Imagine that it is 1976. You just listened to Ziggy Stardust on vinyl. You are in a punk band and the only way for your music to get exposure is to put up hand-made posters for your shows. The World Wide Web is years away; therefore, there is no easy way to communicate en masse with your potential audience. If you are lucky enough to get your music pressed onto vinyl, you might get some more exposure, but this is unlikely. The only way to get noticed is to work—hard. Hustling every day is the only option. There is no way to make money in this.
Flash forward 35 years to the present. Microcastles is whispering through your earbuds. You are in a punk band. The easiest way to get noticed is to upload your show schedules to myspace, throw some singles on a torrent tracker, and you’ve got the ear of the world. Hongkongers are headbanging to your music. Cult status. Deciding to cash in, you upload your album to iTunes. Easy Money. No Dice. Doesn’t work. Everyone who wants it already has it. Someone already got a hold of a soundboard recording of your last gig. What’s the point of going to a show if I can have the show come to me? It’s fast, free and best of all, some hairy refrigerator-sized man called “the Bear” isn’t going to bludgeon my ribcage with a malicious mosh-pit mash.
So where does that leave you? Nowhere. Back in the day, you could have at least gotten fair compensation for what little exposure you could get, but now, you are highly exposed, but guess what: musicians still aren’t making any money.
While it may be easy to say that if you are going to be a musician that you are making some sort of noble decision to “do it for the music”. Whatever. You still need to eat. I’ve personally watched Keith Morris, founder of hardcore-punk rock, run merch for his show. Keith is 55. He has Type 1 Diabetes. He has been doing this since he was 25 for the love of the music. He can’t pay his medical bills. You could imagine what he thinks of pirating.
So where does this leave us, dear reader? We can’t unplug the internet, so we as audiophiles must find a way to keep our heroes in business. My solution. Unplug yourself. If you want to your favorite bands to stay in the zeitgeist, go see them live. If you want to download music, fine. Most of the money that goes into buying music goes directly to the label, not to the artist anyway, but that is material for another article. Buying merch at a show supports the band financially and wearing a “Godspeed you!” Black Emperor shirt lets you lift your skinny fists like antennas while being a walking billboard. What’s better than that? Long story short, music is beautiful, and if you want to keep it, support it.