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What's new in iJamming!...
Mon, Sep 16, 2002
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
My immediate reaction to September 11
PART 2: Messages from friends & family overseas
PART 3: Observations & quotes from others.
PART 5: COPING - 2 weeks later
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured albums
(Hub, Slumber Party, DJ Harry, Spearhead, The Who tribute
Albums that sound different since September 11
(Charlatans UK, Arabian Travels, Cafe del Mar, Sugarcult)
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother (DB, Spooky, Jody, RSW, Bad Boy Bill)
FEATURED Wines (Langlois Cremant de Loire, Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Campbell's Muscat, Brumont Gros Manseng, Dr Frank Gewürtztraminer, Daubree CoteRotie, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, Mas Saint Laurent Picpoul, Quivira Dry Creek)
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
From the JAMMING! archives: RAYMONDE in 1985
The full iJamming! Contents

I still recall my first blatant theft of musical copyright. It was Christmas 1975, I was eleven, I was going to see Queen for my first ever concert and I wanted to know more songs they might play than were on the two albums I owned. I asked a school friend to tape me his copy of Sheer Heart Attack, and he obliged by pointing his portable mono cassette recorder at his speakers while doing his homework and occasionally singing along. A "live bootleg" of sorts, it sufficed until I could afford the actual record.

A couple of years later, punk coincided with my adolescence, and an older friend, offended at my adoption of the Jam, offered to tape me the first Clash album. This he did with a stereo cassette deck wired through a proper amp, thankfully, but with the recording at distortion level throughout (a technique professionally adopted by Nine Inch Nails fifteen years later). For years I thought that's how the record sounded. Regardless, I'm forever grateful that he insisted I hear one of the world's great debuts at a time I couldn't afford to simply buy it on recommendation.

During the subsequent aftermath of UK punk, there was much Marxist rhetoric about musicians controlling the means of production, in the shape of self-released singles that came accompanied by a breakdown of pressing and printing costs. Otherwise avid gig-goers would stay home to tape sessions from John Peel's BBC Radio show, then copy them off to spread word on that night's unsigned or breaking new band. I would make tapes of my own cult faves for fellow fanzine editors around the globe who in turn filled my mailbox with home-made cassettes of new music from Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, even the USA.

In the mid-1980s the major labels, temporarily thrown off guard by the speed at which this enthusiastic sharing of music made its way into the mainstream, waged an anti-consumer campaign under the dubious slogan 'Home Taping Is Killing Music.' In the meantime they began marketing cassettes effectively themselves, while in many countries securing a levy on blank tapes to cover 'losses.' Throughout the 1990s, "official" cassette releases flourished and even came to dominate album sales, until the public grew tired of this useful though inferior format - by which point the record companies had already resold us our back catalogues in the form of (poorly mastered and packaged) compact discs, for which they charged us almost double the retail cost of an LP without initially passing any of that increased income on to their artists.

And now it's deja vu all over again. Along comes a new medium (the Internet), consumers seize the opportunity to give, take, swap, sample and discover new music and old acts, and the industry reacts by accusing them of theft and infringement and trying to shut down their means of distribution - presumably to control it themselves.

Admittedly, the choice of music on the Internet is much wider than on a John Peel radio show, the ability to retrieve it faster than awaiting a cassette in the mail, and the quality of sound infinitely better than my Queen and Clash dubs, but that's all as should be. It's called progress. And the record industry doesn't seem willing to accept it. In fact, such is their level of hysteria at kids getting music for free off the 'Net that you would be forgiven for thinking that the labels don't employ street teams to hand out rap tapes outside high schools, or swamp concerts with modern rock samplers, or pay radio stations to play singles so you can hear them for nothing. (Or indeed send journalists like me shipments of free CDs.) But that's how it is. We have rapidly moved beyond the point of common sense and reasoned argument to the stage where otherwise sane people have started tolling the bell for the very concept of the pre-packaged, retail-distributed disc.

Personally, I seriously doubt that either the shrink-wrapped album or (as more directly concerns my own income) the printed book is under threat of extinction just because it may be available as a digital download. For just as it never occurred to me in my music-sharing youth that any true fan of an act would opt for a poorly dubbed cassette tape over first generation packaged vinyl, I don't believe now that any but the most assiduously anarchic of downloaders prefer substandard and disc-hungry MP3 files over their favorite act's newly released and properly packaged CD. The fact that music sales are up this year, and that an act like Limp Bizkit - which has actively defended Napster-style downloading - can sell a million albums in a week, endorses my theory; in fact it suggests that the wide availability of music on the web and the media coverage given to it has given popular music a well-needed kick up the rear and encouraged more people to go out and buy far more of it than ever before.

But let's say I'm wrong and CD albums are about to go the way of the 78rpm disc and the 7" single. Is it really such a big deal?
"The fact that music sales are up this year, and that an act like Limp Bizkit - which has actively defended Napster-style downloading - can sell a million albums in a week. . .suggests that the wide availability of music on the web and the media coverage given to it has encouraged more people to go out and buy far more of it than ever before."

After all, music has been with us since we first banged dried bones against cave walls, while recorded sound has only been around for a hundred years. Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, most musicians still made their living by performing, and songwriters theirs through the sale of sheet music. When the 33rpm LP came along, the format was considered trivial; most pop albums were usually recorded in a day, the 'star' voice or band paid a royalty as little as 1%. That situation only changed in the 1960s, when the Beatles started writing - and selling by the million - their own songs, at which the album changed almost overnight from a pop compendium to an artistic statement, and musicians rightly demanded to be paid accordingly.

Fast forward a generation or two, and the vast majority of commercial CDs are not artistic statements, but a collection of potential radio singles followed by filler and remixes, all packaged in artwork that is forced by its limited size to aim for the visual jugular. In other words, they're back to being pop compendiums. Those musicians who still believe in making artistic statements find themselves releasing long-form CDs not necessarily because it best suits them but because it's the industry standard. They may hate being beholden for distribution to a major conglomerate which takes six months to bring their album out, forces them to spend two years between releases, and insists on a radio hit regardless of the artist's integrity; they may also yearn for the days when a single could be in the stores within a month of its being recorded, but they have been strapped of any real choice in the matter this past decade. Until now. For the first time in a generation, the Internet offers the chance to change the rules.

Pity they can't get support from their supposed guardians. For in its all-out attack on Napster, and the like for copyright "infringement," the Recording Industry Association of America refuses to so much as address the possibility that today's young downloader might just be tomorrow's adult purchaser. And in its liberal use of the word "theft," it implies that every file swapped is a sale lost. Wrong. People download digital music files for the same reason that dogs lick their balls: because they can. Does anyone seriously believe that a person who has amassed a library of, say, 1000 free downloaded music files would, in a pre-Internet age, have gone out and paid for them all? No, they would have gone without. (Or asked friends to make tapes.)

I'm often asked the devil's advocate question by friends in the 'Industry': how would I feel if people could get my Keith Moon book for free? My answer is: They can. It's stocked in libraries all over the country, which I'm delighted about. I've met several people who have taken the book out, read it, and returned it, and have no intention of buying it. That's fine. (Supposedly I get something like a penny royalty for this, though it's yet to show up on a statement.) I've also met a number of people who tell me they've bought my book and will keep it as long as they live. That's fine too. I go back to my point that people who really care about something generally want to own the official version; those who don't, don't. I can't really force them either way.

I do recognize that libraries buy their books and have written agreements with the publishing industry, while Napster does neither. And I agree with people as disparate as Matt Johnson and Lars Ulrich who state that they as musicians should have the right to decide where and how their music is distributed online. But I would point out that musicians have very little control over the distribution of their music anyway (that lies with their record companies) and in particular I would say to everyone: trying to stop the online proliferation of music file-sharing is like trying to stop a tidal wave. You can't. It's going to be part of our lives now whether you like it or not. Deal.

Anyway, those who worry that the revolution is coming should recognize that in some circles it's already here. In dance music, most producers make tracks not for their own album or to get on commercial radio, but to get into a DJ's record box. If the track takes off in the clubs, the producer has several ways of increasing his/her profile and income. He might be hired to apply his sound to another act via a remix; be invited to bring his style to a club audience by Djing; or have his track licensed to a mix CD - that will then likely be filed under the name of the star DJ who compiles it. Who is the artist in such a scenario? What is the album? Who is delivering the statement? What constitutes a live performance? Or even a track? And does any of it matter if the music is ultimately reaching and affecting the listener?

I agree with people as disparate as Matt Johnson and Lars Ulrich who state that they as musicians should have the right to decide where and how their music is distributed online. But I would point out that musicians have very little control over the distribution of their music anyway - that lies with their record companies.
Lars Ulrich can be seen and heard explaing his position at Camp Chaos.
There's the crux. Most people start out making music because they want to communicate, and for the first time in history, they have the opportunity to do so on a global scale without having to go through a multinational corporation. To most new musicians the possibility of losing record sales to free downloads seems like a reasonable trade-off against the ability to get their music and its message out. Whether the small percentage of those acts who go on to become truly popular will suffer in the long run from taking a generous position early on seems highly unlikely. Because, if the history of pop music has taught us one thing, it's that, from the official t-shirt to the tour programme, from the home video to the concert film, and increasingly these days, from the lucrative sponsorship rights to licensing fees for soundtracks and commercials, successful musicians will always find new ways to increase their income. Oh, and that the music industry will always find a way to stop you getting too much of what you want from it for free.



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