With apologies to Shakespeare; I thought it was an appropriate title given the subject at hand. In case you missed it, a few days ago a 20-year-old intern at NPR posted an article that (to put it mildly) engendered lots of discussion, and the comments keep coming.
The post (which appeared on the official blog for All Songs Considered) is an intriguing combination of ignorance, stupidity, and entitlement simultaneously. Sadly, I’m sure it also reflects a dominant cultural mindset- that recorded music is and should always be free on demand, and that this credo has absolutely no effect on all those rich musicians who are getting ripped off by their labels anyway.
For the record, I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to be making a decent living playing classical music. I also worked my a** off since I was about five years old to build and sustain a career in a field that virtually no one can comprehend these days (including most musicians). I realize I’m in a very small minority, and don’t take it for granted for one second. I also understand that recording fees or royalties will only be a tiny fraction of any musician’s income these days, due to massive changes in business models and the digitization of everything.
So I find it contradictory (to be kind) that a music “fan” working on a nationally syndicated music program believes (or patently implies) that all recorded music should be free (or almost free). David Lowery wrote a compelling response here, and hopefully Ms. White and the rest of the ASC staff took the time to read it. It’s also worth noting that in the classical field, a number of artist-oriented labels have popped up over the last decade or so, including two I have worked closely with- AVIE, and Innova. Nobody’s going to get wealthy recording classical music (maybe any music), but at least both of those labels treat the artists with respect.
Ms. White raises obvious issues regarding fair use and (to be blunt) theft. But some other questions stuck with me- should NPR be hiring “free culture” advocates for their music programs? Ms. White is of course free to express anything she likes, but was the ASC blog an appropriate forum for her views, or does that amount to an endorsement? Did anyone at NPR actually proof her post before it went up? I’ve been a huge NPR fan, but do they truly not comprehend who the core listeners/patrons are for ASC and their other music outlets, and if not, why send them money or federally fund them at all? Incidentally, why is WVAU (or any radio station) allowing people to sit on the floor and rip the whole library to their laptop (or is that a staff perk)? To their credit, NPR posted this in response to all the noise, but I personally found it a little uninspired.
Ms. White is 20 years old; I certainly recall way too many idiotic ideas and perspectives I had at that age. She’s been mostly vilified in the comments, and has probably paid a hefty price amongst any musicians paying attention. On the upside, her piece definitely opened up (continued?) a robust discussion, so perhaps she will eventually broaden her perspective and start buying a few tracks once in awhile.
Or even support my Kickstarter project.…..