Sunday, May 4, 2008

Death, Taxes...And Online Music

Somebody at Slate is onto my Internet music tax idea. OK, so it wasn't my idea but it certainly felt like my idea. At any rate, as I read these paragraphs I could not contain my slow, affirmative nod:

Despite all the downsides, something like the music tax simply has to happen. Most of us don't want to steal music. But it takes a saintly person (like me) to jump through hoops to pay for something you can get for free. I use eMusic and, which both offer DRM-free MP3 downloads. Yet cheapskates galore still have their Limewire and BitTorrent and whatever future file-sharing tools savvy Web guerrillas haven't even dreamed up yet.

That's why piracy can't be stopped. Meanwhile, artists aren't being compensated in a sensible way. Sure, some musicians will make a living by playing live shows and selling T-shirts. A massively popular band like Radiohead can give away its music and still make millions. But plenty of other artists will no longer be able to make a living in the music business as royalties dry up, which will leave our culture a little less vital and a little less fun. What we need is a reward system, one that could eliminate middlemen and encourage a massive upsurge in creativity.

Yes, yes, and yes. But from the looks of it, I doubt the big music companies and iTunes will ever agree to such an arrangement. Why? Because it diminishes the opportunities for canny but lazy businessmen to make excessively vast amounts of profit. And that is what our country is founded upon. Reihan Salam writes: "What plan will work best for music lovers and artists? Instead of a fake music tax, the best solution might be—sorry, libertarians—for the government to step in with a real music tax." Ah, but the day the United States government regulates mass media to such an extent as that may not be a day you or I will live to see. Salam concludes:

When the costs of discovering new music are zero and artists are paid on the basis of how often songs are played, listeners are more adventurous and bands with dedicated followers can make as much scratch as bands that record big hits. Bands get paid, music lovers can listen to their hearts' delight, and the record companies will slowly turn to dust. What's not to like?

Well, from the record companies' point of view, plenty.

1 comment:

Herr Zrbo said...

By bizarre coincidence Mr. Reznor decided to release ANOTHER entirely new album, for free, on the internet just today. This is amazingly fast considering NIN are notorious for having 5 year waits between albums.

Download the Slip here

This is it folks, we're just at the beginning of the wave.