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Guest Column: Rick Chazan On Music Piracy

Basic humanity is continually overlooked in the debate about music piracy, writes Brisbane-based manager RICK CHAZAN.

In September last year I attended a panel on music piracy at leading Australian music conference BIGSOUND.

The basic rhetoric prevailing is that musicians and the music industry should accept (or as one prominent commentator put it) concede that music is now a free commodity. We should shift our focus from whether or not we fight music piracy to the more pragmatic question of how do artists and managers adapt their business models to the new world. Move on they say; get passed it.

I get that. As a music manager myself of 10 years I am all for adapting artists’ business to new ways and the current context in which we live.

But that aside whatever happened to “thou shalt not steal?” I come from a Jewish background. My family and myself are not particularly religious people but “not stealing” was clearly ingrained into my psyche from a very young age. I have a vivid memory of stealing a small plastic animal from kindergarten. I put it in my pocket and took it home. The guilt and fear I felt was so palpable that I had to turn myself in.

So where are the moral and religious leaders speaking out on this issue? Where is the church? Where is the mosque? Where are the Buddhists? Where is the synagogue? We are living in a time where mass stealing is effectively sanctioned by our government. Has this ever happened in modern history?

Why isn’t anyone mentioning the basic moral issue? Is stealing all of a sudden OK in 2011? MIPI (Music Industry Piracy Investigations) is taking the lead role in trying to find a solution on behalf of the music industry. But surely this is not just about music.

“We are living in a time where mass stealing is effectively sanctioned by our government. Has this ever happened in modern history?”

There are two arguments I am hearing to justify music piracy. I have to be frank. I don’t buy into either of them.

The first is that it’s good for the artists and the music industry. Proponents of this theory say that while recording sales have plummeted, other income streams have increased, such as live shows. The argument runs that because music is free, people listen a lot more and then if they like what they hear they may go to a live show. The recorded music becomes a loss leader for other income streams and everybody is better off.

Firstly, I am not sure it’s true that live revenues have increased as a result of music piracy. Secondly, the decision to give away free music should be the creator’s decision. He or she can choose to do this if they deem it a good idea. And of course many do stream a few songs on MySpace for this very purpose. Bands do this in the hope that people getting a taste of their music on MySpace will become a fan and make purchases down the track. But to force them to give away all of their recordings for free is another story altogether.

The second argument I hear justifying music piracy is what I’ll call the “technological evolutionary theory”. Proponents of this theory say the evolution of the internet allows instant and convenient access to music. It’s because of technology that this has evolved. Peer-to-peer sites and torrents have made it possible to download freely almost every piece of recorded music in history. They say we should move with technology and accept that music is now a free commodity. We should not be inhibiting this free flow or in anyway inhibiting the capabilities of technology.

This is a very alluring argument. It sounds tantalizingly futuristic where technology shapes our world and we evolve to match the technological advancements. But this presupposes that technology is the master of humanity and not the other way around.

Is the argument it is OK to steal because technology has made it easy to do so?

In war times when the police system breaks down there are often horrendous crimes. Women are raped; shops and homes are looted and pillaged. The reason these crimes happen is because there is no police system so people can get away with it, and maybe also because others are doing the same thing so there is a rationalization of consciousness: “Everybody else is doing it, so maybe it is OK?”

I don’t mean to trivialize these terrible crimes. One cannot compare rape to stealing an MP3. But isn’t this similar in principle to what is going on with music piracy? There is no effective policing of music theft on the internet and, well, everybody else is doing it.

And believe me nearly everybody is doing it. I teach a copyright and publishing class at the JMC Music Academy to budding music industry students. I asked my current class how many people buy CDs. There were three out of 25. This is a very small sample. But these are music people who care about music. Imagine the results in the wider community.

“Why isn’t anyone mentioning the basic moral issue? Is stealing all of a sudden OK in 2011?”

One family I know who does not download free music without permission are my old friends the Dawsons. Andrew and Miriam do not allow it. They explain to their two girls Jessica and Katie that the music is made by creative people. These people write the songs and then record it. They explain that it takes a lot of time, skill and money to make a recorded piece of music. And it just isn’t right to take it from them without paying for it. They, I suspect, are in a very small minority.

So where to from here? My view is that we are going through a transition period. The evolution of the internet and its effects has happened so incredibly fast. Governments’ ability to provide an adequate police system is sorely lagging behind. How do you stop the music piracy? What are the penalties? How will they be enforced?

It’s no different to when the road system began. Red lights, speeding fines, parking tickets etc all evolved over time. The same will happen with music piracy I believe. It will be sorted out in time and this period of widespread music piracy will be seen as a glitch in the system as we learnt how to adapt to the new internet age.

This issue is not just about music piracy. It is also about basic humanity. Do we want to live in a world where stealing is justified because technology allows it, you can get away with it and everybody else is doing it?

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Rick Chazan has been a music manager since 2002 and is currently managing The Boat People and Dan Parsons.

  -   Published on Thursday, January 20 2011 by Darren Levin.
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Your Comments

Actionralf  said about 3 years ago:

Good column


bamesjaker  said about 3 years ago:

Fair enough, but isn't there a threshold issue about whether the (moral and legal) concept of 'stealing' - which originated with assuming a false title to physical goods - is applicable to intellectual property, especially where the property itself isn't taken, but reproduced and conveyed to others (admittedly, without the consent of the owner of the intellectual property)? Music piracy may be morally wrong, or at very least ambiguous, but I'm not sure 'stealing' is the appropriate concept.


anonymous  said about 3 years ago:

oh jeez, you've just skewered the whole column! its all falls down in a heap now.

poor words, wasted.


flukazoid  said about 3 years ago:

Really appreciate your thoughts Rick. I agree with the fundamental premise.

I think it's a shame that often it begins with people claiming to be subverting a broken system via illegal downloading. ''if they fix the music industry, I'll pay for it'' ... I'm not sure I buy it - once you're in the frame of mind that music comes through those channels, it's hard to break out of it. And regardless of how little the artist is getting out of their record contract, they're getting even less if you don't pay.

I'm happy to accommodate a little grey area around the edges - I download stuff to sample the tunes and get a feel for the work (though I'm doing that less and less as more artists moves onto Soundcloud and Bandcamp). My personal policy is music is not allowed to go into my music library or onto iPods if I haven't obtained it via legal means.. generally means I find myself wanting to buy it to gain that use.

Full disclosure: I'm a complete hypocrite with this when it comes to television shows. I need to fix that...


memphis  said about 3 years ago:

I asked my current class how many people buy CDs. There were three out of 25. This is a very small sample. But these are music people who care about music

did you ask if any of them buy vinyl?


tawedog  said about 3 years ago:

what a silly argument.

Recorded music should be a loss leader, for the same reason software should be.

I think history will show the 'glitch' is less 1999 - 2011, more 1950 - 1999.


Coz  said about 3 years ago:

I asked my current class how many people buy CDs. There were three out of 25. This is a very small sample. But these are music people who care about music

Get with it old-timer, CD's are so 1996.


flukazoid  said about 3 years ago:

Recorded music should be a loss leader, for the same reason software should be.

explain to me why software should be a loss leader...?


flukazoid  said about 3 years ago:

Get with it old-timer, CD's are so 1996.

this is SO true. come on - not buying CDs != illegal downloading implicitly.


MissAustralia2003  said about 3 years ago:

flukazoid - that theory purports music was used to lure people to buy music equipment - stereos, walkmans etc. much in the same way apple have a music store but their primary focus is to sell ipods


memphis  said about 3 years ago:

have you seen a vinyl record recently, almost as a rule they come with a download card


Coz  said about 3 years ago:

Firstly, I am not sure it’s true that live revenues have increased as a result of music piracy.

It would have been a stronger article and sounded less preachy if the the writer had actually researched this point, rather than just assuming that since this is his opinion, we all must follow. I don't know the statistics. He could be right. He could be half-right, in that consumption of live music may not have increased proportionally to the drop in consumption of recorded music. But I think the lack of any solid research being displayed in this article makes it a faff opinion peace rather than decent journalism.


hillsonghoods  said about 3 years ago:

Full credit for Jose for posting a inflammatory screed with obvious potential of eliciting 500 comments and plenty more tasty tasty pageviews for M&N's advertisers.


Peter  said about 3 years ago:

a bit far-fetched, Rick. aside from the obvious fact that all religions instill a fundamental conscience, people have been sticking a microphone in front of the radio to record songs or swapping LPs, EPs, or CDs for a long time. doing so does not make them immoral. to accuse them of such makes this a bigger storm in a teacup than necessary.


devilwillride  said about 3 years ago:

Part of the issue not mentioned in this article -- and rarely mentioned by anti-piracy advocates -- is that the record companies et al are now charging the same CD prices for low bitrate mp3s that come with neither the packaging nor the quality of CDs, but do occasionally come with the bonus of copy protection. You could argue that charging the same price for an inferior product while multiplying your mark-up tenfold is also a form of stealing.

I still buy CDs but prefer to buy records with download tokens. I only pay to download from artists who offer and understand the benefits of loss-less quality audio and don't subscribe to the ridiculous notion that music, and how I listen to it, should be controlled beyond the point of sale.


tawedog  said about 3 years ago:

also, despite his acnowledgment that it's a flawed analogy, I think the rape comparison is pretty reprehensible.

Flukazoid: software is a service, not a product. Music was (prior to recording and distribution), and now once again is, a service.

The existence of this article proves that there is money to be made from music far beyond charging for recordings.


tigers  said about 3 years ago:

have you seen a vinyl record recently, almost as a rule they come with a download card

I'd say only 1 in 12 vinyl records i buy come with a download code.
It doesn't happen as often as it should.
that said, I have no problem with illegally downloading an album if i've paid for it previously.


__v  said about 3 years ago:

disappointed that nobody has posted the huge manatee .jpg yet, it would be a really worthwhile contribution to the debate


flukazoid  said about 3 years ago:

Flukazoid: software is a service, not a product. Music was (prior to recording and distribution), and now once again is, a service.

isn't that just advocating a subscription model? I still don't see how it relates to them being loss leaders...


Peter  said about 3 years ago:

boredawg, you rube, stick to reading The (stupid) Punch.


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angelicIV  said about 3 years ago:

Yeah so ner. Write ya rants for pure artvandelay reasons....George would of wanted it is way.


ex_king_john  said about 3 years ago:

''isn’t this similar in principle to what is going on with music piracy?''

Well No actually. Major difference is that unlike an almost genetic universal desire not to be raped and society's general acceptance of this principal as something to be punished if transgressed, copyright in an idea is not some natural right that people have. It is even less like a thing that can be stolen. That is why it was quite specifically written into law for good policy reasons.

But the laws were designed in an age when 'digital' meant your something to do with your finger.

The only people likely to infringe were commercial enterprises who made physical copies and sold them for profit. So you end up with individuals who copy material for personal use being penalized under laws designed to punish commercial infringers and some poor sod gets fiined $x,xxx for each file the RIAA or someone suspects he has downloaded..

Hardly seems fair. I don't know what the answer is but I'm thinking that is not it.


montyclift  said about 3 years ago:

jon king of the gang of four said this to me the other day....(nice name drop, eh?)

''Yes, the big record companies were money making corporations, but the net and the information exchange of now – I thought that was supposed to change things?”

“All we have is new middlemen. Its Google, Apple, Youtube as the gatekeepers now. iTunes are probably the worst record company we’ve ever had – of that 99c you pay for a song, they get 49c.

thus, some cunt is still making money. it's just a different cunt. and not often the poor buggers making the music.


HEB  said about 3 years ago:


outoftheaircrash  said about 3 years ago:

Interesting tech dirt article..http://dlvr.it/F7wdS


MissAustralia2003  said about 3 years ago:

this is going to become a big bunfight, but my bet is they'll stick with a sampling technique for royalties so the smaller 'artistes' will miss out as usual..... despite the technology being in place to cater for all uses rather than a sample


Hellzapoppin  said about 3 years ago:

Internet providers unveil piracy crackdown plan

From the ABC

My favourite bit is:

Each ISP would only be obligated to process up to 100 copyright infringement notices each month, with the cost-effectiveness of this approach to be measured at the end of the trial.

Pure Gold!


nicko_mcbrain  said about 3 years ago:

The ultimate in irony: those fucktarded ''you wouldn't steal a car'' anti-piracy ads were [illegally using the music!

](http://torrentfreak.com/copyright-corruption-scandal-surrounds-anti-piracy-campaign-111201/)


nicko_mcbrain  said about 3 years ago:

pang  said about 2 years ago:

You can now dob online!
http://www.musicrights.com.au/report-piracy/

Dob away, nappy wearers!


anonymous  said about 2 years ago:

awesome, who needs law enforcement when private interests can do it now.


mule  said about 2 years ago:

just read this article, it's probably worth stating that the most stolen book in history is the bible. the fact is, religious morality doesn't come into it when you are talking about the desire for people to become absorbed in culture and ideas. music exists on a different plane to say, a toy. it is something that is ephemeral, invisible and emotional, it exists solely in the consciousness of a person. in the same way that you can't sell someone an idea, you can't sell someone music. you can sell the vessel for which it is delivered in, but as technology changes and that vessel becomes ever more ambiguous, the selling structure is only going to follow suit.

technological advancements have led to this point, in the same way that they allowed music to be recorded in the first place, think about say allan lomax travelling around the south recording blues men, it wasn't about making money at the time, it was about documenting culture. somewhere down the line people realised they could make a shit load of money out of it and they did, but what is happening now is we are going back to that old world idea, where by recording music is about documenting expression and those invisible, emotional, ephemeral ideas that make music what it is, and in turn so desirable.

artists deserve to be paid, and if they do make music and produce vinyl and sell mp3s for a nominal fee and do a couple of tours each year, they will be paid. they won't make loads of money, but they will probably make back the amount that they spend on producing the thing and maybe a bit more, and that sounds alright to me. if anyone should be worried about piracy it is most definitely the middle men, the managers and agencies etc. cause they will be the first to suffer when bands and labels can't afford to have extra people doing what they can do themselves.

in conclusion, the music industry is fucked, but music certainly isn't. and that's all that matters to me.


rawr  said about 2 years ago:

very well put, mule.


JRB  said about 2 years ago:

think about say allan lomax travelling around the south recording blues men, it wasn't about making money at the time, it was about documenting culture

Andf then you realise that a lot of the ''folk culture'' that Lomax recorded was learned from records put out by the music industry. And so it goes...


NiteShok  said about 2 years ago:

Check out their Twitter account. 'MusicIndiePir8sInc'


tenzenmen  said about 2 years ago:

mule's final comment reminded me of this

img

Martin Atkins has recently released a new e-book called “Welcome To The Music Business…You’re Fucked”. If you’re in a band and have never read his last book, “Tour: Smart”, just stop what you’re doing, get the book, and start reading. His point of view is a slap in the face as well as the most practical information you can find on running a band. So, when I saw that he released something new, I immediately downloaded it and read it in just a few hours.

more here


dazmurray  said about 2 years ago:

Thanks for the link Tenzemen. The first bit of advice on that page reminds me of an interesting podcast between Marc Maron and comedian Kevin Hart, who basically credits collecting people's emails as one of the most important things he ever did in his comedy career.


electricsound  said about 2 years ago:

there are some good points there, though it's pretty much well duh for anyone with common sense and a reasonable level of touch with reality


tenzenmen  said about 2 years ago:

common sense and a reasonable level of touch with reality

which is surprising for an ex member of PiL!


electricsound  said about 2 years ago:

haha


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