I Don't Want To Own Music, I Want To Listen To Music.

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An editorial by Brian Thompson.


"Culture is the sum of all the forms of art, of love, and of thought, which, in the coarse or centuries, have enabled man to be less enslaved”


—Andre Malraux




I don't want to own music.
I just want to listen to music.
I just want to feel the music.
I don't want to buy that which I don't need. 

I don't want to own a piece of plastic.
I don't want to create demand for petroleum based products.
I don't want to fuel the profits of freight companies by encouraging them to ship songs wrapped in plastic and cardboard in a semi trailer across the country.

I just want to listen to music.

Can music really be owned?
How do you own a piece of culture?
How do you own a piece of the collective consciousness of a society?  

If you wrote a song that I love, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart
But...

Do you own the melody I'm humming in my head (even though it came to be from your own inspiration)?
Do you own the lyrics I'm singing on the beach (even though they're your words)?
Do you lay claim to the emotions I feel when I reflect on an unforgettable moment I shared with a lover as your song danced in the background?  

If society has simply become accustomed to certain behaviours, does that mean we're entitled to continue them ad infinitum?
And by the way, who was it that originally decided that an album was worth $9.99... or $19.99? 

Is a song still worth 99 cents if I only listen to it once?
or...
Is a song still worth 99 cents if I listen to it a thousand times?

If that is indeed the value of a song, per listen, then how do we justify the micro payments a songwriter receives when their song is aired for free to millions of people on the radio?

Oh, that's right... it's called promotion
And because its been given that label, you agree to accept virtually no money in exchange for it.

So if I can listen to a song on the radio for free, why can I not listen to it on the Internet for free?

And what if I have no money. Does that truly mean I'm not entitled to hear the music?
Or to word it differently, if I have no money... do you not want me to hear your song? 
Should I be punished if I do so?

The expectation of compensation needs to disappear.
A "free Internet listen" does not equal a lost sale.

The business of music is full of contradictions and hypocrisies. 
Our dalliance in the twentieth century of selling music should not restrict us from moving forward and advancing ourselves into a more inclusive and sharing culture.

Music is an emotion, not a loaf of bread.
Music is a feeling.
Music is life, expressed.
Music is that which no words can find.

Music is a gift, whose entire purpose is for sharing.
Sharing with friends, lovers and complete strangers alike.

A gift is the transfer of something without the expectation of receiving something in return.
A gift is meant to be free.
Does that not describe the creative process of a true artist?
Doesn't every artist simply want their music.. to be heard?

Music is a gift.
And those who give the most, receive the most in return.

Regarding the business of music, yes... money is needed to both create and sustain careers. 
Cash is needed to keep the music coming.

But to be clear, monetization of music can and should still occur.

But the words thief and stealing (of non-physical items such as a downloaded music file) do little to honour the magic, importance, and need to have music in our lives.

Yet we're so blinded by the old business platforms of yesterday that it detracts us from seeing the potentials of a new economy today.
Despite what the captains of industry want us to think, there isn't any one single answer. 

And why should there be? 

Everyone has their own preference and reason for consuming music the way they do.
In our splintered society of a million different niches and cultures, the success of music is symbiotic with the options and variations for its distribution and consumption.

Music needs to be like liquid. 
Let it flow. 
Let it spread and fill the gaps and crevices. 
Let it go where no one thought it might!

Radio, vinyl, compact discs, Internet radio, music television, subscription streaming services, satellite radio, DVDs, YouTube, live performances, soundtracks to games, songs on movies and commercials, sheet music... and file sharing... can and DO compliment one another.

If you remove one element from the other... will music's impact be as great?
Will it have the same reach?
Will it continue to change lives and shape the zeitgeist of a generation?

Embrace the gift of music.
Embrace the uniqueness of everyone who brings music into our lives. 

I am not like you. 
And you are not like me.

Let the music be heard and the songs will echo for eternity.

—Brian Thompson




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brian thompson - summer 2013
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