In White’s piece, she explains that she’s an avid music listener, concert goer and radio DJ. She says her iTunes library exceeds 11,000 songs. The thing is, she also says she’s only bought 15 CDs in her lifetime.
This raised the ire of some people, namely David Lowery, famous for his time in Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. He’s an economics teacher now and, after reading White’s response, wrote one of his own where he calls music thievery a new phenomenon. His response is very, very long—call it an after effect of academic life—but the gist of it is he says he understands where White is coming from, but thinks its a generational trend. He posits that White’s generation (she’s almost 21) values “the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself.”
But the story continues with another response, this time written by Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morris. He says Lowery had it wrong.
White admits that she has downloaded illegally in the past, but points out that her music collection was obtained by mostly honest means; by ripping CDs from the radio station she worked at, by swapping discs with friends and that one time her prom date filled her iPod with 15GBs of music.
Morris says this isn’t anything new. He says he’s been stealing music long before Napster, and he outlined exactly how he, and his peers, used to do it.
First he says there was “straight up shoplifting,” though he adds that didn’t happen much. The real effort came with methods not far off from White’s. He had “dub clubs,” where he and his friends would buy a vinyl copy of an album, then make dubbed, cassette versions of it. He says he used to tape songs off the radio, hounding DJs to play the tracks he needed while desperately balancing his finger on the “Record” button. He passed around mixtapes with friends and, like White, he grabbed a whole whack of promos from his time working on radio.
What this tells us is that maybe piracy isn’t a generational thing—talking about it is.
Nobody’s wrong here. Boilen deleted songs off his laptop’s hard drive as a sign of trust in the future: in the cloud and in streaming services. White’s response was built off the past, off how streaming services are just another way in which she isn’t buying songs. Lowery then responded from an industry perspective, written from the angle of a former chart-topping alt-rocker turned economics professor. And then Morris brought it all back again.
If these articles, of which more are sure to come, say anything, it’s that the issue has never been how people have been getting their music. It’s how artists have, or haven’t, been getting paid. That’s what needs to change.