Rebuttals to David Lowery's indictment of "free culture" and its alleged murder of musicians


156 Responses to “Rebuttals to David Lowery's indictment of "free culture" and its alleged murder of musicians”

  1. Open says:

    I take part in “Free culture” as I see it (which I will define as people volunteering time, money, resources and IP) by donating my IP, by donating my money to the FSF, free software bounties, and non-restrictive creative commons bounties.

    How am I harming you or stealing, I’m trying to help build a world where the content that is available is there voluntarily because WE KNOW we can’t change the laws because of the corruption in the system. We know that politicians don’t understand culture or the value of it. So the only way to handle this is to route around the failure with participatory culture where people consent to share.

    P.S. Don’t use CC -NC (non-commercial) it stops Debian from using your awesome content (use -SA instead, it scares commercial interests just as much).

  2. Ambiguity says:

    I thought Lowery’s piece was so badly flawed, with its conspiracy theories and sloppy appeals to emotion, that it didn’t warrant a response.

    I disagree.

    While I didn’t agree with many of his points, I found the essay thoughtful and deserving of serious discussion and debate. Just because I don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate their intent or perspective.

    • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

      Then don’t read the comments on TechDirt where he comes and randomly lashes out at people who disagree with him.  It gets messy in there.

  3. Ambiguity says:

    Plus: Camper Van Beethoven!

  4. jpgsawyer says:

    Excellent to see some statistics in this debate. Its something that has been sorely lacking in this whole issue. The issue of film piracy is similarly blighted and often the claims of the studios are not backed up by the hard facts when you dig.

    The problem for the music industry is not that musicians are getting less money but the labels who used to get rich off of musicians are getting hit. Statistics like those quoted here show that its not the creative who are being hit but those making money from them. How is that a down side?

    I do pay for my music and would encourage people to do this same but the sorts of solutions to the industries woes being pushed by the same industry is the real conspiracy here.

    • Nick McGaw says:

      Those statistics posted above from the Tunecore guy are entirely unsourced, and as far as I can tell, just like his opinion, maaannn, to quote The Dude.  On the other hand, David Lowery shows were he gets his figures from, and I haven’t seen a convincing rebuttal to the heart of his argument yet.  Digital distribution made access to music much easier at the expense of destroying a professional class of musicians, much in the same way publishing is currently being upended by the same digital tools.  What’s the future?  All artists as hobbyists? People talk about labels being parasitic, but at least they spent a little bit of money on artists to promote a release.  What do these companies who format stuff for iTunes or Spotify do that I shouldn’t be able to do myself, other than collect the digital era’s equivalent of a bribe.

      Also, that forum post from Steve Albini is in reference to an entirely different thing David Lowery posted weeks before the NPR intern kerfuffle.  And I don’t think he says Lowery’s wrong so much as whiny.  

      • tunecore says:

        @facebook-725347778:disqus Im afraid I don’t follow.  My statistics are based on industry statistics.  I ran my own label for 17 years (spinART – Pixies, Echo & The Bunnymen, Apples In Stereo, Richard Thompson and, yes, even Camper Van Beethoven (David’s band). etc)My concern with David’s article is not the premise that artists should be paid (they should), my concern is David sets himself up to be discredited (as he is) by stating false facts – this then takes the conversation off the important topic.He does not need to cite the false facts to make the point.  The point is a good one.  JeffTuneCore

        • K.I.A. says:

          “How in the world is an artist making at least something, no matter how small, worse than 99% of the world’s unsigned artists making nothing and of the 1% signed, less than a half a percent of them ever making a single band royalty ever?””
          the point is not downloading. the point is illegal downloading. big and & indie artists can make money from sales.
          neither can make money from steals.

          • tunecore says:

            thats what my article says – artists should be paid for the use of their music troll through the TuneCore blog (, and you will see article after article that states artists deserve to be paid for the use of their music.
            That’s the purpose of TuneCore.

            as for my current blog posting, my issue is with David’s article is not his overriding message (artists should be paid), it’s that he uses factually incorrect statements in his article that ultimately work to discredit the true overall point. He also suggests that the traditional industry was better for artists than the new industry.
            And this incorrect framing allows critics to tear down and sidestep the point – the artist, and only the artist, has the right to giveaway their music. No one has the right to just take it.

        • Nick McGaw says:

          Thanks for replying Jeff, and great list of bands there. I like all of them, and funny enough currently carry them all in my little indie record store with the exception of Camper Van Beethoven (ironic, but nobody’s currently pressing vinyl on their classic albums).  

          I’m afraid I’m still not convinced about your info, and of your opinion on David’s supposed false facts, and I think you’re being somewhat misleading about your sources.  What is this “industry statistics?” Some secret newsletter you have to be in the club to get?  The only statistic I found a source for from you on the linked article was the one about 98% of major label artists failing.  That seemed to be drawn from some quantity info from one year of CD releases by Warner Bros. in the late nineties, and you apparently extrapolated that to apply to all music made before digital distribution took hold.  Also, David Lowery’s point is that for many small bands in the old system they made decent money while being unrecouped on the initial advance.  So that figure about 98% of Warners’ output in 1999 not recouping doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about what the individual musicians did or didn’t make.  

          The rest of your info, I suspect, comes from your own experience in the music industry rather than empirical sources.  Some seems based on contracts that would have been considered crappy even back in the day, and some is just you using label jargon without explanation and in a way that sort of overstates your differences with Lowery.  You started refuting Lowery point by point, and I kind of think nearly every point you raise needs more explanation.

          For instance, you start off seeming to debate Lowery’s explanation of advances, but quickly sidetrack into a discussion of who owns the master tapes.  You say labels own them if you accept an advance.  Well, that depends on the contract.  An example: Matador Records, a pretty big indie that put out a bunch of important records in the nineties, generally only had rights to the masters for a set period (5 to 10 years for most of the music they put out, I believe), before it reverted to the artist.  This is why the new reissues of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion back catalog, released on Spencer’s own label, don’t say anything about being licensed from Matador.    

          You also say the majority of an advance goes into recording, not the artist’s pockets.  Well, duh.  If you give a musician a bunch of money, what do you think they’re going to do with it?  Probably make music.  In a world without advances does the cost of making music go down?  Not really, it’s just now the musicians are by and large shouldering all the upfront costs themselves, as well as their cost of living.

          Later on you try to confuse the issue of songwriting mechanicals (legislated minimum payments to writers) by mentioning that they’re not paid on free goods and promotional copies.  Well, duh once again.  If it’s not sold, how can you expect mechanicals to be collected on it?  Also, free goods and promos are small portions of the whole retail stock, and they’re one of the tools labels used to use to help a band become better known.  Not generally nefarious at all.  How does this take away from the importance of mechanicals anyway?  And where is Lowery’s misinformation?  Nothing you wrote on the topic actually contradicts what he wrote.  That last sentence is true of most of your corrections of Lowery.  

          The biggest thing you generally add to the discussion is to say that labels didn’t always actually hold up their end of the contracts.  Which is true of some labels, but not of others.  As in all business fields, there are players who acted ethically and some who didn’t.

          I would love to go on, point by point with your article, but I fear I’ve already bored the Internet to death.  

          I’m glad you agree that music should have monetary value, but I’m afraid that the information you provided gives ammo to those who want to justify not paying for entertainment.  The issue, for me, isn’t whether millions of hobbyists can squeeze out $100 a year while technology companies skim millions from the transactions, but whether a professional class of musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, etc. can still exist in this country.

          I hope that gave you a better sense of where I’m coming from, and I’m certainly willing to have a more in depth conversation if you are.
          (Edited to add paragraph breaks I thought were already there)

          • tunecore says:


            My sources are the record labels. Call them. Ask them. Call the RIAA, ask them. Look at the release schedules of the majors every year in the bi-weekly new release books sent to physical retail outlets and count the number of releases and compare this against what “hit”
            Speak the CFOs and CEOs of WMG, UMG, EMI and Sony.

            Its been 22 years of being in this business. Its what I eat and breathe and know.
            You can be as skeptical as you like, but that doesn’t make the facts false.
            Im not trying to be condescending or rude, honestly. Just don’t have the information.
            You’re a bit all over the map in your comments.

            David’s point is the same as mine -artists should be compensated for the use of their music.
            however, David’s arguments are just false and discredit his argument which hurt artists.
            For example, David suggests artists made signifigant money off of advances. They did not.
            David states most artists made money off of the royalties from selling pre-recorded music, they did not.
            David states artist made money off their mechanicals – some did, perhaps one of the four band members if that one band member wrote the songs, but the others did not.
            He states revenue from sales of pre-recorded music for artists is less today than what it was, its not.

            And the list goes on and on.

            In the month of April, 2012 (sales reported in June) there were 1,122 artists that made over $1,000 in music sales via TuneCore

            No major, or indie label, ever mailed out band royalty checks for the sale of pre-recorded music to this many bands a month.

            Below is exactly how much some TuneCore artist earned in April, 2012

            Each line is a different artist. An artist that made money that they would not have made in the old industry. This is how much they earned via TuneCore from the sale of their music in the digital stores we distribute to.

            Tell them this is not real and does not matter.

            Then look at David’s comments about how great the old system was and how artists are not making money.

            The point is, artists deserve to be paid for the use of their music. David’s arguments are so outlandish and wrong, the discredit the argument hurting the cause…

            here’s the list



      • ifriit says:

         “On the other hand, David Lowery shows were he gets his figures from…”

        He does?  Where?

  5. bbonyx says:

    ” her article about how she has never bought music and probably never will.”
    Her article didn’t exactly say this. She said she has bought little *physical* music media/packaging. Most of her music is from others who did purchase it in some format (physical and digital), much of which she would have had physical “swap and listen” access to, just like vinyl/cassettes/CDs of friends in earlier generations:

    “I’ve only bought 15 CDs in my lifetime. Yet, my entire iTunes library exceeds 11,000 songs…  I’ve never supported physical music as a consumer…. But I didn’t illegally download (most) of my songs. A few are, admittedly, from a stint in the 5th grade with the file-sharing program Kazaa. Some are from my family. I’ve swapped hundreds of mix CDs with friends. My senior prom date took my iPod home once and returned it to me with 15 gigs”

    Stay on this side of the line of hyperbole, please, BB. :)

    • Cleo says:

      “Most of her music is from others who did purchase it in some format.”

      No shit. Piracy usually ultimately comes from a legitimate purchase somewhere. She had the equivalent, in your analogy, of 985 copied cassettes and just 15 purchased casettes.

      Claiming she basically never bought music is not hyperbole (0.0015 easily rounds down to 0).

  6. nilsey says:

    All well an good, but the real point (IMO) of Lowery’s article was that here was an aspiring music journalist, self proclaimed music lover etc. basically bragging that she had *never* purchased any music.

    i don’t care how many shows you claim to buy tickets for, or t-shirts you claim to purchase, if you value music then you will spend money on it. even the dismemberment plan guy says he taped stole music *after* he exhausted his music budget. he never claims not to have spent a dime on music.

    again, in my opinion the problem is not that things are somehow less fair for musicians. its that situational ethics where people think because its easy, they will *never* pay for music.

    • chasitymoody says:

      She didn’t say she NEVER bought any music. She said she never bought PHYSICAL music. She purchased music digitally.

      • nilsey says:

        From her original article:

        “As monumental a role as musicians and albums have played in my life, I’ve never invested money in them aside from concert tickets and T-shirts.”

        She tiptoes around it, but basically says she ripped cds, was gifted files, downloaded some files illegally, etc. she never says she purchased any digital music, and she outright says she never supports music financially except thru concert tickets and t shirts.

        (edited for typos)

        • Baldhead says:

           Of course, the fact that bands make a much higher percentage from t- shirts and concert sales than they do from cds is pretty important, IMO. Refusing to buy something that nets the artist $1 and instead buying something that nets the artist $15 (numbers pulled out of ass but likely not far off) is I would say a win for the artist.

      • Cleo says:

        No, she didn’t. It’s quite clear from the article that she copied most of it when she worked at a college station. She only paid for 15 things, digital or otherwise.

    • Scurra says:

      Read Emily White’s article (it’s pretty short!)  Cory has unfortunately misquoted it – it is titled “I never *owned” any music to begin with”, which is a whole different kettle of fish; although in this case, it’s clear that she means actual CDs (on that basis, I don’t “own” much music either.)
      She’s certainly not bragging that she had *never” purchased any music.

      • Nick McGaw says:

        David Lowery emailed NPR to clarify this point, and according to them, I believe, Ms. White never purchased music–either physically or digitally. The majority of her music was gained from friends’ music libraries and ripping CDs at her college radio station.  Lowery talks about this point in the comments of his article.

    • wysinwyg says:

      Can you please read the articles?  Under the record company regime, the vast majority of artists did not have an opportunity to record professionally in the first place.  Of those that did get that chance the vast majority lost money on the recording because record companies charge artists to record and the majority of recordings don’t recoup those costs.  Finally, the artists who record professionally and recoup the fees charged by the record companies make a truly tiny percentage on each record.

      Read Albini’s “Your Friends May Already Be This Screwed.”  The couple of acts that make significant money on recordings don’t need that money.  Bands do much better from live performances than from recordings.

      If not paying for recorded music impacted the bottom line for anyone who wasn’t already a millionaire you might have a point.  But since that’s not the case there is no ethical imperative to spend money on music.  Buying merch and tickets for live shows is a much better way to support bands than buying recorded music — I don’t care HOW dismissive you are about that simple fact.  It’s true.

      • Navin_Johnson says:

        Albini’s “The Problem with Music”  that you mention was about bands signing with *major* labels, and bigger indie labels that we’re in bed/tied-to *major* labels.  It was not an indictment of paying for music in the traditional manner. It was about a specific (mostly) major label model of screwing artists.

        • wysinwyg says:

          If you think that any band that makes any royalties at all is thus rich and undeserving of being paid for their music than I can’t really have a serious discussion with you.

          If you’re going to keep making a bad-faith effort to misunderstand me then I can’t really have a serious discussion with you. (Funny, this sounds like something I just wrote in reply to Jeremy.)

          Yes, there are independent labels that are fair to artists. There are independent labels, as you said, closely tied to majors. There are independents that are run out of garages whose “signed” bands aren’t really any different from a typical DIY band. In short, there’s a whole spectrum of entities in the record industry, most of them without any significant effects on the economics of the record industry. Yes, we can have a discussion about supporting independents but that was not directly relevant to the argument I was making.

          I’m simplifying the spectrum of labels I just talked about into “super big” and “DIY” to simplify the argument. It isn’t denying the existence of entities of sizes in between, it’s just a simplification for the sake of making the argument more concise.

          Note that the sub pop and DIY label questions went together to try to drive home the simplification I was making. Comparing sub pop to my friend’s garage isn’t much different from comparing Sony to some tiny little independent.

          Edit: Oops, I meant to reply and hit “edit” instead. Next indent of comments prob doesn’t make much sense now.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            I don’t think you understand it if you make comments like this:

            most signed artists don’t get money, and the signed artists who do get money don’t need mine.

            You seem to not get the distinction between major and independent labels, both of which “sign” artists and pay via royalties.

          • wysinwyg says:

            I don’t think you understand what I’m arguing if you think that’s even remotely relevant. And based on your comment, I don’t think YOU really understand the distinction you’re trying to make. For example, would you call Sub Pop independent or major? My friends have a label, “Intense Human Victories.” Are they an independent or are they just DIY kids helping their friends get records pressed?

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            If you think that any band that makes any royalties at all has “made it” and is undeserving of being paid for their music, then I can’t really have a serious discussion with you.

            For example, would you call Sub Pop independent or major?

            I think it’s covered in my “in bed-tied to” comment above.  It’s a label that was once truly independent but has (does have) ties to majors via distribution/deals etc.  Warner Bros. and so on.  Never mind the fact that, well you know, SUB POP is one of the biggest non-major labels ever and well:  Nirvana……

            I would not lump them in with many smaller labels where both label and artists are struggling to put out music together in a fair and equitable manner.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

             I don’t think YOU really understand the distinction you’re trying to make.

            As somebody who co-operated an indie label and has also recorded for other people’s indie labels, (including one indie with major ties), and has had to pay my artists royalties out of my own pocket, I understand it very well, from both perspectives.

    • SedanChair says:

      So, if I like classical music, I have to pay for concerts and CDs? Even if I’m homeless? I can’t just listen to CDs I borrow from the library?

  7. Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

    Cory, you can’t call someone’s article sloppy, and then proceed to make sloppy mistakes in your own. Especially in reading your own links

    Even if you stipulate that the fall in those musicians’ fortunes could be blamed on the “free culture” movement (a pretty weird idea in itself), this would logically put the blame for all musicians’ suicides prior to the Internet’s disruption of the music industry on
    the shoulders of the major labels.

    1) Lowery never blamed finances, but specifically stated that his friends had financial troubles exacerbate their depressions. And 2) yeah! Poverty kills people! Governments and organizations that collude to keep minimum wages low, that force people into difficult situations, etc. All of these are somewhat culpable when a person is driven into depression. Calling it an appeal to emotion doesn’t make it untrue any more than the statement “torture is wrong”. That’s an appeal to emotion. Also a pretty true point.

    Also, Jeff Price’s response is a very clever bit of sophistry, because while Lowry posted what are supposed to be ACTUAL figures from actual revenues collected by artists, Price posted a rebuttal consisting of current prices of music, with absolutely no reference to the total revenue musicians are collecting. It’s actually not much of a rebuttal.

    Let’s say you said that “with a 50% unemployment rate, people are making far less money than ever before and finances are dire across the country”, what if I were to respond with “Not true! The jobs that currently exist pay over 40% more than previously existing jobs, proving empirically that people are WAY better off”. I’m sure you can see how Price’s work falls short.

    In fact, everything Price posted is actually a monologuing non-answer, not pointing to any real statistics, not venturing any real opinions other than “NUH-UH”. If Lowery is wrong, at least he’s wrong while working with data.

    Travis Morrisson’s piece is similarly stupid, as he equates the actions of early pirates who shared mixtapes and dubbed radio programs with the absolute sea-change of digital music reproduction. I’m sure there’s no way you can support the position that sharing, shoplifting and radio dubbing in the 80s had in ANY way anything close to the numbers that digital sharing does. And then Morrison specifically refrains from talking about Napster! His whole response to Lowery literally veers away from dealing with digital music completely!

    Coulton valiantly tries to say something but doesn’t actually rise to saying anything. He says a lot of semi-magical things like “I don’t know that I can articulate here to everyone’s satisfaction why getting digital music for free is different from getting
    physical objects for free, but it is hard to argue that it is not, in some fundamental way, very different.”
    . I mean okay. The world has changed, but if so you need to articulate WHY it has changed, what it means!

    In fact, Coulton actually AGREES with Lowery constantly through the piece, but can’t bring himself to say it because he believes in the digital media market.

    You should read his piece “Meet the new boss, worse than the old boss” for perspective:

    Where he actually rebuts chestnuts like ““Well artists are making less money but recording costs are lower, so the artists are doing okay”. Apparently that’s untrue, according to Coulton.

    Every person you list as providing a “rebuttal” basically agreed with Lowery on the major point of “artists should be compensated”, and proceeds to create a sort of mystical field of hope/optimism where any concrete discussion of the actual state of arts and arts income is magically avoided in favour of listing pricing models, or vacillating about the future.

    So far as I can tell, Lowery is the only person in the argument willing to face the unpleasant truth that the current iteration of the future might not be super rosy.

    • wysinwyg says:

      Can you just be clear about something: you think the state of the music industry in the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s is the best it ever was and you want to go back to that for all perpetuity?

      Under the old regime the vast majority of the money went to the gatekeepers, who in turn kept the vast majority of artists out of the game entirely.  Unless you think it’s healthy for a handful of lowest common denominator musicians to become millionaires while talented musicians play dive bars in between Burger King shifts I’d like to suggest that the future is a little rosier than you’re letting on.

      • Fnordius says:

        Agreed. The one biggest difference between now and then is that there are more musicians who can see modest income from recordings in comparison to the past with a handful of millionaires and the reast got zilch. It’s the middlemen who grew fat skimming the profits and hoodwinking the artists that are screaming the loudest.

      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        I don’t particularly think anything as I don’t perform any analysis of music economics or artist incomes. Lowery, however, does. And he things the state of things is slightly worse than it used to be.

        Also, thanks for replying and pretty clearly not reading any of my original reply.

        • wysinwyg says:

           I read your entire original reply.  You apparently have decided that whatever Lowery believes is good enough for you.  I’ve presented an argument that Lowery’s analysis actually leaves out some pretty important factors in this discussion, as well as asked you a pretty straight-forward question: did the music industry serve both artists and customers particularly well in the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s such that we should do what we can to install such a system in perpetuity?  I think the answer is obvious but I was really curious what you thought.

          • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

            See, you actually DIDN’T post an argument AT ALL. You didn’t post anything other than your specific opinion on the subject, backed it up with nothing that anybody could use as proof and then seem to have decided that because I think that kind of “argument” is actually incredibly silly, I must implicitly “believe Lowery”.  

            If you’d read my original reply, and understood that I was specifically talking about people who do exactly what you just did, then we wouldn’t be sitting here with a devastating case of “the ironies”, now would we?

          • wysinwyg says:

            You didn’t post anything other than your specific opinion on the subject, backed it up with nothing that anybody could use as proof and then seem to have decided that because I think that kind of “argument” is actually incredibly silly, I must implicitly “believe Lowery”. 

            This is a stupid and tiresome attitude.  Apparently you’ll believe any ridiculous argument as long as there are “numbers” to “back it up.”  You probably think you’re some kind of “skeptic”, a real “free thinker” even though you’re apparently not willing to consider anything not handed down to you by an “expert” like Lowery.

            OK, then, let’s have an argument, even if you don’t really seem to understand what it means to make an argument (hint: it’s still an argument even if I don’t cite a bunch of phony baloney statistics like your hero Lowery).
            “The majority of money went to the gatekeepers.”
            What evidence do I need to give you to convince you that the labels made much more than any of the artists in their stables over the period under consideration?
            “Who kept the vast majority of artists out of the game entirely.”
            This is just obvious to me from first-hand observation of the thousands of people willing to bust their asses and work shitty day jobs to play shows for their friends, but what would it take to convince you?

    • Cleo says:

      Agreed.  Price’s piece is a mess.  He has numbers in some places, but doesn’t source them. In other places, he simply says “Not true.” Period. Nothing at all to back his assertion. The only data he cites sources for are per-unit revenues for his own company’s product, pointing at a drop of water and extrapolating an ocean. Nobody seems to actually have actual per-musician numbers on how much money is flowing to artists via all avenues, but I’ll take the anecdotes from Lowery’s many years of experience as a musician (among others I’ve heard, both online and personally) over a startup CEO trying to push a business model.

      • wysinwyg says:

        Lowery didn’t source his numbers either, so not much of a criticism.  If other commenters are right that he got them from the RIAA then he’s playing dirty and he should know it because those stats have been soundly debunked time and time again.

        • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

          As I pointed out in my original reply (which, again, you didn’t bother reading). It’s not that Price didn’t SOURCE his numbers it’s that the random numbers he gave are illustrating something wholly different than what Lowery initially talked about.

          • wysinwyg says:

            OK, I should have known better than to take you seriously.  If you’re still insisting that I didn’t read your initial post then I don’t really think you’re capable of a reasonable discussion. You’re apparently not willing to listen to anyone but Lowery on this, so why not shut up since he’s making his own case better than you are?

            Incidentally, I was talking about Lowery’s unsourced but highly dubious numbers, not Price’s. Apparently you’re not reading my posts. Maybe that’s why you’re accusing me of not reading yours.

    • ifriit says:

       The big problem I have with Lowery’s numbers is… well, have you followed them?  He cites a 64% decline in revenue since the advent of filesharing… except what he doesn’t say is that’s RIAA members only.  I would not be too surprised if all of his numbers ultimately sourced from the RIAA.  So the question becomes, is that an actual reflection of the industry as a whole, or is it cherry-picked?  Is this simply a reflection that RIAA labels are having trouble?  Is it at all possible that people like me, who deliberately avoid purchasing (or listening to) RIAA music have had an effect?

      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        My point being that that’s the kind of question you can only ask OF numbers. As opposed to his detractors, who seem to avoid the problem by posting no numbers at all, or at least none that are on topic.

        • ifriit says:

           On the contrary, you can always ask the detractors where they derive their facts from.  Lowery didn’t exactly publicize where he got his from, citing no sources in either this or his previous essay with the same numbers; I had to search, and the only source I could find that corresponded to the value he gave was the RIAA.  Hell, I could be wrong about where he got the numbers from, that was just the only source I found.

          • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

            What are you talking about? You could ask detractors and not Lowery? It’s as easy to ask Lowery where he got his numbers. Since he TEACHES the subject I’m sure he has a list of sources that he keeps current.

            And my point is that his detractors posted NO firm, specific opinion. Lowery went out and said firm things backed up by some data, while everyone else danced around the issue, agreed that musicians should be compensated, and then totally failed at anything other than pointing towards a hand-painted sign that says “DA FUTURE” and grunting excitedly.

            Price pointed out something about pricing models, but totally failed at actually dealing with what musicians REALLY make. Morrison posted an opinion that “we shared music when it was casettes”. And then didn’t bother to inquire whether the amount of sharing in any way equated to digital sharing. Coulton actually agreed with Lowery, and wrote so in other blog posts.

            The glorious part about Lowery posting actual numbers is that if he’s wrong, he can be empirically shown to be wrong with some research.

            But this issue isn’t about research, or numbers. This issue is about the basic mythology of how you see the market, who you love, who you hate, and how every human being is driven right down to blood and bone to try to get stuff as cheap as possible. We’re all scottish deep down.

          • ifriit says:

            I never said you couldn’t ask Lowery, I was simply suggesting that the fact that Lowery’s claims included numbers does not make him inherently more trustworthy, and that his numbers are as unsourced as his detractors’ rebuttals.  This says nothing about the validity of either side.

            However, Lowery’s response had no data.  Attaching numbers to your assertions does not make them data.  The discussion overall isn’t some scientific back and forth, it’s just “well I feel this way based on what I’ve read,” and his claims are no more empirical than the responses’.

          • Halloween_Jack says:

             Since he TEACHES the subject I’m sure he has a list of sources that he keeps current.

            Great, let’s see that list, then. Until then, he’s not much of a teacher.

    • tunecore says:


      Im confused by your response.  We actually even posted what our customers made, artist by artist in July, 2011 on our blog.

      My concern with David’s article is not the premise that artists should be paid (they should – and you will find no louder voice than mine in that regard, just read the TuneCore blog), my concern is David sets himself up to be discredited (as he is) by stating false facts – this then takes the conversation off the important topic.

      He does not need to cite the false facts to make the point.  
      The point is a good one.  


      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        I’m not quite sure where I’m supposed to be looking for these artist figures. But it might have been very helpful to your cause if you had posted them in your direct response to David Lowery. Unless I’m crazy and just missed it entirely, all you posted was a payment model for revenues in digital sales. To my mind, Lowery specifically posted a set of economic data and in order to support the “he’s wrong” debate, you need to provide your own numbers, specifically on that issue. If it’s somewhere else on your blog – well, I’m not going to do hours of research to write a comment on Boingboing. 

        Tl:dr It’s great to be able to say “bands make more on each sale”. And I’m fairly sure that it’s true. But what Lowery said is “musicians make less today in total”, and your post has to answer that specific thing, and the specific numbers that Lowery is saying. If we don’t see that, we don’t really have a basis to believe your disagreement. 

        • tunecore says:


          we have posted data – lots of it. You can view it at the TuneCore blog
          As one exmaple –
          However, that is not the point of this blog article. The purpose of this blog posting is to point out that David is doing himself and artists a disservice by presenting false data to support a very important point.
          Artist deserve to be paid for their music and songs

          David presents false statements and wrong information to support a very true point thereby allowing critics to discredit him and the overall argument.
          David is hurting the very people he is trying to help by using false facts and information

          • tachin1 says:

            Hey Jeremy, professional cynic here (Just take whatever I say with a grain of salt).

            Yes, I believe your anaysis is correct, and the flaws are glaring to those of us who are used to looking for flaws.
            But I’m thinking that there must be a reason why these flaws are not so apparent to some people, besides a bad habit of accepting things uncritically. There must be a reason why an appeal to emotion is so glaring as to blind you to the defficiencies you point out. And maybe, just maybe its that your analysis of Lowery’s comments is correct, but your basic assumption that artists deserve to get paid is flawed. (Not wrong, but flawed)

            And the way this seems to be flawed is that there has been a longstanding idea that artists are rich, why? because thats the image most artists and their handler’s have used to sell themselves to the public, (Not all artists of course, but at this point if youre involved in making music, you kinda get lumped into the same group, for most people, justin bieber is as much of an “artist” as your local indie band, even more so maybe) And having done this, created the idea that being succesful at art = rich$, in the days of the 99% youre automatically on the wrong side of right if youre a musician. Ayway, the point lowery is falsely making, the point that keeps people on lowery’s side is that artists need toget paid, and not just paid, but PAID, as in big bucks, if you make music and you only make minimum wage, youre getting screwed, and thats just not right.

            Because that’s what Lowery’s really complaining about, other people are making money off of his work and he’s getting a pittance out of it. Just like every other blue collar stiff out there, he workds hard, the big guys get all the dough.

            The entertainment industry is of course the only industry that openly pays large amounts of money to people who do work that is, relatively, of little social value, a paramedic can save your life but a basketball player can make more money per game than the paramedic makes a year. and this is the status quo, and this is what people really want to defend, the status of celebrity, without having to actually pay for it, thats why you have an inane article like the one that started all this mess, that basically says “I love music, I’m just not going to pay for it” thats the argument thats driving the fact that lots of people love music, but few people pay for it, we want to keep our artists famous, we got no cash to do it with so we pay in mindshare. We’ll keep you famous, wich allows you to eek out a living, you give us music we love.

            Ultimately the issue might be, that the music industry is kind of turning into a service industry, but everybody still expects you to be a STAR.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            …your basic assumption that artists deserve to get paid is flawed. (Not wrong, but flawed)

            It’s just an opinion, neither right nor wrong.

    • Baldhead says:

      “Let’s say you said that “with a 50% unemployment rate, people are making far less money than ever before and finances are dire across the country”, what if I were to respond with “Not true! The jobs that currently exist pay over 40% more than previously existing jobs, proving empirically that people are WAY better off”. I’m sure you can see how Price’s work falls short.”

      I just have to point out that while your point is more about made up numbers and such the situation really is the exact opposite of that. Instead of a small number of people making millions of dollars each we have millions of people making a small number of dollars each. Employment is way up but median wages are down.

      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        Well it’s not supposed to be an exact representation. It’s supposed to illustrate how someone can respond to an issue by using a totally different metric of the same general area to argue their point. 

    • Genre Slur says:

       Equal exchange potential of information for the entire species or BUST!

    • Travis Morrisson’s piece is similarly stupid, as he equates the actions of early pirates who shared mixtapes and dubbed radio programs with the absolute sea-change of digital music reproduction. I’m sure there’s no way you can support the position that sharing, shoplifting and radio dubbing in the 80s had in ANY way anything close to the numbers that digital sharing does.

      I think you completely missed the point of Travis’ essay. He’s basically saying that his attitude toward music copying as a child in the 80s was pretty much the same as Emily White’s is today. It’s just that the technology back then didn’t make it as easy as it does now, though large numbers of people did engage in various ways of copying music back then.

      It’s not really an issue of scale but an issue of mindset: kids want that music, and they’re going to get it by hook or by crook, however the technology permits them to do it, and no amount of moralizing will be able to get them to stop on their own. So (he appears to be saying) instead of trying to change people’s mindset we should design a compensation system for musicians with this reality in mind. It’s actually a very astute point Travis is making, not a “stupid” one.

  8. It’s difficult to see what the deal is here.  She says what she wants is an enhanced version of Spotify, and Spotify is a subscription service to be useful to anyone who plays a lot of music and is short on time (which as a graduate young adult she is sure to be so increasingly).  Sure you can rip Spotify but it’s a whole lot of effort and at £10 a month for a subscription you can sync with your phone / ipod it’s a bargain. On a graduate salary she’s sure to subscribe pretty soon, with a lifetime of payment thereafter (lets say £10x12x40 =£4800 on music until she retires)

    In my case since Spotify has been available in the UK – several years now – I’ve stopped completely buying CDs and never buy off iTunes either – what is the point so long as I can afford the monthly fee.  

    Now there is an argument of course that this model is too cheap and doesn’t give the music companies the profits they have been used to, but really so what?  The channel is open for direct musician to fan deployment so there’s less need for the middle man anyway, so diversity and creativity most likely will be better than before when there was limited channels to market, and they’ll still be room for big promotions if they can turn a profit on streaming plus concerts plus the rest of the product.

  9. huskerdont says:

    Lowrey’s piece was great. Musicians should be paid for what the consumer uses. While you can quibble with bits and pieces of what he said, wholesale downloading without paying is theft from the musicians. (Having said that, record companies brought on a lot of this by attempting to charge $18 for CDs, but that still doesn’t absolve consumers for stealing from the musicians.)

    • wysinwyg says:

      While you can quibble with bits and pieces of what he said, wholesale downloading without paying is theft from the musicians.

      This is a value judgment and hence an opinion.

      • EvilSpirit says:

        Yes, depending on your definition of “theft,” it may merely be selfish exploitation of of the musicians. Go ahead and split that hair if you want to.

        • wysinwyg says:

          Also a value judgment.

          You don’t think it’s remotely possible that by downloading the band’s music and putting some of the songs on mixes, listening to it in the car with friends, being able to discuss it intelligently with other music lovers and musicians I could actually help the band more by word of mouth marketing than I “cost” them by not paying a record company for their recording?

          When I download music I exploit record companies, not musicians. Go ahead and check on typical percentages for artists if you doubt this.

          • K.I.A. says:

            what if you saw that song (or album) as something that you, individually, enjoyed for that moment–that you were entertained by that artist for 4 minutes (x 30 listens). is 99¢ too much? 

            forget about the idea of “theft”. you were entertained by that song for a certain amount of time. why not pay for it?

            when you say you “exploit the record companies” you do realize that record companies employ(ed) secretaries, graphic designers, photographers, writers, engineers, thousands of everyday people? 

            and yet i suspect you think nothing of paying 99¢ for  soft drink (or beer or whatever) that some major corporation has mass produced.

          • wysinwyg says:

            1. I don’t download singles.  I almost exclusively buy used vinyl.  Note that when I do this the musician does not get a cut.  Does that mean I am exploiting the band?  Or is it the used record store that is exploiting the band?  Isn’t the used record store actually worse than someone seeding a torrent since they are profiting off the musicians’ work without paying the musician while the seeder isn’t profiting at all?
            2. Sometimes, friends give me digital music that they think I would enjoy burned onto CDs.  I don’t ask where it comes from.  We’ve been doing this since before CD burners.  Incidentally, back in those days I used to tape songs off the radio onto cassettes.  Who was I stealing from?
            3. I’m entertained by people watching, by going on walks, by spending time with friends…should I have to pay for all those things too?  How about listening to the radio?  If I listen to the radio but change the station every time a commercial comes on am I a thief?  Do you watch PBS?  If so, do you pledge?  How much?  How often?
            4. Refrigerators ended the jobs of thousands of people in the block-of-ice industry.  Should we have outlawed refrigerators to save the jobs of those “thousands of everyday people”?
            5. Actually, I almost always drink tap water and agonize about spending any money on soft drinks.

          • K.I.A. says:

            1. buying used vinyl is not the same as seeding a torrent. a record store doesn’t enable  infinitely reproduceable master copies to be distributed to the web. the seeder is “profiting” by enabling the torrenting to continue and therefore getting more music for free. too bad you only buy used vinyl. there’s a lot of good music out there you’ve missed in the last couple decades.

            2. tapings songs, again not the same: sharing with three or four friends songs with a dj talking or a commericial over the beginning, on a cheap tape is not the same.
            3. what does walking with your friend have to do with making the conscious decision to illegally download a song that took months/years to make?
            4. old thinking. music can be bought very cheaply and conveniently now, unlike maybe 10 years ago. you could probably fine some stuff you can’t find on vinyl, even.
            5. watch out for tap water. it might have flouride in it. ; )

          • wysinwyg says:

            Suffice to say I don’t agree with you, and you’re not really making arguments so much as expressing your opinion on what my attitude should be.  Given the specific ethical arguments given against downloading music, buying used should be ethically worse than downloading.  I’m not making this argument myself, I’m merely pointing out that it is a consequence of the argument usually made against downloading.
            You’ve also misunderstood several of my points, but trying to explain all this is exhausting me.  I disagree with you at some fundamental level.  We’ll have to leave it at that.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            You’ve also misunderstood several of my points, but trying to explain all this is exhausting me. I disagree with you at some fundamental level. We’ll have to leave it at that.

            Moderator note: A noble sentiment. To all and sundry – if you don’t have anything new to add, then please don’t continue squabbling. You have been warned.

          • tachin1 says:

             Yes you can, but you are only paying in mindshare, not in dollars. The idea being that mindshare is as good as dollars. An analogy could be, you go into a restaurant eat the food but you don’t pay, you stand outside the restaurant and get other people to come in who would otherwise not have.

            This would be good, if the band was actually asking you to pay with mindshare, but most, want you to pay in dollars.

            Oh and the comment about exploiting the record company was a good one, let the record company pay the artist out fo their pocket! ;)

          • wysinwyg says:

            This would be good, if the band was actually asking you to pay with mindshare, but most, want you to pay in dollars.

            But I don’t download from those bands.  So what’s the problem?

      • huskerdont says:

        If the standard definition of theft is “an opinion,” then we are indeed in trouble.

        And yes, we are indeed in trouble.

        • wysinwyg says:

          Edit: oops, deleted another entry by editing instead of replying. IIRC, the original said, basically, stealing from a used record store isn’t stealing from the band, nor is stealing a CD from another consumer. That is, downloading isn’t exactly like theft.

          It’s not just “no physical removal of object so it’s no theft”. The point I’m making is that the ethics of theft do not map neatly onto the ethics of downloading. I’m not saying there aren’t ethics of downloading — I’m pointing out that whatever these ethics are they’re different from the ethics of stealing physical objects. So no, not last century. Trying to get people to deal with the facts of this century.

          When people insist “downloading is theft” without qualifying, I must assume that THEY are trapped in the last century, apparently unable or unwilling to acknowledge that downloading IS different in important ways. And so I’m making the preliminary argument, that they have to be seen in different ways.

          Your argument is a step ahead of me, proposing a particular ethics of downloading. That’s great. Commendable. We’ll probably still have lots to disagree about but it would help if you tried to keep up with what I’m actually arguing instead of just projecting some conveniently flimsy straw man onto me.

          • K.I.A. says:

            ugh. the “no physical removal of object so it’s not theft” argument.

            why are you so stuck on the idea on the transfer of widgets? that’s so last century!

            rather, pay for the enjoyment you get out of that song. (you don’t even have to think of the years of labor that probably went in to creating a song good enough for you to hunt down and download.) or see musicians as waiters, delivering to you hours and hours of good times. your dollar is their tip.

          • wysinwyg says:

            (not meant to sound snarkey)

            I’m calling bullshit on that.

            cuz as i see it, both seem to be from the “i want something for nothing” code of ethics.

            **** ***, slave. See, we can both play that game.

            you can recognize them, obviously so please illustrate.

            I already did. Not my problem if you’re too slow to keep up.

            and how would it help if i tried to keep up with you… when my argument, according to you, is a step ahead of you?

            You see, “ahead” and “behind” are metaphors because this is a discussion, not transportation. I used the same metaphor twice. In one sense, the argument about the ethics of downloading is a journey, and in that journey you are ahead of me. In another sense, understanding my argument is a journey, one in which you are way, way behind.

            Do you think everyone should be guaranteed a living doing what they love? If not, why are you so insistent that musicians should get paid for making music? if so, will you pay me so I can quit my job and do something I love instead? If, due to some technological advancement, an industry that could once support people doing what they loved becomes unprofitable, do you think it’s incumbent on society to renounce or cripple that technology so that the industry in question can be saved? If so, are you an orthodox Marxist or a Trotskyite?

    • EH says:

      Actually it’s not theft. Period.

    • Rich Keller says:

      I don’t mean this sarcastically, but is listening to music on the radio without buying anything from the sponsors also theft? I don’t remember buying anything becuase I heard a commercial for it on the radio.

      • K.I.A. says:

        no. you listened to the commercials. and the next time you made a purchasing decision, that influenced you.

        and… you didn’t have the choice of what song and when with the radio. 

        • Rich Keller says:

          I’m not in their target demographic and I don’t live in the state they broadcast from. They don’t sell ads to the stores I shop at, the gas stations or restaurants I go to or the cars I’d buy.

          I can’t control what I hear, but I only complain to myself when I  hear more than one Rolling Stones song in a day. But they have a good mix for a commercial station.

          Why should Ihave an iPod that I have to shuffle when people who have similar taste to me are already doing it?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        I don’t mean this sarcastically, but is listening to music on the radio without buying anything from the sponsors also theft?

        The record companies did make that argument once upon a time.

  10. M says:

    Man, it is hard to follow those Techdirt responses. What a nasty bunch of whiners they are!

    • eiwwmghe says:

      I’ve tried to read Techdirt, but they seem like they’re in the most extreme form of denial. They’re constantly dreaming that there will be new business models and that these new business models will be great. Why? Well, probably because they’re new. And what’s the new business model today? Some comedian named Louis CK is selling tickets directly to his fans through the web. Whoo hoo. They’re rediscovered the paywall.

      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        Some comedian named Louis CK (who became incredibly famous through a series of network television shows, televised stand-up appearances, and successful late-night spots) is selling tickets directly to his fans.

        Whoo hoo indeed. Apparently all you need is traditional fame before direct technologies really start to pay off.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          Never mind that forever most small artists were playing in smaller clubs that never even had ticketing to begin with.

          Good for CK, he has the fame, and power to do it. I am curious to see which venues accept it though, considering many larger ones have exclusive deals with ticketing companies.

      • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

        Louis CK who made a million dollars selling directly to his fans.

  11. Trucks Turning says:

    “He has some weird conspiracy theory that the “free culture” movement is funded by large tech companies as a stalking horse for their issues.”In the news today:

    Google’s influence on the UK copyright agenda is a little clearer today, thanks to an email seen by The Register. The email is a rallying cry to ‘independent’ copyright activists.

    Recipients of Bertram’s email include Saskia Walzel, of taxpayer-funded quango Consumer Focus, and Peter Bradshaw, of the Open Rights Group, which musters around 1,400 paying supporters. Both groups present themselves as independent voices of the consumer in the copyright debate. But the idea of Google initiating legislative changes, and then using citizens groups to provide ‘support’ for them, disturbs industries affected by the changes.

    • toyg says:

      Because “industries affected by the changes” have not tried over and over,  for more than 15 years, to screw the public (and hence Google) through unfair, unbalanced legislation criminalizing their own customers, of course. 

      What Google is putting in this fight is a *PITTANCE* compared to the efforts of moneyed interests trying to defend their outdated rent-seeking practices.

      • Trucks Turning says:

        Google’s PAC currently has more money in its warchest than the RIAA has spent on politicians in the past 20 years. Google spent more money lobbying in the first quarter of 2012 than ANY other company or organization. It did more lobbying on copyright issues than the RIAA in 2011.

        That’s just Google. And that’s just “hard” lobbying.

    • Nonentity says:

       Since when does a company like Google sending a letter asking independent groups to support something justify putting scare quotes around “independent”?

      It’s interesting how this letter is described so differently in different parts of the article (in one place Google “orders” support, while in another Google is just “urging” people to rally supporters).  Of course, I can’t seem to find the letter itself to judge which description really captures the “influence” Google is exerting.

      Is this really all it takes to declare a movement as astroturf?

  12. Navin_Johnson says:

    a $17.98 list price CD

    I think I fall somewhere between the extremes of both sides, but the quoted info above is a huge part about why people were driven from traditional music purchasing.  Just plain greed and no respect for your customers.  Having said that, most independent labels charged much cheaper and reasonable prices, and yet many of the obnoxious, entitled, younger music fans consider them “greedy” and no different from the majors, despite selling records for as cheap as they could and many of them splitting profits with their artists 50/50.  So there’s a lot of stupidity going around on all sides.

    Anyway, I’d never bemoan the fact that it’s much easier for musicians to deal with fans directly, and have full creative control nowadays. Having said that, for many bands that was just business as usual anyway for those who chose to go the D.I.Y. route and put out their own music on their own terms. That’s been done for years and years before downloading music took off.

    • EH says:

      And what did they think people were going to do after 20 years of paying $18 per CD? It’s the usury that’s collapsed, not so much “label revenues.”

  13. nixiebunny says:

    It’s hard to make a living from music. Do you know any musicians who make music only for money? I don’t. They make music because they can’t stop themselves from making music.  And they have day jobs.

    Lowery is in the tiny cadre of musicians who have made money at it, yet he now earns a living as a professor.

    The whole expectation that the typical musician can make a living selling records is similar to the expectation that one can win the lottery and live in ease for the rest of one’s life.

    I leave you with this…

  14. unit_1421 says:

    I’ve never bought music in MP3 form, and I never will. I also don’t support touring as a revenue model, along with most performers. They’d rather stay home, eat bon bons and work on new music. Touring is why most music sucks now, because everything has to be watered down to what will sell tickets in the most markets. It’s also why ticket prices are at an average mark up of 500-1000% over production costs for top acts BEFORE the scalper market, because it’s the only motivation the performers have to do it in the first place.

  15. Bob N Johnson says:

    The very few successful musicians shilling for the dead dinosaur are laughable.

    Successful musicians are some of the most fortunate artist/creative types, they can sell a few thousand tickets for a hundred dollars each, 100 shows a year.

    How many writers are paid much more than expenses for attending free book signings for 10 0r 20 people at a bookstore?

    Musicians never made a dime. The history of recorded music is one of exploitation. If you are fortunate to be a real musician, creating original music with a decent following, then shut the fuck up and get out on tour. Give your music away as a loss leader or do what every other business on this earth does, sell it at the going rate. Meaning screw iTunes, if your music is being found for free, because no one is willing to pay 99 cents per track, then sell high quality lossless files for a dime.

    At any rate, shut up and play your guitar. And if you can’t make any money playing live shows, then sell the damn thing and get a job.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

       because no one is willing to pay 99 cents per track

      A few weeks back I bought a .99 cent  Camper Van Beethoven song I was really jonesing to hear off iTunes.  True story.

      • Bob N Johnson says:

         I buy files and discs too. My point is, all things being equal, if your music is not selling well, then maybe you’re not selling the right thing for the right price.

        Quit your crying, adjust your strategy, or find a new way of making a living.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

           I agree 100% on adapting. 

        • K.I.A. says:

          but what if you see ten or twenty or a hundred thousand downloads of your tracks from illegal sites? how does that relate to not selling for the right price — what beats free?

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Everyone is entitled to become rich as a musician!!! This theory is strongly supported by the plethora of television talent shows.

    • Cleo says:

      “And if you can’t make any money playing live shows, then sell the damn thing and get a job.”
      I started singing and they told me to stop.
      Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.

      • wysinwyg says:

         I think the thing that really gets me about this issue is that I know so many people who both punch the clock and bust their asses to play shows every week without expecting to make money from it and to write and record new material on their own dime.  Thousands of people are willing to spend money to make music for other people.  Who are these entitled jerks who think it’s everyone else’s obligation to figure out how to pay them for their genius?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Nobody owes you a living. If you want to sing, sing. But, for God’s sake, stop complaining about how you’re being oppressed because the rest of us don’t want to support you while you do it.

  16. Brian Cain says:

    I was surprised that Lowery gave off such a strong “you youngins don’t respect your elders” vibe.  I thought he was hipper than that.

    The issue goes beyond one of payment.  Instead the real problem is that technology rapidly made an economic model obsolete.  

    Emily saw 1,000′s of albums at a radio station and made MP3′s. Later she was given tons of MP3′s by a prom date.  Would Emily have bought all of this music if MP3′s didn’t exist?  I doubt it.

    I’m sure Lowery himself did the same thing back in the day.  But because 8 track tapes and cassetes didn’t enable mass transference, it wasn’t the end of the system.  Digital was.

    It’s foolish to think a teenager wouldn’t take advantage of the latest technology.  It’s more foolish to berate them for it.

    • EH says:

      It’s foolish to think everybody won’t take advantage of the latest technology (which isn’t even “latest” anymore). Yet, pace the labels and rightsholders, here we are.

    • K.I.A. says:

      not berating: educating. 

      things have changed… with iTunes now you can get virtually anyting, quickly and cheaply, not the case ten years ago.

      she makes other decisions based on what money she has. why not with music?

      • Brian Cain says:

        “things haven’t changed… with the net now you can get virtually anything, quickly and free, just like ten years ago.”

        There, fixed that for you.

        When faced with doing the morally correct thing or getting something for free, whats the usual result from the human race?

        Waitin’ and Hopin’ for morality ain’t gonna buy that angry Cracker dude a new pair of shoes, understanding the new system will.

  17. huskerdont says:

    I have always had a huge amount of respect for Cory, but the “murder” in the headline is shaking that feeling. (Having read the Lowery piece the day it was posted and knowing that this is something he never said.) I guess we’re all human and imperfect.

  18. badmonkey0001 says:

    How is that any different from the Tower employee of the 90s who’s entire collection is promo copies? Or the folks that simply dubbed the music in the 80s? I knew several people who’s collections were built on such copies.

    To me, her situation is not novel. It’s the typical story of someone in “the biz”.

  19. Pope Ratzo says:

    I love to support artists, musicians, producers, engineers, writers, lyricists, etc financially.  I am happy giving them money. 

    But I won’t give money to Time Warner, Sony, or any other label.  I won’t give money to A&R guys, or to Best Buy or to Wal-Mart.  I will not support the music “industry” on moral grounds.

    Musicians like Mr Lowry might have an easier time being paid for their work if they did not associate themselves with the entertainment/industrial complex.  As someone who has made a living for more than 25 years from my own intellectual “property”, I feel I have a little standing to make that statement, because I have been there, done that.

    Thanks for the reminder, Mr Lowry.  Time to send another $50 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Oh, and as someone who is a little bit familiar with your work, I hope you take some time to learn a useful skill.  Because the days of music business entitlement are over.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      I love to support artists, musicians, producers, engineers, writers, lyricists, etc financially.  I am happy giving them money. 

      But I won’t give money to Time Warner, Sony, or any other label.  I won’t give money to A&R guys, or to Best Buy or to Wal-Mart.  I will not support the music “industry” on moral grounds.

      Yeah exactly, this distinction seems to be lost on many.

    • “Oh, and as someone who is a little bit familiar with your work, I hope you take some time to learn a useful skill. Because the days of music business entitlement are over. ”

      You illustrate Lowery’s points for him. The free content crowd doesn’t value artists. And they’re nasty about it too. Nicely done.

      • wysinwyg says:

        Apparently if you believe that there should not be a special welfare program just for musicians that means that you “don’t value artists”.

        Edit: “The opposite of welfare, actually.” That argument doesn’t cut it. I can sit at home and record my own music. Do I deserve to get paid for it? Only if people want to buy it. What’s a fair price? Well, that’s the question. What is it that makes music — my own or anyone else’s — worth anything at all? Is it really the work that the musicians do?

        of course not. Thousands of musicians bust their asses day in and day out without any hope of reward. It’s not the work that is done that makes music valuable. If you think musicians deserve to get paid just for “doing the work” then you really do believe in welfare for musicians.

        “And, that if you illegally download an artists music you may kid yourself, but not me – your ripping people off. It’s very simple.”
        If it was simple your argument would have some connection to reality. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and that’s why your reasoning is completely wrong on this. I won’t claim not to download illegally, but in the last few years I’ve only illegally downloaded music that’s more than 30 years old and would already be in the public domain if we had sensible copyright laws. However, friends and I do frequently share digital copies of more recent music just as we did with cassettes back in the early 90′s.

        • Nope. Just means people should be paid for their work. The opposite of welfare, actually.

           And, that if you illegally download an artists music you may kid yourself, but not me – your ripping people off. It’s very simple.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        The free content crowd doesn’t value artists.

        Value is earned, not given.

    • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

      But I won’t give money to Time Warner, Sony, or any other label.  I won’t give money to A&R guys, or to Best Buy or to Wal-Mart.  I will not support the music “industry” on moral grounds.

      Which is both an actual reason from people who protest the industry, and a pretend reason given by tens of thousands who just want free music and need a validation. So as you can tell, that argument holds increasingly less water when you say it out loud.

  20. I read the article. I didn’t seem to get it the same way Cory did though. I do think musicians have a fair gripe. If they ask you to pay for a song they wrote when you download it, it does strike me that you’re ripping them off when you just get it off Napster or whatever.  I thought that was his major point.

    Tunecores rebuttal – ‘If they sell an album for $9.99 on iTunes via TuneCore, they gross $7.00.’. That’s true, but Lowery wasn’t complaining about iTunes royalty rates.

    Lot of talking at cross purposes in this debate.

  21. RibosomeMatt says:

    I also believed once that artistic content (music, movies, etc) should be free. Those views changed once I had spent a certain amount of time, effort, and yes – money in creating music.

    Even though can’t touch digital music files with your fingers, that doesn’t  mean that the music doesn’t cost money to produce. Even modest, unsigned musicians and artist-run record labels spend about $2000 for each CD they produce. Even if it’s a web-only release, that’s still going to be about $1000 if you want to have the tracks mastered (optimized for listening) and expect nice cover art.  So arguably, if you expect music to be free for everyone, you’re not asking musicians to create for free. You’re asking musicians to lose money while creating music.

    There’s a value to the time spent creating too – somehow digital music distribution got folks into a strange position where it’s normal pay money for bananas and toilet paper, but products that result from creativity (such as music and movies) are only worth money if they come on a physical object.

    I understand being 21 years old and not having much money to spend – truly I do. However, once people are working full time for a little while, they start finding opportunities to talk with their wallets. The most obvious way is to not buy things from companies you don’t like. However, you can (and should) also talk with your wallet to support the things you do like. Do you like an artist? Why not buy their CD, or purchase their digital album from their own website? Did a record label pay for studio time for your favorite band to record a great album? Why not use your purchase to vote for the things you like to see produced?

  22. puppybeard says:

    My favourite record shops no longer exist.
    Some of my favourite bands are stuck in shit day-jobs, despite having international acclaim.

    For me, torrenting albums is part of how I interact with media. If I really like an album, I buy a copy, and I go to gigs and buy the odd tshirt.

    Unfortunately, most of the people I know feel that they are entitled to never pay for anything, and maybe they are entitled, but let’s not lie to ourselves.

    As consumers, we’ve abdicated from our patronage of great artists. There’s no sign of the funding vacuum being filled. And the artists we love the most, the ones most peculiar to our tastes,who even our mates think sound weird, they fall first. Who’s left standing? The “hip” bands who are happy for their music to be used in 19,000 ads for sweatshop produce. Pop bands. That’s a cultural post-apocalyptic wasteland.

    Meanwhile, if you write articles telling everybody that their behaviour is sacrosanct, that they aren’t the ones fucking up good bands and artists, well, it’ll soothe their egos.

    I genuinely believe in digital freedoms.
    Unfortunately, 99% of filesharing isn’t ideologically driven. It’s driven by nothing more than miserable self-interest. Cheapest price wins, and free destroys. It’s the problem of high ideals applied to a sociopathic consumerist downward spiral. We’ve liberated minds, we’ve liberated ideas, but we’ve also liberated rampant, callous greed.

    • BadIdeaSociety says:

      I left the US for five years and when I returned home, “Virgin Megastore,” “Tower Records,” and “Sam Goody” were dead.  Almost all of the radio stations in my region play oldies, sports talk, or news. MTV and VH1 rarely play music videos from anything but retro artists and the top 40. If you are interested in discovering new music you have to subscribe to Facebook feeds and hope for the best.

      The most entertaining music I have heard in the past 12 years were not available at Best Buy, FYE, or even Amazon.  If I want to download it from Apple, tough luck for me. How can I buy a product that doesn’t have an SKU number in North America and when I attempt to purchase it from overseas my money is considered no good for them?  The music industry needs to invest in a much better business model.

      • K.I.A. says:

        sorry i don’t understand how come you can’t purchase from the US store? you set up an account for your country of residence and pay via credit card, or paypal, or even itunes cards bought at any store. (you can’t pay for overseas itunes if your card is US tho, but then you should be able to buy whereever your CC is from)

        • BadIdeaSociety says:

          It is just not available. If a band releases an album in Germany and not in the US, then may or may sell it on their site. If you go to Amazon Germany (assuming there is one) and attempt to purchase the CD, it is possible that only the Amazon Marketplace users will offer international shipping on the product at a decided premium.  A CD that should cost 15 dollars is now 45 dollars.

          If you go to the electronic route, iTunes is not integrated between nations. If you want to buy a Japanese artist’s new single, you have to create an account through the iTunes Japan market and (according to their TOS) be living in Japan to obtain the song. You cannot create your American iTunes and Japanese iTunes account under the same email address, so playlist integration is a royal pain in the rump.

          The entertainment industries around the world want to geographically limit their sales in an attempt to take advantage of the strange differences in price in various regions. Region coding on DVDs exist because the Japanese DVD and BluRay market relies on being double the cost of a North American disc and six times the cost of a Chinese disc.

          Pick a fair price and make the product, at least, a little bit easier to obtain than illegal downloading. If I have to pay more than the regular market price for a new, widely available product, I may not pay at all.

          Having said this, I don’t illegally download. I have bought 8 CDs, 1 BD, and 4 DVDs in the past three years.

      • puppybeard says:

         You’re right about the problems with the music industry. As for Amazon, I own a Kindle and live in Ireland, and can tell you that trying to buy ebooks legitimately on Amazon is a miserable experience. I can only use, and most of the Kindle editions on the store aren’t available for purchase in Ireland. I believe the publishers are responsible, and I believe they’re cutting their nose off to spite their face.

        Unsurprisingly, it’s all the small labels that are really embracing new modes of distribution. I’m quite partial to Bandcamp, here’s a great label’s page: They’re considered to be the premier independent label in Ireland.

        They’re still going under though: As they say, money is one of the reasons, but not the only reason. I can’t help feeling that if they’d been around 15 years ago, they’d have been unstoppable.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      As consumers, we’ve abdicated from our patronage of great artists. There’s no sign of the funding vacuum being filled.

      Patronage was historically a function of the rich. The rich are getting richer. And they’re no longer patronizing artists. And you’re blaming students who live on Top Ramen?

      • puppybeard says:

        Patronage was historically a function of the rich. The rich are getting richer. And they’re no longer patronizing artists.

        That’s high art you’re talking about, and it’s not part of this conversation. I’m talking about films, music, books, video games; mass media essentially.

        And you’re blaming students who live on Top Ramen?

        No, I’m not Sony and I don’t pretend every download is a lost sale. I’m talking about people who can and won’t fund the artists they enjoy. If someone is low on cash, I don’t believe they should be deprived of any art that they can acquire without incurring a cost on anyone else. Nobody is losing money because they couldn’t have bought it.

        However, if someone says “Although I can afford it, I’m never going to fund any recording artist whose output I routinely enjoy unless I can buy a ticket to their gig or some of their merchandise”, that person is ignorant, and a bit of a dick. How do they pay for their tour? How do they know where to go when albums torrented by region isn’t publicly recorded? How do they pay for their merchandise to be made?

        If they’re lucky, enough people will buy the record to make those things possible. If they’re not, well, they’re fucked.

  23. Yuri D says:

    I have to agree that the use of “Murder” in this headline is pretty much inflammatory troll-food.  Clearly I’m wrong, but Lowery’s larger point seems like something BoingBoing would be supporting despite hurt feelings over perceived slights against past fund raising efforts.  Instead of slinging shit like “weird conspiracy theory” would it have hurt to ask the Professor for clarification? He seems to have been open to intelligent discussion on the topic so far.  

  24. UncaScrooge says:

    One argument that I’m not seeing amidst the cries of “It’s Stealing” vs. “It’s a Floor Wax”, is the fact that during the time that the price of recorded music dropped to nothing, the cost of PRODUCING music dropped to nothing. When I was a young and hungry musician, studio time was $30-$40 an hour. So I didn’t record anything.  Now I spend all my free time recording music at the rate of $0.03 an hour.

    Why do bands continue to check into the most expensive recording studios in the world, using the most pristine of new and vintage gear, to manufacture something that has a street value of $0.03????

    Lowery himself should know better than this.  That second Camper Van Beethoven album sounds like it was recorded in a barbeque pit.  It’s still a good album that I paid money for.

    Bands should push back by lowering the cost of RECORDING music down to nothing.  Put out albums comprised entirely of good takes from the soundboard during your live show. The market for audiophile recordings has been grossly exaggerated since Edison.  People want to hear you play your goddam instruments.

    Everybody cries about what the internet has done to musicians, but nobody sheds a tear for what computers did to professional audio engineers.

  25. michael b says:

    All this teeth gnashing about labels and money ignores a few things.  One, I would hazard a guess that the high on their horse folks claiming that they get their music for “free” because music labels are corrupt and cheat musicians are the same ones who patronize major electronics manufacturers who utilize cheap foreign labor in questionable conditions to house all of their “free” songs.  I’m guessing the majority also purchase goods at major big box retailers, supporting corporations that outsource labor to countries with little to no environmental or work regulations, so the whole argument that they are somehow “punishing” these companies because of what they perceive has been done to artists in some noble gesture is beyond absurd.  The technology evolved to get these songs for free, so they feel entitled to use that technology and rationalize the reasons why they need to do it.

    Secondly, if I write a song, spend my money and time recording it, what is it worth?  Nothing?  I’m more than happy when someone hears my music, even if it was for free, but that’s because I’m a nobody of an artist.  There is a devaluing of work, and a devaluing of creativity because technology gives us the tools to make exact copies of them.  Then we expect the artist to support themselves by buying their over priced t-shirts while the continually tour, and we all know how affordable going to a concert is these days, especially if you want to see a “show”, and not “Country Bob and the Buccaneers” down at the saloon.

    I agree that you have to cater to the consumer, but is there a right and wrong involved?  I purchased 2 CD’s last month for about $13 a piece.  I’m confused as to why people think that the amount paid for music is too much.  I have CD’s I’ve listened to for 20 years.  I don’t find the price I paid for them exorbitant, but then I’m from a different generations now.  Johnny 20-something will shell out 100 bucks a month for cell service and internet, but won’t pony up a measly 15 bucks for a piece of work that somebody spend months, if not years, working on?  Entitlement.

  26. liquidstar says:

    It’s been coming for awhile.  Musicians have officially become boring.

  27. wysinwyg says:

    Attention copyright zealots: the people who are illegally downloading songs wholesale are not engaging you in conversation on the ethics of downloading.  They are illegally downloading songs and not worrying about the ethics.

    Who are you actually arguing with?  Folks who believe that artists should be paid for their work, but that the traditional model of paying artists and distributing their work is not a good model.  Many of these folks also believe that although the libertarian wasteland that is the internet has created some problems that have disrupted this traditional model, the same digital technologies offer opportunities for artists to find new models to make a living from their work.  Because of this these folks are probably a little leery of talk that sounds distressingly close to authoritarian solutions to the problem like giving the government or recording industry the all-clear to DPI consumers’ ISP connections or outlawing P2P. 

    Some of these people also like to acknowledge that the concept of “intellectual property” is not as straight-forward as earlier conceptions of property — physical objects that cannot easily be copied — and the economic consequences of the differences between intellectual property and simple property.  This is not to say that these folks think intellectual property should be free for the taking.  They just want to acknowledge that downloading a song is ethically distinct from stealing a CD single — even if it is still ethically wrong in its own sense.

    When you cast aspersions on folks like this by accusing them of being thieves or supporting theft you reinforce potentially false impressions that you are:
    a) defending the obsolete rent-seeking scarcity-based traditional models of content distribution that were in all reality predatory rather than generous with respect to artists,
    b) suggesting that authoritarian solutions such as banning technologies, mandating DRM, eliminating privacy, etc. are good solutions.

    Some of us believe that this is a complicated issue and would like to discuss it openly without being accused of being thieves or amoral scum, and especially without having to argue with the relentless droning of “downloading is the same as stealing PERIOD”.  Again, the thieves and amoral scum are not here having this discussion with you.  They are off stealing and behaving amorally.  If you really do believe the music industry of the last few decades of the 20th century was the equivalent of the garden of Eden for musicians then go ahead and argue that, but please don’t accuse me of being a thief when I disagree.

    TL;DR: People who disagree with the industry line on content downloading aren’t necessarily thieves, or evil, or your enemies. Please engage with them in good faith. If they weren’t making their arguments in good faith they would be off downloading and completely ignoring your moralistic wailing.

    • “People who disagree with the industry line on content downloading aren’t necessarily thieves, or evil, or your enemies.  ”

      Well, that sounds fair enough, except that you call people who disagree with you “zealots” and their complaints “moralistic whining”.

      For the record, Lowery pointed out that it’s very difficult to have a resonable conversation on this topic. So it would seem.

  28. musesum says:

    My take away from David Lowrey’s rebuttal is that the people who benefit the most from promoting “information should be free” are those who charge you for access to that “free” information. AT&T, Google, Apple, Comcast et al. 

    Scarcity has always been a way to price value. Used to be the scarcity of cutting vinyl. Now it is the scarcity of a someone’s attention. 

    Coincidentally, one 0f the biggest encroachments on attention, over the last 12 years, has been texting. And now SMS revenue is several times that of recorded music (or, at least RIAA recorded music). But now, the carriers are having their own Napster moment with iMessage.  This may be an opportunity for Artists to regain some lost ground.

    But, that would mean looking towards a new business model: instead of flogging a dead horse that hauled atoms through the scarcity of space, ride the magic unicorn that freely propagates bits in the scarcity of time.

    • wysinwyg says:

       Awesome comment.  Copyright zealots take note; @musesum:disqus  is making valid arguments against P2P models instead of accusing everyone who thinks otherwise of being thieves and defenders of thieves. 

      • musesum says:

        Thanks. BTW, I worked as a Senior Engineer at Snocap, which were the original Napster guys trying to make a paying model for P2P, including a registry for independents. Plenty of VC money went in. Very little revenue came out. 

  29. That_Anonymous_Coward says:

    Lowrey is all for companies to have the right to monitor your internet connection, check your MP3 players, and invade your privacy to make sure he gets paid.
    His “right” to get paid trumps your right to privacy.

    While he was busy rending the “freetards” from end to end, he never once commented on the actual theft by the labels in Canada, that little “oversight”, where if they had to pay the same damages they demand from regular people it totaled over 60 billion.

    He had no comment on Justin Beiber who is famous because he violated copyright publicly and his current earnings should be considered tainted because he is only there because he “stole” from others and now profits.  Funny I guess if your signed to a label you can do no wrong.

    Wacky idea, if the old model works for you enjoy, but stop claiming the newer models are ruining you.  If you don’t want to participate don’t, but then don’t complain that the old model – which has no clue how to leverage the internet – isn’t getting you enough money.  I’m sure your manager and label contacts are making the same money if not more while you still try to recoup so you can have a royalty check for your song being in a commercial.

    • I get the impression we read entirely different posts.

      “Lowrey is all for companies to have the right to monitor your internet connection, check your MP3 players, and invade your privacy to make sure he gets paid.His “right” to get paid trumps your right to privacy.”

      I don’t recall reading that.

      “If you don’t want to participate don’t, but then don’t complain that the old model – which has no clue how to leverage the internet ”

      Maybe read some other posts by Lowery on that site. Lowery stated he has been working on the internet for a very long time.

      You’re entitled to your interpretation of what he said but imho he seems more in good faith than you.

      • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

        Read his replies on Techdirt.
        He and his friends started posting anonymously, oh the irony as they force you to register with your real name for their site and refuse to allow posts they disagree with.

        While he has been working on the internet for a long time, he seems to blame the internet for him not making enough money.  And that lack of money might lead to his death like these other 2 people he talked about dying that weren’t tied to the internet.

        He makes these moral panic complaints, and if you disagree with him you can’t possibly be worth his consideration.  When you bring up the evils the labels and cartels have wrought upon the world, he dismisses it as people just looking for an excuse for piracy and theft.

        He has his target to blame and is complicit of the methods the cartels are using to exploit new acts, as long as he still gets his share.

        • yupgiboy says:

           Yeah… no. Nothing like that at all. I doubt highly David would post anonymously, either. He’s a man of character and anything he would have to say, he would stand behind with his name.

        • “He makes these moral panic complaints, and if you disagree with him you can’t possibly be worth his consideration.”

          Enough said. We obviously are dealing with different realities.

          “When you bring up the evils the labels and cartels have wrought upon the world, he dismisses it as people just looking for an excuse for piracy and theft.”

          Its as if we read different things.

  30. I wouldn’t mind a return to the days when musicians supported themselves primarily through live performances. This is after all how it was for centuries, before the advent of recorded music.

  31. Zac Shaw says:

    Free culture is the ethical high road, a response to the ethical failings of a previous generation’s music industry, which subjugated culture for commerce and corrupted the relationship between musician and listener.

  32. Many smarter people than me have made a great point:  a guaranteed minimum income is a far better way to support artists of all kinds – and everyone else for that matter – than trying to scrape together royalties of any kind under the former corrupt model and the newer model in which ease and temptation just won’t be stopped by moralizing.  If you want a world in which creative people can survive, make life easier.  It’s unlikely of course, but not impossible either.  Working to raise welfare rates will do more for artists than legal penalties for downloaders.

  33. Simon Kane says:

    “Finally, as much as I hate to say it, being an artist does not entitle the artist to get money. They have to earn it. And not everyone can…”
    No, but Lowery was suggesting that they do get paid for their work. This seems fair. It seems he was suggesting they get paid via their work being bought on itunes, which again seems fair, but means the itunes statistics here don’t really count as rebuttals. Similarly his letter stressed the importance of  *advances* as opposed to royalties, so again I don’t see how these count as rebuttals.
    “Didn’t merit a response”? That’s just pathetic. The central argument that something unethical now being very easy also automatically makes it ethical has not been won. Sorry.

  34. K P says:

    I’m fairly ignorant of the legality, the business, and much more, but what I can see is surely, for artists and bands, a reasonable chance to make a few thousand bucks has to be better than a 0.00001% chance to be the next big thing and buy a gold plated yacht?

    I’m personally far far happier with a thousand bands getting some success than everything going to a ‘top ten’ and anyone below that threshold being considered valueless by the industry.

  35. joanna says:

    Not sure my comment made it through (if so i will delete this one)…here’s a success story of an artist whose fans entirely supported his album with pre-sales, and he and his staff (producer, tour manager, musicans) were paid a livable wage for the time they put in.  He was able to avoid corporate middlemen AND avoid the need for extralegal file-sharing as a source of promotion.  He made tour videos and sent personalized emails and such to keep his fan base stoked. 

    Granted he got his fans through the regular big label promo vehicles in the first place, so there’s that to contend with.  But still, an amazing success story and a game-changing model for being a working musician.

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