This article about how Pandora, a popular Internet radio site, is losing money and is considering shutting down, prompted me to think about music and the affect the Internet has had on its distribution.
Traditionally music was played or sung by anyone who felt the urge; then we started specializing and paying traveling bards a coin or two for their songs; then we were able to record music and distribute the same voice singing the same song all over the world; and before you know it millions of dollars are being exchanged between bands and recording companies and fans and merchandise and what have you. The fight over control of music on the Internet, and digital music in general, is just a symptom to a larger issue of what are songs worth and what are people willing to pay for music.
Bands use the Internet all the time to promote their own music on their websites. Music fans copy, download, and share digitized songs and music videos for free. Lots of websites sell songs to consumers, and you can purchase a band’s CDs from third party websites. Recording companies want royalties paid for songs played on all radio stations or by other bands, on the Internet or off.
I honestly am not sure where I stand on this issue – I believe that artists should be paid fairly for their work, and my job for years was to be an expert on copyright rules, but at the same time I have downloaded music for free (though not for several years), and if someone gives me a burned CD as a birthday present I’m certainly going to play it. Some bands are fine with their music being shared for free, others are vehemently against it. Overall, this is an issue where the current laws are counter to the current culture and behavior, and there needs to be a consensus made around the issue, especially in this era of the “Communications Revolution” as the world becomes more and more dependent on the Internet and modern technology.