Friday, July 24, 2009

Silence is the price.

The excellent CMU Daily drew my attention to a recent survey that was carried out for tech firm Telindus by Opinion Matters/ on the subject of online copyright. According to CMU the actual question asked of over 2,000 people was: Do you agree with this statement "I think musicians should derive royalties from their albums, singles and music videos that are downloaded online"? Turns out that 60% of the people asked don't think that musicians should get royalties, that these creative people should not earn a penny for their efforts once they appear online.

When I read this I thought "Nah" or "This can't be true, surely?"; but it is the case. That means that the majority of the corpulent, complacent, over-fed and spoilt British public think that they are perfectly entitled to gorge themselves on the creative juices of our singers, writers and players without any thought for how these said artists might survive. I can understand how people might think that the likes of Girls Aloud or JLS lead some strange Reality TV life where money isn't needed and Simon Cowell buys them everything they need but the truth is far from that.

The music is written for them by people who have, in many cases, spent years trying to get a break. Often, like footballers, their earning window is short. In most cases the majority fall by the wayside after a very short spell (I must confess an interest here!) and the one or two songs they wrote, that achieved any recognition, go on earning them a modest stipend for years. A lot of musicians just disappear leaving nothing but a ripple in the gutter where the sucker went down.

Now CMU, in their mailout, posit the thought that the fault for this may lie with the copyright organisations in that they fail to explain to the poor ignorant masses that people who make music need to eat, buy clothes and shoes and maybe have families and support them. Heaven forbid that music makers should be allowed those kind of luxuries. The Great British Public (©Daily Mail) have essentially conflated everyone else apart freom them and the bloke they drink with down the pub as lying, thieving, scrounging bastards; and we have the press to thank for that. Not the easy target blame them for everything press but the over simplifying, blinkered vision wrap it up neatly in concepts that miss the point and fail to explain difficult ideas properly press.

The way to explain the idea that musicians should earn from their work and toil would be to catch a certain number of file sharing, copyright thieving individuals and make them carry on working their jobs as usual but for nothing. No wages, no benefits, nothing; and publicise that. Then after three months they should be re-interviewed again on the concept of music makers earning nothing for their efforts and compare it to the experiences of said scrotes. So, do you still think music should be free, you twat.

The truth is if musicians can't make any kind of a living from their recorded output then there is no difference between the real creatives and your Uncle Billy who always monopolises the piano at family gatherings entertaining everyone with dreadful renditions of the worst songs from the repertoire of Celine Dion. There is no reason why they should bother recording at all, and then all that will be available for the so-called music fans would be advertising jingles and incidental music from bad American TV drama. Mind you judging from the seeming general level of intelligence of the public that wouldn't pose much of a problem.

For the rest of us music is much, much more than the background noise for a dinner party. It's the soundtrack to a summer, the trigger for memories and as important as a fistful of beer and a couple of spliffs on a great night out. It's not just the wallpaper, it's the walls and foundations. Music is as important as water, food and air and if it disappeared we'd feel it. Suddenly Mungo Jerry wouldn't soundtrack a memory of being 17 and in love on a brilliant summer's day, because, going by the ideas of the sample interviewed for the survey, it wouldn't exist. Whatever you might think of Lady Gaga this year you can bet she'll soundtrack the loss of virginity, the first time getting drunk, the first time falling in love or the first heartbreak. We can't write our own soundtracks, they just happen around us. Musicians make them and if we don't pay the piper there'll be no tune.

If you can't see the value in that then you're a person lacking in imagination and emotion and you're probably in the 60% of people in that survey; you wanker.