with piracy conversation that was deleted
Wow man, that's really a shame. It's their forum and they can do as they please, but I really don't see what the harm is in discussing this here, especially as it seems like an outrageously important topic as pertains to "electronic music and electronic music production."
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
Doesn't this somewhat eliminate the utility of a single, blanket license hub though? It seems like the whole point would be to avoid using a number of propriety services for different kinds of media with different levels of restriction.
you dont expect to download netflix movies in DIVX do you? yet millions of pople enjoy that service. including me. i dont care that i cant physically own the files.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Originally Posted by pinkerton View Post
you dont expect to download netflix movies in DIVX do you? yet millions of pople enjoy that service. including me. i dont care that i cant physically own the files.
Well, different strokes I guess. I don't use netflix for exactly that reason. I have a crap-ton of different devices and if I pay for a movie, I want to be able to view it on my computer, on my iphone, on my consoles, and in my living room without paying again for each copy, which seems unfair on principle.

Edit: I know netflix has tried to alleviate this problem by making their player available on different devices, but it seems like a bandaid fix to me.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonator View Post
What happened to your crazy yellow bird? You totally swapped your face like John Travolta & Nicholas Cage!

werd i liked the bird too!

the problem with that suggestion and with all others that have been presented thus far is that you are still talking about something that requires the consumer to exert more effort to acquire/use and has less control over the content. the market is emotionless, practicality is all that matters. and no matter what solution involving proprietary hardware or whatever else is conceived, you still are not eliminating the ability to get the music for free if you want; all you are talking about in the end is a slight delay before the first instance of your track appears on p2p and then it all unfolds just as it does today.

the only way to stop piracy in my mind is to create a new faction of the industry dedicated to policing and containing illegal files. you need to hire the pirates to do this, bekuz apparently no one else is capable of keeping up with them, by literally years (and you'll of course be assimilating them into legitamite culture at the same time, by doing this). you cannot stop crime of any kind, you can only minimize it; this is no different. the industry hasnt come up with a solution yet bekuz they are only interested in finding a cheap magic-bullet, the excalibur of DRM, etc, and it's just not gonna happen that way.

the only other way that has occurred to me is to do away with the mp3. it will be a huge inconvenience, i know, but it may need to be what happens. write an mp3-eating virus or something; start building players that do not accept them; etc. even if you go with any form of network neutrality that has thus far been suggested, even if you scrap the entire internet and start anew, you still will not be able to stop individuals sharing with eachother, it will just stop happening at centralized digital locations like p2p or torrent sites.

the industry needs to be simplified. there has always been a lot of money in the industry, it's just that most of it is going to people who are no longer required for the system to work. the industry is stubbornly trying to create a solution that allows them to go back to the way things were, i.e. retain the same-size bank accounts and return to physical medium. not happening. direct distribution needs to become the norm. you are still not plugging all the holes in the equation but there is a lot of room for monetary equalization between artist and companies like iTunes and Amazon.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
Well, different strokes I guess. I don't use netflix for exactly that reason. I have a crap-ton of different devices and if I pay for a movie, I want to be able to view it on my computer, on my iphone, on my consoles, and in my living room without paying again for each copy, which seems unfair on principle.

Edit: I know netflix has tried to alleviate this problem by making their player available on different devices, but it seems like a bandaid fix to me.
well, yes, i would feel the same way if i were paying for a specific title. but this isnt the same thing.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Originally Posted by in a blue field View Post
the problem with that suggestion and with all others that have been presented thus far is that you are still talking about something that requires the consumer to exert more effort to acquire/use and has less control over the content. the market is emotionless, practicality is all that matters. and no matter what solution involving proprietary hardware or whatever else is conceived, you still are not eliminating the ability to get the music for free if you want; all you are talking about in the end is a slight delay before the first instance of your track appears on p2p and then it all unfolds just as it does today.

the only way to stop piracy in my mind is to create a new faction of the industry dedicated to policing and containing illegal files. you need to hire the pirates to do this, bekuz apparently no one else is capable of keeping up with them, by literally years (and you'll of course be assimilating them into legitamite culture at the same time, by doing this). you cannot stop crime of any kind, you can only minimize it; this is no different. the industry hasnt come up with a solution yet bekuz they are only interested in finding a cheap magic-bullet, the excalibur of DRM, etc, and it's just not gonna happen that way.

the only other way that has occurred to me is to do away with the mp3. it will be a huge inconvenience, i know, but it may need to be what happens. write an mp3-eating virus or something; start building players that do not accept them; etc. even if you go with any form of network neutrality that has thus far been suggested, even if you scrap the entire internet and start anew, you still will not be able to stop individuals sharing with eachother, it will just stop happening at centralized digital locations like p2p or torrent sites.

the industry needs to be simplified. there has always been a lot of money in the industry, it's just that most of it is going to people who are no longer required for the system to work. the industry is stubbornly trying to create a solution that allows them to go back to the way things were, i.e. retain the same-size bank accounts and return to physical medium. not happening. direct distribution needs to become the norm. you are still not plugging all the holes in the equation but there is a lot of room for monetary equalization between artist and companies like iTunes and Amazon.
Hey, thanks for a great response! Despite the fact that I take a pretty hard-line "information freedom" approach to this issue, I think I'm in agreement with most of what you've said. If the consensus is that artists want monetary compensation for their work, I'm not opposed to paying for music if that's what floats your boat as the content creator. But there has to be a reasonable way to do it that doesn't waste my time, limit my use and funnel my money into some random suits somewhere.

There's still the issue however that it is very difficult to sell what people can get for free, especially when what you're selling (as it is in the current state of the recording industry) is actually inferior to the free alternative. I don't think releasing an mp3 eating virus is a tenable solution. Obviously no one knows for sure, but I think we might just be at the end of an era with this.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonator View Post
thumbsup

Exactly.

Like when Robocop went rogue.

LMAO!
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Originally Posted by pinkerton View Post
well, yes, i would feel the same way if i were paying for a specific title. but this isnt the same thing.
hmm, I'm not sure if I'm following. What's the practical distinction between paying for an individual title or a library of titles which are going to be used individually?
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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About the state of the "music biz":
It's sad that most can't just be satisfied making music for the simple, no bullshit healing properties. It's for community, it's for dance! It's NOT for making money. Though, it does, music that's made to make money is just a product that doesn't strike a string of anything heart-felt within me. It's a product, like Windex or tampons!

Make it. Breathe it. Love it.
I could talk for ever about this, but really, my words don't mean shit.
Just a dude doing what this dude loves!

But yesh, this thread will probably get moved, unfortunately.
Seems as if they just start flame wars!

OP - I take your side on the whole physical vs. digital two-way split 'round here. Just putting that out there for you!
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
There's still the issue however that it is very difficult to sell what people can get for free
You can't compete on price. However, you can compete on convenience and quality (which is why iTunes is raking in cash; if they couldn't, they wouldn't exist). It'd be even better if they kept the each-song-is-$0.99 approach.

Quote:
I don't think releasing an mp3 eating virus is a tenable solution.
If that could ever be linked back to one of the few big media conglomerates in any way, they'd be toast.

Furthermore, it's far more lucrative to let a virus go unnoticed; botnets are serious business.

Was there a virus like that written yet? It'd be pretty spectacular - but it'd delete all the legitimate stuff (say, great synth demos posted here) with the not-so-legitimate stuff. Unless it'd fingerprint and compare everything, but that'd draw too much attention.
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27th June 2010
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Originally Posted by jbartee View Post
hmm, I'm not sure if I'm following. What's the practical distinction between paying for an individual title or a library of titles which are going to be used individually?
buying an individual title is a one-time fee for one title in one format. a subscription model like netflix (again using this solely as an example for a model) is a recurring fee for access to a library of files in proprietary format at an anytime basis, provided you have a computer or player. i can see a use for both services.
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27th June 2010
Old 27th June 2010
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Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
You can't compete on price. However, you can compete on convenience and quality (which is why iTunes is raking in cash; if they couldn't, they wouldn't exist). It'd be even better if they kept the each-song-is-$0.99 approach.
Can't argue with that. The success of iTunes is definitely evidence that a tenable solution may exist for the industry moving forward, as unfortunate as I may find it.

Quote:
If that could ever be linked back to one of the few big media conglomerates in any way, they'd be toast.
Yeah, no kidding! One hopes they wouldn't be stupid enough to commit public image suicide that way, but you never know.
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