Don’t “my peers” me
Dear Emily White
- We are only two years apart in age, so I don’t understand how you “never went through the transition from physical to digital.” I remember it well. I remember when girls at my school started getting iPods in the early 2000s, and I thought that they and their stupid machines were ridiculous; these girls only owned about three CDs, so why did they need to digitise them on some expensive device? I now have one of those devices, a 160GB iPod that I’ve owned since about 2008. It’s full of the non-vinyl music that I’ve bought since around that period (and of course, been sent for free as part of my job), and carrying it around has never proven inconvenient. It does sometimes annoy me that I can’t transfer my vinyl purchases (second hand ones particularly, and the new ones that don’t come with download codes) onto it, but that’s also a nice reminder of the co-existence of physical and digital. There doesn’t need to be a transition. It’s not a trade-off. “All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?” This is precisely what my iPod, full of music that I have purchased does.
- You say you’ve “never invested money in [musicians] aside from concert tickets and t-shirts.” As an intern at NPR, I bet you probably aren’t getting paid more than expenses. It sounds like a prestigious internship, and I’m sure that to earn it, you had to pour time and energy into other internships, most of which probably didn’t pay you anything. I know what it’s like to write for free for a really long time, and also know how rewarding it is when people eventually start paying you to do it, and you can set aside writing for nothing. I can’t play a note, but I’m sure it feels exactly the same for musicians. They’re not expecting to get paid when they’re noodling around in their garage for fun, but when the product of that time is available for public consumption, and often drawing people to sites that make their money via clicks and advertising generated by people coming looking for this music, they deserve to get paid in the same way that you do. The fact that they’re generating revenue for others is actually an aside: they’re producing something, you’re enjoying it, so you should pay for it. I can’t find the link, but Lauren Laverne wrote a great fashion column recently about how clothes are one of the last things you can’t digitise. Of course, a big part of fashion is its exclusivity; thousands of pounds for one garment. If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it. It should be the same principle with music, which, happily, is priced in far more egalitarian fashion.
- The part of your blogpost that annoys me the most: “But I honestly don’t think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience.” Don’t “my peers” me. By attempting to lump those of us in our 20s together, you invite precisely the kind of generational generalisations with which Lowery responded to your article. Admittedly, I have recently had to ban myself from buying any more records, but that’s because I had gone wild in second hand record shops and significantly depleted my funds. I have very little disposable income; I would say 75% of what I have goes on records.Typing in Paypal details to get a special edition LP package is a giddy thrill. I was pretty sad when I tried to pre-order the new Mount Eerie LP direct from Phil Elverum and found that the postage was about $40, too much to justify. I’ll have to wait to find it in a shop here. One of my best friends, who just turned 22, routinely buys multiple copies of records she loves by her favourite bands so that she can give them to friends, knowing that she’s tried to translate how much enjoyment the band have given her into the most money she can afford to give them. Another friend a couple of years older than me just moved house; I saw from Twitter that he had 17 boxes of records to move. SEVENTEEN! The main problem with your attitude towards not buying music, as far as I can discern, is the way in which you have internalised the possibilities of acquiring it for free without a second thought. Age is not an excuse, and I sincerely resent you making that part of the conversation. No-one’s going to catch me if I steal all my music off the internet - I’m not going to pretend I’ve never done that - but I take pride in paying for it, in a reverse fashion to the way I take pride in getting paid for writing about music. It’s just nice (and morally sound) to reward people for doing something that gives you such enjoyment. I owe music much more than I could ever pay it in pounds.
Dear David Lowery
- Despite all the caveats to the contrary, your post (and its subsequent dissemination, which is not your fault) comes across as incredibly shaming, patronising, and guilt-tripping.
- Enough of the “your generation”: Although Emily White appears to have grown up internalizing and executing the morally unsound consumption of music that technology encourages, it doesn’t mean everyone in their 20s has, as the examples in my last point to Emily go some way to illustrating. And on a similar note, I am perfectly sure that the minute the opportunity to freeload music came along, scores of people above the age of 30 also took full advantage of that.