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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Making music and making money

Here is my first attempt at recording a podcast using Soundcloud, an online "social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and share them everywhere".  As I state in my podcast, I am providing a response to Ian Condry's 2004 article in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, titled Cultures of Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan.  Specifically, I respond to his explanation of the recorded music industry's concerns regarding the illegal downloading of music and how it will spell the end of music making.  Have a listen and post a comment if you like.  As I often do in my blog, I will share with you some of my learning in exploring this brave new world of new media. After much fiddling about with microphones and audio levels, I discovered that trying to record audio in close proximity to a cordless phone plays havoc with the quality.

Condry, Ian. (2004). Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan. International Journal of Cultural Studies. 7 (3), pg. 343-363 

Image by seaskylab,  


  1. Hi Bruce - I enjoyed your podcast and got a good chuckle our of your story on making mixtapes (with the "massive" amount of music that you could combine. I also appreciated your big business vs. small business model. The big guys do seem to be making a disproportionate amount of money. I am not sure though that all artists have the business acumen that they might need to take care of the commercialization of their music (assuming, of course, that they want to make money and that it is not an artistic endeavour only).

    So what would you do to (or would you do anything) to stop the downloading of music?


  2. Wow Ann. Great question. I say this because I've been struggling to fomulate a response for the last few days. My thoughts finally solidified when I listened to Mike Mitchell's podcast this week. He argued that there is an ethical debate to be had about whether or not people should be paid for their creative work, but the fact is that their stuff is available for free on the internet and we're all better for it. So, if I think that its good to have a rich cultural commons, and I do, then I can't really say that I would stop the downloading. Rather, I think that we need to change the model of compensation. To what, I don't know. I have to say though, I listened to your podcast and you certainly make a good argument for an alternative compensation models from the perspective of having perpetually paying for the same product just with a new package. I can't tell you how much I paid for one album after buying the vinyl, then the tape, and then the CD.

    1. Yes - as I listen to the others who make compelling arguments for unrestricted access, it gives me a a new appreciation for different perspectives.

      I do worry that unless artists are compensated in a meaningful way, their is a lack of incentive to continue to create original work product.

      You might appreciate this irony; my sons asked for and received a turntable for Christmas - vinyl is back - and they wanted me to note that how much more you could hear the richness of the sound and the layering (we had to get records at an antique market - ANOTHER purchase of CSNY - Deja Vu)

  3. After listening to your podcast, I was particularly interested in the points you made regarding the business models of record companies. While I agree that record companies are generally making too much money from music sales in comparison to what the actual artists make, I think suggesting that they should utilize the same methods of indie bands to cut costs is flawed. The difference in scale between indie bands and major record labels is staggering. What is viewed as successful by an indie band may be completely meaningless to a major record company. To a major record company, most bands are not worth their time unless they can make them a hit quickly; they don’t want to slowly build up a following through social media and such. Also, production costs for an indie band compared to a major record label production are not even comparable. An indie band recording out of one the band member’s garage or a small recording studio is completely different than a major record labels production process, and the costs related to production reflect that. The bottom line is really when major record labels take on these indie bands, they don’t do so to have them keep following the same process they have. The record company has to take these “gambles” in order for their shot at the big time.

    1. Thanks for the comment Steve. To your point, I wasn't suggesting that major record companies adopt the business model used by small indie bands and recording studios. I was simply suggesting that they may want to take a heed of how they do things and perhaps apply some of the principles, such as building a following, in adapting their business model to modern times. The more that I come to understand the issue of illegal downloading through the readings and discussions via my blog and others, I am coming to some of the same conclusions proposed by Larry Lessig in his November 2007 TED talk. The internet has changed the playing field here. It's vastly larger with more players and, as such, is entirely unwieldy. Rather than lamenting the loss of control and spending time, energy and money trying to devise inneffective ways to seize back that control, the industry needs to adapt. Society needs to adapt our laws as well so that we preserve culture and encourage its growth. Industry needs to adapt its business models in order to preserve profit and grow their business.

  4. Hey Bruce - well done. You can tell that you sat down and really thought every point through with detail, and I appreciate that when listening.

    I agree that many of our justifications for downloading music illegally are wanting. However, we should not have to justify it in the first place.

    If you are offered the exact same product at two different prices, $2 and $10, which will you purchase? The specific product that costs $2 - always. This is no different than $1 and $5 or even $0 and $0.01. You get the picture.

    Your thoughts on record companies and constantly churning out garbage (my words not yours, I know), are the most resonating for me. Although moral issues do surround piracy and illegal downloading, the record companies and mainstream music as a whole do not help ease the problem.

    What is the answer? The politicians think they know - they always do. Looking at other business models, like you seemingly suggest, is almost a necessity in the age of the Internet (capitalized on purpose). Your post is the first that I have listened to that attempts to offer some a realistic approach to the future of the industry.

  5. Hi Bruce! I agree with you when you say, “we are actually doing the producers a favour by marketing the product for them.” In my blog post, that is exactly what I was debating, I feel like sharing music benefits the artist more than hurts them. I didn’t realize how little money the producers and artists make from iTunes for example, which makes me think why it is such a big deal if people don’t “support” their favourite artist by purchasing their music. I do understand that when purchasing their music you are supporting the record company, which in the end is what is making the artist’s music come real. I also agree with your point that recording companies should take the same approach as a small business. To produce and get their product out there using fewest amount of money, this allows them to test out how successful an artist can be before spending too much time and money on them.

  6. I enjoyed listening to your podcast Bruce, especially because we both found the same reading to be most compelling. I am in agreement that their business models are very risky. I believe that it comes with the territory and is inevitable. Like sports, there are so many talented individuals amongst us and unfortunately not everyone of is destined to be great.

    Like I mentioned in Ann's blog stealing is wrong, but I can not justify anything wrong with sharing. The problem is the reach of sharing. I believe that adaptation is the key to maintaining a longevity in creativity whether it is through alternative compensation models like you mentioned. I don't believe prosecutions are the answer.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed your podcast Bruce. I agree completely with your comment near the beginning of your podcast where you mention that although students recognizing that illegally consuming music is illegal, they are quick to justify their means. It is safe to say that an alarming amount of students within all age categories would agree to this assumption.

    The comparison of your youthful encounters with cassette pirating to today's modern virtual pirating really allowed me to paint a better and bigger picture of what illegal consumption really is. Until your point about blank cassette tapes being the end of the music era, I had never really given any thought to pirating being done in any other manner besides digitally. There is a whole world away from the online community that is essentially carrying out the same acts as the online users.