I remember some time ago we had a lengthy discussion here (mostly t.a.j., arthur dent, rider of rohan and myself) about whether it is justifiable or not to illegally download music as opposed to buying it, if the bands get any profit out of it if you do buy, and whether or not it is reasonable to think that going to concerts and buying merchandise helps the band more than buying cd's, justifies downloading the albums, or generally, qualifies as an "excuse" to do so.
In a later post you also state that most of the argument we had was centered around the question wether downloading hurts artists, but I don't think that that is the central issue at all. It really comes down to a question of structure, about how we want to deal with art and cultural content and form in general.
In fact, the argument, to my mind cannot be: It doesn't hurt the artist, so let's do it, but rather the other way round. First the argument against file-sharing must be made that artists are hurt by it and to that the proponent of file-sharing should answer: only some and then only a bit and not in a devastating way and only in so much as it's a price worth paying for the benefit of cultural content free from the powers that seek to control it.
I say excuse here because most people who do download still wouldn't tell the artist to his face that they like to (excessively) listen to their music without paying for it, much less expect the artist to be happy about it.
This kind of interpersonal argument is misplaced. Habit or being cowed into a certain behavior or even empathy is not a final arbiter on moral questions.
Anyway since I know some more recording artists today I got interested in the topic again, and also over time I stumbled upon the views and experiences of some bigger artists.
I'd just like to say here, that, at least I, have been very explicit, that “bigger artist” are the ones must hurt by this development.
but as music lovers we all are interested in the economical well-being of the artist whose music we like, at least up to that point that he is able to get enough money out of it so that he has time and means to create the music we want to listen to. (this holds true even from a completely egoistic viewpoint, since I won't have the pleasure of listening to music I like anymore once the artist runs out of time or money to make it)
To perfectly honest, no, I don't have a particular interest in the economical well-being of artists whose music I like that extends beyond the interest I have in everybody's economical well-being. I'd like for all people to be able to lead a rich and fulfilled and productive and creative life, not merely a handful of artists. In fact, some artists have made excellent music while being horribly off financially, many have made great music that they never could even hope to see any financial profit from. Not that I want to advocate poverty among artists, my point is merely that the argument, that only well-fed artists make great art is flawed. A lover of great art (as opposed to a lover of great artists) should find it their self-interest to further such conditions as are conductive for great art, not such conditions that provide economical well-being for artists.
It is thus not self-interest that could get such an argument off the ground, but an appeal to the emotion of thankfulness. As in: We should be thankful to artists if we enjoy their art and therefore reward them.
I would agree with this, but I would also think that for the vast majority of artists, supporting the content reproducing industry is not a good way to show that thankfulness in our day.
So here are some interesting opinions of artists I'd like to share with you:http://www.innerviews.org/inner/wilson.html
Interview with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree). Scroll down to the question "You surprised people by taking out first-rate production and a group of A-list players on your first solo tour. Describe the risks and rewards of that approach." to get to the relevant stuff. Some quotes:
"The obvious risk is financial. I lost a lot of money on the first tour, but I knew I was going to lose a lot of money. And I’m going to lose a lot more money on the next tour as well. In a sense, that’s the least of my considerations, although I have to be a little bit careful. I’m not a bottomless pit of money."
"I just announced a live CD from the first tour, which is an attempt to get back some of the money I lost on it and also to finance the upcoming tour."
"I’ve made some good money over the last couple of years doing the remix work[he remixed albums of other bands] and through Porcupine Tree. The last Porcupine Tree album cycle did very well for us."
"The simple answer to your question is that merchandise and live CD sales are going to help. I do believe the project will reach a point at which it’ll begin to break even, which is exactly what happened with Porcupine Tree. We toured for about five years losing money left, right and center. It wasn’t until the second Deadwing tour that we looked at the books and realized we actually broke even. I guess people might not believe that, but it’s true. We were losing colossal amounts of money. "
"However, if you can sell 3,000-4,000 of those[Special Editions] directly to fans mail order, without any record company or distributor in between taking their cut, you can effectively finance projects that way. Marillion has been doing this since the late ‘90s. They get 10,000 fans to buy their album in advance, directly, and then they finance the whole thing."
Note that this is direct distribution, we are talking about here and 3000-10000 people is a rather small number of people, much smaller than the number of people listening to Porcupine Tree regularly, I would suppose. So in fact, this actually seems to support my position that the reproduction industry is outdated and unnecessary. Bands can deal with fans directly, even in the presence of extensive file-sharing.
Short interview with K K Downing, ex guitarist of Judas Priest:
"we would never have made the records we did without the professionals"
No doubt about this. But keep in mind that Downing's career took place during an age when reproduction and distribution of music was still firmly in the hands of those people who could afford the very expensive means of production and could organize complicated physical distribution of the records. It is perfectly understandable that this appear as natural and right to him, given that this career has been very good to him.
Sven Regener (unfortunately German only)
I'm not gonna bother commenting on Regener any more, he was just yelling and ranting and long and strong replies have been made.
Then there are other examples without links that tell me that at least some of the record deals seem to be quite good nowadays. Phi, a great band from Austria, told me that they were asked by an indie label that wanted them to sign them with the following conditions: The band gets the full profit from 100 out of 500 sold albums, while all the rights for the music remain with the band. Sounds pretty good to me.
I have heard other things. A band on century media (that are big enough to do headliner club tours), in which a friend of mine plays gets exactly nothing from any record sales.
So anecdotal evidence goes both ways, I guess.
Notice also that in some of the links above the point is not that the band makes much money with a label, but needs one anyway for various reasons (promotion, touring etc.). Some other didn't concern the label stuff, but only the selling music directly part.
Again, none of these functions require labels or the control of reproduction rights.
1) Artists want to sell their music and apparently get something in return. Why deny them that, or, is it wise to do so (even for the listener)?
I don't think that all artists want to sell their music. I don't want to sell mine (and I think the rest of my band agrees), but perform it and have it enter the larger musical discourse that is part of this global culture of metal. But I think we can safely assume that some artists want to sell their music. (Selling something implies getting something in return, though, doesn't it?)
Sometimes they couldn't continue making music (of that quality) without getting paid for that.
Sometimes, maybe. But again, this is nowhere near certain as I've said before. There does not seem to be a strict positive correlation between economic success and artistic success. In fact, a number of people will tell you that bands tend to make worse music, the more economically successful they become, in part because of the influence of labels' interests on the sound. And there are a number of good examples of this, in particular concerning 80ties bands. I'm gonna name drop Metallica and leave it at that.
Why deny them that, or, is it wise to do so (even for the listener)?
There is no reason to deny them that and why would one want to do that? The problem is not with artists being rewarded for their art, the problem is with the control of content and the kind of power such control would require.
2) Some artists chose to go with labels, and apparently get something out of that (otherwise they wouldn't work with one).
The conclusion in parenthesis doesn't hold. In fact, many artists might go with labels, because that used to be “how it's done”. You get a band, make demos, get a record contract with a label. But even in bad old days, this wasn't the only way to do it. People might just have labels out of habit or out of misinformation, not because it is in their actual interests or even benefits them in a significant way.
Is it good of us to work on or hope for the downfall of such, when the artists want to keep them?
Yes. Because the artists are not the sole or even most important arbiters on what is a good way to structure the reproduction and distribution of art. Again, that is because they are subjects to habit and misinformation, too. If it is better to have de-centralized reproduction and distribution that empowers the music lover and turns him from being a mere consumer into someone actively involved in that cultural process – and I would argue it is – than having a handful of businessmen control who can listen to and reproduce what and when and distribute it among whom, than that arguments holds regardless of the opinions of artists on the matter.
I think it would be nice if we would focus on the momentary situation, without drifting off to some "maybe" scenarios about what could happen if we had a different business situation and so on.
The momentary situation: file-sharing has been around for 15 years, no one has stopped making music, barely any labels have shut their doors, concerts venues are filled, people are running around in band merch all the time, the music that is out there has not gotten worse, if anything it has gotten much more diverse and interesting and great masterpieces keep on coming, hundreds of people have been convicted to pay horrendous fines for the mere act of enabling others to also enjoy something they like, many of whom having been ruined by these proceedings, lawyers specializing in copy-right infringement law-suits have grow rich by scaring people into paying them and companies they represent money without due process, some people have even started to use this as a business model, releasing bogus software, spreading it in file-sharing communities and then suing people. At the same time, many bands have started to use the internet to directly market their merchandise (and sometimes their music) to their fans, oft times are lower prices and higher quality than third party distribution.
Is it good to support artist? Certainly! It is bad to share and enjoy art, even though one has not – for whatever reasons – supported the artist financially? No.
We have what we have and I think we should accept that and support the artists that we like in the ways that they want to be supported.
Here's how I would like to be supported: 1500 Euro a month, tax-free, to my bank-account with no strings attached. Everyone who enjoys my poetry or music should support me in the way I want to be supported.
How about instead: Artists should let their admirers support them in the ways they want to support them?
tl;dr: Is it good to support artist? Certainly! It is bad to share and enjoy art, even though one has not – for whatever reasons – supported the artist financially? No.