How Free is Free These Days?

It saddens me that I may have to find another European writing gig because of a friend of a friend’s incompetence when it comes to music. I’ve always been upstanding in my regard that it’s a privilege to gain the chance to hear a lot of my favorite artists and their material before the general release dates of their new albums. Over the past few years, the debate rages about uploading and downloading and its influence on album sales.

For record companies, this piracy certainly eats into their budgets. More people who seek music out for free in their eyes equals less overall album sales. If you can’t give a band an adequate studio budget, pretty soon you will see these bands folding if their audience will not help them generate enough revenues to even survive on the road.

During the 1980’s I participated in a phenomenon known as tape trading. You would find like minded people who had lists of underground bands with demos, rehearsals, live or rare tracks and offer to tape them items off of your list for items off of theirs. But I found if I really enjoyed the artists, I would buy all of their discography in the record stores. Owning second or fifth generation copies made me want to buy the real thing in it’s highest quality condition.

To me, if you want the highest efforts from a band, you need to reward them by support with your hard earned money. It’s not enough to just have 10,000 MP3’s in your hard drive to say that you are the ultimate music fan. When you want to see your favorite bands on the road, they need to know that they have a solid sales base to ensure a turnout. Transportation, gas, time off from a job, food, hotels, etc. need to be covered somehow. A record label or booking agent may front the money- but much like a bank it’s merely a cash advance that has to be paid back.

That’s why I go out of my way to buy records from bands that I like. I love physical product. I know that every sale will hopefully ensure more product from the band and the record label they are on in the future. I’ll buy their merchandise at a show- because I know that the live arena is where a lot of bands can break even in their efforts.

I think Myspace, YouTube and other social networking sites are a perfect avenue to hear some of your favorite artists and gain the chance to sample their material. I just think that people who expect bands to give away their music all the time for no cost are kidding themselves if you think the bands will be able to survive that model 3-5 years down the road.

Would you be able to go into a grocery store and consistently take what you want without paying for it? Artists spend thousands of dollars in their equipment- should they go into their gear stores and just take what they want for free? I’ll let my friends know where to go to hear samples of artists I think they should check out- but I never go out of my way to burn tons of material or upload these albums to blogs and file sharing websites.

I’m hoping my friend doesn’t get prosecuted for the poor rash judgment of another writer’s ill advised sharing. This has been one of the best music sites I’ve had the chance to write for, and I’ve discovered hundreds of new bands I would otherwise never get the chance to hear.

Reward something you consider valuable and that not only entertains but touches you in your heart and soul. This keeps the world going around.

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