As threatened, here we go far afield from the iPhone to realm of music, file sharing, and intellectual property rights. You probably need no convincing about the joys and ethics of file sharing. But how often do you go out of your way to support artists, developers, and content producers who try to buck the system and make available their work affordably and fairly?
Paul Westerberg, erstwhile front man of the legendary Minneapolis (p/dr-)unk band, the Replacements, recently released an entire album for 49 cents on Amazon and TuneCore. The album, titled 49:00, received critical praise on Pitchfork media, the City Pages, and on blogs like the LA Times’ Extended Play, the ModernConservative, the Aquariam Drunkard, and ABC News’ On the Record. Released as a single track and thus forcing listeners to take in the ups & downs of the album as a whole, the release paid tribute to the album-oriented rock (AOR) era that was killed first by mainstream radio and then by pay-per-song downloads. The San Antonio Current called it “the biggest format-buster of our digital, format-busting age.”
Like several other artists such as 50 Foot Wave, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and Saul Williams, Westerberg was attempting to cut out the middleman in the faith that his fans would support his work if they knew they were supporting him directly rather than the evil media giants. Of those, Radiohead and Saul Williams have since pulled their respective direct downloads of In Rainbows and Niggytardust, making that distribution model seem more like a publicity stunt than a principle – despite Saul Williams’ manifesto on the matter, where he compares record labels to slave traders. (Check out his sales figures and this interview as well.) Former Throwing Muses front woman Kristin Hersh‘s 50 Foot Wave seems much more committed to the idea.
Westerberg’s devious plan to make a whole album of must available for half a dollar was foiled by nefarious music industry baddies who apparently threatened to sue him for copyright infringement. His crime? (Or, the pretext for alleging one?) Quoting some of his favorite songs, like Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild and the Kink’s Dandy. The cowardly Amazon and TuneCore dutifully pulled 49:00. His response? Release another track called 5:05, making up the missing minutes of the 43 minute, 55 second long 49:00. 5:05 is a fuck you, where Westerberg sings,“if you wanna sue me…bring on the lawsuit…”
5:05 is 10% the length and costs double at $0.99 but this is a track you have to buy. I downloaded 49:00 via bit torrents, but when I went to buy it at Amazon, I discovered it had been pulled. So I bought 5:05 instead. Tell the cowards at TuneCore what you think while you’re at it.
Paying for the Free and the Affordable
In the same vein, please support those software vendors and content providers who provide you with free software and free information! If software vendors don’t lock down their products, buy them. If content providers give you good information with no hassles (no or few ads, no e-mail farming schemes, etc.), donate to them! (Box of Clams isn’t a bad place to start, is it?) If you evaluate software using cracks and serial numbers, pay for the ones you use. In fact, if they’re a great value, pay extra.