Tragedy Of The Musical Commons

Jun 18 2013 @ 2:41pm

Bob Ostertag explains why he no longer gives away music for free:

[E]veryone who is deeply into music has figured out how to download music for free, despite the best efforts of the record business to stop them, and has far, far more music downloaded to their laptops and iPods than they will ever have time to listen to in their entire lives. Gigabytes and gigabytes of meaningless data. These same students invariably report that they have actually listened to all the music they paid for. If a virtual tree falls in a virtual forest and no one opens the file, does it still make a sound?

For most people for whom new music is an important part of their lives … the most relevant commons has become iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and so on – Web sites that allow the user to begin from their favorite music and then link outwards to music that has been somehow identified as similar. College kids and fanatical collectors might work late into the night figuring out how to get their files for free, but for most people, the sites listed above are the main way they discover new music. And these sites do not accept music that is free. They are all about making money. By giving away my music for free, I seem to have shut myself out of the new “commons”.

Citing Ostertag, Frank J. Oteri suggests a way to reconcile the aesthetic and economic sides of music production:

[M]usic creators should look to the fair trade coffee movement of the past decade as a model for how to proceed. Many coffee drinkers are willing to pay more money for their coffee if they believe that their money will reach the farmers who actually produced the coffee. The creators of the music are like those farmers in that, as [songwriter] Eddie Schwartz put it, “We create the one essential element in an enormous value chain. Creators need to determine fair compensation; it shouldn’t be imposed on us from anyone else.”

(Hat tip: ArtsJournal)