Our Responsibility To Be A Patron Of The Arts
As discussed in the first post on the subject of the value of music, the digital age has granted music incredible accessibility, to the extent that it is extremely easy to find and download. As a result, the value has dropped dramatically; it is proving difficult to sell what one can get free. The post discussed how the actual music has, as musician and blogger Joe Gibralter explained, turned to “...being the marketing tool. The product is now...the artist” (1). This can be further explored through the relatively new concept of “virtual busking”.
This contemporary technique of distributing music was made known to the general public by UK alternative rock group Radiohead, when the technique, used with the 2007 album In Rainbows, surprised, impressed, and inspired the interest of the world’s media. Many celebrated it as a deserved insult to the record labels and their conventional, “decaying” business models(2). However others considered it a sensible move, showing an initiative in adapting to the contemporary musical world. The general idea behind virtual busking is that it is up to the consumer to judge how much the product is worth. It then lets them pay that amount. And paying nothing is a viable, and acceptable option. In a world when pirating is rife and easy, this negates the profit made in doing so, while still giving the listener a chance to reevaluate the value they place in music, and the role they play in the industry. As co-manager for Radiohead Chris Hufford, says, “since it’s essentially free if that’s what you think it’s worth, you won’t save any money by pirating.”(3)
But the fact is this is not the first time that virtual busking has been utilized; instead it is simply the first time that it has been given the hype of such a major artist. Music distribution site “Bandcamp” has been giving the option since early 2007.(4) It is a thriving example of the consumers truly supporting the musicians they care about.
Elsie Dee, another artist who utilizes the technique, describes the process as one “where artists must rely on the “Patrons of the Arts” to support their continued work.”(5) She encourages the consumer to adopt this role, as a philanthropic supporter. She further explains that “getting the music into the hands of people around the world is easy. But what is missing from the internet distribution system is a means of getting money back into the hands of the artist.”
Essentially all of this accumulates into not only a revaluation of how our actions will directly effect those musicians whose music we take for granted, but also into an examination into our moral obligations as consumers. The world of contemporary music is change faster then ever, in a revolution threatening to destabilize many of the accepted conventions in creating, listening, and sharing music, and while virtual busking may never become a mainstream practice, it’s influence on smaller music hubs such as Bandcamp is vivid.
6 Home Studio Corner/Joe Gilder. 2010. Should Musicians Give Their Music Away. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.homestudiocorner.com/2010/06/22/should-musicians-give-their-music-away/. [Accessed 05 May 11].
7 TIME. 2007.t.Radiohead Says: Pay What You Wan [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1666973,00.html. [Accessed 05 May 11].
8 Gizmodo/A.Frucci. 2007. Radiohead Offers New Album For Whatever You Want To Pay. [ONLINE] Available at: http://us.gizmodo.com/#!305566/radiohead-offers-new-album-for-whatever-you-want-to-pay. [Accessed 05 May 11].
9 Bandcamp. 2011. Frequently Asked Questions. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bandcamp.com/faq#whatitis. [Accessed 06 May 11].
10 The Elsie Dee Project. 2011. Virtual Busking. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.elsiedeeproject.com/busking.html. [Accessed 06 May 11].