I recently finished The Future of
Music by David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard. It was a fascinating read. The
authors discuss how the face of music distribution has changed
significantly in recent years and insist that many changes are still needed. Bottom line, they think that increased access to music and freedom to distribute it legally will benefit consumers, companies, and artists alike. From the intro:
Imagine a world where music flows all around us, like water, or like electricity, and where access to music becomes a kind of “utility.” Not for free, per se, but certainly for what feels like free…A brave new world is waiting for those who can handle it – a world that very likely holds fantastic business opportunities for creative thinkers.
They then go on to list their “top-10 truths” of the music business, among which are:
- Music matters more than ever: the music market is alive and vibrant.
- The record business is not the same as the music business.
- The current pricing model goes out the window.
- Music is mobile, and the new models will embrace a more liquid view of music.
The next chapter lists what they believe are five music myths:
- Music is a product.
- File-sharing is killing the music industry.
- Copyright is linear and ideas can be owned.
- Musicians make music to make a lot of money.
- It takes millions of dollars to successfully launch an artist’s career.
Kusek and Leonhard aren’t alone in thinking things should change. Steve Jobs of Apple encouraged the abandonment of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology recently in his Thoughts on Music. A friend sent me a video by Weird Al Yankovic, where he offers his own take on the matter. He thinks that the penalties for illegal downloading might be a little severe…
As I’ve been pondering the current situation, a few thoughts stand out to me.
It’s a new world. Music making, distribution, and listening has changed radically in the past twenty years and will continue to evolve. Twenty years ago, who would have imagined carrying around ten thousand songs in a device that fits in the palm of your hand, being able to share music across the world with people you’ve never met, and producing high quality music at home in your bedroom? The digital revolution is far from over and we’ll have to find ways to adjust.
Copyright laws still exist. Basically, the Copyright Office says :
Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.
I think that’s what inspired Al Yankovic’s piece. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) site makes exceptions for personal copies:
Owning a CD means you own one copy of the music, and the U.S. record industry believes you should be able to make whatever personal use you choose. For example, you may make a compilation recording (on tape or on a CD) to use in the car or while exercising. But it’s a very different matter – and clearly neither legal nor fair – to make a copy of that CD or even one song available on the Internet for others to take.
Although Weird Al may have a point that criminal prosecution is not the best answer to illegal downloads, flagrant disregard for the law isn’t a better idea. But a 2004 Barna report revealed that only about 1 in 10 Christian teenagers thinks that music piracy is morally wrong. Hopefully the results for worship leaders would be more encouraging… I haven’t yet figured out how to get recordings of songs around to the members of a team legally other than directing them to Itunes or listening to it together at a rehearsal. Another option, and one that team members will surely appreciate, is to buy members of the team CD’s that you’ll be learnings songs from. Of course, if your musicians are reading from notated music, this isn’t even an issue.
Christians have a higher standard than “everyone’s doing it.” Romans 13:1, Deut. 5:19, and Eph. 4:28 come to mind. While file sharing, copying CD’s for friends, and downloading music illegally is easy and attractive, it’s still wrong, despite our rationalizations – “Music companies make too much money anyway. No one will notice. I’m poor. The bands I listen to are rich. I’m helping my friends out. It’s not really wrong, etc.” The fact is, there are an increasing number of options exist for downloading music legally and cheaply, including I-tunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, Yahoo, and other sites. But even if free music downloads weren’t available, we’re still called to support the laws that exist until they change. Which is probably only a matter of time…
In the meanwhile, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.