The sad state of debate around music as a commercially viable thing.

The other day, I came across an article on Hypebot titled News Flash: Your Music Is Not Your Product. You should click over and read it and then read the comments, but here’s how the article starts:

“I'm tired.
I'm tired of having the same conversation over and over again.
The conversation about how we should go about dealing with "thieves" and "pirates" "stealing" our "product" like so many shoplifters. I'm just gonna say it.
It's absurd.
Music is not, and never was, a product.”

I thought the article would go on to talk how YOU are your product and you are a brand and blah, blah, blah, which is what everybody says these days. (Actually, I think this is true, to a point). Instead, it says your product is an experience and music is not, has not, and never will be a product. It’s a service (how this is different from an experience, I’m not really sure).

When I was done with the article, I read a lot of the comments, and commenter and after commenter lauded the article and tried to expand on the idea that music is not a product. They trotted out a lot of economics esoterica about “public goods” and “scarcity”. As I read the comments, I was at first stunned (I thought they would be negative), but then I thought back on all the blog articles I've seen out there about what music should cost and can it be stolen, etc., and I realized that such comments are exactly what I should have expected.

And in my opinion, this article, the comments and just about every other article I've read on this subject all miss what really matters, which is the fact that what you buy when you by music is clearly defined: you buy a right to listen to music under a limited set of circumstances.  There's no (worthwhile) debate about this. Truly, look it up folks! Copyright.

Further, if you copy and distribute music without the permission of the copyright holder, you’re very likely breaking the law. 

So, what should the debate be about? Easy: it should be about whether or not copyright law should be changed and what punishment, if any, should there be if you break it.

All this blather about whether music is a product or a service, whether it’s being devalued, whether it should sell for x or y, it’s all blather. Decide on copyright law, then worry about the rest.


PSJeff Macdougall, the guy who wrote the article I'm referencing deserves a TON of kudos for responding to so many of the comments -- even the meanspirited, negative ones -- with grace and style.