Sympathy for the Music Industry

A couple of my friends have got into a bit of a spat on the internet. Megan McArdle, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, wrote “The Freeloaders”, arguing that file sharing, as practiced by today’s 20-something young adults, is destroying the music industry.

Marc Weidenbaum, who writes the wonderful disquiet blog, first first answered in prose. Marc argues, mostly correctly I think, that Megan’s argument conflates the major-label recording industry with the music industry as a whole. Despite the illegality (and let’s not be coy about it, there is plenty of theft involved), the more general ethos of free culture has spawned plenty of great art that flourishes outside of the stranglehold of that same recording industry.

He then realized a better rejoinder would be in the great tradition of answer records: he invited some musicians to comment, musically, on the article (and its accompanying illustration): the result is Despite The Downturn, freely available (free as in beer and as in freedom), mostly electronica, an amazing turnaround of just a couple of days from thought to expression. So at least something good has come out of this disagreement.

One response to “Sympathy for the Music Industry”

  1. Tom Donald avatar

    Hi Andrew, nice blog! And it’s on a topic I actually understand. Wow.
    My slant on this, is that regardless of file sharing or any specific form of online “free music”, there is nothing artists of today can really do to stop the internet. Look at all this free information on the web nowadays, starting with your informative, or should I say expert blogs on science. These things used to cost money in subscription.
    Mick Jagger recently, summed it all up. He said, in the early days before the 70’s, artists were ripped off by the recording industry, only from the 70’s to around 2000, did artists ever make money from record sales, those days have finished. Even if file sharing finished, there is you tube and endless other so called legal sources of free music. We are in a new era of information, being virtually cheap. Artists ought to understand that free advertising is a luxury, but the price to play is less physical record sales, though digital Itunes/Amazon sales are still very possible, and involve less overheads. So why all this talk on a decaying music industry, it doesn’t seem to add up.