I recently read an article by NPR intern Emily White in which the 21-year-old pretty much bragged that, despite possessing thousands of songs, she has never really purchased music. In David Clowery’s response to the article, he pointed out that the artists are the ones most hurt by file-sharing and other forms of “free” music.
I tend to side with Clowery’s view that all artists should be compensated and copyrights should be respected. But in contrast to this believe, I have my own example of what I call the “Led Zeppelin Enigma” where I personally feel entitled to access to any Zeppelin recording free of charge for the rest of my life.
In my early teens I was a Zeppelin fanatic (still am, really) and I bought ever single one of their albums on vinyl. In those days, records were about $6 to $7, but that was still about half of my weekly take that I got on my paper route. Years later as LPs faded, I once again bought each and every Led Zeppelin album on CD, including the newer box set and BBC Sessions collections. This cost even more as CDs by top-shelve acts typically went between $12 to $15, despite the fact that compact discs ultimately had a fraction of the manufacturing and packaging costs of traditional vinyl. So when the technology confluence of recordable CDs, mp3s, and digital downloads hit in the late 1990s, you’ve got to forgive me for feeling like I had a “license for life” for much of this music (not just Zeppelin but many others that I had bought on vinyl and CD).
Now, I’ve long since stopped downloading music as I’ve pretty much got my classic collection in order. And I haven’t quit buying music but I am a lot more judicious over what I spend my money on and I now give much preferential treatment to independent and local musicians. It really is all a moral paradox to contemplate but I feel I’ve been more than fair with the music industry and I do believe that industry will ultimately be just fine. I am optimistic that a purer market system is emerging through new technology and social media, which further diminishes the corporate “middleman” and gives the artists and producers much more direct access to the consumers.