1. [Early morning in a hotel dining room on this tour.] I sit down with one of the dancers. We’re both groggy. He says he was up all night and still hasn’t slept. I ask him if he was partying. He laughs. He says no. He was up all night downloading “free music” onto his computer.
2. [Many years ago in some city I’ve since forgotten.] After my performance, a man walks up to my CD table, sets down four previously purchased CD’s and asks me to sign them. As I sign, he tells me that he found me through Napster. He says he got some of my songs for free. Then he bought all of my CD’s at CDBaby. Now he was at a performance. He said, “You should know that Napster is a good thing.”
3. [A few years ago in my own record label office.] My office manager sends out an email to my mailing list announcing that my music is finally on iTunes. She ends her email by writing, “…so now everyone can download Christine’s music responsibly.” She gets an irate reply from one person who claims that my office is way out of line for using the word “responsibly.” The irate person goes on to say that it’s bad enough that my CD’s are in Border’s, but now I’m selling out even more by being on iTunes. She concludes by saying that she shouldn’t have to pay for songs if she isn’t sure if she’ll even like them, and that no one’s going to tell her what’s responsible or not.
4. [On the tour bus a few days ago.] Edna Mae and I are sitting across from each other. I take her iPod and download Carl Hiassen’s book Skinny Dip onto it. (I purchased it from audible.com.) She’s never heard of Carl Hiassen. Every time I look over at her, she has her headphones on, and she’s cracking up.
5. [A few months ago at my post office box.] I open a card from a fan. Inside the card is a check for $60. The note says that she had copied my CD’s to give to some of her friends after she had gone to my shopping cart and found it not working. (Website construction.) She wanted to pay me for the copies.
Five different examples of copying and pirating. Five different attitudes. And many more out there.
I’m often asked how I feel about pirated music. This morning, in the elevator of the hotel, one of the dancers asked me how I felt about EMI and their decision to lift the DRM (digital rights management) limits on digital song purchases.
So – for the record (pun intended) – here’s what I think:
1. I think pirating is here to stay. I think copying music and books is inevitable. I think some of it brings in more fans. And I think some of it perpetuates more entitlement and de-valuing of music. I think that most people aren’t aware of the cost of making a music CD. I think that my dancer friend wouldn’t like it at all if people weren’t paying to get into his company’s shows and insisting that dance performances be free. I also think that artists who are learning how to thrive within this “free” mindset are going to do fabulously. (Note: I write every post in this blog for free. And I still love it.)
2. I think independent musicians are more likely to get direct benefits from pirating and copying because the indirect profits don’t get filtered through a corporation or a record label. If someone buys a ticket, or buys CD’s, indies don’t have to wait until someone else takes out all the percentages first. We are also more grateful for small victories. And gratitude inevitably brings on more small victories. I’ve noticed that bigger companies need bigger victories, and they feel gratitude less often. This creates fewer big victories.
3. I think that Robin Hood and Abbie Hoffman make lousy heroes. Stealing, pirating, senses of entitlement, robbing the rich… that’s poverty consciousness. It says to the world, “I am a victim. I am poor. There is not enough. I shouldn’t have to pay.” Acting out of a sense of lack or out of a distrust of corporations might bring you a quick fix but will only perpetuate the sense of lack that motivates you. You’re still going to feel broke because you’re acting like a broke person. Yes, corporations have done damage to the music business, mostly because they got greedy and scared. But our own personal greed and fear is hardly going to fix that.
4. I think that sharing music and books is about passion and excitement. I am all for passion and excitement. When I know someone is going to love Carl Hiassen, (or any other of my favorite authors or musicians) I don’t expect that they will rush out and get a book or CD just because I told them to. So, I’m happy to give them a copy. Or give them my copy. And I know I have created a Carl Hiassen fan. Or a Richard Shindell fan. I know that there are fans of my music who became fans because someone gave them a mix CD, or a copied CD. I love that.
5. I think that there’s a spiritual component at work here. I think that the new market is about personal responsibility. I think it’s about value. I think it’s about intent. And I think it’s about personal expansion versus personal contraction. And I think these things apply to both the purchaser (or pirate) and creator. It’s a waste of my time to judge people for how they choose to approach their entertainment purchases. So, I’ll just say for myself: I don’t use Limewire. I love iTunes. I rarely buy CD’s anymore. I don’t pirate software. And I sometimes send checks to people whose work I love. None of this is because I’m “being a good person” or feeling guilty. It’s actually a little bit selfish. I like the expansion. I like feeling good. I like contributing. These things make me wealthy. And speaking of wealth, I’ll end this with something Steve Pavlina wrote in one of his very early posts:
“When I let go of piracy, I felt a lot more deserving of my successes. It elevated my sense of self. There was nothing on my computer to give me the subconscious message: yeah that was a nice success, but you’re still a thief.”