Tuesday, May 17, 2011

be your own DJ

I played DJ for myself, picking songs from around a thousand cassettes and five hundred records. I’d dubbed hundreds of albums from friends and padded my collection by repeatedly sending in fake names to record clubs. When I received the twelve free albums or tapes, I’d write the company a letter saying no one by that name lived at this address.

I don’t suppose playing DJ for oneself is unusual. As a teen I didn’t have very many records to choose from but I found songs that went together, I thought, and played them in my preferred sequence so often, lunging for the stereo’s needle arm to catch it before it could touch the next track in order to put on the exact song that should follow, that when I hear certain songs by one artist I frequently think of the song by another artist that it went with. “Medicine Show” by Big Audio Dynamite going into Martini Ranch’s “Reach,” for instance.

The quote above is from Kirk Read’s How I Learned to Snap: a small-town coming-of-age coming-out story. I never could have or would have engaged in such subterfuge – theft, isn’t it? Not that I didn’t think I ought to take advantage of the 12 records for a penny that the record clubs always claimed you could keep after canceling your membership – no obligation! I suspected I would not be on top of it enough to get the cancellation in on time.

Now that it is far easier to grab your free digital musical files via the internet or rip songs from cheap or borrowed CDs, is it ethical to do so, ethical in a way that it wasn’t when it was 12 heavy vinyl record albums that came in the mail?


Art Durkee said...

Well, speaking as a listener, it is indeed easier to pull together music via digital media, easier than ever before. Every time I buy a CD I rip it to iTunes when I get home, as a backup. I have around 100 days of music on my music studio computer, on iTunes. This is for me, though, I don't share it with anyone.

I still have a lot of obscure vinyl. I need to digitize a lot of it, as it's too obscure to ever make it into CD re-release. A lot of avant-garde music on LP, a lot of rare performances. That sort of thing.

I was involved in community radio from high school through several years after college. I've been a volunteer programmer on several stations. My engagement with sequencing music as a service to the listeners was never deeper.


Speaking as a music producer, someone whose music appears on over a dozen CDs, I obviously prefer people buy my CDs rather than steal their contents. I have a few music samples posted on my website, and I occasionally give something away for free, via my podcast. There is a lot of evidence that suggests most listeners are ethical, and will buy the CD or download given a choice. The music delivery model is going ever more towards download; buying via iTunes Store, for example. I think a lot of listeners are reasonable about it.

But it's an ethical grey area. Theft is theft no matter how we justify it. And yet there are greater sins that theft.

How's that for a grey answers? LOL

Glenn Ingersoll said...

One of the ways I gather my music these days is by listening to sampler CDs (which I've found packaged with magazines or picked up in bargain bins), marking the songs I like and ripping them. I've burned them into my own mixes and listen to them on iPods.

This was not possible when I was a youngster. Back then I investigated new music as cheaply as I could (without stealing?) - I bought most my records used.