Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pirates and Shredders

Keeping up with music is, figuratively speaking, a full-time job. Aside from the countless gems of the past that I have yet to add to my collection, there are literally thousands upon thousands of album releases each year. Most of these releases are mediocre or just downright awful at best, so it is quite a thrill to find the proverbial "needle in a haystack" that allows your ears to alert the soul that this recording, which you are listening to for the very first time, could possibly be "album of the year" material. I, personally, am on the mailing list of many record labels in order to keep up with the comings and goings of new music. The Kill Rock Stars label was the first label I signed on to as they were home to one of my favorite bands - Sleater-Kinney. Enter Marnie Stern, whose debut album for the Kill Rock Stars label, In Advance of the Broken Arm, has yet to be dethroned as my favorite album of this year. How did I acquire this album, you ask? Well, according to the website,, I stole it.

"Consider this," states the website, "many of us would never even consider stealing something - say, a picture or a piece of clothing - from a friend's house. Our sense of right and wrong keeps most of us from doing something so selfish and antisocial. Yet when it comes to stealing digital recordings of copyrighted music, people somehow seem to think the same rules don't apply - even though criminal penalties can be as high as five years in prison or $250,000 in fines. Contrary to popular opinion, illegally downloading or copying copyrighted music is the same as stealing; there is no difference."

Okay, back to Marnie Stern. Being that I, as well as most people I know, are chronically broke, I asked a friend of mine to download the album from whatever site he is able to do this from and burn me a copy, which he gladly did. I played the album at work and, from there, the overwhelming majority asked me if I could burn them a copy which I gladly did. Had I told them - "no" - I can assure you that ZERO copies of this album would have been purchased. They would have either got someone else to burn it for them or they would have just plain gone without. HOWEVER, when Marnie Stern came to town, the majority of the individuals who I burned In Advance of the Broken Arm for, bought a ticket to her show. Some even brought friends. One bought a Marnie Stern t-shirt. An obscene amount of alcohol was purchased AND I bought a slice of pizza AND I paid to park which, despite supporting Marnie Stern in no particular way whatsoever, does contribute to the local economy. So, in my opinion, the illegal acquistion of this album actually did more to support Marnie Stern as opposed to negatively affecting her career as many would have you to believe.

To the critics of piracy, I say this - if you have ever checked out a book from the library, you have engaged in piracy. Ever bought a used book, cd, or dvd? You guessed it. Piracy. Those who say they have never engaged in the practice are instantly suspicious. Music is important. It has the power to broaden minds and change the way we think. In the current landscape of mind-numbing reality shows and the monopolization of the airwaves by Clear Channel, the true artists who aren't being heard, DESPERATELY need to be and I, for one, will do anything within my power to see to it that they ARE being heard. Rap music, for instance, is the most popular genre of music in the world today and, in third world countries, it has the potential to change the political landscape in positive ways. Are we going to deny them music simply because they can't afford it? Unlike the medications that many in the third world are denied because of greedy pharmaceutical companies, access to music, via piracy, will not be a problem and the world, as a whole, will benefit as a result.
If the penalty for piracy were the chair, I would most certainly be on death row and I have no shame or guilt in that admission. Art is for everyone. Learn to embrace the inevitable.

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