Piracy, obscurity and heresy

It’s interesting talking about the analogy of master tapes and stuff when it comes to saying who’s got the “master” these days. Twenty years ago it would have taken nothing short of robbing the vault to have the actual, unadulterated version straight from the studio floor in your trembling sweaty palms, rather than that crackly plastic version, but now with digital everything sounds as good as the original. And so do the copies. If you downloaded the FLACs from my bandcamp site you’re actually hearing the version the way I heard it in the studio, the CD and MP3 are basically slightly degraded copies of that to fit the format, but still a zillion times better than trying to copy directly from cassette, or vinyl.

One of the reasons for putting my stuff on bandcamp is that people can actually hear the whole album without paying for it. I know this sounds a little odd but there’s a (tried, tested, and proven) method in the madness.

Have you heard of a dude called Cory Doctorow? He writes some mean sci-fi. How do I know this? Because, and hold on to your seats here because this is going to sound like heresy, I was able to download and read all his other books for free. “What?” You’re saying, incredulously by now…  and yet this guy is a super successful author, signed to a big publishing house who he actually persuaded to go along with this argument. Yes, it was Cory, with the blessing of his publisher,  who actually made his own stuff available for free. Admittedly, this is a version of “free” that does carry some legal weight behind it – courtesy of Creative Commons – but that’s a whole other article by itself.

“There’s only one thing worse than piracy, and that’s obscurity”, Cory once quothed in an article. What did he mean by this? He meant that you can write shit hot good stuff and never truly get it out there because people’s natural, inbuilt, wary (and somewhat sheeplike) tendencies will always steer clear of an unknown thing from an unknown source that requires money, or to put if in more understandable terms, a gamble, to see if they like it. That’s how big names prosper – that initial wariness is taken out of the equation with massive advertising campaigns through established channels, something that an indie author is very unlikely to have access to, without re-mortgaging their entire life, and those of future generations yet to come.

I have bought Cory’s books now on kindle. For real money. Why? Because he writes good sci fi. I think I may have mentioned that. I even bought his new book before it’s even made free (I think there’s a few months or maybe a year lapse between the two). And how I know that he writes good stuff is that I already read his other stuff, so I know it’s good. It’s kind of like a positive feedback implementation of Catch-22, if you will.

What I’m trying to say is there’s more than one way to skin the cat. I actually found out the other day that some of my music is on a dodgy russian torrent site. I wasn’t angry – I was ecstatic! They’d bundled some of my albums with Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream, in the same download! That’s an honour! And out of all the people that will download it – who incidentally will be music lovers already – and we’ve automatically selected the correct demographic here, which is more than a multi-million advertising campaign could do 100% – some of em will “meh!” at it, some of them will like it, but these are all people who would never otherwise have found the stuff. And some of those, who would have never heard of me, will buy it… And for those who don’t, there’s always their friends who also wouldn’t have found the torrent… so it’s viral? Sort of. But the point, is that this has now got out to music loving people of similar tastes, who would have never heard of the thing in the first place. I’m working on basic human nature here. There are always good guys (and gals) out there. I have faith.

Here’s Cory’s homepage, I thoroughly recommend his novels, and did I mention you can download em for free? I’ve read a few already 🙂 http://craphound.com/?cat=5

The guy’s seriously got a point… now after that, do we all pull our collective shirtsleeves up and do the “Right Thing”, take that last furtive step ourselves and make everything a free download with donations, or with the option to buy the real product? Is it just a matter of nerve, willpower, and an unending desire to make others happy, through simply giving something away that, directly, cost you nothing to make? Downloads don’t cost you anything! I know, you don’t have to remind me, the actual product did of course, cost time, energy and effort to create. But was it really worth all that input if nobody ever gets to hear it?

– Dave Pearson

1 Comment

  1. Enjoyed your musing Dave – ‘Piracy, obscurity and heresy’ and agree with it totally. A youtube video of my old band has been ripped and posted on some torrent sites – but it’s OK. It’s 29 years old now (and deleted) and I’m glad people are finally enjoying it! I did worry at first that my new musical ideas may get ripped off, so I kept them off the net. But I’ve realised that most of my joy arises during the creation of this music and, as I’ve since realised, the positive reactions I’ve received -these encourage me to carry on creating.
    ‘To hold on means to live with fear, ego and selfishness. Letting go means to transcent those things and follow the path of growth’.

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