While I was wandering about in the wilds of Wyoming, everyone and their uncle linked to a must-read article on free music downloading by songwriter Janis Ian. Not only can Janis write great songs, but she can think clearly about some difficult issues. Her answer to the premise that "the industry (and its artists) are being harmed by free downloading"? Horsefeathers! "There is zero evidence that material available for free online downloading is financially harming anyone. In fact, most of the hard evidence is to the contrary." She points to Baen Free Library (see related article) and the SWFA as examples to emulate from the science-fiction scene. She calls on musical artists to speak out against the rapacious record industry. Better yet would be to boycott the industry entirely and do an end-run around the oligopolistic big music companies and their indentured-servitude contracts. Not that I'd ever get the opportunity, but I'd never sign such a contract, and you can be sure that most or all of my music will be available for free download when I finally get around to recording it. Whenever that is....

That said, I must say I do find it a bit disturbing the extent to which people of my acquaintance are comfortable downloading songs to their heart's content and never seeking to compensate the songwriter or performer. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I believe in the musician's right to earn something from his or her hard work. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and to expect musicians to create and produce with no reward is deeply short-sighted. I just don't know what the answer is.

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal