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soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: Consumption, collection and compensation

July 11, 2012

In any normal month, revealing the Polaris Music Prize long list would top the charts in music news and discussion. Who was on the list? Who was left out? Who have I not heard of before?

This past June however was not a normal month.

Large and small web sites with hundreds of comments featured some great discussion about the consumption and collection of music by fans, and the compensation or lack of back to the musicians. At least that’s what I think it was about. Internet discussions go all over the place.

This is not light summer reading, however worth the time. If you have seen links to only one or two then I suggest checking out some of ones that crossed my news feed. Along with the ideas and opinions from all the readings, I found some new voices (and web sites) to follow.

The month in review …

June 1, Bob Boilen of NPR explains in I Just Deleted All My Music that he has transferred his music collection to the internet and the internet is how he will listen to it. For someone who has built a music collection over thirty or forty years, this “experiment” is big. It calls into question our need for our music to be physical. Do we need CDs? Do we need liner notes? And what happens when we do not get a good wireless signal on the phone? You can hear Bob talk about this with J. Sperling Reich and Michael Giltz on Showbiz Sandbox -Episode 151.

June 16, on NPR again, intern Emily White follows up Bob Boilen’s blog post with a younger generation’s perspective in I Never Owned Any Music to Begin With. She describes that her music collection was never physical. She owns few CDs. Her music library is a collection of files on a computer built with iTunes, through friendships, and close proximity to a college radio station library. She worries about artists not being compensated enough however buying CDs is not convenient.

Like the original blog post, this one adds another voice that music does not need to be on physical media. Both of articles even mention the future might be in streaming services like Spotify (or Rdio). Unlike the original, this one brings up the topic of compensation to artists. And this is when the conversation goes to eleven.

June 18, David Lowery on The Trichordist wrote a critical response called Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered. His response is long, detailed and while centered on the topic of her lack of compensation to musicians also contains other tracks including the music business and “free culture”. I really cannot sum it up other than saying that he recommends that she (and we) do more to support artists. (Why do I get the feeling this is not the last time we are going to hear more speeches like this. No wait, we did. “Listen here, Internet Girl” – Aaron Sorkin).

June 19, NPR’s Robin Hilton wrote A Perpetual Debate: Owning Music In The Digital Age that acknowledges the large and critical response to Emily White’s essay. More links in that piece.

June 19, Travis Morrison wrote in the Huffington Post Hey Dude From Cracker, I’m Sorry, I Stole Music Like These Damned Kids When I Was A Kid. This was a response to Lowery and to everyone that is surprised that music piracy still happens.

June 20, Tyler Munro at AUX.TV sums things up so far with Members of Camper Van Beethoven, Dismemberment Plan talk music piracy after NPR intern admits she rarely buys any.

If these articles, of which more are sure to come, say anything, it’s that the issue has never been how people have been getting their music. It’s how artists have, or haven’t, been getting paid. That’s what needs to change.

More articles came.

June 20, The Wiggly Tendrils added a current musician’s voice to the discussion with Digital Albums with Real Value. If you want to know how to support a small band then its worth a read. (Worth more would be buying something from them.)

June 21, Eliot Van Buskirk on evolver.fm wrote David Lowery Might Be Right About Some Things, But He’s Wrong About Streaming, Money, and Artists which challengs the information that Lowery uses about compensation.

June 22, Mike Johnston at The Online Photographer wrote L’Affaire de Emily White. When the discussion falls into non-music blogs then you know this is something special. The main focus of TOP is photography however Mike is a music guy too. And he has been around for a while. If you are worn out by reading all the comments on the previous web sites then give Mike a read.

June 22, AUX.TV’s discusses the discussion in their HITS AND MISSES PODCAST: Cramming into a free Flaming Lips show, the Emily White controversy, and the greatness of Usher.

June 25, Andy Meek on Read Write Web includes this discussion into some music industry news -An EMI-Universal Merger Won’t Fix the Music Industry.

June 26, The Wiggly Tendrils follow up with The Future of The Music Industry.

June 26, Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing collects thoughts and links challenging David Lowery’s stance on “free culture” – Rebuttals to David Lowery’s indictment of “free culture” and its alleged murder of musicians. If you didn’t know who David Lowery was before the month started, you do now. Expect to see his name on one side of a debate about the music business and intellectual property.

June 27, John Paul Titlow on Read Write Web published Music Piracy Debate Reignites Despite Evidence That Digital Distribution Pays which adds a final note to r this month’s numbeone topic.

The month may have ended but the discussion will continue.

Happy summer everyone!

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