I’ve had some in-depth conversations lately about the recording industry, and what happened to them, why the old paradigm was reduced to rubble, why Tower Records has been closed, why why why.
For me, the conversation was borne out of the ongoing ethical conflict I have with people downloading music (i.e. stealing) from online when that music legally belongs to someone else. Downloading this music is illegal, but many people I know and respect do not believe it is unethical. I personally do believe it is unethical, and so I still go to the store and buy CDs, or buy them online when the brick-and-morter store is too retarded to put the CD in a place where it can be found. (William Orbit, for example, appears under “Dance” music at Tower. Perhaps that is also why it shut down.)
The ethical dilemma draws out some very interesting justifications from the people who download music. The crux of the argument usually boils down to this:
1. The record companies were greedy, and grossly overcharging for music.
2. It doesn’t hurt the record companies to steal the music, because I wouldn’t buy it otherwise, and I might now go to a concert.
3. The artists were not making most of the money.
4. Therefore it is okay to steal it.
The net result of this argument was the absolute destruction of an empire that only 10 years ago seemed immovable. Beyond the ethical questions, I start wondering about the sociological ones. The argument causes me to believe that ethics become malleable for the masses. Why should this surprise me? I don’t know, but it makes me wonder where we might predict another revolution. Since I believe that societies move and change on the basis of certain constant “rules” of behavior, I am seriously wondering what “rule” doomed the old paradigm of music publication. So here are some ideas:
“If a monopoly grossly overcharges for something, then people will steal it.”
Too simple? Perhaps.
“If a monopoly grossly overcharges for something that people perceive as trivial or non-essential, they will steal it.”
Or maybe, “If a monopoly grossly overcharges for something, and seems to victimize the people that they are marketing, consumers will steal it.”
Whatever the societal rule that caused this, it might be a good thing. It might indicate that there is a built-in fail-safe that will prevent humanity from being oppressed by mega-corporations. Or, maybe we already are. Maybe the revolution is random.
I can’t help but wonder if Microsoft should worry.