need more stuff?

May 16, 2003

A few months ago I

Daniel Radosh

A few months ago I was almost quoted in a Time magazine story about pirating music, but then there was some sort of war or something and story never ran. Last week it occurred to me, hey, I work for national newsmagazine myself. For those of you who don't subscribe to The Week, here's the Editor's Letter I wrote:

I don't think of myself as a thief. I would never shoplift so much as a pencil. But I am one of the 60 million Americans who download pirated music from the Internet. I've rationalized this a dozen ways. It's not about the money, I've always said. I would happily pay a reasonable amount for the convenience of digital downloads. But the recording industry hasn't grasped that. Instead it tries to make downloading more difficult, suing kids or building anti-piracy measures into music that make it impossible to play when and where I want to. Lectures about stealing from artists ring hollow from an industry that has done artists more financial harm than pirates ever will. A musician friend of mine encourages piracy, saying performers can't be worse off than they are now. "Dismantling the industry-as-it-is can ONLY be a good thing," he says. "Music will never go away, and we're always going to need musicians to make it." He gives his latest album away free on his web site.

Last week, I was forced to put my money where my mouth is when Apple introduced an experimental online music store?the first that doesn't treat customers like criminals. It sells songs inexpensively and lest buyers do whatever they want with them. If you're determined to pirate thousands of copies, you can. Apple is gambling that most people are inherently honest. For my first legal download, I chose a song symbolic of the music industry: Bob Dylan's "Everything is Broken." Is it just my imagination, or does it sound better when you listen with a clean conscience.

N.b., I know "symbolic" is the wrong word in that last graf. It was changed after I signed off on the piece. I originally had "in honor of."

And my more specific thoughts about the Apple Music Store: Great concept, great execution, crappy inventory. If they can bulk it up substantially, this will be legal downloading's killer app. Otherwise, it's back to Gnutella. The only other problem, really, is that the 30-second samples are too short to help you decide if you like a song you've never heard, and they're often of non-representative sections of the song itself, which is dumb. Surely, Apple could rig it so that you're allowed to listen to any song all the way through at least once in streaming version, after which you'd be limited to the 30-second reminder.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2