While a number of creative folks are being celebrated by the consumers-first Fair Copyright crowd for advocating and experimenting with alternative and new business models for audience building and distribution -- think the oft-quoted-on-copyright Barenaked Ladies and Cory Doctorow -- it would appear that celebrating the artist has its limits. Apparently, we only celebrate those artists who never express any doubt or worry about the future of their creative industry. Apparently, we only celebrate those artists who say exactly what we want them to say (and who don't expect to make very much money).
When they do worry, or count their money, as musician Trent Reznor recently dared to do in an interview with cnet news:
Why Won't People Pay $5
the consumers-first crowd questions not only their commitment to fair copyright, but their talent and intelligence as well. Here's a representative sampling of some of the comments following the Reznor interview:
"Thanks for thinking that your (sic) legendary and we should all pay a tax for the garbage you produce."
"Trent. Consider the content, not the price, as the true reason it didn't sell as well as you thought. Who the hell is Saul Williams????? There's your problem right there!"
"What about the thousands of people that have never downloaded a song (I am in that category) but prefer to buy the CD and rip it? Why should we pay a "tax" to benefit the recording industry, or musicians that I do not listen to?"
Keep in mind that these comments are directed at an artist who happily chose to experiment with the anti-label, anti-corporate, free on the Internet model. Now, not everyone who commented was this harsh, but the comments section as a whole does reveal a significant disdain for Reznor's concerns. And just what were his concerns?
In the interview he says (emphasis mine):
... I think music should be looked at as free. It basically is. The toothpaste is out of the tube and a whole generation of people is accustomed to music being that way. There's a perception that you don't pay for music when you hear it on the radio or MySpace.
... In my mind, I think if there was an ISP tax of some sort, we can say to the consumer, "All music is now available and able to be downloaded and put in your car and put in your iPod and put up your a-- if you want, and it's $5 on your cable bill or ISP bill."
Does Stephen Page of the Barenaked Ladies ever lie in bed at night and worry even a little bit about how he -- or better yet, other, lesser known, perhaps just-starting-out musicians -- will survive, professionally, in a marketplace that shows increasing unconcern for his livelihood?
If he does, he's one smart dude because he's not talking about those worries out loud.