Monday, 23 July 2012

Music - Part 5 - Home Taping Is Killing Music

If you’re of a ‘certain age’ you’ll remember the above logo and the slogan 'Home Taping Is Killing Music' with an amount of affection.  Did taping the Top 40 (another thing you’ll remember if you’re of a ‘certain age’!) really mean you were ‘killing music’?

Nowadays, with the www almost controlling our lives, it’s much easier to get hold of music a) without getting off your arse, and, b) without paying for it.  The view on not paying for it sparks a vehement argument.  Is it illegal to download something available in the public domain?  Is it illegal to be in the public domain in the first instance?  Does it steal from artists? 

I have mixed views.  If someone copies music and then sells it on, that’s clearly wrong.  It’s counterfeiting.  But, if someone were to download music and listen to it on a CDR in their car, is that wrong?  Yes, they haven’t paid for it, but, does it allow the artist to get into a place they may never have been in before?

Let me give you an example.  I didn’t buy the first Reverend & The Makers album, The State Of Things, but, I was sufficiently impressed to go and watch them live (if you never have done, you must, they’re superb).  When their next album, A French Kiss In The Chaos was announced, I pre-ordered it.  Then I went to see them live again, and, my wife bought a t-shirt at the gig.  This year, I was very excited about the release of their third album, @Reverend_Makers.  Now, it’s commonly known that artists have long made the good money from gigs, so by ‘illegally’ listening to their first album, Reverend & The Makers have then gained four concert tickets, an album sales and a t-shirt sale from my wife and I.  In my opinion, I haven’t done anything wrong, in fact, quite the opposite.

Now I appreciate everyone isn’t like me, but, is this the area we need to concentrate on rather than a carte blanche ‘blame culture’?

The blame for illegal downloading?  It’s easy to blame technology and the internet, and don’t get me wrong, they have their part to play, but, if you are one of these people of a ‘certain age’, you’ll remember album and single prices rocketing in the 80s to the extent that buying them wasn’t easily affordable.  Record companies took the piss and their artists released records containing loads of ‘filler’.  I myself even predicted the music industry would implode and I was right.  Once upon a time in the 80s, I would buy records by liking the sleeve alone.  There was a time when you could tell a record was by a particular artist even if it didn’t have their name on the sleeve – Pet Shop Boys and New Order were the masters, but, I even remember buying stuff by The Bible and The Big Dish because the sleeve said their name all over it without physically doing so!  I digress.

‘Filler’ records happen less and less nowadays with many artists releasing via their own website etc.. and I see this being the way music will be available from hereon in.  They don’t need a big label to do stuff for them anymore.  I’ve recently bought stuff by Ian McNabb, Portion Control  and The Great Leap Forward from their own websites (yes, I have a varied musical taste.  See earlier Music Part 1 blog).  Selling them for less than the price of a tenner also helps.  I’ve bought Blancmange and Martin Stephenson cds from recent gigs, and, I’ll tell you something, there’s no ‘filler’ on any of them!  Artists nowadays seem to a have the ability to gain full control over everything they release.

I was recently lucky enough to join an audience with Ian McNabb at Radio Lancashire.  I asked him how he felt about writing such brilliant Icicle Works singles in the late 80s and none of them being Top 40 hits.  His reply was that it’s all relative – High Time sold 40,000 copies back in 1987 and reached Number 76.  Nowadays, that amount would get you a Number 1 single.  Is downloading music killing it, or, do people simply not buy the quantity they used to?

The problem for me, and the main reason I stopped buying albums, was  not knowing what I was going to get on them, and, here is where the internet can help.  Streaming of full albums on websites is a great way to see what you’re going to get, and, once you’ve heard it you decide what you want to do.   If you don’t like it, surely you don’t ‘illegally’ download it?  If you do like it then you’re tempted to buy.  Recent streaming of the VCMG album means it’s on my Wanted List.  A few years ago, Radiohead allowed you to download their album and then pay what you thought it was worth.  It’s a method that has been used by several other artists since.

Let me throw something into the mix (pun intended) – is it ok for ebay and charity shops to sell used cds and records?  The artist doesn’t benefit.  The punter gets something for nearly nothing.  Sound familiar?

I repeat, I appreciate not everyone has the same view as me, but, the point I’m making is that it’s not a clear cut argument.  It’ll go on forever I’m sure, but in the meantime, let’s all enjoy the gift of music, and, be grateful we all have access to it like we never have done before.

For people of a ‘certain age’ there will always be the memory of guessing when to press ‘Pause’ on your cassette player to avoid getting Bruno Brookes’ voice on your tape.

Published on Louder Than War 25/07/12 -