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Vexen Crabtree 2015


Vexen Crabtree's Live Journal

Sociology, Theology, Anti-Religion and Exploration: Forcing Humanity Forwards

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Vexen Crabtree 2015

Sharing music

2012 Apr 18: Relaunched: "Music and Film Copyright: Wishful Thinking Versus Proper Conduct" by Vexen Crabtree (2012)
2002 Version of this page (now replaced, rewritten):

1. Reasons to swap

Can't afford CDs
This one amuses me. It's tough! Simply. Really. If you can't afford something, you can't have it. If it is essential to your survival (like warmth, food, shelter) then you are morally wrong for stealing it, but music is hardly required for your mental well being. People have no right to music, to the produce of other people, unless they pay for it or are given it. The "I'm a student..." excuse is bollocks. Tough fucking shit! Life's not fair? But, in the words of the irritating girl, Sarah, from Labyrinth; on one of her more enlightened moments: "that's just the way it is".

People say, "When I can afford it, I'll buy the albums I've downloaded"... this is just not true. For example, I once copied VNV Nations Burning Empire. Have I since bought it? Nope, because there is so much out there I've bought other stuff instead. And I'm anti-copying, and I still haven't bought it, how much truer this must be for those who freely copy! If this is the case, that you will buy it later, then the solution is very simple: Buy it later, and simply don't get a copy until you do! There's no rush. If you must, download the most popular track or two from the album, like you'd (acceptably) copy a track or two from the radio.

CDs are overpriced
True. For this reason, people swap hoping that CD prices will come down. This is a good reason to swap/steal music. We get ripped off, and the large music companies rip us off. Especially in Europe. Less so in the USA.

Large music companies are evil, suppress individuality, compromise art for commerce So what, there's nothing we can do about it. Because we don't like the way they work does not give us right to try and harm them. Enforcing freer arts through criminal means is no less fascist that the music companies themselves. Large music companies are a force for evil, for commercial anti-human homogeny and herd mentality at the expense of vital expression and new music, however they are not obliged to either produce CDs cheaper or support music (alternative music), there's no way we can morally claim that because they don't sell what we want that they're in the wrong.

Swapping MP3s is just like tapes, and the radio
It's not. Tapes were swapped slowly, had to purchased (people run out of tapes and time much more than they run out of hard disk space and bandwidth), and most importantly of all when we swapped tapes it was personal, friendly, in person and very limited in terms of quantity and efficiency. Between friends, swapping music that was generally bought by at least one person. It was acceptable because of these personal elements.

Swapping via the Internet is not the same at all. It allows complete choice and complete freedom to obtain as much as you want, on a whim, very much unlike the staggered and personal friendships that were the result of tape swapping.

However, therefore, I do actually agree that sending MP3s to friends (i.e., a favorite track or something you know they'll love) is fine. When on IRC discussing music, it is acceptable to send the person a track by a band as an example, etc, this is completely fine.

2. Reasons not to swap

Harms the music industry? I think this is bollocks! I think this particular argument, on the behalf of large music and media companies means: "We get less profit". Which is good. Because everyone hates them, the bands and the fans hate these large labels, especially the bands. These large companies should be broken up into multiple smaller companies. As there are already small labels, people should buy music from these small labels more.

Harms the bands
More important for new bands than for established ones, but even for established ones it's not our fiat to judge "how much" our actions harm others, especially as the bands themselves (whether they're out to make money, they love the music or it's just a hobby that they also get cash from) don't generally "deserve" to be acted against criminally because they make money. We all want to make money. Even if we don't agree with the bands attitude or message it's not grounds to support criminal behavior against those bands.

3. Reasons to buy

Buying an album by a band you like says "yes" to that album by that band. The music industry grows around its successful areas, when you buy music you are encouraging that type of music to be made more. Through exposure and profit, music becomes known and as its influence grows music that is more similar will be produced.

If you agree with someone ideology, then you buy it to support them and what they stand for. Hopefully they contribute to that cause somehow. The difference you can make is even greater in direct correlation to the inverse of the bands success. The smaller the band, the greater the difference you make by buying their music.


Keep swapping personal, not via large scale music swapping software. Don't download loads of albums, select individual tracks and use them as a test of whether you want to buy the albums or not. Don't give your friends whole albums, just representative tracks. This way you will help support the bands you like.

This is most important for the alternative and less popular musical genres. It would make me angry to see people swap the entire albums of new or experimental bands, when a few tracks would suffice. I believe all swapping should be done with a link to where you can buy the album from! When I give out music to friends it's almost always when actually discussing the music in question, and I normally tell them where to get it if they like it.

Occasionally good friends will borrow a CD and copy it. This is OK, it's no different from me making a tape of the CD and giving it to them, something which is acceptable.

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Enforcing freer arts through criminal means is no less fascist than the large companies

Isn't it just a smaller-scale version of "armed revolution is not just our right but our duty when oppressed by long-standing tyranny" (or however it goes)?

I buy albums at the rate I can afford, and usually my choice is informed by the music I download. Plus I can't buy any more albums than this, so me downloading other songs or even albums doesn't mean any less money is flowing into the music industry. But, I have wide musical tastes so even if I downloaded music all the time, there would still be more CDs I want to buy than I could afford. I guess this isn't true for everyone. So, I agree with you that music-sharing is bad if it lessens cash-flow into deserving companies by replacing sales, but not that wholesale music-sharing even if it's not among friends is necassarily bad. It can even be good, as you say in the essay, for teaching undeserving companies a lesson.

Your second paragraph is agreeable, and forms the justification I myself give to myself on occasions when I've downloaded music too.

The first comment, "Isn't it just a smaller-scale version of "armed revolution is not just our right but our duty when oppressed by long-standing tyranny" (or however it goes)?", however, I generally object against...

This is because we have no right to listen to music. There is no moral or social imperative for those who distribute and sell music to provide it in a fair or equal way, as a result they are completely free to charge whatever they want, to sell whatever they want and, also, to limit the sale and distribution of their product as they wish. As such it is impossible for tyranny to occur, because no human rights are being infringed if particular music is unavailable. As they have complete commercial rights to do as they please we are infringing upon their rights by enforcing freer arts at their expensive.

If the case was the distribution of food, shelter or other basic human requirements there would be a strong moral arguments (such as in the case of a tramp who steals food) that the thief is not morally responsible, because in cases of necessity or rights-infringement, sometimes criminal behavior is the only recourse. But music, as mere entertainment, is a long way from being something anyone has a right to.

Apologies for the extensive reply on a relatively minor comment!

Yes, they have the right to charge high prices, and so we have the right not to buy from them, instead turning to alternative ways to get our music. The nature of our alternative supplier is irrelevant; buying only from another music company, or downloading music, or boycotting music altogether, come to the same thing.

A perfume analogy...

We don't have a "right" to do any such thing, we simply don't have rights to free music. For example, it is wrong (I have no right to) to buy or accept stolen perfume from a dodgy street seller even if I think that the perfume in question is overcharged, and I certainly couldn't see why (as it is a luxury item) music is different. The fact of overcharging doesn't create a right of ownership.

However it would be entirely acceptible for me to sample some of that perfume from a friend, should they recommend it.

When All's Said and Done....

It is not "our" music...it only belongs to the artist.....

not anouther dime from me

if i was poor and had dirty close , i wouldent go to a store and steel deturgent . but if there were free samples all over the place , id shure grab a few. fuck em , there not gettin anouther dime from me

long winded response

Weird, weird, weird. You pretty much wrote down my attitude on the matter, which is very cool to see.

I do download unavailable music, such as stuff from the 1890s-1930s that people have graciously made available from their wax cylinders and 78s. I, in turn, make these available to others (and I play them on my show if they're especially cool).

Other rareties include old tv show songs, novelty songs that don't appear on albums, from-video recordings of live stuff, etc. I refuse to buy bootlegs of live shows, but I will happily swap them. Nobody makes money that way, and only real fans (who've bought everything legit anyway and will continue to do so) will want that stuff. [Bowie is an example of this. There's even a section on Bowienet to swap boots and he doesn't mind as long as they're not being sold.]

I also download the occassional pop song that's caught my ear so I can get it (the fuck) out of my head. This happened with that blasted Eminem song, and I got it well and truly out of my system through overkill.

But for indies, I think it's acceptable to hear a song recommended by a friend or download a song to see what the fuss is about if you hear a band being talked about, but it should always result in a sale if you really like it.

I think you're dead on about the fact that nobody deserves to have music for free just because they can't afford it. I'm not moneybags over here, but if I want something, I'll save up for it.

I'd planned to download a few tracks for my show that are on CDs that I've left in the US (there are about 300 I couldn't bring with me). I haven't bothered yet, but may do in future.

I don't know. mp3s to me aren't anywhere near as cool as CDs, and burned CDs just make me sick. Until I've got the whole package, album and artwork, I don't consider myself having anything real. Then again, I'm a sucker for cool album art and notes, and always have been.

Re: long winded response

I love it when the album provides further information. Sometimes you get whole booklets full of stories and commentary, these are my favorite!

Thanks for your reply, it seems we generally agree closely on this one, so I can't think of anything useful to say :-)

Re: long winded response

Yeah, I tend to appreciate the aesthetics of the packaging too, as well as the work enclosed .....

then again...

I realise that many people do swap music and never buy albums, and that really is reprehensible. But there are many of us who do both. All the bands I have downloaded a few tracks from that I have liked, if the CD was available, I have bought it. But many albums are simply not on sale. For example after downloading a track by a band called Graveworm, I bought the only commercially available CD I could find and have had a second on order for several months now with no luck because such underground music is out of print. I have also tried to raise awareness of it and hopefully increase demand by getting DJ friends to play more alternative bands in their clubs.
There are a lot of talented bands out there that never get heard because they get screwed by their label, eg The Project Hate who now give away tracks on their own official site, just so that people who can't get hold of their albums can hear them. Not streamed, but actual 128 bit mp3s.
The small bands have even less of a chance to make money because the only way consumers can hear them is to download; they get no airplay anyway, and their cds are hard to get.
In fact the only good UK place I have found is www.tesco.com :D and their CDs are usually a lot cheaper anyway.

Imagine finding the new 2-CD Amon Amarth 'Versus the World' album in Tescos! For £11.49!!! Or Dimmu Borgir's 'World Misanthropy' DVD for £14.24. Shopping heaven *happy sigh*



Also being an artist myself, I have come to terms with the fact that to gain publicity and a reputation I will have to work hard, often for free as indeed I find myself doing. As with many of these bands, if I am good enough to shine above the rest I will eventually reap the financial rewards. I made myself a promise - I will not charge for my work until after I leave Uni, and I have made a good number of friends and contacts (eg Roadrunner Records) in the process. Working purely for 'love' :) has benefits after all!
New bands need to - and have - come to terms with this, and already rich bands should stop whining.


Music is art and money should not dilute it.

Do you really think that companies have a right to package and sell music to make money for themselves? Do you not see that as theft ? Ok they give the artist the means to make records but in all honesty music is so easy to make in the bedroom these days. Filesharing is the future of band promotion in my opinion

I think music is vital for well being. Man needs food & shelter to be able to survive but he also needs diversions like art. Man & art is probably as old as man and hunting. Man has always drawn pictures and made music no mater how primitive.

My personal opinion anyway is that bands generally make their money from merchandise and touring, the record label takes most of the cash from album sales. Take a look at it, they charge about £17 for a t-shirt, that's nearly the same price as the album and cost loads less to make.

I also think if you download an album you cannot afford to buy then your not exactly directly hurting the band or the record label. I think filesharing only harms your britney spears record labels that just use these puppets to make shit music appealing. I'd rather kids and sad adults went and downloaded it or better still go out and buy a bit of good ole GnR. :)

Re: Music is art and money should not dilute it.

I don't think it matters how bands make money; your personal opinion on that is simply besides the point. If bands and owners want to charge for it, that's their right. You've no right to take it from them, and say, "it's ok - you can earn money a different way!".

A simplistic glance at the system...

Let's say johnny loves to make music, let's say johnny has talent, and people want to hear his music...
So Johnny sends in a demo to Tommy...

Tommy is a music producer, he likes his job, which is to make money for his boss, by signing artists that make money for them.
Tommy sees Johnny's talent and signs him.

Ralf is a consumer, he has brains, he knows how to get what he wants also
Ralph is constantly bitching on about how sally'ho and her ilk are making millions, cuz there are millions of oblivious twits that revel in her particular brand of crap.
Ralf gets an ear full of Johnny's stuff, rips a copy and burns more for his friends.

Johnny has talent, he damnwell might be a revolution in music, and even Tommy can see it... but his fans don't buy the music, they trade it copies amoungst them selves.

So Tommy renews Sally'ho, signs six more like her, and passes on Johnny.

Ralf laments Sally while burning copies of Johnny.
Tommy stays rich.
Sally gets rich.
Johnny disappears into obscurity.

The trendy and pretty feed off of each other.
The bitter and opportunistic feed on each other.

Idealism be damned, look at reality; you are fucking your self if you steal good music.

hell no

hell no i don't belive and don't buy music i never will wanna know the reason u say we harm the industry and the bands bullshit the industry make alot of money per year and the band,singers,rappers, w/e make enough money as it is they wine about not making 20 more mil shit ill be happy wit a mil so heres the fact music downloading is Never Ever gonna stop u and them can bitch complain all u want it's NNNNNNever gonna stop so Sit On That

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