a quick one.
I'm for it, to a degree. I have several gigabytes of music on my hard-drive, and I would say I'm passionate about music. I also buy CDs, T-shirts, patches and pins, and go to shows regularly. I consider music to be 'shareware', I download albums, and if they begin to reverberate emotionally with me, I'll go and buy the album.
If I bother to learn parts of the lyrics, I'll buy it.
If I create a long-term memory that somehow includes that music, I'll buy it.
If I feel a vibration, somewhere in my chest, around sternum-level, or if it feels in one blessed moment that my sinus cavities have turned into cathedrals, then that for me is an emotional connection, and I'll buy your album.
By 'buy', I actually mean I'll put it on a short list to buy when I actually have disposable income. Sorry. Also, if I'm living out of a backpack on somebody's couch, I might just procrastinate before I commit to lugging the tangible copy of your song around on my back. Sorry.
Now, I also play music. And I also record music, and that becomes little mp3 files that slowly dribble around teh interwubs. We've given our music away for free mostly. And the whole 'making a living at it' is something that we don't discuss with seriousness.
So how would I feel about filesharing if I was poor old gene simmons?
I doubt I would feel differently about it.
For me, the purpose of music is a tool, to promote community cohesion. My background is punk. In my self-aggrandizing daydreams, I look forward to the day that my music has an audience that is consistent, believes some of the same things that I do, and participates with us in larger projects. Also, it would be cool if there was enough to fill a basement, and they danced. In the daytime, we build our bikes or teach each other strange and wonderful things. We get dirty. At night, we feed ourselves and play music to each other. I know their names, they know mine. We can agree or argue, but never doubt our abilities or intentions. Like I said, it's a daydream, but there have been worse ways to live, no?
Notice how some parts of that daydream are as problematic as the model of music as 'commodity.' As participants in a community that I in some small way define, I expect a certain amount of common interest and participation. I also assume that they would feel compelled to buy a tangible form of the music, rather than to take advantage of the free copies floating around in ether. They, like me, would create an idea of community based on the free-floating and utterly unrealistic poetry of culture. They would commit to participation in said community partly in terms of buying.
Music as definer of community, and music as mere commodity. These two conceptions of music are in conflict, though not always mutually exclusive. After all, we do live in a world with price tags on everything, and I don't think it's purely a commercial act to buy an album or patch, any more than it's a capitalist act to offer your couch to a musician on tour. I don't think turning your back on all forms of tangible music makes you more 'pure' in an anti-consumerist sense. But there always exists a tension, because culture is in some ways a poor substitute for true community, and needlessly divisive, and can quickly become distracting.
I've long since given up thinking that the totality of 'punk' can maintain this semblance of community. They may go to the same shows as I do, may dance to the same words and music, and while for me those words ask questions of the world that demand answers, I might quickly find that for them, those words are a distraction and mean nothing. Or I may play a show, and find that for the audience, the songs were about finding 'pure chakrahs' or that 'masons control the world.' Or that it was a distraction from getting drunk and high. Poof! Back to reality, back to work.
Is it because the consumerist mentality has infiltrated so deeply, that it's difficult for people to really involve themselves in music and culture as anything more than a commodity? Or is it because the punk mentality has taught me to put too much faith in something that, ultimately, really isn't that important?