Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Shiver me Timbers!

There has been a lot of mud-slinging lately against RIAA after they brought out lawsuits against music downloaders. Downloaders and consumers in turn are up in arms against what they perceive is blatant unfairness of the recording industry. The supposed damage done to the labels by downloading music is seen as just retribution for the labels ripping off consumers with overpriced CDs for so many years. The lawsuit against the 12-year old girl from NY especially hit the headlines and invited more ranting and raving against the RIAA.

Most people with an internet connection and even a mild interest in music are probably guilty of downloading music at one time or another. There is no doubt that almost all of these, teens or otherwise, are law abiding citizens who would never steal anything in their lives. So how come exchanging music over the internet doesn't come under the purview of breaking the law? It's mostly because it is so anonymous. You are not breaking into someone's apartment and stealing their personal belongings, you are just logging on to the net and downloading something that is right there in front of you. But what most people fail to understand is that it is very much like breaking into an apartment and stealing something. Just because it doesn't feel like stealing doesn't make it any less wrong. Music is intellectual property and just like any other property, it is entirely up to the owner if and how he or she wants to share it or sell it. You cannot 'borrow' it without the owner's consent, or without paying what he/she deems is the right price for it.

Just to illustrate how frustrating it might be for musicians, here's a hypothetical scenario. A band records two versions of a song one day and don't even make a final cut of that song, only to find both the unfinished versions on the net the next day, available for free to anyone who has internet access. This happens with surprising regularity with big name artistes. Singles are available on the net much before their official release. Most bands/musicians put in hours of hard work into each song, right from writing the lyrics to producing and arranging the track. Fans have no right to be angry at their bands if they try to ban free downloading of music (like with what happened to Metallica). If they are true fans they will go out and buy the music instead of cheating the same band that they worship out of money that rightly belongs to them. Big acts like Metallica and Aerosmith earn most of their money performing live, and for them the issue of downloading music might just be about principles. Celebrities like Britney Spears earn most of their money from multi-million dollar contracts with the likes of Pepsi, they probably don't care either way. But the problem really comes to the fore when people can download music from smaller acts, those that depend solely on album sales for their livelihood. Fans may argue that downloading music doesn't really hurt bands financially, but that is true in only a very few cases.

On the flip side of the coin, the RIAA and the music labels are equally to blame for this mud-pit fiasco. No matter what kind of music you listen to, the quality and quantity of the music hardly ever justifies the price tag of a CD. I would rather download the songs for free and hurt an artiste financially than put in 18 dollars of my own money to buy a ten song CD that has two great tracks and eight mediocre ones. Of all the money a consumer pays for a CD barely a fraction goes back to the musician. Most of it lands up in the coffers of the music labels. Neither the production nor the commission justify such a high price for one CD.

The recording industry and the labels have a great chance here to show that they care about the consumer, music and the artistes equally. If they reduce the prices down to eight dollars, there will be a huge boost in sales, the consumers will get their money's worth and the artistes and labels will still rake in millions. The recording industry will still make a heavy profit, only not as much as before. It only seems fair though, because the set of ethics that prompted the RIAA to sue its consumers is the same set of ethics that should govern how the labels decide their pricing.

If that fails to happen, downloading will continue to become more sophisticated and there will be no way to stem the rot. And frankly, it will only be too well deserved.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Here I Am

A new look for my blog. Spruced it up a bit. Hope it looks better.

Spending more time on my thesis now. I want to get this bad boy outa the way by next May. I have spent entirely too much time in college. It took me six years, but I have realised that studying really is the shits.

Just did a Koli Dance for the IANC (Indian Association of Northern Colorado) Diwali function last weekend. It went down really well. So well in fact that a bit of gloating is in order - it was by far the best dance on show. There, gloating done.

It's Friday and I wasn't planning on hanging around in school, but I have a packed day tomorrow, so thought I might get some work done today (obviously it's not working).

So much for that.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Statue Heads

Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy
Our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town

Strange eyes fill strange rooms
Voices will signal their tired end
The hostess is grinning
Her guests sleep from sinning
Hear me talk of sin
And you know this is it

Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours
We linger alone
Bodies confused
Memories misused
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone

- The Doors

Sometimes life throws too much too quickly at you.
The sands of sanity slip inexorably through the hands of time.

You clasp desperately at empty air.
And by the time it all starts making sense it is too late.
Your life stretches behind you; the end beckons mesmerisingly.

All pretentions to immortality and aspirations to greatness fade away.
You are what you should have always been.
Before you were made into what you had been.

You look behind and wonder what you were meant to be.
If you were meant to be anything at all.

A mere speck of insignificance in a sea of nothingness.
That is all you are.
That is all I am.

And we will vanish in an instant .
Like dust in the wind.
So will all our existentialist angst.

The pain, the sorrow.
It will mean nothing tomorrow.
For then it will be someone else's time.

And so it goes. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.