To what end
The argument of whether or not to offer free mp3s on my blog is one that’s raged on inside me ever since I began to take this blog more seriously last year. With how effortless it is to host files online for free with sites like Yousendit, and the newness of treating mp3s as legitimate products you purchase and own, it’s easy to forget what the files represent: hours and hours of creative effort and a good deal of money spent making the product available. The internal debate intensified as Ewan Pearson, Ronan and JBH spoke their mind on the issue, providing convincing arguments for and against the practice. So I guess here’s my two cents on the issue as well.
I have to give mp3 blogs credit for helping me grab on to the genres of house and techno. Because they are rather underground genres, especially in America, there’s little out there to point an inquiring mind toward the best new music. Acquiring it physically isn’t much easier, as only a handful of specialty shops carry techno CDs, let alone the hot new 12. Under the tutelage of a handful of blogs, many of which provided me with the actual tunes I was reading about, I found the gate to electronic music and was able to let myself inside. I even found shops online to buy the music I came to love. As a blogger might, I started posting mp3s myself in hopes of making the journey easier for other inquiring minds. And based on comments both on this blog and in real life, I know it’s made a difference and sparked an interest in quite a few people.
While I’ve set rules for what I’ll post on Little White Earbuds (no unreleased tracks, no more than one track by an artist per post, no promo copies I’ve received for review from RA, lowered bit rates for newer singles, and accompanying links for buying a copy), others have not been as scrupulous. Today I was looking at a del.ic.ious page on which I was linked and clicked on some of the other blogs included. To my dismay, many were handing out full albums for free, oftentimes with no review or original text at all. Not only did it lack any sort of creativity, it stank of disregard for the artists the blogs (actually, let’s just call them file-sharers) claimed to support. I’m not going to pretend that I buy every album I “own,” but I would never consider just handing them out for anyone who happened to stumble across my site. It made me truly upset and concerned at my own mp3 handouts.
I know I’ve stepped on a few toes with my posts as well, perhaps most notably the folks at DFA, Samim and a few labels, all of which I’ve obliged swiftly. But for every request to remove a track I’ve received four or five times as many promos and from labels and artists who like the exposure my blog provides. So it’s like even when I feel I’m harming artists with my practices, I’m asked to continue on — to promote releases and provide exposure to a vast audience which might otherwise never hear a tune. With the frantic pace at which electronic music is released, it’s almost like bloggers are necessary tastemakers. Does that make it right? Are artists/labels getting the same monetary mileage from a download as simple word of mouth?
So that brings me to where I’m at now. I’m fairly sure my blog sees the traffic it does because of the music I offer daily, and at least partially because of the descriptions and endorsements I offer as well. Would people still read if they couldn’t come away with their hard drives a little bit fuller? In the coming months I’m looking to move to streaming media, so that tunes can still be heard but without any negative consequences to the artists, so that’s the question I’ve been asking myself. I will still offer mp3s which labels have given me the OK on, but it will not be the daily occurrence it is now. Half of the reason I wanted to explore this issue is to provide another place to sound off about the matter, which Ewan and Ronan’s posts provided as well. Is that something you will still be interested in? What are your feelings on the lawless environment encouraged by easy publishing software and hosting sites? What exactly do you get from the mp3 blogs you frequent?
And because what good argument doesn’t have a bit of contradiction, here’s your loot: