Do you pay for music or pirate? The battle rages anewon June 25, 2012 @ 1:36 pm (Updated: 5:53 am - 6/26/12 )
For several decades, guitarist Chris Martin of beloved Seattle band Kinski has been scraping and clawing to make a living making music. But despite putting out several highly regarded albums on Seattle's Sub Pop and enjoying a certain amount of worldwide fame, he's never been able to make enough money have music be his sole vocation. Every cent has been put back into everything from recording and touring costs, leaving virtually no profit. So he has strong feelings about a recent firestorm sparked by an NPR intern's editorial admitting she rarely pays for any music despite having copied and downloaded thousands of songs.
"Statistics have shown there are 25 percent less professional musicians since 2000, you know everyone realizes it in music - there's just no money there," says Martin.
But should there be? Do musicians deserve to be paid for doing what they love?
The debate over downloads has been raging since the days of Metallica taking on Napster over a decade ago. But Emily White's post and thousands of responses including a widely re-circulated rebuttle by David Lowery of the band Cracker has sparked a new, emotional round of arguments.
"It's unfair musicians are attacked for even expressing concerns," says Chris Kornelis, Seattle Weekly music editor and co- host of Seattle Sounds on 97.3 KIRO FM. But he says people forget the bottom line. Whether it's buying guitar strings or renting a rehearsal space, it costs money to make music.
"When you steal music, when you don't pay for it, you're actually hurting musicians," Kornelis says.
"You won't see many older musicians. It'll just be younger musicians that can go for it, be kids, go around the country a few times and if there's no income then it's going to go by the wayside," predicts Martin.
There's a clear generational divide between those who grew up buying LP's and CD's, and those who've been able to get any song they want for free.
University of Washington student and Seattle Weekly writer Andrew Gospe is one of those. The 20-year-old admits while he and many of his generation love music, they simply don't value it as a commodity to pay for like other goods or services.
"You wouldn't just walk into a store and take a CD. The real problem I think for people my age is that when they're torrenting music or pirating music, it doesn't feel like they are stealing it," Gospe says.
But opinions vary widely: Some argue the prevalence of pirating will kill music and prevent many from making it. Many others, including numerous bands and artists, encourage free downloading and distribution of their music to get it out to as many people as possible.
"Music has always existed, well before there was ever a music industry," argues Andrew Walsh, music blogger and producer of the Ross and Burbank Show on 97.3 KIRO FM. "People who are successful will find ways to make money. Not only will that change but the model will change."
Walsh points to the sales of merchandise and touring as new ways aspiring bands can make enough money to support their musical endeavors. And many will have to continue playing music as a hobby rather than a profession. But as has been argued repeatedly, that's always been the case since the medieval days of the traveling minstrels. And as Gospe points out, realistically it's not going to change.
"Basically, it's going to take lots of young people making a conscious decision to pay for something they're not accustomed to paying for. Call me a cynic, but it's hard to believe that will ever happen, barring government intervention or some sort of widespread, "artist rights" cultural movement," Gospe says.
As for Martin, while he has no delusions of grandeur, at the very least he'd like to be able to make enough money from the sales of his songs to pay the thousands of dollars his band paid out of pocket to record their newest album, or at some point Kinski won't be able to afford to record anymore.
"If you care about music, you still need to go support artists that you like and really care about," Martin says.
Josh Kerns/co-host Seattle Sounds
Kinski photo by Katie Martin
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