I was chatting to The Venerable Indie Dave in the boozer after this the other day, and we got chatting about our respective blogs, especially the whole “how the fuck are people going to make money now?” thing. He mentioned a post he did the other week, about Les Savy Fav. It’s a great read, pointing out how the band posted a note on their website here asking people who’d downloaded the album to donate some money to them to make up for lost cash1. And:
Pay extra and your also forgiven for sex sins and stuff AND we’ll tell Jesus to send you cookies
Which raises a good point. There’s been a whole load of rubbish talked about “lost revenue” from downloading, totalling trillions of dollars, made by extrapolating the number of downloads to the number of lost purchases. These are, as any half-decent scientist will point out, absolute junk. Making a rough guess on how many downloads have occurred and saying each one is responsible for a lost sale is ridiculous; for example, many downloads are people just trying something out that they probably wouldn’t have bought (in the old days, they’d have copied it off a mate). Others are people replacing lost/broken/outmoded copies. Saying that every download is theft is crazy.
But on the other hand, this is the way these bands make a living. It takes time to be good; being a decent musician, except in odd cases, takes a huge amount of work and effort. I recall reading that Jeff Buckley used to spend about 12 hours a day playing guitar to get good enough to perform. So, for musicians to make the music you want to listen to, you have to pay for it, whether it’s through record sales, merchandising, seeing the band live etc. Now, being old fashioned, I still go and buy records that I’ve downloaded, but be honest, how many of you do?
Radiohead’s honour system only worked because they are properly enormous. They can easily sell out 40,000 seater venues in each major city in the world, and so have enough of a fanbase that even if only 5% give them $10, they would be making out like bandits (as they City phrase has it. They’d know). But do Les Savy Fav have enough fans out there willing to bung them $5 or $10? I’d love to think that they do, but people being people, I wouldn’t like to bet on it.
Still, if you like the MP3 below, then buy the record. That’s the way this should work. You like, you buy. Otherwise this whole thing is going to go, as the saying says, tits up.
1 The link’s now been removed. Just buy the damn record.