According to the Notorious B.I.G., “the more money we come across, the more problems we see.”
Of course, it seems today’s major recording artists are complaining about just the opposite problem — mounting a major campaign against the free distribution of music on the Internet. But the staunch anti-file-sharing position of major artists like Britney Spears and Eminem doesn’t represent all musicians. Many student musicians say they have more to gain than lose from sharing files.
“I’ve been meaning to put more of my music on the Internet because as an up and coming musician, it’s the best way to get my music out there,” said Eliot Rose ’03, whose record label recently posted some of his songs online. “It’s probably the best, quickest, and cheapest way to distribute music throughout the country right now.”
David Longstreth ’05 said that although he has not put his own music online, it inevitably found its way there. He said students who have downloaded his music have come up to him and complimented him.
“It’s always been sort of mysterious to me because I don’t put it online and I don’t know where they’re getting it from,” he said. “But it’s cool.”
But for some musicians, Internet music-swapping has been good for more than promoting their own work.ÊIt can make a real difference in the quality of the music that gets produced, several students said.
“Music as it is is just a commercial whore,” James DuRuz ’03 said.Ê”The potential of music as a communicative medium is extremely beautiful and extremely exciting.ÊThe idea of making that a more everyday part of life by de-commercializing music will only make music better.”
David Gorin ’04, a former member of the student band Seneca, said music file sharing — and the sheer volume of new music he has access to — has already had a tangible effect on his own music.
“The music that comes into my room and speakers these days is exponentially more varied than what used to,” he said. “There are bands I listen to now that I try to emulate that I never would have found if it weren’t for the Internet.”
But while the Internet can greatly increase students’ exposure to new music, having millions of free songs available anytime, in almost no time, does not always lead to increased music appreciation.
“Ultimately you don’t see people taking music very seriously,” Rose said. “Especially if they haven’t paid for it.ÊMost students seem to just want to drudge up old one-hit wonders as a novelty and don’t really go for more unified artistic products.”
Even when students do use it to discover new artists, using the Internet as a primary source for music can be dangerous, DuRuz said.
“You get a lot of the same music passed around and you also hear a lot of music out of context,” DuRuz said. “It’s a fair description of an artist if you make a 45-minute batch of music.ÊBut if you get an artist only in three to four minute bits, it can be very limiting.”
And, of course, student musicians are very aware of the ethical questions surrounding file sharing and music piracy. They recognize that the technology that helps them gain exposure now could cost them their paychecks later.
“I would certainly be upset if someone were selling pirated records of mine,” Rose said. “But I’d hope to be able to be creative enough that I’d have more to offer and market than just a recorded product.”
Gorin, who has recorded some tracks with Seneca and on his own, has not yet tried to create a fully marketable record. He said it is too early for him to think seriously about the implications of piracy.
“I don’t think I can fully develop a set of ethics until I’m ready to sell my music,” he said.”I think I might change my tune if my lifestyle was on the line. But I don’t think any artist deserves to be awarded that lush lifestyle for just doing what they love. And if they don’t love it they don’t deserve it either.”
Gorin said he understands artists’ concern about lost income because of piracy, but he does what he can to support struggling artists.
“My current policy for music is I will try to get everything free that I can for major artists,” he said.Ê”For artists that I know need the money, I will go buy their CDs and try to support them.”
Despite these concerns for the artists, several of the students agreed it would be pointless to try to stop file sharing.
“The fight to condemn it on an ideological basis seems sort of short-sighted and futile,” Longstreth said. “That’s the direction music and technology are going right now.”
Rose said that the pirate will always be a step ahead of the industry, and that the recording industry just needs to adjust. In fact, he said, he hopes the threat file sharing poses to the major labels will prompt some much-needed reform in the music industry.
“I can’t see music sharing as being harmful to anyone but the recording industries,” he said. “And I think they need to be shaken up a bit. Until the recording industry cleans up its act, I can’t take any ethical claims it makes seriously.”