Andrew Ladd

Comments from Andrew Ladd

This is long, but I'm posting it anyway.... People who contend that downloading music for free off the internet is stealing are misrepresenting the case for one primary reason: the .mp3 of today is a commodity. Like rice (“a good snack for when you’re hungry and want 2,000 of something,” RIP Mitch Hedberg) or corn or grain, whathaveyou. Fifteen years ago, before the music world was commoditized, you had a small number of producers, producing what can now be considered a modest amount of product. The major label system kept supply low by owning the product’s means of production and distribution. Technology fundamentally changed this. It democratized production through making inexpensive, yet suitably high quality recording tools widely available to compete in the same arena with professional recording studios. As for distribution, there is relatively no cost to distribute. Not that there literally is “no cost;” but that the cost, today, to distribute copies 1 through 10 million of something online is the relative equivalent of than delivering copies 1 through 1,000 fifteen years ago. How does a commodity market get paid for its products? It pins value of the quantity of supply across the industry (rice, music, silver bullion) – so in this sense, like it or not, a tool like Spotify has precedence when using a commodities market as an analogue. Where this gets tricky is we don’t want to believe .mp3 music is a commodity. Bands are good. Songs are “THE BEST EVAR!!” We want to differentiate because that’s what fans of music do, but in the end we’re really doing little more than sorting grains of rice by shades of white. Today’s DIIV was yesterday’s Grimes was the tUnE-yArDs of last winter and on and on. It is the illusion of differentiation that keeps us pinned on this outdated model. In reality, our collective action has illustrated that for all the value of today’s buzziest buzz bands (copyright, Carles © 2009) it is the next one that holds the most value. Since the next one is not ownable or even knowable, we simpy can’t pay the creator. Hence the value of a tool like a Spotify; it profits by filling that role. We pay Spotify not for the music of today, but for the promise of immediate access to the music of tomorrow. This isn’t a debate about morality or legality. It is about supply and demand. Basics, really. There is so much .mp3 music today, the market has driven costs towards $0.00 per .mp3 music file. Supply of new .mp3 music is constant in presence and infinite in quantity in ways that simply weren’t imaginable fifteen years ago.
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June 22, 2012 on David Lowery Blasts NPR Intern On File-Sharing