Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Henry Rollins on Downloading Music

In his latest column for LA Weekly, Henry Rollins discusses the often controversial issue of downloading music.  The column is surprising in some respects because he doesn’t take an anti-downloading stance. 

From the story –
In the last few years, a combination of amazing technology and incredible access has not only changed the way music is delivered but also the way many of us regard and value music.

I get letters from people who tell me that they have downloaded all of my records for free and asking me what I think about that. I always tell them that I would rather be heard than paid, which is true, but I wouldn't mind both.

While it holds absolutely no interest for me to go after anyone who freely downloads my material, I am quite aware that all is not right.


Will all this downloading be the death of music? Certainly not, but it definitely has changed our concept of music's currency.

Thankfully, there are countless music lovers all over the world buying records, going to shows and keeping artists fed. Sales in vinyl are way up, and once that bug bites you, you stay bit. There will always be music and there will always be bands and shows, but there is no way we are ever going to consider music the way we used to.

The way many of us access and enjoy music says a lot about society and culture at large. We work long hours, finances are often stretched thin and expenditures on things like music aren't often at the forefront of our practical thinking. For many of us, day-to-day life is a blur of stress, texts and obligation mixed in with unhealthy levels of uncertainty and not always the brightest estimation of what lies ahead. It is an abbreviated life, often without the time to even tweet a "how r u?" to someone we actually kind of know.

I think to a certain degree, the consideration of music has gone down that same path.

How could it not? Hopefully the same technology that made music so thin-sounding and lacking in perceived value will do something to turn that tide. I won't wait too long for that. I reckon it will be musicians and music lovers who will save music from the role of mere background noise.
There is also an interesting part in the column that deals with Black Flag and SST Records.

Here is another part that really stood out to me because I have found myself in this very situation numerous times.
There are many records that are out of print. Many of these will never be re-pressed and will often be impossible to find for sale anywhere, and even if you did, you would probably have to pay a very hefty price. This is where the download is the key to the magic door.

There are so many records that I have had a chance to hear only because someone posted them. Records of all genres are available online, and sometimes members of the bands will write in and thank the site for putting the tracks up so people can enjoy this music that otherwise would have been deep in obscurity. The optimum outcome of this is a cool reissue. This has happened many times over the years.

These are the records I download. If I could have found the genuine article, I would have done my best to acquire it. If I can't, then I will utilize the vast resource of the Internet. As soon as I find a copy of that record, I will go after it with remarkable and often breathtakingly dogged obsession.

I don't know if this makes me part of the problem. I will counter any incoming guff with this: Music was made to be heard. If it is out of print for too long, it must be wrenched from the ether and made available to be appropriately adored and absorbed.
I couldn’t agree more. In fact I think that in general I agree with Rollins’ take on downloading. I’ve done it, but I also but a lot of music (often way more that I can afford to). I hope that this even things out in the end.

No matter what you think about the downloading of music, this is an excellent article well worth reading and contemplating.

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