Moses Avalon is one of the nation’s leading music-business consultants and artists’-rights advocates and is the author of a top-selling music business reference, Confessions of a Record Producer. More of his articles can be found at www.mosesavalon.com.
I grew up in the aftermath of the “hippie” era — the one that made political protests into a social activity. You risked arrest to end the Vietnam War — and met girls. Music was the rallying point. It gave the movement momentum.
Today, it seems that music is at the center of a different kind of youth revolution, one in which the values are far different from its forebears’ movement. Whereas pop music was once the soundtrack of the revolution, now it’s more or less the revolution’s object, manifesting as the “right” to free music. Or, as the P2P culture would put it: the right to access information and liberate music from the shackles of “Big Content,” which cannot accept the death of copyrights.
“Big Content.” Even the term itself positions artists and their teams as part of “the establishment” — the way a cop would symbolize Big Brother. Those who like to share music libraries through P2P services have cast record labels as the Nixon administration, while they, the illegal P2P users, are the hippie liberators, fighting for what they perceive as the basic human right to share that which should be free in the first place.
I get it. I understand their frustration. Content is pricey. A lot of it is junk too. And many in the culture seem to think that the music industry is as big and rich as utilities, oil, or aerospace. They are probably not aware that the music business is composed mostly of creative types, and, if you added up the revenue from all of the US entertainment industries for a year, it would barely reach what energy companies earn in a month.
At the heart of the anti-war movement was the hope to stop bloodshed. Hippies rebelled against something serious — the draft. What is today’s P2P “sharing” movement about? Free tunes? Cheaper flicks? And what are the parents of today’s youth movement thinking? They have to be hoping that their offspring will pursue a cause more deserving of jail time than overturning the copyright regime. What will today’s rebels do when the wholesale illegal sharing of music comes to an end in the Americas (and it will)?
Ahh…I can hear the angry fingers of illegal-steaming, BitTorrent-ing fans typing hate mail to me right now. Within an hour, my blog will be populated with comments waiting for my “approval,” with things like “Moses, you don’t know crap” and worse. Far worse.
Everyone eventually grows up, and when you do, you realize that, in America, everyone deserves to control and get paid for their creation.
But I do know crap. Lots and lots of crap. For example, I know history. And history says that all movements come to an end, not because the “war” ends, but because the revolutionaries grow up and get comfortable. You get married, buy a house, have kids, and suddenly the idea of a virus in your new tablet doesn’t seem worth the risk of not paying 99 cents. You tell yourself that you’re gonna sell out to d’Man just this once, or for this small thing. But within a few years, you find yourself immersed in all kinds of establishment activities that you never thought you’d do. Like most hippies, you become Yuppified.
So forget these new studies that claim P2P is down because of Limewire’s disbandment. That’s probably true, but there is a more substantial reason that I feel the “free content” movement (when it comes to stealing music) will be severely diminished. The founders of illegal P2P sites are turning 30, more and more each year. This will ultimately be the end of “Generation Free.” Everyone eventually grows up, and when you do, you realize that, in America, everyone deserves to control and get paid for their creation, whether it’s a song or a piece of software. Everyone.
Last week, the Obama administration’s recommendation that Congress make illegal streaming of content a felony put a big reality check on the illegal P2P movement. I theorized, in my Moses Supposes article, that if this happens, you won’t be reading much on P2P lifestyle sites about how cool it is to steal music, because promoting a felony is also a crime called “solicitation.”
An army of 14-to-29-year-olds posted hundreds of insults leveled at me on TorrentFreak and other sites. They either completely mis-characterized my theory of law or were just blindly shooting the messenger. This shows you just how much of the illegal P2P Kool-Aid that many have drank. And when it wears off, what will the sobering morning light look like? What will the P2P generation look back on with nostalgia when they become tomorrow’s establishment, I wonder?
“Ah, the good ol’ days. We used to chat on Facebook, your father and I, and flame at anyone who tried to tell us that we had to pay for music. We were part of a force that revolutionized the music business and helped it to develop into a place where artists were once again free to make music without the shackles of corporate money to brand them.”
If they thought that Big Content was exerting undue influence over Washington, just wait ’til public policy is controlled by people who sit in a room all day and write code. Imagine a Mark Zuckerberg as president. You can forget about privacy and the Fourth Amendment.
To the many readers who’ve been with me for years and years, who use Moses Supposes as a referendum and a rational filter in an ocean of negative music-biz spin, you should know that, despite attacks on me and hacks to my website, I am not going anywhere. Y’see, I have a secret weapon that the illegal P2P crusaders don’t have — I am already over 30. And unless someone invents a new gene therapy, I’m planning on staying as such.
Those who cling to youthful values and dreams of changing the world often find themselves outnumbered. Their peers move further away from them philosophically, morphing into a life of adulthood and responsibility. It’s only a matter of time. Only a matter of time.