Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shake It Off

When Taylor Swift speaks, people listen. Since she's a pop singer, I suppose that's probably a good thing, since that's kind of the way she makes her money. Singing mostly, not speaking, but you get the idea. It was a little surprising, however, when Apple's plan for world domination had to take a slight detour because of Ms. Swift's insistence that she be paid for her work. She was one of a number of artists who are uncomfortable with the way money gets passed along, or not as the case may be, to musicians whose tunes get offered up with a small "i" in front of it. Or on any of the vast and varied streaming video and music services across the vast cyber sea. Who pays for the song that you hear "for free?"
Ms. Swift's concern was focused on the new Apple Music, not to be confused with Apple Records which had their own beef with the computer monolith over the past thirty-plus years. Comparing Apples to Apples in this particular case cost millions of dollars. Taylor Swift's concern could easily eclipse that. She was worried that the promotion of a three-month free trial period of Apple Music would leave writers, crew members and musicians wanting, while customers poured all that free content into their ears for the low, low price of absolutely nothing. She was quick to point out that she was not advocating for herself, having already established herself as firmament in the pop music heavens, but rather for the young songwriters who were trying to get their music out into a world that has become all too comfortable with "free music."
This took me back to a time when you couldn't download Metallica's "I Disappear" from the Internet, or at least you had to be one of those Napster users who flew under the pirate flag of Shawn Fanning. How could this hurt anyone? I'm sharing my music just like I used to when I made all those mix tapes back in the dark days before the clone wars.
Except it took hours to make one of those mix tapes, and you can have Taylor's new album in just a few seconds, depending on your connection to Al Gore's Internet.
Ultimately, it's a beautiful thing that Taylor is doing for her fellow artists. She can be the standard bearer for this new wave of file-sharing. Taking people's art without paying for it is stealing. Sure, it could be that all of this tweeting and public posturing is excellent press for anyone who is already established, and the speed at which Apple had its apology ready does make it seem like an orchestrated show of just how much more responsible they are than say, Spotify. Meanwhile, in garages across the country, bands of teenagers imagine a day when their album can mysteriously show up in people's iTunes accounts. For Free. And they can continue to charge three hundred dollars a ticket to get into their shows.
Show business.

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