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?