So, recently that mongo from Dillinger Escape Plan that flings shit at people and generally flexes and beats his chest while the rest of his nerds get specific behind him came out and said some shit about illegal downloading with regards to t shirt sales, which of course made a bunch of people say things like “This guy’s right and thank god for his candor” and made a bunch more people say “what a dumb [un-evolved/rockstar/entitled/shithead] dildo.” The truth is, both camps are kind of right. I, personally have been unwittingly dragged into this debate by simply stating that I don’t like being told by lazy, self serving journalists to oppose things without coming to my own conclusions (hello, SOPA debate!). But, while I was placed on the bench alongside Lars Ulrich by a couple of hacky journalist turds, and found guilty of being some kind of plutocratic, anti-fan asshole by a bunch of people who already hate me, I didn’t really at any point elucidate my own opinion regarding file sharing. So, in honor of the guy that throws shit at people running his mouth, here’s my definitive take on file sharing…This one, you can hold me to:
File sharing is an inevitable part of the world we live in. To complain about it is to complain about days only having twenty four hours or women and men having different ideas about sex/furniture/etc. It’s here and it’s here to stay. Long ago, people made lots of money shoeing horses. Once cars came along, these motherfuckers were out of a job. Those horseshoers had the opportunity to change, to adapt to the world around them and get a new job, or to whither and die, bitterly cursing the car and suggesting that even though horses can’t go faster than about 37 MPH, and cars don’t require brawny men to reshoe them every few weeks, that people should somehow still decide that paying for horses and their accoutrements is the righteous thing to do.
That’s obviously stupid. Now, in the future, we see how dumb and misguided the poor asshole horseshoer that refused to adapt was, and that’s the same predicament that musicians are in right now. Whatever your opinion on filesharing is, you gotta kind of get with the times or die. There’s no room for your complaining about people who do or don’t buy your t shirt and/or their dumb arguments for why file sharing actually helps artists, which, it arguably does up to a certain point. None of that shit matters at all. It’s like suggesting that you want to go back to when humans had gills. Go ahead and bitch about it, man. Let’s see how much changes.
The truth is, music is free now, and if you don’t like it, well, what are you doing making music for public consumption? You know the deal. Even if you’re old. Even if you put out your first record in the 60’s, you’ve had the last decade to deal with the changes and death throes of your industry, so don’t complain now. What are you, retarded? You can’t walk into a log flume and then bitch once you get wet. Don’t go to a Lisa Lampinelli concert and expect to not be ridiculed. That’s the game, daddio. Get with it or get fucked.
Now, that said, stealing music is gonna bum the horseshoers out, and the people who do it, who make the above arguments, while they’re correct, are contributing to the decline in the ability of the music industry, at all levels, to nurture career artists. If you don’t care about that, that makes sense, because a lot of career artists become petulant shitheads as time wears on, and new bands are always exciting and refreshingly free of entitlement. But to pretend that the notion of free music and the declining longevity of musicians’ careers aren’t deeply intertwined is just faulty.
There are three big notions that help facilitate the notion that ‘stealing’ music is fine (that is, if you’re trying to justify it, as opposed to the broader public opinion which is ‘eh, fuck it’) :
1) I go to the shows and buy shirts and I wouldn’t have done that without first downloading the CD
2) My job fucking sucks. Being in a band is cool. If people in bands don’t like that shit, they can come do my shitty job.
3) These dicks, who don’t even really work, have plenty of money. Fuck them. Who do they think they are?
On an indie (or punk[!]) level, this thought process is bolstered by the young, hungry and awesome bands emerging who get into doing it because they’re young and idealistic, and besides, they really can’t reasonably expect to make any money doing anything at all. Fuck, they just want people to hear the music. They give their CD’s away free right there at the shows!!! These bands fit the “pirate’s” (and I hate using that term…I’m not trying to demonize anyone) worldview: idealistic rockers who are doing it without cause to worry about any sort of financial recompense. Awesome bands without fans, bands without expectations. They’re the very evidence that the downloader can point to and say ‘dude, no one’s ever heard of [some dumb band]. I downloaded the record, came to the show and bought a shirt and I’ve contributed to them being able to have a cool fall, seeing cool places in the Midwest playing music in the finest VFW halls and basements the region has to offer, which is more than I’ve done this fall, so fuck you guys for suggesting I’m the bad guy. The band didn’t care. Now I’m a fan and I’ll continue to support them. Thank you, illegal downloading!’
That’s cool and it’s 100% accurate. Those brand new bands will always be there, too. And that’s what makes the whole thing so slippery and crazy. If I can address these points one by one, I think I’ll feel okay about signing off on this tirade:
1) Yeah. That’s true. Who cares? As in, who cares either way? I don’t know. I never was into this to squeeze the maximum amount of money possible out of anyone. I never went into this thinking about how the shirt sales would bolster the record sales or whatever. I just like putting on shows and I like putting out records. Buy the shirt if you like the shirt. Don’t if you don’t. I used to make a very tiny bit of money from putting out records. I don’t any more. It’s not like writing songs has changed. It’s not like I love doing it any less. It’s just one small, fairly insignificant aspect of the whole process that is, unequivocally and literally less rewarding than it once was. It has nothing to do with motivating factors and it’s not even a huge part of the entire job. BUT, don’t you understand why people who make music and get paid for it like that and prefer it to not getting paid? It’s one thing to live through a global shift…it’s another thing to decry people who live through it as wack pussies because they’re bummed that something that was rad is now gone. By this same measure, saying “oh, pooor baby…do you not get any record royalties anymore? Adapt or die” is akin to saying “ooooh, are your pooor precious polar ice caps melting? Well, that’s how the world is now. Adapt or die.” It’s true. It’s shitty to say, but it’s true. It’s a harsh reality that people have to deal with if they’re gonna be alive in this day and age. And, it’s not as specious as you may think. Both thoughts are wistful for a recent, but bygone and never to return era when struggling lifeforms thrived. It’s fine. I’m not saying that anyone has to sit around and listen to anyone bitch about anything, but isn’t the whole ‘adapt or die’ thing just KIND OF cruel to throw in someone’s face when they’re only venting frustration at existing in a changing world?
2) Yeah. People in bands DO do shitty jobs on top of being in a band. Not that many people in bands really get to be too scot free with that shit. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a period of my life only being in a band. As a result, I had no home, no belongings and no place to go when we weren’t on tour. It was great, but it was also pretty Bear Grylls style. Being in a band that makes money is a spectacular opportunity to sleep on floors, eat at gas stations and ruin your intestines/liver/social life but it’s fun as shit and you’re right. It’s a blast. That’s why there will always be young bands willing to do it for nothing. When I started doing this, I expected nothing because I’d never made any money doing anything ever at all. I was able to keep doing it because suddenly money started coming in. Now there’s no money and I can’t do it like I used to. That’s cool. All eras end, and I’d be a fool to think something as marginal as The Lawrence Arms was gonna be a career. I wish I could play those songs as my only job forever, but I can’t. Please don’t mistake this for complaining. I just liked doing it and if I had a wish, It’s be to be able to do it forever. That’s not the way things work though (free music notwithstanding). I’d happily get a job in your shitty office, but my work experience is “was in a band for 20 years” and that doesn’t really open a lot of doors. This shit was 100% my choice and I’m 100% proud of what I’ve done and where I am, but uh…I guess what I’m saying is that Yeah, being in a band is great, but I don’t know if it’s so great that you can just glibly dismiss musicians’ loss of revenue stream as something they deserve because their lives are so fun. That’s a little bit callous.
3) I saw that thing where Billie Joe pretended he wasn’t Justin Beber and yeah, I felt as embarrassed as anyone. He was dildos. It was excruciatingly lame. Musicians, that .01% of musicians who are rich, tend to stroll around like they’re WAY more important than they are, which makes younger, poorer musicians emulate them as though acting like a dick is some sort of requirement for the job, and ultimately, it makes everyone look bad. The fact is, music is not something that makes anyone any money ever. People say “you wanna be rich, go into something besides music” and they’re totally right. People also say “the whole idea of musicians selling their recordings and living off them is an idiosyncratic phenomenon of the last 50 years. The world is just righting itself” as though musicians are the plague that culture needs to be vaccinated against. Hey, man. You know what else is only 50 years old? TV, movies and pop culture at large. I understand that musicians are lucky enough that their craft has been co-opted by pop culture, unlike painters or novelists, who will be destined to be poor no matter how beloved they become. BUT, that’s no reason to just hate motherfuckers who are lucky enough to be able to do it. It’s a cool living. People want in.
You, you right there, reading this. YOU bitch about how you are salty that you can’t fuck that chick/dude or get that promotion or go on that trip or grow a bit or not be bald or fat or whatever, despite the fact that bitching isn’t gonna change anything. Is it SO FUCKING AWFUL that some shit-slinging gorilla pines impotently for the days when people bought his shit? I mean, I get it. Those times are done, grandpa. If you look, you’ll see that I’ve been saying that for over a decade. I know what’s up, AND I never made much money making records back when that shit was apparently the gateway to all the gold and strawberry cocaine you can carry. I just don’t understand why people who insist on fighting on behalf of free music (which is different from regular, everyday downloaders, just by the way…I’m talking about the people who HATE the DEP guy and who HATE Lars Ulrich [I hate Lars Ulrich] and who jumped on me when I suggested that people should read things before they sign them, the people who equate any frustration with wildly anti-freedom sentiments etc) why do they refuse to acknowledge that there’s a legit reason to be bummed on the musicians’ side? One team lost the world series. The losers can’t be down? They have to pretend to love the winners with no mention of how cool it was back in the day when they were in the running to win and no one really felt like they were losing? Fuck that. Selling records was one of the most fun ways to make money I’ve ever experienced. It was FUN to get money to give people things that they enjoyed. Was it a fair system? I don’t know. But I liked it a lot. It’s like getting a blowjob. You don’t ever DESERVE your blowjob. BUT you enjoy getting them, and once the blowjobs stop coming, it’s a bummer. “But I LOVED getting blowjobs” you say. “Then learn to suck your own dick” is the response.
Is it unfair that I got to play music in my 20’s and someone else was digging ditches? Fuck yeah it is. But what am I gonna do? In the words of your dad, life is not fair. I never expected to make a dime playing music, but it’s a bummer that it’s no longer even a possibility. It’s so fucking stupid that this even needs to be explained. Fuck the internet and fuck everything. I’m getting a coffee and going outside.
PS I’ve never met a musician who wanted to charge 22 bucks for a CD, but in the 90’s I met a whole shit ton of assholes who absolutely salivated at that idea, who had record company names on their business cards, but who never ever picked up a guitar. Just sayin.